Home on the Highway - San Francisco to Ushuaia, Argentina in an 87 4Runner

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by defrag4, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. Eagletalon

    Eagletalon Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
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    410
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Finally found your DR! Great pictures and narrative. Keep it coming!!!

    Later
    John
    #61
  2. jnorton1

    jnorton1 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
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    282
    Location:
    Loveland Colorado
    in.
    #62
  3. TheDudeAbides

    TheDudeAbides Sarcasm free11/11/10

    Joined:
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    Loveland, Colo
    Subscribed! :deal
    #63
  4. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
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    Hey guys, Things are going good here in Moreilas, MX. We are just about to head out from here up into the mountains to check out the Monarch Butterfly reservations. Apparently there are millions of these guys all over the place up there. From then we are headed to Mexico City!

    We have been getting lots of requests on how we actually setup and organized the interior of the truck, This is Laurens department and she just put up a new post on how we manage it. Check it out!

    http://homeonthehighway.com/everything-you-need-and-nothing-you-dont

    Sleep mode, activate!
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    #64
  5. IheartmyNx

    IheartmyNx Ihave2draft

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
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    3,859
    Location:
    Nashville TN, no chit, police state.
    NICE!

    I'm a old school Toyota snob too, so I'm definitely in!

    lol'd at the Cruiser in Death Valley... Notice a trend here?

    Dude, feel free to PM me with any advice I can E-give you... Like those CVs. I once lost (it got stolen) about a $500 diff to those stupid studs. I didnt know they were splined and pressed in. Couldnt get the tri-pod housing to clear those studs, but by the time I could get back to it, someone stole the dang thing... I'm glad I could help... I had 90% of it taken apart!

    Anywho. You should be able to field repair it w/o a jack,,, just tap those studs through.

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    And word to the wise; get at least ONE spare. OEM if possible. Aftermarket ones, though they have a warranty, are not as good...


    :thumbs up, Dude. You're living the dream...



    Typed using my PC, in the 2,123rd apartment of an undisclosed location, in Bellevue, ok, Nashville Tn.
    #65
  6. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
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    Howdy again friends, Its been a while since our last post. Been busy criss-crossing Mexico. When we last left off we were in a beautiful port town on the Pacific Ocean called Mazatlan. Now I am posting from the opposite side of Mexico, sitting on the Gulf of Mexico down near the Isthmus of Mexico. We have traveled over 2000 miles and had many great adventures along the way.

    Leaving Mazatlan we cruised down the Pacific Coast for a while, we were enjoying the beach views and fresh mariscos (seafood). We saw a small beach town on the map by the name of San Blas. Drove on down the road to check it out.

    The highway cut inland for a while and then curved back to the coast, when we approached the coastline this time the landscape had started to turn into marshland.

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    We reached San Blas, Mexico and drove right out to the beach, We got there about an hour before sunset, busted out some beers and enjoyed the view.

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    Another beautiful sunset… We found a little restaurant on the beach and sat down for dinner. The beachside palapa started to fill with acrid smoke, we looked around and noticed all the palapas were belching out this smoke. It smelled a lot like citronella, and within a few seconds we realized why. We were getting eaten ALIVE by no-seeums (tiny biting insects) The restaurants did all they could to quell the flood of fly's but there was no hope. We inhaled our food and made a beeline to the truck. We discussed our options for camping that night and figured if we got out onto the beach into the breeze and setup our bug net we would be OK.

    Wrong! We drove out onto the beach, bugs didn’t seem to bad. We setup our bug net around our sleeping area and passed out. Woke up in the middle of the night getting attacked by thousands of no-seeums, turns out they took a meal break and were back for seconds. They were so small they just waltzed right through our net, gave a laugh at our weak protection, and started chomping on our bodies. With not many options we buried our heads under the covers and roughed it out for the night.

    When I finally poked my head out from under the covers there were thousands of dead bugs around me and tons more alive flying around my head. I jumped out of the truck and found Lauren on the beach who gave me the “Lets get the HELL outta here look!”

