Our return trip to Ecuador has had an inglorious beginning.
To start, we had mechanical problems on our plane and had to change planes, then multiple delays, but we finally make it to Quito around 1am. Still, Jason biggest stress was trying to figure out how to claim the solar panel and a few car parts through customs – the customs forms make it sound like an ordeal. But, at that time of night, they just grab your papers, x-ray your luggage and send you through. No worries.
There to greet us in Quito at 1am were our amigos Cristian and Javier. We stayed at Cristian’s house this weekend, and he is helping us get the van back in good repair.
The bus was just as we left it – only with more dust. Jason gave it the full inspection and tune up and decided it was time to address some concerns.
Cristian’s friend, Diego, is a VW mechanic and he has 3 kids to play with. This is very important when hanging out at a VW shop for 6 hours.
Jason was afraid we needed some valve work because of ‘sub-optimal’ compression and was suspicious of a hint of oil vapor on a spark plug. So, they did some tests. Diego told us not to be too worried about the compression because of the altitude – about 2800 meters.
Anyway, one of the tests involved pressurizing each piston and listening. If you hear air in the tailpipe, the exhaust valve is leaking. If you hear air out the carb, an intake valve is leaking. If you hear air in the case (through the oil cap,) a piston ring is leaking. We had a bad piston ring – good ‘ole #3.
At least the kids got to blow up balloons with the compressor when we were done.
If we want to make it to the end of the road, it looks like Red Beard will need some work. We’ll take it back and leave it for several days.
They will pull the engine, break it down and replace all the rings, make the valves like new, put in a new clutch and some other general maintenance while they are at it. It’s not as bad as it sounds – the work that was originally translated as costing $1, 200 USD is really only in the ballpark of $120 USD! Another Ecuadorian bargain! Phew! And, Bode will get to play with Sofia, Juan Diego and Martina more.
We also met up with (another) Javier. This one is driving a ’76 Mexican Bonanza combi to Argentina. He started in Guatemala, then looped up into Mexico before making his way here via Colombia. We’ve followed similar routes, but he’s done it in only 3 months. He has another 3 months to get his wife, kid, and dog to Buenos Aires to see their family. Obviously, he’s going to beat us there, but we’re going to try to meet up again somewhere along the way.