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#35073 - 01/04/08 03:59 PM Central America trip blog
andrew Offline

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Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
I'm leaving tomorrow morning to drive to Central America - at least to Nicaragua, maybe Panama if I have time. Right now it looks like a 2-3 month trip. We'll see how the money lasts.

If you are interested, I have a blog at http://www.laakso.us that I will keep updated on the road.
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#35074 - 01/04/08 04:42 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
oenophore Offline
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Registered: 09/24/01
Posts: 5969
Loc: 212 land
I've read that it's a major pain in the ass to gain permission to drive into some Central American nations. Do you have those ducks lined up, so to speak?
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#35075 - 01/04/08 04:49 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: oenophore]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
yup. the only country you need a visa for is panama, and that is easy enough to get in san jose if i go that far. to drive in, you just need an international driver's license, the vehicle title, and copies of your passport, driver's license, vehicle registration, and insurance if you have it.

other than that, it is the standard latin american land based border crossing hassle. if you don't know the drill and don't speak spanish, you can get fleeced by officials on the take. minor graft is always to be expected and makes getting through easier, but some people have been taken for hundreds of dollars in bogus fees.
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#35076 - 01/04/08 05:02 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
empicard Offline
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Registered: 08/29/01
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Loc: LI, NY
what are you driving?
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#35077 - 01/04/08 05:12 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: empicard]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
2003 Toyota Tacoma.
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#35080 - 01/04/08 05:42 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
AOR Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 08/27/04
Posts: 392
OK, I'll ask...

What's the purpose of the trip?

Climbing...hiking...sight seeing...covert operations?

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#35081 - 01/04/08 05:43 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: AOR]
empicard Offline
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Registered: 08/29/01
Posts: 2955
Loc: LI, NY
come on. a standard toy taco? no add ons? nothing?
covert ops.
everyone knows andrew is a SPY!
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#35082 - 01/04/08 07:04 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: empicard]
MarcC Offline
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A spy? Gee, I thought that maybe after living here several years he was going on a Mission or something. \:D
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#35085 - 01/04/08 10:27 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: empicard]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
standard taco - only addons are a shell and a sleeping platform in the back. a stock taco is awfully capable - i've driven it on some rated 4WD roads around moab without any trouble. i do have the rear diff lock and a comealong in case i get in trouble, and a tire inflator/battery jumpstarter.

its a fly fishing and surfing trip mostly. my wife just quit her job so we decided to take a few months off. this seemed like the best thing to do since it'll be relatively cheap and less attractive if we ever pop out a kid.

marc - that is hilarious. i've taken to saying "hi, i'm from utah, but don't worry i'm not a mormon" when i travel in the third world. i'm not a sheltered prepubescent with absolutely no life experience, so i'm not qualified to spread the word of joseph smith anyway.


Edited by andrew (01/04/08 10:30 PM)
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#35130 - 01/08/08 07:28 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
tokyo bill Offline
old hand

Registered: 08/24/00
Posts: 793
Loc: Tokyo
Hey Andrew,

My brother lives in Nicaragua (principally in the interior, in the boonies near a town called Nueva Guinea (sp?)). He could probably provide you with an English conversation and a beer, should you happen by, and he used to be an avid fisherman although that was mostly in his pre-Nicaragua days.

I have a phone number and an e-mail contact, although I'm not sure whether either of them is currently operative (entropy is pretty active down there, it seems). If interested, let me know.

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#35258 - 01/15/08 05:53 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: tokyo bill]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
hola from zihuatenejo. 2400 miles into the trip so far and everything has been easy and great. the highlights have been tours and tequila tastings in tequila, mariachis in guadalajara, and fishing/surfing in troncones - the small beach town outside of zihuatenejo that i am staying in. going to stay here for a week or so before moving on to guatemala.

bill, what is your brother doing in nicaragua? his contact information would be great - send it to me in a pm. i imagine i´m a month or so away from getting to nicaragua.
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#35259 - 01/15/08 06:51 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
empicard Offline
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Registered: 08/29/01
Posts: 2955
Loc: LI, NY
what is zihuatenejo like?
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#35304 - 01/19/08 08:58 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: empicard]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
zihuatenejo is busy and hectic with smelly water, and ixtapa is a soulless hellhole, but troncones(little town about 20 miles away) where i am staying is basically paradise.

