Darien Trip

We made it.. There and back, good stories to tell, but for now we are packing to fly home in AM. See you all soon..

 

James y Stacey

Darien Gap Attempt

Four of us, Scott/Peter in the JP Earthroamer and James/Charlie in the Tacoma will attempt to reach the Darien Gap today. This is a grueling drive and has many obstacles, including poor roads and military road blocks. We are not attempting a Darien Gap Crossing as at this time that is absolutely prohibited due to dangerous narco trafficing from Columbia. However we wish to drive to the ultimate point in the road, which is rarely visited by foreigners.

Time to prep the truck…!

James..

Rifiki – Boquete – Beach’s – Canal

Rifiki lodge was amazing. Toucans in the wild, monkeys, parrots, snakes incredible jungle trees and vines. All of that topped off with some horseback riding and whitewater rafting. Oh did I mention the world’s fastest waterslide, yup. I’m not sure it was engineered to be, but lack of engineering and the lack of a litigious society like in the USA, resulted in a waterslide that will downright scare you.. Lots of fun! The whole place is powered by hydro electric from a stream, super cool..! We stayed in room that was a South African made tent, like a giant version of our roof top tent on the truck.

Next we crossed the border to Panama. We heard this border was a bit crazy. It lived up to its reputation. Dirty, nasty looking dogs, lots of confusion and a few bribes later and we were in Panama. So far Panama has been excellent. We started in Boquete a mountain volcano city of Coffee plantations, the weather was cool and the area was very clean and nice. I think we will come back here one day, it was hard not to love it.

Heading further down the coast we stopped at two beach camps and enjoyed fabulous beaches wide and clean with luke warm Pacific Ocean water. The roads were in the best of condition compared to the other countries we’ve visited; eventually we made it to Panama City. Panama City is big and busy with lots of high rises, doesn’t seem like Central America. There is a lot of leftover history here related to the locks and US military presence. We have a local guide showing us the city and locks and assisting in the customs, police and shipping process to get our trucks home. The process has been difficult and we are concerned well run out of time before our flight this coming Sunday., basically if we can’t get all the paperwork and approvals done they customs dept will not allow me to leave because my passport has a stamp showing my vehicle is here. I must have a second stamp releasing me that guarantees my vehicle is on a ship. It’s all a bit complex and most of all a real hassle. But this is the part that makes most people not do these types of trips, so well push thru it. I’m hoping to drive to the Darien Gap Friday and Saturday, but it will depend on how the process with exportation goes.

We are missing everyone, we can’t say though we are ready to come home. We are more ready to drive around the world! It’s an incredible planet we were given.

 

J y S

Border, Beach and Body

Borders, I love borders as much as I hate them. The Nicaragua to Costa Rica border was fairly smooth but some of the lines were a bit long. All in all, another decent experience!

We decided to head to a campsite that I was familiar with, so after a stop in Liberia for supplies and to pickup Dave’s wife at the airport we headed to Playa Avellanas near Tamarindo Beach. Specifically we camped right on the beach about 200 yards south of the famous Lola’s beach restaurant and home of the huge pig Lola..

This is one of the best beaches in the world I would say. Everything about it is great. You want to stay in the water for hours and there is plenty of expert or novice surf. We stayed for two nights. We will miss this spot for sure. But our next destination was exciting as well.

Arriving in the town of Nuevo Arenal was like stepping into a little German village. Hills, lots of green hills, temps around 80 and a huge blue volcanic lake, with view of a huge live Volcano in the background. The first stop was a little coffee shop on a bluff overlooking the lake, we ruffed it and had some local iced coffee, of course I had a fruit shake.. (my body is a temple). We slept at a great park with lake views and enjoyed a nice campfire. Ok it’s Stacey for the moment…our truck was parked by the roadway, so while cooking dinner I was pretty close, everyone told me to be careful as a car came by, two guys with a big flashlight out the window, they drove about 300 ft to a dead end boat ramp at the lake. A couple minutes later a white police pick-up came by flashing lights. They were down the end talking for about 20 minutes. Now dark, they head back our way. The police stopped by where I was cooking so,  I got James’ attention, he and Scott walked up to the truck. I continued cooking as they are talking. I took a few steps closer to get a listen. James asked him to repeat what he was saying and asked me if I understood. I got bolsa (bag) and cuerpo (body)I repeated back what I thought he said and asked if the cuerpo was muerte?? Yes, they were looking for a dead body, in a bag they thought someone dumped or was looking to dump and asked us who we have seen coming and going. There was also police boat activity in the water, big lights searching. It obviously was quite unnerving. The cops assured us all was tranquilo(peaceful)…  haha… we had a great night’s sleep anyway.

