Today was none stop rain so I decided to stay put for the day. Tomorrow's forecast is for showers in the morning and rain in the afternoon.
Day 412 Tuesday 20th October 2015.
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed on this trip has been the interaction with the many varieties of wild life. Not long ago I camped right next to the Howler Monkeys, they are an endangered species and it was a real highlight to see them. Today I had the privilege of discovering a much rarer species of Monkey; they are only found in Chetumal and have linage back to the great apes. They congregate in a group in a communal area during the day and then disperse in the evening, each one going their own separate ways. Within this group there is a sub species, so rare that they are only seen for three hours a day, and maybe for only a few days of the week. They live in dark, dirty cluttered environments; they notoriously collect all sorts of useful items. They have a fascination for shiny or metallic offerings. They are an intelligent species and have the ability to use basic tools, similar to a chimp. I have indeed witnessed this. Through the dark, cluttered and gloomy surroundings I could see a silhouette of this incredibly rare beast. Clenched tightly in hand, with knuckles dragging on the floor, was their favourite tool. It shone like a beacon of light. I could hardly believe my eyes, was that a 12-inch adjustable spanner? It was! Yes, I had found the almost extinct Chetamul Moto Mechanico.
This was the beginning of the most frustrating two weeks of my life.
Good news this morning, no rain but very overcast and humid. It was time to get my gear loaded on to Winston and head to the Belize border. I headed off and within 30 seconds riding there was a terrible tapping noise coming from Winston’s engine. I pulled over and the engine cut out. I managed to get it started but the noise continued.
I remembered riding past a motorcycle shop so I thought that would be the best place to go. I got off Winston and pushed the 330kg beast a couple of hundred metres back up the road. As I pushed the bike the rain started. The bike shop didn’t open until 9am so I waited outside until the staff arrived and opened up. The bike shop had a large Kawasaki sign at the top of the building. I thought this was promising. The building was modern and clean looking from the outside. Inside were different brands of Chinese bikes but no Kawasaki’s.
When the shop opened, I found none of the staff could speak English. We spoke via Google translate. They had one of their mechanics have a look at Winston. He didn’t have much of an idea but said that the mechanic who dealt with big bikes would be in, in the afternoon and he would have a look then. I was feeling very uncomfortable with the expertise of the people I had dealt with so far. They had no experience with Triumphs and only worked on bikes up to 150 cc.
I left Winston outside the bike shop and headed back to the hotel to check in for one more night.
I headed back to the bike shop at 3pm to see the mechanic who worked on big bikes. He thought it could be a piston pin (gudgeon pin) or the timing chain tensioner. He didn’t fill me with confidence so I videoed the problem and sent it to Triumph USA for their opinion. Triumph USA were a great help. Their thoughts were the same as the Mexican mechanics. Having two independent parties come to the same conclusion was a good start.
Day 413 Wednesday 21st October 2015
Overnight I had Triumph USA send me a copy of the Triumph Tiger 800 workshop manual in Spanish which was sent to the bike shop for their reference. It was then back to the bike shop to establish if they could fix the bike with the help of the manual.
They said they wouldn’t be able to look at Winston for three days but thought it would take up to two weeks if no parts were required, if parts were needed then at least 5 weeks. I asked why it would possibly take two weeks to strip an engine? The reason given was the mechanic only came in at 3pm and he was busy. I told them I had spoken to Triumph USA and they told me they had 99.5% of the parts in stock and could send them out same day.
I left the shop feeling very uncomfortable with the abilities of their staff to get Winston fixed. I was between a rock and a hard place. I couldn’t fix the bike on the side of the road. It rains heavily most days so the bike had to be in a workshop. I asked if I could help the mechanic. They said no! I emphasized that I needed to get the bike back on the road urgently as I had planned to meet my daughter in Peru and that the boat from Panama to Columbia had been booked to get me and Winston across the Darien Gap.
I had to trust that they knew what they were doing, after all they were mechanics and they now had the workshop manual in Spanish at their disposal. It looked like I would be in Chetumal for at least two weeks. This was going to put my schedule back and cost me financially. Little did I know it would only get worse?
After 3 days I went to the shop to find the mechanic had not started on the bike. This was the beginning of many promises to be broken. I was not in direct contact with him I had to go through the Parts sales guy. It was very difficult to know what was going on as we communicated via Google Translate. Google Translate came up with some strange offerings. The next day I went in and the parts guy said the mechanic had gotten the tank and rocker cover off and he would know what was wrong with it tomorrow.
The next day I went into see the parts guy to find out what the diagnosis was. He said the mechanic never turned up. My blood was starting to boil! I told him that the mechanic better turn up tomorrow.
The next day I went in and the parts guy told me the camshafts, shims and valves were badly worn and the mechanic has taken the shims and head to be machined.
I asked to see the worn camshafts as I wanted to take some photos. The mechanic wasn’t there so he took me into the workshop. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked into to this dirty, cluttered dimly lit room. It was a stark contrast to the rest of the building. The parts off the bike were in plastic shopping bags thrown on a shelf sitting on top of old nuts, bolts pistons, con rods. The tank was sitting on the floor with nothing under it to protect it and the plastics were thrown into cardboard boxes with other parts. The chances of damaging and loosing parts were extraordinarily high. Winston’s head was not covered so anything could fall into the engine. I was blown away at the lack attention to detail, professionalism and organisation. When I looked at the camshafts they were in perfect condition.
The parts guy told me it would take three days to get the parts back.
I said you still have not found the root cause of the noise. He said the mechanic is working his way through it.
Days later, I found out the machine shop that was going to do the job didn’t and they had to take it to another.
