Thursday, June 12, 2014

The man in the blue towel...

We do attract them don't we?
Waking up and looking outside from the comforts of my tent gave me a bad feeling. I looked straight at Jeanette's T100… mirror missing, seriously bend brake lever, damaged pannier, Alaska sticker damaged… I realised it was the second time I damaged her bike. The first was when I had parked it in Tasmania outside the shed and didn't notice the side stand was slowly sinking into the ground… in my defence it took 10 minutes before it fell, but when it did it fell against the shed, breaking the mirror. Now I found myself looking at her bike damaged again, mirror missing again and all by the same person: me!
Why did I ride my bike up that bloody hill ok and fell when I took hers over the same said hill? I had deliberately taken mine up first so that any problems encountered would be on my own bike, not hers. Mine is also heavier, so if I would be able to get that up then hers should only be easier. The theory sounds ok but in practise I had failed, miserably, as was clearly visible that morning.

Health and safety?
The day started not real good and kind of got worse and worse as time went on. We had wanted to stay a day or so at the coast but a couple of factors outside of our control prevented that. For starters we found ourselves on another crappy campground with no shade anywhere. A sandy patch fenced off with rusty barbed wire, it felt like being in a prisoner of war camp, while having to pay for the privilege too. There was also a gnarly bit of road into town that none of us would like to do four times, but as we were out of food… we simply had to if we wanted to stay an extra day. Then Mike noticed that as it was a long weekend, Labour Day, it was perhaps best to cross the border now or stay until Tuesday… which non of us wanted to do in this POW camp. So we left.

I should perhaps add that the people operating the campground seemed friendly enough. It's also a much better place to stay than the surf-camp we ended up the day before and which had cost us dearly. Inside the compound it's not too bad by the looks of things. Sure the shower is a cold water affair, and the toilet is the pit or vault type, but that didn't bother me. They have put in quite a bit of effort to make it look nice, it's perhaps a bit too 'beachy' for my taste but I can live with that. The campground however is a derelict sand field surrounded by barbed wire on the other side of the road.

There was a bashplate to knock back into shape first though as it was touching the oil-filter. I also had a repair to make to the pannier, which had hit a rock and dented enough for the seam to open and cause a potential leak. The pannier was easily 'fixed' by opening it up, filling it with silicone gasket cement and let the gap close again (squeezing out the silicone to make sure it sealed everywhere. The bash plate was a bigger issue. The Yamaha filter we have fitted now, as we couldn't get a Triumph filter at the time, is slightly taller. I knocked the bash plate back into shape but wanted a cutout for the oil filter. As we had heard some angle grinder noises coming from a house not too far away I marked what I wanted cut out, went for a walk, showed what I wanted to the helpful young guy at work there and he did a smashing job! Problem solved.

The fracture is just to the right of the bolt, I splinted it with the small
plates just above and below it and longer bolts.
We packed up and rode back towards San Juan Del Sur. The road was dusty, rocky and riddled with speedbumps, high speedbumps. Somehow it was worse that I remembered from yesterday. Stopping halfway Jeanette asked if I could adjust her brake lever, which had taken a big hit in the fall from yesterday. I had already bend it back just after the fall but as she had problems operating it, it needed more work. Adjusting the position on the handlebar did help but not enough. The brake lever on Triumphs come in two parts. A short operating arm to which a longer lever is connected. This makes it adjustable to the length of your fingers and also functions as a 'weak' spot where the short arm won't bend but the long arm will. I slowly started to bend it back, but instead of the operating arm and the weak spot bending, the short operating arm snapped… Inspecting the fracture it was easy to see why, it had already fractured yesterday. With the benefit of hindsight I'm happy it did break as the first emergency stop would have done the same! 

A neighbour stopped to say Hola!...
Being a bush mechanic came to our advantage again :-) I decided to splint it like a fractured leg, with two metal plates on either side of the fracture, taking over the function of the broken part. All I needed was a drill, a bit of metal and two drill bits… on a dirt road in Nicaragua where ox-drawn carts are still the norm! First point of call was the little shop where we were standing. Being unable to speak any Spanish only adds to the charm of the whole situation I suppose. What is the Spanish word for drill, what is the Spanish word for metal strip, etc etc.
The woman in the shop had no idea what I was trying to explain… but when I showed her the broken part she yelled something to the open backdoor of the shop… or the field behind it… or even the neighbours as the yell was so loud and vicious that the next village would have heard it.

Eventually with a lot of grumbling an old man turned up, wearing nothing but a towel under a well nurtured beer-fed belly. His glasses hadn't been cleaned for years, his eyes were blurry and he did not speak any English. His son was sort of trying to translate a little. His brother came out too, had a look but decided he'd rather drink more beer and went back in the house. 
Meanwhile the shed opened which showed a vice and a couple of bits of scrap metal. Things looked better already! A hacksaw wasn't part of the toolbox. Actually there wasn't even a toolbox as such, or that many tools. He did have an angle grinder and an electric drill though! Good, we were in business! The main requirement for drilling is a drill bit… which he had in one size: 3/8 inch…! We needed 6 and 8 mm. 

Apparently the man was a builder… He didn't allow me to use his angle grinder or drill, because I didn't have the proper safety towel I suppose? All I had to do was prevent disaster and much more damage by somehow steering him in the right direction and ripping parts out of his hands at strategic moments. Looking back it's of course funny and despite all this the bodge worked, Jeanette had a front brake again! 

We wanted to pay him for his work of course and received the reply 'whatever you think it's worth' In the end he suggested 200 Cordoba (which isn't even US$10,-) We gave him 300, of which he gave 100 to his son for translating. It's not the prettiest bodge job but it works and is perfectly safe, it has to be as it's a brake!

Nicaragua is a strange country. It's poor by western standards and in many ways it's extremely back in time. Horse drawn carts and even ox-carts are still a common sight, very common even. Simple things like hot showers are not at all that common and yet at the same time Nicaragua is number 3 world-wide for 'green' generated electricity. Just before the border with Costa Rica is a massive wind turbine park in a landscape that is dominated by small farms and simple hut-like houses made from wood and palm leaves. Bizarre.
We pushed on towards the border, hoping for a reasonable 'processing time'… that didn't quite happen, as you can read in the next post…