After my epic bike tune-up it was time to finally get out of Coro and hit the road to the Andes. I had a 700 km ride ahead.
I said goodbye to my friend Chivo and his family and got on the road.
It was long flat ride along mostly boring scenery. My bike was riding like new so it felt good to be back in the saddle. Every gas stations I pulled in, I was being interviewed and questioned about my trip and again.. " You LOCO man " a few would say about my surfboard. Some thought it was my bed! Everyone just wanted to pose a shot with me from their phone cameras. I think by now I must be in thousands of different facebook albums.
I met another group of riders along the way at a gas station. They were also on their way to Merida. They asked me where I was going to stay for the night. I had NO idea. They told me to pass the city of Valera and ride up higher in the mountains to La Puerta.
I was sure glad to have that info when I reached the heavily traffic city of Valera. I still had plenty of daylight left so continued on to La Puerta and found a nice cozy posada for a night sleep.
La Puerta is a nice little mountain town at the entrance of the Andes at 2000 meters, the air is fresh. The next morning I continued on 150 km to Merida along some of the most spectacular scenery road in Venezuela. With a high pass above 4200 meters.
When I reached the pass I took a rest and could feel my head pounding from the high altitude. More people wanted to snap photos and more questions were ask about my trip. I must of spent an hour answering questions.
But people in Venezuela are extremely friendly. They want to help you in anyway they can.
From here on it was all downhill to Merida. Passing threw small villages and more beautiful scenery....
Along the road snacks... Sugar cane juice...
Yummi Cachapa, a traditional Venezuela pancake made from corn.
High plateau farm land. The scenery along the way reminded me of Peru.
Perfect mountain roads.
Up and up and up threw the valley... I wouldn't want to be in a bus!
I sure make heads turn around when passing by people with a surfboard in the Andes.
The twisty mountain pass at 4000 meters.
The high pass at 4279 meters, I could sure feel the thin air coming from sea level!
A pimp toyota, many of those around.
My friend here wanted to have a drink with me, but told him I had to drive... It looked like he drank the hole bottle anyways.
Colorful flower shop.
below, the twisty road and Pico Bolivar.
With my new shirt ...I'm now a member of the Renegados Falcon Motoclub.
After nearly clocking 80 000 km on my bike, something wrong was bound to happen. I rode from Canada to Ushuaia without getting a single flat tire. I had never done any repairs on my bike other the regular maintenance of oil change, chain and tires.
Riding threw Brasil put a good beating on the engine due to bad gasoline ( with 25% alcohol ) It's hard on the engine after 10 000 km!
I knew along the way I would need to eventually change my timing chain inside the engine. I could hear the valves tapping with every kilometers. While out on a ride to the peninsula de Paraquana outside of Coro, my bike just stopped. Not sure what had happen. Thinking maybe I had just ran out of gas. I added a little from my reserve tank.... Bike doesn't start! " F*%# " a quick panic rush ran to my veins, I was far from any help on a lonely stretch of road. Maybe it's an electrical problem?? so I push start the bike. 1st try, didn't work, shit!!! oh oh, something as really gone bad now. 2nd push, it starts! Ouff...
I rode back to Coro, straight to my hostel while being afraid of the engine dying in the middle of traffic.... But I made it.
I told my story to the hostel owner. " I know a mechanic " he says, great!!! So first thing in the morning, a visit to the mechanic was my plan. I was going to change my timing chain once back into Colombia. Here in Venezuela, parts are harder to find, but in Colombia, they have everything for my DR 350 suzuki.
I needed to look for Chapulin, the mechanic. After riding up and down the streets somewhat a little lost. I asked some guy at the corner street for Chapulin. " alla" he points out down the street where a bunch of beat up motorbikes parked outside a house.
A few guys were standing around while a couple others were working on bikes in the street. " Chapulin" I asked. The guys looked at me, "Gringo" one says. I looked at him with a smile. A man with greasy jeans and hands looks at me. It was him, so I described him my problem with my best spanish. " la bujía " - ( spark plug) he tells me. I had a spare, so I quickly get to work changing it. Nope, same thing. Bike still doesn't start. Chapulin takes another quick look, tries it. No go. He then goes off in super fast spanish. I understood nothing but picked up that my timing chain needed to be replaced.
