Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Fourth of July


**Editor´s Note--The third segment of the saga of the first breakdown...The first segment, entitled Patience, the second segment, entitled As the saga continues...and now Happy Fourth of July...**

I sat in constant pain, a watery substance was dribbling down my inner thigh; my spirit was broken. Between cramps I dreamt of sizzling burgers, ice cold beer, good friends, family and fireworks exploding into the warm evening air.

The reality was that I had just spent the last 5 days on a scavenger hunt of a life time. We had left the bus with nothing, no passports, no clean clothes, no food and no idea that it would take a week to find a cylinder head.

Alaena and I arrived in a morning mist wetting the dirt streets of Huaquillas. A notoriously dodgy border town, Huaquillas sat between Peru and Ecuador.

As we exited the bus we were immediately greeted by 10 different cart people all offering there services. Since our luggage consisted of a 60 pound piece of scrap metal, we chose the least shady looking character and took off.

Around the corner, we walked as the muddy road coated our feet and legs. We quickly pulled into a garage filled to the ceiling with auto parts. The proprietor told us he did not have our part but his friend did.

We blindly jumped into his Frankenstein car and drove off.

Between the thousands of stickers on the windshield I noticed a sign over head. It read ¨Thanks for Visiting Ecuador.¨

¨No No No No,¨ I yelled. I looked at Alaena, ¨tell him we don’t have passports. We can’t cross the border.¨

It was too late we pulled past the road guards and into Peru.

We drove through the mud and I smiled. What else is there to do when you are human cargo being illegally transported across the border against your will?

We grabbed a part from a Peruvian garage and drove back towards Ecuador. As we approached the crossing guards the driver rolled down his window and passed the guy something. From my crouched position in the backseat I could not tell what it was; my only guess was that it was some sort of bribe.

Safely back in Ecuador, we scrutinized the part, to our untrained eyes it appeared okay. Alaena began to negotiate a price.

Our sweatpants sporting, human transporting, auto part scheming salesman started off at $750. We looked at him and laughed. We had been told the part was worth no more than $500, fuck a new one cost $1000.

With little negotiation we got him down to his lowest price $600. We felt this was still too much. We left and walked 20 meters down the road to the next store.

As we approached we glanced through a steal cage and got our first glimpse of Gordo.

Perspiration ran down his neck coating the thick gold chain that dangled between his open shirt, a gold Rolex chocked his wrist, as his fat fingers danced across his cell phone.

We described what we needed and in 5 minutes he located the ED33 Cylinder Head.
Gordo´s part came with stipulations; the most trying being that he did not have the part, it was in Lima, Peru. He was determined to make us pay the $400 forward. Our only guarantee being a signed piece of paper proclaiming the cylinder head was in good condition and worked.

This idea did not sit easy with us so we left in hopes of finding another of what seemed to be the rarest auto part in all of South America.

As we paced the streets of Huaquillas it was beginning to look ominous. Alaena was suffering form a bout of food poisoning. We had no other option but to go back to Gordo.

I felt as if I was giving away my first born as I turned over all the money we had left to Gordo.

As Alaena prayed to the porcelain god, I sat staring at Gordo´s ¨guarantee¨. I could not shake the feeling that we had been robbed and would never see Gordo, the part, or our money ever again.

Huaquillas is a bustling border town. Trikes outfitted to carry large sums of produce, clothing, electronics and trash maneuvered back and forth between Peru and Ecuador. Between the thousands of trikes, men fought for street space and kicked 50 gallon drums of petroleum towards the Peruvian border.

Once across the border all the produce and goods are loaded by a team of sweaty men into trucks and are taken to the interior of the country. A good portion never make it on the trucksm; they are quickly dispensed to the large open air markets that fill the streets.

As the sun sets, the city dies. There are no bars, clubs, movie theaters, roller coasters or any form or entertainment. We were forced to sit idly flipping through channels hoping for an English program.

As the sun rose we were awoken to the bustling town. It was our hope to get the hell out of town by 5 pm. We had all day to do nothing.

As the clock struck 5 we strolled to Gordo´s and to our dismay his shop was closed. We sat and waited. It soon became apparent that Gordo had no intention of honoring his word.

Alaena quickly got up to go call Gordo. It was no use; his phone was off. We walked across the street to go ask Gordo´s brother where his lard ass of a brother was.

As Alaena spoke to Gordo´s brother, I watched her face drop. I knew instantly we were in for another night of excitement.

Once again we sat flipping through the channels all night long.

Some time in the middle of the night I awoke and sprinted to the toilet. Every ounce of food and water instantly drained out of my body. I painfully exited the bathroom and tried to sleep.

The morning came with more pain and misery. I had food poisoning bad. The only solace was that we were going to get our part. As we approached Gordo´s, for an instant, I forgot the pain and smiled.

We stood over the part and examined it, following all the instructions we had been given. The head appeared to be in good condition. There were no cracks; it did not look burnt. All the pieces were in place, and it was the right price.

After 3 excruciating days on the border, we were on the way back to the bus.
With each road bump came the fear that I was going to shit my pants. I squirmed in my seat trying to find the safest position, occasionally finding a bit of relief in a minute or two of sleep.

We suddenly came to a stop and in a confused frenzy the conductor escorted everyone off the bus. Just a few kilometers from the bus terminal our chariot broke down. I could not think straight between stomach cramps as I heaved the cylinder heads off the bus and loaded them into the awaiting taxi.

As the taxi pulled into the terminal my heart sank. I looked over at Alaena and asked, ¨where is the Head Gasket?¨

She looked back at me and her brown eyes dropped, ¨Ohh shit,¨ she lightly muttered, ¨I left it on the bus.¨

Anger, annoyance, despair, grief and wonder poisoned my body. All of our work for the last week was void because of a 5 second lapse in judgment.

I quickly looked at the taxi driver and demanded he drive us back to where the bus broke down some 20 minutes earlier. We frantically searched for the bus to no avail. It seemed to have disappeared.

We returned to the bus terminal, and Alaena frantically searched for the ticket booth for the bus company of the bus we had ridden but the booth had vanished. I paced the halls punching walls. It soon became apparent that there was no chance of ever finding the gasket again.

We spent the remainder of the night attempting to get some sleep. A near impossible task since it is apparently illegal to lie down and sleep in the bus terminal. Every 15 minutes or so, the cops came by and rapped their gun metal batons against the metal bench we were sleeping on. Between the ringing in our ears from the offensive cops and the sales men screaming a number of destination cities to any passing person, attempting to sleep in the bus terminal was near impossible.

At 3 Alaena boarded a bus to Manta in hopes of locating the gasket. I stayed behind in case her search was unfruitful. After finally locating a dark desolate corner of the bus station I found some salvation in sleep.

I awoke to the hustle of the terminal and checked my email. I finally smiled. Alaena found a part at a cheap price and was already on a bus back to Puerto Lopez.

I rushed to the window and got the first available bus to Puerto Lopez. I arrived wearing the same clothes I left in, broke, dirty, ill, hungry and tired.

I walked into Hostal Maxima and saw Andrew. He looked at me and laughed.

¨Holy shit man,¨ he said in wonder, ¨you look like you could use a shower.¨

No comments:

Post a Comment