Sucre and Tarabuco

Woman browses in the market, Tarabuco
Woman browses in the market, Tarabuco
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I bang on the rusty blue steel gate, not too hard, almost stopping my hand before it hits the metal, like a part of me doesn’t really want to hit it; thinking; is this the place?  It’s an odd part of the city, only just off from the main road but there’s an abandoned feel to the street, wind kicking up the dust.  The quiet sort of place you see in the movies where people are taken by gangs. Deserted street, grey, with breeze block walls, no walkway, just dust and bits of plastic flapping in the breeze, a bent oil drum or two for litter….bloody shirts, people’s fingers, used pistols, that sort of thing.

Someone shouts from the other side of the road and I cower my head reflexively.

“Pardon?” I say, a side-glance, wincing.
“He’s not there!”
“Ahhhhhh, right.”
“He’s gone to buy some parts.” So, this is the place.
“When’s he back?”
“About twelve.”

I thank the man and begin backtracking towards the centre of Sucre. Adam (ShortWayRound) had emailed me the GPS point for Jaimie’s workshop but no matter how I entered the digits into my hiker’s GPS the coordinates didn’t lead me to the aforementioned blue gates obscured behind a mound of old motorcycle parts I’d envisioned. The plus side was that in the hunt I’d discovered a small Honda dealership. The shop is due to open at 11am, just ten minutes from now.

Forty minutes later, I’m still sitting on the curb outside the shop, staring at the cracks and marks on the pavement wondering who might have been here before me and who might follow this way when I’ve left…..Hopefully, I think, no one looking for Honda parts and I contemplate giving up and heading back to the hostel.

After another ten minutes a car pulls up, a pretty girl gets out, ignores me and goes into the rear of the shop. I sigh and go back to tracing the curbs’s cracks with my fingers and make friendly faces to passers-by. A further five minutes, a quad bike arrives, parks on the curb and the pilot – this time a man – steps off, ignores me and he too enters the shop at the rear.  I look expectantly at the front door and window shutters.  When, ten minutes later, the door finally opens I’m half expecting to see a misty cloud as from an icy freezer and to receive a chilly a welcome.

The shop is dark, unlit, but otherwise smart and well stocked with products rising up the high walls to a mezzanine.  The stock I can’t help but think is all for show; a motocross bike, high-end Troy Lee Design’s helmets, body armour, gloves, motorcycle body plastics, anodized stuff and stickers, nothing I need and probably not much for the average local rider.

No sooner have I taken all this in, my mouth open to speak, the front door whooshes open and a man dashes in from the street. He rushes forward and stops with a bump at the counter, breathing heavily.

Funny thing about Latinos, we’ve all heard the stereotype, “mañana, mañana” and, to be fair, their punctuality records read like a chav’s school report. But then some of them they rush and they bustle, a sense of importance, crisis, urgency, melodrama, a walking Latin soap opera. The problem is everyone seems to play along, except me and so I get shunned and lose my place in the very short queue.

Anyway, the man, let’s call him “Mr. Duelo”, rests his hands on the counter and, looking rather distressed, tells Honda Man of his crisis. I’m left to deal with the pretty girl, “The Princess”. No hardship I guess except that she looks at me like I’m the smelly fat man on the plane looking to the empty window seat next to her. Admittedly, I probably smell as bad. I pull that friendly face that seemed to work so well outside, to no affect. When I explain what I need it transpires that, sadly, she’s all brawn, can’t help me and needs to speak to “Honda Man” (aka daddy).

The Princess and I stand waiting as Mr Duelo regales at length an immense tale of woe; he’s very busy at work, he has a meeting to get to, a wedding to go to tomorrow, you know Jose, son of Juan, no not Juancito, rides a Yamaha, runs a market stall, 5ft tall, sells DVDs, sits there all day watching them, well Jose was out drunk and slept with Juliana, he was driving at the time, big fight, the car now in the bottom of a 4000m valley, anyway I hope they have some of that nice chicken Jose’s mother cooks, divine, but well, what with all that, my wife menstruating, my scabby rabid dog dying (after all he’s got rabies) and then to cap it off this morning I couldn’t even eat my soup and pancito, stress you know….this glove thing is really getting me down.”

