Driven To Wander - Vancouver to Patagonia

Driven To Wander

Adventurer
Other side of the coin....

They say, it is not an adventure till things go wrong! We have been on the road 22 months, from Vancouver to Peru without any breakdowns. Our clean record came to an end Friday the 13th in the middle of nowhere in Peru when one of the fuel injectors, #6, stopped working. That prompted truck computer to turn off the bank B (4-5-6) to prevent damage. We limped to the next town 25 km away, truck coughing and shaking, running like hell on 3 cylinders. We got a room with a view for my wife and 5 year old, parked the rig on the back yard of hostel so I could take out the fuel injector. Once it was out, I got on 11 hours overnight bus to Lima. Got off the bus at 5 am, found a shop under rain, wait till they open at 8:30 am, got the injector refurbished, before they closed at 1:30 pm and got on the first bus back, 12 hours this time to the same town to arrive at 3 am without any sleep during the all ordeal. Hoping I could finish before the world cup final, got up early at 7 am and started installing the injector. I missed the game but our truck was running again without spitting out codes. This is the not so picturesque side of the overland travel...
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locrwln

Expedition Leader
First of all, that sucks and second of all; the fact you were able to repair the injector is awesome. Do you run any additional filters on your fuel system and how many miles did the truck have on it before the injector failed?

Thank you,

Jack
 

Driven To Wander

Adventurer
First of all, that sucks and second of all; the fact you were able to repair the injector is awesome. Do you run any additional filters on your fuel system and how many miles did the truck have on it before the injector failed?

Thank you,

Jack
Thanks Jack, I do have a secondary fuel filtering system, Fass Titanium. #6 has been acting since Colombia. I wanted to change then but I could not stomach paying $1400 for one and wait 10 days to get it. I have been waiting for friends or family to come and join us so they can bring one. As of a matter fact, I ordered 6 brand new injectors couple days before we broke down. My son is coming next week to Cusco and he is going to bring them. My truck has ~ 138000 miles. Fellow overlander who has 2003 Dodge 2500 with 5.9 Cummins that has 350000 miles, no secondary fuel filter and he never had a problem with his. Another overlander with 2007 Ram 3500 with only 56000 miles had to change 2 already. So that is that.
We drove 400 km today and truck has never ran better. I am hoping to find Bosch certified shop in Cusco like the one I found in Lima so I get the old ones refurbished and keep them as spares. I should have had spares with me to begin with, but now I have a story to tell instead....
 
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Driven To Wander

Adventurer
We have never felt this alone! On the way to Chauchilla Cemetery to see mummified human remains & artifacts, we drove on a terrain so remote and deserted, it felt like another planet. Only thing reminded us we are still on earth was scattered human bones of Nasca People who flourished from c. 100 BC to 800 AD in the Ica Valley of Peru.

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locrwln

Expedition Leader
Thanks Jack, I do have a secondary fuel filtering system, Fass Titanium. #6 has been acting since Colombia. I wanted to change then but I could not stomach paying $1400 for one and wait 10 days to get it. I have been waiting for friends or family to come and join us so they can bring one. As of a matter fact, I ordered 6 brand new injectors couple days before we broke down. My son is coming next week to Cusco and he is going to bring them. My truck has ~ 138000 miles. Fellow overlander who has 2003 Dodge 2500 with 5.9 Cummins that has 350000 miles, no secondary fuel filter and he never had a problem with his. Another overlander with 2007 Ram 3500 with only 56000 miles had to change 2 already. So that is that.
We drove 400 km today and truck has never ran better. I am hoping to find Bosch certified shop in Cusco like the one I found in Lima so I get the old ones refurbished and keep them as spares. I should have had spares with me to begin with, but now I have a story to tell instead....
That seems to be pretty consistent with every thing else I've seen/heard about Common Rail 5.9's. Some make it forever and some don't and having extra filtration doesn't seem to make a definable difference on whether an injector goes south or not. My Duramax shares similar injectors (Bosch CR), so I keep my eyes out for other's issues. So far, mine has been flawless at 158k miles and no extra filtration.

Glad you were able to get it fixed and that it's running better.

Jack
 

Driven To Wander

Adventurer
Hello Family and Goodbye Mexico - Part I



It’s Family Time! Finally, we were going to have family come join us! We really wanted to have any and all family along for our adventure, but obviously it’s not easy for folks to arrange leaving their day to day life and jump on a plane. Also, we never really know where we are going to be even 1 month into the future. So we were excited when Okan’s daughter and boyfriend Mike decided to come meet us in Mexico just after their graduation from university.

