We'd come full circle. We had left Buenos Aires months ago, gone to Brasil for many months, and now here we were back in Buenos Aires; albeit with a different motor and transmission. Claudia headed for the airport, so Curt did what was by now second nature and took me to a mechanic. Despite the new motor, already the vacuum pump was misbehaving. There was also the issue of the loose wheel bearings, and loose axle bolts.
While the work was suspect, the intention was probably good, so that is good enough for me and we headed out on a westward path to conquer the Andes. The Dakar was just starting and we needed to make up time fast if the world was going to have to chance to see the Zebra up close in technicolor.
Since we got to the beaches of Santa Teresa PN in Uruguay 2 weeks ago, there really hasn't been much to report. I've been sitting here everyday not moving, so not much chance to get into trouble. The slaves, however, have been smiling for the first time since I met them. They really seem to think that life is all fun and frolicking in the sands. Well, sooner or later we will have to leave, and then it will be my turn to have some fun.
After the extreme surgery of Juiz de Fora, we headed south to escape the rains and mudslides of nearby Petropolis. Uruguay seemed to be south enough as a destination, so we raced south with an intention to spend a few days in Florianopolis on the beach. Now, sometimes fate plays right into my hand - we would be traveling right through São Paulo and since Curt had always wanted to introduce me to The Specialist, why not pay him a social visit. How is this achieved? Simple, throw a U-joint. Timed it perfectly; less than 5 km from the mechanic shop, I gave the tell-tale squeak of a busted U-joint. And just like predicted, we slowly crawled to exactly my desired destination. I can play these slaves like a violin.
The slaves thought it would be fun to park in the street of Rio and sleep inside for the night. So when morning rolled around I gave them a taste of my fury; the motor would not turn over at all, nothing. I had all night to fill the tops of the pistons with water, completely freezing the motor in place unable to move a fraction. I thought it would be just like before, a little bit of give and take. But this time Curt tore out my injectors, pumped out the water, got me running again, and then drove with reckless abandon to a strange place: Juiz de Fora. We arrived at a LandRover used parts dealer. Apparently Curt had something planned all along, and I guess I just pushed it a bit too far with my Rio joke, because by that evening I was without a motor.
The tricky slaves left me for a week with the mechanics for the installation of a new motor, while they took off to explore the state of Minas Gerais with a rental car. I wasn't going to take this lying down, so I did the only thing left in my power; I refused to mate the new motor with my old transmission. Oh, slaves, add the cost of an unnecessary transmission to your meticulous budget. By the time I was let loose from those mechanics, I had added US10,000 in regenerative surgery to my old body. For those interested in the cause of the ten's of thousands of dollars of repairs done on me in vain, my engine trouble was a cracked block - something no mechanic ever diagnosed. The engine should have been replaced 3 years ago.
I learned a lesson in Juiz de Fora: don't push it too far or you'll lose a lot more than you expected. Much of my hold over the slaves has now been removed. With a nearly new made in Brasil motor they can find parts anywhere. I am no longer the only vehicle in the Americas with a unique motor. Now my heart is as common as a Ford Ranger, Chev S-10, and Mercedes Sprinter. Curt has even given away most of the big stash of spare parts since they are no longer useful.
Since we had left Curitiba just after Christmas, I'd been rather behaved (with the noted exception of brakes and electrical). My black and blue smoking was at a minimum, and I could almost pass for a normal vehicle. I even guided the slaves along the coast from Ihlabela towards Rio with lovely overnight beach stops, including the historical port town of Paraty.
As we left Paraty, and the end of the day was drawing near, I knew that the slaves would be looking for a campground. So I promptly severed the copper oil line to my turbocharger. Oil spraying everywhere. With the help of a kindly man, the slaves used a mountain of twine to hold the line together enough to crawl a few meters to a shop where a mechanic made me a new oil line. You can't expect I was going to not get any attention today after a week of near perfect behavior.