Maybe I heard wrong, Spanish is my second language after all, but I think the gist of it is that essentially, he’s lost a glove.

Honda Man and the Princess tilt their heads in unison and make empathetic sad pouty faces. I can’t help but screw my face up.

The Princess takes this opportunity to interrupt her father to try and resolve my problem, the lack of bearing in my swing-arm. “Sorry my sweet,” begins Honda Man to the girl, “important business going on here….can’t it wait? Surely he can see this man is in desperate need of a new glove?” Honda Man says “he” whilst looking at the girl even though I’m standing right besides her.

The Princess turns only to be immediately reminded of my vileness. She tries her best efforts to contain her disgust and then tells me I’ll have to wait.. She goes on to detail the story of the problematic glove in full as if I wasn’t in the same room when the prior discussion took place, telling me that it’s all very sad that Mr.Duelo is having trouble with his glove.

The interruption gives Mr. Duelo time, it seems, to ruminate life, unsure how to continue and wondering whether it’s worth living without his glove. He frowns at those new gloves offered on the counter by Honda Man. These new gloves merely add to his woes; this glove, the colour, the material, the fit, they don’t look like his old gloves, they don’t smell like his old gloves……he has to buy two gloves when he only wants one.

I try my best to bore holes into his back with my eyes. Honda Man tries his best to avoid all eye contact with me while in the glow of her computer The Princess rolls her lips together in the mirror of her compact, smoothing out a new layer of red lipstick.

Mr. Duelo stacks the two gloves backs together, rolls his lips inward and scratches his chin before sighing. He slides the gloves across the counter and repeats what he has said now several times; colour, fit, smell, two not one, as if to validate his decision. He then leaves the shop empty handed looking oddly happy with himself and a morning well spent….all of this – sadly – not before another man comes in and asks about some obscure part in his bike’s engine, and by obscure I mean, well….(This actually happened, I was first in the shop).

“So, it’s something round, black and tastes a bit oily?” says Honda Man.
“Yes!” says the man, “exactly!”
”But where is it from? The engine, the brakes?”
”Ahhh, I don’t know how is called exactly. The steering.”
”The fork?”
”No, no. Is sort of flat, like a ring, black.”
”The fork seal?”
”No, no, for the steering.”
”Urghhhh, the handlebar?”
”NO! I told you, is round!”
”Round?”
”Yes, you know…round.”
”Look, I think you will have to get the part so we can see it and identify it.”
”Oh,” he says, “I have it here.” He plunges his hand into his pocket and pulls out half a black crooked ring. Honda Man looks over his spectacles at the part as though he were scrutinising a diamond, frowning. The part is clearly unrecognisable.  The Latin Soap Opera.
”You took this from the bike?”
”Yes!”
”But where from?”
”I told you the steering!”
”Excuse me,” I say, having given up trying to bore holes in people’s spines, “why don’t you show him from where on this bike?” He comes across to the bike and points at the wheel axle, or “the steering”.

Honda man begins opening the parts software program whilst the Pretty Girl opens up facebook, or “faice” as it’s known here.

“OK, so, what bike do you have.”
“It’s a YBR.”
“A What?”
“A Yamaha YBR.”
“Ah,” says Honda Man looking down his nose at the man, “we only sell Honda parts.”

There’s a sudden thudding noise then, it’s my head, falling backwards in disbelief and hitting the shelving. For the first time everyone looks at me, silence. I put my index finger out to signify “one moment please”. I walk out of the front door and into the middle of the road, turn and look up at the large sign adorning the shop, stretching up high above the door and all the way across the window. I deduce that this is indeed a Honda shop, I had not made a mistake. I return to the dark interior and confirm to all, “Yes, is Honda.”

“Oh really.” says Mr. Duelito. Calmly. Smooth. A look like looking to look cool.
Honda Man, still, he plays along, the Latin Charade, “Yes, we are Honda.”
“Oh,” says Mr Duelito, adding derisively, “so no Yamaha parts at all?” (A rather successful and bold face-saving come back I thought, bravo).

