Ends of the Earth Expedition, March 8, DAY 26

Knew we were getting close to the Nicaraguan boarder because of all the semi’s parked on both sides of the road. Got a little complicated as we got closer to the boarder because the semis were not only parked on both sides of the road but IN the road. They completely blocked the shoulder and both sides of the road, except for one lane, which was the access point for all traffic coming or going from the boarder. 

 

Found the buildings we needed and began the process of exporting ourselves and vehicle from Honduras and entering Nicaragua. I think the whole thing took about 2 hours. Not bad. In the meantime, we talked with the locals, took pictures of them taking pictures of our vehicles, fed a dog some left over chicken. One of the locals saw my camera and wanted to see pictures of our travels, so I scrolled through the pics on the camera. Right when we were driving through the boarder zone two huge white geese waddled by. How random is that?

    

 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, March 7, DAY 25

Honduras is really pretty. Green, mountainous. We camped near Lago de Yojoa. It was nice. Area all around has huge trees with moss hanging from each branch, flowering tropical vegetation, swampy with little colorful boats in the water, people at the road side stands are selling fish. The vegetation reminds me of Hawaii. 

 

The road construction zone became a free for all. People driving like crazy all over the place. At one point, the road was down to one lane. Normally, the flag guys would communicate and allow one side to go through at a time. NORMALLY… In this case, our one lane of traffic met the oncoming lane of traffic on the one lane of available road. Thankfully our lane of traffic had two semis in front, so the oncoming traffic relented and drove off the road to wait until we all passed. 

 

Went to a grocery story for supplies for dinner. Loud dance music with a DJ at the front of the grocery store. Inside the music was blasting. So much so, that unless you were directly facing each other you couldn’t hear each other talking. 

 

Took an overland route to Valle de Angeles. Really pretty mountain route. Trees, like in prescott, but interspersed with fields of crops. 

 

We passed two motorcyclists on the dirt road we were one. The first one did the jaw-open, neck breaker stare as he passed us, then actually stopped in the road behind us to watch us go by. The second motorcyclist drove by us, but didn’t see that the first guy has stopped horizontal across the road. He totally t-boned him and they both fell over. Thankfully neither was hurt. 

 

Camp spot was very nice. Looked and smelled like Prescott, so I kinda felt at home. Got in about 5pm. Had appetizers, then me, Stacey, and Tam made what everyone agreed was the best meal we’ve had in about a week. We had pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, and a beautiful salad. It was beyond good.  

 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, March 6, DAY 24

Went to the Copan ruins today. We took a guided tour provided by a man named Saul. He was great. Very fun and personable. A musician at heart, so kept making silly references to songs and singing. For me, what set these ruins apart from the other ruins we’ve seen on this trip was the intricate carvings in the stone. Plus, hearing the history of the ruins, people, and culture as we walked along was an added benefit. 

  

 

After we walked around the ruins, Scott and I took a tuc-tuc into town. Worked okay on the dirt or paved road, but was REALLY bumpy on the cobblestone. The guy dropped us off at a coffee shop at the center of town. We were all excited to get fu-fu coffee (mocha, flavors, whip-cream – a daily ritual at home, but harder to come by in a third-world country), but the power in the town was off (seriously, the whole town), so no coffee for us. Oh well, the tuc-tuc ride was fun anyway.  

 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, March 4, DAY 22

Drove to a place called Brunos. A nice place on the water with a large marina with many boats. Brunos had rooms you can stay in or you can camp in their parking lot. There were many foreigners – Canadians, Americans, Germans, French, etc.  All the foreigners, who had mostly come by sea, seemed amazed that we came by land and were interested to hear our story and see our vehicles. Brunos had a very relaxing, but transitory air to it, like everyone was meeting, resupplying, telling their stories, and passing through. 

 

Had lunch outdoors by the marina. While at lunch, we removed tick from Charlie’s arm, a souvenir from the time we spent in the jungle.

  

While the boys sat outside by the marina to work, Me, Stacey, and Tammy walked to town. When we drove through on the way to Brunos, there seemed to be a lot of little vendors on the side of the road, but once we actually were there walking around, there really was nothing of much interest. Lots of food vendors, knock off or seconds clothing items (Hollister, A&F, Adidas, etc), produce, even bras. At one of the shops, I was taking pictures of the produce, tea, candles, etc and one of the teenagers working in the shop started goofing-off for the camera. I snapped a few shots of him, then he wanted to take a picture of him and a girl he clearly had a crush on. It was cute. Showed the pictures to him and his family. They got a real kick out of it. 

