Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sao Mateus, and the Shit Hits the Fan - July 3 - 4

Friday 7/3 - On the Road to Salvador

Today was a LONG drive. The road was good, but it is a major truck route and there are not many passing lanes. It was one of those days when you are just trying to put as many miles under your [very sore and tired] butt as you can. After about 8 hours on the road I arrived at Sao Mateus. I found a great hotel, with garage, cable tv, and wifi in the room (first time). I even thought I might stay an extra day.

Just as I was getting into the shower at about 4:30 the bellboy knocked on my door to tell me that my bike was leaking oil in the garage. Yep, a nice black puddle right there on the floor. So off I go driving around town to find a mechanic to take a look. First I tried the Honda dealer, who was very nice but said his mechanics don't know anything but Hondas. However, he led me in his car to the Suzuki dealer. This place was also very nice, and told me they would fix it in the morning, as well as putting on a new rear tire that I needed.

So off I went to a nice dinner, a couple of beers, and a cigar at an outdoor restaurant. Things were looking OK.

Saturday 7/4 - The PooPoo Hits the Ventilator

I slept late, still feeling a little queasy from my earlier stomach problems, and thought that I might stay in Sao Mateu for the day. Maybe sit around the pool or go to the beach. At 10:30 I went to the Suzuki dealer to get the bike.

Well, they had changed the tire, but said they couldn't fix the oil leak. It looked like a blown gasket and they didn't have the "special tool" to get the water pump off to get to it. Feelings of "oh, crap" were starting to pop up in my head. Kawasaki doesn't generally require any special tools (which is one reason why I chose this bike... it's simple to fix), so maybe they didn't know what they were talking about. I checked the manual that I carry, and indeed the water pump can be taken apart with regular tools. So somebody didn't know quite whereof they friggin` spoke. Then they told me that even if they could get the motor apart, they didn't have the gasket and would have to get it from Kawasaki in Sao Paulo. I asked about using liquid gasket sealer and they had never heard of it. And anyway, it was noon on Saturday and they were closing (as was everyone else). So as far as a fast fix in Sao Mateus I was in the crapper.

They suggested that I ride to Salvador, 1000 km away. This was my next destination anyway, and I figured that with more than 2 million people I could probably find a mechanic who knew something. The Suzuki mechanic said the problem didn't look that bad (the great mechanic that he was), and so long as I carried extra oil to keep replenishing the motor I should be OK. Then I could get it fixed in Salvador on Monday when things were open. So... back to the hotel, pack, and get out of town.

This is the ShitHitsTheFan part: I got a few miles out of Sao Mateu and the motor is smoking, and running rough. Oil is spewing all over. Then a there is big pop and it really sounds like shit. I am in what might be called Deep DooDoo.

Fortunately I am just about to a federal police roadblock, so I stop there.

I show my badge to Geraldo Marciano, the cop on duty, and ask for suggestions. Who knew that my eight years as a reserve cop would come in so handy 20 years later in South America!

Geraldo is an incredibly nice guy and has been helping me all afternoon. First we try to get a truck going to Salvador that can take me, but there is very little traffic on Saturday and we have no luck. Then he calls someone he knows with a pickup truck who offers to take me for US$700. This is a LOT of money, but it is1000 kilometers each way. Eventually I agree (not having a lot of choice) and we try to get the bike into his truck. Unfortunately (actually, it turns out to be fortunately), the truck is too short and El Pinguino is too big. Another idea shot to hell.

Gerarlo keeps calling around and finally finds someone who is hauling a pickup truck to Salvador and will take my bike for US$400. I'm all for it, but he is picking up the car in another city and will be a few hours.

So here I am. It's 6:40 pm on Saturday night and I'm sitting in the police post (as I have been since 2:00) hoping that this guy with the truck will show. Then we have at least a 12 hour ride to Salvador on Sunday. With any luck, I'll find someone who can fix the bike and it will run again. I'll keep you posted.

Oh yeah... this is why they call it an adventure. If you want secure go to Disneyland!


After a couple of hours I'm picked up by a flatbed truck, who takes me about an hour north to another town. There we find the pickup that has to go to Salvador. Unfortunately, there's not enough room on the flatbed for the bike, so up it goes into the bed of the pikup truck, on the back of the flatbed. I figure I might as well ride the bike to Salvador on the truck, just to keep in practice!

OK, so I didn't ride. What I did do was spend 23 hours in a tow truck getting to Salvador. Aside from a two hour stop at 6 am so that the driver could sleep and a few fuel and food stops we drove straight through. This actually worked better, since there was less traffic in the middle of the night. During the day the scenery in this part of Brazil was beautiful... lush and green.

Unfortunately, most of the time we were looking at this

Finally we came to a sign indicating a turnoff to Salvador. As we got further along I had to keep wondering how a city of more than two million people could have as a main access a two-lane rural road. The answer became clear when we got to the ferry terminal. This was the alternate (and faster) road. Unfortunately, Winsdan (the driver) didn't know this and was not prepared to pay the ferry charge of $42. Given what I was already paying for this trip I wasn't about to chip in anything else. And to go back the other way would have been an additional four hours. Either this kid was going to decide to take the ferry or I was going to kill him!

Winsdan spent just enough time trying to call his boss and pondering the situation that we missed the ferry. He finally decided that we would take the next ferry in an hour, which we did. His boss called him while we were on the ferry and said that Winsdan had screwed up and would have to pay for the ferry. Whether that was true or not, I wasn't about to pony up any more money. Sorry kid... no points for ignorance!

We finally -- after 23 hours on the road -- arrived in Salvador. At the ferry terminal I had called a hotel listed in the Lonely Planet guide (Pousada Hilmar) and confirmed that they had a room and a place for my leaking (I didn't tell them that part) bike, so I was set on that front.

Now the Horizons site kicked in to save my butt again. Artur, in Rio, had contacted some friends of friends in Salvador and Alberto would come pick me up in the morning and take me to a good mechanic. A shower, a couple of beers, and I was off to bed.

Things have to get better tomorrow.

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