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Old 02-14-2012, 04:53 PM   #76
defrag4 OP
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Originally Posted by error cooled View Post
Following along with great interest.. also on Facebook. I am a few bad days at work away from packing up my FZJ80, picking up my girlfriend and dog and doing the same.
go for it buddy, you wouldn't believe how many times i wanted to do the same. finally we decided, why not? what are we waiting for? 1 month later. We were gone.
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Old 02-14-2012, 05:51 PM   #77
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Laugh

Sorry it has been so long since we have updated, We have been caught up in a whirlwind of travel lately. (This is a good thing!) We have now settled down in a beautiful place called San Pedro De Laguna, Guatemala. We found a great spanish school that rents out nice little cabanas for $25 a week! We are right on the water and loving it here. I am lounging in the shady hammock outside, typing this up and listening to the birds chirp in the trees. Behind us about 100 yards is gigantic lagoon ringed by 3 massive dormant volcano mountains. Have we found paradise already!? Perhaps… Needless to say we have decided to stay here for a month taking spanish lessons and slowing down the pace.

Now back to our regular scheduled programing!

After our hectic day in Oaxaca we decided to put some miles down. My friend Doug runs a community center for a small barrio in Cancun. We had told him we were going to stop by and help him out so we set our sights for the tip of the Yucatan peninsula. As we descended from the top of the Oaxcan mountain range towards the isthmus of Mexico the change was immediately apparent. The pine trees gave way to jungle and the the cool dry air was now thick with humidity. Toto…We’re not in Kansas anymore.





On our way up to Cancun we stopped into the city of Villahermosa. A primarily industrial city with not much in the way of scenery. However it did have a nice museum/zoo combo that sounded interesting. The “Parque Mueso La Venta” combined both native Yucatan animals and excavated artifacts from the nearby Olmec ruins of La Venta into one attraction. Plus it was only $3 which the budget surely appreciates.



Yucatan Crocodiles. Vicious little guys. Note the croc is already missing one foot.



Lauren goes to the bathroom and when she gets back she hurriedly tells me “I think something escaped from the zoo!” and drags me to come look. Figuring she has been standing in the sun too long I reluctantly follow, and sure enough… something did escape!



or so we thought… We went and grabbed some employees and drug them over to look. They just took a glance at this obviously escaped zoo convict and started laughing. Ummm… hello? Aren't you going to put it back in the cage!? Well… it turns out these odd looking foreign creatures are basically a Yucatan raccoon and are more of a pest than a zoo exhibit. As we walked around the rest of the zoo we ended up seeing tons of them digging and climbing all around in the jungle. Man… we are such gringos.

The Olmec artifacts were very interesting, the La Venta ruins site is just up the road from Villahermosa. In the 1950’s they were planning to bulldoze the ruin area for crop land. An archeologist took charge, relocated most of the ruins to Villahermosa, and started the “Museo Venta” to educate people on the ruins site and Olmec heritage.

Magnificent Olmec heads weighing over 9 tons.


Growing up in Florida I have seen my fair share of Gators, I've seen the “World’s Largest Gator” at least 4 different times in 4 different tourist traps. But I think I may have finally found the actual “Worlds Biggest Gator”. Rumor has it that this thing eats Coatimundi’s by the bakers dozen, as the zoo keepers try to rid the park of the pests they toss them into the gator pit for dinner. He was a BEAST. I would say easily 17ft-20ft long.

Note the turtles in the pic are huge snapping turtles, not any baby sized Red Slider nonsense.


We packed up from Villahermosa and headed deeper into the Peninsula. We have visited a few ruins on the trip so far but we have heard that “Palenque” was one of the larger more magnificent ruins in Mexico. After learning about the Mayan Emperor Pakal, his tomb, and his jade mask in Mexico City, we were excited to see where it was all discovered.

The Palenque ruins were discovered in the 1800’s, explored and excavated over the centuries by a few different archeological groups. It is a beautiful Mayan site set deep in the jungle. They have done a great job with the excavation and restoration. The site and grounds are wonderful to tour around.





Although the site has been worked on for 200 some years, It wasn’t until the 1950’s that Alberto Lluhlier discovered Pakal’s tomb buried deep inside the temple. When he removed the (7 ton!) sarcophagus lid he discovered Pakal’s body dyed a deep maroon red and covered in magnificent jade jewelry. It was one of the largest archeological discoveries ever made on the Yucatan peninsula.

Pakal’s temple




I heard heard rumor that there were Mayan bathrooms at the site. I think this is a ancient Mayan shittter. Either that or I just desecrated thousands of years of history to make a poop joke.