The man leaves and I’m just about to speak, mouth open, inhaling, trying to remember what the hell I came here for, when The Princess shuts her laptop.

PhhhhAP!

And says, “lunchtime daddy.” (I’m not joking)

I look at The Princess and then look at Honda Man, still agape.
“Yes, actually we are late.” he says.
“Whuh?”
“In the afternoons we open at 4pm.”
“Buh….”
“Ahhhh, yes, of course you are right,” he remembers thinking I was correcting him, “today is Saturday, amigo, is half day.”  He begins powering down his computer.  I wonder if he thinks a day lasts an hour and a half and if perhaps, therefore, he sleeps for the other 22.5hrs?

“So,” he continues, shuffling some useless papers, “next day is Monday.”
“But…I….” Behind me The Princess coughs, or maybe barks, and I turn around to see her in a patch of bright sunlight holding the door open, her head titled, a bored look on her face though still beautiful. I drift towards the exit and, like a moth floating towards a flame I’m not too sure why I’m doing it.  I find myself on the street in bright sunlight and behind me the sound of the slamming door.

I stand a moment in the bright heat, dumbstruck, wondering….wondering what the hell….then the door opens again…a change of faith perhaps, hope swells inside me…I turn around and my helmet is shoved into my hands with a scowl and no sooner has the door shut a second time and the fancy car and the quad bike zoom off.

I go back to Jamie’s blue gate and give it a sad little tap. No answer, no surprise, and my list of outstanding jobs remains as long as it had been at the start of the day. I get onto the bike and start making my way back to the hostel, from the quiet Mafia street onto the busy main artery road waiting for the light to turn green…

I might not wash much, but Rodney get’s even less of a cleaning….finally, readying him for some maintenance, a long list of little things.
I might not wash much, but Rodney get’s even less of a cleaning….finally, readying him for some maintenance, a long list of little things.

When I first arrived in Sucre, this – now busy – main road of two or three lanes was deserted. I’d had the bike pressure washed along the way and in-between telling the young lad to stop fussing over the bike, it doesn’t have to be like new, that’s enough, that’s enough, that’s enough, honestly that’s fine…I also asked him how to get to the centre.
“Just follow the road,” he said.
“Do I have to turn off?”
“No, just follow, follow.”

I found this hard to believe, but I followed and followed as per the instructions and ended up at the Pacific Ocean in Chile (not really). I spent a large part of the day following buses I’d hoped would lead me to the centre, usually a good tactic, all the while cursing that little bugger. The difficulty – I would realise – was in part due to the centre being tiny, concentrated to just three or four square blocks. These few blocks form the original old city, the most beautiful streets and busiest area, with virtually everyone flocking to this small area daily, despite the city being much larger (to be fair, the rest of it is a bit shit). Luckily I found a good hotel in the thick of it, with parking(and a writing desk!), all for about £4.00 a night.

The traffic light goes green and Rodney and I zip down the now familiar hill, fast between cars, right lane, left lane, past the policeman, straight on and busy now near the market, streams of people like lines of ants crawling on top of each other, hurry hurry hurry, the Latin Charade. I dart across the junction in front of the buses billowing black smoke and then turn between other buses parked tightly together at the bus stop outside the hotel, hoping they don’t decide to pull off as I nip in. Bouncing on to the curb, I dodge the pedestrians and shout “sorrryyyyy!” then squeeze down the arched corridor to the hotel, the exhaust rumbling between the yellow walls, riding through to the rear beyond reception to the covered courtyard area and its patent leather sofas. Click goes the key, clunk goes the side-stand.

“Did you find the workshop?” comes a shout from reception as I pull off the helmet.
“Yeah” I reply “eventually,” then walking round to see her, “but he wasn’t there, I’ll have to try again Monday.”
She pulls a face of friendly commiseration and then, “Ah,” she remembers, “your map! I finished it!” She hands it back to me, now in one piece and virtually laminated with sellotape.
“Look at that! Better than new,” I say, “waterproof too!”

Starting to repair my map (I replenished her some tape afterwards!)
Starting to repair my map (I replenished her some tape afterwards!)

