After breakfast I went to the basement where Rocinante was parked to check the lights that were not working. Right next to where Rocinante was parked was the maintenance office. The staff immediately gathered around me, eagerly supplying me cutters, screwdrivers and missing screws. Rocinante really has a fan club wherever she goes!!
I drove around trying to find the exit to the city …pointing at the text stuck on my sleeve, only to find myself at the toll gate of the expressway. I was most rudely turned away, and I sullenly drove back swearing under my breath against the discrimination against two wheelers…well, I had three but they didn’t care.After about 5 kilometers I suddenly felt a wobble on the side car which got bad in the very next moment. I pulled up sure it was a puncture, to my dismay it was worse… Eight spokes were broken and the wheel hung out at an angle rubbing badly against the mudguard. My heart sank through my two pairs of woolen socks into my snow shoes, there was a toll booth nearby but nothing else. If I removed the tyre to take it for repairs (by cab) who would look after my luggage? Just then a car stopped behind me, the family got off, the husband inspected his tryes and opened the boot and lit a cigarette. I partly rejoiced at their misfortune as I thought till they fix their tyre I can entrust my luggage to them and get a mechanic. I was cranking my jack, thanking my stars that this happened here on the outskirts of the city not somewhere on a hilltop, and also for puncturing the tyre of my successor. I looked back to see the family resettled in the car and about to move away. They came up beside me looked at my damage and said something and gestured which I optimistically took as… “We will look for a mechanic and send him to you”… “Sheshye” (thankyou) I said drawing from my 3 word vocabulary and admitting the presence of the almighty. I got busy removing the tyre, having no clue what I was going to do after it came off.The tyre was lying on the road and I was peeling my layers of clothing when a motorcycle came up honking and stopped with a screech swinging round on the front wheel making a burning rubber mark circle on the road with the back tyre. Now that’s an entry!! The family had really sent me the promised mechanic. He checked the tyre and compared the sample spoke he had brought along. Signaled timeout and went away with the tyre. I was calculating the number of kilometers (330) I had to do today divided by pot holed, non expressway and as my map showed half way hilly- speed and sinking…it was already 11:50. The mechanic returned at 13:40 fitted the tyre and I was off by 14:00hrs. The road was amazing, nothing less than the express way.And lo behold- there were some road signs… they were in Chinese but I had somewhat memorized the pictogram so I could tell I was on the right track without much asking. The road was throughout hilly but I covered the 180 Km in 2.5 hrs to reach Baoji my interjacent destination. As I reached the bounds of the town, again the same wobble. On stopping I found myself looking at the exact same problem as in the early afternoon. six spokes broken, tyre badly chafing against the mudguard. It had taken almost 2 hrs to settle the crisis earlier… again my calculations of Kilometers divided by driving hrs in day light began, yielding unacceptable results. I have decided not to drive in the night as I am extremely uncomfortable verging on paranoid doing so on a highway without street lights, full of trucks…and in China.
From where I had a breakdown, at 100 meters was a decent enough hotel and 50 meters further was a mechanic. Again I wondered at how it had happened here and not on the middle of highway in fading light?
It transpired that the earlier mechanic had used not the right length spokes so they gave way again… So here I am taking an unscheduled halt at Baoji. Have spent the past hour with my maps and re-charted my course to be able to keep my schedule. Have a tall order to complete tomorrow,
Simon my other co-ordinator in Shanghai has been playing translator on the phone when situations get totally exasperating. So now I know that the mechanic will have the bike ready by 9:00 in the morning