We paid 1200 for it but we thought it was in a little better shape then it was. It really should have been free. There are lots of pics of the truck/camper on our blog 30forthirty.org
Thanks for posting! I'll have to go back and read through the whole blog. Looks like a great start to the trip. Keep the updates and pictures coming for those of us stuck in the office :-D
'97 lx450, 180k, lockers, ome 850/863, fox, arb, ep9, 285 [Yoko I/T's|Nitto TG's], 4 working doors(1 more than the old fj55 )
We are still in San Ignacio waiting for my contact lenses to arrive. We've been here 5 days and are getting a little stir crazy and ready to hit the road. Thought in the meantime that I would put up a prior blog post....the reason we are stuck here waiting for contacts.
The Tale of Cuatro Gringros and the Oaxacan Curse
Posted on November 12, 2012
We reunited with Joe and Kylee of Patagonia or Bust in San Miguel Allende after spending a few days stretching our legs in the windy, hilly streets of Guanajuato.
Streets of San Miguel de Allende…pictures courtesy of Joe and Kylee (aka patagoniaorbust)
After spending two lazy days catching up, updating our blogs, and exploring San Miguel we all headed to Cholula outside of Mexico City with the goal in mind to climb the pyramid and explore the churches of nearby Puebla. Instead we were spooked by the ghostly empty, tagged up walls of Las America’s RV Park and ducked out after one night. Our goal was Benito Juarez National Park 10 km north of Oaxaca where we planned on camping for the night in the clear air of the mountains before parting ways again. Amazingly we found, or so we thought, the park relatively easily with only a few wrong turns. As we inched our way up the dirt road on the side of the mountain, we marveled at the valley spread before us crammed with houses, people, and smog. ‘Those suckers,’ we thought, ‘we are going to be sucking in the fresh air in no time!’ At the peak of the ridge as the mountains opened up before us, there was a lone gatekeeper’s house in front of a chain stretching across the road. Forewarned by his two fierce guard dogs, who promptly wandered off to sleep, the gatekeeper came out to greet us a skeptical smile on his face. We struggled to make ourselves understood, all we wanted was for the chain to come down so we could proceed up and camp undisturbed. He mumbled something about permits under his breath and reached for his cell phone. In rapid fire Spanish he spoke to some unknown higher up, all we could catch was ‘cuatro gringos’ and a couple of ‘buenos.’ We thought we were in! As he hung up, he glanced over at us, shook his head and said ‘no permiso acampar,’ and retreated to his shack. The last thing we wanted to do was head into Oaxaca at rush hour on a Saturday night to try and find a hostel, so we resolved to find a perfectly hidden pirate camping spot on the long dirt road we had just driven up. As we descended, we spotted a rutted road headed up into the trees.
Headed to pirate camping outside of Oaxaca
Our scouting mission was cut short by the tuk-tuk that came barreling down the road. The words from numerous blogs came to life in front of me. “When we had reached what we thought was the limit of our 4WD rigs, a crappy 2 wheel drive car would inevitably come cruising past us in no apparent distress at the conditions of the road (loosely adapted).” We decided that this spot would work. Ken gunned Suzie, she seemed ready to tackle the uneven terrain. As we traversed the ditch, Suzie became airborne. Rather one wheel left the ground and she seemed to teeter to a stop, balanced on her front axle, leaning towards the passenger side. A million things happened in the space of a second. I assumed we were not only high centered but about to go over so I leaped into Ken’s lap inadvertently grabbing the steering wheel. Ken locked eyes with Kylee, noted the expression of horror on her face and hit the gas. Somehow, miraculously, the other three tires grabbed and Suzie jumped out of the huge hole that Ken had accidentally driven into. Joe and Kylee did not follow our example and managed to safely negotiate their truck into a ‘hidden’ nook next to us.
