By Raf Kiss
When my friend Alessandro disappeared from my rear view mirror, I thought: “this can’t be happening on my first trip with someone that I’m supposed to guide.” I turned my bike around and after the first curve, I saw him lying in the middle of the road, an old VW Beetle only inches away from him, the bike in the ditch and a few people running around, clearly panicking.
I will never know exactly how the accident happened. It was Alessandro’s first ride on a 400cc motorcycle. He had been asking me for weeks to take him on a ride, and I had finally given in. I had two bikes at the time: My own Yamaha XT660R and a recently bought secondhand, yet new Honda Falcon NX4. Like most Brazilian guys, Alessandro was crazy about bikes, especially the heavier ones (which in Brazil means: more than 250cc).
I was setting up my motorcycle touring business at the time and thought that doing a trip with someone else would be great to get some needed guiding experience. Alessandro is a good friend, a very serious person and he has a motorcycle license, so what could go wrong, right?
The weather was perfect and we took an early start that Saturday morning. Alessandro was riding my bike, but I also lent him a helmet, gloves and bike jacket, since he didn’t have those things. The plan was to ride from Volta Redonda to Ubatuba and back in one day (I later learned that this was a little too much for one day, but that’s another story).
Making our way out of Volta Redonda, I constantly had my eyes on the mirrors, to see how Alessandro was doing. I had the impression that he was a little unsecure in the curves, but I thought that once he got used to the bike, he would be alight.
We got onto a small, winding back road, the kind that motorcyclists love. I was still checking my mirrors a lot, and one curve after another, Alessandro seemed to do just fine. We had just passed the city of Bananal, one of the historical cities of São Paulo State, when I made a first stop, to check if everything was ok, and if I wasn’t going too fast or anything. Alessandro reassured me that he was having the time of his life and called his girlfriend to tell her he was fine.
About 5 km further down the road, after taking a left curve, I noticed that it took Alessandro longer than usual to appear. I slowed down to wait for him, but he didn’t show up, so I stopped all together. Motorcycling is awesome, but I always knew that the worst nightmare in this business would be that one of my clients would have an accident.
My brain shifted in higher gear when I went over the possible reasons why Alessandro wasn’t there. It took only a split second to realize that something was wrong, and I turned back. The nightmare had come true. Alessandro had missed the curve and had gone down.
He was lying on his back, his helmet still on his head, but the visor was gone. His face was white as a sheet of paper, and I remember his eyes were really big, staring at me in disbelief about what just had happened. He said: “dude, did I just destroy your bike?”
My first concern was of course if he was ok. I asked him to squeeze my hand, move his toes, asked him his name and some other stuff, where he felt pain. He seemed lucid and said that his shoulder and left leg were hurting.
I felt his shoulder and noticed that there was a hole in the jacket. Apparently he had slid across the hot asphalt and that had burned the hole in the jacket and bruised his shoulder. Checking his leg, I saw blood on his pants and pulling the pants up, I saw a gaping cut, about 10 cm long that was so deep that I could see the bone.
I always carry a first aid kit in my tank bag, so I took it out and put a bandage on the wound after disinfecting it.
I hadn’t been paying a lot of attention to what was going on around me, but after I knew Alessandro was going to be ok, I noticed that 4 cars had stopped, and at least 10 people were at the scene. One of them offered to ride back to Bananal to get an ambulance and notify the police. Since there was no mobile phone signal, I was happy to accept the offer.
After 20 minutes, the ambulance arrived and Alessandro was taken to the hospital in Bananal. In the mean time, with the help of a few other people, I had pulled the Falcon out of the ditch and assessed the damage. The handlebars and dashboard were destroyed, but for the rest – luckily – the damage was only “cosmetic”.
Now, the problem was that I was there, 70 km from home with two bikes, one of which was too damaged to ride. One man came up to me and said that he knew the owner of the fazenda, 200m further down the road. He would go there and ask if I could park the Falcon there until I would pick it up.
In the mean time the police had arrived and took my declaration. Note: my Portuguese was far from perfect back then.
The guy came back from the fazenda and told me it would be no problem to leave the Falcon there for as long as I needed. We pushed the bike to the fazenda and then the same person offered to give me a ride in his car to the hospital to see how my friend was doing. His wife and kids would stay with my bike at the scene of the accident.
At the hospital, they were already stitching up Alessandro’s leg, and judging by the sounds he was making, it wasn’t without pain. After some administrative stuff, I told Alessandro that I would ride back to Volta Redonda, get my jeep and trailer, get the bike at the fazenda and pick him up on the way back.
Alessandro’s wounds healed, the bike got repaired and I learned two things that day:
1. I seem to be able to keep my cool in a bad situation.
2. Brazilian people are amazing, and always ready to help a person in need.
I never got around to thanking the people that helped me during this ordeal, but I don’t think that they really care.
About the Author
Raf kiss is a Belgian expat in Brazil since January 2009. He’s a motorcycle and outdoors enthusiast, tour guide, seeker of adventure, musician and newbie blogger. His work as a motorcycle tour operator brings him to a lot of places in Brazil, especially in the south east, south and north east regions. Besides riding motorcycles, he likes mountain biking, swimming, hiking, rafting , kayaking, rappel and rock climbing… he also plays guitar and harmonica and enjoys reading a book, writing about his trips, adventures and experiences in Brazil, he wants to inspire other people to visit this wonderful country.