Assessing the damage in Playa Maderas, Nicaragua
Working to assess the damage. We have a cold drink to ease the nerves and then set up some shade before getting to work. We find enough blocks to jack the bus up appropriately and then remove the tire. The axle stub is so loose i can wiggle it back and forth with no work and it spins roughly as though something inside is grinding against it. We try to pull off the wheel itself but remember that while we found/purchased a 24mm socket a while back on the mexican roadside, we never found a breaker bar to fit it, which renders it mostly useless. We ask everyone coming and going from the Mango Rosa parking lot, but aren’t in luck so jen hitches a ride on the back of a moto headed that way with socket in hand. She comes back without a breaker bar but with a quick modification that gets the job done. I love the can-do attitude about any problem in these countries!
We pull off the nut and get into the brake drum housing and the axle stub feels as though its barely attached. Not great news, but its getting late and we decide to tackle things tomorrow and salvage a bit of our day with a dip in the pool and dinner. At this point double paying for a night to be near the bus sounds far better than trying to orchestrate a caravan of our stuff into a rental house that we know has no wifi, phone or other services- so we go ahead and stay in one of the beautiful mango rosa suites. We make some friends at the bar, invite them back to our place for a curry dinner and a movie followed by a late night dip in the pool. Considering the events of the day, we do a hugely successful job of forgetting the issues at hand and enjoying our surroundings and our company.
In the morning we have breakfast and layout a plan for our day. We really don’t expect to even talk to a mechanic today much less see one, so our focus is getting us and all of our stuff to the rental house. In talking to others, we finally get two people to advise same mechanic and figure its worth placing a call to leave a message before were out of touch. Not only do we find out that the recommended mechanic “doesn’t party” and is working today, but he’s willing to come take a look within the hour. Impossible...but true. He didn’t show up, but two of his friends/workers did, in well under an hour.
We open up the reduction gear box to see whats going on before it’s even fully open we can see that it’s ugly inside. A few ball bearings fall out as we pry and as it frees itself open we found out what we feared was true- we broke a bearing. In fact it basically exploded, and did a bit of damage to the axle stub in the process. We give the parts to the mechanics who are going to make some calls and see whats available here, or the next city (or country) over. We wont know anything until a planned call on wednesday, but a few hours ago we didn’t even expect to speak to a mechanic until then...so we’ll call it a win. We also had heard that there might be an old vw parked and rusting somewhere nearby...so we’ll figure out how/if we can track that down just in case.
We go back to the room to pack up before trying to find a ride to the rental house, and before our bags are even packed we get a knock at the door. We look up to see who else but Monica from Overland the World. Amazing. We had remembered earlier in the day that they planned on coming to see us at the beach house, but amidst the mechanical problems we hadnt thought to tell them where we were. As it so happens they saw the bus on the side of the road and pulled in to find us. Perfect.
We spend a few hours catching up on each other paths and future plans and then do a relay of gear back and forth to the rental house. One thing any overland vehicle doesn’t have a lot of is spare room, so Jeff and Monica were sweet enough to empty out many of their loose items into the bus so that we could cart 2 loads of gear/food as well as the three of us and karma back/forth to the house. Once unpacked we all settle in and chill out to the silence around us. The little house is simple, and sits back from the beach but you can still see/hear the ocean and we feel like we’re the only people around. The only other noises that don’t come from us are the birds and the faint chatter of a band of howler monkeys. It has a large porch and 3 hammocks; a perfect way to forget about what’s happening with our vehicle and enjoy the time with friends!
The tiny, pocket beach that we’re on is gorgeous, but sadly the water is still frigid cold. We make our way from house to the water as needed to cool down and even find enough time to break out the Catan board for the first time since our last meeting with Jeff and Monica the day after the rally. Bailie not only figured the game out quickly but got hooked in just one game. That bodes well for the rest of our week!
In the morning we go back at the hard work of lounging, but as Jen asks questions about plans for the week Jeff and Monica realize that they have to be out of the country earlier than they thought- their visa expires later today. They aren’t happy about not having a day to mentally prepare for the border crossing but they pack up and put on their fancy border clothes as we watch a group of monkeys swing by the house among the treetops. We try to convince them to stay but they (unhappily) pull away from camp heading for the border. Our next few games of catan were played by only three...but we’re hoping our vehicle will be back on the road soon enough for a rematch in costa rica!