We cracked some beers and watched the sunset over Oaxaca. After a delicious meal of chorizo, potato, peppers, mushrooms, rice, and squash, we started doing some dishes. I was in the camper scrubbing away and saw some headlights approaching up the road. We assumed they would continue past us considering we were so well hidden from view. Instead, they stopped at the bottom of our illicit entrance and five separate lights approached us. ‘This is it,’ I thought to myself, ‘Ken’s mother’s prediction is about to come true.’ I considered grabbing the bear spray, but instead stepped from the camper. Ken and Joe nervously bellowed “hola” in a very friendly, nonthreatening manner (at least I thought so). Soon five gauchos were milling around us. After initial greetings and queries we were able to determine that we were not in fact camped in the national park, but were in fact camped on the town of San Pablo’s public grazing and farming land. When the gauchos realized we were harmless, clueless gringos, they loosened up considerable and made us promise to not leave any basura (trash) behind. Relieved that we weren’t about to receive harm to life, limb, or wordily goods we offered them all a cerveza and enjoyed a bit of awkward half conversation as they taught us some new words, warned us of the dangerous plants, and admired our vehicles. As they left we all looked at each other with ear splitting grins, this is exactly the reason why we were all doing this trip. Sure it was not the smartest or safest move to pirate camp outside a major city, but if we hadn’t we never would’ve experienced these men and their way of life.
Trying to get some dishes done
The next morning we woke up still high from the previous night, packed up and headed into Oaxaca for a day of city exploring and hot showers. We found the Hostel Casa de Sol, got into the room and hopped into the showers. We were excited to have soft, real beds, internet, and hot water for a night and we had even scored parking directly in front of the hostel. Less then an hour after we had gotten there I asked Ken to get something from the truck. He came back a few seconds later, pale, and announced, “I think someone broke into our truck.” Our worst nightmare. We knew before we left that we did not have the most secure locks, and intended on installing a car alarm at some point in Mexico, we just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Sure enough the lock was popped on the driver’s side and the thief had made off with our phone and three bags of stuff that we kept in the crew cab of the truck. Initially we were not too upset. The thief had stolen a bag of books (including our Central and South America guidebooks), air compressor, sunscreen, bug spray, first aid kit, and a lot of contact solution and tampons.
Video evidence from the hostel camera. The thief’s head is barely visible. He was in and out in under 20 seconds.
No items absolutely necessary to continue our journey. The owner of the hostel was very apologetic and helpful, even arranging and guiding us to the locksmith to get the lock repaired. As we were waiting for the repair, we began cataloguing the items stolen and figuring out what we needed to replace. That is when we realized that our camera had also been in the back. Then the anger and depression really set in. Everything else that had been stolen was not vital, a camera is vital. On the bright side, I have been lusting after a new camera body for quite a while, now I can with a clear conscience buy one. It seems that the oaxacan curse is still in full effect and determined to make recent overlander’s experiences here difficult ones (see Home on the Highway and Drive Nacho Drive’s accounts of Oaxaca). Again we learned lesson numero 1,000 of the million we will learn on the road, albeit a harsh one, and are getting a car alarm installed tomorrow. We are thankful that nothing of vital importance was stolen including our truck and after a few tasty fried grasshoppers and some mescal life is looking up again. After all we are still on a trip of our lifetime, with many more miles and incredible experiences ahead of us.
Check us out http://30forthirty.org
Last edited by akmtgirl; 12-13-2012 at 03:19 AM.
Have an amazing time guys!
You'll find Wikioverland, the encyclopedia of Overland Travel very handy.
When you pass through a country, please take 5 minutes and update any sections that have changed (like gas prices, or the cost of entry) so it's up-to-date for those following you.
You can just click "edit" on any page and go for it.
A bit of our recent escapades in Guatemala.
Although we are two months post-election and one year post the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’m assuming that a majority of those that read our blog are familiar with the percentages sweeping the United States these past few years: the 1% versus the 99%, the 47% versus the 53%. While in Guatemala, we have been introduced to a different percentage, the 65.5% versus the 34.5%. Again, I shall assume that most of our readers have never driven in Guatemala, for those that have, you might have an idea of what I am referring to. According to nationmasters.com (a very reputable source, I know), only 34.5% of Guatemala’s roads are paved, leaving an astounding 65.5% of unpaved roads and making Guatemala 98th out of the random 172 countries listed, superseded by such world powers as Azerbaijan and the Republic of Macedonia. In the three days after we left Lanquin, we drove approximately 150 miles of the 65.5% of unpaved roads. One hundred and fifty miles doesn’t sound like much. Let me assure you, it is at 10 mph. One hundred and fifty miles of the most stunning, remote scenery that we have seen since Alaska. One hundred and fifty miles driving over the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America, the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes. One hundred and fifty miles of truck rattling, bone shaking, dirt roads.