Read more on the blog... http://homeonthehighway.com/getting-...gley-out-here/
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Old 02-14-2012, 09:13 PM   #78
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If you do too much off-road stuff, especially river crossings, then you'll never make it to ushuaia. Good luck, though.

ps: my $.02... a totally stock, un-lifted truck would be better, on account of the twisty mountains. Sure, a lifted truck is better off-road, but for all purpose use, a stock truck would be best. You don't even need big tires.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:02 AM   #79
defrag4 OP
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If you do too much off-road stuff, especially river crossings, then you'll never make it to ushuaia. Good luck, though.

ps: my $.02... a totally stock, un-lifted truck would be better, on account of the twisty mountains. Sure, a lifted truck is better off-road, but for all purpose use, a stock truck would be best. You don't even need big tires.
thanks for the encouragement!

we do a good mix of highway and offroad, more fun that way
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Old 02-15-2012, 07:53 AM   #80
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ps: my $.02... a totally stock, un-lifted truck would be better, on account of the twisty mountains. Sure, a lifted truck is better off-road, but for all purpose use, a stock truck would be best. You don't even need big tires.
X2. Lifting it adds complications. The more you lift it, the more sh.. can go wrong.

but for that "little bit" I recommend 4Crawlers Ball Joint Spacers. About as complicated as a shovel, one piece and over-all doesn't effect much.


Depending on what you like, BFG 33/10.50's, 4:56's or 4:88's from an Automatic, and some traction diffs maybe even a retro fitted TRD and you'll embarrass poser 4WD's. And have 10x the driveability.
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Everybody's always talking out the side of their mouths about our "dependency on foreign oil", what about our dependency on cheap china crap? Who exactly again is killing our dollar?
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Old 02-25-2012, 07:51 AM   #81
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I spent 20 minutes trying to come up with a clever title, not much rhymes with Yucatan. I thought maybe YuCAtaN DO IT! but then gave up on that. I considered making up a fictional character named “Yucatan Dan” who lives in the jungle and grants 3 wishes to lost gringos. “I wish for 20 gallons of DEET bugspray…” Perhaps “Doin our thang in the Yucatang”… I don’t know! I have spanish class in 30 minutes and need to get this post done. Focus James!

We pushed further down the Caribbean coast headed towards a concentration of Mayan ruins called “The Ruta Puuc”. The Ruta Puuc is about 25 miles of backroad that connect 6 different Mayan ruins together. In Mayan times there was actually a road of limestone running through the jungle connecting many of the large sites. Unfortunately this road is long gone and were stuck to boring ol’ tarmac.

We drove on and on through the jungle on the paved roads eventually arriving near the Mayan site of Uxmal. The Sun was setting and we needed to find a camping site quick. We pulled our usual maneuver of scoping out the surrounding areas for cutty backroads, eventually finding one that looked good and turned off into the deep jungle.



We followed this trail for miles, passing 2 small bee farms and not much else. Intrigued as to what the hell this random road in the jungle leads to we pushed on further. Slowly the road deteriorates to little more than a single track ATV trail. After 10 miles of slow going through the jungle we stumble upon a very small, very creepy camp.



Hmmm… Skulls, dirty old clothes, random stick structures, 15 miles deep in the jungle. Me thinks we should NOT camp here.

Next morning we woke up and headed to Uxmal. Uxmal is a magnificent Mayan site. Estimated to have supported over 15,000 inhabits at its height in 900 A.D. or so. The site is one of the finest examples of Mayan construction, relying on precisely cut stone blocks for the exterior of the buildings rather than plaster which wears away quickly.





The carvings here were still in great shape and easily recognizable.



The site is surrounded by dense jungle as far as the eye can see, we were driving around somewhere in that mess the day before.



They had a wonderfully intact ancient mayan ball court as well.



The “goal”. I believe the way the game is played is the players are allowed to use any part of there body aside from there hands and feet. The game is over when someone sends the ball through the hoop. Rumor has it that the captain of the losing team is sacrificed. Now that’s some team motivation!



They also had this weird shrine to penises, or is it penii?



Fractals everywhere, endlessly repeating patterns, the Mayans were definitely spacing out on something…



We spent about 1/2 of the day touring Uxmal then headed down the road towards another site named “Kabah”

Kabah is home to the “Codz Poop”…

Surprisingly enough. to me, Codz Poop is in fact not petrified Mayan doo, but in fact a hugely impressive “Palace of Masks”. The entire face of the building is compiled of hundreds of repeating “Chac Mool” (The Rain God) carvings.



