Danube Day 4: The Rescue Mission
We woke up in the morning in Baja to find clear skies and a cold, cold wind blowing through town. While I slept I had visions of wild boar tearing apart our camp-food-filled Samsonites we had abandoned in the woods and I was eager to figure out how we’d get rolling again. The last time this happened we were in suburban Luxembourg and it was a Friday in August. We managed to get our trailer axle welded despite the majority of the country being on vacation and my hopes were pretty high for getting something figured out in small town Hungary.
We were up pretty early and all I wanted to do was relax my tired body and lay around the hotel, sadly I needed to get right to business. The first order of business—caffeine. Kyle and I went downstairs to get some coffee for everyone and walked into the first café we found. I ordered five cappuccinos in my finest Hungarian and the guy behind the bar struck up a conversation with us. He asked where we were from and said he lived in New York for 6 years. Noticing his fantastic English Kyle saw an opportunity to ask for help. We showed him the broken axle and the good axle and explained what we needed. He immediately knew that it was aluminum and therefore hard to find a welder, but he said he’d call his friend. Just then the café got a little busy and we waited around a bit. Our new friend, Zoli, told us that he’d take care of the axle for us and gave us his name and number and suggested we come back around 2:00.
Wow. All we did is order a cappuccino and we were on our way to getting the trailer fixed. I had imagined spending our entire “rest” day busying about Baja on a wild goose chase full of frantic hand gestures and apologetic smiles as we fought hard to find someone to fix the part. I was a bit nervous about the potential lost time involved with waiting around until 2:00 to see whether or not Zoli could fix it. Getting the broken axle back in the afternoon wouldn’t leave us with a lot of time to get it fixed starting from scratch, but we had no other options so our fate was in his hands. We loaded up our five cappuccinos and went back to the hotel to tell our friends.
Everyone was amazed at our potential luck and we celebrated by drinking our coffee and checking the weather forecast. Ick, it was supposed to start raining again in the afternoon. No rest for us, it was time to rescue the wounded trailer. We made a plan that involved two bikes carrying one empty Samsonite each and the contents being distributed in empty panniers. Everyone wanted to help and insignificant mass set out to the national park with empty panniers under cold sunshine.
The road from the trailer break had been hell the evening before and it wasn’t much better this morning. Loads of traffic including large trucks zoomed by us but we kept a tight knit group and I did my best as stoker and the back of the whole train to wave my arms wildly about to make sure we were visible and that people were giving us enough room. 12 km later we hit the national park road and were relieved to ride without any traffic. As we neared the waypoint I’d made on the GPS we saw an even better landmark, the giant pothole that had put us in this mess.
Everyone rallied and we recovered the trailer. I had put it under the tarp and was a bit surprised to see a big black slug sleeping inside as well. Luckily there were no signs of wild boar foul play, everything was just as I had left it the evening before. We emptied the suitcases into everyone’s panniers and tied one suitcase horizontally to Sarah’s rack and one to ours. As we were finishing tying the second the skies clouded over, the temperature dropped and the rain began again. We finished as fast as we could and rode back to town on the scary highway. At about 1pm we returned to the hotel and decided to celebrate a successful rescue by heading to Zoli’s café for more coffee and pastries.
Zoli wasn’t around but when I went up to order some coffee the other woman who didn’t speak English gestured for me to wait a minute then she pulled something out from under the counter. I saw the broken trailer axle in her hands and my heart sank. She handed me the parts and I noticed something. In addition to the original good axel and the broken pieces Zoli had succeeded in getting an entire new axle made! We were saved! The new axel was made entirely of steel instead of aluminum with the bolt to connect the suitcase welded in and the original steel rod that connects the wheel glued in. It looked just like the original, only stronger. Gushing “kösönöm szépen” I thanked her and showed the group what had been made.
Wow. We were saved, and all I had to do was order a cappuccino at the Mediterranean Café in Baja. We tried out the new axle on the trailer and it worked great. We were set to roll out the next morning on our way to Serbia, rested, well fed and with a working trailer!