Michoacan coast an hour or two north of here:
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#35305 - 01/19/08 11:27 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
MarcC Offline
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Posts: 3532
I'm sorry Andrew. Your sig line is simply no longer apropos! ;\)
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#35306 - 01/20/08 12:02 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: MarcC]
oenophore Offline
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Registered: 09/24/01
Posts: 5969
Loc: 212 land
 Originally Posted By: MarcC
I'm sorry Andrew. Your sig line is simply no longer apropos! ;\)
Hoo boy, is that ever so true! \:D
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#35337 - 01/24/08 09:30 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: oenophore]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Haha - forgot about the sig. It'll be awhile before I have to face that again. Made it into Puerto Escondido and will slowly go down the Oaxaca coast before heading up into Chiapas. Its even prettier here than in Troncones.

Anyway, here is what the trip is all about for me:


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#35338 - 01/24/08 09:36 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
oenophore Offline
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Posts: 5969
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Did you eat some of that fish?
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#35340 - 01/24/08 09:43 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: oenophore]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Oh yeah - i've been eating it for days even after giving away quite a bit. Dorado is the local name for Mahi-Mahi, which is one of my favorite fish to eat.
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#35341 - 01/24/08 09:45 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
oenophore Offline
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Registered: 09/24/01
Posts: 5969
Loc: 212 land
Mahi-Mahi, which is one of my favorite fish to eat.

Mine too; you've made many of us envious.
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#35343 - 01/24/08 11:21 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
MarcC Offline
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Posts: 3532
Well, while you've been playing with the fishies, this is what it's been like here. (Alas, I've just been getting back out since my appendix had other ideas about how I should be spending my time.)
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#35389 - 01/29/08 01:10 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: MarcC]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Guatemala is pretty cool.



Crossing the border here was very easy and not much harder than getting into Mexico. It actually took much less time than the Mexico crossing, but it would have been hard/intimidating if you don't speak spanish.
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#35390 - 01/29/08 03:15 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
Dillbag Offline
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Registered: 05/02/06
Posts: 1130
Loc: "The Town"
If you get a chance go check out Tikal... It's amazing!

I know you're doing a fishing trip, but it's well worth exploring!
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#35391 - 01/29/08 04:03 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
oenophore Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/24/01
Posts: 5969
Loc: 212 land
Is this Lake Atitlan?
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#35452 - 01/31/08 11:36 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: Dillbag]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Yup, we just spent a few days in Atitlan. Gorgeous place. Went to the market in Chichicaltenango today and now am in Antigua, which is also gorgeous.

I am definitely planning on going to Tikal, Copan, and Lamanai ruins on our way back north. For now I am headed down the pacific side. Marlin fishing on the coast in Guatemala in a few days, and then cross over to El Salvador to go surfing.
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#35456 - 02/01/08 04:13 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
Coppertone Offline
old hand

Registered: 08/17/00
Posts: 1055
Loc: Newtown, CT
Tarpon and Snook on the Atlantic side near Turtogero in Costa Rica is great. Not sure if you will be near there. Also ran into some Permit there as well. It was great fishing both in the river and outside of the inlet. Tons of Howler Monkeys all up and down the river along with Crocs.

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#35538 - 02/08/08 05:23 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: Coppertone]
johnm Offline
newbie

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 36
This is great.
Keep us up on the wost hassles
and best surfing.

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#35552 - 02/09/08 09:13 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: johnm]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
I'm in Apaneca El Salvador right now. The worst hassle was definitely crossing the border into El Salvador, but even that wasn't a big deal - it took almost 2 hours to fill out all the paperwork to bring the truck in, but it only cost $5.

