Friday 31 January 2014

This title purposefully left blank (Colombia to Ecuador)

writing this one from a campsite in Chile, turns out Chile is damn expensive, paying $20 a night just to camp, don't even talk about the food!! Quite a shock after Bolivia where a meal cost a buck fifty and a room wasn't much more!

So yeah, it's been a while but I'll fill you in from Colombia, sorry if I go over old ground.

We spent 2 months waiting in Medellin for parts, piston rings and gaskets. Who knew the local mechanic would lie about it only taking 3 days? We decided to go camping early in the wait and headed up to a national park where we stayed for 3 nights but only paid for one. It was an organised camp ground and there was some kind of relationship seminar going on. The tents had nice soft mattresses and rose pettles scattered on them. a big bonfire was setup in the middle of the tents and everyone got drunk, played with fire and I assume had sex although who would want to do it with the neighbours 2 feet and a thin plastic sheet away I don't know.
View from the cablecar over Medellin
"wild" camping with our nice BBQ area and lots of wood!
When we returned to the city we called into the mechanic who informed us that it'd be another day or two so we didn't wait around and visited another town. We'd repeat this several times over the next two months. I'll save you the surprise and explain what happened now. The address in Miami I was told to send the parts to was abandoned. It took us a week or two to find this out with the parts sitting all alone in a mailbox, finally got them redirected to the correct address. It then turned out the mechanic had not ordered the parts he said he would so they took even more time. Finally with everything in Miami they were sent to Medellin as part of a larger shipment of which someone forgot to fill in the import papers so we had to wait even longer. Most of the time we waited in Medellin in a small hostel where the owners got to know us and we became part time nannies for their daughter. Fun times!
Just another pretty street in Guatape
Anyway, the parts arrived and they installed them, rebuilt the whole engine and when I turned up to pick it up the engine was making a clunking noise. At this point I was beyond angry. 2 months and they put the damn thing together wrong. We left anyway, Our visas and bike import were running out so we had no choice.
We left with a churning feeling in my stomach and headed south towards Ecuador. The noise persisted but we tried to ignore it. I've kinda taken to hiding problems a bit from Heather. I've put her through hell with this bike and she deserved to enjoy the trip considering the time, effort and money she's put in. So we headed to Tatacoa desert in the south. Nice roads most of the way, we slipped off the main road onto a dirt track into the desert. At least with the rough ground I couldn't hear the noise from the engine. After several miles and wrong turnings we eventually found a campsite and pitched our tent looking out over a multicoloured, wind shapped landscape. It was beautiful, we watched the sunset and when it was totally dark we visited the observatory for a lecture on the stars and some moon viewing. We were even lucky enough to see a huge meteorite. Someone else saw a plane and thought it was another meteorite. We tried not to laugh too much.
The next day we headed south running for the border. The GPS showed lovely tarmac the whole way. It lied. We've posted the video already but there's another copy here. It took us two days to reach the border, a couple of close calls with trucks and general amazement at the condition of the road we finally made it with a day to spare on our visas. Phew.
Parked overlooking the Tatacoa Desert (the roadmap is Heathers artwork)
My future career path (Americans please research what fanny means in english!)
this sign is always reduntent. If you don't realise you're on a twisty road then you probably shouldn't be driving!
Borders seem to be getting easier as we head south. This one was simple enough, they barely looked at our papers. One more country off the list, 5 to go. That's half of them for those who are counting.
And into Ecuador, another easy entrance, show papers, get stamps, buy insurance. Worthy of note, the insurance here actually covers you in an accident as well as whoever you hit. $25 for the month and you're covered for $2,500, enough to get things started while someone sorts out your own insurance. We stopped in Otovalo for a couple of days, bought all our christmas presents (sorry they were so small but we had a serious weight limit), Got my waterproofs fixed (we burnt them on the tailpipe, you think I'd learn) and welded a shield over the exhaust so it wont happen again. All in all one of our more productive cities. We soon headed south for the Equator. A big moment in the trip yet the actual equator we crossed was not marked in any way. I marked it on the GPS and as we approached I walked the bike to the "line" and drew an actual line on the road for future travellers. What's the point in crossing the equator if you don't mark it somehow?
forward a bit, forward a bit wait wait back a bit... That's it. The moment we crossed the equator 0.0N
the "line is right under my foot, honest guv.

