It was on a MTB trip with the MAD CC (Pirate/Chris Ridley and Kevin Burton). Where do I start? Before we had even left the Airport all sorts had happened. The door closed on the plane, no Kevin, although we had all checked in together, including our bikes and luggage. Pirate didn’t seem concerned, he was used to it. All new to me the first time away with Kev.
Me and Pirate arrived in Tenerife, collected our luggage and our bikes, including Kev’s bike. Leaving another group of cyclists waiting at the conveyor, looking for their missing bike. I wonder where that is? We sorted the hire car, fitted a small bike rack, and loaded the car. Then Kevin appeared just as we had finished saying, “shall we go then”. Due to the fact that he had a multi-tool on him, they wouldn’t let him on the plane with it. Not wanting to give up his multi-tool, all sorts ensued, and he missed his flight. Anyway he arrived with his multi-tool. Just two hours later, hopefully the other cyclist had now got their bike.
By the time we arrived at the hotel I was puzzled and curious as to how my week would unfold after all the shenanigans that had taken place just to get here. After checking in, putting the bikes together, we decided to go out for a quick reconnoitre; bikes on the car, and a drive up to about 1000 meters. Time now about 2 o’clock. Kevin had a cunning plan. Now on the bikes we found the start of a trail that he had in mind. Bit of onwards and backwards, trying to ascertain that this was the correct one, as it seemed un-rideable. In fact, I think we carried the bikes for the first hour. So much had already happened by now, including Pirate nearly disappearing over the side, when he slipped on loose scree. Luckily he came to a halt just before the edge. We carried on, more things happened. By now we were all ready to go back and have a beer and some food.
Tenerife being a volcanic Island of some 3700 meters high, and snow capped, the trail that we eventually found was very narrow on loose, black, compressed ash and rocks. Hugging the side of the mountain with trees, flora and fauna above and below. The temperature was hot, so just shorts and short sleeve top, and a cape of course, as we were on the rainy side of the Island. I was in front at this point, on my old green meanie, a ridged Specialised, 7 speed, with vee brakes. We had been descending for quite a while, the kind of track that puts a smile on your face from ear to ear. I slowed as there was a very sharp right hand corner with a metal handrail secured to the side of the mountain, with a drop to the left, keen to push on as time was now getting on. Quick assessment of the trail in front of me, fast drop down, narrow and a fall to the left, with a sharp left turn at the bottom. Off I went, after a couple of hundred meters a large rock was sticking out and I just managed to duck under it before I hit the corner, where I, of course, fell off. After gathering myself together, I called up to warn Pirate and Kev. I set off as time was pressing, I glanced back to see Pirate nearly coming to his end, on the protruding rock that I had just warned them about.
Not really sure what happened in the next few seconds. The next thing I recall was, looking around, I am holding my front wheel in my left hand with the bike dangling below, my right hand holding a small bit of a plant not much thicker than your little finger, and about a foot or so long. My legs were horizontal in front of me with a few large rocks on my thighs. Sitting on half of one of my cheeks on a small ledge about 4 inches, that had been created by me as I had fallen. Looking below I could see nothing to help me stand up as all I could see was a vertical drop with no end to it. Above I could see the edge of the path some 10 feet or so above me. Umm I thought, don’t think I can move, checkmate as they say.
I could hear Pirate and Kev having a chat, sorting themselves out after that last corner. Worried now that they might go past me, I started to call for help. I could hear their general chat and banter going on, and they were totally unaware of my predicament. By this time I had assessed the situation more, and decided by now that this was quite serious. I shouted louder that I needed help with a “where are you”, even more worried now thinking that if they went past me I’d have had it, not knowing how long I could stay like this, as I was very precariously perched. I could hear them laughing and talking. I now shouted louder “I need help and I need it now”.
The next thing I hear, was “we need a rope”. “Let go of the bike”. Couldn’t see them, only hear them. Can’t let go of the bike I thought, going to need that to get out of here, and apart from that I think it was helping me stay on the side as I think the back wheel was resting on another small little bush, that was also clinging to the mountain side. Miles from nowhere, not sure how much longer I could stay like this … nowhere to fall to. Temperature falling mist rolling through, getting hungry. “We ain’t got time for a rope”, I shouted. I hear the snapping of sticks, “too short”. The tearing of cloth “not strong enough”. Two inner tubes tied together, too stretchy. By now, generally unflappable, I was getting quite concerned, and now feeling the end was drawing closer.
