Dec 6, 2006
Sorry about the delay in getting the last couple of entries in the journal. Montezumaís revenge got hold of me the last few days of our trip and when we returned to Vail, getting ready for Christmas consumed us for a few days. Anyhow, we were up early again on the 6th and headed out of San Jose .As we headed out had to climb up several thousand feet thru the rain and fog. The truck and bus traffic was pretty bad and made for slow going. When we made it to the other side of the mountains the weather cleared and we dropped down to much more level ground as we headed toward Panama. The scenery was beautiful and again it is a real shame that we didnít have more time scheduled to explore this country. The border crossing was relatively painless. After crossing the border we made a u-turn and traveled about sixty miles of rough road that went right along the border of Costa Rica... We traveled thru some pretty mountain villages and at one point were stopped by an Army corporal in full combat gear. We showed him our papers, but Iím not sure he knew what to make of us. He finally smiled and let us proceed. We stayed a beautiful mountain resort, Bambito, that night and were happy and sad that our trip was coming to an end.
Dec. 5, 2006
Today was almost a waste. We took off early again and headed for San Jose, Costa Rica. We had to make a border crossing from Nicaragua, which turned into a horror show. But, before that we had a great view of to volcanoes on the other side of Lake Nicaragua. At the border we discovered that the vehicle permit they had issued us when entering had a wrong # for the number plate. So we had to run around and find a policeman to approve our exit. Then entering Costa Rica was Faustian. I wonít bore you with the details. It ended up taking over 2 hours. Anyhow we took off from there with 6 options of sites to see, but only time to see one. We decided to visit the hot springs at the base of the Arenal Volcano, where we sat under a 5í high water fall with 40 degree cent water spilling over us. After a good soak, we had a wonderful lunch. UN fortunately it was raining and cloudy so we could not see the volcano. Its first eruption since about 1500 AD was in 1968 killing about 100 people. People have died as recently as 2001 when 2 people succumbed to gases emitted when they were up by the rim. Some people we talked to said they got see lava flows near the top the night before. There we a lot of signs saying that we should be careful because it could erupt and send rocks and lava down the mountain at any time. We did a back road gravel run being followed by Ahmad then Eric. We drove like a bat out of hell for several miles. Someone said we looked like some thing out of the movieĒ The Italian JobĒ. It was great fun although I broke 3 welds on our roof rack and had to bungee it together at our next short stop, A German bakery. WE left and headed to San Jose along some mountain roads. We hit San Jose after dark and it took an hour and a half to get thru traffic a few miles to our hotel, a fair Holiday Inn. It is really unfortunate that we are not spending more time in each of these last few countries. We are rushing thru without enough time to see much. To spend all the time to come into San Jose to stay at a fair hotel then up at 5 in the morning is a total waste. We are driving through all these countries without even hitting the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. We were told that San Jose is an attractive city, but in the dark of evening and early morning we couldnít tell.
Dec. 4, 2006
We got another early start and headed down the road to the border with Nicaragua, where it took about 2 hours to get through. We stopped at the beautiful city of Leon and had lunch in a cafť across from the cathedral which is the largest in Central America. Although this is purported to be the poorest country in Central America, we saw more tractors along the road than anywhere else we drove on through Managua and on to Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. Supposedly Nicaragua has the least crime of all the countries her, But Managua the capitol has a lot. Our hotel in Granada was on the town square and when we arrived the only electric was coming from generators. We ate at a French restaurant across the square that had a powerful generator and was fully light. The food was great. After dinner. The church bell started clanging non stop. They were celebrating the arrival of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. They had a parade with a float of same, with a small band and a lot of marchers, All the while fireworks were goi9ng off, the bells were ringing and sirens were sounded. The fire works went on all night on and off. Sleep was scarce. We hired a guard to watch th3e trucks as they were parked in front of the hotel next to the park. Prior to arriving in Granada we visited the Masaya Volcano. There was steam coming from the crater as we viewed it. They made us park facing out so if there was an eruption we could get out fast. Driving through Nicaragua is almost one continuous police check. Several got stopped and extorted for bogus charges. Some talked their way out and some paid upto 50 dollar fines with no receipt.
Dec, 3, 2006
We did quite a bit of mountain gravel roads today. Our first road had been washed out by recent rains, so we had to bypass it. Along the way we passed one area where there were fireworks vendors set up for a few miles, one after the other. We headed up into the mountains along a road that HERO had advised us was very rough and had encouraged us to bypass. It turned out to be a lot milder than some of the roads we had been on earlier in Mexico. After several miles we hit asphalt for awhile then back to gravel around Lagos de Yojoa, a beautiful lake with a lot of resorts. All along the road there were vendors selling fresh fish from the lake. Leejun had Montezumaís revenge today and really felt sick most of the day. Luckily the last 100 miles was a straight run so she could sleep and didnít have to navigate. We ended the day arriving at our hotel, an Intercontinental, in Tegucigalpa the capital of Honduras. Right across the street was a mall with a TGI Fridays and several Dunkin Donuts, Also a TCBY Yogurt, where we had some.
