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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

Visited countries

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MONTHLY ARCHIVES

THE ROUTE

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  • Night on the damned mountain

    Posted on December 16th, 2009 Nicolas No comments
    The dirt road, going up the mountain

    The dirt road, going up the mountain

    So last Thursday, when we left the ruins, we took the direction of San Pedro Sula. Our next stop was supposed to be Masca, on the Caribbean coast, where I know some people from Global Block, a foundation with ties in Brooklyn, NY.

    Cofradia, where the main road intersect with the dirt road going up

    Cofradia, where the main road intersect with the dirt road going up

    The map of I bought just before leaving New York shows that there was a connection between Cofradia and the coast, going through the mountains. Around 2 p.m., we left the main road to try the mountain road. The first step on the road was Tomala, a village half way between the main road and the coast. As we entered the mountain, it became clear that the dirt road was not going to be as easy as previously thought. Huge changes in altitude, narrow path, animals on the road and river crossing were at every curve.
    Nadia go check hw deep the river is before driving through

    Nadia go check hw deep the river is before driving through

    In addition, as we were advancing and questioning people, we got a lot of conflicting answers about the road condition and time estimates to reach Tomala and the coast.
    Getting closer to Tomala

    Getting closer to Tomala

    After two hours, we already knew we would have to stop at Tomala for the night, as the light was dimming. And when we finally arrived there, it appeared that the road stopped there as well. Locals quickly confirmed this. There was no road, our map was wrong. The following day, we would have to backtrack to San Pedro, and use the main road to go along the coast. That was bad news, but after all, we were hay to see this tiny village. When we arrived, there was some kind of town meeting, and participants decided to give us the keys of the church where we could have access to water.
    Tomala, 5 a.m.

    Tomala, 5 a.m.

    The day after, we were up by 4:30 in the morning, determined to make it to the coast. Then, after few hours going down, as I was driving, something went wrong with the steering, causing us to crash on the side of the road. The good side, fortunately.
    Broken steering gear

    Broken steering gear

    We quickly assessed the damage, and realized that the steering gear was broken, the radiator and differential were leaking and the welding on the exhaust pipe cracked.

    As I was keeping our belongings, Nadia got a ride to San Pedro, and came back with a mechanic who took the steering gear out of the truck. Then they went back to the city to try to get the part in junkyards. Two hours later, they came back with the US$450 part. It was expensive, but we had no choice. No tow truck will come get us there, in the mountain, and we could not let the truck here, with all the equipment inside. We had to make it to San Pedro before dark.
    After changing the part we went down the mountain in the most nerve wracking way.
    Going down the mountain

    Going down the mountain

    The mechanic and Nadia in the truck, myself and the son of the mechanic sitting on the tail of the truck, running for water in every river, filling the leaking radiator every minute, the worst noises coming from the distorted steering elements now touching the transmission. In addition, as we got to San Pedro, the traffic got terrible, and thinking about the engine overheating made me drive crazy.

    The mechanic and his family gave us shelter while the car got surgery

    The mechanic and his family gave us shelter while the car got surgery

    But we finally made it to the house of our mechanic, in the poor suburbs of the city. By then, it was dark already, and we accepted the offer to stay at their place for the night. Once again, and like in every country, we benefited from the help and welcoming attitude from the local population.
    The following day, I woke up at 5, and work continued on many parts of the truck. Trying to get the radiator fixed, unbending parts and myriads of other little things were done by 2 p.m.
    In the heat of San Pedro

    In the heat of San Pedro

    At this point, the truck could run, but not in the best conditions. It was now Saturday afternoon, and we decided to make it to Masca, on the coast. Few hours later we were there, but by then, we realized we would have to go see a more legit mechanic, and probably a Toyota dealership would be the best.
    Waiting for Nadia to come back with the parts

    Waiting for Nadia to come back with the parts

  • Few days back, crossing the Honduras border

    Posted on December 15th, 2009 Nicolas No comments
    Another informal border

    Another informal border

    As promised, here is an account of the few days before our small incident. We are now in Las Minas, Honduras, at a friend house, thanks to my brother Sergio from New York. We were able to find a mechanic in San Pedro who is taking care of the car, and who seemed optimistic when we delivered it. Now, we can just wait and wait for his word.

    Our new family in Guatemala

    Our new family in Guatemala

    So back a little bit, after a last night in Guatemala, where a nice family let us sleep in front of their house, we woke up early morning, and took the direction of the Honduras border crossing.
    Armed guards are everywhere in Honduras

    Armed guards are everywhere in Honduras

    We were there few hours later, and it took us two hours and US$ 40 to do the immigration process and the temporary import of the vehicle. We were excited to let one more country behind, and at the prospect of a country where gasoline would be cheaper than Guatemala.
    The Copan Ruinas market

    The Copan Ruinas market

    Few minute after the border lays Copan, the country most amazing Maya archeological site, as well as the cute town of Copan Ruinas. After visiting the town, we decided to wait for the following day to visit the ruins, and went to find a place we could camp and cook diner.
    Cooking tortillas the old way, in the ashes

    Cooking tortillas the old way, in the ashes

    The rancher's family

    The rancher's family

    The Copan ruins

    The Copan ruins

    Going up in the mountain, we found a farm, and asked the owner for a refuge. He did not only let us camp, but also invited us to the family table, teaching us about traditional food from his country. After saying good-bye, we went down to the ruins in the morning. The site is the most significant in Honduras, and marks the most southern point of the Maya dominance. The northern border of influence being the ruins of Palenque, one of our previous stop.
    ruinas2
    When the ruins were first examined, in 1839, they were under heavy vegetation. And still today, major discoveries are being done. It takes four hours to visit the site, and there is also a museum and some tunnels we skipped.
    Copan with the mountains in the background

    Copan with the mountains in the background

    Also of interest, a 45 minutes path in the jungle where if you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the local animals. Bring insect repellent, unlike us.

    There are still many years of work ahead

    There are still many years of work ahead

    I should be able to give an update tomorrow on our situation, and give more details on what happened in the infamous mountains.