Archive for October, 2014

On the road again.

Posted: October 31, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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Hello friends, family and followers. We’ve had limited internet and are spending many hours on the road these last few days heading north to the USA. We’ll be home for the holidays. Not to worry if you haven’t seen many updates, but they are coming. So please stay tuned we’ll have a lot to tell you about our road trip that you’ll not want to miss. Meanwhile enjoy these pics. Cheers

Team CAOE

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We survived Belize’s most dangerous highway.

Posted: October 31, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel

On Belizean maps, this road is called Coastal Highway. We refer to it as “The Axle Buster, Shock Knocker, and Hellway Road”. Its 33 miles of thrills and chills from start to finish. Why it’s called Coastal Highway we don’t understand. It’s nowhere near Belize’s coast line, and you certainly can’t do highway speed. Rental car agencies in Belize forbid the use of their cars being used on this road. You have to sign a waiver stating you will not use coastal highway, and if you do and have a break down, you are on your own. It’s so bad, Belizean bus lines have stopped providing service on Coastal Highway and entire communities such as Gales Point all rely on hitch hiking.

Listen, if you’re planning to be one of the few people gunning to get the “I Survived Coastal Highway Belize” T-shirt here are a few tips. Only drive it with a high clearance 4×4 vehicle, a full size spare tire, a tow rope, and a winch if your vehicle has one. It’s also a good idea to bring camping gear (sleeping bag, flashlights, extra food and water) in case you get stuck and have to spend the night out there. We only encountered 4 other vehicles the entire hour and half trip, and there is no cell phone signal to be had. It is teeth jarring with extreme mud holes, wash outs, and rickety old wooden bridges with no guard rails. At times the jungle is so thick and overgrown, you’ll feel as if Coastal is going to swallow you up. It is perhaps one of Belize’s most dangerous roads, and certainly one we’d rank as Central America’s most challenging. We’ve driven Volcano ring roads in Nicaragua, El Salvadoran Crater Lake tracks and Guatemalan jungles, and I’m telling you this is one scary ride. So, you’ve been warned! Now if you’re wondering why did we do it? Bragging rights of course.


Ranger for a day, huh?
It sounded easy enough for me, just like when I was a kid. Thinking we’d show up, put on a ranger hat, walk a little through the rainforest and return back to base camp, we’d be done before lunch we thought. Nope, nadda, nyet, what were we thinking? We soon realized after the first 20 minutes, of busting our butts slipping and sliding through knee-deep mud, that we had totally underestimated the depth and scope of what it takes for a forest ranger to effectively do his job. And we had another hour or two to patrol. We should have read the description of what was to be expected a little more in-depth. I mean it’s posted right on their website !

( http://yaaxche.org/index.php?page=rangerday).

From their website:
Ranger for a Day

Calling all naturalists, eco-tourists and adventurers! If you are looking for an unparalleled experience of the Belizean jungle alongside a local Mayan ranger, then consider joining Ya’axché Conservation Trust’s Ranger for a Day patrol, you will join an official Ya’axché patrol of the 15,000-acre Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (GSCP) areas. This unique experience will give you the opportunity to play an important role in the protection of this vital forest corridor.

As an honorary ranger, you will contribute to the daily wildlife logs; record key species of mammals and birds along the riverside trail and learn how our rangers detect signs of hunting. You will hone your own detective skills as you learn to identify jaguar, puma and tapir tracks, identify the unique call of the Montezumas oropendola and spot hummingbirds, toucans and curasow.

Your boots will get muddy and you should prepare to get sweaty but after a morning of adventure, you are invited to enjoy a refreshing dip in the Golden Stream River, the lifeblood of the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve.

To be a ranger for the day, you will need to be of medium level fitness as you will be walking for up to two hours in hot and sometimes wet conditions. You should wear light long pants/trousers (that will dry quickly), sturdy shoes for walking (hiking boots are not required), a hat, insect repellent, water, snacks and a packed lunch.”

See, it was all there! So we can’t complain, we were warned. But honestly at the end of the day this has been one of the most rewarding, adventurous and educational experiences we’ve had in all of Belize. We gained a new level of respect, admiration and appreciation for what the Ya’axché Conservation Trust and it’s Rangers do. Thank you Maximiliano Caal, Rosendo Coy and your entire staff for what you do and allowing us the opportunity to participate in this program.

For more information on how to participate, contact  Maximiliano Caal via email max.caal@yaaxche.org or call (+501) 722-0108.

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This quaint quiet island city in the middle of Lake Peten is certainly worth checking out. Only a half day drive from Placencia Belize, we recommend making a weekend out of it. 
It was here on the island of Flores that the last independent state of the Maya civilization held out against the onslaught of the Spanish conquerors. After the collapse of Chichen Itza the Itza people left the Yucatan to build their capitalTayasal on a small island in LakePeténItzá in the southern Maya lowlands.In the 16th century the Spanish initiated several campaigns to subdue the Mayan cities in the Yucatán. As the Itza land was separated from Spanish Yucatán to the north and Spanish Guatemala to the south by thick jungles with little population it initially escaped the attention of the Spanish. But in 1541 Hernán Cortés came to Tayasal, on his way to Honduras. Due to island’s excellent defensive position he did not try to conquer it and instead moved on. As other Mayan cities were defeated one by one Taysal remained one of the last independent Maya states, together with other Maya cities in the region.

Two Franciscan friars were sent to Tayasal in 1618 to convert the Itza to Christianity. They arrived in Tayasal to find the people uninfluenced by European ways and still worshiping the traditional Mayan gods. While the Itza lord received them politely, they made no progress and had to return empty-handed. After this failure the Spanish began the first of several attempts to conquer the island but did not succeed. The Governor of Yucatán decided his energies were best spent elsewhere, and the Itza continued in independence.

From the late 1690s, the last Itza lord started a more open attitude towards the Spaniards, and when three Franciscan friars arrived at Tayasal in 1695 a number of the Itza consented to be baptized. The Itza King, however, refused to convert to Christianity or pledge loyalty to Spain.

The final conquest of the independent Maya, the Itzá from Tayasal and the Ko’woj from Zacpetén and Queixil, occurred on March 13, 1697. Forces of Martin de Ursúa attacked Tayasal from a ship, invaded the island and destroyed the idols and Codices. Those who could fled and many Itzá people hid in the jungle for years. The stones of the Maya structures were used to build the Roman Catholic Church in the central plaza of the city, which was renamed to Flores

We had a great time exploring the island and taking a boat tour around the lake.

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The Candelaria caves is a large natural cave system in the municipalities of Chisec and  Raxruha in Guatemala.  This impressive cave system is sacred to the Q’eqchi Maya, and stretches continuously for some 29km (18 miles). The main gallery, Tzul Tacca, is almost 60m (200 ft.) high, 30m (100 ft.) wide, and 200m (650 ft.) long, and features massive stalagmites and roof windows that let in light. Side galleries hold evidence of ancient Maya rituals, and the entire system is traversed by the Candelaria River.

We floated through the caves on inner tubes. Oh what fun! It’s quite a challenge to calm yourself, let go and relax. At times when you hear the sound of rushing water in complete darkness, you are overcome with fear, but our trusted guides got us through. It took us almost 2 hours from hiking to the entrance, traversing the cave via inner tube and exiting. Would we do it again and recommend it ? Absolutely! Be sure to check  out our Facebook page and YouTube channel for our video of this amazing adventure.

Yes, there were Bats flying over us!

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Lunch at crater lake.

Posted: October 26, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel

Lunch at Coatepeque.

Lake Coatepeque (Lago de Coatepeque) is a large crater lake in the east part of the Coatepeque Caldera, not far from Santa Ana, El Salvador. There are hot springs near the lake margins. At 26 square kilometers (10 sq mi), it is one of the largest lakes in El Salvador. In the lake is the island of Teopan, which was a Mayan site of some importance.

Stopping in at a small hotel restaurant for lunch, we found the views fantastic. It’s not far off the Pan American Highway. Afterwards we headed to Santa Ana for a night before crossing the border back over into Guatemala.

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Land Rover Club El Salvador

Land Rovers owners are a special breed. I know of no other marquee where complete strangers will wave at each other when passing in traffic, or will stop to talk or help a driver of the same brand. When parking at a supermarket we’ll search for other Land Rovers and park next to them. Often I’ll take pictures, and look at the license plate to see where it’s from. Many times you can usually tell a lot about a Land Rover owner and sometimes you can’t. I’ve seen brand new Land Rovers, then meet the owner to only find out they have two or three more old Land Rovers parked at home. Our enthusiasm for the brand runs deep. Many times when we meet, we make lifelong friends, because of our Land Rover passion. Our vehicles may be 2 years old or 40 years old but we all share the same passion that Land Rovers bring, freedom and adventure. It’s a love affair others don’t quite understand.

Since we began travelling in Central America, we’ve spied and covet many Land Rovers and have often stopped to talk to other owners, seek out Land Rover clubs and dealers. Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador have not disappointed us. We found only a few gems in Nicaragua. But our most memorial experience has been meeting Land Rover Club El Salvador. Having a chance meeting with Land Rover Club El Salvador was the highlight of our Trans Central American journey. Having met with them and a few of their members was a treat we’ll never forget. Getting to ride a myriad of models and years was great and we really appreciate the opportunity to share in our passion, camaraderie, and enthusiasm for the brand.

We’d like to thank Jose Mario Gonzalez Granados, president, El Salvador Land Rover Club and his wife Norma,  Andre Houdelot, Miguel Gallegos and his wife Claudia and Walter Padilla .

Our first night in San Salvador we received a call at our hotel. Surprised, as we did not expect anything. It was one of the Land Rover club members Miguel. Not taking no an answer he took us out and toured San Salvador at night. Picking us up from our hotel around 9 pm, we got home well after 11. It was a special trip and surely something we would have not done. But knowing all the great places to visit, a history about the city and its progression, we had an unforgettable time. Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo, Iglsia El Roasrio, a statue commemorating a “100-hour Fútbol war” with neighboring Honduras in 1969. I don’t think we missed a thing! Thanks Miguel.

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A few nights later we received a call from Andre. He only had short time to show us his series Rover before having to get up to make a flight out of the country the next morning. Despite a serious thunder-storm and in pouring rain, he was kind enough to take us for a ride in his early series Rover. “All of us learned to drive on this car, double clutching all the way” laughed Andre, referring to him and his brothers and sisters. ” This Land Rover has been in our family for over 40 years.” He further added that he and his Dad went to Belize to pick up this unique Land Rover when he was only 10 years old. Thanks Andre for sharing your story with us and taking us for a ride.

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Quickly approaching our departure day from El Salvador, on Sunday before we left we met up with Jose and his wife Norma as well as Walter Padilla, Miguel and his wife. We ventured over to Kreef for brunch lunch and spent some time admiring more Land Rovers in the parking lot. During brunch we talked about the beautiful of El Salvador, how easy it is to get around, the friendly people, its history and future. Of course we were given a list of places to stop to check out on our way back towards Guatemala. Afterwards, we found ourselves convoying over to an ice cream shop to was brunch down. Hey it’s Sunday, that’s what you’re supposed to do right?

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Due to our schedule we were not able to go out and do some 4 wheeling with the club, however for the next trip, we will. “With some planning we will organize a BBQ or a short outing.” said Jose. Trust us we’ll be back and thanks Land Rover Club for your hospitality.


Over landing, camping, or just modifying your 4×4 in El Salvador? For all your ARB & Ironman parts visit Quatrotec. Let Guillermo help you make the right decision for your special 4×4 needs. We were impressed with their selection of parts, knowledge, and know how. And they will do your installation right on the spot. Roof racks, ARB and Ironman suspensions, brush bars, lighting, tires, snorkels and more they have it. Go by and check them out, you won’t be disappointed.

2511-8502

info@quatro-tec.com
5a calle poniente Edificio KIMAX #3970, Colonia Escalon

http://quatro-tec.com

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Joya De Cerén, the Pompeii of the Americas.

Posted: October 15, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel

Joya De Cerén El Salvador should not be missed. UNESCO says this about this site. Joya de Cerén was a pre-Hispanic farming community that, like Pompeii in Italy, it was buried under an eruption of the Laguna Caldera volcano c. AD 600. In fact, it is nicknamed “The Pompeii of the Americas”.  Because of the exceptional condition of the remains, they provide an insight into the daily lives of the Central American populations who worked the land at that time.

The site was discovered in 1976 by a bulldozer driver leveling ground for a government agricultural project. It was explored by Payson Sheets, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, in 1978 and 1980. Excavation resumed in 1988, and has been continuous since then. About 70 buildings have been uncovered, including storehouses, kitchens, living quarters, workshops, a religious structure, and what is known as Temazcal what it was a communal spiritual sauna.

We spent approximately an hour exploring the colorful and informative museum as well as the archaeological site. The cost is quite affordable at $3.00 per person and $1.00 per vehicle.

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I looked down at my odometer just after crossing the border into Nicaragua and made a mental note to myself that we had now clocked up over 10,000 miles since we left Augusta Georgia back in April. Now if I were back home I could easily rack up 15,000 miles or more commuting around town and a few road trips to see family and friends around the country, but these miles are different. Different in the sense that many of these miles have been hard miles. Off road, rough, jiggly, muddy, ratty, unpaved, huge speed bump rattle your suspension apart kinda miles. Every possible driving scenario is what we have encountered except for snow. If I were testing off-road tires, I’d have a thick stack of reports to submit. Jungles, beaches, mountains and more, these trucks have been taking a beating. Through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and most of the southern US, we’ve been off-road or on bad paved roads. But, mostly I’m not counting the US portion because it was 100% on pavement. When we entered Mexico that’s where the real fun began, and it ain’t stopped yet.

The Land Rovers had been holding up well despite all the punishment we’ve dealt out. Mountain Pine Ridge Belize, several off-road trips through the jungles and a jaunt over to Guatemala were all just the beginning and starting to take their toll. And as we neared the 10,000 mile mark since we left, some things were beginning to pop up even with all the maintenance we have performed ourselves. Before we left Mexico and got into Belize, my blower went out, so we had no A/C. If you want to get a divorce fast just let your A/C go out in hot as hades southern Mexico with your spouse on board. I promised my wife that I would order a new blower motor from the States since there are no Land Rover dealers in Belize that specialize in fixing Land Rover Discovery’s, and I did. However, after a few weeks we got the part from a friend that went to the states from Belize and he bought it back. Done I thought, but a few weeks later it went out again, and now we were heading for Nicaragua. ” I’ll get it fixed in Guatemala” I told her. “There’s a Land Rover dealer in Guatemala City.”  Meanwhile Scott had a check engine light on and a misfire that we could not nail down.

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We made a stop in Guatemala City at an independent Land Rover shop, and that proved to be a good move. The voice on the phone said in perfect english “Bring them on over, and we will get on the repairs right away.” After maneuvering the two Rovers through heavy Guatemala City traffic we arrived at Autoservicios G&R (http://autoserviciosgyr.net/inicio.html). This father and son Land Rover specialist team has been in business for a very long time in Guatemala City. Carlos Garcia & son Andreas were just awesome, getting to work right away on our vehicles, and having us back on the road before lunch. They are true die-hard Land Rover enthusiasts. And top all of the great service we had, Andreas took us out to their Land Rover graveyard, where we were treated to an unbelievable sight of  Land Rovers old and new, all types and conditions, waiting to be restored, serviced or salvaged. I saved my marriage! We got the A/C fixed, and Scott had all new wires and spark plugs installed that stopped the check engine light from coming on.

Now ready to leave Guatemala for El Salvador, we hit the road. After a few days of hard-driving through Guatemala and just before crossing the border into El Salvador, I started to get a kick back when getting on the brakes hard. The ABS and brake light would come on, and a loud squealing noise could be heard. Meanwhile, Scott’s Rover had a check engine light on again that we could not seem to reset and keep off as well.

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Finally we decided once we got into El Salvador we would visit the Land Rover Dealer or an Independent shop to get the trucks diagnosed. With the only dealer being in San Salvador it was touch and go for me as I had to ride the brakes lightly and avoid any emergency stops. Kinda hard to do when you’re driving through a country known for its volcanoes. Look at a map of El Salvador and you’ll see what I mean. Twist and turns, up and down all over the place, not the place you want to drive if you have a brake problem. After working our way towards the capital of San Salvador, finding the dealer recommended by the El Salvador Land Rover Club, we received a warm welcome from Land Rover El Salvador, (https://www.facebook.com/LandRoverElSalvadorPremierAutomotriz). In all we spent almost a week in San Salvador while the trucks were being serviced, and enjoyed the company and camaraderie of the El Salvador Land Rover Club. Oil changes and tire rotations for both trucks, plus I had to have my driver’s side mirror replaced and a right rear passenger side window. Still not sure if this was from an attempted break in, or a freak accident from where the car was parked on the street the night before. Either way we decided from then on no more street parking overnight.

 

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After almost 10 days in El Salvador it was hard to pull up roots and move on further south to Nicaragua. Our first stop, Leon, then Granada and onward south to San Juan del Sur. Once in san Juan del Sur, we explored many beaches taking a lot of off-road tracks through the jungles of southern Nicaragua. We traversed many water crossing, did some beach driving as well as crawling some pretty spectacular mountains discovering great off the beaten path beaches. Then I heard a noise that told me something was wrong. The truck was running fine, stopping , starting, driving, braking, but this time we detected it was the driveshaft. Still wanting to go to Ometepe Island we assessed the issue and drove on. Driving around Ometepe Island, with many of its roads unpaved made the situation worse. In addition to squealing, we were now hearing a grinding noise and a slight bumping noise off throttle. Another decision was made to find a Land Rover dealer in Nicaragua asap. Making it back to Managua, we found the dealer ( http://www.landrovernicaragua.com/). We were gladly welcomed and we all had a good time-sharing our Central American overland journey stories with them. Carlos Fallas and the team at Motores Britanicos de Nicaragua, S.A. Did excellent work.  After an overnight stay in Managua we were back on the road as good as new. So, just in case any of you all are wondering or thinking this trip is easy, it’s not. Some days we’re driving on the edge, but we always try to keep cool heads, make good decisions and stick to the plan. Making repairs on the fly to keep this expedition going is well worth it and adds to our fun, travel and adventure. We can’t complain because we were able to check out some really cool Land Rover shops and meet some great Land Rover enthusiasts.

We would like to thank:

Autoservicios G&R, http://www.autoserviciosgyr.net/inicio.html, Guatemala City

Motores Britanicos de El Salvador, S.A, http://www.facebook.com/LandRoverElSalvadorPremierAutomotriz

Motores Britanicos de Nicaragua, S.A., http://www.landrovernicaragua.com, Managua

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