It was a long day drive to Guanajuato. We decided to stay on the toll roads to speed things up. The drive was smooth and quick except when driving through Guadalajara, the second biggest city of Mexico. The high(slow)way goes straight through the city with many junctions and traffic lights. The camper drove beautifully. I had changed out the worn off-road tires for the smoother reserve tires. They made a lot less noise. Also there was no ticking sound anymore when climbing the many hills along the way. Only complaint still was the starting problem and it felt that the engine had lost power over the last months. The road slowly climbs to a large plateau at around 2000m. On the side of the road, you see large fields with Agave plant, even on the sections directly next to the highway. The core of this plant is used to make Tequila, the Mexican national drink and a major export product. Maybe we can visit one of the plants where this spirit is made.
We arrived in Guanajuato just as the sun was setting. The narrow, winding and climbing roads were cramped with cars. Sometimes you drove in a dark tunnel through the hills on which the houses are built. To slow the traffic down, there are many very high speed bumps. We took one bumps too many. When coming off the bump, the engine suddenly stopped. We were in the middle of the road. Quickly Rudy jumped out to push the camper to the side while Jamaliah struggled to turn the wheels (no more power assist). Some by-passers helped pushed our 3000kg camper into a bus stop area behind us. We poured our spare jerry can of diesel into the tank, assuming that we had run out. The engine still would not start. Diana and Jirka (a couple making their overland adventure to South America) stopped to help us. The only help we could think of, there in the dark stuck on a very busy road, was to tow the camper to our planned camp spot some 4.5 km away. Little did we know that the road was very windy and climbing some 200m. There were some local gatherings going on so the traffic was stop and start. Very difficult drive if you are being towed. It was actually better to climb the hill rather than descending. The breaks were no longer powered so stopping was done with the hand break and often almost bumped into Jirka’s old SUV. When we finally reached the gate of the campsite there was one last climb to be made. The SUV’s tires were slipping under the load. To provide some support Rudy put the camper into gear and used the starter motor to get though the gate and up the hill to the parking place. We are at 2100 m. The evening cooled down significantly and the strong wind makes it feel even colder. All 4 of us huddled together in our camper while Jamaliah made an evening meal for our saviours and our beer supply was shared around. We were just glad to have made it to here without any more problems.
The next morning Jirka and Rudy had a look underneath the bonnet. It was quickly determined that the diesel pump was no longer pumping because the driving belt had broken. We had a spare one and found a way to put it back on and also to tighten the belt using the 2 tensioning wheels. Most likely they had been coming loose over time and the slack in the driving belt caused it to slip, resulting that the timing of diesel injection went out of phase with the position of crank shaft. Jirka helped me to find a mechanic with diesel experience. The VW garage is an obvious first choice but they never called us back. In ioverlander there is a mechanic recommended of the other side of town some 9 km away. We drove there and they were OK to have a look at the camper. They sent a very old tow truck over to pick up our camper in the late afternoon. Rudy went along and Jamaliah booked us into the beautiful Casa Estrella Wellness Resort (they owned the RV park too), up the hill from our camp spot. The old tow truck also had slippery tyres and had to make several runs to climb the steep road to the open air garage. The 3 mechanics (father, son and nephew) immediately went to work. To get the timing of the injection right they had to dismantle the turbo and open up the valve cover. At 20:30 all was back in place and they attempted to start the engine. No success. It was a great disappointment especially after 3 hours of hard work. Further investigation determined that the diesel pump itself had failed. Such a pump is one of the most expensive items supporting the engine and difficult to come by. Jirka drove all the way out again to pick Rudy up from the dark roadside. He was shivering from the cold. The room in the guesthouse was however warm and Diana had prepared an evening meal for us all.
We rented a car the next day and drove back to the camper to pick up some more clothes and empty the fridge. It is clear that the repair will take some time. We loaded the broken diesel pump in the car and will take that to the Bosh repair shop in Leon, which is some 35 km from the hotel, on Monday morning.
We said goodbye to Diana and Jirka, who will continue their trip down south and stayed a second night in our luxurious wellness centre room. In the morning we changed our return flight to Amsterdam from Mexico City from the 5th to the 18th of December. This should be enough time to get the camper fixed and if we are lucky, in time to catch the boat to Bremerhaven (loading on 9/12). The highlight of the day was of course the Dutch victory at soccer world cup over the USA. In the afternoon we walked to one of the historical churches just around the corner. This 18th century church was financed by one of the rich silver barons as gratitude to the richness he had received from above. On Sunday we packed up our things into the rental car and went for a sightseeing tour through the countryside. The winding cobblestone road next to the hotel runs over the hills surrounding the city. Along the way there are ruins of old mines and at one place a silver mine is still working. In the town next to the mine, a church ceremony was ongoing and you could see miners in blue overalls wandering around. Further along the road you come to a well known religious site. The 20 m bronze statue of Cristo Rey (Christ the king) stands on top of the 2550 m high Cerro de Cubilete. It is a steep 310 steps up the mountain where the statue stands, on top of a dome which function as a church to. Many local visitors attended the religious ceremony or admired the view of the expansive plateau below.
For the night, we had booked ourselves in a small hotel in the middle of town with the idea that we can walk around the city centre. The road to the hotel is extremely steep and narrow. Close to the hotel we squeezed the car into a corner leaving just enough space for others to pass while Jamaliah searched for the hotel entrance and to ask where we could park the car. This hotel, unfortunately, did not have a parking spot (though on their site they said they have) but their other hotel, 2 km out of the city centre, did. One of the hotel staff came with us to guide us further down the mountain and through the centre to the hotel where we are staying now. The room has no outside window but does have a kitchen with microwave and dining area. We heated up some leftover food out of the camper. Unfortunately we were too late to visit the house of the well known Mexican mural painter and husband of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera. No doubt we will have time to that on another day while waiting for the camper to be fixed.