Watch it burn

Sometimes in life things go badly wrong.

Yesterday started well. My warmshowers host in Zaragoza, Pedro took me to speak to the class he teaches. It’s a vocational course based around cycle tourism and running commercial cycle tours. The students who were in their late teens and early twenties were great and all seemed fairly interested in what I am doing with lots of questions.


Then I set off east from Zaragoza. I was originally going to follow the Ebro river but the GR99 path was flooded so I doubled back and joined the main road. The main road is busy with lots of trucks but the hard shoulder which I tend to ride on in Spain was wide. Before I knew it with a very strong tailwind I had passed the 50 mile mark and was flying.

After lunch I just kept going and the first real climb of the day at 80 miles didn’t lower my spirits. Finally I ticked off my first century for the trip and the year pretty much exactly as I rolled into Lleida. A quick visit to the supermarket and it was back out of town to find somewhere to camp before the light was gone for the day.


This is where it all goes wrong. I had the tent up but as it had been put away wet and so I was letting it dry before unpacking my sleeping bag. So I concentrated on getting some food cooked and refueling. A split second of stupidity perhaps through tiredness, perhaps just not thinking. Suddenly ‘wumph’ my leg is on fire and so is the tent! I am still wearing my knee warmers and the right one is burning. I panic and unsuccessfully try to beat out the flames with my hands. Then my brain starts to work again and I grab the damp tea towel and put out the flames on my leg and the tent.

Removing what remains of my knee warmer I survey the damage. My tent is now wrecked and there is a large hole through inner and outer. My leg also looks in a pretty bad way and my hands are shaking. I don’t know whether I feel the damage to the tent or the damage to me are the worst things about this situation or which is going to cost me the most in the long run. Not really knowing what to do I calm down and finish cooking and eating.

Having taken stock I decide that the throbbing in my leg and visually how it looks is probably best not ignored. I don’t think I can just sleep it off. So I pack everything back away and cycle back to Lleida to visit A&E at the hospital. The staff are great and even with my limited Spanish it’s actually a fairly smooth experience. As I have an E111 card it didn’t cost anything and the nurses gave me food and insisted I put some cream on my sunburnt face.

The leg though, that’s a bit more than sunburn. When the doctor pulls concerned faces you know you’ve been sensible in going to see them. Apparently I have second degree burns. The hospital cleaned, applied an antibiotic and dressed the wounds. The long term problem is they need to be cleaned and dressed everyday for possibly the next three weeks to try to avoid infection.


Essentially I can’t continue riding unless I go to an A&E or a walk in centre everyday which just isn’t practical. The first week is supposed to be the most important so I am getting the train back to Zaragoza and will be staying with Pedro, visiting a walk in centre everyday and trying to work out what to do. The logical option is to get a train back to northern France and end my trip early but I need to see how I heal and the cost of doing that. In the mean time I now am eternally in Pedro’s debt and can’t thank him enough.

So mistake made. Lesson learnt and costs to be incurred. Welcome to life.

Postscript: First costs incurred €19 for a room in a hostel after being discharged from the hospital. Which was a total waste as I couldn’t sleep anyway. Expect me to be selling more things when I do return to the UK.

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