Thursday, April 29, 2010

Expect the unexpected

So after Dj started off his trip with a vacation to Galapagos it was time for him to jump into the adventures of traveling by car in foreign nations. IF you remember I was robbed back in Venezuela and lost my drivers license so on our first day back from Galapagos, it was time for Dj to drive. This basically brought him into the madness right away as we started in Guayaquil and I made him drive us out due to their being police and checkpoints on our way to the beach. Right away driving in the city is crazy, the people in Ecuador don't mind any lane indications and they generally turn 2 lanes into 4 or 3 to 5 or something that seems a bit ridiculous. The first thing I'm telling Dj, as he's driving, is you can't drive defensive and friendly or you won't make it anywhere and the people won't understand how to react to you driving. It's all about the pecking order, pedestrians have no right of way and won't cross the street if you nicely let them. THey're certain you're going to run them over so you just have to drive and never try to let someone cross because they will just look at you as you wave them by and still just wait for you to drive. Same goes with the cars, the smaller cars get out of the way of the bigger so basically the buses and trucks can bully their way into wherever they want. This works in my favor as well since my truck is bigger than most cars, but all this is new to Dja nd I'm having to 'yell' at him to push his way into the lanes we need to get where we need. His trip has begun. We get out of the city and are onto the coast route and getting excited to get to the beach before dark for a quick surf when all of a sudden a weird sound starts and we realize we have a flat tire. We're far out now and in between small beach towns and it's been raining. SO we dig out the jack and tools, pull off the spare and after a quick scare with the wrench not fitting the lug nuts but thankfully I dig around the back of the truck and locate another that fits these lug nuts. In getting the spare off and the jack set up, I had to crawl under the car and get muddy/dirty laying on my back in the loose gravel. Anyways we're feeling pretty good how it's all just working for us until we can't pull the tire off after all the lug nuts are off. Looking at the tire, it appears the center of the wheel is connected or rusted on and we are trying various methods to get this tire off but there is zero movement which has us wondering if there is a step we're missing. The rains coming down, we're wrestling with this tire and darkness is looming in. Dj is asking me funny questions about the closest car shop which I tell him is about 2 hours away or a tow truck which I just chuckle at and he's getting really worried about it getting dark shortly. FOr me I'm less worried because we have all the food we need and if we couldn't move, we could just set up camp right there until we came up with a solution. I try flagging down the police, who have passed by checking us 3 times, and they just drive by flashing lights. I figure the truckers would be used to doing this and maybe give us an idea but nobody is stopping. Finally a guy pulls up in his car and pulls over. I explain what our prob is and he responds with a typical phrase here in latin america "no te preocupes" aka don't worry and then he runs back to his car. That's when this guy shows us that he's a genius and we're not so smart...and we're the educated ones. First thing he does is ask if I have something to put down, which I'm not understanding why as I navigate spanish with him, until it dawns on me that he wants something on the ground so he doesn't get dirty...and then my head drops in shame. Dj & I both stand there covered in dirt, Dj with dirt dread locks and my head and back all over dirty and muddy....from mud we made. Next puts the spare tire under the car so that if the car falls, it will protect the impact...genuis as I was climbing around under the car while the spare tire rested outside safe and sound. We both feel even dumber. And down he goes, clean & dry, with a mini mallet smashes the backside of the tire with a couple hard wacks and off the tire falls. Then in a matter of minutes he puts on the spare & puts the flat back where the spare goes and does all of this without breaking a sweat. So after a couple of unsuccessful hours by us and him doing it in 10 minutes. We walked away in shame and filth but also completely ecstatic because the sun was just setting and now we were back on the road. We made it safely to the beach of Ayampe and that was Dj's first long day living on the road. Once in Ayampe, Dj got to see what the rewards are that go along with the headaches of traveling by car. Ayampe is slightly off the path, we blazed right past the towns where all the tourists go and we landed ourselves in a nice but basic cabana with a 180 degree few of the ocean for 8 dollars per night. So we got to relax into the mellow beach scene here in Ecuador for a bit before I had to start thinking (and researching) how I am going to get my car to Panama and get ourselves there so that we can make it to Costa Rica by early May. The plan is that friends & family are doing a vacation in Costa Rica in May & Dj and I are trying to meet them there. This all sounds easy but the most frustrating part of my trip had been the shipping of my truck to ecuador from Panama last year. With limited info on the internet and me not having a cell phone to just call around, just figuring out a plan is painfully difficult. It can be hard to pull myself out of my tranquility to do something like this, and thinking about shipping my car again sounds about as fun as walking barefoot on broken glass. However it is time to face it so I start calling some companies and find a few potential ships that are sailing out that sound like they would get us there in time. The only thing to do now is actually drive to the big port city of Guayaquil and go to the offices and start the process. It sounds like maybe it would be fairly easy to drive to a city, find an office, get a container on a boat with my car in it but actually it's a painfully corrupt & difficult process that ran me through an emotional roller coaster ride. As expected, the unexpected threw a wrench in the plans on day 1. We woke up at 4am to leave by 5am to get to Guayaquil by 8am for a 9am meeting with a company about shipping the car. Getting out of the morning fog and getting ready to leave I notice that one of my tires is completely flat. This is actually the 3rd flat in 8 days time. It's raining, muddy and I have no spare because of all the other flats. At least now I know that all of the tires are hard to get off because of the salt and sand that adhered it to the rim. I go through the process of getting it off, now I put down a tarp so I don't get as dirty this time around but then I have to hitch hike with this spare tire to the nearest town with a tire repair which is 20 mins away. I find a lady willing to take me & my tire and she wants to utilize me to help her carry something heavy into town so we run by her house first. Then her car won't start again and now I'm out in the rain, in my flip flops, pushing her car in the mud to attempt to push start it. After a few tries, it works and we're back on track on our way. Her windshield wipers don't work and her window is fogging in the rain so I'm wiping down the window constantly with my tshirt and helping navigate us to town. And all along the way I'm thinking, I actually have a really crazy big day ahead and can't believe it's starting off like this. It's not like I have a cell phone or AAA or anything to help me and yet again I have to navigate all of this in a foreign language. But as always things work out, I find a vulcanizadora aka tire repair who repair my 2 holes for 3 dollars and after a half hour the lady is back to take me back. But her car won't start again. It's pouring buckets now and I'm again loading my tire and pushing her car down the muddy street. It starts again, we make our way back to town where my truck is and I put the tire on and NOW we're actually ready to go....3 hours late. Now we're off on the 3 hour journey to dive into the hot noisy large port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador. This is when the nightmare shipping process begins. to be continued.....

1 comment:

  1. What a clif-hanger! Don't wait a month to continue this story! Hope all is well down there homie. US Vermonters are keeping up with the blog.