I was talking with a guy from new Orleans in the hotel last night . He and his wife and 5 sons had just moved to Antigua. They are adopting 2 Guatemalan girls, 3 and 5. They have to stay here until April to complete the adoption. He is a contractor in New Orleans and will go back and forth. Their 5 sons are natural. With the addition of the new daughters they will have 7 kids under 9. More power to them. The road book said we only had 12 k or gravel today, so most people had a slow start this morning. When they gave us the amendments just before we left, we discovered that we had 120 k of gravel. So what we expected didnít turn out. We had a border crossing into Honduras, so we went like hell to make that and still get to the Coban ruins before they closed. Only one other team made it in time to see the ruins. The border crossing took about 45 minutes. They are in no hurry. The border closed at 6 and we thought some wouldnít make It., but everyone did. They were some upset people because HERO wasnít more forthcoming with the amendments. For some reason they like to hold on to them til the last minute. I would prefer receiving them the night before so we have a chance to digest them. The drive was beautiful through a lot of small mountain towns and great vistas. Wildflowers everywhere. I guess the bloom year around down here. The Coban Ruinas are the last Mayan ruins we will see. The were somewhat different in that they seemed squatter and wider. They are being restored and the is still a lot a growth around some of the structures. It was worth the stop, thought we thought we had seen enough. All through the mountains, people were harvesting broccoli. They were growing it everywhere including the hillsides. WE will loss our police escort that accompanied us throughout Guatemala today, to guys in a pick up truck with a side arm and the other with a machine pistol... We also the left overs from a huge mudslide today. We were told that there we still 1000 people buried there.
Dec 1, 2006
We got a lazy start this morning, 7:00, because we were only driving about 110 miles, but what a drive it was. Possibly the best so far. We were able to see the volcanos this morning across the lake. What a view! Our drive for the 1st 50 or so miles took around the lake and up the sides of the volcanoes and back down to the lake front on several occasions. It took us through many back country villages, where most of the people were dressed in traditional dress, bright woven materials in all colors. In one village the woman wore many different patterns based on the color purple. Johnstown colors. We waved at the people and they were very friendly and waved back. That has not always been the case. There is actually a belief by some of the back country Mayans that Caucasian woman are there to kidnap their children. A few years ago a white guy and his guide were killed by a mob when they were taking pictures of some kids. The roads were curvy and fun to drive alternating between gravel and asphalt. Most of the small villages were having market day today and we had to negotiate our way thru them. We were rewarded with great views of the volcanoes and the lake. This is the area where many people were killed and whole villages wiped out last year in mudslides. You can see why. The slopes are very steep and consist of dirt adhering to volcanic rock. It probably doesnít take a lot of water to get it moving. We next headed up the slopes of Volcan Acatenango, where we drove through some coffee plantations. We arrived at the city of Antiqua about 1 pm. It was the capital of Guatemala until 1976 when it was just about destroyed by an earthquake. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a lot of colonial architecture... Our hotel is the Casa Santa Domingo, which has been beautifully constructed in an old monastery. Leejun did some shopping and I took it easy as Iím running a slight fever. Many of the teams drove directly to the new hotel, about 50 miles, and missed all the great scenery.
Nov. 30, 2006
Today was supposed to be a day to visit some local markets along the route, but we had over two hours of roadworks delays that aborted any attempt to spend any time in the markets. We left about 6 am, with a lot of mist hanging over the jungle, and about 50 miles into the trip we had to cross a river on a small ferry. We crossed with one other 4x4 and an 18 wheel tanker truck. The ferry was powered by an outboard motor. To get the ferry moving they rolled the tanker forward a few feet and slammed on the brakes causing inertia to break us free of the shore. Itís kind of surprising to one minute be hurtling down a paved road and the next be on a dirt track waiting to cross a river on a rudimentary ferry boat. We arrived at Coban, a town with German influence. Leejun and I made the mistake of walking around for awhile, not knowing what lay in wait up ahead. We headed for the town of Chichicastenango where we hoped to spend some time at the market. We soon came to a road block and were told we had to wait an hour before they would let us thru. With the help of her trusty English- Spanish dictionary, Leejun sweet talked the gate keeper into letting us through. Unfortunately down the road we were blocked by a digger that was clearing away some rubble from a small landslide. He wouldnít move, so we waited for 45 minutes for him to decide it was ok for us to pass. Just past him the road was very narrow and several trucks were lined up coming the other way. It took awhile to work our way past them. They should have let them thru 1st and saved alot of time. Down the road we were stopped again for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The gate keeper had a board with nails in the road to prevent anyone from running his gate. When they finally decided to open the road we had to Wit for the traffic from the other direction 1st, then were led thru by a guy on a motorbike at about 8 miles an hour. The payoff for the day was the scenery was great. Along the roads all day long people of all ages were walking to and from work in the fields with their machetes. We finally arrived at the hotel which is nestled in a volcanic crater on the shore of Lake Atitlan. Across the lake are 3 extinct volcanoes, but because it was already dark and misty we couldnít see them. The hotel was beautiful and dinner was good.
6 am start this morning. We headed out to Gales point along a gravel road. Some took a boat ride.
out to see the manatees. We didnít feel that was necessary, having seen plenty in Florida. We headed up Hummingbird Highway which is a beautiful drive through lush greenery great views. We stopped and waited a half an hour for some one to pen up Blue Hole National park, but no one showed so we moved on. All morning we passed through a lot of orange groves and spotted truck loads of oranges on the way to a local juice factory. We hit the Guatemala border about 9:30 and were thru by a little after 10. The only hold up was that there were two clerks in Guatemala customs, a woman and a man. The woman was too busy for awhile painting her nails to help anyone. With the help of a local money changer we were expedited thru. We then headed into Guatemala. The 1st 20 k of roads was very rough, then they got better. We saw some motor cycle cops and were stopped at a military check point. There is armed military all over the place here. We drove to Tikal were we hiked about 20 minutes to visit more ruins. I have to admit Iím about ruined for ruins. They were quite impressive, however, with a lot of jungle around. We saw some wildlife including some peten turkeys, that look a little like peacocks and some kind of ring tailed animal that was all around the ruins savaging. Driving here we saw a couple of ďsnakeĒ crossing signs, which was a first for us. I tried to get Leejun to take a picture of one, but she felt that that constituted inviting them in, so we passed. We caught a quick lunch then headed back the way we came stopping at a gift shop where we purchased some local crafts. These were the best we have seen so far. We then drove around Lake Peten Itza passing thru a number of small towns, reaching our hotel about 4. In Belize and Guatemala we noticed a lot of signs pointing out projects sponsored by the Taiwan Chinese, mainly agricultural, but some technical. I think both countries still recognize Taiwan as the real China diplomatically rather than Mainland China. Security is certainly an issue here. Even the gateman at the entrance to our hotel had a pistol tucked in his waistband. We also saw a lot of 3 wheeled taxis like China had 20 years ago. Our hotel is lovely and situated next to the lake. We could hear the crocodiles. We were told that they have eaten a couple of the hotel dogs.