In the morning we headed out early for a long drive back towards the shore in the direction of Quepos, eventual we are heading to an Eco Lodge near there. But while still in the mountains we passed an amazing little mammal on the side of the road. After offering him a few nuts about 25 more showed up. We had lots of fun photographing them, they must be used to the tourists feeding them…

Now we are near Jaco on the shore for the night. Tomorrow we head to the Rifiki Eco Lodge.

Hope all is well with everyone..

J y S

Volcano’s & Bat’s

Being back in Nicaragua is like coming home for us. We realize how much we missed it now that we are here. We made it to Granada for a brief visit and ate at the Euro Café our old usual. I guided us into town forgetting that the LT (the big truck with us) is wider than Consulado Street will permit. Long story short we had to make a quick change and squeeze onto another street. Unfortunately the LT was burglarized in the two hours we visited the area.  They stole Dave’s laptop and camera, and ruined two door locks.

Next we headed to Masaya the active Volcano in the area. With our letter of permission and a bit of encouragement with some magazine copies we were in for the evening (the advantages of being with the press). They allowed us to camp on the rim of the Volcano all night. This was very cool…! Also they allowed us to take our trucks on closed roads around the back of the Volcano to see some rarely seen views. As if this wasn’t enough, they brought us into the Bat caves as sun down and 20,000 bats left for the night will we stood still in the cave. They flew by our heads and you could hear the hum they make and the flapping of their wings, it was incredible and spooky also. Three species including vampire bats were present. We were joined by Dennis and Michelle which was a great treat too, it was so good to see them although brief.

Another old friend Lars, joined us for the night on the Volcano in his new to him Toyota Landcruiser model 78 Diesel, my favorite truck…! And a super clean example.. He had fun with the privilege of sleeping at the Volcano, but then we convinced him to guide us to the beaches at Las Salinas using an Overland route that he has driven on his dirt bike. So the fun began and we headed first to El Crucero and then enroute to Las Salinas. Oops did I mention I broke a front axle/CV on the Toyota. This would have been a really huge problem, but I had a spare axle/CV setup with me, although we did not have all the tools we needed to do the job. Wayne Burgess (CO) came to the rescue when we called him, he put us in touch with a local Nica brother that was able to do the axle swipe in his front yard. Not much of a shop at all, and his pile of tools had much to be desired, but two hours later we were back on the road! It was great to visit with Wayne briefly as well.

Las Salinas beach was a excellent. I swam several times in the cold Pacific waves. Stacey enjoyed sucking up some more sun. Overall it’s a great relatively private beach in the middle of nowhere. We also bumped into some nice young needgreaters living in Las Salinas and got to spend some time together.

Today we reached Ometepe the huge Volcanic Island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We took a ferry to it and got a tour from a friend of Dennis’ his name is Ben Evans, he and his wife are specials. It was great to see the work he’s doing there and see the progress. The Volcano is Concepcion, and it’s active and amazing  to look at. It was actually calling my name to climb it. Someday Dean R and I will need to spend a night on its summit!

We leave this morning to cross the border to Costa Rica. Hope all is well with everyone at home. Our prayers and best wishes are with you all.

James Y Stacey..

Guatemala – Honduras – Nicaragua

Sorry it’s been a while. Guatemala and Honduras offered little in internet access and telephone service from our travel perspective. We were moving quickly as we had a lot of ground to cover and some truck maintenance to deal with. So here is a review of the last week or so of travel.

After our very exciting jungle segment we headed to the Isla de Flores Guatemala area. The trucks were in need of some parts, nuts and bolts mostly and we desperately needed power washing to expose the trucks for proper inspection, they were filthy to say the least. We located a local hand wash (auto lavado) and they had a cement ramp which allowed an underbody inspection after the trucks were cleaned. This was very beneficial and yielded additional obvious repairs were needed. Another benefit is that a local gentlemen (Neil) was at the car wash having his truck cleaned, as always he was very curious as to who we were and what we were doing. In the end he asked us to stay at his hotel/resort on a bluff of the nearby lake. This had a magnificent view of the Isla de Flores, which is a great tourist city on a small island. He even took us for a boat ride around the island. Overall it was a great stay in the area.

