Life In La Manzanillia
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
Over the course of the following week we manage to get into all sorts of misadventures in and around La Manzanilla. I didn’t think it was possible to get a cold in a tropical climate like this one, and now I know the colds here are bigger and badder just like the wildlife. It kicks me down hard for almost a week, so I put myself to bed early most nights. I also haven’t mentioned the stomach troubles Duke and I have been getting in Mexico, usually about once a week. It’s all but impossible to keep clean hands here and I suspect eating most meals with our fingers is the source of our troubles. Going to the bathroom is a frequent and unpleasant experience.
Nastiness aside, there is plenty of work and play to keep us busy, as Duke’s friend Kyle is opening a restaurant in town in hopefully a week or two. One of my favorite tasks is trying to fix the boat Kyle dragged down from the US, a big old thing with a rusty V8 Volvo engine. The first problem we identify is an inoperable starter motor, signified by loud clunking and little else. We try our best to clean it out and get nowhere, so the local mechanic, Chewy, is called in. I learn very quickly that Mexican mechanics are wizards – they have very few tools and no formal training and can fix anything with wire, duct tape, WD40 and a hammer. What they lack in ‘formal’ skill they make up ten fold with persistence and ingenuity. I go with Chewy to a nearby town where we completely dismantle the starter, clean everything throughly and re-assemble the working unit. In one afternoon hanging out with locals I learn more Spanish than I have in the last two weeks.
In the middle of fixing the boat, we turn our attention to the pair of jet skis Kyle also towed down, both of which need some TLC. We obviously have solid motivation to get them running well, and of course we all need to take them for extended test runs in the ocean, with Duke clearly getting the most air over the waves. I’ve never ridden big jet skis before and the 900cc two-stroke takes a lot of effort just to hold on at full throttle 😀
Hours of laughing and grinning like idiots ensues, especially when Tyler forgets that jet skis don’t turn without throttle and barely misses running us over.
It’s time for Duke to head back to the US, so at 5am we team up with Kyle and a couple of locals to head into Guadalajara for for the day. Dropping Duke at the airport is a bittersweet experience – it’s been awesome having a travel companion for a month and I’m both excited and nervous to be going it alone in Mexico from now on. Duke’s company has been a great learning experience for me, having spent so much time essentially on my own during the trip. I like to live the simple, quiet life while Duke enjoys as many distractions as possible, and plenty of all-night benders to keep things interesting. His company will be missed.
We potter around all day in Guadalajara getting odds and ends for the new restaurant. It feels like an amazing city, teaming with life and energy & it’s a nice change to be a tourist for a whole day and not have to concentrate on driving or directions.
After charging the batteries on the boat the engine turns over well but will not fire – a few more hours of investigation by Chewy and myself and I declare the coil to be dead, a fact I’m proud to say I deduced because when I got shocked checking for spark it didn’t hurt much
We finally get it running and towed down to a useable ramp into the ocean, a task not easily accomplished. It runs for only a few minutes before smoke pours out of the engine compartment, leading us to think briefly there is an actual fire on board.
Over the next few hours we;
- Try to drive/paddle/swim it to a mechanic who refuses to look at it,
- Don’t pay $30 for a tow back and go it alone,
- Get stuck on shallow tidal flats numerous times,
- Push it a few hundred meters over razor-sharp oyster shells,
- Get left behind and walk/swim/climb fences for an hour to get back.
With Chewy on the scene a few days later we discover one of the heat exchangers on the extractors is not working, so we clean out the 3 kilograms of rust and mud it contains, put it all back together and finally have a fully functioning boat. It needs to be driven from the town it’s currently in back to La Manzanilla – about an hour in the open ocean. Somehow the task falls to Kyle and I and 10 minutes later we are powering out into the ocean with me at the helm. Of course we’ve only got a quarter tank of gas, no radio, no watch, no flares, no maps, no gps and only a vague idea of where we are going.
What could possibly go wrong?