A big ouch and the big five oh!

12 August 2019

Tuesday 6 August 19 – Ninh Hoa to Nha Trang – 41km (Martina last 16km by ambulance)

As we had a short day planned we were up and out a wee bit later than usual. We were being blown along nicely by a tail wind so at about 18km, instead of going straight to Nha Trang, we decided to take a quieter route along a coastal road. We passed through a picturesque fishing village and then continued along what was a really lovely road…

…and then our day got “a lot more exciting”! This next bit might sound a bit like a police or insurance report, but it’s the only way I know how to write it down…

We cruised down an easy hill with a gentle left hand corner at the bottom. There was nothing unusual about it other than there was a bit of gravel on the outside of the curve, which is quite common.  As I started up the next hill in my mirror I saw Martina, who was a short distance behind me, go from being upright to being on her side on the ground in the matter of a second. Martina had hit the gravel on the corner and crashed badly!

I immediately turned around to race back to her.  A couple of scooters that had been just behind her stopped and before I got there a guy was already lifting her bike off her. I tried to stop him as I was worried that she might have hurt her back, but I couldn’t get there in time. I dumped my own bike and raced to Martina who was gurgling, and her breathing was shallow and very erratic. I initially thought she’d swallowed her tongue and had to force her mouth open to check, but I could see it at the front of her mouth so all was well. I asked the scooter riders to call an ambulance and also to look out for cars coming around the corner as I didn’t fancy being squished on the road next to Martina. There was no doubt that Martina had to go to hospital after cracking her head on the tarmac like that. However, we always wear helmets and this is why – it would be a very different story if she hadn’t been wearing one (note the additional embedded gravel!)…

The scooter riders even hung around for a while whilst I was sorting Martina out, which was a great comfort.

Gradually (probably after about 20-30 seconds, I’m guessing) her breathing came back to some semblance of normality and I relaxed a bit. She can’t remember any of this because I guess she was knocked out for a bit, but what was a bit freaky was her eyes were half open the whole time but not blinking. She started to ask where she was and why and what had happened – over and over again – which was also a good(ish) sign as she was becoming properly conscious. I did a top-to-toe check and found she had a sore shoulder, but it only looked bruised and nothing broken or deformed. She also had a bad bleed where her hip had hit the ground.  I used a good old Forces first-field dressing to cover the wound and stem the bleeding and let Martina hold it in place (Martina moved herself into this position and I only took one photo!)…

It wasn’t bleeding enough for me to be too concerned, but looked like it’d need some stitches, and thankfully nothing else seemed out of place. And all because of this rather innocuous-looking gravel. I took this photo when I went back to collect her bike later in the day, and you can still see Martina’s skid marks…

The scooter riders, who’d now left, had assured me that an ambulance was on its way, but I had no idea if it really was. I thought I’d give it a bit of time so started to think what to do with our bikes as I’d try to ride in the ambulance with her to the hospital. Martina’s bike appeared to be generally unscathed and so I looked for somewhere to stash it for when the ambulance turned up, which it did about 30 seconds later…Martina fell off her bike at 9:20 and the ambulance was there at about 9:40! And we were 16km from the town, which was lucky.

There wasn’t enough room for me in the (very small) ambulance, so the crew scooped her up, I gave her her passport and phone, told her I loved her and she was off. But not before I’d found out exactly where they were taking her.  When I googled hospitals in Nha Trang about 8 popped up and I didn’t want to go to the wrong one!

I stashed her bike at a construction site a couple of hundred meters up the road (the workers were brilliant – through Google translate of course!), got on my bike and peddled the 16km towards Nha Trang like mad.  

I found the hospital on my second attempt.  Okay so I got a bit temporarily displaced (lost) as it’s a big place! The reception staff recognised that I was a crazy foreigner dressed in weird clothing that was obviously attached to the other crazy foreigner dressed in a similar way (but with more blood), who’d just been brought in. They put me in the ‘foreigner room’ where I waited for about 15 minutes and then Martina turned up on a trolley…

She’d already had a CT scan on her hip and internal organs, which were all okay, and an X-ray on her head which proved that there is, in fact, something in there and that it was fine – no fractures or bleeding. She was then wheeled off to have some stitches in her side, where she had been bleeding from deep cuts.  But overall it wasn’t as bad as it could possibly have been  – so we were both a bit relieved, though Martina wasn’t feeling too good, which can only be expected when her brain had been rattled around inside her skull.