Nov. 28, 2006
Today we actually slept in until 8:45. Then had a nice easy breakfast. I went to downtown Belize City to find a bookstore, which turned out to be a place with some used books and new magazines stuck up over a small grocery store. I was lucky to find it. Did a little maintenance on the truck and got some gas, about 10 dollars a gallon here. Then vegged out by the pool for awhile. Some went skin diving and scuba diving out on the reef, but we couldnít get motivated, so we had a lobster salad lunch on the waterfront with Bob and Thelma and then visited the duty free shops. For awhile. Belize is a country of about 300, 000 people. We were told that there are 50,000 Chinese here. One guy told me that the next P M might be Chinese. I bought a couple of loc al papers and discovered that there is a fair amount of crime here. 2 murders on the front page. The press doesnít take any prisoners when it comes to the politicians either. There was one funny article about a man arrested for peeing off a bridge. This evening we went across the street to a good restaurant. In the bar of the hotel I met some members of the U S Army that are here for some kind of Caribbean security conference. Well, of at 6 am tomorrow, so to bed,
Nov. 27, 2006
Today was a fun day beginning with a run for the border between Mexico and Belize. The crossing was uneventful, other than the problem of dealing with burocracy. At the border a young man directed me to a black market currency trader telling me that I would get the best deal trading my pesos for Belize dollars. It turned out it was a real screw job. I was lucky that I was awake enough to realize it and not do the deal. After entering Belize we drove to a boat landing where we were to get a boat ride to the Lamanai ruins site. We were scheduled to go at 1 and return at 5, but 12 of us were there by 11 and the guy took us then so we didnít have to drive to Belize City in the dark. The boat ride took about 1 hour out to the site thru swamps and wet lands where we saw crocodiles and lots of birds. We passed a Mennonite community along the way. One of the other teams drove to the site and said they passed a lot of horse and buggies on the way. After arriving at the site we were told that there are over 700 hundred temples in the area of all sizes. We visited a few and climbed the largest. We could see for miles over the rain forest. Leaving there we went up river a little way where we stopped at an outpost and the guys loaded up on beer and soda for the trip back. The fiber glass boats we rode in are built in Belize and donít require windshields. They did have some of our competitorís fenders, however. We were in Belize City by about 4 pm. Belize is a former British colony and more like the Caribbean than the rest of Central America. Everyone speaks English and seem to get along with one another. The hotel is right on the waterfront and although a little run down it is quaint and enjoyable. The food is great and the help really friendly and helpful. It is nice to be in an English speaking area after two and one half weeks in Mexico. Tomorrow is a rest day then we move on to Guatemala.
We have several days journals and pictures , but for several days we ahve not been able to get on with the lap top.
We stared the day with a walk around Chichen Itza. Some really great ruins. By the way we are having trouble getting pictures on. Leejun has been able to get few more on. Hopefully more to come. We left there and headed of to The Barcelo Maya Hotel on the Mayan Riviera. Along the way we stopped and climbed down into a couple of Cenotes. These are sink holes full of water that were formed when the roofs collapsed and the sun was able to shine into the pools. Some vegetation grows and the sun shows the colors of the minerals in the water. Some Cenotes are connected to extensive cave systems and people scuba dive in to the caverns to explore them. We stopped for a short walk around Coba, which is a ruins site pretty much surrounded by rain forest.. We got to the hotel in the early afternoon. It was huge and all inclusive. It felt like being on a cruise ship. At one point I couldnít find Leejun and was afraid she might have fallen overboard. As I looked out across the Gulf of Mexico I was pretty sure I could see Dennis walking the beach in Naples.
Our first stop this morning was the city of Becal that is famous for its Panama hat weaving; we visited two small factories and ended up buying a finely woven Panama hat for me and a bonnet and matching purse for Leejun. I bought an eight day hat, which is the best they make. You can buy hats anywhere from a two day to eight day. The length of time reflects the fineness of the weave; we are now on the Yucatan peninsula, the heartland of the Mayan civilization. Our first stop was Uxmal, one of the largest ruins in the area; we stopped at several smaller sites along the way. Next we stopped at Grutas de Loitun which is a cave system inhabited by humans as far back as 2500 years. The most recent were Mayans. There is evidence consisting of old fire spots and cave drawings. We were told that the Yucatan is full of caves and sinkholes. Hugh is planning on scuba diving in one of them. Next we traveled the Ruta de los Conventos which took us thru several small towns with old Franciscan monasteries. We ended the day Chichen Itza, a world heritage site. We saw a light show at the site before dinner and will see the ruins in the morning. Iím sure I saw a sign for a restaurant in the small town here called Chicken Eaten. We are staying at the Mayaland Hotel and had one of the finest dinners of the trip.
