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The Jugaad Solution

22 July, 2015

The Jugaad Solution

When I did the maintenance course for Athena in India, “Jugaad”, a colloquial Hindi word, was the term used when you found a solution to a big problem that is unconventional, or innovative. For this journey, I carry some spare parts, but also a Swiss knife, wire and gaffer tape. When I was little, I was a fan of McGyver, a very crafty man who used every possible artefact within his grasp to get out of dangerous situations.

I have crossed some 60km on road where, because of the sheer size of the pot holes, Lunar vehicles could be tested. This road starts in Kazakhstan, heading 100km to the border with Uzbekistan and it extends some 400km more into Uzbek territory.

I am resting drinking water when, heading in the opposite direction to me, two Russian bikers approach. I ask them about the state of the road ahead and, with the expression on their faces as if I had just name the devil himself, one of them points something on his bike. His hands on his head, and saying something, he shows me the broken suspension on his bike. As I move on, they remain on that spot thinking about what to do. I say to myself: “That’s messed up. At least there are two of them, so they have more options than I would if that were to happen to me.”

I start making my way after packing up. I was camping at the border with Jonathan, a Swiss biker I met at the border crossing. After some 25km, my bike becomes a wild horse. I don’t know what happened but I end up on the ground as if someone had lifted my bike up from behind. As I pick the bike up I noticed that, like a viral infection for suspensions, the right suspension of my bike rocketed off to the moon.

Ahead of me, 135km to a petrol station that I’m not sure it exists. 25km behind me, 6 houses and the border. To my sides, the desert.

The whole thing is very complicated.

I start walking around, looking to at least recover the spring. As I finish gathering some things on my bike, Jonathan approaches, telling me that cars up ahead warned him about a fallen biker.

I start thinking about options:

A) Wait for a lorry and get the bike on it. Negative; all lorries carry containers.
B) Carry on until the next town which, according to the map, is some 20km away. Negative; t isn’t any larger than the one on the border.
C) Leave the bike and get on a car back to the border. Negative; I don’t want to leave the bike abandoned.
D) Go back to the border with the bike. Maybe. Pro: I am certain of the distance, but the guards are not the kindest souls in the world but at least I could ask for help. Con: Riding 25km on one suspension.
E) Go back to the border village, leave the bike on one of the six houses there and get on a truck, lorry or car to the nearest town with good connections. Pro: It’s the best idea I have. Con: Still riding with one suspension.

I decide that going back is the best bet. Jonathan keeps me company for a few km and the leaves. I am in a genuine oven at 35*C and riding with one suspension at no more than 5km/hr. I’m waiting for someone to say: “Cut! You’ve been pranked! Let’s roll the ads”

At the border control, the solution I was given (after showing all the bike’s paperwork, passport and almost doing a drug search again) was send me back to Kazakhstan. I get them to let me stay in Uzbekistan and I have no other choice but to return to the border village, some 2km from the border. The remaining functional suspension is begging for mercy.

With the spring in my hand, I noticed where the suspension was broken. People approach me to give me a hand with their favourite tools. One of them, a truck driver, has a crow bar.

We dismantle the broken suspension, I get on the car from one of the people there and we go to a barn where I see an electric soldering iron. Up until now I’ve remained relatively calm but right there I start thinking: “I’m going to get out of this one”. I trust that there is always a solution; you just need to dedicate some time to find it and be patient.

If there is something I really dislike from our current society is relentless consumerism, where when something fails, it gets thrown away. Everything is ephemeral. We’re in times of immediacy, of frenetic rhythm, that doesn’t allow us to stop and think. Luckily, there are some places where this mind-set doesn’t exist.

With the barn owner, we discuss solutions. In the meantime, his son takes away a piece of a cracked thread, from a screw that fits the rod. This is where the Jugaad moment begins: to try and fix the suspension, we need to find a screw and a nut that would fit the broken orifice. We start looking in many boxes and in the whole barn like moles digging the ground.

Two hours later, one of the three nuts we find fits in the remainder of the thread left in the screw. The son solders the pieces together and cuts the head of the screw. We place the spring in the middle, we screw the upper part and the suspension is fixed. Now we just need to put it back onto the bike and test it.

This was 15 days ago and the test lasted almost 2300km to Osh, in Kirgizstan. Here is Muz Too, a tourism company that organizes motorcycle tours and works as an oasis for travellers like me.

I’m awaiting the delivery of new, stronger suspension sets from Madrid, thanks to the help of Rubi and Emilio, at the Royal Enfield shop there and my friends Aynur and Cristina that have diligently sorted this out, since internet connections and phones lines around here are unreliable.

PS: For this post, I’ve decided to create a game. Whomever finds another solution to the problem I faced, and this would be a Jugaad solution, you will get a discounted photograph:

20x30cm will be the same price as a petrol tank.
30x40cm will be the same price as the 20x30cm
40x60cm will be the same price as the 30x40cm
60x90cm will be the same price as the 40x60cm

  1. Sherri says:

    Walter, you’re the best.

  2. silvio says:

    Mc Gyver!! nos unen fanatismos….
    que locura linda en la que andás !

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