Okan picked them up at the airport and brought them back to Camping Cancun, where we were practically permanent residents by now. They were able to sleep in one of the air conditioned casitas, before they were going to move into their new digs during their stay with us…our tent.

Not sure how much sleep they got, because Indigo decided he wanted to have a sleepover with them. He was so excited to see his sister, he just didn’t want to leave her come night time. We didn’t think he would actually do it since he’s never spent a night away from us, but not a peep out of him all night! Needless to say, we used the time wisely…and…slept very well.







We took a quick dip in the pool and headed off to our first adventure, Turtle Beach! Blah, the gate was closed because the lot was full. We tried another beach nearby but we didn’t like it. This was exactly what I feared, things not going as planned. We drove back to Turtle Beach and fortunately the lot was open again! Even though the cenote was closed now, the water rough, and the seaweed more prevalent, Carmen and Mike seemed to enjoy the time spent here.

We were excited and nervous to take them to our favorite campsite, Chamico’s. We hoped they would like it as much as we did. When traveling, you get used to crappy toilet situations and other oddities about various places, so we didn’t know how they’d take to our little slice of heaven. We set up their tent between the palm trees, taking special care to get any rocks out from under the sand. I really wanted them to enjoy this beach camping experience.

Spaghetti for dinner, all packed into our camper. Mike and I bonded over jarred spaghetti sauce that tasted just great to us after a long day in the sun and water. Okan and Carmen consider it blasphemous to eat sauce from a jar on pasta. We didn’t care and wolfed it down with gusto, and we brought Indigo over to the dark side with us.

In the morning, I realized what getting up early means to college kids. Past noon and we’re still not on our way. Of course, I am probably the only person that even wanted to get an early start for the Cenotes, everyone else was occupied. Brunch (ok lunch) for Carmen and Mike, a new Paw Patrol DVD for Indigo, and the coveted new drone for Okan. Christmas came early with Carmen’s arrival and delivery of goodies.











At some point we headed off to the Cenotes. The water was cold, and the place was crowded. But thanks to GoPro fun, and an adventurous crew, we had another good time. The highlight had to be Michael’s flips off the cenote cliff!







Dinner after the day at the cenotes was spectacular, perhaps because we were all starving. We had a splendid fire and a steak to cook on it. Even though Okan dropped the entire thing in the fire, the sand and grit brushed off nicely and we enjoyed it. The weather was perfect, and minimal clothing was needed in the evening to be comfortable.









Trying to inject a little culture into our itinerary, we checked out the Tulum Mayan ruins. Although very picturesque against the sea, it was a bit of a let down for us. Massively touristy, and the ruins were not very accessible for running around, and well…not many ruins left compared to the others we’d seen. We wandered around for a while, carried Indigo a lot, ate lunch, then headed off to parts unknown (RIP Anthony Bourdain). Our next destination would be a new adventure for all of us…Lake Bacalar.

We really didn’t know how long the drive would be. Google Maps said 2.5 hours, Maps Me said almost 5 hours, and the GPS said 3 hours. Most of the drive was uneventful, except the death trap on Route 307 South, which will now forever be known as butterfly highway to us. Thousands of Kamakasi butterflies smashing into the cars and trucks on this route over a particular 5 mile stretch of road. It felt like we were being attacked, and the butterflies were definitely losing the battle.





We decided to get off the main road as we approached the lake and take a small road that was parallel to the water, so we could soak up a view of the massive lake on the drive in. We coined it “the coastal road” as it appeared to be along the water’s edge. But, the road didn’t provide a view of the water, it barely provided a view of the road! We were in a jungle and had to get out several times to make sure we could actually make it through. But we were committed to this path forward, because quite frankly there was no way to turn around, back up, and in some places, even open the door!


 

Driven To Wander

Adventurer
Hello Family and Goodbye Mexico - Part II


We eventually arrived at the campsite unscathed. What a view of the lake, it was perfect! Carmen and Mike decided the tent was a bit too uncomfortable, and stayed in one of the casitas at the campsite. The kids immediately headed for the swings in the water…but wait, why was Mike heading back to camp holding his nose? Apparently attempting more gymnastics, this time things didn’t go so well, and the heavy wooden swing cracked him in the nose. It looked bad, blood and swelling, and we debated whether he needed to get medical help. We decided he didn’t, and that a crooked nose would look good on him. Back to the water!