This morning we left the Chan-Kah hotel about 7:30 so we could be at the Palenque ruins at opening, we spent about an hour walking around the old Mayan ruins. They built between 700 and 1000 AD. They are stunning. We left and hit the road, traveling thru the nature reserve Biosfera Pantanos de Centla. This consisted of many miles of wet lands with all kinds of birds. We could see 100s of egrets at a time. The wetlands were punctuated with small farms with some crops growing and a lot of cattle grazing. At one point we had to work our way through a herd of cows on the road. Two cowboys on horseback helped us negotiate our way through the herd. At one point after crossing a bridge we came upon about 10 police men who stopped us. One held out his hand and said ďdollarĒ and another said coca cola, while a third wrote down our plate number. WE kept saying ďno comprendezĒ and ďno hablea EspanolaĒ. They finally all started laughing and waved us on. We also saw a few iguanas cross the road in front of us. They may have served us that last night instead of turkey. We were searched at a wildlife check point as we left the wildlife preserve. We crossed a couple of bridges over a mile in length after we hit the costal plain along the Gulf of Mexico. One was built in the 1920s and the other in the 1990s. Not a lot of difference between the two. We saw some fishermen on the bridges. Leejun was upset when we saw one beating the fish against the bridge to kill it. A lot of us stopped at a sea food restaurant for lunch and had fresh fish and shrimp. It was a great meal. We traveled for over 100 miles along the sea coast which is largely undeveloped. A few beach clubs and restaurants, and a few houses, but miles and miles of unused beaches. We were stopped in traffic as we waited in line at a couple of toll booths. We discovered at the second one that they just stop taking tolls when they change toll takers and count the money, which takes awhile. We ended the day in Campeche staying at a seaside hotel.
Today is my favorite day so far. We didnít have to get up 5 oíclock in the morning and we had late start today, Jingers and Al checked our car brakes as it makes annoying squealing sound. After the car is being checked, we visited lovely San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, where we stayed overnight. The town is simply beautiful, a colorful, vibrant and possessing some of the most interesting examples of colonial architecture. Locals are wearing traditional outfits and many Indian women are aggressively selling arts and crafts to tourists like us.
Jim wanted to find a local made crocodile cowboy boots which we spent a couple of hours walking the town and he found a big knife (what do you call it?) instead. We left San Cristobal around 10am and headed over to dense vegetation and humid jungle of Central America.
We drove east along fast and twisty asphalt main road through the hills of Chiapas region. We came across a family who set up road blocks with a rope and stop people asking for money. The man waved a small basket and money indicates that we had to pay, when I looked over, the Virgin Mary picture and his family is over the other side of the rope. Couldnít figure out why he is asking money and set up Virgin Mary photo on the side. We have noticed there are many corn fields on the side of the mountains, and many dogs on the road.
The first stop is Cascadas de Aguz Azul waterfall, and the largest and best of the trip so far. We walked all the way up to the top and crossed a couple of bridges and enjoyed the beautiful falls. There was a small pool and some of the visitors are cooling themselves of in the water. There are many vendors along the side of the steep street, they are selling Maya drawings printed on leather, local cotton dresses, colorful embroidered purses and many more.
We visited another waterfall, Misol-Ha, a very impressive and powerful. We took the path behind the falls, and it was a very unique experience, you can swim there too.
Today is Thanksgiving holiday in U.S. Trying to find traditional turkey dinner in Mexico can be interesting. We arrived at Chan-Kah Resort hotel which is in the middle of jungle; they served us some strange meat with the consistence of wild turkey, the meal was awful. Jim was asked to give a speech about Thanksgiving; he did a very good job articulating it. A woman from another tour group walked over and gave Jim a paper folded turkey, and she signed the turkey, weíll need to remember to bring the turkey with us for our next Thanksgiving when weíre on the road, so that the turkey can be passed to others.
P.S.: Jim typed up journal for today but he lost it somehow, this is my version of our day.
Nov. 22, 2006
We were up early again for a fairly long day. Leaving about 6 am, we headed on a good road down the coast for about 150 miles or so. We headed inland on an expressway up into the mountains. The wind was unbelievable blowing us all over the road. In the early afternoon we left the lowlands rising about 8000í on a road that had few curves and was like ramp going up the side of the mountain. The air got significantly cooler and we had to dig out our sweatshirts that we thought we were through with for the trip.
The highlight of the day was a boat ride up a gorge on a lake that had been created by a hydro-electric dam project. The walls rose unto 3000í
. We saw number of crocodiles and a lot of different kinds of birds. Some of the rock formations were really unique. WE will have some pictures on the website. In one place where water had dripped down for thousands of years what looke3d like rock fans were created then covered with vegetation. It looked like a 1000í Christmas tree. We stayed in a charming old hotel right in down town San Christobal de las Casas. The hotel is nice, but we froze as there was little or no heat. We are going to visit the shops this morning before we had to the rain forest for our stop over tonight. We are expecting a Thanksgiving dinner when we arrive. Everyone have a nice Thanksgiving
Note: please find pictures for funny horse we saw today. The other picture is coconut milk cows.
If participants didnít know what a Tope is. They know after today. They come in several colors and sometimes stripes, sometimes they are camouflaged. We ran over several hundred today, but you canít kill them. They can do a job on you and your truck, however.
We left Acapulco about 7 am and headed down a nice highway along the coast. At the beginning there were several hotels and condo projects, but they gave way to many miles of undeveloped beach ocean front. As we headed inland the foliage became lush green punctuated by beautiful wild flowers of all colors. A times it felt like we were driving along with a green wall on each side of us. We traveled along the coastal plain with mountains to the east of us. When we entered the State of Oaxaca we encountered some areas of rolling hills and ranch land. Many times during the day we crossed small rivers headed to the sea. The banks were loaded with coconut palms and some had small villages we called Tommy Bahama villages. We also saw a number of honey bee hives. Although we didnít see any orchards, we assume that there we some around. We drove to the little village of Chacahua. There we took a boat ride into the Chacahua National Park for an hour and spotted all kinds of bird life, including pelicans, egrets, hawks, vultures, cranes and a lot of others that we didnít know the names. Although we didnít see any, our guide told us that there were crocodiles around, as well, but he said they donít eat people, only fish. Riiiiight!.