Read the whole story on the blog Home on the Highway
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Old 02-29-2012, 08:54 AM   #82
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It seems obligatory for all overlanders to write a “Reflections on Mexico” post after their travels through the country are completed. Not only for collecting their own thoughts but also to share the truth about this “dangerous” country. While Lauren and I were preparing for this trip many people thought we were insane. Oddly, It wasn’t for the fact that we were planning to drive 25,000 miles to the bottom of the world. We were primarily labeled insane for simply wanting to drive into Mexico.



“Cant you just skip Mexico?”

“Have you thought about shipping around Mexico straight to South America?”

“I have heard/read/seen that you are going to be beheaded, raped, robbed, scammed, schemed, murdered, sold into slavery; the instant you step across the border to Mexico.”

Honestly, I cannot really blame them. The media blasts us with reports of daily beheadings, bodies lining the streets, downright bloodbaths. Momentarily while preparing for the trip we would feel a shimmer of trepidation as well. What if our years of research, planning, and reports from people who are actually IN Mexico were wrong and they were all right? Would there be banditos waiting to have their way with our innocent American flesh?




We pushed aside these fears and stood strong, after all… hard facts beat out hearsay everyday.

There is no doubt that there is truly a war going on in Mexico. A bloody drug war, a struggle for power between the all-powerful gangs and the quickly dwindling police and military forces of Mexico. However this war is concentrated primarily to the border areas and rarely involves anyone that is not poking their nose where it shouldn’t belong. I will leave my opinions on America’s drug/immigration policies being a primarily catalyst for this war for another time…

The MAJORITY of Mexico is a beautiful, peaceful, tranquil place. We found plenty of farmers/fisherman/working class people quietly going about their business. We found zero insane banditos hellbent on attacking innocent gringos. We primarily encountered children laughing and playing in the streets, women washing clothes and making fresh tortillas by the roadside, and hombres walking their cows from field to field.





We also found lots of police and military checkpoints searching for drugs and guns along our way. We saw 50-cal machine guns mounted to police truck cabs. It was not rare to be shopping in a supermarket picking up some milk next to a sawed-off shotgun wielding security guard. However after the initial “gun shock” wears off these things start to just be part of the routine.



Never in our entire month journey all throughout the far corners of Mexico did we ever feel remotely in danger. Lost, confused, frustrated, yes. In danger? Never.

Mexico is getting a raw deal. There are tons of RV parks, campgrounds, and other tourist attractions that are drying up and going to waste down here. The media has put a downright HALT to peoples plans to visit this beautiful country. Every single traveler we ran into had the same story to tell, zero problems whatsoever, great people, great food. We are here to tell you, do not be afraid. It is a wonderful place, full of wonderful people, with a rich and vibrant culture.



Fear is a strangle-hold on life, Do not let the fear of the unknown keep you from exploring outside your comfort zone. We have found that good research, a sharp mind, and a easy smile will keep you out of trouble 99% of the time.

Next time you hear someone talking about how dangerous Mexico is, Ask them the last time they were there? And then… point them to our blog.

http://homeonthehighway.com
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Old 02-29-2012, 04:58 PM   #83
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I really enjoy your trip report. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.
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Old 03-01-2012, 06:44 AM   #84
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I really enjoy your trip report. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.
Not a problem at all, happy to share
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Old 03-01-2012, 10:12 AM   #85
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Old 03-01-2012, 12:14 PM   #86
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Excellent update about Mexico. I believe that you can get killed in Mexico or in your own home town depending where you are located. I live in Orlando and we have some part of towns that leave a lot to be desired and people that usually get killed or mugged there is because they are doing things they shouldn't do in the first place. Heck Orlando was named one of the top ten cities in the US with the highest rate of crime and other things not long ago and my wife and I have yet to feel unsafe or threathen in any way. Thank you for clarifying about Mexico so other people like you guys take the plunge and venture in to Mexico without that fear.

Later
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Old 03-07-2012, 09:15 AM   #87
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Excellent update about Mexico. I believe that you can get killed in Mexico or in your own home town depending where you are located. I live in Orlando and we have some part of towns that leave a lot to be desired and people that usually get killed or mugged there is because they are doing things they shouldn't do in the first place. Heck Orlando was named one of the top ten cities in the US with the highest rate of crime and other things not long ago and my wife and I have yet to feel unsafe or threathen in any way. Thank you for clarifying about Mexico so other people like you guys take the plunge and venture in to Mexico without that fear.

