Do not go ATVing in a foreign country

20 Sep

This past weekend has been a whirlwind of emotions. Friday, five of us from the volunteer house decided to go ATVing in the mountains of Cusco, Peru. I have never been on an ATV and I was a little apprehensive, but decided to go anyways. Probably from FOMO, a new term I learned from my fellow housemates…. FEAR OF MISSING OUT.

When we arrived at the ATV location, we were each given an ATV and shown how to maneuver the beasts. After 10 minutes of practice, the guides gave us these documents to sign detailing that if anything happened to the ATV, we were responsible for the damages… hmm. It took me 10 minutes to decide whether to sign. It sounded a little strange – so I bombarded the guides with questions and after everyone had already signed and were waiting on me, I signed (my savings account) away and we hit the trail.

Everything was going great! We were all having a fun, dusty time. Midway, we stopped for a short break to enjoy the scenery. We had the worst dirt tans – I even had a dirt uni-brow because of my sunglasses. We took some hilarious photos, drank some water and revved up the ATVs one last time.

We only had about 40 minutes left on the trail. I was first behind the guide, then Nikki, then Stefanie, then Lisa riding with the second guide and finally Patrick. We were going along some switchbacks down a hillside. It was steep and we were all taking our time. I looked behind me and nobody was there. All of sudden, I saw everybody jumping the cliff down the hill and all gathering around someone on the ground. I freaked out. Jumped off my ATV, threw my helmet and sunglasses and ran towards the small crowd. Nikki had fell of her ATV. She rolled about 20 metres down the cliff and the ATV rolled another 50 metres after her.

Nikki couldn’t move the left side of her body. Thankfully, she could move her neck. The guides called an ambulance… which took forever to reach us by the way!! While we waited, we comforted Nikki, made her laugh, and just tried to ease the situation as much as possible. When the ambulance came, the doctor needed to give her a shot so that we could put her on the stretcher without any pain. Nikki was so strong, but the thought of getting a strange needle by some random doctor in the middle of nowhere, freaked her (and me) out. She cried, but Stefanie and Lisa held her hand and we all supported her, telling her that everything will be fine. She got the injection and was carried on the stretcher into the ambulance with no problems. Lisa went with her, while Stefanie, Patrick and I had to finish the trail and bring the ATVs back. Great…. riding an ATV was the last thing I wanted to do.

We drove super slow. I could only think of Nikki. The only thing breaking my train of thought were the relentlessly barking stray dogs, crowding around my ATV. When we got back down, a taxi took us to the clinic where Nikki was getting treatment. One of the international coordinators from Maximo Nivel, our volunteer placement, met us there. About 30 minutes later, we saw Nikki walking into the building after getting some x-rays. What a relief!!!

She had sprained her wrist and hurt her elbow. She was okay! Jimmy, the Maximo guy, and Patrick stayed with Nikki a little while longer, while Lisa, Stefanie and I had to get back to the house to eat and pack for our tour of Lake Titicaca. The tour guide was picking us up at 930pm. Just before we left for Lake Titicaca, Nikki had come home. She looked ten times better, besides the splinter and gauze.

It was an emotionally and physically draining day and I’m thankful that nothing worse happened. There is the matter of paying for the ATV damages, but safety and health are most important and I am glad Nikki has that. After the whole fiasco, 8 people from our house left for Lake Titicaca and had an amazing time. Read the next post! It’s funny how you can go from one extreme to another… especially while traveling.

EDIT: Interestingly, I met some other backpackers who experienced the exact situation with the same ATV tour operator. It all seems very sketchy. The steering wheel locked during both incidents. My advice: avoid an ATV tour in Cusco!


3 Responses to “Do not go ATVing in a foreign country”

  1. Fatima September 20, 2010 at 6:15 PM #

    Wow, Melissa! All I can say is that you are having quite the adventure! Thanks for keeping us "posted". I really enjoy reading your blogs.

  2. Joe September 21, 2010 at 7:02 AM #

    Sorry to hear about the accident.I hope u r all careful out there in the mountains.Good luck to you and take ur time looking around.

  3. Justin September 22, 2010 at 5:34 AM #

    OMGGGG I'm so glad everyone is ok! You guys are so lucky nothing worse happened! Stay safe xoxo

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