We had a great lunch of fresh fish and mussels with fresh cut French fries. As we headed back to the main road we noticed many coconuts that had fallen on to the road and were happy one didnít fall on our windshield. We did learn how they get coconut milk here. I bet you thought coconut milk comes from coconuts. Wrong! Here they graze their milk cows under the coconut palms and when they get hit on the head with a coconut: Poof coconut milk, True! As we traveled the road back to the main road a funny looking horse galloped right in front of our truck. Leejun was able to get a picture of it, which is attached. Along the road we also passed a lot of irrigated farm land. As we headed nearer to our over night stay in Huatulco we noticed very rugged mountains to our east and figured thatís where we will be headed tomorrow. As we came into town we passed a car that was surrounded by armed police. Leejun said that the driver had a hand gun. We got by there pretty quickly. You may remember that we detoured around the City of Oaxaca because of the civil unrest there, but we are in Oaxaca State right now. We had a great day! We are headed right now to have an Oriental Barbeque on the beach at our over night stay Camino Real Zaashila Hotel.
Leejun was able to get a bunch more pictures on today. Cole there is a picture for you on here. Which one is it? I forgot to mention that when were travelling thru wild flower country we saw wild poinsettas as well, growning as big as trees. We also saw greenhouses where they were growing thousands to sell.We passed a Christmas tree farm as well. They were already harvesting and bundling them to ship for Christmas.
Yesterday 6 of us hired a van and a guide to take us to the sun and moon San Jaun Teotihuacan Piramides. They were built over a one hundred year period around 100 B C. Each level was built by a succeeding generation. It is quite a site. The only draw back was that were continuely assaulted by people selling all kinds of souveniers. We then drove back into town and visited the Basillica. there have been 5 Papal visites to Mexico. Three times to this place. The 1985 earth quake which registered 8.5 did alot of damage here. One building is leaning forward at a steep angle. In fact a hugh crack developed in the building so they completely sawed it a part and created 2 buildings out of it. There were 15,000 people killed in the quake. In fact the site where our hotel is had a hotel that collapsed killing most of the inhabitants .We passed a demonstration where all the protesters were nude marching around one of the major monuments in the downtown. They were protesting the governor of one of the states taking over their land a while back. All were Indians and according to our guide, they are paid to protest. Mexico City is a very dangerous city to walk around in. Our guide,Roberto, said that the criminals pay off the police and the police pay off the politicians. He said all are corrupt from top to bottom. I asked him if the business community can't get together thru their Chamber of Commerce to do something. He said the politicians give them lip service, but don't do anything. He has to make pay offs to stay in business as does every business.
Mexico City is the largest City in the world at 22 million people. Tomorrow we head for Acapulco for a night and see the famous cliff divers. We were supposed to go to Oaxaca, but because of the civil unrest and the killing we are taking a detour around the area and going to Acapulco instead. It is too bad as we are told we will miss a beautiful part of Mexico.
We are adding a link to the website done by one of the Dutch guys. it is in Dutch, but has some great pictures. http://aventurapanamericana.blogspot.com. I think you will like it. It should be added in a couple of days.
Off at the crack of dawn again today, actually an hour before sunrise. We had a good day yesterday and it was nice that Fred, Kenny, Deanne, and Ernie flew down to meet up with us. We drove almost 400 miles today. Mostly on windy mountain roads, but at least paved. We drove thru the most beautiful wild flowers for a while; all colors of the rain bow. Magnificent.We passed thru a number of small mountain towns. Although we had been told the Monarks weren't here yet, We learned that some had come in during the last couple of days. It is amazing that these guys fly from all over N. America to winter down here. We met the Howells and the De Hullus at one of the sites and planned to ride horses into see the butterflies. They told us they had 7 horses for us , but after waiting around for awhile, when push came to shove , they only had 5. So Leejun and I pushed on to the volcano. The others said they saw some of the rascals, but because it was so cold, they weren't very active. We followed the Wignalls up the volcano drive and a trip that we were told would take 2 hrs turned into just over an hour. Jane is a famous rally driver aand set a good pace. The volcano is 13,650 high,our highest point on the rally, with two lakes in the crater. The views were wonderful. The last volcano we had been to was White Island in New Zealand, where we helicoptered to it,and the volcano was still semi active.
Early in the day we stopped and walked a short side trip to a beautifulwaterfall, the Salto de Chihuahua.. WE also past thru a mountain resort area that had villas on the lake shore and on the surrounding mountain sides that would remind you of the Alps.
After the volcano we made the trip into Mexico City. The traffic was awful aand we crawled the last few miles in just about an hour aand a half. We are staying in the Historic district for 2 days and will have a look around.
Yesterday we walked around Zacatecas and visited the beautiful Cathedral in the center of the city. We left about 10:30 for our drive to Guanajuato where we a having a rest day. We have driven about 2000 miles so far. We are still having computer problems so we havenít been able to put any more pictures on. Hopefully when we reach Mexico City tomorrow, where we have a 2 day layover, we will get some pictures on. We stopped for lunch in a small town on the way, and it was very good. I had some kind of shrimp and Leejun had calamari. The little roadside restaurants in the cities are really great. Six for lunch came to about 40 dollars. WE climbed a mountain with a church on top and a huge statue of Christ on top. The road up was several miles of cobblestone. Leejun actually jarred a filling loose. The view was 360 degrees and spectacular. During our drive we past a huge, I think it was almost a mile long, Nissan Plant and later on a GM Plant. Both had several hundred cars sitting outside.When we arrived Kenny and Fred and Deanne and Ernie were just pulling in. WE had dinner in the hotel and caught up with them. We went into town today and walked around then went up the mountain overlooking the town and had a nice lunch. We are taking it easy this afternoon and all going by bus to dinner.
