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Who Needs An Emergency Contact Device?

With plans to do some solo riding I read countless posts and watched endless YouTube videos regarding the pro's and con's of PLB's, Spot and Garmin inReach devices over the last couple of months and for reasons of my own I decided that the Garmin inReach Explorer+ was the device that suited my needs.

I'm not going to bore you all with my decision making process but I do want to share with you the relief I feel now for making the decision to buy one prior to my solo ride to the Snowy Mountains of NSW.

Jindabyne camp

I'm sure that the Barry Way south of Jindabyne is a road frequently travelled without incident by many Adventure Bike Riders but for me on the 12 January 2019 it was to be a ride that ended with an unexpected visit to Canberra Hospital.

I left Jindabyne at around 8.00am and had ridden for approximately 60 kilometres when going around a tight left hand bend the front wheel washed out on the eroded surface that was covered in pea sized gravel and sand. To be honest I have little recollection of what happened next but suffice to say that I ended up about 6 metres down the side of the road amongst the scrub and fallen trees and feeling fortunate that I was alive.

At first I lay there pondering how the hell I was going to get my bike back up to the road and then I tried to stand up and quickly realised that I was going nowhere without assistance. The trouble was that I was a long way off the road and down a steep embankment but I decided that I would first try to hail a passing rider. A long story short this did not work out so good the first three or four attempts, so I had decided that if the next rider did not hear me then I would just hit the emergency button on my inReach.

Bike and I down the hill

Much to my amazement and relief I was heard and soon had two of the nicest guys you could hope to meet in these circumstances at my side making sure that I was ok and making plans to get me to safety. Steve and Mark (I'm sorry that I never got your last names) were awesome in every aspect of the word and were joined shortly after by Jim Francis.

Unfortunately in this neck of the woods mobile phone reception is a complete non-event and though they tried at various locations it was not happening. With no other option I did what in hindsight I should have done earlier, I pushed the Emergency Button on the inReach.

I can say that within a couple of minutes I received a return message asking what the nature of my emergency was. I informed them that I had a broken leg and required an ambulance. Another couple of minutes later I received a return message that emergency services were notified and on their way to my location. Not bad for communicating across the other side of the world to America. They also notified my nominated emergency contact persons to inform them of my situation.

So as I lay there wondering how long until the ambulance arrived, Steve, Mark and Jim did what any motorcyclist worth their salt would do, plan how to rescue my bike from the side of the hill. And they bloody well did too because as they said, the tow truck would just drag it up the hill and cause more unnecessary damage.

It was while all this contemplation was going on that we heard the sound of a helicopter approaching and then circling around looking for somewhere suitable to land but with no possible locations due to the dense bush they eventually winched down a Doctor and Paramedic to the road nearby.

Ready for winching

After examining me they told me that I was indeed a lucky guy to have got out of this accident with only a broken ankle and a sprained shoulder for my trouble. I had to agree but I also told them that some part of that was due to my safety preparation with the inReach and like all sensible riders the protective gear that I was wearing.

After surgery with pins & plate

So I am now 5 weeks on from the accident and in recovery mode after having a plate and many pins inserted in my leg to stabilise the fracture. The good news is that it is getting better. The bad news is that it will be a few more months before I can walk properly again let alone ride my bike!

I guess the bottom line of this story is that in my opinion an emergency satellite contact device is an absolute life saver and should be high on the list of must haves for any solo rider and indeed at least one in any group ride when travelling in remote areas. You cannot rely on mobile phones to save your life. As the old saying goes "the life you save may be your own".

For me I just consider the Garmin inReach Explorer+ to have already paid for itself many, many times over. Very cheap insurance for both me and my loved ones.

I am not going to get into all the pro's and con's of Spot v inReach v PLB, but in my opinion and experience the ability to communicate by text in an emergency situation cannot be overstated. There is nothing more reassuring when you are actually in an emergency than knowing without doubt that help is on the way!

I want to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to Mark, Steve and Jim for their assistance and for rescuing my bike haha. I owe you many beers when next we meet!

I want to also thank Brennan from Jindabyne Police for his help in arranging the tow of my bike and for offering to store and keep safe all my gear.

Last but in no way least I want thank the Doctor, Paramedic and all personnel on the Toll Emergency helicopter.

NB: Also want to acknowledge the various photographers of the images shown above. Nothing like a photo to show how it was and is. Thank you.

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