Out of Luck: The Chase for the Dakar
“Dear God punishes the small sins instantly”, is a German saying my mom has told me often during my childhood. And even if I don’t want to accredit too much truth to this saying, we had to learn quite fast this time what happens if you don’t listen to the signs of
God the mighty big cat. Blame us!
We are still in Arequipa and want to visit the Rally Dakar. The annual desert and long distance rallye led from Paris to Dakar already more than 40 years ago. In 2007, there were terror threads for the first time and since 2008 the rally has been held in South America. It kept the name Dakar. Just that it’s in Peru this year.
Although we are not very familiar with the rally world, we want to take advantage of the chance that we are at the right place at the right time and just be there once.
The stage starts somewhere out of town and the information where exactly the track is going is rather inaccurate. We leave at five o’clock in the morning, fight our way through the construction site jungle of the big Peruvian city and suddenly get very excited when we see a lot of Dakar racers on the road. But – wait – there’s something wrong?! They’re all driving towards us!
The traffic has confused us so much that we actually rode in the wrong direction. We quickly turn around to follow the last Dakar vehicles (whereby I feel myself as a participant of a rally). As we lose them, we follow the GPS coordinates of the website just to end up in the middle of nowhere, surely where there is no Dakar. Damn! Because we have lost too much time and fear that the action is over, we turn around and go back to Arequipa.
We can watch the Dakar somewhere else. Let’s keep on going. Because of our trip to the Cotahuasi-Canyon, excursions with new friends, some work to fill up the holiday fund, and the Dakar stuff, we somehow repressed that we wanted to tke care of the Tiger’s repair. Now we are standing here, ready to go, and no willing to have all this stress you always have when you have to go to South American workshops.
“Would be better if we go to a workshop here in Arequipa”, I say to Moe. “Well, the bike doesn’t sound good, but it’s still running”, Moe answers with his usual optimism. “Okay.” I’m already convinced because I don’t want to stay any longer, even though the kitty sounds anything but good. The engine is running restless, the exhaust is much louder than usual and the engine doesn’t start as good as it used to.
On the same day, the sick cat takes revenge on us and stops in the middle of the desert-like dunes along the Pacific. As if we couldn’t have known that! Somehow I’ve become more relaxed and don’t start panicking and getting a heart attack. Instead, I casually sit down on the side of the road and eat cookies without thinking about a contingency plan. Maybe the Tiger just starts again…
Moe tries everything but the engine still won’t start. “Wouldn’t have been the badest idea if we had done a mechanic basic course before”, I tell Moe still amused. “Well, now it’s too late.”
Moe still has one last idea. I didn’t expect it anymore but with a bit of playing with a fuel hose we can suddenly go on again. It’s just the question how long.
Anyway, it’s sure that we have to go to Lima to a workshop. Actually, we wanted to avoid the capital of Peru – now we pray to make it there somehow.
Luck then leaves us in the middle of the hot and dusty city of Ica. And this time, the Tiger can’t be taimed that easy. The fuel hose strategy doesn’t work. I buy cookies in a small shop and surrender to destiny.
However, we’re lucky enough to be in a city. We might find some help here. So, we push the Tiger away from the Panamericana and I’m researching if there’s a workshop somewhere.
A New Facebook-Friend
Suddenly the police turns around the corner and asks about our problem. We tell them that we are looking for a workshop and the two young men are immediately offering us their help. They know a workshop just a few hundred meters further and can even tow us there. Great!
But the charity campaign is unfortunately not helpful but rather unpleasant. The cops are trying to hit on me up despite Moe’s presence and the “motorcycle workshop” is – as feared – a very poorly equipped garage in which tuk tuks are being repaired. Now the poor mechanic is obviously stumped in front of the big cat. But of course, he doesn’t admit that he has no idea.
As often as we have already been sent to completely wrong directions when aking locals, I have the feeling that the South Americans prefer to say anything, than to reveal that they have no idea.
Now, the mechanic asks first for the carburetor that does not exist, just to devote himself to the remote control of the communication system afterwards. “Is that the choke?” “No, there is none.” When he finally looks at the cable of the grip heaters to solve our problem, I have to intervene. I can’t watch this anymore, although I don’t want to be rude.
I guess that was a waste of time. But after all, I now have a new friend request on Facebook. From a Peruvian policeman, whose wife and children I can look at now. Im my experience, many South American guys do no have a problem with keeping several options open.
We push the motorcycle to the nearest hostal and try to find information about a possible workshop. For consolation, we are invited by a few funny Peruvians to drink some beers, that lifts the mood!
Help From Afar
But Ica seems like a bad place. There is no competent mechanic, no help for us. In our despair, we start a call for help on the internet and ask in various groups if anyone doesn’t know someone.