    Read more on the blog... http://homeonthehighway.com/cruising-the-mexican-coastline/
    #66
  7. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
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    After we got our share of the beach scene we cut inland, Destination: Butterfly Kingdom.

    If you haven't guessed by now we are kind of nerds. Back home we had seen a few nature documentaries on the mass migration of the Monarch butterflies. Each year the Monarch butterflies begin a huge southward migration from as far north as Canada all the way south to Mexico. This incredible journey is over 4000 miles and spans generations of Monarchs to reach its completion every year. Millions of butterflies arrive in the Michoacán highland forests of Mexico every year for the winter before turning around and heading back north for the summer. It just so happened we were here during the right months. We had to see it!

    As we cut in from the coastline through the states of Jalisco we started encountering some wonderful mountain scenery and idealic farmland. Jalisco is known as the homeland of Tequila and agave farms abound. We also saw a few huge volcanoes.

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    Morelia is a beautiful Spanish colonial city. They have retained a lot of the architecture from the cities founding back in the 1500’s. We found it to be a wonderful town and spent a few days exploring the city alongside other Mexican tourists. I think we were the only gringos in town.

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    We then headed to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. There were so many butterflies you could literally hear them flying around bumping into each other above our heads.

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    Read more on the blog... http://homeonthehighway.com/morelia-mexico-and-the-monarch-butterfly-reserve
    #67
  8. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
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    PanAmerican Highway
    Just got done watching "Long way Down"... After we make it to Ushuaia Im thinking we sell the truck, buy some bikes and do africa!
    #68
  9. FinlandThumper

    FinlandThumper Has Cake/Eats it Too Super Moderator

    Joined:
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    8,417
    Location:
    Helsinki
    I am loving this tale! Great job and safe travels...subscribed.
    #69
  10. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
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    97
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    PanAmerican Highway
    glad you are enjoying it finland, actually just posted another blog on Mexico City

    Double Update Goodness!


    After experiencing the majesty of the butterfly kingdom we pointed our truck towards another sort of mystical place. Mexico City. Originally we had planned to skip Mexico City due to reports of violence, crime, high traffic, smog etc etc etc. However, during our few weeks traveling the country we have come to realize that 99% of things we had heard about Mexico were bullshit, so we changed our minds and we are glad we did! We ended up spending 5 days in this diverse place and barely began to touch the surface. We also partied our faces off and put a sizable dent in our Mexico budget, well worth it…

    We left the highlands of Michoacán and headed towards the mountain-ringed metropolis of Mexico City. Greater Mexico City with its population of <strong>22+ MILLION</strong> is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the 2nd largest in the world. This place is DENSE. As we broke through the mountain tree line we saw an endless sea of concrete and buildings. Wow

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    We had made a friend off the internet who graciously offered to let us stay at his place, arrange us a safe spot for the truck, and be our tourguide for the duration of our visit. Note: I made these arrangements at 9PM the night before our arrival, We were lucky to find such a grand host!

    We punched his address into the GPS and drove into the jungle. We tirelessly fought across the city streets making headway towards his barrio (neighborhood). The GPS said it should take 20 minutes to arrive, it ended up taking us around 3 hours. The GPS did not account for 1-way streets, curbs, and the constant reconstruction that takes place on the mean streets of Distrito Federal. Luckily we had mentally prepared ourselves for this and took it in stride, rather enjoying the wild west style of driving in the city. It’s a no-holds barred grudge match, kill or be killed, not for the feint of heart. I loved it.

    We eventually arrived at Adrian’s place where he introduced us to his grandma and aunt, showed us our room, and took us to his uncles parking lot where we were able to stash the truck for a few days.

    Our Mexico City adventure HQ

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    Wasting no time, Adrian said lets hit the city! We threw down our stuff and headed out, grabbed a cab, to a bus, bus to a train, and popped out in the middle of downtown Mexico City about 20 minutes later. The public transportation in Mexico City is cheap and reliable, bus ride was 5 pesos and I believe the train was a similar price.