Later
John
Exactly... You wouldnt go driving down OBT in the middle of the night unless you were looking for trouble ;) Lived in Orlando for 5 years, Go Knights!
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Old 03-07-2012, 09:23 AM   #88
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Cool2

After a great night in Bakalar, Mexico we headed south to the Belize/Mexico border. Unsure of what to expect we checked out our friends “Life Remotely” blog who recently crossed the border and posted a great detailed report explaining the crossing in detail.



It turned out to be a simple affair. We found the Mexican customs office, relinquished our Mexican visas and stopped at the Banjercito to check-out the truck. We received an exit stamp in our passport and they removed our Mexican vehicle import sticker from the trucks windshield. We were officially in “No Mans Land”. The area that exists while you are checked out from one country but not checked into the next. You may know it by the term “duty-free zone”. They had a large mall here where you could pick up cheap booze, cigarettes, and crappy knock-off brand name clothes.

After stocking up on junk we hit the Belize border. We had just learned the day before that Belize’s official language is actually English. Quite a surprise to us. It took a while to get used to saying, Thank you, instead of Gracias and Yes, instead of Si. But man were we happy to finally be able to have a full-on conversation with people instead of standing there like idiots trying to communicate.

The check-in process to Belize was simple, a few stamps in the passport, a cursory check of the vehicle and we were in. Welcome to Belize! We picked up vehicle insurance just past the border, $23 for 2 weeks.

While we were in Bakalar we met up with "Team Equipt" who gave us the line on a great campsite just past the Belize border, We headed off towards the GPS coords. The road was not on our map but Ben assured me, we could make it. ;)



Cruising down the road we hit a river with a ferry crossing. This was no ordinary ferry, an ancient hand-cranked job which looked as if it would sink at any moment. (I later learned that it actually did sink about 3 weeks before…) It could hold about 3 cars at a time, apparently it runs 24/7. The conductor sleeps on a wooden bench in the ferry.


We met some cool Mennonites on the ferry who were partying it up, we shared a few beers while we took turns cranking the ferry across the river. Hard working farming folk, there is a large Mennonite community in Belize. Apparently they got fed up with U.S religious policy and a large population relocated to Belize in the 1950s. Most are still very religious leading an almost Amish lifestyle, preferring horsedrawn buggies to automobiles. We met some of the more "progressive”boys. Ha!






We crossed the river, continued down the road, eventually hitting another hand-cranked ferry.


Pressing on towards the GPS coords we eventually found the spot. And it was worth every mile! Thanks again



From our cove we headed towards a small town in Northern Belize by the name of Sartenja. Sartenja, Belize is home to the
“Backpackers Paradise” A great little hostel/restaurant run by an amazing French and Swiss couple. They have carved out their own little piece of paradise here. They rent out cabins, tents, and hammocks to travelers for great rates. Natalie also can cook like nobodies business, we had amazing French/Belizean fusion meals for dinner every night.

The “common area”. No shortage of hammocks to go around. Lauren and I spent most of our nights here lounging in the hammocks listening to the rain and crickets chirping outside.


Read more on the blog... http://homeonthehighway.com
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Old 03-13-2012, 01:14 PM   #89
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We left Caye Caulker behind and headed back towards Sarteneja where we had left our truck. We took a quick pitstop in Ambergris Caye as we waited for the next ferry.

We made friends with a Coatimundi (You may remember these guys as “Crock Snacks” in Mexico. Now I feel kinda bad, they are awfully cute.



We picked the truck up and headed deeper into the interior of Belize. We had heard good things about “The Belize Zoo” and went to check it out.


The entry fee for the zoo was a bit steep ($15US per person??) but all the animals were rescues so we figured it was for a good cause. It turned out to be a great little zoo, with lots of native Belizean animals we have never seen before.

The Jabiru Stork, largest bird in Central/South America, 2nd largest wingspan in the world. Over 9ft wide!



THE HARPY EAGLE! The largest and most powerful eagle in the Americas. This thing eats Coatimundis for lunch. (Coatis got it rough…) The harpy eagles are practically extinct in Central America due to deforestation.


Harpy eagle attacking some poor zookeeper!


Junior the jaguar, It was great how little concerns for safety the zoo had, You could stick you arm in the cages and pet the jaguar…


Hahahaha, Lauren was shooting shots of this Tapir when all of the sudden it turned around and shot a 10FT firehose stream of urine (At least we hope it was urine…) all over her pants and shoes.


After Lauren burned her clothes we jumped back in the truck and headed towards Barton Creek Outfitters. A small hostel deep in the jungle of Belize.

Adios pavement


A fun river crossing


More pictures and the rest of the story on the blog... http://homeonthehighway.com
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Old 03-13-2012, 01:38 PM   #90
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Thanks for the update. Safe travels!
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