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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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  • 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.

  • 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