There was a little bird’s nest just beside the deck where we entered the water, and a little yellow bird (one we’d end up seeing everywhere, in all countries) was attacking any bird or person that would get near the nest. Provided lots of entertainment for us.

Carmen and Mike were able to take out the kayak and check out the lake further. The underwater shots would prove a standard photo throughout the trip!

The blue water, against the white sand, and non-salty water was such an amazing combination. We could barely keep ourselves from being in the water all day. That and being outside the water, meant you’d have to battle the mosquitos!










Happy with our success in finding a new place, and seeing that Carmen and Mike were easy travel partners…we ventured to yet another new campsite. We checked out one place, and decided it just didn’t feel right, and decided move on. Thankfully we did because we found a really nice place, one of my favorite spots actually. Carmen and Mike were able to get a another casita, and we parked in a parking lot. We had decent bathrooms available, and a beautiful beach along a small bay, and good food next door. What more does anyone need really? I was wondering at this point how Carmen and Mike were viewing our life on the road, and if they were starting to see it’s appeal.

I really loved the water here, and we let Indigo go sans swimming vest for a while. We also started seeing how high we could toss the boy the in the air, after we ok’d the idea with him first of course.









Somewhere in our long drive back up to Cancun, we managed to fit in another centote before returning to Camping Cancun. The drive and the swimming proved rather exhausting for our passengers.







We got to celebrate Indigo’s birthday a little early while Carmen and Mike were here. Cake and sparklers in close quarters can be rather scary!





Transporting Carmen and Mike back to the airport was without incident and uneventful, which for us is a good thing as we notoriously almost miss flights with much regularity. We were exhausted when they left and let Indigo spend some more time in the air conditioned home of our hosts. Cristina kept asking Indigo if he’d like to stay with her, but he decided he’d rather hit the road again with us. We were relieved.









We headed back to Chamico’s for our final goodbyes to Mexico, and to chill out and recover from so much driving and moving around. We had good weather and the last few days there were some of our very best days of our entire trip. Man we loved that place and were sad to go. We had one last fire and we finished up the last of the wine. In the morning, dark ominous clouds were approaching, rain was definitely coming. We got in the car before 9am which was a record for us. Best to leave on a good note..





We ate some tacos in the car outside the farmacia, and we were off to collide with some butterflies on Route 307 South. Tried to photograph the carnage this time but could quite give the scene the justice it deserved.







We found ourselves at one last campsite in Mexico, near the border, and next to another beautiful blue lake. There were a few other families, restaurant, ok bathrooms, and only 124 pesos made us all reasonably happy. Then the music, which we thought would end at 6pm, kept going until 10pm and it started up in the early morning hours. This made us all pretty miserable for our drive to the Belize border. But I suspect our blue moods were also in part to missing family, and saying our final goodbyes to Mexico. At least we have photos on the fridge to remind us of the happier times.
 

Driven To Wander

Adventurer
A Little Bit of Belize - Part I





We greeted Belize, the smallest of the countries we've visited, and one we almost skipped, with mixed feelings. The first shock upon entering, after spending almost 1/2 a year in Mexico, was hearing English! I kept thinking this whole trip...when we leave Baja and get to mainland Mexico, I'm really going to have to learn more Spanish. But that never happened and I pushed the task to after we left Mexico, although my ear was getting used to Spanish. It felt like we were going backwards somehow to enter Belize and start using English on our way to Central America!





The Border crossing was non-eventful, but I still wrote every little detail of the crossing down so that we could report on it for other travellers. That was a whole year ago now, so perhaps things have changed since then. This was going to be our act of service to others on this journey (seriously check out how detailed we got when Crossing into Mexico and when taking the Ferry to Mazatlan) We've long since stopped worrying about border crossings, except a quick read on the app iOverlander to check if insurance is needed, which currencies are accepted, and any recent notations. So I guess if this trip has morphed my personality in any way...I'm perhaps a little less type A, more like a B+ now. I still have those detailed notes, and I intend to post them yet.

