California to Panama in a T100

Yeah, the T100 actually has stock droop stops (not sure thats the correct term, but like bumpstops that do the job of limit straps) so it really shouldn't be an issue. I suspect my worn droop stops are allowing the suspension to drop out just slightly more than Bilstein planned and the kind of driving I do makes it happen more frequently than normal. It's not causing problems at the moment so I'll just go with it for now.
Thanks for watching.
 
The border crossing from Costa Rica to Nicaragua was pretty easy.
We crossed on our way south only 4 months ago, so we already knew where most of the offices were and already knew what to expect from Nicaragua with their screwy TIP process.
-We canceled our Costa Rica vehicle import permit in their air-conditioned office with nice, free toilets. We had to wait in line with the truckers for the one lady in the office doing work to process us, but can't complain when you have AC and a chair.
-Next we needed to cancel our Costa Rica visas. There are several offices that can apparently process your exit fee and they compete for your business by yelling at you in the street. The 3 I could see all had signs out front with the same price posted, so I went to one without a line, Paid, Got the receipt, and carried on to the official office to cancel the visa. In the corner of this office was one of the cool, self-processing machines where you can pay your exit fee with debit card. not a big deal, but we could have saved a buck and I appreciate that they are trying to improve the border experience, so I would have chose to use it. Any way, we simply waited in line and when our turn came up we got stamped out.

-Drive across to the Nicaraguan side where several people were yelling that I should choose the parking spot that I was already pulling into and that I should pay them for this and other great advice. I declined their help and moved on.

-We got stamped into Nicaragua with no line, which was nice, but it did involve 3 different fees at 2 different windows. This seemed a bit odd, but they added up to less than $10usd and they had all their little receipts so we went with it.
-The process for getting the car in is a bit different. You get a form from a desk in the building, fill it out, then go back out to the parking lot to find the official to inspect your car and sign the form. Then find a police officer to stamp the form. Finally go back into the building to get it processed. There is, of course, only one person who can complete each of these steps for you, so it's a bit of a scavenger hunt to find them and follow them around while they process whom ever got there before you.

-We decided not to declare the dog again and once again the border officials didn't care, so that seems to be the best strategy. On the way south we kept declaring the dog on the form and had to pay and go through an extra process at every border. Since we stopped declaring him, nobody has cared even though they clearly see him when inspecting the vehicle.

Well, that's it. We left the border and headed for playa Maderas. The process took about 2hours 15min and that seems about average for us.
 
We hit a couple of our favorite beaches on our way back north through Nicaragua. Playa Maderas and Bahia de Gigante. We spent 1.5 weeks between the two spots and got some fun surf at Playa Colorados.
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If you go to Bahia de Gigante (aka pie de gigante) you should climb the headland on the south end of the bay known as The Foot. It's a bit of a scramble, but it offers killer views.
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After the swell died we decided to move on. We did a lot last time we were in Nicaragua, so we only had one spot left on the list, Reseva Natural El Jaguar. It is a nature preserve/coffee farm in the mountains of northern Nicaragua that offered camping and hiking. The camping proved to be in a muddy parking lot full of biting gnats so we only stayed 1 night, did a hike and moved along. The areas that hadn't been cut down for coffee were nice though and we had a nice, roughly 3 mile hike.
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After the hike we headed for the border. We weren't sure if we would have enough daylight to cross that day, but figured we would head in that direction. After about 3 hours of driving on what our mapping app shows as mid level highway without touching pavement, we started looking for a place to stay the night. We did make it back to the main(paved) highway leading to the border crossing and found a restaurant that would let us camp in the parking lot thanks to Ioverlander.

With only .5 hour to the border, we were primed to cross the next day.
 
The border crossing from Nicaragua to Honduras at El Paraiso was a 2.5 hour process. This is average for us and could have been 20min shorter if we had sufficient local currency ready to go with us. There is no ATM at the border.
The only hiccup exiting Nicaragua was that I didn't have exact change for the exit fee and they didn't have the roughly $4usd that they needed to give me in exchange for the local bill I did have. They talked about it for a bit and decided that they had the change after all. So we moved along to Honduras.

Entering Honduras was strait forward and the immigration and Aduana offices were right next to each other, so that was nice. Or only problem was that we didn't have sufficient local currency for all of the fees, there was no ATM, and they can't take USD, so we had to take a poor exchange rate with one of the changers at the border. I was trying to exchange as little as possible and as a result had to run back and forth to the exchange office a couple of times. It cost a couple minutes and a couple bucks, but it all worked out.

We didn't claim our dog with Honduras. They didn't inspect our car at all, but they did send someone out to verify the VIN number and he definitely saw the dog. He checked the VIN from 6 feet away and waved us on.
You should definitely have the correct paperwork for your pets. You will need it to enter certain countries, like Panama and if someone does ask us for it we'll produce it, but in the mean time, not declaring our pet definitely seems to be the way to go. It's gotten us out of a couple fees, but the big advantage is that it has probably saved us at least 45 min at every border since we've stopped declaring him.
 
Honduras was awesome!
Well preserved forest with clearly marked trails, cheap scuba diving in the Caribbean, dog friendly national parks, and tons of cool birds.
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Road closers near La Tigre caused us to skip a few areas we had planned to go to, but we got some good hiking and kayaking in at Panacam National Park.
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We didn't know when we signed up for the kayaking, but apparently it's standard to have a six man armed guard accompaniment to "avoid problems"
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From there we headed over to Utila to learn how to scuba dive. The Utila dive center was super helpful in teaching us to dive and setting us up with accommodation that allowed the dog. And on the way back form one of our dives we got to jump off the boat and swim with rough tooth dolphins!
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Next, we made our way back across the country to the north west border crossing into Guatemala. We found a few cool hikes, camp spots and waterfalls along the way.


