Pilot Error

On July 18th, many things happened. Many important things: friends had babies, other friends moved to foreign countries and, by far not the least important, at around 8:30PM, Central European Time, my mom asked my dad if he had any news from me because she was worried.

On July 18th, I woke up tired (1). I hadn’t slept well for no particular reason and the sun woke me up through the windows of my room in the basic but acceptable Hotel Pacífico 2 in Choluteca, Honduras. I went for a local breakfast of “baleadas” on the main street and had a lot of fun when the breakfast lady started telling other customers that I was going to “put a baby in her” so that he would have my blue eyes and blonde hair. She was joking though. Passing by the Wendy’s at the corner, I checked the internet, the hotel didn’t provide any wi-fi. At 9 I was ready to leave on my way to Santa Rosa de Copán and so I did. A bit later on the road, a bee got stuck on the bracelet I was still wearing from the Masaya National Park in Nicaragua and stung me (2).

Drive-thru ATM
They have drive-thru ATMs in Honduras!

At around half-past eleven, I was riding the outskirts of Tegucigalpa and decided to get into town to look for an ATM, I was low on local currency and my stop for the night may or may not be in a small town. While I was at it, I thought of having lunch and I did (3). and I took the chance to use the free internet at the restaurant.

With a full belly, at around 12:30PM Honduran time, I set off again, determined to get to Santa Rosa de Copán, a bit of an ambitious goal but I would cross into El Salvador from there. Just wondering how many hours I would have to ride to get there, I looked down to the GPS screen (4) and when I looked up I realised that the Honduran police had put some cones on the road for people to slow down (5). On a curve!!! I’m not trying to blame them for this but, who puts cones in the middle of a fast bypass on a frickin’ curve! I freaked out and instead of swerving or deciding that fuck the cones and I would ride over (or in between) them, I pulled the break, very hard (6).

The next thing I remember is to be skidding on the ground, with my right leg pressed down against the asphalt by the bike and my right hand rubbing the ground too, both in great pain. Somehow, I was separated from the bike and I stopped, the bike continued for a few more meters. I got up, checked the landscape and sat on the kerb while the police and some soldiers gathered the contents of my map pouch that were scattered on the road. I seemed to be alright, I asked one of the cops to tell me if I was bleeding anywhere around my face and since he said no and I was conscious, I removed my helmet and started checking the rest of my body and bike.

Right after
Right after
I had a big scratch on my leg and a smaller one on my arm, a blister was forming in my hand. I asked them to help me pick up the bike and where was the closest hospital.

They helped me
They helped me
I rode to the Hospital Militar a few blocks away and got my wounds cleaned, an antibiotic and some other stuff injected and was released with instructions on meds to take and things to wear. I followed most of it and stayed in Tegucigalpa for 2 nights to kickstart my recovery. Now I am in Antigua Guatemala, resting and trying to fix the bike.

I read somewhere that for a catastrophe to happen, there has to be concourse of 7 bad or unusual little accidents. Until today, I had only identified 6 of them:

  1. I woke up tired
  2. A bee stung me on my right wrist
  3. I had lunch (I almost never do when I ride)
  4. I was looking down at the GPS screen
  5. The police put cones in a curve on the road
  6. I pulled the brake while my front wheel was not straight

With José, my uncle's friend
With José, my uncle’s friend
I suspected what the 7th cause was but I wasn’t sure. Today I went to a Honda garage where are friend of my uncle Lucas works and had the bike looked at. After finding out that the right fork arm is bent, we ended up changing the front wheel bearings, they were due for a change, the axle being a bit loose and one of the bearings not turning properly.

There you are:

  1. The front wheel bearings needed changing

7 little accidents that got together to cause the big one. 3, 4, and 6, can be considered pilot error. Maybe also 7, since the pilot is also the usual maintainer.

Checking the fork
Checking the fork
Of course, if I am writing this it’s because I am alright, just a bit bruised so you needn’t worry and ask me if I’m alright. I appreciate attention but not repetition.

Oh, and the bike has no windscreen anymore.

Sunset over La Antigua
Sunset over La Antigua
PS: 12:30PM Honduran time is the same time as 8:30PM Central European Time.

Antigua, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

A little game

Leaving Esperance to cross the great Nullarbor plain.
Now a little game: how many water bottles can you spot on the picture? And based on that, how many more do you think I’m carrying?
Bonus question: in how many days will I emerge on the other side?
The game is on until I reappear with the answers.

Camelbike
Camelbike

Losses

In the morning of January 1st 2013, some poor devil sleeping in the same dorm in Kuala Lumpur felt that he needed my laptop, my Kindle, my DSLR and my GoPro more than I needed them.
Let him get drunk into oblivion with the money he will get.
On my side, I will have a bitter afternoon this January 1st and then from January 2nd, I will enjoy this trip just as I did up to now.
Happy New Year!