 Next we headed to Rio Dulce (sweet river) also in Guatemala, we stayed at Brunos Marina. This was a very interesting area as there were many large boats at the marina. I knew we were far inland and wondered why such large boats were present on just a river and small lake area. With investigation we realized that this river goes all the way east thru Belize to the Atlantic Ocean. So these boats come up the river for repairs and refuge in storms, a proper harbor and shipyard industry has resulted. My brother Todd would have liked all the large Sailboats and Catamarans.

Ps. At this point I’m stilling removing ticks from the jungle..

The next morning we crossed the busy border to Honduras. As always it’s a bit stressful crossing these borders. It requires patience and keen observation. But overall everyone was helpful with the process and we had no problems. A few hours later we stood in Honduras with our vehicles imported for the short term. There were 4 BMW F800GS motorcycles (one of my favorites) at the border, they were on a trip around the world sponsored by BMW, to cool.

Next we head to Copan de Ruinas. This was a very nice little city next to the Copan Mayan Ruins. We enjoyed the city while the others visited the Ruins. Did I mention I sat on the bowl all night! At least I was in a hotel and not camping. Must of have picked up a bug somewhere…

We then headed to Los Naranjos, we heard of a Micro Brewery there on a lake. Arriving at night we were able to get a beer but the kitchen was closed already, so to bed with just a snack. The beer was raspberry and chocolate, I liked it a lot.. Stacey had a Stout and liked it too..

In the morning we drove out early headed to Valle de Angeles Parque Nacional outside Tegucigalpa the capital city of Honduras.  This was an incredible drive on dirt roads thru the mountains and thru tiny villages with fields of various crops. It was great to see these people living so simply, but not in complete poverty, they were living off the land. Building houses and having occupancy in the truest sense of the biblical phrase. Scott Brady was driving in the lead, and we happened to be right behind him for a bit, normally we have been in the back of the group for support purposes. Two motorbikes passed him and were headed toward us, the first guy stopped in the middle of the road broadside and looked back to check out Scotts truck more,  seconds later his friend T-Boned him at about 15mph.. Photo in the blog. They were both OK, only egos were hurt.

The park was a great camping spot, with exceptional views from the Pine trees. In the morning we headed on the road and drove thru an extensive mountain cloud forest. We were in or above the clouds many times and the views were spectacular.

Later in the day we crossed the Border to Nicaragua. Stacey made friends with a little boy that she wanted to take home. He was very cute. But our truck is overloaded already and besides he won’t be a little boy for long..!

Our first stop in Nicaragua was a night in Esteli. This is a very busy small city in the northern mountains of coffee and tobacco country. We met a Local government official at our campsite by happenstance. He is the National Minister of Biodiversity. Basically he’s in charge of all the parks. After exchanging some autographed copies of the Overland Journal he wrote us a letter of passage to guarantee no problems with police or officials at tourist cities like parks etc.. This may come very in handy. It even included his cell phone number. We may need to use it tomorrow as we are going to attempt to camp at the mouth of an active Volcano.

For now though we are in Leon. This is a colonial city from the 1500’s. We visited 3 museums today, one of which was all insects. Did you know that ticks are not insects?? I learned that piece of useless information at the insect museum. However it was very interesting.

Tomorrow we head to Volcan Masaya. I expect not to have internet again for about 5 days.

You may notice the images load up a bit faster now, I’m reducing their resolution to aid in the upload process. Also keep in mind this trip is very much about the Overland Journal, so we can’t share every great photo, if it has a chance of being published we have reserved it for review first. Photos and Video that have been on the internet first will not be used in the magazine or HD movie production.

Miss you all, looking forward to our return but having a great time..

James Y Stacey..

A few links

These are a few links from Scott Brady Publisher of OverlandJournal.com

http://expeditionswest.com/EOE/EOE_Blog.php/ his blog about our trip, he’s much better at it.

http://www.overlandjournal.com/blog/ Stephanie Brady’s Blog

Five Blues Lake Video one of the video clips he threw together in a few minutes. cant wait to see every thing done at the end..

 James..