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June 2nd, 2012 | Mexico

Problem Solving in Oaxaca…

Having reached Oaxaca after a rather torturous ride from Puerto Escondido, I needed to find the Paris Hotel that Roberto had recommended…

Although Oaxaca is not a big city, it is the capital of the province with the same name, and I expected to run into some traffic as I rode into the southern part of town… Gi-Gi knew absolutely nothing about the whereabouts of the Paris Hotel, so I had to stop and locate the address from a bridal shop, (would you believe…!!) who was the first of five places I stopped at, that had a telephone directory….!!

The entrance to the Paris Hotel in Trujano Avenue, Oaxaca... It is just four blocks from the centre of the old part of the city... Perfectly located and safe as house...!! Which in Mexico can be a rather important consideration...!!

Once I had the address plotted into her tiny brain, Gi-Gi led us off in the direction of the old part of town, or “Centro de Historico”… Unbeknown to us, the local civil servants were on strike, and the entire area had been blockaded by the strikers… It took half an hour of intensive cursing before we managed to find a street that got us to the Paris Hotel…

From inside the huge courtyard, one side of which is the hotel, and the other the owners residence....

The Hotel was an oasis in the midst of a rather grungy part of the city… Narrow, traffic clogged streets; sidewalks filled with vendors; and old, rather dilapidated buildings…

But the Paris Hotel was very different… It surrounds a huge open courtyard where vehicles can be parked in complete safety… It is neat and clean, and has a very good restaurant attached to it…

Most importantly, it is owner/managed and this tends to make all the difference…!! Sergio Rivera is not only the owner of the hotel, he is also the President of the BMW Bikers Club of Oaxaca…!! A very good man to know….!!

After a good night’s rest, and a hearty breakfast, I finally got to meet Sergio and explain that I needed a mechanic to take a look at the Big Fella…

“No problemo…!!” he said, and then in halting English, explained that his best friend had a workshop just around the corner and that I should take my bike there immediately…

By the time I got to Italika Motors, only a few city blocks away, the workshop team were expecting me… The bike that was up on the lift was swiftly removed and the Big Fella wheeled up onto the “operating table”…

"Gimme some loving...!! Er... I mean tuning...!!" Beto looks on, wondering who the heck had said that...!!

The chief mechanic, Julio, or “Mr Charming”, as he is affectionately known, listened while I explained how the bike was using too much fuel and oil, and that I thought the valves had not been set properly the last time I had it serviced in Peru…

Julio, fondly known as Mr. Charming, sets about servicing the throttle bodies...

Fortunately, a young guy who worked there spoke English and was able to translate for me…

Beto related the problems to Maestro Julio, who after some thought, started the engine and listened attentively as the Big Fella idled away….

“Mr Julio says it is not the valves…!! He says the throttle bodies need servicing…!! The air and fuel mixture is not right, and maybe the injectors are dirty…!!”

Not knowing exactly what the “throttle bodies” were, I was in no position to argue, and could only say, “I see…!!”

Within minutes the throttle bodies had been taken apart, and a few low whistles emanated from between the lips of the Maestro…

He pointed out that the injectors were indeed covered in an oily black substance, and the inside of the bodies were similarly affected…

Much WD40 later and they were re-assembled and when he started the bike up, it sounded a lot healthier…!!

He felt that the oil did not need to be changed, nor the valves reset, even though I had already ridden 8 000 km since leaving Lima…

The gearbox did however need a full litre of oil to bring it up to the correct level, and this together with the litre of oil Roberto and I had put in whilst I was in Playa, I guessed that 50 % new oil was better than nothing…!!

He quoted me a very reasonable price for his work, which I can only believe was as a result of the call from Sergio back at the Paris Hotel… The bike was then taken down and sent to the wash bay, which was all included in the price of less than $100.00…!!

The youngest member of the crew, Wero (13), is in charge of the wash bay, and had the Big Fella spick and span in no time at all...

I did not have enough cash on me to pay for the service, and asked where the nearest ATM was located… A burst of Spanish from the Maestro and one of the apprentice mechanics dashed over to a little red scooter and indicated that I should climb aboard…!!

“What…!! On that…!!” I queried… “And just how old is this little guy…??”

And that’s how it came to pass that I found myself perched precariously on the back of the scooter, wearing flip-flops and without a helmet; entrusting my life to a 14-year-old who thought he was Valentino Rossi…!! We buzzed through the crowded streets, zipping in between buses with barely inches to spare…!!

The smile was wiped off my face minutes later, as I endured one of the scariest rides I can remember...!!

“Oi…!! I still want my knees…!!” I shouted as we cruised between two taxis and my left knee brushed against one of their door panels… I heard him laugh and realised that not only did he not understand a word I was saying, but he was also enjoying taking the Gringo for a spin…!!

Did he lean into corners…?? Of course he did…!! Was I petrified…?? Of course I was…!!

We screeched to a stop outside the HSBC bank, and while I was drawing money with shaking hands, I briefly considered walking back to the workshop… I wasn’t at all sure if my nerves could withstand another ride on the back of the tiny scooter…!!

The journey back to Italica was made less frightening by the fact that I kept my eyes closed for most of the way…!!

Italika services all models of motorcycles, and the manager is not known as "El Maestro" for nothing...!!

While the bike was being washed, I stood staring at the back tyre… It had been getting “all squirrelly” on me over the past few days, and had caused me many an anxious moment while negotiating the tight twists and turns from Palenque to Oaxaca…

The Anarkee 2 that had carried me all the way from Florianopolis in Brazil, had shot its bolt....!! Although I was still keen to try to make it to the USA border, dozens of people, including Roberto in Playa del Carmen, had been telling me for some time that I was the most optimistic person they had ever met...!!