Along with note taking at this border, I was obsessed with what looked like a large Amish family also entering Belize. The women wore bonnets, and aprons over floral dresses, and the men were dressed in overalls and brimmed hats. Their presence turne the immigration building into a scene from Little House on the Prairie. I was thinking why on earth did this family travel all the way to Belize!!?? Being from Lancaster County Pennsylvania, I assumed they were Amish because of their clothing, but it turns out they were Mennonites, and that I was actually entering their home country! Mennonites, primarily from South Russia arrived in Belize around the 1950s via earlier settlements in Canada and Mexico. Similar to the Amish, they shun most modern technology and farm the land using time honoured methods, like plowing their field with animals. Some do use tractors now, but replace the rubber wheels with wooden wheels so they are not so pampered with too smooth of a ride. They are a very insular community, but contribute to the local economy with the production of milk, cheese, beans, corn, melons, honey, chicken, and eggs. They have turned sections of the jungle into highly productive farmland, to the dismay of some conservationists.














But the warmth we felt for the country in that little experience quickly evaporated by the mosquito population at our first campsite. We stayed indoors, and didn't even use the bathroom at night for which we paid extra, because each opening of our camper door invited a swarm of mosquitos into our living space. We would then spend the next 30 minutes on a killing rampage, making sure we got every last one of them. Then we switched our attention to mopping up the mosquito blood on the camper walls. We had to explain this to Indigo, who understood previously he was not to kill bugs of any kind, but to catch and release. Mosquitos are the exception to this rule, therefore making it a "real" rule.

The mosquitos were so bad, we just simply gave up on doing anything outside, afraid to venture out on a kayak ride or see Orchid Bay. We hung out in the hotel lobby, watched basketball with the other guests. We enjoyed good homemade pizza, and wasted many hours on the computer. We had the thrill of experiencing a power outage at the hotel, and apparently along with the entire town. Candles were brought out, and everyone wagered on whether the remainder of the game would be missed. (It wasn't)


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We got our grumpy selves back on the road and headed South. We were told that if you're not spending much time in Belize, head south as there is not much in the North. Our friends ClunkMonkey would definitely disagree, as they planted themselves happily in the northern town of Orange Walk for a very long time. But we headed to the Belize's Ecological Zoo, smack in the center of the small country. What a fantastic turning point for us...and for our perception of Belize! The zoo was a great experience for all of us, and we were impressed by the conservationism, and the education. I am not a bird fan in general, but the huge array of large birds and owls at the zoo was impressive. I now fully believe one should see a Harpy Eagle in person at least once in your lifetime! Not one of our photos came out well, but for me standing next to Panama the Harpy Eagle was the highlight of the zoo. But the gorgeous jaguar rolling around in the grass was a very close second.











 

Driven To Wander

Adventurer
A Little Bit of Belize - Part II


After visiting, we stayed at the Belize Tropical Education Center, which is an extension of the Belize Zoo. Students and travellers can stay in the lodge here or camp. Their program is known worldwide, and we met many people from other countries who traveled here for courses in eco tourism and conservation, from middle school students all the way to PhD students.

Although not part of the current school group at the campground, another traveling family with two boys joined us at the campground's group dinner. We hit it off with Rachel and Sanjay immediately. Rachel had entertained doing to a trip similar to ours and had many questions, and we gave them a quick tour of the camper and described some of our experiences. For some reason I really wanted Rachel to embark on a similar trip, I wanted another Mom out there on the road with me! She also reminded me of myself, from the freckled arms, growing up camping with family, and the desire for outdoor adventure. I was looking for my clan, and thought perhaps I found a sister member. After looking at the tight space in the camper, Sanjay was not so sure they could manage such a venture. We assured them that the space constraint was one of our main concerns, and it turned out to be a non issue, but I don't think Sanjay was convinced.

The Advani boys and Indigo became fast friends and ran around the beautiful campground, playing all sorts of games. Our mood was improving considerably here. No mosquitos, great campground, and wonderful people. So wonderful in fact, we decided our next destination would be Hopkins Beach where our new friends were headed, rather than a beach further south.











We used Google Maps to plan our route to the beach, and immediately ditched the route at first dirt road we encountered. We turned back and took the more traveled Hummingbird Highway. I was a bit bummed because I really wanted the dirt road, but I guess had I been driving this huge rig of ours, the lure of smoother sailing would have convinced me to turn back as well. The scenery was lush and green along the highway, and we saw many oversized loads of sugar cane traveling along the same route. Then we turned off the smooth road into the bumpy driveway of our next campground.











We stayed at Hopkins Beach Kismet Inn. Our camping situation was very interesting...first time we pulled headlong into a patch of shrubbery for a campsite! The view out the bedroom windows was very green to say the least. The campsite matched the vibe of the town, rather funky and laid back with an appreciation for the natural surroundings. Hopkins Village is known for continuing the legacy of the culture and music of the Garifuna people, whose ancestors were brought to Belize by way of the Afro-Caribbean slave trade. The Lebeha Drumming Center is instrumental in keeping the culture alive in the community.