The best surfing of the trip has hands down been El Salvador. The coast west of La Libertad is break after break of perfect waves. There are some crowds, but people are friendly and localism is confined to a few waves so it is manageable. It would be a wonderful week trip to fly to San Salvador, take a bus to Playa El Tunco, and surf your ass off. We also surfed Sipacate in Guatemala which was an ok beach break, but the place creeped us out. There was absolutely no one else there, and at night the "hotel" staff vanished and armed guards patrolled the area. We layed in bed staring at the ceiling during what sounded for all the world like a 2 hour gunfight, though in retrospect it was probably mostly firecrackers and a few people plinking away at cans on the beach.

By far the best day of the trip for me was in Iztapa Guatemala. We caught 6 sailfish on conventional tackle, and then I caught 2 more on a fly rod. Nothing has prepared me for what that would be like. Watching these huge beautiful fish launch out of the water like a rocket is amazing.

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#35624 - 02/19/08 12:27 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Volcano boarding in Nicaragua:


So I drove over the Bridge of the Americas over the Panama Canal into Panama City today. It feels really good to have made it all the way down here - I was never sure that I would be able to keep it together through all the hassles to get here.

The El Salvador/Honduras border crossing at El Amatillo was really bad - avoid it(everyone i've talked to has had a problem there, and i guess its considered the worst border crossing in central america). I got the big time third world intimidation/shake down experience there, but got through it for $160 and 3 hours. The Honduras/Nicaragua border at Guasale was also unpleasant on the Honduras side - that country has really screwed up immigration officials. Had to pay a small bribe here in Panama to keep my truck from being searched(which would have taken hours), but not such a big deal.

Best surf has definitely been El Salvador - the area west of La Libertad is incredible, and has some of everything. Nicaragua is great too and uncrowded. Wish I had more time to really explore all the breaks - you could spend a lifetime exploring beaches in Central America.
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#35626 - 02/19/08 02:29 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
chip Offline
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Registered: 10/06/01
Posts: 2676
Loc: Sittin' Pretty in Fat City
That looks like a blast. Way to go.

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#35634 - 02/20/08 12:46 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: chip]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO


The Panama Canal is a must see site if you ever get the chance. Pretty amazing watching huge freighters navigate the locks and then head down a narrow channel into the jungle. This is the Miraflores locks control station with the masts of a large sailboat transiting the locks.
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#35636 - 02/20/08 11:02 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
oenophore Offline
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Registered: 09/24/01
Posts: 5969
Loc: 212 land
The El Salvador/Honduras border crossing at El Amatillo was really bad - avoid it(everyone i've talked to has had a problem there, and i guess its considered the worst border crossing in central america). I got the big time third world intimidation/shake down experience there, but got through it for $160 and 3 hours. The Honduras/Nicaragua border at Guasale was also unpleasant on the Honduras side - that country has really screwed up immigration officials. Had to pay a small bribe here in Panama to keep my truck from being searched(which would have taken hours), but not such a big deal.

At the risk of being characterized as an I-told-you-so schmuck, I'll ask you to compare this paragraph with your optimistic post about this subject far above.
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#35637 - 02/20/08 01:12 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: oenophore]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Well, it was basically what I was expecting. $160 is not really that bad for one bad crossing(its legitimately $40 anyway there), and other than that i only had to bribe one guy $10 in panama not to search my truck. Not too bad considering that i've crossed 8 borders in my truck so far, sometimes in fairly remote spots. I think the total for amount i've paid for border entry/exit fees for 2 people, vehicle importation/exportation/mandatory insurance, vehicle fumigation fees, and bribes has been about $300.

I will say that if anyone else wants to drive down here, you absolutely must have your original vehicle title in your exact name, and its best if it is registered in the same state that it is titled. That is the excuse the Hondurans used for the shake down - my truck is registered in Utah and titled in Colorado. Also bring 10 copies of your passport, driver's license, title(front and back), vehicle registration, and make a copy of the vehicle circulation document you get at the border before you get to the next border.

