South America by Subaru 19/10/28 – Rise from the Abyss

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This morning I wake up, shoulder my precious A-frame, and walk about a mile to the Hermanos [Brothers] Ricci repair shop. I get there just as they’re opening and hand off the parts to Carlos who says he’ll get to work on the car immediately. I’m back at the hostal in plenty of time to eat Ines’ nice breakfast with Susan.

We spend the day relaxing until I get a text at 4:30 saying the car is ready. I walk back to the shop, this time noticing another Mendoza hazard for the unwary. At one point, a wide new sidewalk approaches the street corner. The left side bridges the ditch smoothly to the curb, while the right ends abruptly at the yawning abyss. You wouldn’t want to come on this in the dark, or drunk, or distracted.

Please watch your step... or else!
Please watch your step… or else!

The car is ready when I arrive and the bill is very reasonable, although the $500 I paid for the factory Subaru part in Santiago was not. I drive out to the highway and head south to test run it at high speed. After winding it out to 80 mph for about 7 miles, I take an off ramp to turn around and head home. As I reach the cross street, I’m suddenly smelling something burning and smoke is rising from the area of the repair. I get onto the shoulder immediately and kill the engine, fearing a fire under the hood. When I lift it, there’s plenty of smoke, but no fire so I abandon my plan to dive for the extinguisher tucked under the driver’s seat. As the air clears, I can see a strong pattern of liquid splatter down low against the firewall and drive train. It looks like a pressurized leak was spraying flammable liquid on to the hot exhaust pipes.

I see this as a serious problem and text Carlos for emergency help. He assures me there’s nothing wrong but drives down to join me at the side of the road. He looks under the hood and explains something about grasa (grease) that I don’t fully comprehend. Making it clear there’s no danger, he has me follow him back to the shop. Once there he puts the Subaru on the lift and shows me the front right axle. When reassembling the front end, he greased the universal joint under it’s rubber sleeve. During my high speed test, excess grease was flung from the rapidly turning axle causing the spatter pattern I thought was a pressure leak. Once the excess is gone, the burning smell will stop.

The damage done by my careless driving into the pozo 5 trying days ago is fixed, but the omnipresent Mendoza ditches are still on my mind. Relieved to be mobile again, I drive back to the hostal, but along the way I see a now ironic scene. A sign warning of the danger of two-car collisions at a traffic circle sits directly above an unremarked yawning abyss.

Ironic warning sign in Mendoza, Argentina. It's the ditches you have to watch for.
Ironic warning sign in Mendoza, Argentina. It’s the ditches you have to watch for.

Susan and I are both dying for a non-ravioli meal, so we do a little internet research and drive to Anna’s Bistro downtown. We have a very nice dinner in their lush garden and go back to the room feeling renewed in several ways. Tomorrow the journey resumes.

Anna's Bistro, Mendoza, Argentina
Anna’s Bistro, Mendoza, Argentina

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