Lesson of the day – wear a helmet!

She also had a few cuts and grazes and some friction burns on her arm and leg from her synthetic clothing. But it was rather lucky that she had been wearing a long-sleeved top or we’d be picking gravel out of her arm for weeks. We were given a prescription and I went to the pharmacy around the corner for meds and then I put Martina in a taxi to go to our accommodation and followed her on my bike. After all the events of the morning we were still checked in to our hotel and sorted by 12:30.

Once I (we) was happy that she was okay I took a taxi to collect her bike, said thanks to the construction workers who’d helped me earlier, and cycled back to our accommodation. The rest of the afternoon was spent eating and resting.

Even though there was very little common language between us, the scooter riders, construction workers, ambulance crew, hospital staff and our accommodation owners were all fantastic. Again the kindness of people on this trip has been overwhelming.

Wednesday 7 – Sunday 11 Aug 19 – Nha Trang convalescence 

As we’ve had some time to take stock of what happened yesterday we’ve found ourselves being grateful that things turned out as they did and when and where they did:

  • The accident happened not far from a large city with numerous hospitals – it might have been harder in the remote areas of Mizoram in India or Laos. We do have extensive first aid kits and Martina would have survived, but it wouldn’t have been pleasant!
  • The scooter riders who called the ambulance were fantastic and had I had to explain over the phone where we were we’d probably still be out there now!
  • Martina’s helmet did what it’s supposed to do!  We are pretty fastidious about wearing them even though in the long-distance cycling world it’s obviously not cool as when we do see other long distance cyclists, not many of them do.
  • Our accommodation hosts were able to check us in early and we were able to quickly settle in and relax. And our accommodation was high quality with great facilities, including kitchenette and washing machine, which hasn’t always been the case.
  • We don’t have to worry about moving on until we are ready as our  Vietnamese visas are valid until mid-September.

On with the saga…

Martina had a good night’s sleep and ate a hearty breakfast, both of which are good signs. Our accommodation hosts said that, as we were now staying for a full week for convalescence, they would upgrade us to a better room on Thursday at a reduced priced. They also gave us a huge 20L bottle of filtered water for our room as they knew Martina had limited mobility – very generous. We walked, very slowly, the 1.5km to the hospital to have Martina’s injury cleaned and then took a taxi home. It’s good for her to get mobile as soon as possible but without hurting herself. For once I got to do the shopping and went to Big C on my own and to be honest I don’t see what the fuss is all about….! And that was about it for our first proper day in Nha Trang.

True to their word the accommodation folk gave us a slightly bigger room which had a nice big window so we had some natural light, which was great. If there was somewhere on our journey to have a week (or maybe more) of convalescence this was it.

Martina once again had a good nights sleep and was eating well.  However as often happens with these things, she was actually stiffer and sorer than the day before. We had a very gentle wander down to the beach in the morning…

…but apart from that it was rest for the remainder of the day.

Nha Trang is a really big tourist resort that is obviously marketed strongly in Russia and China as there are Russians and Chinese everywhere and everything is written in Cyrillic and Chinese. It’s expanding a lot too as there’s a load of construction going on and even though we’re not huge fans of tourist resorts or beach holidays, it is actually a very nice place.  The sea front in particular is very pleasant and has been voted one of the nicest bays in the world (29th apparently, by whom I’m not too sure!) and certainly isn’t that crowded…

The next few days were spent doing much the same, resting and keeping Martina mobile. Even though we know that these things take time to heal it has been frustrating as we are not used to a sedentary lifestyle. We have, however, made the most of it by resting up as much as possible and catching up on much-needed sleep.

Martina’s progress was good and there were improvements each day and by Saturday we could walk to the Catholic cathedral and back, a total of 3km…

We changed her dressings every other day as per the doctor’s orders and there was nothing untoward that we could see. The bruise on her hip went some pretty spectacular colours that would rival the clouds on Jupiter…

…and the one on her head faded fairly quickly and it no longer looked like she’d had Botox!

Sunday 11 August 19 – Nha Trang – (Nigel 10km to Big C and back!).  Nigel’s 50th birthday!

