The Dog Days are Over

The dog days are over.  A terribly blunt introduction to recapping a terribly painful day.  A few hours after riding through the gorgeous Phong Na National Park, every rider’s nightmare came true as I crashed my bike.

Cruising along a straight stretch of the Ho Chi Minh trail, a stray dog wandered out into the middle of the street, as happens multiple times each day.  When the dog stopped in the right lane (or where the right lane would be if lanes existed in Vietnam) I casually shifted to the left lane to avoid him.  Approaching at around 70 km/h, the dog took note of me from about 10 meters away.  Instead of staying where it was or continuing across the road as I expected, the dog changed direction and bolted back towards where it came from.  With little time to react, I attempted to swerve around the dog as best I could but there was not enough room to avoid a collision.

I remember feeling the jolting of the bike as it struck, trying in vain to keep upright.  The next thing I knew I was somersaulting down the road in what felt like slow motion.  I had enough time to consciously think “Thank god I paid the extra 50,000 dong for a good helmet” as I felt the helmet absorb the impact with the asphalt for a third time.  Eventually I felt my momentum slowing down and attempted to plant my hands and push myself up, only to complete another three somersaults before finally coming to a halt in a grassy ditch.

Martin, who was riding behind me, said the scene looked like something out of a cartoon, with the bike disappearing into a cloud of dust and me flipping and skidding for a solid 30 meters.  When Jeff and Martin pulled over and helped me get my bearings, we were all amazed that nothing was broken as they feared a trip to the hospital, or worse, was inevitable.  The extent of my wounds was a nasty array of scratches that were astonishingly superficial.

The commotion of the crash understandably drew all of the locals to the scene.  The eldest lady there was armed with a jar of a mystery solution that had shells and herbs floating in it.  A little apprehensive but trusting she meant me no harm, I allowed her to slap the solution on the open wounds.  I howled at the stinging pain, and when she started literally slapping it on my tender buttcheek wound, I had to stop her to collect my breath as the village onlookers laughed in unison.

Whatever this crazy concoction is it stings like a bitch.

Whatever this crazy concoction is it stings like a bitch.

After cleaning and bandaging the wounds the best I could (always travel with Betadine) we discovered that my bike was still functional.  Like me, she had escaped a little worse for wear but still kicking.

Just a flesh wound.  Total repairs came to $33.

Just a flesh wound. Total repairs came to $33.

Regrettably, the dog was not as fortunate and died on impact.  While my wounds were painful, they paled in comparison to knowing that I had played a role in taking a dog’s life.  When the locals started gesturing towards the dog, I assumed that they would be angry and want compensation of some sort.  Rather, they were offering me the dog, presumably for that night’s dinner.  Obviously, I politely refused.  I found a small sliver of solace that the dog would at least provide a meal considered a delicacy to these kind locals.  But the dog lover in me found it disheartening that nobody seemed to care about the dog’s fate.  I hope that the dog’s spirit can somehow understand that at least one person cares and that its memory will stick with me forever.

As with everything else, we had to move on and put the accident in our rear view mirror.  The next two days we completed the 300+ km to Hanoi and all my wounds began healing nicely.  Arriving in Ha Noi felt liek a fresh start, and days filled with fun, opposite of the accident, ensued.