You must also speak Spanish or you will get fleeced at crossings. I bargained hard with the police demanding the bribe in Honduras, and got the "fee" reduced from $400 to $160. It also helps to ask for a factura(receipt) if you are asked to pay any fees that sound like bullshit. It hasn't really been that much worse than the usual latin america land border crossing hassle(i've crossed a lot of land borders in south america over the years on buses) - just a lot more paperwork.
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#35638 - 02/20/08 02:34 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
empicard Offline
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Posts: 2955
Loc: LI, NY
Don't want the truck searched, huh?
whatcha hidin?
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#35639 - 02/20/08 02:50 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: empicard]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Well, I am a spy you know...

Actually, when a customs guy asks for a fee to avoid a search and you don't pay it, it means you will spend at least 5 hours taking everything you own out of your truck so it can be examined by his underlings under the broiling sun while he sits in his air conditioned office.

On a side note, I caught a couple of peacock bass in the Lago de Gatun part of the Panama Canal between my last post and this one. The I got chased back inside by the hardest rainstorm i've ever seen. When it starts raining in the jungle, it doesn't fuck around.
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#35642 - 02/20/08 04:46 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
oenophore Offline
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Loc: 212 land
I think the total for amount i've paid for border entry/exit fees for 2 people, vehicle importation/exportation/mandatory insurance, vehicle fumigation fees, and bribes has been about $300.

And how much is it going to cost you to return?
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#35643 - 02/20/08 04:55 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: oenophore]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
not sure. maybe $100 or so. the biggest expenses have been the mandatory costa rica insurance and the mexico vehicle import fee, and both are good for multiple entries.
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#35644 - 02/20/08 05:05 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
oenophore Offline
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Posts: 5969
Loc: 212 land
Yes, I seem like a devil's advocate here. My guess is that border personnel are easier on southbound gringos, since the latter could always say "Screw it; I won't go into your *^%#&$#* banana republic." Northbound gringos can't say that.
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#35645 - 02/20/08 05:13 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: oenophore]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
I don't think it matters too much. Lots of people go back and forth, and its easy enough to catch a car ferry back to texas from panama or honduras if you get stuck. It would be even easier to sell the truck and the surfboards and fly back after making a tidy profit.

It really isn't nearly as corrupt or difficult down here as people think. Most of the border guards have been really nice and helpful - the one in Honduras was the only bad one, and it is apparently well known to be a bad place to cross. I've been stopped at around 20 military checkpoints, and after a few questions and a quick search they shake my hand, pat me on the back, and tell me good luck and safe travels. I got pulled over by one policeman while I was speeding in Panama 2 days ago, and he just wanted to know how long it took me to drive there and if I liked Panama, and then he sent me on my way without a hint of a bribe being necessary.

Not too many people drive here though, that is for sure. I saw a few US plates in Guatemala, 1 in El Salvador, 1 in Costa Rica, and none in Nicaragua, Honduras, or Panama. I think I get stopped more out of curiosity than anything.
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#35682 - 02/24/08 02:47 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Well, I am in Granada, Nicaragua now. 10 border crossings down and 6 to go. The two northbound crossings i´ve done have so far been easier than the way down, but mostly because they were the same ones I took then so I know which unmarked building to go in to.

Weirdly, I ran into some friends of mine from Utah at a bar last night. The chances of that happening can´t be good.
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#35710 - 02/26/08 08:54 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
crackers Offline
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Posts: 3424
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 Originally Posted By: andrew

Weirdly, I ran into some friends of mine from Utah at a bar last night. The chances of that happening can´t be good.


Continued good luck to both of you!

Now, the spray: Do you mean the chances of Utahns being found in the bar when they're out of Zion? Or the chances of you having friends?



Looks like a great trip...thanks for posting the eye candy.

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#35713 - 02/26/08 10:35 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: crackers]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
haha. it was actually a mixed group of mormons and gentiles. some were not impressed with my lecture about how good nicaraguan rum is.

disaster has struck again at home, so we are beelining now unfortunately. a month or so ago a huge ice roofalanche came down and broke my gas meter, filling my house with gas and necessitating a major operation from the gas company and fire department. last night there was another one that bent my chimney at a 45 degree angle so there is a small waterfall coming into my house.

i am pretty fucked now because there is no way in hell i can afford this after this trip and my wife quitting her job. the timing is awful.

i am in gracias, honduras right now(more easy border crossings to get here) so i am looking at maybe 11 days to hammer it for home.
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#35715 - 02/27/08 02:11 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
tokyo bill Offline
old hand

Registered: 08/24/00
Posts: 793
Loc: Tokyo
Damn, that's bad news on the house catastrophes. Keep us posted on things. For now, though, concentrate on keeping the rig sunnyside up on the way home.