  

 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, March 2-3, DAY 20, 21

 

Me, Stacey, and Tam took a taxi (toyota corolla) to Flores Island to shop while the boys were getting the trucks all cleaned up from the mud from the jungle (not an easy task, I assure you). The island had colorful buildings and narrow streets. We made our way up and down and in and out of the shops enjoying finding treasures. 

         

 

The guys came to pick us up and we drove to Chaltunha (means “white stones in crystal water”) across the water from Isla Flores. Chaltunha was great. The owner, Neil, a Belizian, was very hospitable and personable. His place has six bungalows, and a camping area, and bathroom and shower facilities among the flowering orange trees (the scent of orange blossoms was intoxicating). Neil has a deck/dining area that overlooks Isla Flores and the water. Neil’s place is stunningly beautiful, I think made even better because how great he was at taking care of us. 

We were scheduled to have dinner at 8pm, so to fill our time until then, Neil offered to take us on a boat ride around the peninsula. Everyone piled in the back of his truck and he drove us down to the water. We boarded Neil’s ponga and set off. The sun was just beginning to set, so all the colors on the island were just positively glowing. The boat ride was really peaceful and relaxing. At one point, Neil said, “Everyone move forward” and we had to move toward the front of the boat to balance the weight so we could get through an especially shallow portion of the water. While doing this we surprised two men who had come down to bathe. Awkward! We watched the sun set while on the water, then headed back. 

Dinner was served out on the deck overlooking the now lit-up city. It was stunning. After the delicious dinner, we were served lemon meringue for dessert. I don’t like lemon but this pie was scrumptious and still warm from the oven. 

 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, March 1, DAY 19

In the Jungles of Guatemala: 

I had never driven in the jungle before and definitely didn’t have the experience handing the vehicle in the mud. The vehicle felt very out of control because of the deep ruts and mud. I liken it to one of those rides at Disneyland where your vehicle is on a track, it pulls you this way and that depending on which track you are on and the steering wheel seems to have a mind of its own. It felt very out of control to me at first, because once you get your wheels in a rut, the vehicle moves around almost without your control. The surface feels very slippery and it was common to feel like the vehicle was being pulled sideways. You think you’re going straight, but all of a sudden you are bearing right, because the rut turns right. Scott kept saying, “don’t fight the rut.” I guess the danger is that you could end up with your axels in different ruts and that could really turn you sideways. In addition to the mud and ruts, my challenge was to also avoiding trees, vines, and vegetation that was in the path. So anyways, I eventually found my rhythm. I did get stuck once. The mud got too deep and I didn’t give it enough gas. Then when Scott was having me back it out, I gave it too much gas and got us buried to the axels. Scott jumped out and got the tow strap. Hooked it up to John and Tammy’s Jeep and they pulled me backwards. Quick and painless. So it was great. If you ever have the chance to drive in the jungle, do it. I highly recommend it. 

 

 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 27-28, DAY 17,18

Arrived at the Guatemalan boarder. Concrete building similar to the Belizian boarder. They processed us, then we had to drive through this huge car wash that cleansed our undercarriage. Get out, pay for it. Then drove a little down the road to get our visas and vehicle importation. A little more chaotic here. A big tour bus of backpackers had arrived the same time us us, so there were people everywhere wondering around. We got in line – pretty long at this point because of the backpackers, plus all the regular local traffic. The “office” was outside under this huge metal domed overhang. It was interesting to watch the people as we waited. Began to see a difference in the locals. Many of them were much shorter and stockier. Faces were smaller and angular, with more pronounced noses. Jeans was the clothing item of choice. It seemed everyone was wearing jeans, jean shorts, skirts or jean jackets. There was this funny white man that came by. He had a big long white beard, galoshes, an opened black umbrella, and a black bucked holding all his paperwork. We figured a bucked was way more practical than a purse or breiefcase. Not only could you carry your documents, buy you could wash yourself, your clothes, your car, carry your groceries, feed your cow, etc. So multi-purpose! (We’ll have to keep that in mind for our next trip. Maybe we can even market it. Call it, Overland Bucket. Sell it on the shopping cart). Then there was a young man, who was probably barely 20 years old, holding a rifle. Dressed like he worked for some government agency. Despite the long line to pay our fee, when any of us was ready to pay, he came and got our paperwork and money and moved us to the front of the line. We guessed it was to expedite us spending money in their country. 

