Sunday, June 6, 2010

Return to Turbo

Looking from the outside into the old town of Cartegena at night. Many of the old buildings and archetecture is light up at night and makes for a very romantic escape into another time in another world.
The old town of Cartegena is always a bustling place with narrow cobble or connecting stone and brick streets.

Art and sculpture is everywhere and provides for interesting subjects for those with any level of photographic or artistic interest.

The bike stripped down for the 3rd time this trip and it was found to be in ship shape condition, what an amazing machine. The only thing on my mind is the lingering notion that my cam chain is loose and I need new nylon sliders from the manufacturer to solve this biggish engine job. Hopefully it'll make it back to Canada.....its made it this far!

The new engine brackets in grey. The old ones mysteriously cracked and were just about to fail. I guess I really should have inspected the bike further but at the time I saw a problem and fixed it.

The plan that we originally derrived with Captain "JP" has arisen again, only this time, the plan is going to be carried out with Leonardo. What the real plan is, we have yet to figure out. What we think might happen is that, we'll ride back to Turbo and having sussed out the accomidations and eating arrangements last visit we'll find a couple of men and a Launcher boat to get us and our bikes out to Leonardo's Yacht 2.5 hours away across the ocean anchored in Panamanian waters. If the idea of motor boating in a 20 foot long, 5 foot wide boat seems sketchy, you're thinking along the same line as us. Alas, we are willing to do anything to get out of Cartegena after 2 weeks of the same thing.
Grant and I decided to fire up the bikes today to alleviate the monotomy. I hit the starter button and the bike hiccuped. I was puzzled at why the machine was having difficulty starting. So, ahead I went troubleshooting and ended up tearing the panniers, seat, side covers, and finally the valve cover off to expose the timing chain and all the guts that make the engine run like a top. I pulled out the feeler guages from my tool kit knowing that I was 14,000km over due on my inspection. I was suprized to find that the valves had not changed their tolerance since my last inspection 24,000km ago back in Santiago. I pulled the spark plug out and noticed that the terminal & pole had a larger gap than is suggested by "spec" so I popped in a new plug and set the gap correctly. In the disassembly I happened to notice that there was a crack in the engine mounting brackets. I pulled them off and headed out looking for a machine shop or back yard garage with scrap metal and a man with a hack saw to fabricate the new brackets that I needed.
I was pleasantly suprized at how fast I found someone able to make the new brackets. I should have had my camera with me but the mission to get the parts fab'ed I was overwhelming and I forgot it in my room. Alas, I will paint in words the scene. I arrived at a corrugated metal door and inside were 8 young men just hanging around. I quickly scanned the yard and noticed piles of metal and rebar. The scene was looking promising as far as material was concerned, when a young man who looked no more than 25 came over towards me. I explained that I needed new brackets make and he asked whether or not I wanted aluminum. I specificaly asked for Steel and quickly he pulled the exact guage metal out from within the pile and went to work tracing the parts that he would cut out using a hacksaw.
The little work shop had 3 vises and a grinding bench that used a washing machine motor to run a pully system which was attached to a piece of round stock that had a wire wheel and a grinding stone attached to either end. He also had a welding machine and a large industrial drill press. Essentially he had everything needed to do my job as well as tackle larger more complex work as well. His approach was interesing and different compared to how I would have done the job. Having a bit of knowledge with regards to fabrication in a shop environment I appreciated his back yard practical skills which were far superior to mine, hands down! Within 10 minutes he had the pieces cut out, drilled and polished exactly the same as the originals. When I asked how much I owed him he said that he didn't want to be paid. I told him that I wanted to pay him a little bit anyhow and in the end he happily accepted 5000 peso's which was about $2.50 . Enough to buy supper around these parts at a restaurant so about equivalent to 15 bucks in Canada...dang!
I slapped the newly fabricated parts back on the bike and bolted all the accessories back onto the machine. The humidity was sweltering and I was working only in board shorts and sandles. After about an hour I started noticing that my nylon shorts we feeling soaked like as if I had gone swimming and I was completely covered in a slick of wet sweat with greasy hands. Alas, the locals kept popping their heads in to chat and I simply replied that they could'nt touch the bike and that I didn't want to talk. I had to be harsh because otherwise these people just won't go away. The conversation never stops and I end up getting distracted or forget to tighten bolts or leave steps out completely. This sort of scenario happens frequently and luckily I only damaged the bike once back in Brasil when I forgot to retighten the chain adjuster bolts after a mob surrounded me at a gas station jabbering on in Portugese and bewildering me. Luckily that time another fabrication shop made me my new parts so essential to the bike.
Currently the plan is to either head to Turbo in the afternoon tomorow, (depending if we hear back from Leonardo), or head out the following morning. Coming to this plan was awhile in the making. Originally Leonardo informed us of his 20 something year old daughter that is currently living in Cartegena and who was coming over to sort things out. Paola showed up with her Italian passport and explained that she was going to fly to Panama and meet her father and the both of them (father and daughter team) would sail around the clock to get to Cartegena. This was a great plan for both Grant and I. We tried to book her flight using our credit cards online on the agreement the difference would be deducted from our boat fare. Alas, the site expected us to have a zip code so in the end the flight plan was thwarted and we were left in limbo considering our options. The discussion regarding Infamous Turbo had reared its ugly head again. Following a phone call to Leonardo he agreed to sail the 30 hours solo to the Panama border and let us deal with our own export and immigration paperwork in Turbo. The plan was good enough so we agreed to await the go ahead from his end when he reached the border.
In order to have a big enough crew (or maybe he just wants to see his daughter) Leonardo suggested that we bring his daughter along with us on the motorbikes and we reluctantly agreed to doubling her solely on the fact that she weighs no more than 90 pounds soaking wet. The advantage on our end is that she may (or may not) be a help in translating our requests for a launch.
Time will tell and although I don't fancy the idea of returning to Turbo, it is going to get us out of Cartegena and into Panama 3 days earlier than any other option at this point. So the next leg in the saga to get off of the South American continent continues.

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