Leaving Lanquin, we followed the advice of the Swiss owner of the Zephyr Hostel and pointed north, the completely wrong direction, but towards the reported beautiful Laguna Lachua National Park. Laguna Lachua is nestled close to the Mexican border, a crater lake formed by a meteor and surrounded by pristine jungle.
After a night of show and tell with the local family whose field we were camped in and an enjoyable hike to the lake, we were ready to hit the road. Instead of backtracking to Coban to get to Lake Atitlan, we collectively decided to head due west towards Playa Grande and Barrillas, arriving in San Pedro de la Laguna through Huehuetenango. Our host had consulted various amigos and assured us that it was a mere five hours to Barrillas and from there only seven hours to Huehue. We were also told that the calle (road) was malo (bad) at times, but also bueno (good) at times. Regardless, we were ready for an adventure. As we crawled through Barrillas seven hours later, we felt defeated by the 65.5%. The Guatemalan road had again given us a lesson in humility. For seven hours we had taken a beating as we pounded over rough, narrow, dirt roads. Evidently in Guatemala there is no gravel, only dirt held together with large, sharp rocks.
Occasionally, on very steep sections, two narrow concrete pads wide enough for the tires had been laid, but those would disappear at the top of the mountain. But, despite the punishment of the road, we couldn’t wipe the huge grins off of our faces. Even though we were in an area that according to our maps should be sparsely populated, we drove through small village after small village. Defying gravity, they clung to the side of the steep mountains. Logically, one would imagine that such villages would be better off placed in a valley or near the bottom of the mountain. Each mountain plunged into the next with steep, narrow, uninhabitable valleys.
Along the road trudged tiny Mayan men and women dwarfed by the loads they carried on their backs. In Guatemala, for the poor indigenous population, nothing is easy. Corn crops are planted on vertical slopes, planted and tilled with simple hoes. Corn is husked, by hand, from the cob and laid to dry in the sun. It is then either ground by hand with mortar and pestle or if the village has one, a simple machine run with a motor. Once the corn is ground into cornmeal, tortillas are made and baked over an open hearth. Wood for the hearth is harvested from the vertical slopes of the mountains. Painstakingly chopped down with machete, bundled up and carried on their back using a forehead strap. It was not uncommon to see stooped old men and young children, carrying their weight or more in wood. Exhausted yet ecstatic we settled in for the night in a rock quarry outside of Barrillas, feeling as if this is what overlanding is all about.
As we left Barrillas, Ken heard a new rattling noise coming from the back of the truck. We pulled over in the first spot in the road wide enough to accommodate two trucks (unfortunately also the town dump), and checked the truck over. A bolt holding the suspension airbag in place was gone. If we had ignored the rattling and continued driving, the entire air bag would have been destroyed and we would have been stuck in the middle of no where Guatemala for weeks waiting for a new one.
Luckily, Ken was able to use one of the bolts holding the camper to the truck bed and we were able to safely continue. We kept climbing higher and higher into the mountains and the road did not improve until we topped out in a forest of pine trees and were beyond ecstatic to see smooth, unbroken concrete.
After an entire day in low range, cruising at 45 mph felt like light speed. When we checked the Garmin, we saw that we were at well over 9,000 ft in elevation. Surrounded by pine trees, we felt as if we were back in Alaska or Montana. That is until three donkeys trotted by loaded down with wood led by a spry man in shin length white pants, a black vest, black cowboy hat, and sandals: yep, still in Guatemala.
Amazingly we continued to climb up windy, narrow, mountain roads, until we were driving through the Cuchumatanes high mountain desert at 11,200 ft. A new record for Suzie and both of us! But, when one goes up, one must go back down and down we plunged towards HueHue.