I can tell you exactly where we were this time last year without even looking at our cycling diary – we were in the hills of central southern Hungary just north of Pecs and it’s was my 49th birthday.  At the time we wondered where we might be in a year’s time and we guessed we’d be in Vietnam, but didn’t know exactly where.  By chance and luck we are, in fact, in Vietnam! A couple of weeks back Martina asked where we might actually be for my 50th birthday and it looked like we’d be between stops on our journey. This didn’t bother me as it was the same as last year and I can’t think of a better way of spending my birthday other than going exploring on a bike with my best mate. After the trauma of the past few days, the bike ride wasn’t going to happen this birthday – other than a trip for me to Big C and back (pose complete with obligatory South East Asian peace sign!)…

but we are still on the road and we’ll make up for the shortfall in on-bike time in the very near future. I will delay my birthday bike exploring with Martina until then.

We went down to the beach for a celebratory beer or two and had a nice meal (curry of course!) in town…

During the last 365 days Martina has been filling in an app called One Second Everyday. Each day she chose a picture or video from that particular day and put it into the app. At the end of the year, on 10th August 19, she put it all together through the app which makes it into a video of one second snippets of our last year (between my 49th and 50th birthdays), which you can can see here (the video will take about 10 seconds before it starts playing)…

And an unrelated picture of the day award…

I will, of course, ensure I s**t in the right place at all times!


  1. Comment by Bruce Lellman

    Bruce Lellman Reply 14 August 2019 at 5:45 am

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. But I’m also happy it wasn’t worse. Isn’t it wonderful how great most people are in the world – they come running to help a foreigner in need. The Vietnamese are some of the best we have ever met. Here’s to your speedy recovery. And Happy Birthday Nigel. I think your big birthday present was that Martina will be fine.

    Your video was really fun. Thank you. What an amazing year you two have had!!

    • Comment by Martina

      Martina Reply 19 August 2019 at 10:12 am

      Thanks Bruce. We are both so glad that it wasn’t a lot worse, and we already back on the road so thankfully was a speedy recovery Here’s hoping there are no more mishaps for the rest of the trip!

  2. Comment by lani

    lani Reply 13 August 2019 at 10:50 pm

    hoping you are on the mend Martina. glad you had a good situation to recover in. life on the road eh

    • Comment by Martina

      Martina Reply 14 August 2019 at 3:36 am

      Thanks Lani. Yes, just some of the many dangers of touring! Thankfully am on the mend now and even managed a 10km ride earlier, so hopefully we will be back on the road again.

  3. Comment by Andrea Brown

    Andrea Brown Reply 13 August 2019 at 9:18 pm

    I loved the photo compilation, truly remarkable what you have been doing. Martina, I hope you heal quickly, I’m so glad that it wasn’t worse and that helpers were all around you immediately. Nigel, happy birthday, your 50s are going to be amazing. Best to you both! We are flying into Mandalay in late October and are very excited!

    • Comment by Martina

      Martina Reply 14 August 2019 at 3:40 am

      Thanks Andrea for your good wishes to us both. Looking forward to reading abut your adventures in Myanmar when you get there!

  4. Comment by Margo

    Margo Reply 13 August 2019 at 11:48 am

    Martina is giving you a right evil stare in that photo after the accident 🙂 Glad that she is on the mend now and that you had a great 50th birthday!!

    • Comment by Nigel

      Nigel Reply 14 August 2019 at 3:32 am

      Hi Margo, there’s nothing unusual in that stare, she uses it often!

  5. Comment by lani

    lani Reply 12 August 2019 at 11:28 pm

    ouch hardly covers that experience. scary. so glad people available to help! congrats Nigel on getting to 50. enjoy the next, what, 50? 🙂

    • Comment by Nigel

      Nigel Reply 14 August 2019 at 3:31 am

      Hi Lani, yes, let’s hope there’s another 50 in me! Quite honestly I didn’t think I’d make it this far!

  6. Comment by Norah Doherty

    Norah Doherty Reply 12 August 2019 at 4:52 pm

    Happy birthday Nigel..xxx

    • Comment by Nigel

      Nigel Reply 14 August 2019 at 3:29 am

      Hi Norah, thanks for the birthday wishes, we will no doubt toast the occasion when we see you back in London!

  7. Comment by Tom, Nikky & Ronan

    Tom, Nikky & Ronan Reply 12 August 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Hi Nigel and Martina. Holy Toledo – what an experience! So glad to hear that Martina is on the mend and hope that the rest of the adventure proceeds without anything similar happening again. Love that collection of photos/videos!

    • Comment by Nigel

      Nigel Reply 14 August 2019 at 3:27 am

      Hello Tom and the gang! Martina is progressing well and we went on a short ride to the supermarket (10km) this morning so definitely going in the right direction! Thank you for the good wishes.

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