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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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  • Trans World not at its best, but on the move

    Posted on December 27th, 2009 Nicolas No comments
    Agua Azul Sierra

    Agua Azul Sierra

    The infamous axle housing

    The infamous axle housing

    Here is an overdue account of the last few days. As you know, I was looking everywhere for this damn part, a front axle housing I bended in a mountain accident.

    After many days looking around, it became clear the part was not available in any junkyard and I grew worry I would have to finish my life in Honduras. Finally, we decided to try what many told us was not possible. Find a machine shop where they could heat the housing and make an attempt to bend it back to its original shape.

    Raoul buys coco breads

    Raoul buys coco breads

    Raoul, Antonio’s friend hooked us up with a local guy who did it for US$50. The result was not perfect, and once the axle was put back in place, it appeared that the car was still lower on the passenger side. Also, the transmission was doing noises nobody wants to hear except in horror movies.

    With indications from Gabe (U.S. IH8MUD), we disconnected the front propeller shaft, which stopped the noises. But it means that we are now rolling in 2WD instead of 4WD. Which matched his reinsuring description of losing two of the four engines on a plane.

    Many bridges have been damaged during the earthquake

    Many bridges have been damaged during the earthquake

    Regardless, we had no other choices, and with Christmas celebrations, it was not looking good for us to get any help, or parts. Our goal was to be able to drive and reach Nicaragua, where the piece – according to Honduras sources – should be easier to locate. Plan B, if we can’t find the part, is to drive down to Costa Rica, and either find the part, or have it sent down from the U.S. Thanks to many friends I have been emailing back and forth, if we choose this option, we could have the part in 10 days maximum. Some people also offered their help for the mechanical part in Costa Rica.

    So on the 25th at 8 a.m., we were back on the road. We can’t thank enough Antonio and Thelma, who had us for ten days, and feeding us local food every day.

    At 3:30 p.m., after crossing the mountains surrounding Tegucigalpa, the country capital, we arrived at the Nicaragua border. Roads and bridges in Honduras suffered a lot from the recent earthquake, and I was looking forward to the more recent Nicaragua infrastructure.

    Customs officers are not joking when looking for drug

    Customs officers are not joking when looking for drug

    The Las Manos border was definitely the easiest one we had to cross. We were done in 40 minutes. Pretty cheap as well, we only had to pay US$3 to exit Honduras, US$7 to enter Nicaragua, no cost for bringing the vehicle, a mandatory $12 insurance (like always, liability only), and a Marlboro light for the guy to open the gate.

    An hour later, being back to sea level, we asked a small hospital funded by USAID if they minded us camping in the courtyard. They didn’t.

    Night falling on Nicaragua

    Night falling on Nicaragua

    I felt relieved we were able to let Honduras behind. Not being able to make any progress in the last week has been frustrating, and I needed something to happen.

    The following day, we continued south, but slower. It was Saturday after Christmas, and we knew it was meaningless to arrive in the capital before Monday.

    Coffee plants

    Coffee plants

    Drying beans

    Drying beans

    We did some grocery shopping, visited a coffee plantation close to Matagalpa (Selva Negra, which I don’t especially recommend, since they apparently benefited a lot of guidebooks recommendations, and felt more like a touristic destination than a real coffee plantation.

    Typical Nicaragua landscape

    Typical Nicaragua landscape

    Around 5 p.m., as we got closer to the Managua Lagoon and past Las Maderas, we asked a farmer to camp on his property. We were now at less than an hour from Managua, and I was growing more optimistic.

    The farm we slept at, an hour from Managua

    The farm we slept at, an hour from Managua

  • Stuck in central Honduras

    Posted on December 19th, 2009 Nicolas No comments
    The beach in Masca

    The beach in Masca

    I wish there would be more exciting news but here we are, still stuck, ten days since our little mountain escapade. After two days making the emergency repairs in the suburbs of San Pedro, we were able to leave and reach the coast, but the mechanical shape of the truck was not reinsuring, and I decided we had to bring the truck to a professional mechanic.

    River in the rain forest

    River in the rain forest

    On the coast, we spent two days at George’s place, a friend from Brooklyn who lives with his wife Clara in Masca, on the Caribbean coast. George is deeply involved in the community down there, and also represents the Global Block Foundation in Central and South America.

    Georges and Nick meets in Masca

    Georges and Nick meets in Masca

    We were able to relax a bit, went to the beach and in the rainforest, but were restless because of the state of our vehicle, and anxious to have a definitive word about what had to be done.
    The coast is very interesting with its banana-export ports, but also Garifuna villages. The black ethnic Garifunas are believed to live in central america long before the arrival of Europeans. At some point, Hispanic ships carrying enslaved West Africans added to the local population.

    On Monday, we decided to backtrack to San Pedro Sula, and visit the Toyota dealership. When we arrived there, we were informed they would not look at any U.S. vehicles, for political reason. Surprised by this – but of course, we are used to surprises by now – we found the address of another shop where an ex-Toyota staffer is a mechanic.
    When we got there, they told us we had nothing to worry about, and that the car will be ready in two-days. That was ten days ago.
    We left the car, packed bags, and took the bus to go to stay at Antonio, a friend of my New York buddy Sergio from the New York Times.
    Antonio lives in Las Minas, one hour east of San Pedro, close to El Progreso.
    From there, every day our problems became more complicated. Chases for parts, delays, and of course an inflating bill were making every day a disappointment. As of today Saturday, we still have not much ideawhen we will finally get our ride back. We are still tracking down a transmission part, which is supposed to be the last, but who knows. In addition, the repair budget already took a serious hit.

    Antonio's family and friend

    Antonio's family and friend

    Thanks to Antonio, Thelma his wife and their friend, we still had chances to enjoy our stay. We went out with Antonio’s friend, and I was able to try meat specialties as well as many Honduras beers. We also got cigars and coffee, and took advantage of the countryside around the house.
    But now it seems that we may have to let our plans to be in Costa Rica by Christmas on the drawing board. Especially if the part we are supposed to get on Monday doesn’t fit the truck, which may happen with our recent luck. But if it does, we should be in the capital by Wednesday, pass the Nicaragua border Thursday, and be very close to Costa Rica by Friday.

    Trans World makes it in the paper

    And who cares if we are still in this fine country for Christmas, as long as we can be back on the road, have a good meal and maybe smoke one of these Honduras cigars…
    Who knows, maybe I should just live in Honduras for the rest of my life, since we already enjoy fame in San Pedro, where we were featured in the local newspaper.