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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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December 2022
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MONTHLY ARCHIVES

THE ROUTE

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  • Going south in better shape, but under police pressure

    Posted on January 2nd, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Sight of two volcanoes on Lago de Nicaragua

    Sight of two volcanoes on Lago de Nicaragua

    On Sunday morning, we entered Managua, were a new type of problems was awaiting us. For the first time since the beginning of the trip, the police and their requests for bribes would become really annoying. In the few days we were in the city, we maybe got stopped 15 times. Carrying foreign plates is a real problem, and you get pulled over immediately as soon as they see you are from out of town. Already in Honduras, we got controlled a lot, but the cops got tired before me when I affected to not understand what they wanted. The only time we had to pay another bribe was in Mexico, when a cop asked us US$5 to buy a chicken. I gave him $2, and he was happy with it. Border crossing were always very transparent and simple, and we never had any questionable request for money, which make me think the situation really improved during the last few years, considering other traveler reports.

    Nick and Nakor

    Nick and Nakor

    In Managua, most of the time, we were able to get them out of our back, but it was really stressful at the end, enough to try to avoid the city if you don’t have anything specific to do there.  Eventually, while leaving the city, I had to pay US$15 when they threatened to keep my driving license for three days.
    But of course, we really needed our part, so there was no other choice than staying in the city. Sunday, on the third time we got stopped, and as the policeman was getting ready to give us a ticket for some imaginary infraction, a local guy stopped to help us out. As soon as he did, the police asked us to leave immediately, as the situation become less manageable when more people begin to argue.
    Nakor, who will become our Managua connection, was curious about our trip and the reasons we were passing through the city. As soon as he knew about our car troubles, he offered to help, first by providing a place we could camp, and then by locating the part and a local guy who could put it on the truck.
    We relaxed until the end of the day, cooked and slept, and at 8 the day after, we started looking for the axle housing. We managed to find a used one, but before to buy, decided to check out the price of a new one. Surprisingly enough, the price was the same, so we decided to go with the new one. After that, we went to drop the part at Nakor’s friend.

    Mario, Nakor's friend, and his staff

    Mario, Nakor's friend, and his staff

    He told us he could put the axle in the day after, which would only take him a day of work if we came at 7 a.m. We did, and at 10 p.m. Tuesday, we were ready to go. After a last night in Managua and some work on the car in the morning, we were on our way south, and went looking for a beach we could spend at least two days to celebrate the new year.

    The beach

    The beach

    On our way down, we stopped at the main Nicaragua Lake, and enjoyed the sight of the volcanoes on Ometepe Island, in the middle of the salty lake. As the salt level was low, we decided to take advantage of it to clean up a bit. Half an hour after, we met people on the beach who offered to show us the way to a spot where we could camp on the beach, close to San Juan del Sur. It was perfect for us, as we wanted to avoid the very touristic town. 30 miles later, we found the perfect location north of the city.

    The dusty trail leading to the beach

    The dusty trail leading to the beach

    For few dollars, we got access to a small campground on the sand, with access to water, a shower and toilets. No Internet access unfortunately, which explain this late blog entry. We decided to stay two days, but eventually were there for three.

    The Swiss team chose a Land Rover to go across the Americas

    The Swiss team chose a Land Rover to go across the Americas

    There were few travelers on the beach, including a Swiss couple driving through central and South America with a land rover. Most people were on the road for a long time. Few months, or few years. Everybody was happy to have found each other, and even me, usually looking forward to more quiet time, was happy to have company for New Year’s Eve. It was a long time we didn’t speak English and we could exchange travel experience and tips.
    The seawater was warm there, and waves were big, attracting many surfers. On January 2, we would leave the beach and go south again, pass the Costa Rica border, and reach Tamarindo.

    Mathilda beach campground

    Mathilda beach campground

    New year on the beach

    New year on the beach

    We left a month-and-an-half ago, and covered 5,000 miles since New York. The last two weeks have been stressful with the car troubles, but we were able to get out of the first tricky situation. I know there will be more difficult time ahead, but hopefully, luck will be on my side. Happy new year to everybody in New York and Paris, happy new year to you all who are following our adventures, and happy, happy new year to all the people who helped us since we started this trip.

    Mathilda beach

    Mathilda beach

  • 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