Two girls come in, backpackers, wanting to know about the buses going to Tarabuco tomorrow and the popular Sunday market. Once gone the receptionist asks if I’m going too, “For certain, I can’t miss that!”

Waking up early the next day I’m sick and have second thoughts, but I really can’t miss it, my visa is running out and this is sure to be my last chance. Groggily I push the bike out of the hostel, my jacket rubbing noisily on the arched tunnel as I squeeze through pushing the bike towards daylight. I come out into the cold morning air, the orange sun warming the mist hanging about the midrifts of the buildings. The streets look strange now, deserted. I pop the bike off the curb and on to the street stained black by bus smoke and hit the starter button. As the bike warms, the chill in the air has me thinking of my warm bed but then, I’m not going to feel any better laying there all day and so click into first gear and set off on the 130km round-trip.

Feeling sick and stopping to warm up, on my way to Tarabuco
Feeling sick and stopping to warm up, on my way to Tarabuco

Rodney whines his way up into the higher plateau of pale grassy mountains, second gear, third gear, second gear, third gear with me curled up on the saddle in cramp, shivering with cold as the elevation gains. I’m passed by buses crammed with faces and bodies pressed against windows. Many people are left waiting at the roadside busstops as the fully laden buses pass them by, almost completely filled to capacity even when they leave Sucre. It means that the closer you live to Tarabuco, the harder it is to get a bus. When I see a lone woman and baby in a small village looking sad as another bus flies by I decide to stop and, as I’m without my bags today, ask if she wants a lift to Tarabuco. She doesn’t answer but smiles shyly and shouts across the street to someone, her husband I assume. He comes over completely unable to contain his wide grin at a gringo on a motorbike. The woman asks him if it’s okay to go with me. He shrugs and asks, “how much is it?” but she answers for me, a coy smile breaking at her lips, eyes wide, “he says it’s free!” He laughs, “pffffhhht, yeah, go on then!” He watches as she throws her shawled baby around to her back and jumps on, squashing me either because of lack of space, or fear of motorbikes.

Rodney whines his way into the higher plateau of pale grassy mountains, second gear, third gear, second gear, third gear with me curled up on the saddle in cramp, shivering with cold as the elevation gains. I’m passed by buses sending out clouds of unburned diesel, faces and bodies pressed against full windows. Many people are left waiting at the roadside as the laden buses pass them by – virtually filled to capacity already when they leave Sucre so that the closer you live to Tarabuco, the harder it is to get a bus. When I see a lone woman and baby waiting for a bus I stop and, without my bags, ask if she wants a lift to Tarabuco. She doesn’t answer but smiles shyly and shouts across the street to someone, her husband I assume. He comes over completely unable to contain his wide grin at a gringo on a motorbike. The woman asks him if it’s okay to go with me. He shrugs and asks, “how much is it?” but she answers for me, a coy smile breaking at her lips, eyes wide, “he says it’s free!” He laughs, “pffffhhht, yeah, go on then!” He watches as she throws her shawled baby around to her back and jumps on, squashing me either because of lack of space, or fear of motorbikes.

I’d already stopped over at Tarabuco on my way in to Sucre, so I have some idea of my way around and drop the woman off a little way from the centre, hopefully saving her any embarrassment. I walk then, passing by the avenue where, on my previous visit, I’d sat peeling tobacco leaves with two women and watched, farther up the street, a group of children spinning wooden tops. The women made good-hearted fun of me, saying I’d only last a few minutes separating the waxy brown leaves to fill the street and dry. They sell one hundred handmade cigarettes, with filters, for 90pence (US$1.25). I’d only really stopped to ask them for a photo, but ended up staying a long time, to listen to them talking Aymara, their clicking and clucking local dialect, and perhaps to prove them wrong about me sticking it out. In the end I didn’t ask for the photo for fear of ruining my time with them. I sometimes get so hooked-up on getting photos that I forget that I’m here, now. I can look at other people’s photos later but I can only have these real experiences now. I’ve missed some good photos along the way and it’s easy to mistake a good photo with a good experience. At times I’ve even thought of throwing the camera away but conversely I know too that sometimes the desire to get a particular photo has led me to certain random places and special experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t have looked for, and I do love a good photo, a good memory.

