Ruins and Rust: Texas to Patagonia, AND BEYOND, in an older 4runner

Stuartag

Always Ready
Bernard & Alexandra are traveling with their three young girls, ages ten, five, & three in a 2002 Land Rover Defender. We spent a night exchanging stories and information with Bernard & Alexandra.



Small world! We camped next to them in Moab May 10th. It would seem difficult traveling the world with 3 young kids in a Land Rover, but each one went about his and her business just like it was normal to be doing what they were doing. They seemed to have the routine down.
 

BBslider001

Diesel Head
Why NOT get too deep? A trip like this SHOULD make you think and ponder and maybe even make a few changes? I have been to Mexico, Baja CA, and other places to feed my exploring bug....it has changed my life in amazing ways! Living life by the rising and setting of the sun is the onyl way to go in my humble opinion. Great trip! Enjoy....I'll check out your blog as well. This is inspiring me to hit the dirt road again, BUT....no laptop for me :)
 

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Why NOT get too deep? A trip like this SHOULD make you think and ponder and maybe even make a few changes? I have been to Mexico, Baja CA, and other places to feed my exploring bug....it has changed my life in amazing ways! Living life by the rising and setting of the sun is the onyl way to go in my humble opinion. Great trip! Enjoy....I'll check out your blog as well. This is inspiring me to hit the dirt road again, BUT....no laptop for me :)
It certainly has been eye-opening already. We feel our attitudes, daily needs, and abilities to deal with obstacles is constantly evolving. We can't wait to see what this all accumulates into by the end of the trip and it's exciting to see what doors it will open for us after our journey is over.

Thanks for the kind words. It's certainly a trade-off having a laptop, frequent internet access, and terabytes of memory storage, but it's been great because we feel like we can watch our nieces and nephews grow up while we're away. If we were on a shorter time-frame we'd spend less time editing photos or Skype-ing, but since we're going slow, we're still able to enjoy the moment and occasionally connect back home.
 

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Thanks, we've certainly kept on but I'm afraid our updates are behind...after the wedding we should be able to catch up! :Wow1: We're currently in Guatemala, stay tuned for more details.
 

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Fast Forward To Now: bribes, counterfeits, and dysentary

First of all I'd like to formally apologize to our readers, all five of you, for the serious lack of updates we've had over the past few months. I hadn't realized how far behind we were until we won the award for "Most Slackerest Blog" (new word courtesy of James at Home On The Highway). Between fighting Shannon over the keyboard and actually putting the computer away to actually enjoy our trip, it's been a little tough to update our experiences. I'll do my best to sum it all up to date, and get things back on track.

We've had a few highs and lows over the past few months...


In Mexico, we fell head over heals in love with the small town of Guanajuato. Admittedly I already had a serious love affair with GTO, but after I introduced Shannon to the charm and beauty of this pueblo magico in Central Mexico, it became a full-on complicated love triangle. We spent over a month there and could have easily just put the 4runner up on blocks, and slipped away into the daily grind as full-time expats there.




In Mexico City, while shopping for a wedding dress and size 4 heels for Shannon (an experience that all overland travelers should seek out) we were robbed not once but twice by taxi-drivers...well robbed may be stretching the truth a bit. There were no weapons involved, no threats, and we didn't even notice it was happening but after the ride we realized that one driver slipped us a fake bill in change and the other had given us an out-of-circulation bill that was worth less than a dollar. Another souvenir for the road and another lesson learned.



Occupy Oaxaca in full effect...teachers on strike made it difficult to appreciate the downtown architecture


In Oaxaca and Chiapas, we blazed through at least 4 of the unofficial roadblocks that we had heard so much about. Basically two people holding a rope or cable across the road, we were warned that these were attempts to stop you while men in the bushes come out to rob you. Admittedly it appeared that these were all simply attempts to sell elotes or tamales by the road, we drove through anyway, not really in the mood for a snack.



I'll be happy if I never eat another chapuline (grasshopper) again​



We crossed paths with Crossing Latitudes, who we went into the Sierra Norte with, eventually giving a ride to two colorful characters in a small mountain village. The six of us followed a lead towards a nearby party and stumbled on a 600 year-old religious tradition in a small village that I couldn't even pick out on a map. We were treated like royalty and the villagers were warm and friendly. I may or may not have consumed fire-water straight from a gasoline jug...I survived, but for a second I thought that I may go blind.



Going where the wind takes us




The reason for the celebration




Our new friends Mindy & VJ, Aaron & Aneta



Our border crossing experience to Guatemala was gentle at La Mesilla, however the nice man at Migración did ask for the unofficial Q20 fee for each of our visas. Thanks to Life Remotely and WikiOverland, we knew what to expect beforehand so we kindly asked for a receipt.