I sat around waiting, hours went by. Finally one of the guys got his tools and started taking my bike apart. Great! maybe I can get out of here today! Not so fast. It's now lunch time. Stores are closed, Can't get parts. So I take off for a coffee at a nearby Panaderia. I come back an hour later. My bike is in the street stripped apart but no one working on it. Then one guy shows me the 2 screws holding the muffler to the engine broken. Great! They brought the engine head to a welder to try and get the screws off.... ( took 2 days)
It's nearly 5 pm. No way anything was going to done so I told Chapulin I'll come back tomorrow. " Si Si " he says, telling me to come early at 8 am so we can buy the parts. Perfect, " hasta manana " I walk back to the hostel disappointed and tired.
The next morning, 8 am. As I sat chatting away with the BOYZ nothing was getting done on my bike. I was starting to loose patience. Thinking I'll never get out of Coro. Maybe I was just a gringo and they didn't give a shit about my bike??? Chapulin was working on other bikes while I was telling everyone passing by the shop about my trip. Now they were still waiting on the welder to get the broken screws off the engine block. 12 o'clock now. I knew the stores were just about to close again so I asked Chapulin if we could go buy my parts. " Almuerzo " he tells me... (lunch time) I was about ready to rip his head off. But I kept it calm, after so long in South America. I learned to be patient with stuff like this. I sat in the shade watching the mechanics working on other bikes and answering questions about my trip....
A couple guys show up. Both with guns hanging off their belts. - After all it's Venezuela! - then a discussion over who had the best gun started. Great. I picked up that they were both police officers. One of them, Jose, a fairly big size guy starts to ask me questions, where I was from, where did I come from with my bike. Told him my story, - for the 10th time - he didn't believe I came all the way from Canada. Then a question was asked... " did you ever have any problems in Venezuela??? or get robbed??? " nope.
He pulls out his gun, jokes around saying shit I couldn't understood, all the guys were laughing. I knew he was just joking around. But with a gun in hand, at first it's a little scary. Hahahaha....
"Vamos" he says, taking you out for lunch. I go along with the 2 police to some ladies house where a big feast was waiting for us. Again, explaining my hole trip to everyone.
Jose turned out to be a great man, very friendly and helpful. Took me to his house to show me his brand new 1200 GS BMW. I'll trade you for mine I said. He didn't take it
He told me they were all part of a motorbike club called the "Renegados Falcon". Some 60 bikers from Coro.
We get back to Chapulin's shop. Hoping to see progress on my bike. Nothing new was done. He orders his guy to see about my engine block, if the welder had taken off the broken screws. Finally, it was done!
Chapulin takes me to the bike shop, it turned out I needed to replace one valve and the timing chain. Luckily they had ONE matching valve. I get the parts need, valve, chain, spark plug, oil, filter. Then the bill....
A problem we have as tourist here in Venezuela, money can't be taken out at ATM machines, they just don't work. Thanks to Chavez!
The bill came to 800 bolivar, I had less in my wallet. But luckily brought my last back up $100. Normally with a black market exchange at 8 bolivar/$ but the bike shop could only give me 7. Which meant I needed to use my last 100 dollar bill and 100 bolivar. It left me with less the 700 bolivar in my pocket! - I need 120 to pay my hostel and not sure how much to pay Chapulin.... and some to get out of Venezuela! with 400 km to Colombia.
Back to the shop, I asked Chapulin how much he would charge me. He didn't say. I told him after buying the parts, i was out of money... I don't think he really understood me.
More guys show up at Chapulin's. Some from the bike Club, including my new police friend Jose. I chat with Manuel a club member with a BMW 650 who had traveled in Peru and Bolivia and was about to go on a trip to Patagonia end of the year. So he picked my brain with questions about Patagonia. he asked me where I was off to next. .. Well, I was on my way to Merida, but now??? need to leave Venezuela. "Porque?"
I told him my timing chain and a valve was being replaced then mentioned it emptied my wallet. I had no longer access to money and need to get to Colombia to get money and didn't know how I was going to pay Chapulin.