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    Our first spot to check out was the Monumento a la Revolucion. A gigantic monument in the middle of downtown dedicated to the Mexican Revolution and the heroes who were involved in the movement. There is an elevator to the top and we headed up for a view of the city.

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    EL Angel
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    Headed to the bars to cap off our first night in D.F., lots of cool spots and plenty of hip young people out enjoying a night on the town.

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    and BACON WRAPPED HOTDOGS!!11 (Hotdog guy was not amused with my antics)

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    Woke up the next morning and headed to the Zocolo, Mexico City’s main historic square. This is where the capital building, cathedral, and Tenochtitlan ruins are located. Fun Facts, Mexico City is built ontop of the capital of the Aztec nation originally constructed in the 12th century. The whole region was once a marshy area with scattered lakes. These lakes were slowly drained and built upon over the centuries. The city is seeing the effects of building on this soft lakebed soil. The entire place is slowly sinking into the ground.

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    Read more on the blog... http://homeonthehighway.com/adventures-in-mexico-city/
    #70
  11. Eagletalon

    Eagletalon Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Oddometer:
    410
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Just a quick question. How do you like the truck so far and how its the truck behaving.

    Later
    john
    #71
  12. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
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    97
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    PanAmerican Highway
    truck is a beast, i beat the crap outta it and it just comes back for more. I do have a few outstanding issues I need to take care of soon. busted CV boot, slow oil pan gasket drip, and I punched a hole in the gastank when I overloaded the truck bottomed out my rear springs on a giant tope. JBweld is holding her together for now! :freaky
    #72
  13. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
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    97
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    PanAmerican Highway
    New update on the blog: http://homeonthehighway.com/accidentes-in-oaxaca/

    We waved goodbye to Mexico City as we climbed up and out of the smog-choked valley into the highlands. We were headed towards Oaxaca, we had been communicating with a volunteer organization there and planned to spend a week or two assisting them. There were a few sites along the way to see first.

    First stop was a small town named Cholula, just outside of Puebla, MX. Home to the 2nd largest pyramid in the world (by volume). Sounded like something we had to check out. When we arrived in town we expected to see a huge Egyptian style pyramid dominating the landscape, instead what we found was a huge hill with a giant church on top of it. Can this be it?? Looking at the signs, sure enough, that was it. We stowed our King Tut costumes and went to check it out anyway.

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    The church turned out be about 600 years old and was a magnificent structure. Missionaries had built it on top of the highest point in town, not realizing they were constructing on top of ancient buried ruins. By the time the ruins were discovered the church had so much history and relevance they could not remove it. Excavation of the ruins are still in progress at the bottom of the hill. Walking the excavated perimeter and looking up towards the church you can see this really was a huge pyramid at one point.

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    We spied some street vendors selling all kinds of fruits and snacks. Getting a closer look I saw some sort of weird bbq bug they had. Turns out they were grasshoppers, yum! Lauren opted for peanuts while I chowed down on some grasshoppers with salt and lime. Crunchy and delicious! If you come across some, eat up.

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    Leaving the pyramid and grasshopper delights behind we headed further south towards Oaxaca, eventually winding up into a national park whose landscape was half mountains/half desert. A weird but beautiful place with thousands of cactus rolling over the mountains. We camped here for the night.

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    *CAUTION: LONG STORY WITH NO PICS*

    We finally arrived in Oaxaca City, but without our phone or internet we had no way to contact our host. Downtown Oaxaca is a tight maze of one-way streets, tons of foot traffic, and lots of cabs, trucks, and motorcycles all jockeying for pole position. We drove around for about an hour in an attempt to find a hostel in our guidebook. Eventually we gave up and decided to just park and look around. Easier said than done… after 30 minutes of driving in circles (Reminds me of living in San Francisco…) I finally spot a parking spot and my instincts kick in. THIS IS MY SPOT!!! I throw it in reverse to start parallel parking, crazy Mexicans are wiggling their way behind my truck as I'm backing into the spot, I finally assert my position and the coast is clear to reverse.