100 hand-made cigarettes for US90c
100 hand-made cigarettes for US90c
Kids spinning tops in Tarabuco
Kids spinning tops in Tarabuco

The main plaza in Tarabuco is quite different to the quiet one of my previous midweek visit. Today a mob of people and the streets filled with the Roman red shawls of the Yampara people. The men wear thick studded leather belts across their entire midriff, curved black hats like helmets. The miners, proudly wear shining golden miner’s helmets, shaped like a firefighter’s helmet. The traditional amongst them wear short square white trousers reminding me of those from Atitlan in Guatemala. Women dotted around the plaza, their knees on the cobbles, bent over and weaving at “telars” staked down between the setts. They wear tall top hats, decorated in front with a rectangle of coloured beads with more white beads dangling down over the brim like a waterfall, the hats often turned to an angle, a little bit ghetto, a bit of attitude…with a fluffy pompom floating on a stick above it. I’d bought some stuffed potatoes from a women on this corner the last time I was here, but I can’t stomach anything today.  It’s nice here, but more set up for us tourists and I’m keen to see the more genuine goings on so I push on away from the square in search of the real market.  It’s not so far but oddly there are fewer tourists here, no more woven purses and toy llamas, just potatoes, onions, carrots, tools, batteries, padlocks, a man carrying a tyre on his shoulder and another man walking out of town shouldering a gas bottle. Trucks park up, rear-end facing in, empty now, waiting for later when people will load their sacks of veg or large cloth bundles of purchases and pile in to head back into the bare looking countryside.

Example of the thick studded belt
Example of the thick studded belt
And miner’s hat
And miner’s hat

I make a few laps of the market, too conspicuous to stand around, too tired to actually buy anything, watching people as I walk. Then, too soon I’m tired, I go back to the square. I chat with one of the women weaving and ask if she minds me taking a picture (I know what a hypocrite). Then, seeing as I am taking pictures, a few tourists nearby also sneak a picture assuming it must be okay, “sorry!” I smile at her and she shrugs. I ask her some questions, banal ones I’m sure, how long it takes to make, how much they sell it for, how many they sell, “not so many any more,” she points with her chin across the square, “they are Paceños”, she says in some disgust, meaning women from La az. “They heard about how the tourists come, so these women come every Sunday from La Paz.” 700km, just to sell their cloth to tourists.

A local women weaves on her “telar” staked between the cobbles
A local women weaves on her “telar” staked between the cobbles
Telar frame
Telar Frame
At this man’s feet, dead conquistadors
At this man’s feet, dead conquistadors
Time to gossip
Time to gossip
…and the other style of hat
…and the other style of hat

I rest at a bench in the square, not wanting to leave but too tired to do much else and enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun, drinking some cola. I chat with a painter, popular chap, everyone comes to talk to him or see what he is doing, what he is painting. He’s from Colombia on a tour of South America with a group from all over South America, travelling and painting. Tomorrow though, he starts his journey home, first to La Paz before catching a flight out to Bogota and, like most people, he says he loves Bolivia and will be sad to leave.

The painter from Colombia
The painter from Colombia

By the time I arrive back at the hotel, it is dark. Some people sit on the sofas in the courtyard, chatting, about to go out and the night-time receptionist has just arrived and is covering his own motorcycle in case of rain. “Yours is okay,” he says as I park up, “is Honda….Mine is Chinese! If it gets wet it won’t start!” I climb the stairs then to the balcony walkway, which wends its way around the courtyard, above the group at the sofas and above the two motorcycles as I walk to my door. Across from my room in a square of yellow light I see the silent man, sat at his desk at his window overlooking the hostel courtyard. I see only his silouette as he writes frantically, stuffing his cheek from a green plastic bag of coca leaves, and cracking open another can of beer, pssst, crrruuuuck. I go straight to bed. When I wake in the early hours to go to the bathroom, the hostel is empty except the man still there in his square of light and the usual humdrum of life has been replaced by silence.  My door hinges squeak into the quietness and as my feet patter on the tile down the walkway I hear the tearing of another leaf from his book, and then pssssT! crrrruuuck, another can of beer. I wonder what he’s writing so frantically. Maybe, I think, I should chow down on a sack of coca, maybe I’d write better, see something I hadn’t noticed in some corner of my memory before. Or maybe he writes reams of unreadable drivel (or maybe I do). After his all-night drinking, chewing and writing binges I wouldn’t see him, nor even a light from his room, for two or three days. Then he’d be there, at the window again, in the square of light, writing and writing like he couldn’t make his hand work fast enough to keep up with his thoughts.