I asked the guys in the workshop whether or not they thought I would make it to the USA border with my back tyre, and by the screeches of laughter that ensued, I assumed that they thought hell would probably freeze over first…!!

Mr. Julio shook both head and forefinger in the direction of my rear tyre, and said “Nuevo…, Nuevo…!!” (“New…., New…!!”)

Then I had a brilliant idea…!! I knew that tyres in Mexico were very expensive, (a set of Michelin’s would cost about $500.00…!!) and had hoped to get a new set in Arizona, where they were said to be far cheaper…

I asked the Maestro if he didn’t have a few old tyres lying around that were in better condition that mine was…

Our "brand new" 2nd-hand tyre....!! Might even make it to Vancouver on this one....!! Ha...!!

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully for a while, before indicating that I should follow him…

We burrowed around in an old storeroom and found not one, but two tyres that were better condition…!!

One was a Michelin Anakee 2, identical to mine, with perhaps 2 000 km left on it….

The other was a Metzler Tourance, which had at least 4 000 km of tread left…!!

I was asked the princely sum of $30.00 for the tyre and accepted with alacrity…!! Who wouldn’t…!!

All I needed now was to find a place where I could have the tyres changed…

But another pleasant surprise awaited me… Apparently the price quoted included fitting and changing the tyres…!! BONUS….!!

While the two young mechanics set off to have the tyres sorted I went over to the little cafe nearby and bought everyone in the workshop a soda, which both surprised and delighted them… Much back slapping ensued…!!

This is how they took the tyres to be changed....!! Don't try this at home...!!

I thought then about all the money I could have saved by buying second-hand tyres along my route…!! In many of the places where I had bought new tyres, I had seen many “old” tyres that were in far better condition than the ones I was about to change…

I recalled the many front tyres I had “given up” that still had 1000’s of kilometres left on them, all because I always wanted a full set fitted when all I really needed was a rear tyre…!!

The Italika Gang... Luvo, Joachin, Wero, Senor Julio "Meastro" Charming, Beto and Furia....

Now that both the end of my journey and my funds were in sight, I was having to be a lot more inventive when it came to spending money…!!

On the short ride back to the hotel, I felt the power I was used to under me again, and the Big Fella seemed very keen to lift his front tyre off the road every time we pulled off from a traffic light… This might also have had something to do with the fact that there was now a lot more grip coming off the rear tyre…!!

The following morning, Sergio showed me his collection of motorcycles….all twelve of them…!! They are kept in a separate wing of the hotel, and are all in mint condition…

Each one has its own battery charger, and the storeroom attached to his “play room” as he calls it, is filled with dozens of helmets, each colour coded to suit the bike he chooses to ride at any one time…!!

He has a Ducati, a Yamaha Super Tenere, a KTM street racer, a BMW1200GS, a Honda Tornado, an 1969 Triumph, a BMW R90s, a Gilera, two scooters and I think there was also a Suzuki dirt bike amongst the lot…!!

We spoke of trips taken, the best bike for the best conditions, and all the while Sergio’s eyes shone brightly as he related incidents which he had been involved in…

This was a dyed-in-the-wool biker, and despite his age, he still liked to ride the wheels off his bikes…!! All of his side-stands show evidence of the scraping they have taken while he hurls his bikes around corners…!!

Sergio Rivera, owner of the Paris Hotel, and collector of motorcycles...!!

A small part of Sergio's collection of bikes... Out of the picture on the left are another three bikes, and in a side room stand another four....!! And each one in immaculate condition.... The man has gasoline in his veins....!! And of course there's a BMW1200GS amongst them...!! His stable would be incomplete without one, no...??

Beautifully restored, this R90S is one of his favourites....

Sergio fired up this 1969 Triumph, and the room reverberated with the throb of its engine....

Sergio astride his current favourite, his brand new Yamaha 1200 Super Tenere....

I was keen to complete the packing and loading of the Big Fella, and had arranged to meet a few of Roberto’s friends from his hometown of Huajuapan de Leon…

They were due to ride out and hook up with me somewhere between Oaxaca and Nochixtlan, and would lead me back to their town where I would visit with them…

But before I left, Sergio had one more unexpected surprise in store for me…

As we were walking back towards reception, he turned to me and said,

“Your room last night is free of charge my friend…!! And breakfast too…!! You have ridden a long way and are doing a great thing… This is my small gift to you….!!”

I thanked him for this very kind gesture and bid him goodbye as I went to have a quick breakfast…

Half an hour later, the reception staff came out to see me off, and I rode out into the narrow streets of Oaxaca to find my way out of the city…

I had enjoyed my short stay in Oaxaca and although I did not get much chance to see the sights of the old town, I made many new friends and managed to sort out a number of bike related problems that had been troubling both the Big Fella and I…

All in all, I will remember my stay here with fondness and highly recommend both the Paris Hotel, and the guys at Italika…

If you are anywhere close to Oaxaca and need a place to stay and have an ailing bike under you, get yourself to these two places… You will not be disappointed…!!

And tell them that crazy South African on the GS sent you… They’ll know who you mean…!!

©GBWT 2012

1 comment to Problem Solving in Oaxaca…

  • Mark Behr

    Good to see you up and riding on a healthy bike again. Often, after reading your blog, I am encouraged by the ultimate good of mankind. This post was no exception. Enjoy your time in Mexico.

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