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#35716 - 02/27/08 02:52 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: tokyo bill]
chip Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/06/01
Posts: 2676
Loc: Sittin' Pretty in Fat City
So sorry to hear. I'm sure it is hard to keep from warp speeding your way home. Appreciate the vicarious trip south. Thanks for taking us along.

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#35725 - 02/27/08 08:50 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
crackers Offline
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Registered: 03/21/01
Posts: 3424
Loc: pdx
 Originally Posted By: andrew
disaster has struck again at home, so we are beelining now unfortunately. a month or so ago a huge ice roofalanche came down and broke my gas meter, filling my house with gas and necessitating a major operation from the gas company and fire department. last night there was another one that bent my chimney at a 45 degree angle so there is a small waterfall coming into my house.


Oh Man! Your old house that I stayed at or the new one? Man! I'm sorry to hear that. Good luck trying to get it sorted by remote control and safe travels north. I hope Peter or somebody is around who can take care of it till you're there.

I almost feel guilty for the spray now...

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#35727 - 02/28/08 02:32 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: crackers]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
hey graham,

the problem is at the new house - peter owns the old one you stayed in. eddie has crashed at the new one so he can fill you in on what it is like. its a bummer.

i am in rio dulce guatemala right now. got up really early this morning and went to the mayan ruins at copan, which were really spectacular from a sculpture perspective. getting up really early again tomorrow and going to tikal ruins and then into belize tomorrow. its a bummer to rush this gorgeous country, but no choice!

on a good note, 11 border crossings down and only 3 to go, all of which should all be easy. guatemalan border officials are awesome - no doubt this country is easier and more pleasant to drive in and out of then any other country in north america.
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#35768 - 03/03/08 12:47 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO


Tikal is really cool. I also went to Copan and Palenque, but Tikal was by far the most impressive.

This next photo is for oenephore. I think the Honduras border guards are almost always having lunch, so this is the drill while I wait at the customs shack.



I'm in Veracruz Mexico now, which feels like I am almost home. One more border crossing to go. So far its only cost me about $80 to get back here from Panama.
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#35773 - 03/03/08 11:25 AM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
oenophore Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/24/01
Posts: 5969
Loc: 212 land
My information about difficult Central American border crossings came from a book I read a couple of decades ago by a couple of guys who had an ambition to travel between the motorable antipodes of the Western Hemisphere in an SUV; from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's Arctic coast in two weeks or less. They just barely made it, no thanks to Central American border personnel.
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#35775 - 03/03/08 12:36 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: oenophore]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Yeah, I am familiar with that book. This trip would have been a lot harder even 10 years ago, and nearly impossible 20 years ago. Honduras especially used to be really hard to drive in and out of because they were trying to keep out the civil wars going on in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

Now that stuff is long over. The only place where security seemed a bit touchy was Guatemala - there is definitely tension there between the Maya and the latinos. Its the only place I felt uncomfortable hiking in the boonies without a local guide.
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#35877 - 03/07/08 11:30 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
Well, I'm back. Its a shock to be here in the cold and the huge amount of snow. Don't like it much and its tempting to sell everything and head back south Eddie style.
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#36032 - 03/19/08 12:59 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: andrew]
empicard Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/29/01
Posts: 2955
Loc: LI, NY
How's the house?
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#36069 - 03/24/08 10:53 PM Re: Central America trip blog [Re: empicard]
andrew Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/15/99
Posts: 1816
Loc: Denver, CO
The house is OK. Chimney repair was finished this afternoon, so I can finally have a fire again. I've been absolutely freezing since I got home - not easy to transition to 6' of snow in the yard after hanging on the beach in the 90s.
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