Cathedral Sucre
Cathedral Sucre
Government Palace, Sucre. “Bolivia’s motto on the front, “Unity is Strength:”
Government Palace, Sucre. “Bolivia’s motto on the front, “Unity is Strength:”
Looking down on Sucre
Looking down on Sucre
BN Bank
BN Bank
Nice hats
Nice hats

Beginning to feel better I resume my ritual of walking in cities. I wake early, when it’s quiet and the light is good, on the hunt for photos of the hidden colonial buildings.  Once the sun is up, I head back, into the market and its various degrees of darkness. Past the flickering light of many candles placed there in the shrine by Catholics for a price, then further on to the shady stench of cheese stacked high, being scrubbed clean by a woman with thick rubber gloves, a squeak of the sponge as if against white rubber. Through the dark narrow passageway which opens to a brighter courtyard of fruit salad and smoothie vendors. I make regular visits to the same one, like always; the one whose face I like, the one perhaps I feel sorry for, who maybe looks a looks a little sad. I go every day and buy incredible mounds of freshly cut fruits, yoghurt and cream for 5 Bolivianos (US75c). I sit balancing my mound of fruit, listening to local girls gossip whilst they drink smoothies or I try to read the newspaper but get bored with the stories which just repeat the headline in umpteen different ways, especially if I can’t understand them.

Lunch in Sucre was usually a fruit salad!
Lunch in Sucre was usually a fruit salad!

On Monday, back at the blue gates, I finally get to meet Jaime at his workshop, only for him to say he is too busy to help. Whilst I’ve lost days waiting around to meet him and get Honda prices, all the walking means I’ve discovered other mechanics and more useful spare-part shops in town. One in particular is clearly the place to be, clear because everyone is there. The shop assistants look both Americanised and flustered rushing from counter to stores.  The good shops I’ve noticed always have stools at the counter, because they’re busy and they know you’ll be in for a long wait. When they’re really good, like here, there is also a TV. For once I’m happy to be ignored as showing on the TV is The Tough One enduro event, held at Nantmawr quarry near my home in the UK and I can watch local racer Tom Sagar competing, all whilst reminding me that I’m actually pretty useless on a bike.

Watching the Tough One and stocking up on spares

My list of required parts is quite long but not particularly obscure, as well I know the names and don’t have to describe them by taste and location on the bike. They include; chainset, wheel bearings, tyres, mirrors, indicators, swingarm bearings, air filter, spark plug, steering bearings, speedo cable, a wheel spoke, and maybe some other stuff I’m forgetting (probably some tyre patches). The shop has everything I need and doesn’t close for lunch the moment I open my mouth. Because the shop is excellent, I decide to change tyres too, whilst the opportunity is there and as well before I enter Chile, where I assume it will be more expensive. As I’ve fixed so many punctures I really hate to have to change tyres so I enlist the help of the shop’s workshop. As is often, the staff in the back are teenagers and the first young whipper-snapper who comes to help with mine is just 16 years old….but with four years experience. He manages the rear wheel with aplomb, though the same cannot be said of the weedy – even by my ironic standards – apprentice working on the front wheel. Admittedly he’s about ten years old, so I go easy on him.

The “old” mechanic
The “old” mechanic
Yamahas and Hondas are GOLD in Bolivia, almost all bikes are Chinese, but, like here, made to look like Hondas or Yamaha…this one has even painted it on the engine case!
Yamahas and Hondas are GOLD in Bolivia, almost all bikes are Chinese, but, like here, made to look like Hondas or Yamaha…this one has even painted it on the engine case!