 

The boarder town was pretty primitive. We really felt we were in a third world country. The road was dirt and full of potholes, trash, and lots of animals, from dogs, to horses, to pigs. Then when we made it to the highway, it wasn’t much better. Extremely beat up, huge potholes, concrete mixed with dirt, random topes. We were amazed that THAT was the main highway to and from Belize.

 

Headed out to Isla Flores to meet Cyril, an Overland Journal subscriber, who would be our guide through the jungle.   Once we found Cyril, we traveled a few miles down the road to a large modern shopping center and mall – it even had a Pizza Hut -  to reconvene with our team. The clear difference between our malls and theirs, is that there was a discotec, complete with DJ in the mall. It was funny – and very loud. All gathered to eat at the Chinese restaurant. It was very nicely decorated – really pretty upscale for a chinese restaurant. It was very ornate with gold and crystal chandeliers, and huge paintings – the odd part is that the pictures were of European Gentry. All white people. So the visual agreement was a bit off – European gentry in a Guatemalan Chinese restaurant. It was interesting trying to decipher the chinese menu in Spanish. Another thing at the mall that was different from our malls, is that the security was walking around with shotguns and bandoleers. So, a tip when traveling in Guatemala: you don’t want to commit a crime at the mall or in the mall parking lot. 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 26, DAY 16

So we went to the zoo today. Seem kinda random to me initially, but it was really great to see the native species. The sign at the entrance to the zoo gave me pause. It read, “Notice: guarded by dogs and armed guards.”  

 

Began to walk through the zoo. First stop was the Tapir’s. More commonly known as “land cows.” They kinda seemed like a cross between an ant eater and a baby hippo. They had these long snouty noses, that retracted back and forth. Then the spider monkeys. They were just sitting in the trees reclining. The zoo had parrots, a harpie eagle (this eagle can eat an anteater), toucans – amazingly colorful beak. And so strange that such a huge beak could be on such a medium size bird. There were several small cats, a big fat crocodile, a puma reclining in the shade, howler monkeys. They were very interested in eating. One was hanging upside down by his tail eating from the branch below him. There were lots of bird species. But the finale, was a 2-year old jaguar. He was active and extremely interested in a pink ball. It was so fun to see a 200 lb jaguar act just like a domestic house cat (well, relatively speaking). He was batting his ball around, chewing on it, laying on the ground, kicking it with his back feet. At one point he got it stuck between some trees and couldn’t figure out how to get it out. He jumped to the top of a raised platform and came down the other side with a thud. He was beautiful. And so completely unaware of us.

 

Ends of the Earth Expedition, February 25, DAY 15

Headed toward the Belizian boarder. The crossing was pretty low-key. Only took about an hour to get all of us across. We had the vehicle importation, non-native species car wash, the travel visa, vehicle insurance, and finished by paying our fee. Very quick and simple. It helped that Belize is a english speaking country. 

It’s weird, because as soon as you crossed the boarder it looked and FELT different. Not just the vegetation, but the entire attitude. The drivers were much calmer. It was clean, the bathrooms had toilet paper, the dogs seemed contained. We kept seeing signs along the road that taught safety and cleanliness. The vegetation became more and more lush. Everything was green. There were huge palm trees, and miles and miles of sugar cane. 

 

We needed to be close to the International airport outside of Belize city by nightfall because one of the team members was flying out in the morning. Unfortunately, there was no place to camp close to the airport, but we found a great resort called The Black Orchid. 

 

The Black Orchid KICKED BUTT. It was great. A nice spread on the river. It had beautifully manicured gardens, magnificent trees, a pool, outdoor seating areas, hammocks hung from trees, vollyball courts, huge grassy areas, thached roof outdoor rooms. The buildings were all a cream colored plantation style. All the people who worked there were super nice. Our room was clean and spacious, on the second floor, and had a large balcony that overlooked the river and a gorgeous tree. 

All met downstairs in the dining room about 7 pm for dinner. Had a nice dinner. Most of us had pasta. Desert was nice. We had brownies with ice cream. I don’t know what it was, but that brownie was to die for.