Monday, 11 January 2016

Cycling to Pencarrow Lighthouse

It's been several years since my 101 in 1001 project began and ended. One activity I never ticked off the list was #13: Walk/cycle to the Pencarrow lighthouse and have a picnic. It's something I'd done years ago (both walking and cycling) but, even though it's relatively close to home, had never repeated. When an opportunity came up this week to cycle to the lighthouse with a group of friends, I grabbed it. We packed a picnic lunch and set out from Burdan's Gate in Eastbourne.

The ride is a flat 7.5 km each way, taking roughly 25 minutes to get there on a gravel road. There are actually two lighthouses at Pencarrow. The original lighthouse up on the ridge was built in 1858 but, due to its altitude, was occasionally shrouded in fog. From memory, there is a grave of a young girl (perhaps 8 years old) near the lighthouse, creating a very rich history. The steep path up to this lighthouse can only be reached on foot and  is currently out of action.

Looking north towards both lighthouses
The second lighthouse was built on the shore in 1906 to supplement the first. Small 12v halogen lamps now provide the light, which can be seen from up to 16 nautical miles away. It has been automated since 1960. The power supply is from solar powered batteries, vastly different and more efficient to the original set up from a century ago.

We had a picnic lunch, seeking shelter behind the bottom lighthouse. It can be really windy and exposed so watch the weather forecast before setting out and allow yourself a couple of hours if you are cycling and longer if you walk. The easterly view across Wellington Harbour is quite novel if you've never seen the city from this direction.

Pencarrow Lighthouse
That's where this blog post was meant to finish - as a happy ending to what was a relaxing and long overdue summer break.

Shortly after leaving the lighthouse to head back to Eastbourne, there is a cattle or stock stop along the road. I'd dismounted and walked my bike over it on the way there but felt braver going back and decided to ride over it instead. Bad decision. I came off my bike and ended up underneath it. My sunglasses broke and left a nasty, deep gash above my left eyebrow and quite a bit of blood on and around me. My left shoulder was wrenched against the side of the bridge, and I had to pull myself back and up not knowing if anything was dislocated or broken. I had packed a travel first-aid kit and a friend did a great job of using all the bits and pieces to disinfect grazes, bind up my head wound and later create a makeshift sling for my arm ... but we were still 7 km out from the car park.

Cycling wasn't an option for me so I walked while my partner pushed my bike alongside his and my friends went for help. Help didn't arrive as vehicle access is apparently only allowed on that road with a permit (the wedding party that drove past us must have had one) or an ambulance. Having neither, I trudged along for an hour and was surprised that not one single walker, runner or cyclist stopped and asked if I was ok all the way back to the gate. By this time I had quite a bit of blood on my face and body and was nursing an ice pack from the picnic lunch against my bandaged arm. It's not like most people could have done anything for me but I found it interesting that I didn't get a second look. Hmm.

After five hours in Hutt Hospital Emergency Department, I was discharged with an immobile left arm in a strong sling resulting from a moved shoulder joint, a glued and taped up head wound (hooray for no stitches!), a tetanus shot, a prescription for pain meds and instructions for physio rehab. No using my left arm means no return to work for me this week and cancelling various plans.

So this post was written painstakingly slowly on my phone and finished with one hand on my laptop. I'm tired, sore and generally gluggy but doing ok. It could have been so much worse though and I'm thankful nothing was broken or stitched.

I just know that I would have stopped and asked if I could help if I saw someone injured approaching. Definitely. With no hesitation. No doubt about it.

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