The Kizmet Inn was very eco friendly, boasting compost toilets in stalls that were made of bamboo slats. This allowed lots of air to blow right over your bum, making you feel like you were still outside. I am all for composting, and feeling one with nature, but I was really hoping for a more enclosed bathroom during our stay. Perhaps it had something to do with the impact the current phase of the moon was having on me. The Advani's had a lovely rental house just a block over, also along the beach (not sure how to measure blocks on a beach dotted with palms, but it felt like a block). Oh how I could see Sanjay's wisdom of renting a beach house, rather than parking a truck camper into the bushes at this particular moment.

We got to share a beer and hang out again with Rachel and Sanjay while the boys played along the beach, and in the surf. The water was quite rough, but Indigo was in good protective hands. Besides the companionship of the boys, Indigo spent large amounts of time with the resident dog and chickens. He was even featured on the Kismet Inn's website for the week. The neighbourhood kids we encountered on one of our walks, climbed into the tops of the trees, and came down with new fruits for us to try. They had to climb quite high and I had to hold Indigo back, as his climbing skills are not quite that advanced yet.

Before leaving, we enjoyed a really great pizza at the Driftwood Beach Bar and Pizza Shack next door, which also allowed camping in their parking lot. I noticed that their bathrooms were quite nice too.








 

Driven To Wander

Adventurer
A Little Bit of Belize - Part III


We headed for our last campsite in Belize which was just a stone's throw from the Guatemala border in San Ignacio. The drive there was easy, except we were surprised to hear the engine pulling so hard up hills, after only hearing the hum of the engine on the the flat smooth roads of the Mexican Yucatan. We also noticed we were much more calm driving around Belize than Mexico, perhaps because we never once saw a police car?





We thought we'd spend one night prepping for the border (back when we prepped for borders) at the Mana Kai campsite. But we stayed for a long time fixing various things. We also started our first purge here. I think every Overlander hits a point on where they are tired of looking at the crap they brought, that they never use. We finally let go of the camping table we lugged in and out of the camper at each campsite, never to use it except for a way to block the pointy corner of the camper door so indigo didn't bang his head. But we didn't "really" get rid of it, we converted it into other things. Two of the legs are now used for an awning and the handle and other legs were converted into a stand for a portable solar panel.





Our best campsites, have always been the ones in which me make friends. This was one of those places. The Quiroz family that runs the place were warm and welcoming. We were there the week the father officially retired and handed over the running of the campsite to his son and new wife. They are a young couple with a lot of energy and have plans to grow the family business. We decided to pitch in and help paint fences, and when not consulting the young couple on their next projects, Indigo played with the sons of the other workmen.

Demri was Indigo's favourite playmate, and I think the feeling was mutual. Demri taught Indigo about the fruits he could eat on the trees, and which ones he couldn't, and took him swimming in the river while I watched from the bank. They even created a two-man band, and gave performances of Beatles and Michael Jackson songs to the other campers.

The campsite was actually rather busy with student groups involved in the archaeological site nearby. It was entertaining to hear some kids on the phone with family back home saying how they were loving it, and other saying they were hating it. But regardless of their homesick status, they took turns at night telling Indigo spooky stories.











We went down to the river at the edge of town, people swimming, doing laundry, lounging. I was keenly aware of being the only one in a bathing suit. The young locals just jump into the water in their underwear. Otherwise people swam in shorts and tank tops. It was a beautiful scene along the river as there were always huge clouds, white and grey, puffy against a blue sky. Storm cloud would be whipped up every so often and dump rain, only to have the sky open up and let the sun through again.





We were really enjoying our time here, and with every passing day, it got harder to leave. We were there so long that we even managed to see Rachel and Sanjay one last time on their way to Gautamala to see the Tikal ruins. By this time we felt like one of the family at the campsite and were very comfortable.

With so many diversions for Indigo, Okan and I got spend time doing one of our favourite things...playing endless games of backgammon. I started another long losing streak here (they can last for days, sometimes weeks!). How can Okan get doubles on the last roll, to win the last three games?





Now that we were becoming comfortable with Belize, I struggled with a desire to now stay and see more of the country. But, Belize is also very expensive and our budget motivated us to pack up and head to Guatamala. The ruins of Tikal were waiting for us, and we had to say our goodbyes.
 
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