I had been riding for two solid days on long boring straits of highway in the West of Brazil through the Pantanal and the Amazon. I was so exceedingly close (1000kms) to being back to where I started--to a hot shower, a friendly face and a BBQ with old friends. The highway was of amazing quality, and, compared to Bolivia, I was making amazing time. Florence and the Machine was blasting on the ipod, and I was rolling hills at a comfortable 93kms an hour. My bike needs an oil change every 2000kms, but, as the bike spends its entire life at the redline, I like to change it every 1000kms.
I felt like a cigarette and found a nice little place to stop. While running through the motions of an oil change, I noticed the back tire was rather flat. I got out my cheap bike pump and worked until the tires felt like they could hold the pressure. I finished the oil change and hit the road.
I made it through one singing rendition of “Only for a night” before I noticed the back is light, and my rear tire is clearly flat.
Pulling to the side of the road less than 3kms after pumping it up, I notice that yes, as expected, the tire is flat. With no spare tube, I start pushing towards the next town. Having only replaced the rear tire 4000kms ago, I didn't want to destroy the side walls of the rubber by riding while it was flat.
Luckily the next town was only 5kms down the road, and, like all towns, the tire shop to service the highway and trucks was close.
I feel I need to say again… My Portuguese is non existent; I know some basic words, but, for the most part, I have to rely on hand gestures and some basic concepts that yes… My tire is flat...and yes.. I need a repair.
The guys pulled off the tire. They sunk the inner tube into a bathtub to find the leak and proceeded to plug it. After some time they took a few dollars. They gave me the directions to find a beer and food at a local bar on a letterhead.
I love small Brazlian towns. Like the city I started in, you know that there is very little chance that they have ever had a westerner visit before and they always love to chat. The housing is typically interesting and the bars are friendly. I pulled in for a beer and a pasties in the town centre.
After a quick meal I jumped in the bike and headed out towards the highway.
Not long after I started, I got that feeling. The old-fashioned cobblestone roads are very noticeable with a flat rear tire.
I pull up.
The back was loose and flat. Not just a little. It was well fucked.
As always, don't panic, breathe, light a cigarette. Do not think about what the fuck you are doing in the middle of a small Brazilian village with no money, no idea how to speak the local language., Do not think about how close you are to your friend’s house, how you have ridden 11,000kms to be stuck here. Do not think about that.
A 3 wheeled homemade version of my bike pulled up. He was a guy who worked as a water delivery courier, but the universal biker code still applies in Brazil. See a guy broken down, pull up and see how it goes. While we were unable to communicate it is clear that he knew what my problem was. A flat tire is flat tire no matter where you are and what language you speak. By some chance I happen to have a letter head with a phone number (and directions to the highway) from the place I had the tire repaired. I somehow managed to explain to the water courier that I had just had the bike repaired with the above mentioned Borracharia place. After some communication, I understood that I should wait in my location. Soon a friend of the water courier turned up with an iced pitcher of water. We drank together and smiled and tried to chat.
On my second water, a small ute turned up. I recognised the driver from the work shop. The two Brazilians had an animated conversation as only Brazlians can followed by all around hugging. Everyone helped me load the bike into the back of the trailer.
I was back at the shop that I was in 4 hours before. In the same situation that I was in… 4 hours before.
It turns out one of my spokes on the tire had pushed through the rim and punched the inner tube. We it in a very very short time, and I was back on the road.
For another 50kms before my rear tire went flat again.
I had done 11,000kms with only a single flat tire then I get 3 in one day. The fuck.
I rolled to the side of the road… I am so close to being home… I could just leave the bike here… Hitch… I could be in a familiar bed tonight if I really wanted. It wouldn't be that hard.
I chain smoked the better part of a packet of cigarettes on the side of road. I realised I have no choice but to ride the bike into the next town. This will destroy the tire and likely damage the wheel rim, but I figured that shouldn’t really matter so close to the end.
Riding on the verge of the highway, I started the trip towards the next town, which I am hoping is only 30kms away.
Not long into this a police car came tearing down the highway and overtook me.. I didn’t give it much thought as this always happens in Brazil. The cop car pulled across the traffic, lights still flashing, and came to a stop. I’m across the road from very recent motorcycle crash--a horrible one. There was car facing the wrong way on the highway, a wreck of a bike. I see a young guy helmet off - half his teeshirt missing-- yelling and pacing across the road. Bloodied down one side of his body.
There was a girl, spread out on the highway. I noticed a helmet on my side of the highway..It was obviously forced off in the crash. I have seen a few motorcycle crashes before, some scary, some painful looking. The young guy kneeled next to the girl.
After that, my tire just wasn’t that important.