The hotel in HueHue no longer allowed camping in it’s parking lot, so we decided to push on towards San Pedro, only a 2 hours drive according to the waiter at the restaurant. Lesson number 1,674 of overloading was learned, when asking a local for directions and driving times poll at least three different individuals and add at least 2 hours of driving time to whatever estimate they give you. We made it to the access road to Lake Atitlan just as the sun was setting and navigated down the extremely steep road arriving in San Pedro four hours later.
An open-ended , open-minded road trip from Alaska to Argentina
2000 Ford Ranger
1988 Skamper Pop-up Camper
We arrived in San Pedro on December 19th, a mere two days before the end of the world (aka the end of the 13th baktun of the Mayan calendar) and only five days before Christmas. We rolled out of bed the next morning with one simple goal in mind, to find a house with secure parking large enough for two trucks. Our plan was to rent a home in San Pedro for the next month with our faithful travel companies, Patagoniaorbust, and settle down for some serious language lessons and truck maintenance. After five hours of trudging the streets, the task seemed more daunting.
San Pedro “street”
Despite asking every travel agent, hotel, hostel, posada, and guesthouse we could find, we still did not even have the slimmest lead. Everyone shook their head, “no, no su posible causa de 21 de Diciembre, Navidad, Año Nuevo, San Pedro se llena de turistas. As we wandered around aimlessly hoping to stumble upon a magnificent mansion, a scruffy Mayan clad in filthy jeans, a once white t-shirt, and sandals came running towards us babbling about a house on the hill that was for rent. Out of desperation, Ken and the Mayan hopped in Suzie and headed up the hill to check out this house, leaving us wondering if we would ever see him again. An hour later he was back, limbs and truck intact.
View from our casa over San Pedro and Lake Atitlan
The house was perfect and brand new; unfortunately he did not remember the Mayan’s name nor how to contact him. Through a serious of random and strange events, that we have come to accept as an everyday part of overlanding, we were able to track down our Mayan, Clementine, who hooked us up with the owner of the home, Byron, and by the next day we were ready to move in.
Driving through the tight, vertical streets of San Pedro to our new home, I was seriously questioning the ability of our truck and camper to fit through the gate into the secure yard in front of the house. Confident as always, Ken had no doubts. An hour and half later, Suzie was stuck.
It turns out a 6 ½ foot wide camper, does not fit very well through a 6 ½ foot wide gate, especially when said gate is abutted by concrete pillars and off a typical narrow, steep Guatemalan road with no maneuvering room. Over the next hour and half, despite numerous though miniscule attempts to turn and squeeze her through, she was still stuck.
Byron had called for Guatemalan reinforcements, and was planning on demolishing the existing gate in order to get the truck in. The prospect of possibly inebriated (it was 12/21, a grande fiesta in San Pedro) Guatemalan’s swinging sledgehammers around Suzie was not acceptable. With some muscle power, a bit of rocking, and the sound of screeching metal, ‘POP’ she was in. A quick assessment of the damage revealed torn tin on the back right corner of the camper and a broken roof clip.
The rest of our afternoon was spent unloading the truck while being serenaded by the sound of sledgehammers against concrete and tin.
Out with the old…
We were amazed and gratified that not only was Byron destroying part of his new home to accommodate a few gringoes with too big of a truck, his friends were gladly abandoning whatever festivities that they had planned for the rest of the day and quickly rebuilt a wider gate to accommodate us.
…in with the new
Over the next few days we took full advantage of our new home and large kitchen, whipping up a Christmas feast and taking in the Christmas and New Year fireworks from our roof.
The aftermath of Christmas dinner….maybe waiting for Santa?
Luckily, Ken has had some time on his hands to repair the damages. She might not be pretty, but she's functional. He formed a piece of tin to make a new corner and replaced some rotten wood in the roof and rebolted the corner. The roof got a few coats of waterproof paint to make her look sparkly new and to prevent our pesky on-again, off-again leak. He replaced the tin on the bottom right hand corner and bolted and painted it as well.
An open-ended , open-minded road trip from Alaska to Argentina
2000 Ford Ranger
1988 Skamper Pop-up Camper