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A Stutter-Step as we leave Loja for Cuenca

We had only planned to stay two nights in Loja, so we packed up bright and early, on a bright and sunny morning, and off we went, with the car loaded with our stuff, and a huge picnic to eat along the way.  We saw the sign for Cuenca as we were leaving town, so we faithfully followed it's directions.

It turned out that this was indeed the road to Cuenca, but that it was the "old" road, but by the time we found out for sure, we had traveled for about 30 minutes on what amounted to a smooth road, but mostly mud, and no blacktop.  We checked our map, and sure enough, there was a small red line paralleling our main road, which showed that it would join up in about 30 more minutes...so we figured, what the hey...let's go ahead.

It was picturesque, but I did have to put the car in four wheel drive a couple of times as I navigated thru two foot deep puddles, with the left tires just hanging onto the sides of these little ponds in the middle of the road.

'Course, there was a little bit of a slide here and there...

About 90 minutes after we had met the main road, which also included various delays for the new road that they were building, we were finally sailing along at a good clip, dodging pot holes, and enjoying the beauty of  the mountains  at about 11,000 feet. 

We are charging up a long grade in fifth gear, when I feel a 90 percent drop in power from the engine, and immediately am overwhelmed by the fragrant smell of raw gas.  It is always a thrill when you know that you have a very hot engine, and all of a sudden it is coated with gasoline...so we head for the side of the road, cut the sputtering engine, get out, and take a look at the trail of gas that followed us to our resting place...now we have a little stream of raw gas running diagonally from under the engine toward the white center line.

It is a week day, we are between two cities 150 miles apart, at the top of the Andes, and there is no one on the road...it is not a good time to feel that there is something seriously wrong with the car...

We decide that we might flag someone down, but then what?  There is no cell phone service out here, and the likelihood that there is anyone who can fix the car on the road is pretty dim.

So, we decide that we have to make our own luck...I get Rox out in the middle of the road, make a backward swooping U-turn, and head back the way we came.  Probably about 5 miles to the last road crew that we saw.  We were hoping that we might find a good guy with a toolbox and some knowledge of cars...

I had a full tank of gas, and the car was dropping about 90 percent of it as we sputtered along, but I got enough to the carburetor to go about 20 miles an hour.   The only thing moving faster than we were was the gas gauge...It was dropping fast...

Finally, on a long downgrade, we came up on all the guys building the new cement highway...we had waved at them a couple of times, so they were receptive to us pulling in by their work trucks so everyone could look at our waterfall of gas.

The main flagman dropped his flag and came on over to feel under our engine cowling to see  where the leak of gasoline was coming.  This was pretty brave, as it was raw gas on a hot engine.  

In a minute, he started pulling out a little "O" ring and a hard washer, and as I saw these little guys come out, I had a sinking feeling that we would be leaving the car out here in the boonies, and taking a taxi back to somewhere.  As I was feeling worse about this situation, a truck driver came on over with a screwdriver, a long knife, and a strand of electrical wire...

He also reached in under the cowling and felt around and stated that the fuel line had come off of the fuel filter, and now the problem would be to get it reattached way out here in the boonies.  Pretty soon, he looked up and told me to fire up the engine, so I cranked it up, but gas leaked all over the ground...bad news...

But our guest mechanic kept on it, reattached the electrical wire, and told me to go again, and this time there was lots of power to the engine and no gas leak... take a look...
Then we all had high fives all around...I slipped the guy a twenty, and thanked our lucky stars for the really talented and beautiful people who live in this great country...

Posted on Wed, August 20, 2008 at 12:42PM by Registered CommenterBob & Roxanne | CommentsPost a Comment

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