"The stamp in your passport is the receipt." He claimed.

Without skipping a beat, I replied "That's cool, but I just need an official piece of paper that says I give you Q20 and you give me the stamp to receive the visa."

We went back and forth like this for a while, referring to notes that I had made on a piece of paper. Since I had obviously done my homework and I was not going to budge on the matter, he quickly changed his story to "You pay the 20 quetzales for the visa when you LEAVE Guatemala" in a disappointed tone. Sure buddy.



Not a bad view for the next month




Tractor-powered ferris wheel of death in San Juan La Laguna​


We spent a month in San Marcos La Laguna and this was our second time finding home away from home. A quiet village on Lago de Atitlan, we spent three weeks taking spanish lessons from Homer of San Pedro Spanish School. We now feel very confident with our spanish conversational skills and we've definitely noticed a difference in daily interaction. We made a few friends on the lake and even managed to pick up some informal lessons in Kakchikel, the local Mayan dialect...although the local girls giggle every time we attempt to pronounce it.




One of many lancha rides across the lake



Our new friend Sean, we bumped into him at one of our favorite haunts in San Marcos La Laguna​



My sister and brother-in-law came to visit us in Guatemala and they brought our 4-month old nephew so we could finally meet him. This kid is so awesome...not only does he live in Madagascar, but he's going to have more stamps in his passport by the age of one than most of my friends back home do.




International man of mystery in training




Getting stamped out of Guatemala, officially in "no man's land"



We decided to make the short trip to El Salvador for some surf and sun. On the way there we had a few options to get to the coast...







Easy does it




Enjoying a beer on the ferry to Monterrico​


This border crossing experience was a little more interesting now that we were officially in Central America...we had read stories about the "helpers" that approach like zombie hordes and harass you into paying them to get your paperwork completed. We decide along time ago that we wanted to do it the hard way, completing our paperwork for ourselves and hopefully becoming border-crossing pros. We did not however, expect the helpers to barrage us on motorcycles, before we even got near the border. Imagine the final chase scene from Mad Max: Beyond The Thunderdome...post-apocalyptic thugs chasing us on bizarre machines riding alongside the 4runner for the chance to hop on the hood, while screaming "Let me help you! I will take care of your papers!"



Approaching El Salvador's border​


While I may be exaggerating a little, the description is not too far off. The sketchy moto-helpers were riding through oncoming traffic, tapping on my window, pleading to be the one to help us take care of the border crossing red-tape. Once we parked at the border, we had at least fifteen helpers literally surrounding us in the 4runner before we even stepped out. They were all banging on the windows and claiming to help us "for free", while we just sat for five minutes in pure shock. We had to brush them off and make our way to the migración, but one helper who spoke very good english would simply not leave me alone. I told him we wanted to do everything on our own and we already knew what to do, but he was like a fly in my ear at every step. He would tell me what to do AS I was already doing it, while I was politely telling him that he was actually making the process more difficult since we could not hear the border officials talk to us. I finally ditched him when I needed a copy of our vehicle title...he waited for me at the copy-shop while I went to the 4runner to get a copy I already had. Overall the border took us almost 3 hours, most of that time was spent waiting for the kind folks in El Salvador's aduana to notice us and actually give us the time of day.


Note the convenient handle above the bed and the toilet paper dispenser​


We got lost trying to find Parque Nacional El Imposible, stumbling past MS-13 graffiti and eventually ended up staying for the first time in an auto hotel. In case you're not familiar, an auto hotel is a place where you pay by the hour and they have a little garage for each room so you can hide your car from sight. The menu had condoms and lubricants...probably not the best way to welcome your family to Central America, but it was unforgettable no doubt.



Keeping a low-profile in gang territory



Sunset in El Salvador



The volcano of Parque Nacional Cerro Verde



While in El Salvador my brother and I got to enjoy some surf at El Zonte, where I was desperately trying to avoid swallowing the water while half-drowning. The surf break is about 200 yards from a river outlet that is undoubtedly flowing with sewage. Needless to say, while attempting to duck dive my lower lip was ripped open by the powerful surf and I ingested more crap-water than I had hoped.




The break at El Zonte​


A week later when we finally found Parque Nacional El Imposible (it is indeed fairly impossible to locate),where I spent 48 hours trembling in bed with a fever of 103, surrounded by hallucinations of a tombstone that read "DIED OF DYSENTERY" while wondering if Shannon would continue the journey without me or find an El Salvadorian sancho to replace me. Unfortunately Shannon eventually got just as sick, so we took turns nursing each other to health and trying to cool each other down.