Felipe from Triumph Peru offers us his help immediately. They have a super workshop in Lima, the motorcycle could already be picked up tomorrow and brought there directly. But the $180 for transport are way too painful for our budget. We need to find a local solution and somehow get to Lima by ourselves!
A lot of foreign people are trying to help us search for a mechanic. Others are trying to help us find the problem. After all, we get a contact of a mechanic in Ica. Our only chance. He normally takes care of quads but seems to understand something of motorcycles, too. He even gets the Tiger to run again, but a short time later the cat falls out again. The mechanic can fix that again and we are very grateful for his help, he does not even want to have money for (we gave him some of course).
No Dakar again?
Since the Tiger is running again, we want to ride to the Dakar in Ica. It’s not that far away. But on the way there, the Tiger stops again and we don’t get it to get it back to running. It can’t be true that we miss the Dakar again! Finally, I propose that we leave the Tiger at a restaurant on the side of the road and hitchhike to the Dakar. We can take care of the Tiger later.
Through this action, we have lost some valuable time and arrive very late. Still, we see a few drivers. That’s the main thing.
Two Angels on Four Wheels
Back on the motorcycle a few hours later, we are not much smarter. We contact the mechanic, who now has no time right now and don’t see any other way than pushing the motorcycle back for 6 kilometers. Pretty sucks!
While we are pushing the motorcycle, we pass a German travel truck that we have already noticed at the Dakar. Moe asks kiddingly if they don’t go to Lima by chance and have some space for the Tiger. We are slowly starting a conversation and both long-term-travellers in the truck offer us motorcycle-maintenance-noobs their help in finding the problem.
As it turns out, they don’t just have a lot more knowledge of motorcycles than us, but also know the Tiger perfectly. Perry was a motorcycle dealer in his life before the big trip and the two actually had their own Triumph shop. What a great coincidence! Perry immediately hears that the fuel pump is no longer running and helps us to disassemble everything, and put it back together. He also has educational talent in explaining the connections, and so we are a lot smarter after this lesson. The Tiger is running again and we hope to make it to Lima now.
The Katzenjammer isn’t Over Jet
We start happily the next morning. After two kilometers, however, it is already over. So, we are standing again on the side of the road, while some dakar vehicles pass us. Thanks to perry, we know after all that it has to be an electronical problem. If we’re lucky, it may only be the battery. So I’m going to buy a new one.
Just when I want to get in a taxi, Piero stops. He saw us standing on the side of the road and wants to help. So he drives me to the battery shop and we have a very interesting conversation about his view of Peru. Unfortunately, the battery is not the problem. However, this is not so bad as we needed a new one anyways.
Finally, I’m buying some ice cream on the road. With ice cream, it’s much easier to think about what we should do now. The saleswoman asks me if we are also Dakar racers. “No, we’re just the ones who have a glitch.” We both have to laugh.
Running out of ideas, we push the Tiger back to the next hostal. Even though it hurts, the Tiger needs to be picked up. Otherwise we will never get to move on.
But Moe doesn’t give up. He goes back to the sick kitty and returns with a smile on his face: “running again.” So, we cancel the transport again.
The next morning another setback. The Tiger doesn’t run again. It just can’t be true. Everything feels like an evil nightmare that keeps on returnins. So, we are standing here again, taking the Tiger apart while it’s 40 degrees. We’re checking all the fuses for the nth time, until we suddenly discover the central fuse (which is the only one we didn’t check before because it was hidden under the battery). And here we go: it’s half melted.
I’m leave to buy a new one while Moe is having conversations with some self-declared experts. After the usual “no hay” (there is none) and the visit of many shops I finally find it. The seller is looking at the fuse and has to disappoint me: the plastic around is melted but the fuse itself is not interrupted. With grief, I look at our last hope and have to recognize myself: the good man is right!
I return to Moe and tell him bad news: a new fuse will not solve our problem. A woman from next door who has been watching us for a while, brings us some grapes over. She doesn’t need to speak our language to understand our situation. Such small gestures can save the day. And indeed: even if the exchange of security does not help us, this action finally shows us the main problem. As we change the fuse, we notice a defective contact which is responsible for the turning on and off. Hallelujah!
We finally jump on the Tiger and start riding!
Lima, Here We Come!
Of course we get stuck the way two more times but now we know how to get the Tiger back back to work by moving the right cable.
And even if we don’t have a fit Tiger, we even overtake the winner of the Rally in the motorcycle class, Toby price himself, on our way. Pretty cool, huh?
When we finally arrive in Lima, we are the happiest people in the world and surrender the sick cat to Felipe of Triumph. From this point, all our worries are gone because the smart mechanics fix the Tiger in a way that the cat is purring after the inspection better than ever. All problems fixed. What a happy ending!