I asked for a meeting with the owner of the company the parts guy and the mechanic so we could finally get this sorted. The owner was not in Chetamul he was away on business. I asked them to phone him but they wouldn’t.
We had the meeting with the mechanic, the female supervisor of the workshop and the parts guy.
I said I want the bike put back together and I will try to truck it to Merida which is 400km north to the Triumph dealer to get it looked at.
They said there was no need for that that they would guarantee the bike would be able to be ridden to the dealer.
They promised the bike would be ready on Saturday. I asked for their help in locating a trucking company as I can’t read or speak Spanish and no one in Chetamul seems to speak any English. They said the bike would have to be crated if it was trucked and there would be no need as they guaranteed the bike would be ridable. The bottom line, they weren’t interested in helping me.
On Friday I went into the shop to see if the bike would be ready as promised the next day. They said the people who were doing the machining had let them down but the bike will be ready on Thursday. I explained my frustration about promises constantly being broken and how could I possibly trust what they say. They offered to write me a letter guaranteeing the delivery date and a month warranty on the work. I asked if I break down on the way to Merida will they come out and fix the bike? Will they truck it back to the workshop? They said no. then the warranty means nothing I replied.
On Thursday I went into pick the bike up. Of course, it was not ready. The mechanic said it would be ready midday Friday.
Day 429 Friday 6th November 2015
At mid-day, I turned up. The bike was sitting outside all cleaned up.
I had to pay before they would give me the key. We went outside and I started the bike. It made no tapping noise. Maybe they actually knew what they were doing.
I went back to the hotel to pick up my helmet feeling like the ordeal is finally over. For the last two weeks it’s hardly rained but as luck would have it, it started as soon as I got on the bike.
As I rode away, I noticed that the engine warning light had stayed on, the bike felt like it lacked power and the cam chain sounded like it was too tight. Just then the oil light came on, so I pulled over. I later found out it wasn’t the oil light it was the temperature light. I switched the engine off waited a while and limped back as far as I could by now in the torrential rain to the workshop.
I told the mechanic the problem and he just said it was the error codes and it would be fine to ride to Merida. I didn’t believe him and took the bike.
I had spent days trawling the web to trying and find a trucking company. Everything I looked at was in Spanish and a dead end. I had emailed companies in Spanish using Google translate and had had no responses. Worst case scenario I would have to leave the bike at the hotel and try and sort it out when I came back.
I just had to find a way to get the bike to Merida.
I had a very restless night’s sleep contemplating what could be done. The biggest problem was actually communicating what I wanted. No one spoke English.
There was only one thing to do, it was a long shot but I had nothing to lose.
Day 430 Saturday 7th November 2015
I had to get to the airport. There surely would be a hire car company there. There more than likely would be someone that could speak English.
At 8am I haled a taxi and went to the airport. I was in luck. The guy behind the counter of the car hire company could speak English. I asked if he had a van or a pickup truck. The only van he had was full of seats. I then spoke to another guy at another car hire company. He was a biker and was really helpful. He said his company didn’t have pickups but he knew someone at another company that did. He made the call and they had one available. What a relief! The guy brought the Pickup truck to the airport. The deck was too short so I asked if he had one with a longer deck, he did. I negotiated the price down. I don’t know why he dropped the price because he knew I had to have it. I paid and signed the lease agreement and headed to the timber yard to buy some timber to make a ramp to get Winston on the truck.
I got the Guys from the Kawasaki shop to help me push the bike onto the deck, Tied Winston down and headed to Merida.
When I arrived a guy who has been helping me translate with the Triumph shop was there. His name is Arturo and he has been such a big help. Roberto the mechanic and his assistant was at hand to help get Winston off the pickup.
Arturo explained to what to Roberto what I wanted him to do. It was to go over the entire engine with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that the work that had been done it Chetamul was ok and to see if anything else needed to be replaced. I said treat it like it was your bike and you’re riding to the furthest point south in the Americas.
It was a great relief to know that an expert would go over the bike.
With that I left and drove back to Chetamul.
Day 431 Sunday 8th November 2015
I dropped the Pickup off at the hire company and caught the bus too Cancun. It was a 6-hour trip.
Day 432 Monday 9th November 2015
I spent my day biding my time. I walked to the Cancun port. It’s a new development.
Day 433 Tuesday 10th November 2015
I caught the bus to Cancun airport. Flew Virgin America to LA, then Hawaiian Airlines to Honolulu and then on to Auckland.
Alana picked me up at the airport and we got home a t midnight. It was great to see her again. We hadn’t told my daughters; Amanda and Emma I was coming home. It was a real surprise for them. I felt complete for the first time in 14 months.
Over the next three weeks we did lots of family things. I had lots of things to fix around the place. We visited my parents in Kerikeri and while we were away our house got burgled. We have lived there over 20 years no problems. I thought how ironic is it that I’ve been in all sorts of counties and had nothing stolen until I get back to NZ.
Day 458 Saturday 5th December 2015
I arrived back in Cancun Mexico and got the bus to Merida to pick Winston up.
Roberto had reset the Cam chain tensioner and gone through the engine to find that the mechanic in Chetamul had the timing 10 degrees out making the engine run hot and boil the water dry. Other than that, everything was ok.
Day 459 Sunday 6th December 2015
I was finally back on the road after 5 weeks off. I left Merida a bit hesitant this morning as I knew the route had very few towns and villages and if I were to break down it would be a major problem.
All these thoughts disappeared as I hit the highway and Winston purred like a new one. It was fantastic to be on the move again. The weather was the usual big down pours of rain and to my surprise big periods of sun to dry off again.
I arrived in Chetamul and stayed at my usual Hotel. I now know Chetamul like the back of my hand.
Tomorrow, I leave Mexico and head into English speaking Belize.