Tomorrow we have a long drive to Mexico City. We supposed to visit the Monarch Butterfly habitat tomorrow , but they are late migrating this year and have not shown up.
Well, Thanks to Jingers and Aldrich our car is running fine today. They changed the fuel filter and wired up the exhaust pipe. We made a 450 mile run today and had no problems. The drive was almost all on Tarmac and pretty straight thru prairie and rolling hills.One thing I keep forgetting to mention is the lack of shoulders on the roads in Mexico. There are no shoulders and 1 to 6 foot drops on each side of the road, so there is no margin for error. They just drop off at the edge of the white line on each side. After running almost 250 miles we turned off just north of Durango into a western town that was built here to shoot Hollywood movies. Many famous stars including John Wayne, James Garner , William Holden, and Dean Martin came here to shoot movies. We were told that we would be able to have lunch at the saloon, but unfortunately it was closed. So we did the next best thing : stopped at a McDonalds in Durango. Itīs funny, I very rarely eat a McDonalds meal in the USA, but when I get out off the country and I see one, I just have to give it a try. Durango is a modern city of several hundred thousand, with a Samīs Club and a Walmart. We travelled on thru Durango, then a few miles down the road made a detour to a site where John Wayne made several movies. Iīm sure that when Leejun is able to get some pictures on you will recognize the basalt columns from some of the old cowboy movies. Not only did we see John Wayne ride by on his horse, Iīm sure I saw Elvis on the way out. We then continued our drive to Zacatecas where our hotel is made out of an old bull ring. With our group here, I think that this is probably the most bull this place has ever seen. After we had a chance to clean up we were met out front by a band and given these little cups that they pour shots of Tequila in. There were several people supplying different kinds of Tequila and limes and salt. One guy even had a bottle of lemon sprite so Leejun and I could partake. They band then led us for an hour and one half march thru the narrow streets of the town. We caused quite a rukus with people dancing and kids following us and kids waving from the windows of their apartments. We held up trafffic as we marched. We were led by a decorated up donkey. It was quite alot of fun. We then returned to the hotel for a Mexican dinner. Zacatecas is a World Heritage Site and we have a short drive of only 225 miles, so this will allow us to have a look around in the daylight tomorrow.
I think That Kenny and Deanne and Fred and Ernie are flying down in Kennyīs plane tomorrow for a visit for a couple of days. Our next town is a 2 day stop.
This morning we were up early and made our dash for gas. We just made it. I think all we had left was fumes. The high light of the day was a 40 mile each way side trip that tooki just over 4 hours. We drove a road down one side of a several 1000 foot deep canyon, crossed the river, then drove anothe r10 miles to Batopilas an old silver mining town. It was the second city in Mexico after Mexico City, because it had such a properous mine. It was a neat little town perched on the river bank. Leejun will put some pictures on. After we climbed out of the valley we still had a 200 mile drive to Parral, where our Howard Johnson's Hotel is. My truck started losing power about 100 miles from the hotel. Shortly after getting some gas, so I'm hoping all it is some bad fuel. Waiting for Jingers to get here so we can sort it out, My new tail pipe that I just had put on it Vail is falling off as well. Some much for Vail workmanship.. We have a 500 mile drive tomorrow, mostly on Tarmac. I hope we get the truck problems sorted early, so the day isn't any longer than it has to be.
We have had 2 long , but fantastic couple of days. No e-mail access last night. By the way, the ferry did take almost 10 hours. WE were stopped by a local policeman for speeding on the way to the hotel. Acouple of the other guys were following me at the same speed, but he passed them and stopped me. We had a communication problem. He kept teeling me he was going to give me a ticket and/or take me to the station. I kept pleading with him that I was a tourist and asked him to let me off. I finally gave him my New York Licsence. After studying it for awhile he motioned us to be on our way. I don't know why he let us go.
Yetserday we were up early and of on a drive up to the Copper Canyon. Sane people take the train, but we drove. WE drove over 200 k thru fanatastic scenery, but the going was rough. Leejun will put some pictures on, but they will not do it justice. We drove up and down the sides of wonderful canyons. We took a picture across one canyon of a hugh rock formation,
little knowing that 45 minutes later we would be driving along another ridge almost close enough nto reach out and touch it. We went thru several small villages and homesteads. The 1st part of the drive actually had a pretty good gravel road as it led to an active gold mine. WE were hoping to get gas about 30 miles before we arrived at our hotel, but it was closed on Sunday. We and others almost ran out of gas. Ahmad and us had to borrow a couplre of gallons each from Kurt to make it to a gas station the next morning. Our room at the hotel Was right on the edge of a clif looking out over the beauitiful Copper Canyon. We were able to watch the canyon during the sunset. You don't want to be a sleep walker here. If you stepped off the balcony you'd sail down several thousand feet.
We rose early again today and started up the east coast of Baja on a gravel road along the shore line. The scenery was outstanding. We passed thru several small towns and isolated homes on the beach. There didnít appear to be any electricity out here so I assume that most places had generators or no electric. There were many beautiful beaches. Eventually, after about 70 miles we reached tarmac and breezed another 80 miles to La Paz on to the ferry terminal. As we were early we backtracked a couple of miles and hooked up with some of the other groups at a beach bar. As we were walking away from our car we heard a noise and looked around as an 18 wheel tanker truck went off the road thru the barrier and flopped on its side. The embankment was at least 20í high, the driver was lucky he didnít roll it over completely. It was a straight stretch of road so we think the driver must have fallen asleep. We were all somewhat cautious as we approached the truck as we werenít sure what was in the tank. To our relief the driver climbed out the window and appeared O K. He said that the tank was empty but had contained diesel fuel, so there was no danger of it blowing its stack. The Howells (Bob and Thelma) was right behind him so we are sure they forced him off the road. We sat around the beach bar for an hour or so until it was time to go to the ferry. We left and arrived at the ferry in short order and waited another half hour or so until they boarded us. We were served a lousy meal, but were then given a tour of the bridge. The Captain was a nice guy and answered all our questions. The boat was built in 2001 in Italy and initially went between Ireland and the U K. It cruises at 20 knots. The crossing is about 100 miles and the Captain says it takes about 5 hours, but everyone else says it takes 7 hours, so we will see. We were able to rent a small cabin with a couple of beds and a head and shower, but so far have spent most of the time in the lounge area with others from our group. We have about a half hour drive to the hotel after we land, then to bed as we have an early start and a long day tomorrow.