And the "real" equator, monument and everything. Honestly if you're an equatorial country and you don't draw a thick red line across the whole damn place then you've failed as a government.
We carried on down into Quito and then back up to the equator monument which just so happens to be in completely the wrong place. We can thank the french for that. We watched the usual gimicks and got the photos anyway! We're also lighter at the equator, I call it the equatorial diet and it has nothing to do with the suspicious food. Aparently the world is wider at the equator so you are further from the center so gravity has less of an effect. Photos taken, gimicks bought we headed back to Quito and the motorbikes salvation.
ME. Ok not only me but after months of shite mechanics and dodgy work the only choice was to try again. We found Diego online and I visited him the next day. We talked about the bike and he was clearly unhappy with the sound but also informed me that he no longer works on engines. One look in his garage and I was convinced he knew what he was doing so with his supervision I was to do my own engine rebuild. Talked about it with Heb and we both agreed that while I slaved away she should take a vacation. For five days she would be in the Galapagos (which I am pursuading her to blog about) and I worked on the engine. Day one and the engine was out, day two torn down and problem found. I wish it was something crazy difficult but it was glaringly obvious. I'd followed the haynes manual through the whole teardown and when I got to the output shaft I carefully checked how it was built against the manual. They put a washer in the wrong place. This started with the mechanic in Costa Rica who installed the new output shaft, it was continued by the second mechanic in CR who took it apart again, looked at it and rebuilt it WITH AN EXTRA WASHER! This is not just absurd, it's beyond that! They even had the damn haynes manual with a diagram of how to build the damn thing! I cannot express my hate for those mechanics in words. I trusted them and paid good money to have it fixed only to be left with a bike that made me sick to ride. I'd lost alot of enjoyment and still not back to 100% even now. The next mechanic, in Medellin, also with the haynes manual took the whole thing apart and reassembled it incorrectly AGAIN. In a slight defense of the mechanic he would have reassembled it the same way as he saw it when it came out BUT I told him of the problem and he should have looked at the damn picture.
Engine disassembled, clutch in the top box, alternator on the right and some parts that are probably important on the left.

Motorcycle gears, input shaft on the right (takes power from the pistons) and output on the left (turns that power into some mean torque and spins the rear wheel) a precise and incredible piece of engineering

at the top is the 5th gear, then a static washer (it can't move along the shaft) and a free washer. They are the wrong way round. this is the difference between silky smooth gear changing perfection and engine failure.

engine going back together

Anyway, problem found we took it to a gears specialist who examined it and even before looking told us that the gear pinion would have wear if the washer was in the wrong place, it did, we corrected it, tested it and rebuilt it. There were a couple of other problems that we fixed as well and put the engine back in, wired everything up, hit the starter motor... Nothing. Long story short we started to panic about a broken CDi unit, a part you cannot fix and is essential and is expensive. We tried everything, brought in other mechanics, nothing worked. We eventually took the bike to an eletrician out of town, he couldn't find the problem, said it was the CDi as well but we pursuaded him to keep looking. Eventually Diego decided to try changing one of the wire connectors and bingo it worked. A full day of worry and it was simply me wiring shit up wrong. In my defense it was pretty ambiguous which plug connected to which connector. A happy ending? this bike? Not on your life! Everything back together and guess what, is that a crack in the break disc? Of course it is! We got a new one modified to fit and left. the next day and headed for the amazon. Needless to say I was nervous about the bike but she is running beautifully now. Apart from the problems the insides are in great condition which is a testiment to Honda. Inspite of bad mechanics she is running beautifully.

Ok, I'll leave you there. Next post will be from Heb about the Galapagos trip and then back on the road.


Mum said...

Hey Oli. Good to see you posting again. Looking forward to more and, especially to Heb's Galapagos trip.Mum xx

Lenz said...

Thanks for the update on your travels Oli. Glad to hear the engine/bike problems are at over. And so are now finally able to settle into some peaceful travelling once more ... I've heard Galapagos is not an easy spot to get to, so do hope it's a rewarding experience. Say hi to the iguana's and tortoises! Looking forward to next posting ...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on your travels Oli

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