Legend Of The Fall

None the worse for wear.

It's been a few days now, and I'm still shaking my head in astonishment. What a thing to have happened, and to have survived unscathed.

Unbelievable, really.

It was a gorgeous Indian summer's day, and Stewart, Mark and I were out for a ride along the banks of the Vltava. Stewart and I wanted to show Mark our new favorite ride, down the river to the Marina Vltava in the village of Nelahozeves, where we'd catch a few beers and then cycle back.

Our previous trips to Nelahozeves involved meeting up in Úholičky, and then riding some back roads down into Kralupy or Libčice nad Vltavou, where we'd pick up the trail on the west side of the river.

Crossing the Vltava with our bikes on the ferry at Roztoky.

This time, I thought it would be fun to ride up the east bank of the Vltava to Kralupy, cross the big bridge in that city, and then link up with the wonderful path that leads from Kralupy to Nelahozeves. So that's what we did. (For a map showing our exact route, click here.)

We caught the ferry in Roztoky, which took us across the river to Klecany, where we picked up the riverside trail to Kralupy. It's a wonderful ride, but a bit hairy in parts. Much of the path on the east side of the river runs right along the top of a wall that plunges four or five meters down into the river. The other side of the path is also tight, with trees and rocks and brush that also leaves little room for error.

The trail is lovely in spots ...

... and quite treacherous in others.

It's hard to tell from this photo, but the edge of the trail plunges about five meters straight down into the river.

Basically, it's a fantastically scenic ride, but you've got to keep your eyes on the trail at all times. One of our usual riding partners, James, once told us of an acquaintance of his who had fallen off the ledge and into the river on her bike. As I remember the story, his friend wasn't hurt, but it was a heck of a thing to fish her out of the river.

We always joke nervously that incident every time we're riding on this particular trail, and this day was no exception as the three of us headed north.

We pedaled past a pasture full of cute little piglets on our way to Kralupy, and showed Mark the soft, rolling trail from Kralupy to Nelahozeves, with its cool sandstone caves on one side and the river on the other.

A pig farm on the way from Klecany to Kralupy.

Taking a snooze in the sun.

We stopped at the Marina for what I believe ended up being three beers each for Stewart and myself, and two for Mark. We also had a deliciously spicy plate of goulash and dumplings, some of the best we've ever had in Prague, in fact.

After lunch, we cycled past the house where the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak was born and lived as a young man (that's his house in the photo below), before heading a bit further north to cross a cool old bridge back across to the east side of the river, near Veltrusy.

From there, we headed back home, winding our way through some village streets, always heading toward the river, until we linked up with the Vltava path that hugs the river all the way back to Prague.

Eventually, we arrived back at that stretch of the trail that clings precariously to the top of the river wall. We were cycling single file, as the trail demands. Mark was in the lead, I was behind him by 30 meters or so, and Stewart was following somewhere way in the rear.

Looking up the trail, I noticed in the distance that Mark had dismounted and was standing with his bike along the edge of the river wall. He was letting a group of riders coming down the river pass by safely.

That's when he disappeared.

One second he was there. The next second, he was, simply, gone.

It looked to me like he had, incredibly, fallen off the wall. In my mind, in that split second, I thought to myself: "The event that we've all joked about so many times has actually happened. Oh, shit!"

I knew it was a long way down to the riverbank and the water. This wasn't going to be pretty.,

"MARK!!! MARK!!!! ARE YOU ALRIGHT??!" I shouted as I cycled up to where I'd last seen Mark.

Much to my surprise, and relief, I could hear Mark laughing as he yelled, "Yes, I'm OK!"

How that could possibly be, I could not fathom.

Yes, Mark is down there somewhere in the shrubbery and river water.

As it turns out, as he stepped aside to let the other group pass, straddling his bike, Mark took one step too many and fell about four or five meters backwards off the wall, straight down, with his bike following closely behind.

The riverbank was choked with a dense growth of leafy brush. As he fell, the shrubbery cushioned his fall somewhat, as did the river itself, in which he ended up rear end down.

He wasn't hurt, but he couldn't move. His bike had landed on top of him. His ass was in the river. His legs were up in the air. And he was wedged in at an awkward angle.

That's Mark, stuck in place. His butt and backpack in the water. His bike on top of him. At an angle from which it's impossible to right himself.

Hauling Mark's bike back up the wall from whence he fell.

By the time I arrived on the scene, the group of guys who Mark had allowed to go by were already in rescue mode. I think they felt somewhat responsible for the accident, but to their credit, they wasted no time in jumping to Mark's rescue.

One guy grabbed another guy's hand, and he lowered himself down the face of the stone wall to where Mark lay stricken. He pulled Mark's bike off him, and then grabbed Mark's hand and pulled him upright.

I watched all of this from the top of the wall, incredulous. I simply couldn't believe it. MARK FELL OFF THE WALL!

The guys hoisted Mark's bike up the wall, while Mark himself found an easier way up by heading down the trail a bit, crossing under through a huge drain pipe, and walking casually up to where the rest of us stood, laughing all the way.

He was unscathed, save for a cut on the back of his leg. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for the expensive digital camera stored in his backpack, which spent one too many minutes immersed in the Vltava. Mark's iPhone somehow managed to escape destruction.

In all the excitement, I didn't think to film a little video of Mark's rescue, but I did have Mark recount his ordeal into my own iPhone as we stood there on the trail, just minutes after the incident:


We thanked the guys who helped pull Mark out of the drink, and they went on their way toward Kralupy. Never did get their names, but hat's off to them for immediately jumping to the rescue.

As for us, we hopped back on our bikes toward Prague, shaking our heads and laughing all the way, including Mark. Hats off to him for enduring something like that with such good humor.

We just couldn't believe what had happened, and that Mark hadn't seriously injured himself. Imagine if he'd fallen on a rock, or the wrong way on an upturned branch.


That's all I can say about that ride.

Length of ride: 57 kilometers
Elevation Gain: 463 meters
Duration of the ride: 5:18:07
Average speed: 10.8 kph
Maximum speed: 37.9 kph
Pivo Index: 3
Distance ridden so far in 2009: 621.5 kilometers

This cool old bridge to Veltrusy was once used by cars, but it's closed now except for pedestrians and cyclists.

From the bridge, we watched this group of rafters about to launch themselves into the river.


James Gogarty said…
You forgot to write in Ride Stats, Height of fall: 4.5 meters
Wow! I remember being nervous cycling along that edge and thinking it's going to hurt so much to fall over it. I'm glad Mark got spared.
Anonymous said…
Mark said…
It's Stoo's turn next to go into the drink!
Pivní Filosof said…
Bugger me!!! Glad he didn't hurt himself.

On another note, I couldn't really laughed after seeing the pic of the piglet and then a guláš right below it... I know it was likely to be a beef one, but I couldn't help to think something like: "that must have been some really presh pork"...
Wow! is right. Must have been the two beers that saved him...;-)
E said…
That trail is one of the reasons I haven't dared switch my flat pedals to SPDs yet...
Grant Podelco said…
Yes, I can't imagine doing that trail with clipless pedals!
amidnightrider said…
A a linguist, I have never hear a more neutral accent than Mark's. I'm thinking Colorado or California initially, but it could be from "nowhere", like Conneticut or something.

The rafer in the bottom right giving you the finger is kind of sweet too. 8>)
Grant Podelco said…
Mark's from Ohio. That's a pretty funny observation about his voice. Not sure if that's good or bad!

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