My toolbox is quite minimal – with the exception perhaps of the rust – enough though, to do most jobs. To change the bearings though, I need more; at least a bearing puller and another pair of hands. Finding a friendly little workshop nearby, with just enough space inside for two bikes to be worked on, I ask if I can work outside and use any tools I might need. The owner is more than helpful and instead clears a space inside amongst the debris of jobs past and the synonymous (the world over) “dirty” newspapers.  I set to work with the assistance of Fart Boy, the inept apprentice whom I ask to straighten my front wheel. After perhaps one rotation of the wheel and a few tickles with the spoke key, Fart Boy asks “is that okay?” to which I reply, “have you farted again?” and then add, “hmmmmmm, it’s still a bit bent. Can you try a bit more?” We repeat this exercise until I’ve replaced the head bearings (and nearly suffocated) and he’s gone around tickling the wheel 1,738 more times.

Fart boy tickling the nipples
Fart boy tickling the nipples

Meanwhile, the boss is interrupted and pestered the instant he so much as touches a spanner, people desperate for help fixing their bikes (that old soap opera). When he finally gets a moment from the constant stream of customers, he goes back to working on a Chinese POS200, apparently – so he says – preparing it for a rally race (to the death I assume). I ask if he’s got a spare second to help and I pass my swingarm to him. Inspecting it we see that the left hand bearing is in reasonable shape (i.e. it’s there, still round and recognisable as a bearing, otherwise pretty buggered) and the right-hand bearing has seemingly disappeared and what remains has mutated into something resembling a single circular bead of weld, I’m concerned where the actual rollers of the bearing have gone. Safe to say, I should have probably done this a while ago and the right-hand bearing in particular is going to be particularly difficult to remove. A bit of cussing, a lot of pounding on whatever is left of the bearing with ever greater sized mallets and finally, it is still exactly where it was all those mallets ago. Boss Man puffs out his cheeks and exclaims, “puta….duro es”. It sure is. I’m actually concerned that what we are pounding is actually a weld in the swingarm and the bearing has “somehow” vanished, or was maybe never even there. This doesn’t really add up of course, but it does seem odd so my brain is on overdrive trying to fathom it out with increasingly ludicrous ideas. A pound hammer is sought as well as a chisel and a more solid base to pound against. Soon, we destroy all remnants of the bearing (or maybe a critical weld).  New bearings are installed more or less in the same fashion, though maybe with a bit less cussing and a slightly smaller hammer, still plenty of farting.

Getting to work
Getting to work

I pay Boss Man upon leaving, getting the impression he’d thought I was going to fleece him or was expecting to use his space, time and tools for free. He seems quite surprised to be paid. I pop up the road to a machine shop and ask about making a prop stand to hold the wheels up for repairs and punctures – I’d left mine under a local’s bike in the jungle when helping him. As well, having had the bike land on my head on more than one occasion – which I can assure you is really annoying – I’m keen to modify the stand; a forked head to slot around the frame or swing-arm and also with a larger footpad so it doesn’t sink into the mud (or fall on my head). I return the next day to find prototype V1.0 not far off what I’d asked for but with one clear omission: I’d forgotten to mention weight: svelte it is not. Mark-two is duly produced, still a bit porky but I haven’t the heart to ask him to throw away more precious metal as it’s costly and he was clearly very meticulous crafting it, taking great pride in his work.

Today: Tripe Drunk man’s BBQ Inc. a drink
Today: Tripe, Drunk man’s BBQ, Inc. a drink
I bought always from the woman this side of the yawny girl
I bought always from the woman this side of the yawny girl
Street Vendor
Street Vendor
Bonsai tree exhibition
Bonsai tree exhibition
Girl sells camomile
Girl sells chamomile
Man pick his nose
Man pick his nose
Prop stand made, V2
Prop stand made, V2
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Cathedral
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Door
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My 5* hotel (not really)
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Late night stall shopping
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Somewhere
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Church bells
Another Church

OK, so enough of Sucre, I hit the road……

/