    BAM!

    Maybe not so clear after all… turns out another guy didn’t agree with my “asserted position” and tried to wiggle behind. I clipped his taillight which shattered all over the street. Grand… This should be interesting. I jump out to survey the damage, busted taillight and some scuff marks on his fender. OK, not to bad I think. We start to converse (AKA He speaks to me in Spanish and I stand there with a dumb look on my face saying “si, si, si” over and over) eventually he says something about the policia, (I know that word!) not wanting to get the cops involved I told him that I would rather just pay him cash right now. He says he's not sure how much it would cost to get fixed and says we should go to a bodyshop for an estimate. Not exactly in the power position here I say OK, we jump back in our trucks and I follow him on a 45-minute joyride to the outskirts of town wondering just how much these guys are going to take me for…

    We get to the bodyshop, where an old man with gold rimmed teeth comes out and starts running his hands all over the rear of the truck. Pointing at every ding and dent on the thing with dollar signs in his eyes. Oh man… I am screwed. They converse back and forth for a while about where to get parts, paint, etc etc. Finally they come to an agreement, the guy turns to me and says it will cost 2 Mil pesos. 2 MILLION PESOS!?!?

    Turns out 2 Mil is actually 2000 pesos, around $175 US. I am sure this same minimal damage would have ended up costing me upwards of 1K in the states so I quickly agree to the price. We drive up to the ATM, the guy gets out of his car and starts talking to us again in Spanish. Great, here comes the rub, I think to myself… I am not sure exactly what he wants but we eventually figure out he is saying that he could probably save us some money if we went somewhere else to get another quote. Wow, I had this guy pegged all wrong, he was actually trying to save us money not extort it from us. Feeling guilty and not really wanting to go on another tour of Oaxaca, I told him I am happy to give him 2000 pesos, he thought we were dumb but agreed. 2000 pesos exchanged and we were back on the road. Escaping our first (and hopefully last) accident on this trip only $175 lighter in the pocket. Everything went better than expected.

    Frustrated, overheated, and our budget burned up for the week. We said screw it and left Oaxaca in the rearview. We hope to return someday as we heard this was a wonderful city, maybe I will just find a parking spot on the outskirts of town next time…

    We headed west up and over a mountain range from Oaxaca towards the Isthmus of Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula.

    We wound up near the top of the mountain and found an amazing campsite down a small dirtpath. Secluded, beautiful, and quiet, just what we needed after a hectic day in Oaxaca.

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    We watched the clouds roll in over the mountainous valley below and the sun set on another day in paradise. Sometimes we have to stop and remind ourselves what really matters, Will we remember that $175 and this frustrating day in 3 months? Or will we remember this beautiful spot on our amazing adventure together?

    Its easy to let your “problems” melt away with scenes like this.

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    http://homeonthehighway.com/accidentes-in-oaxaca/
    #73
  14. error cooled

    error cooled anything but asphalt

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2007
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    1,203
    Location:
    Arlington, Virginia
    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.
    #74
  15. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
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    97
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    PanAmerican Highway
    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.
    #75
  16. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
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    97
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    PanAmerican Highway
    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.

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    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.

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

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    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.
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    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.
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    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    Read more on the blog... http://homeonthehighway.com/getting-mighty-jungley-out-here/
    #76
  17. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8,079
    Location:
    Madison, Wisconsin and/or Panama, Panama
    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.
    #77
  18. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
    Oddometer:
    97
    Location:
    PanAmerican Highway
    thanks for the encouragement! :ear

    we do a good mix of highway and offroad, more fun that way
    #78
  19. IheartmyNx

    IheartmyNx Ihave2draft

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,859
    Location:
    Nashville TN, no chit, police state.
    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.
    #79
  20. defrag4

    defrag4 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
    Oddometer:
    97
    Location:
    PanAmerican Highway
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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!

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

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

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    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.

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    Read the whole story on the blog Home on the Highway
    #80