We also went to the Copan Ruins, but apparently we just shot video, no photos. It was a cool site though. Lots of toucans and other birds flying around the ruins and it's super convenient to head to the Guatemalan border from here.
 
Honduras/Guatemala border crossing.
This was a weird one.
Honduras and Guatemala seem to be trying to create a cooperative border system where both countries shared one building. It sounds like a good idea, but the result was that we didn't know where to go to check out of Honduras or into Guatemala since every window had both flags on it. The visas ended up being easy enough, but the customs for the car was ridiculous.

It was just one Aduana window for Honduras and Guatemala. This was confusing, but once we figured it out it seemed like it was going to be easy... it wasn't. Here's the play by play:
wait in line
convince auduana agent that you are leaving Honduras, not entering. he takes your paperwork and sends you next-door for a stamp
find the office where they keep the stamp, wait, get the car stamped out of Honduras
go back to the aduana office, wait, show the agent your stamp and get your vehicle paperwork.
Tell the aduana agent that you now need to enter Guatemala. he request your documents, copies of your documents and a copy of the stamp you just got.
go find a place to make copies. they don't make copies anymore, so go find somewhere else. There is nowhere else so just start asking every business. eventually find someone to make a copy on their home computer.
return to Aduana, wait, give the agent your documents and copies. He informs you that you must go to the bank to pay your entry fee, but he doesn't know where the bank is.
walk around asking where the bank is. walk .25 miles into Guatemala to get to a bank. wait. find out that you can only pay in Guatemalan currency and that they have no ATM
Go find a money changer, barter, get ripped off anyway, go pay your vehicle entry fee at the bank
take the receipt back to aduana. wait, agent checks the VIN,
wait, wait, ask what is taking so long. find out that they need something from the office down the street to finish your paperwork.
walk over to the other office with the agent, finish the paperwork and get the heck out of there.

This seams like a worse experience than most people have had at this crossing. I think that they were in the process of changing things around and they seamed to be training the aduana agents, so hopefully it will improve for others.

Once again, we didn't claim the dog entering Guatemala and nobody cared.
 
How did you handle cell service through Central America?

Does a Mexico purchased SIM card work?

Does iOverlander app need to be connected to cell service for directions and utilizing the app?

Thanks!
 
Ioverlander does not need to be connected to cell service to work. But we did experience issues with the map occasionally not loading properly when not connected to service/wifi. You can still see the pins, just not a detailed map, so if you download areas in google maps for offline use ahead of time you can still click pins in Ioverlander and choose to "show in mapping app" using google maps as a work around.

A Mexico SIM will not work through Central America. We read many different things about this and had a mix of experiences. Our Tigo brand SIM from Guatemala worked through El Salvador and Honduras, but we couldn't figure out how to buy more credit outside of Guatemala so we had to get a new plan in Nicaragua.
We did Claro brand in Nicaragua. The cell service was poor. We heard later that Movistar is better in this area.
We chose not to get a cell plan in Costa Rica.
We got stuck with Claro again in Panama. We bought extra credit before leaving Panama thinking that we would keep the plan through Central America, but It ended up not working outside of Panama so we went with out the rest of our trip.

Are you planning your departure soon?
 

locrwln

Expedition Leader
Watched the latest video and I know this is all well into the past, but the bed breakage had to suck. Hope the repair went well.
.
Jack
 
OK, way overdue on this one.

We explored Guatemala pretty well on our way south, so we only had a couple of things on our todo list. We headed back to Antigua to enjoy more of the city and so that Amie could get a hair cut at a stylist recommended by some other overlander ladies.
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We then headed into the Northwest part of the country in search of one of the tallest waterfalls in Central America. It was a bit of a mission. We got lost, it started raining and 4x4 was involved but we finally found the trailhead and hiked through the rain to check it out.
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We made it back off the mountain and stayed in a little truck stop hotel near the Mexican border.


The crossing into Mexico was simple. Check you and your car out of Guatemala, drive over to Mexican side, get fumigated (they only took pesos for this) then go park in the parking lot and walk back to the office to check you and your car into Mexico. You must leave a deposit with the Banjercito that you get back when you close your TIP and leave the country with your car.
Note that unlike most USA/Mexico border crossings there are no vehicle insurance sales offices at the Guatemala/Mexico border. You are legally required to have car insurance in Mexico, so you will need to purchase some online or run the risk of going to jail if you get in an accident.

We did not declare our dog. He was seen by multiple officials and none of them cared.
 
From the border we planned to retrace our path along the pacific coast, surfing our favorite spots from the south bound trip.
This was going well. We got some fun surf at Barra in Oaxaca and our favorite camp/surf spot in Guerrero. Rio Nexpa in the state of Michoacan was one that I really enjoyed on the south bound trip, but the sand was in bad shape this year, so we decided to move along and as we packed up I through out my back trying to lift our dog, Jaeger into the truck. Since I could no longer surf this changed our plans and we ended up moving north a bit quicker than expected.

At this point I had been to 2 different mechanics and had the pinion seal in the rear diff replaced twice and it was still leaking. I decided to get the seal and take it to a mechanic as I suspected they were using the wrong part. I went to an Autozone where they tried to sale me the wrong part and there by confirmed my suspicions. I went on the Autozone website(in English) and found that the 1st gen Tacoma uses the same part number as the T100, so I went back and asked for the tacoma seal and had success. On the plus side, check out this great rest area we could relax in while waiting at the mechanic shop.

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We stopped off in San Blas to do a bird watching tour that Amie wanted to do on our south bound trip, but couldn't then due to the rain.
The birds were plentiful and cool and our boat captain/guide was very friendly and proud of his home town.
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