Selangor-Kuala Lumpur Borders, Malaysia

Deja vu

“It’s funny, I’ve just had the exact same conversation two blocks ago with a girl that, in a way, looks exactly like you*”. It’s like when they make a change in the Matrix and you see the cat walk past by the brick wall twice.

Every time I sneak away from a scam, I am left with a question: What was it this time? Many times I have let them talk some more just to see where it goes but today I am walking around with my passport, all my credit cards and 3000 yuan that an ATM has kindly agreed to give me. It is out of the question that I pursue any conversation with scammers with pockets full of *goodies*. It’s no use taking risks so I told her that I wanted to walk alone, twice and then she said “Oh! No me?” and went on to deliver her payload in a last, desperate attempt to not lose the opportunity. “Do you want massage?”. There you are! I should have thanked her for taking away my doubts but she had already stayed behind. I could only hear her congratulating me for my good looks or maybe something else, I don’t know, it was in Chinese.

I was also accosted twice by girls that asked me to take a picture of them together and claimed to be tourists from other parts of China headed for a traditional tea house and “would you like to join us?”. My short answer is a clear NO but I could also go on about how I grew up in Argentina and this kind of thing is every day life in Buenos Aires and even locals are targets of scams like this one. This one in particular, I had seen it in Argentina already but in the form of a guy that offers you a free or very cheap ticket to enter a very exclusive bar or strip club. You sort of develop a sixth sense for these things growing up in BA.


* Moderately good-looking Chinese girl elegantly dressed in 100% Western clothes (nothing looks Chinese except of course her) speaking quite good English but not so perfect that you would be suspicious

dianping.com, Changning, Changning District, PRC

Where was I? Oh, right, Kyrgyzstan!

The next morning we got up not too late and set on our way to the border. Our map shows a little border crossing close to Fergana and that is what we aimed for. Until we met the Italians (again). They had been to the border but it was a locals-only border crossing and they’d been turned down. After a short chat with them about their support truck, which had broken down due to water in the fuel, we set off looking for that other border crossing, the Osh border crossing.

Osh
Getting close to Osh

We got there almost in no time since we were very close and crossing it was a breeze, no hassle at all. THey wanted nothing to do with our visas, no need for them anymore. Osh i sonly a couple kilometers from the border and finding the Osh Guesthouse was also quite easy. One of the shortest rides so far. Pretty soon Chris and I had checked into the guesthouse and had an appointment for dinner with Christina, a German cyclist and her Finnish friend Henna at the California Café for a pizza (Yum!) and Neil had left to search for a hotel with private rooms.

The manager of the guesthouse, a bearded muslim wearing a kamis took us to a parking lot 500m away from the hostel to park our bikes and on the way we attracted a lot of attention among the neighborhood kids. With the bikes well kept, we went out looking for the pizzeria and not only did we find Christina there but also Neil, who had already spotted the local Chinese restaurant and took us there for a beer after dinner. I also had a very unexpected starter before my pizza: tarator! (they don’t call it tarator in Kyrgyzstan but that’s what it was).

Kyrgyz tarator
Looks like tarator, smells like tarator, smells like tarator, it’s Okroshka!

We all spent two nights in Osh for various reasons. Me, I just wanted a little rest. On the first evening I exchanged information with Christina about the road I had planned from Osh. I was planning to go to Song Kul following the road marked on the map I got from Cédric. She confirmed that it was a very nice road to do and gave me some tips about the imprecisions of the map: villages that weren’t there and other villages that were. Also around that time I got hooked reading Iker Iturregi‘s chronicle of his trip in this region and had reached the point where he was telling about the exact road I wanted to follow, the Kazarman trail to Song Kul Lake. If you can read Spanish, I do recommend reading his adventure chronicle, he’s done one of the most difficult roads in the world, the 2000 km long BAM road in Russia in less than 4 days and broken the speed record for crossing a very scary and long bridge on that road. Most people take around 10 days to do it.

Osh is not a very interesting city but I needed the rest to get in shape and ready for the next days when I would be riding solitary mountain trails with my Z as the only company.

 

Ulaanbaatar, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

F**k the Chinese government

We have just received an email from our Chinese tour company announcing that our tour is cancelled, we can’t drive through China. This is very sad news and also a major turnoff. Our permit to transit through China in our own vehicles has been refused. We are now getting drunk with Chinggis Vodka here in Ulan Baatar while we consider the alternatives. A couple of ideas had been thrown on the table:

  • Get very good winter gear and ride to Vladivostok, then take a boat to Korea and from there somewhere else
  • Same but take a boat to Canada and forsake South East Asia
  • Ship the bike to Thailand and fly to Thailand
  • Same but backpack across China
  • Same but buy my Chinese bike, maybe I’ll finally get that Shineray 😉

Meanwhile, just a thought about abusive governments.

Ulaanbaatar, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia