Posts Tagged ‘central america’


By Scott Woodhams @Life all Out

 
We had another absolutely incredible day today in Honduras!
Daniel and Dorothy (@adventurecopan) picked us up early in their Toyota Troopy. This is a coveted vehicle in the States, and even rare here in Central America.
Our trip began on pot holes roads, leading to a dirt road through patures and jungle for miles, back as far as the Troopy would take us. The ground was made up of greasy mud. The kind that will pack your shoes full, and act as like a banana peel, causing you to slip and slide, even on solid ground.
We were joined by the local owner of the property we were exploring. We were told if we were up for the arduous hike, the reward would be pristine, untouched, private caves to explore.


The hike proved to be a challenge, as the mud got slimier, the path more jungle, and the inclines increasingly steeper. We traversed through forests, corn fields, coffee fields, jungle, mud, and finally water falls, before coming to the mouth of the cave.
Just as we were marveling at the site, the land owner, yelled Snake! He grabbed a stick and killed a 5 or 6 foot rattle snake, that seemed to have just eaten, as it’s sides were swollen to the diameter of a baseball bat! Daniel finished it with a crocodile Dundee knife, and all was well!
We started entering the cave, weilding flashlights, knives, and cameras. Almost immediately, we had to start climbing over boulders to move forward. The next area was well worth the work. The view of the river rushing on the floor, the cavern style walls, and stalactites! All of a sudden we were being bombarded from all sides and overhead! We had disturbed the massive army of bats sleeping on the ceiling and in crevices. The wind from their wings, and the chaos of them swarming us took a little getting used to.
They were the size of crows, massive, menacing prehistoric type beasts! One exceptionally large one dive bombed Daniels light causing quite a ruckus as the light failed, wings flapping, and high pitched scream was all I seen and heard. I’m not sure what came from who, but it was pretty eery in there.
Even though we had flashlights, it was still pitch black in most areas. The cave ceiling spanned to 30 feet in sections, boasting massive stalagtites.
We found cracks and crevaces, which served as foot and hand holds as we free climbed deeper into the cave, above the rushing water below.
The rushing river that raced through the floor of the cave was cold and ultimately plummeted out of the mouth of the cave and over the rocks, forming a waterfall, cascading to the rocks below.
As we went deeper, we were able to scale the walls to get closer to the ceiling and get stalagtites for souvenirs ( with the owners permission of course!). What a tremendous experience! One that could not be duplicated in the States, or on a tourist trip.
We went as far back as we could go, to where we had to start wading to our knees. At this point we decided to turn back. We would come again, more prepared next time. Who know what lies at the center or the back of this cave. It is privately owned and difficult to access, so very few feet have trodden where we got to go!
The walk back seemed quick as we relived the unbelievable experience, still surreal in our heads.
The Troopy did a fantastic job at making its way through the mud and hauling us all back to Copan.
Wow! Another lifetime experience! Im starting to believe that adventure doesn’t begin unless you question your sanity for doing what you are about to do. Many adventures have began with just that scenario playing through my head, “what was I thinking?” Enjoy the video.

Private cave tour Honduras

 

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We’re enjoying our time here in the small quaint town of Copan. Tuk tuks speed by everywhere and are always readily available, taking you anywhere around town for less than a dollar. The Zocalo (central park) is aways full of  food vendors, and people watching seems to be the greatest past time event. Near our camp site at El Bosque we’ve grown accustomed to watching a soccer game anytime. Currently we’re paying less than $5.00 a night to camp, and that includes wifi, and the use of the hotel bathrooms. It’s just a slow way of life here, no rush, no fuss. We’ve spent our days touring the town, the famous Copan Ruins and plan to do some volunteer work. We’ve also visited Macaw Mountain,  explored a cave and waterfall, more on that later. Did we say we’re enjoying Honduras? We are!

 

We’ve also had the pleasure of meeting up with a great family whom we’ve talked with over five years on Facebook, Dorothy and Daniel Kent and their boy and girl, Daniel Jr and Pepper. They actually came to the border to meet us as we were crossing over from Guatemala, they’re fantastic host. Giving us the grand tour of Copan and it’s surroundings, introducing us to locals and making us feel right at home, we appreciate the hospitality.

 

We’ve learned a lot, for one, it’s very inexpensive to live here. For instance, renting a nice home can be as low as $300. a month, lunch or breakfast for two can be had under $6.00, and shopping for fresh food at the local market, you can get a weeks worth of food for under $25.00, making us think we’ll certainly want to visit Honduras again.

 

So far our summary of Honduras is, it’s beautiful, inexpensive  and certainly worth further exploration. Stay tuned as we do just that, and thanks for following.

 


Making travel plans for Central America in 2015. We offer consulting. No matter what your means of travel are, overlanding, backpacking, biking, hiking or cycling. We can tell you the best places to stay, must things to do, and certainly make your Central American vacation an adventure you’ll never forget.

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Howler monkeys and roaring Jaguars, oh my!

Posted: April 12, 2013 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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The roads leading to Tikal were surprisingly smooth, with the exception of a few miles of teeth chattering bumps. We had heard the roads were much worse conditions  than Belize or Mexico, however, so far so good. As we entered more dense growth along the way, we were excited to see the over head sign announcing we had arrived in Tikal!

As we approached the entrance we noticed a gate with a guard standing beside it. He told us we would be better waiting for thirty minutes to enter the park, as the next days entry would also be included for one price. This gave us an opportunity to get out and stretch our legs. Out of the Land rover and checking out our surroundings when all of a sudden there was a screeching through the trees above us. Was this the famous howler monkeys welcoming us with shrill screams? No, looking up we saw a zip line amongst the tree tops where people were jumping off a platform and flying overhead. Sounds like fun!

As we stood there we saw the outline of a mammoth vehicle approaching. I immediately recognized it as  a Mercedes Unimog. This is a serious off road machine designed to be a totally self sufficient overland vehicle. It is the size of a commercial Semi truck or Massive dump truck. It has on. board generators, air compressor, winch with synthetic line, and many other amazing features, bells and whistles.

We talked with the owners for a while as we waited to enter the park. They had been on the road for five weeks, starting from Canada. They planned to be traveling for two years before returning home. We exchanged travel stories and contact info to place on our website. It is always nice to meet up with fellow overlanders and make new friends along the way.

Finally, it was time! We followed the winding canopy tree covered road along back towards the ruins and lodging area. Along the way, we noticed numerous signs warning of possible encounters of animals such as turkeys, snakes, anteaters, deer, and most interestingly, jaguar!

We pulled into the Jaguar inn, one of several accommodations inside the park. We checked in and were shown to our rooms. We were centrally located deep in the jungle. The atmosphere was consistent with our surroundings. As with many outlying areas, we noticed a sign that said we would lose power from 9 pm until 6 am. A candle was provided for light, however.

The park closed at 6 pm, so we decided to take a sunset walk into the ruins before dinner.  The trail was an easy 10 minute walk from our rooms. We encountered many interesting jungle sites.


As we rounded a slight bend, you could see the remains of a towering building with stairs all the way to the top. The stone had eroded away in areas, but it was very much intact. Of all of the ruins we have seen, this was surely one of the most complete and spacious layouts. On the other side of the building was a large open stadium style grass area. It was surrounded by many other ruin remains. Obviously this was the central area of the town lost and forgotten. The sun was beginning to set, casting interesting shadows from the piles of rocks and stairs. One section was still open to be climbed so we made our way to the top to watch the bright sunset.

Interestingly enough, we learned that a portion of the original Star Wars was filmed here. We talked with a couple that was from Southern Belize, expats, originally from the U.S. They owned and operated a dive school there and had come to see the ruins on vacation. A large group of teenagers approached the massive stair steps and proceeded to have a group photo done. They were a traveling soccer team and were taking some time to enjoy their stay in Guatamala. At one point the teacher/coach made his way to the top of the pyramid for the photo, clearly announcing he was the “head”. I couldn’t help but walk behind him and tower over him with my hand resting on his shoulder, waiting for another photo. l usually would have easily stood a foot taller than him, but with me standing on the top platform, towered over him by two feet! The kids roared laughing despite our language barrier, until the coach looked up to see why they were laughing. We shook hands and the team moved on across the field.

After dinner in the nice onsite restaurant, we made our way to our rooms. As promised, the power was cut off later that evening, leaving us without lights or a fan. It was a little stuffy, but not unbearable. All of a sudden,we were awoken from our sleep by a hissing howling sound. It was eery! What made that noise? All around us, there seemed to be a chorus of this sound. It finally calmed down and we were able to settle back to sleep. The only thing I could figure is the Jaguar Inn had lived up to its name. Then around 5 am, we heard the hair raising sounds again. Hair raising even when you know you are sleeping in the middle of a  jungle.

The next morning, I asked the host, if in fact that was jaguar we had heard. He chuckled a little and said, “no, howler monkey”. That was like no monkey sound I had ever heard. We packed up the Land rover again and were off toward Lake Atitlan, a lake surrounded by volcanoes and traditional Mayan villages.

Tikal Guatamala, Here we come!

Posted: April 6, 2013 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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After we loaded into the Landrover, we had one more stop to make. Natalie, Mckinley’s wife was flying in to Belize City from work to join us on the expedition. We will be traveling for three weeks through Guatamala and then back into Belize for another week. The airport is small,so finding her was a breeze. We loaded her luggage and were off!

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Packing the rest of the luggage!

The trip from Belize city toward the border was uneventful and beautiful. We made good time, but decided since it was getting later in the day, we would stop at the border to spend the night, and cross in the morning. We found an excellent resort offering two pools, one of which, featured a dinosaur fountain shooting a stream of water into the pool. I posted a picture of it on Facebook, and leave it to my brother, he made a comment about, “Nice bidet”. That’s my brother, Chad, you have to know him. The next morning, we loaded up again. Wow! Thats a lot of work. I will be glad when we stay in one place for a few days.

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We pulled up to the border and were met by many “money changers”. These are local people that will exchange your currency to their local currency, the Quetzal or “Q” for short. For example, a gordita might cost Q3 or $ .39 US. The official exchange rate, is currently about 7.77 to 1 U.S. dollar. Its not quite as easy of a conversion as the peso or Belizian dollar, but my handy currency exchange app on my phone does wonders. We paid the Belize exit tax, purchased our Guatamala visas, and reluctantly did a currency exchange. Of course their was a small fee incurred for the “convenience”.

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Pay the fees to Exit Belize

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Fumigation is mandatory for vehicles entering Guatamala

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Welcome to Guatamala!

At last second we decided to run back to the burrito stand a local girl had set up and eat an early lunch of gorditas and jack, a type of fried bread that is delicious. Once on the other side, it felt like another country. Spanish was now the first language, unlike Belize who’s language is English. Another stop to register the Land rover was an opportunity to get a cold Coke and bathroom break. We crossed over the toll bridge, paying 50 quetzales or 50Q.

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Burrito girl

The bustling town of Melcher spread out before us like a small metropolis. We decided to find a cell phone store to purchase data and cell service for our phones. The usual communication issues were lessened by Mckinley’s practicing of Spanish. A few parts from an auto parts store and we were off to Tikal! All in all, We spent about an hour crossing the border. Not too bad!

Easter dinner in Cancun Mexico??

Posted: April 5, 2013 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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We decided to have Easter dinner in Cancun Mexico. the weather was beautiful, the temperature was right, and we were feeling especially thankful for the true meaning of Easter.

The plan was to purchase ADO bus tickets for a straight through drive from Cancun to Belize city, where we would meet up with Mckinley Pritchard, a new found friend who lives in Placencia Belize, a beautiful resort area located on a peninsula, bordered on one side by the Carribean sea, the other by a 18 mile long lagoon.

The problem with plans, is sometimes, they do not work out as “planned”. The man at the counter said, “the only bus to Belize is full”. This was not good, Mckinley was driving to meet us in Belize city. We were told we could catch a bus to Chetumal, Mexico and cross into Belize on another bus line. With this being the only option, we went with it. This bus left two hours earlier and there would be a layover, so we missed dinner and hopped onboard, happy to still be heading in the right direction.
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ADO buses are nice, rivaling any chartered bus line available in the states. An action movie played most of the trip, and it was entertaining just trying to read the lips of American actors, while their voices were dubbed in Spanish. The air conditioning was outstandingly cold! Angela, having read this warning online, brought light blankets to combat the Arctic air. At one point, she wrapped one around her head to deflect the icy blasts. In order to remain happily married, I chose not to share this photo on the blog. Take my word it was a sight! 5 hours later we arrived in Chetamul, chilled through and through, lack of sleep, and a little hungry.
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With the time change, we learned we had 4 hours until the smaller bus would arrive. At 2:30 am, nothing was open, so we had officially missed Easter dinner, save the half sandwich wrapped in clear wrap from the little deli at the terminal. The “chicken bus”, turned out to not actually be a chicken bus. This was a smaller bus holding about 15-20 people. The driver was eclectic and amusing to watch as he interacted with the passengers. He often “grunted” and made painful noises, when he encountered heavy luggage, one of them being mine.
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The bus ride was broken up only by the occasional close encounter with an oncoming bus headed the opposite direction. At one point, the driver pulled over for no apparent reason, without saying a word. 10 minutes later he emerged from behind a large dirt mound carrying his half full roll of toilet paper. Apparently when nature calls…..

Finally, we arrived in Belize city, only to be dropped off at another location than the pre determined terminal. Without phone access, and it being Easter holiday, none of the internet cafe’s were open, we hopped in a cab to the other side of town.

Pulling up to the terminal, we could not help but see Mckinley’s Land rover. He recently had it outfitted with a roof rack, ladder, and butane conversion. Needless to say, it was the only one of its kind on the street. We went inside, found Mckinley and the adventure continued!

Stranded in Guadalajara! Is the trip over?

Posted: November 26, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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We stayed the night at the campground we found in Guadalajara. It had rained that day so the grass was wet and a  thick dampness settled in the air. It was nice to have some relief from the intense heat. Before setting up the tents, we stopped at an open air grille that offered a hamburger bar. The challenge was communicating what we wanted on the burger.  Another patron sitting at a table near where we were ordering came to our rescue translating for us. We thanked her as we sat down at the massive wood stump that doubled as a table. The TV was broadcasting a Mexican channel, people were talking loudly and, to top it off, we were near the highway, so the traffic noise bustled nearby. However, there was something enjoyable, even peaceful, about sitting back and relaxing after the stressful day of limping the Land Rover into town.

The next morning, we followed the internet directions to the Land Rover dealer. It took about 20 minutes to make our way through the early morning traffic, We carefully watched for the signs so as not to miss our turn. According to the internet, it would be a long way around if we missed it. As we approached the intersection of our turn, we noticed a detour sign! We had heard about this but did not realize it might affect us. Crossing in front of us and riding along the road that we needed to turn at was a steady stream of bicycles. It was not a race or coordinated event, just local families enjoying the open streets without traffic. Apparently, on Saturday mornings, certain streets are closed to vehicles and open to pedestrians and bikes. It is a very good practice and I would have been much more supportive had I known where to go to get back to the Land Rover dealer.

We finally arrived at the dealer. We pulled right into the reception bay and were greeted by friendly faces. A gentleman met us at the door and said “Beunas Dias”! He spoke excellent English and after sensing we would be more comfortable speaking English, he said, “How can we help you today”? I have been working on a nice bronze tan, being on the coast for so long, and Bernard came ready-made with a bronze tan ,but some how we still stood out as outsiders.

My next Expedition vehicle

Full attention of three mechanics!

We were ushered into to a very nice waiting area, offered coffee, Coke, and the password to the internet, while the Land Rover was being dissected in the shop area. I walked out there a couple of times and there were three guys working on it, computers hooked up, and diagnostic machines all attached with wires running from under the hood. It looked like an operating room. One mechanic was sitting up on the engine compartment while the other two monitored the equipment and spoke back and forth. After three hours of intense diagnostics, tests, and head scratching, the manager walked in to announce they think they found the problem.

We were told that the only thing they could come up with was it needed a valve job. I immediately questioned this as prior to leaving on this trip, we had replaced the head gaskets, machined the heads, and had the heads pressure tested. The machine shop said they looked great and would not need a valve job. I explained all of this to the manager, to which he said,  “We are confident enough that it needs a valve job that if it is not, we will cover the cost of the job”. I asked how much will that cost? “Dont worry, it is cheaper than in the US. “Really, well how much?, I asked again. He said, $40,000 Pesos (about $3,000 US)! However, the shop was about to close and it was Saturday afternoon. We would have to come back on Monday morning.

What a slap in the face! $3,000, and 3-4 days for repairs??!! I was downcast on the ride back to the campground. What is the best thing to do? Should I scrap the vehicle, fly home and call it quits? Should I look for another vehicle? I don’t know, but I just do not believe it needs a valve job since we had just inspected the heads before we left on the trip. We drove back to the site in silence. Luckily, the Land Rover was still running. As long as I didn’t have to get up to high speeds quickly it drove fine. The check engine light glared at me as a reminder of the predicament we were in.

Before setting up the tent again, I called my dad to see if he had any recommendations. He has been in the automotive field his whole life, and was blessed with an over abundance of mechanical knowledge that has come in handy on countless situations in the past, not only for me, but all of his family and friends. He spends a lot of time on the phone or under the hood helping people out. I grabbed my tablet and headed toward the office to get the best wifi signal possible. We were using a couple of apps, Skype, and Tango to communicate, and it required a good signal.

I explained everything that we had done so far to try to fix the problem, replaced plugs, added fuel cleaner, tested injectors, secured wire connections, etc. As he listened, he was computing all of the info. All of a sudden, he said, ” I bet you have a plugged cat” A catalytic converter? All of these problems were caused by a bad cat? He said, “Disconnect the exhaust and see if your power comes back”. I thanked him for the direction and jogged back to the truck to try it.

I grabbed my tool bag, hollered at Bernard that I may have the problem fixed. Luckily the exhaust had cooled, making it possible to loosen the bolts. They cam off easily (benefit of a southern vehicle). I pulled the exhaust off the studs and crawled back out from under the vehicle. Turning the key, the engine roared to life, and I mean roared! With the open exhaust poring out of the engine, it reminded me of being at the local drag strip back home. It had a deep throaty snarl that any race car would be envious of, all eight cylinders pumping out the horse power. Bernard could not help but hear the engine start, along with the whole campground. We hopped in and were off for a test drive.

Guadalajara

As we edged out into traffic, an opening offered a spot to cross the three lanes. Well there’s no time like the present to test it. I floored the gas and the engine roared, the Land Rover leaped into traffic and responded to my stomp. We had power! Man it felt so good to feel the full power of all eight cylinders doing their thing. This proved my dad’s theory, the catalytic converter was bad. It was plugged up restricting the exhaust causing the cylinders to misfire.

We drove to down town Guadalajara to enjoy the market and festivities. While we were there, a large crowd had gathered around two clown street performers. We stood and watched as they performed tricks and the crowd laughed. All of a sudden, one of the clowns spotted Bernard. Sensing he wasnt a local, he began heckling Bernard. He called him out to the center of the crowd and both clowns had fun with him. I made the mistake of taking pictures, and this alerted them we were together. Now their sights were set on me. “You take picture, come here”. They were friendly and enjoyed bouncing back and forth between Spanish and English, making the crowd laugh at our expense. We got a few more pictures and moved on to see the world-famous market.

Is that an American in the crowd?

Bernard is in for it now!

SMILE!

The market featured everything you could think of. There was everything from watches, clothes, hats, shoes, trinkets, food, blankets, flowers, you name it. We spent a couple of hours walking around, and patronizing a food stand that had remarkable calzone type sandwiches. We enjoyed our time there and had to laugh at the sign for the bathrooms. We were used to seeing a charge for using the bathrooms, but this sign announced an extra charge for toilet paper!

Overview of atrium market

Meat market

Fresh Fruit

One bay muffler shop

Lets, “Git Er’ Done”!

The next day, we drove to a little muffler shop not too far away from the campsite and pulled into the one bay garage. I got out and pointed to a picture of the cat on the wall. We tried to communicate as much as possible, but it wasnt working. I am sure they were not used to someone coming in and telling them what they needed in English. Fortunately, Tom from Barre de Navidad had put us in touch with his brother who lived in Guadalajara. I looked up his number and the young mechanic let me call him. I explained our predicament, and asked him to translate. After their conversation, we were off and rolling! The courier hopped on his moped off to get the catalytic converter.

Job well done!

As soon as he got back they went right to work cutting out the old one and installing the new one. I was charged the equivalent of $225 us for the job! That’s a far cry from $3,000! The Land Rover ran like a champ. Man what a relief. Although I was thankful for all of the help along the way, it was amazing that my dad who was 4000 miles away was able to diagnose the problem over the phone. I am blessed to have such a wonderful man as my Father! Check our Facebook for more pictures of Guadalajara (click here)


We made it into Barre de Navidad just in time for breakfast and to meet a man named Tom. Tom offered to be an impromptu tour guide. We drove through town, looking at the nice homes and the unique marina layout. There were three roads that featured water front homes. A large lagoon made for some desirable homes sporting large private boats, docked right outside these homes. A particularly large home was distinguishable by the massive gates and security walls that surrounded the concrete structure. We were told that a local business owner had purchased it from an “alleged” drug dealer that had it built originally. We marveled at the apparent money that had been involved in building these architecturally appealing homes. Most of them sat vacant as they were seasonal second or third homes.

We spent nearly 3 hours touring the town and visiting a friend of Tom’s that lived out on the outside edge of town. To reach his house we traversed deep holes full of water, and gravel dirt roads. His family was friendly and inviting. In front of their home was a small family convenience store where one could buy an ice cold Coca Cola in a glass bottle. With the warning of drinking the water in Mexico, Diet Cole had become a staple. and you cant beat an ice cold glass bottle of Coke, when the thermometer threatens to blast past the maximum reading and burst.

Ice cold Coke or Diet Coke, actually

We told Tom we were looking for a campground preferably on the beach. He said, “there is one in Melaque, just 5 miles away”. He decided to take us there and get us set up. He warned us, “never pay upfront, you never know if you want to stay and then you are locked in”. We heeded his advice and checked into a nice beach side space looking over the ocean. The entire facility was fenced in and seemed secure, right in the middle of town. This would be great. We could set up the roof top tents and walk to the stores and restaurants. Tom hung around for a while and we chatted about life as an expat in Mexico, and our adventures so far. After a while he stated, “I should go, its starting to get too hot out here”! We dropped him off at home and made arrangements to meet for dinner at his “favorite place” later on.

Our tour guide, Tom, and the campsite

Ocean front with wifi at our tents!

The next morning, Bernard and I walked around town and took pictures after breakfast. Being interested in real estate, we were drawn to a building that looked like it had potential. Right next to a large concrete entrance to town, was a dilapidated two story structure boasting, “Se Vende” (For Sale). We peeked in the windows and wrote down the phone number. We headed back to the campground and fired up the computers. There was a strong wifi signal, so we wanted to update family and friends and see what was going on back home. We looked up just in time to see Tom ride up on a moped. He decided to pop in and see if we wanted him to play tour guide again and check out a cool little town up the bay. We gladly accepted and decided to call a cab instead of taking the tents down. And we were off!

We pulled into a little town that didn’t appear to have more than 50 residents, but it was right on the beach and their were several restaurants just starting to open. We wandered along the beach and enjoyed the ocean breezes, even though they didn’t do much to suppress the intense heat. There were many photo ops and we took advantage of them. The grand tour didn’t take long, so we were headed back to camp pretty soon. Tom hung around for a while longer and then hopped on his moped.

Beachside restaurant

Around 6 PM, the manager of the campground stopped at our site and said, “you need to pay for the four nights you stayed here.” I figured she was mistaken and I said, “tonight will actually only be our third night”. She became defensive and said, “No! you were here 4 nights”! I told her we would pay her for the actual amount of nights we were there (going on the third). She walked off, obviously upset with me. I didn’t think much about it that night and decided we would go to the ATM in the morning to pay for our stay.

Our campground. We un recommend them!

A great place for a nap at the campground

The next morning we got up headed to breakfast and then to the ATM. We were met at the gate by the manager of the campground telling us we needed to pay for four nights. I again explained that we were only there for three nights. She became argumentative and then walked back in the office. I was planning on working on the Landrover because it was still misfiring. We loaded up and headed toward the gate. I hopped out to open the closed gate and found it was padlocked. Dont tell me we were locked in! The gate always stayed closed, however this time, it was locked. I went to the office and told her I needed the gate opened. She said, “You must pay for 4 nights”. I began to understand that we were in fact being locked in. I became furious.

Caged like an animal!

I told her we would pay her for the three nights that we had stayed, but she needed to let us leave. She refused, and stood there glaring at me. Now I was angry. We were not animals to be caged up and locked away. I told her she better open the gate and let us leave. I said, “are you telling me you are holding us here against our will?” She said, ” I will call the police”. I told her she better go ahead and call them, so I could tell them we were being held against our will. I took it further, and said. ” I will also be calling the U.S embassy and letting them know we were being held against our will. Ironically, she all of a sudden said, “No inteindo”. I dont understand. She had been arguing with us just fine in English and now she doesn’t understand? How convenient. I said, spitefully, “well when the U.S embassy shows up, you will understand”. I was furious. She finally said, “Fine, you pay three days and leave”! I told her that would not be a problem, as we would not consider paying her for one more night. We packed our trucks, paid the bill and left.

Before we were kicked out

Well the truth is, it was a little bit of a problem as there were no other campgrounds in the area. We drove back to the restaurant that we had visited when we first arrived, to determine what to do. At least we had internet access there and we had made some friends there as well. As evening set in, we still didn’t have a plan. We walked the sidewalks and it began to come to us. In the center of town about a block from the restaurant, was the town square. The stage was in the center, and fortunately, there were electric outlets on the back side of it. We could park along the street, use the restaurant internet, and plug into the electric outlets on the stage. Breakfast in the morning could be had at the restaurant! We had everything we needed…..except a shower. At this point it was our best option, so we set it up. To avoid drawing unnecessary attention, we routed the electric cord up a pole, overhead to the balcony above, and then overhead to the plaza stage. It was genius if I do say so myself! Anyone walking on the sidewalk would be oblivious to the cord since it was overhead. We  hopped in the vehicles for a overnight stay.

Our makeshift power supply ran overhead

The next morning we woke to small  children walking down the sidewalk on their way to school. They were talking excitedly and chasing each other. All of a sudden a little boy yelled, “Connectodo” Apparently he noticed the electric extension cord running into Bernard s vehicle.  Bernard later told me that he woke up when he heard the shout and then noticed a small face and hands pressed to the window trying to see in. Bernard said, “Boo”! and the little boy ran off. Leave it to a small child to notice we were “borrowing electricity from the town square.

Our breakfast hosts

After breakfast we headed back to Melaque where we were to meet up with a “Facebook friend of a friend”. We were told by the friend if we needed anything while in the area  to look up their friend. With the Landrover running worse, we decided to call in a favor to find a place to work on it. After changing the spark plugs and wires and looking for vacuum leaks, and scratching our heads, we were referred to a local mechanic. That’s a whole “nother” story, so watch for it…….

And we are off!

Posted: July 11, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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It has been a trying past couple of weeks. You know from following our progress, all of the things we were trying to pack in with the trip preparations. The good news, we have completed everything that is going to get done. It seems, every turn there were three more things popping up that needed to be handled before going. At the last-minute, Bernard called me and said “I have some good news and some bad news”. Nothing much ever good starts with those words. So, he says, ” I got a discount on my tires, however, they will not be in until Monday,midday.” Yes, the Monday we were scheduled to leave on! One thing I have learned on scheduling a big trip, even life changing event, is flexibility. The flexibility to roll with the punches and even appreciate the delay offering more preparation time. So we took full advantage of the “extra day” as it turns out we needed it… My brother, Chad and his wife Ginny, printed our slogan and website on vinyl that we put on the vehicles.

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It is a reminder to slow down and enjoy life, not rush it along.
Last minute packing was going well. I even naively, imagined I had room to spare. Boy was I in for a surprise!

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Some how after staying up past 1 am, getting up at 6 am, a stop at the bank and the office, we were off! We met Bernard at the Pilot gas station in Augusta at 9 am. Only one hour after our intended departure.

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We took off rolling down I-20 toward Atlanta to a nice sunny day, around 80 degrees. In light of my new-found desire to take it slow and easy, we settled in at about 65 mph to test things out. About 30 miles down the road in Thomson, Ga., Angela and I decided we wanted breakfast and a coffee. So we pulled into McDonald’s where my Aunt Gloria works. I decided we would get out and tell her “good-bye”. Well contrary to her telling me that they work her from sun up, she was not there!
We continued on again, putting our backs to the wind. When all of a sudden, we noticed a Toyota Tundra pulling a mid 90’s Mercedes on a UHAUL tow dolly. The reason we noticed it first, because having owned a UHAUL dealership recently, we tend to notice these things. But more importantly, we noticed it because the car on the dolly was whipping like a tail on a wood Pekkah, or at least that was the first thing that I blurted out when seeing it. Angela laughed at my analogy, and then turned her concerns to the car that was being tossed side to side behind the truck. We quickly passed it hoping Bernard would make it by before it let loose. Disaster diverted….at least for us. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture, as I was busy driving defensively. I wouldn’t be surprised if that guy didn’t make the news tonight.
Traveling on I was determined to enjoy the journey, forget about time lines, and just relax. I noticed the blue skies, the fluffy white clouds. They were almost 3D in appearance.

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The trip was going great! We somehow found ourselves in the middle of a military convoy of Hummers on semi trucks. Of course we felt right at home driving our big rigs, even giving that knowing wave that only the military and big rigs share, like “yeah, it’s just us against the other four wheelers out here on the highway”.

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Somewhere around 290 miles, in Montgomery Alabama, we needed to stop for fuel. I was very apprehensive about checking my fuel mileage. First of all, Land Rovers are not known for good gas mileage. Secondly, I had added so many modifications, weight and wind resistance, that I felt like I would be lucky to get 10 miles to the gallon. And to top it off, it requires premium gas. Well, to my surprise, we actually managed to get 13.5 miles to the gallon. I know this sounds terrible, but I was even a little excited. I packed every square inch of the vehicle and performed all of the modifications, so I know what is in there. So to get 13.5 mpg, I was happy!

All of a sudden, the skies turned gray and the opposite traffic began showing up with their headlights on. Not a good sign. Then the bottom fell out. It began torrentially pouring rain. It was so heavy, the semi truck disappeared in front of me. It is an eery feeling not knowing if someone has panicked and stopped right in front of you, or not. I slowed to a safer speed and continued forward progress. Checking my rear view mirror, I noticed Bernard had also disappeared. I searched with little success, just to see the white lines on the road. Everything was a gray fog and sheets of rain.

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It was also with the first rain drops that I regretted not replacing my windshield wipers! It was more of a smear than a clear. Eventually it let up enough that I could see cars again. In checking my mirror again, I saw that Bernard was definitely not in my range of site. We pulled off to the side of the road and waited a few minutes. Fortunately, he came along and flashed his lights that all was ok. A few more miles ahead and we pulled into a rest area to compare stories and take a much-needed bathroom break.

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After getting back on the highway, I began to feel a little hungry. I knew I had packed some chocolate covered almonds within my reach. So one hand on the wheel, I reached for the spot the can of almonds was. I felt it and began to pick it up from behind the seat. As I raised it up, it became wedged between the seat and the storage box I had built for the back of the vehicle. I pulled and tugged and twisted, to no avail. I tried again. No luck. I wanted those almonds! I wouldn’t let go until I had them up front. All of a sudden it occurred to me that I was no smarter than the monkey, when given a handful of peanuts through a hole, will actually trap himself by making a fist to grip the peanuts. And he will not un ball his fist to set himself free, because he wants those peanuts. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself for not letting the almonds go….

We arrived in Mobile Alabama around 4:30 pm to overcast skys, but no rain. We were determined to get wiper blades from the Land Rover dealership, as it required a special kind.
We first went to our hosts home. Bernard had been in contact with a host from http://www.couchsurfing.com This is an online community of people willing to share their “couch” or other accommodations with like-minded travelers. Genevieve, offered to let us park our vehicles in her yard and pop up the tents. As we were turning into the driveway, another couch surfing host, named Robyn that Bernard had been in contact with called and said “Hey! Where are you guys at?” She decided to stop in to meet us and chat awhile. This is a testament to the remarkable online couch surfing community. They are all friendly and enjoy meeting new people. After meeting our host, Angela and I excused ourselves to try to make it to the dealership, for wiper blades, before they closed. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. Ken, came out to look at the blades. He said “well here’s your problem, there is no rubber left on the blade”. They installed them for free, reduced the price even lower than they quoted on the phone, and gave me a large roll of paper towels free, just because. Now that is customer service. I highly recommend if you are ever in the Mobile Alabama area, and need help with your vehicle stop in and see Ken in the parts department.

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I am lying here in our roof top tent typing all of this on my android phone. So please disregard any typos or incorrect grammar. I need to make use of the internet that was also graciously provided by our host here in Mobile. Wow! What a first day on the road!
Bernard’s in his tent, we are in ours, and our host went to pick someone up at the airport. She promised coffee in the am, and then we will be off to explore Mobile, before heading to Lafayette Louisiana. If every day of our trip consist of the roller coaster of today, we are in for a treat!

Photo shoot in the rain?

Posted: June 10, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
Tags: , , , ,

After many hot sunny days this spring, we have encountered rain today. And boy, has it rained! It began at 6:00 am this morning, and has rarely let up all day. Don’t get me wrong. We need the rain. We need it desperately. Our local lake is over 9 feet below full pool. Designated swimming areas are high and dry, boat ramps have limited access, and “islands” are appearing causing potential hazards for boats.

Having said all of that, why did the rain have to hit this week? You see, I got a call on Friday from the Augusta Chronicle (our local paper), they want to write an article on our upcoming trip to Central America. Of course we are thrilled. After coordinating everyone’s schedules, it was determined that we would meet the photographer at the Savannah River on Monday at 3 pm with our expedition vehicles. This was the only day that coincided with everyone’s schedule.

The reporter is out of town until the following Tuesday, and Bernard and his daughter, Kristen are headed to Germany this Tuesday. So, Monday it is! Well, the rain chances for Monday are over 75%. Maybe we can get down there, get the photos in, and packed up between rain drops. We are setting up the vehicles, including the roof top tents, for the shoot. It is not wise to close the tents up when they are wet. Mold tends to be your worst enemy in this situation. With rain in the forecast for the next week, there would be no possibility of drying the tents out.

However, this is very exciting for us, as it will give the local community awareness of our upcoming trip. So, we will adapt and prevail. This will be an opportunity to allow individuals to follow our trip from start to finish, meeting the people we encounter, seeing the charities that are offering a helping hand to the needy, and experiencing the beautiful sights, we plan to share.

Tomorrow morning, Bernard and I will be performing some last minute preparations to his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser. We plan to begin building the rear platform storage, replace the valve cover gasket, and a few other maintenance items. I have a few things yet to do to the Land Rover also. Hopefully we can find a dry place to work on the vehicles, as they no longer fit in the garage, with their suspension lifts and roof racks.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming article that will be in the Augusta Chronicle. We will share the link when we receive it as well. Has rain ever put a damper on any of your planned activities? Please share……