The wrong way to the right path

It’s curious how convenient my disasters.

I’m riding into Durango, making my way through the city center in heavy traffic. Some guy yells something at me from the sidewalk, but I’m uninterested in whatever he’s selling. Then another one points at the rear of the bike and yells “Agua!”

What?

I turn around and see bubbling liquid hissing out my exhaust. For all the the mechanimagic I’ve learned so far, I’m lost here. I have no idea how water can be coming out of there. It’s bad; I shut down the bike and have a standoff with a police officer over my choice of parking spot. Traffic is thick and pushing it is simply not an option in my condition. I invite him to help me push it and he decides it’s just fine where it is. My host, Hugo, turns out to live two blocks away and he comes to help me push my bike to safety. I marvel at the synchronicity, while my knee vehemently states its disapproval of the strain.

Hugo is the laid back type, a friendly fellow traveler who, thankfully, radiates calm. He’s already hosting a Korean fellow named Jun.

Jun is really interesting, been wandering aimlessly for about five years and recently walked over 400km with his huge-ass backpack on. Hugo has to leave but that’s fine, all I want is a shower and a nap. His mom Paty insists on taking my bloody pants and soaking them; I love moms. Peeling off the bandage fused to my flesh is an arduous process, I grit my teeth and remember to be grateful this is the worst of it.

Hugo’s family is close and welcoming, and eats really really spicy peppers. I was hiccuping for an hour. His dad helps me push Lost to the nearest garage, Motoservicio Zamora, where I describe my problem and we discover the fan isn’t working, which led to the engine overheating and blowing the head gasket. That’s how the coolant made it to the exhaust. He says he can repair it in five days, which is fine by me. I need the time off anyway. I feel like I’ve got a flu, every muscle is sore from being pancaked on impact with the road. Now I understand people who take pain meds.

Durango is one of those “best kept secret” type towns. Not too big but definitely a city, clean and a pleasure to stroll through with all kinds of interesting corners.

They love their VWs here

Celebrations are a cultural mishmash, follow a beating drum after dark and you may come upon block party in honour of some saint.

Highlights of the week include morning espresso ritual with Jun in the conscientiously preserved colonial center; being introduced to Tequila’s sexier older sister, Mezcal, in a bar lined with glowing skulls; trying intestines for the first time since Vietnam (in taco format, naturally); discovering the beer/fruit juice/sour gummi combo“fruticheladas”; and chasing skirts from bar to bar around town with Hugo’s hilarious and weird friends.

Lowlights include losing my #47 ring that same night of debauchery, bleeding all over my shorts every time I bend my knee, working with Captain Slow at the nearest welder’s to patch my boxes, and discovering (after paying) that I was overcharged for Zamora’s work. When I go to confront him I also note the hack job wiring on the fan has it always activated, they’ve forgotten to replace a subframe bolt, have left the handlebars completely twisted, and still haven’t added the missing turn signal or replaced the coolant. Hugo’s dad and I go to make a scene, Zamora won’t budge. I didn’t want to be that paranoid asshole gringo accusing locals of trying to rip them off… and now I see their side all too clearly. Zamora gets ugly when I push it and I realize I’m just screwed; the time for debate was before giving him the money. I decide to cut my losses and at least manage to get him to install a turn signal.

I’m healed as I need to be, and the bike runs, so it’s time to move on. I give Jun the Guatemalan chile powder I’ve been spicing my food with, and he gives me some homemade dehydrated babaganoush and a nail cleaner. I don’t get out until 9, Paty prays for me and gives me a mini bible to take with me. I’m heading down the Espinazo del Diablo, so it should come in handy. Spending time among them and all their love leaves me replenished and I part with thanks and a smile, adding six new people to my life and reinforcing my grandma’s saying “there’s bad people out there, but there’s more of us good ones”.

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