I just finished meditation in the cabin and came to look for Jim. He is sitting in the restaurant typing up the journal while some others are playing game and reading. It was rather scary to watch a big 18 wheeler drive off the road and land side ways in front of our eyes. I was glad to see the driver climbed out unharmed and am glad our rally cars are parked a few yards away from the accident, canít image if any of our cars parked on the side when the 18 wheeler landed on top. By the way, Bob and Thelma missed the accident just by a minute. I have a picture of them driving over to the beach bar after the accident; they didnít force the driver off road Jim. By the way, this huge ferry is very impressive, escalator brings people upstairs, many big trucks (18 wheelers) and all of our 4x4ís are packed on 2nd deck.
Yesterday we took off from Loreto for a fairly long drive that began with 70 miles thru the mountains, We climbed up away from the Sea of Cortez heading west into the mountains. Our first stop was to see some rock drawings that were less than over whelming. We climbed up into the hills on a gravel road that was pretty good. The scenery was great especially as we looked back toward the sea. We made it over the top then to a village , San Javier, that had an old mission church which is supposed to be one of the best preservations around. We then headed down the western slope following a river bed; we forded the river many times. Someone said they counted 17 times. Anyhow , it was fun. At times the road was on the gravel of the river bed and felt like we were on a cobblestone road. It reminded me of Main St. in Nantucket without the stores. Pretty jarring. We then headed across a plain and several ranches. Again we were on some fun sand roads for awhile. We eventually hit tarmac and headed for La Paz which was a boring drive. From there we headed to Cabo San Lucas. About 30 miles north we hit the Pacfic shore which was pretty wild and largely undeveloped. I suppose California must have looked like this years ago. The beaches are beautiful. A few large homes have been built here and there. It would be a great place to have a home. When we made it to our hotel I noticed that the bracket holding the front bumper had broken again, like in China, so I located a welding shop near by. I met the owner 1st thing this morning and he was able to weld it back together. I had meant to have some reinforcement put in prior to the trip, but forgot. Preparation is everything. I was lucky this time. Going to dinner, more later. We just returned from a nice dinner in Cabo, fresh Mahi Mahi, a fish so nice they named it twice. (That's an old Fred K. Joke).
Cabo is basically a tourist town, with a McDonalds, a Burger King, a Hard Rock Cafe, and a Ruth's Chris Steak house. And alot of tee shirt shops.
We had lunch at a cantina in Cabo today and were overwhelmed with amount of food. Our hotel is right on the beach about 18K east of Cabo and really nice. A lot of Americans, USA types, have places here and you can tell. There is a Home Depot and a Costco. We enjoyed our rest day. Tomorrow we drive back to La Paz up the east coast of the Baja, part way on gravel, then take a ferry ride (7 hours)across the Sea of Cortez, arriving at 10 in the evening. So another long day.
Again we took off early for what turned out to be a long day. We drove 560 miles which included over 150 miles on rough roads. We followed the route of the Baja 1000 for awhile. Some longer than others as several crews took a wrong turned and ended up with about 50 miles extra of rough roads. We left before 6 AM and didn't get to our hotel until 6:30 in the evening. About 50 miles down the road 1st thing in the morning Leejun announced that she thought we had taken a wrong turn about 50 miles back. One look by me at the road book proved her wrong. We were on the right route, but she decided that she needs an assistant. We traveled down to the Sea of Cortez where we picked up the off road portion of our route. We passed several beach communities with beautiful sandy beaches. Then on to rougher roads. We did several miles of driving thru sand about 6" s deep. It is really a blast to manuver thru that at 50 miles an hour.
Prior to the off road we traveled thru a section where the landscape was littered with boulders. All sizes and shapes. Unfortunetly many of the ones near the road were covered with grafitti. All day long we saw many variations of cactus. More than I have ever seen anywhere. Near the coast we also viewed loads of palm trees. Thousands. The topography reminded us alot of our travels thru Nimibia last year, except here, there is alot more vegetation. Tomorrow we head to Cabo San Lucas where we will take an extra day to look around. Cole, we miss you too, Thanks for the note in the guestbook. More tomorrow.
We took off about 6 A M this morning for a pretty long day. We traveled on tarmac for several miles eventually turning off on a 4x4 road going to Mike's Sky Ranch. We traveled over one of the roughest roads we have been on on one of these treks for about 25 miles. Leejun kept saying that she couldn't wait to get there so she could ask Mike why in all heaven he lived out here. She was sure that he was some disaffected American. When we finally arrived it was like a little oasis in the middle of nowwhere, with rooms , a pool and a restaurant. Mike wasn't there , but we met his 2 year old grandson Edwin. Apparently Mike's is a well known stop for alot of 4x4 trips and rallies down here. We got a couple of burritos and a bottle of coke to travel and headed on our way. We had taken a few pictures of Edwin and when we left he burst out crying. We traveled on this rough road for 25 more miles then onto tarmac again for awhile. We headed up to over 9000 ft. where there is a national park and an observatory for a telescope to view the stars. It was open until 1 P M so we were able to go to the top and walk around the perimeter balcony. It was a clear day so we were able to see both the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other. We started back down and stopped to eat our burittos while looking out over a 100 mile view down Baja California. We drove another 100 or so miles to our over nite rest stop. We have a 13 hour day tomorrow and will travel along the beach for several miles. Just had dinner and am headed for bed. will get some pictures on tomorrow.