Above me I saw a sleeve hanging down above me. Well out of my reach “too short”, I shouted. “Let go of the bike”, a voice said. (I’m not sure how or at what point I had managed to clear the rock from the tops of my legs). I saw the sleeve reappear, this time a bit closer. In the ensuing moments there were continuing calls for me to let go of the bike. The sleeve still out of my grasp, for some reason I let go of my bike, let go of my small piece of shrubbery, which I can only think I had decided in that split second that the plant had decided to give up its fragile hold to the crumbling volcanic mountainside. Somehow by swapping hands, I had hold of the arm of the sleeve in my left hand, and had caught my front wheel with my right hand, with constant shouts of “let go of the bike”. Somehow I ended up back on the track, not really thinking much of what had just happened but just as normal thinking that was a close one. As I looked down my leg started to shake, as I could now see what was below – nothing – a sheer drop as far as you could see. Kev had had the brilliant idea to tie their two capes together sleeve to sleeve, but by first doing up the zips. He said he had been taught this in the TA. This gave a reasonable length, but not really strong enough to support my weight let alone my bike as well. Which much to their amazement I still had it. I was then informed that Pirate had to hang over the side, with Kev hanging on to him on a path, not any wider than 3 ft and crumbling at the edge; and that they were only just checking to see if it was now long enough to reach me.
It was at this point I realised how lucky we all were. Looking down, the severity of the predicament that I had been in slowly sunk in. I’m still not sure if it was this realisation or the cold that made my legs start to shake; as the sun was going to disappear shortly, and we were quite lost. However, not according to Kev. We started to push on. I went to ride on but I think Kev and Pirate were more shaken than me, and preferred to walk for a while. That was probably a good call, as we were all quite clearly still in shock. After a short while we started to ride again, going further up into the mountain, and further away from our car which we had seen in the distance a long way below us some two hours previously.
After much debate and consultation of Kevin’s book, (that I later discovered was a walking guide book) the light was going, and it was getting cold. No lights with us, food or extra clothes, as we were only out for a short ride. (No Garmin or google earth, not even sure if we had a mobile phone with us.) Kev admitted that we must have missed the turning, and it was probably further back, just before I had gone over the side. Now what, carry on into the unknown (which I think we all agreed was wrong) but in the back of our minds we wondered how we could have missed the turn. What if it’s just a bit further on? Don’t fancy going back along the bit where it had all gone pear shape, especially in the dark with no lights. No, we will have to go back. With much anxiety and trepidation, we turned around.
Onwards and backwards we went, past the real dodgy bit which, I think, we walked. Eventually we came to a large rock somewhere near where we had last spotted the car. Too dark to read the book by now, so Kev working on what he could remember, we had a look around. On the back side of the rock there was the marking for the trail. Obviously we would never have seen it before. By now it was very dark, we could hear dogs barking in the distance. We set off down a fairly wide fire track, Pirate in front I think, confident that at the end of the track we would find the road and the car. The next minute saw me flying through the air for some 20 or so feet. Tricky off road in the dark with no lights. I picked myself up and carried on. At the end, Pirate was there, no sign of the road, no sign of Kev. We called out for Kev but no reply. There was a track off to the right and one to the left. We decided to have a quick look left whilst waiting for Kev to appear. Too overgrown after a couple of hundred meters to be passable, so it must be right. Still no sign of Kev, lots of shouting from us but no reply. Has he gone over the side, if he has we will never find him. Nothing else to do but start riding back.
After quite a while he appeared out of the darkness, a sigh of relief. “What happened”, we inquired. “Punctured but couldn’t see to fix it, but done it in the end”. “Oh well, nearly back”, we said. Back at the bottom, in the distance we could hear a load of dogs barking, sounded like the ‘Hounds of the Baskerville’. Unfortunately the only option is down the track to the right. Well we can’t go left and we can’t go back. Kev took out a small penknife. “What you going to do with that”? “If the dogs attack us, I’ll go for their throats”. “If they go for us I think we’re dead”. Once again we set off, howling and barking getting louder and louder. Expecting to be eaten alive, we eventually arrived at a big old house, looked like something out of the Munsters, the dogs were inside desperately trying to get out, “must be hunting dogs”. After nearly going flying over a chain across the entrance, that couldn’t be seen, a bit of onwards and backwards and we found the road. I could have kissed it, and we had come out close to the car, that was parked outside a Bar.
By now it was about 9 O’clock. Straight to the Bar/Restaurant, by now we were cold, hungry, and still in some sort of shock. Straight inside, a large fire was burning, straight over to it to get some warmth. Up to the bar to try to get some food and a drink. We must have looked bad because the man poured out three large alcoholic drinks, which we hadn’t even asked for, and we drunk them straight down. Unfortunately, there was no food left, and we were quite desperate as he could see. He offered us, what we thought was some kind of goat soup. Well, according to Pirate, who said he had pointed at the goat’s head that was hanging on the wall. He had said that it was like a special health drink, and would be good for us. We were in a hunting area after all. I downed this warm congealed stuff so as not to offend the Barman who was doing his best to help us. It tasted pretty disgusting, but I was pretty hungry. Think Pirate left most of his, I think Kev drunk most of his. Probably a hot coffee, and then back to the Hotel.
In the car I think we decided that the congealed stuff was probably warm goat’s blood. Ah, that makes sense now. Back at the Hotel, gone 10 o’clock now. So no food. We changed and went into town to get some food and beer… lots of beer. A carnival was on, so we ate and drank and got very drunk. Back at the Hotel about 5 o’clock in the morning. Well what a day, as they say. Pirate and Kevin, I owe you one.