The sun was now getting low, finally they started to work on my bike. I was thinking, Shit, I'll never be able to leave! I'll have to spend another day here. My head was pounding with worries about how to pay the mechanic? If I stay one more day, how will I pay my hostel, food?? I'm F&%@ ed!!!
More guys now show up with a case of beers and bag of ice, it's 6 pm. Now almost dark. A cold beer is handed to me. Ouff, just what I needed. I pound it down in seconds. "Otra" one says, handing me another cold one.
Now about 15 guys are here, all drinking beers in the street while Chapulin is working on my bike with a cold beer in hand and a kid holding a lamp to give him light. Manuel tells me, " Chapulin is working after hours you know, he never works after dark, especially not fridays! " I smiled, " You're lucky man! " and he's also the best mechanic you can find! ... how did you find him?? ", " suerte! " with luck! I tell him.
Jose, (policeman) tells me that tomorrow the motoclub are riding to a Fiesta out of town for a BBQ and that I should join them. Well if my bike is ready, maybe??? He insisted that I join them.
Now 8 pm, pitch dark, my bike is back in one peace. Starts like a dream, everyone cheers!
Beers were past around until the box was done. " Vamos " Jose says. Donde??? " Vamos " I was tired, I wanted to go back to eat and rest. I'de been at the shop since 8am. Jose didn't let me go home.
We all jump on our bikes and ride to a near Licoreria - beer store. More beers where drank. ( good thing they drink light beer! ) Now 10pm, I told them I needed to go.
OK, "hasta manana" 12 o'clock!
The next day I came to meet the gang, with my bike loaded with all my gear. Now they were really blown away when they saw me arriving with a surfboard on the side of my bike!! "You LOCO man!" We ride to restuarant, - Palacio del Chivo -, where we would meet everyone. Jose hands me a key. "go put your stuff in the room, you stay here tonight!" - Nice room, TV, AC. FREE... then a plate of food and cold beer comes, " eat my friend "
More club members show up dressed up in bright orange T shirt with a big logo, "Renegados Falcon." Jose introduces me to everyone. " My friend from Canada!" he tells them the story about my trip.
"Vamos" Jose gives me a bright orange club shirt, we all jump on our bike and ride 75 km west of town to a small village. We all team up in a Licoreria. Drink a couple cold beers. " Vamos " off to a house where the fiesta was happening with a BBQ.
More cold beers were drank while chatting with everyone about my 3 years on the road.
As we all sit around in the shade. Jose asks everyone to be quiet. He tells everyone about my journey, then about my money issue, that I was out of money after my bike needed repairs and couldn't get anymore at the bank. Next thing I know, everyone reaches in their pockets pulling out some cash!!! They counted a total of 1600 bolivar!! = $200us. I didn't know what to say. I couldn't believe it. They all chipped in to help. Incredibly generous group of guys.
Everyone was taking photos with me, passing along my blog and email.
Tomorrow.... " vamos a la playa!! " - man I'll never leave! another day with the club was in plan. After their generosity, I couldn't say no.
So next day we all met again at Palacio del Chivo. We all rode off to another members house for more beers and BBQ and met more great people.
While riding to the beach. I noticed my clutch was now slipping. shit! It meant more repairs and more time in Coro. ( at least I now had money! ) The next morning I went back to see Chapulin. Took the clutch apart, put in new disks. Now my bike was like new. In perfect shape.
Now the question... " cuanto??? " I needed to pay all this damage! He ended up telling me... your part of the Club my friend! - 200 he says I gave him 250 bolivar. = ( $30us) for ALL the repairs! unreal.
I have to say, I never met such a generous group of people along my 3 years on the road with such great generosity. Thanks guys! Thanks Jose for all your help, Thanks to Chivo for the room and great food and to Chapulin to put me back on the road with a new bike! I'll never forget the Renegados Falcon!
On the sad end of the story, while returning from the beach house, one of the guys, Victor hit a massive pothole which send him flying over the bars, loosing his helmet and severely injured with broken ribs and in coma.
I really hope he gets well soon!! I'm glad he has such good friends from the club to support him!
Hope you get well soon Victor!!
Thanks to Chivo and his family for giving amazing food and a room.
Chapulin, the smaller guy, the best mechanic I had along my 3 year journey.