Day 1-Nov. 7, 2006 (Tue.)
258 miles, 9 h30 drive
We got up 5:30am, and had quick breakfast at hotel restaurant. Around 6:45am, 25 vehicles lined up in a big circle. Rally organizer John Brown gave good wishes and waved every car off around 7am.
We took the hard course which involves VERY rough gravel road, on the way to Mikeís Sky Ranch, we felt like sack of potatoes rolling on a moving truck, being shook left and right for good 3 hours. The road to Mikeís Ranch is one of the hardest we have driven, comparable to Sani Pass in S. Africa, itís definitely ďdouble black diamondĒ (ski term). We were the first arrived at Mikeís around 10am, Mike is not there until Friday, a middle age Spanish woman greeted us, her two year old cute grandson followed us around, he wept when we were about to leave. We ordered burritos to go. I asked myself, not sure why Mike has a ranch in the middle of nowhere, I guess water source kept this small valley green. When we drove over a crest, we saw a patch of green/yellow trees way down the valley, I thought to myself that must be Mikeís Ranch.
Mikeís Ranch is a famous place for motor sport enthusiasts. Baja 1000 and Baja 500 come through the area. There is a nice pool in the backyard and a sizeable restaurant. The ladies in the restaurant are expecting our rally group stop for lunch, some of us did.
After a quick stop at Mikeís Ranch, we headed over to Observatory tower inside National Park of San Pedro Martir, in a clear day; it is possible to see both the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California from the tower. The tower is equipped with computers for tracking sky and star movements.
Drive today reminded me of New Mexico and N.W. of China, dry climate and rugged roads, almost no vegetation but cactus in this region. There were many huge boulders on the mountain with various formations, some looked like person and some looked like animal. It looked as if boulders were dropped from sky like rain drops and perfectly positioned on top of mountains and/or on the side of mountains.
There was not much scenery variations all day, hope tomorrowís drive will be more interesting.
About 4pm, we arrived La Pinta hotel in San Quintin; a valley grows strawberry and tomatoes. There were 5-6 cars arrived before us, and most of them took alternative route which avoided Mikeís Ranch. There is no phone in hotel room, we were trying to figure out how to wake up tomorrow morning, it will be another early start tomorrow, a 13 hour drive with many route amendments.
Jim and other two club members are planning to go back to Tijuana check point (border) and trying to sort our car permit situation, but he canít find passport! It took awhile to find it, it stuck inside his briefcase. A safe place for passport.
While Jim was out doing that, I went to town via taxi, found a camera counter in a mall and found the batteries I needed. I didnít bring small camera screw driver, so I took whole camera case with me, thinking theyíd change battery for me. They donít have screw driver either, a young lady behind the counter called a young fellow to help me, he mumble a few Spanish words and disappeared, When he came back, he had a kitchen knife in hand and wanted to UN-tighten my Pentex camera. There are two Chinese restaurants in town and a big enough mall; it looked like regular U.S. mall.
We had an hour briefing and met all the club members, itís about 50-60 people, most of them are couples, lots of grey hair. I recognized many of them from S. Africa trip we did last year, and many recognized me because they heard my story (being kidnapped by Chinese secret police in Beijing 2004).
Weíre having group dinner by the water tonight and itís going to be an early start tomorrow. All cars have to line up before take off at 6:45am; itíll be over 10 hour drive.
We had dinner with a couple from the UK and another team, two guys from the USA.
We start driving down the Baja tomorrow.
We had late breakfast with Kenny, Deanne and our Dutch friends. Kenny and Deanne came to see us off ; they will not be on the trip. We crossed the Mexican border early in the afternoon; spent an hour trying to get vehicle permit, but no one knows where to get it. While Jim and Ahmad were at the border control, I was waiting inside our car at a Taxi station, and I was baked, itís so hot out here. When we got to the hotel in Ensenada, B.C., some of the crew members had gotten the permit from a place 30 mins away from the border. So Jim and the other guys will meet first thing in the morning and try to sort out the permit.
Mexico has a long coast line, we drove by a Trump resort on the beach. This part of Mexico is highly populated and needs some help. Houses are everywhere. We drove by the section that was filled with fog, it was like driving in the clouds.
Outside our hotel room, there is a nice size marina with many boats, I wonder if there are Taylor Made products on board.
Just uploaded some photots, check it out~
We have arrived in Southern California and picked up the truck from Brabus, who did the prep for it. They did the same for the China Tibet rally. We are meeting Kenny and Deanne Croucher for dinner tonite. They did So. Africa with us ,but are not doing this one. Today we are just doing the final preps and going to see some cars at Classic car dealers in this area. Will head for Mexico on Sunday.
Audrey flew from S. Africa and met us for dinner tonight, she lost her wallet, money, driver's license and credit cards. Audrey had only passport with her; she had to borrow some cash from her crew. I had similar incident a few years ago in China, my wallet was stolen, money, credit cards, driverís license were all gone. I had just passport and personal check with me. I made it to airport and flight was delayed, so I had to make a phone call to work in U.S, but I was penniless, so I wandered around Beijing airport, feeling like a monk (nun), penniless, beg for food, I begged $10 from American travelers...
Jim and I met up in LA, I had to fly from Albany, NY early in the morning and Jim was at IBEX trade show in FL, he flew from there. We arrived LA airport about the same time. A driver picked us up and took us to Brabus car dealer where our rally car was being prepped.
They are many Mexicans in San Diego, and Jim couldnít get much done because no one understands his Gloversville English.
There is a GPS installed in the car, but none of us has used satellite GPS before, I guess I will have to study the manual.