So that pretty much brings us to present day, with a couple of exceptions. The 4runner is currently out of service right now for some maintenance and repairs, so we're trying to figure out our next move from Antigua. We may write a few updates that will fill you in on some of the specifics that I've left out, but for now we will consider our story updated. James, you can stop harassing us now...

I almost forgot to mention the highlight of our trip so far: 31 of our favorite people came from all over the world to see us on the lake...



And we got married!





Stay tuned for more details on our recent nuptials. :sombrero:​
 
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Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
A few more photos...


Our friends Kamil & Zuzanna we met in Mexico City (and again in Oaxaca, and again in San Marcos La Laguna)




Watch out for this dude if you go to Mexico City, we caught him peeing on our rig while we were sleeping inside




Laundry Day at our campsite in Oaxaca




Some of our new friends at the Oaxaca Campground





Found an apartment in Oaxaca for $5/day with no furniture and serious mosquitos...no problemo!




A short hike in the Sierra Norte




With Crossing Latitudes, exploring a watch tower and suspension bridge




One of our favorite campsites in Oaxaca, despite the fact I was sick as a dog




Pulling up to Monterrico on the "fun-ferry"




Stealing as much air conditioning as possible from the Aduana office in El Salvador




The guest bed in our sleezy auto hotel...still can't figure out why there was a little closet-sized garden?




Obligatory overlanding photo for Parque Nacional El Imposible




Sweet little Suby we saw in El Salvador




Tuckered out little traveler




Everyone has their preference








I ain't skewered...​
 
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bobDog

Expedition Leader
Thank you so much fpr remembering us

Nice update ... feels like you might just stay there.



Sent from my LS670 using Tapatalk 2
 

RMP&O

Expedition Leader
Great trip report! Loving it!

And the tan LandCruiser looks almost exactly like one I saw in Playa Azul a few years back. I even had to check the plates to make sure it wasn't the same one!

 

Toyotero

Explorer
Ha ha ha, that "stealing AC" photo is hilarious... I've been in that situation many a time.

Amazing photos guys... Guanajuato looks like an incredible city.


I wonder how many times OR Trail has been quoted by ill travelers in C.A?
I can count 2 :-D

Congrats on the successful hitchin' down there. MJ can't wait to see the photos.

BTW, I posted this elsewhere (your blog I think), but this is an easier medium to communicate.. Are you guys interested in living with a Guate fam in Antigua for a while? I'm still in contact with the fam that I lived with for 5 weeks there, they are awesome. They have 3 kids who were just great kids, although I think one is off in med school now in Guate city or Cuba. The son is learning silver smithing like his father, who runs a silver jewelry smithing shop in the back room of the house. He is one of the smiths who makes the stuff that ends up for sale in the Silver museum in town and the airport. Anyhow, if you guys are interested I'll get you their info... it's much better than staying in La Posada Ruiz #2 every night :p and living with a Guate fam is cheap... I think I paid like $50/week for furnished bedroom, shared bathroom and 3 hot meals per day.

Keep on truckin'!
 

upcountry

Explorer
Uh-oh. You got married. Now its all over.

Haha.

My wife and I met in Beleize in 1999 on a study abroad program. We travelled to Costa Rica by boat and bus that summer/fall. We got married in 2000 and spent the next three years in Panama as Peace Corps volunteers.

12 years later still going strong.

The kind of trip you are on will give a bond stronger than anything. Take the time to get to truly enjoy each other before returning to the life of work, bills, kids, and stress.

Thanks for keeping going on this thread.

Chao pues.
 

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
The kind of trip you are on will give a bond stronger than anything. Take the time to get to truly enjoy each other before returning to the life of work, bills, kids, and stress.
That was kinda what we were hoping for...we like to test the relationship early on before life gets complicated! We suppose it's an opportunity to grow with each other and learn everything about each other from the get-go.

I wonder how many times OR Trail has been quoted by ill travelers in C.A?
I can count 2 :-D
You're a trendsetter Gene! At least when you mentioned dysentery, it was legit...I never went to the doctor and I believe that it was just a bug that I'm now over. It's hard NOT to reference the Oregon Trail on this trip...

Thanks for the heads up on your friends here in Antigua, but we don't plan on being here long. The 4runner should be ready for us this Wednesday-tember, and we need to head to Belize and back for a new vehicle import permit and CA-4 paperwork. Say hi to MJ for us!

Great trip report! Loving it!

And the tan LandCruiser looks almost exactly like one I saw in Playa Azul a few years back. I even had to check the plates to make sure it wasn't the same one!
Thanks! That's a very similar camper indeed! The one in our picture belongs to Claude and Erika from Switzerland, I believe they've had that camper for 13 years now and they've been in Latin America for the last 8 years if I recall correctly. Very cool couple, we really enjoyed getting to know them.
 
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