|07-12-2012, 01:58 PM||#227 (permalink)|
Awesome Fab Tools
Join Date: Jan 2007
Member # 84883
Location: portland, Or
Killer Journey... I am looking forward to reading the whole thing in more detail!
ROGUE FABRICATION -Portland, OR
Air/Hydraulic Tubing Bender $580 with 180 Degree Dies
Drill Press Reduction Kits $119 Shipped
|07-16-2012, 11:32 AM||#229 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Member # 168118
We booked it south from the Osa and were soon at the border of Costa Rica-Panama.
Within an hour or so we had gotten all our paperwork squared away, changed some Costa Rican colones into U.S. dollars (the official currency of Panama) and drove on in. Country #9. Our friends at fromatob.org have a nice writeup on"How to cross the Costa Rica-Panama border with a truck".
A few friends of ours had crossed the border a few days earlier and told us of a town called Boquete nestled high up in the mountains. After spending the last few weeks in sweltering jungle temps we were looking forward to a few days of cool weather. We bee-lined it for Boquete.
Boquete is a small town in the highlands of Panama. It's cool weather makes it very popular with Panama tourists and ex-pats alike. The dormant and normally cloud-covered Volcan Baru dominates the skyline above Boquete. It is the highest point in all of Panama.
Our guidebook mentioned that most of Volcan Baru was protected national park land. It also mentioned a 4x4 road to the Volcano peak, elusive Quetzal bird sightings, and camping possibilities. We were sold. I guided the truck through the town and started snaking up through some small fincas and houses towards the volcano.
We arrived at the ranger shack around 5PM, jumped out and told the guard we were going to drive the 4x4 to the top. He started laughing. I pointed out the window to the 4runner and he said "Oh. We'll you can try" and wrote us up some permits. I wondered just how bad this road was going to be...
We drove up the gravel road which quickly turned to dirt then to straight up rocks and boulders. Maybe the ranger wasn't so crazy after all. We were less than 1/4 mile past the guard station when I first had to engage 4x4.
Example of the road-bed
The scenery was beautiful though. Mountainous cloud forest surrounded us. We inched along up the road navigated around and over gigantic boulders. At one point we took a shortcut through a farmers land to avoid a treacherous looking section of the trail.
After about an hour of driving the sun started to set. We had only driven about 1 mile and had not found any campsites. However, we also had not seen another soul and by the conditions of the road I doubted any joyriders would be making their way up the mountain. We pulled over and setup camp on the side of the trail.
View from our campsite. We are deep in pristine cloud forest, perfect Resplendent Quetzal country.
Made a nice meal and went to sleep in downright chilly weather. It was 45F according to our thermometer. Coldest weather we have been in for quite some time. Had to brush the dust off the sleeping bags and thermal underwear!
I woke in the morning with one thing in mind. QUETZALS.
Read the rest of the story on the blog at http://homeonthehighway.com/panama-v...f-the-quetzal/
|07-23-2012, 05:07 PM||#230 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Member # 168118
The Pan-American Highway, a series of roads linking the great white North of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska all the way down to the southern-most reaches of Ushuaia, Argentina. At a total length of just under 30,000 miles, Guinness Book of World Records marks it the "World Longest Motor-able" road. Yes-siree, 30,000 miles of awesomeness all navigable with nothing but 4 wheels, a tank of gas, and a sense of adventure.
Except... Except.... Except 54 damn miles of impenetrable jungle full of beasts, FARC rebels, impassable mountain terrain, and native tribes who are rumored to still dabble in cannibalism. I am of course talking about the "Darien Gap". The little stretch of jungle that separates Panama from Colombia. The little stretch of jungle that has created much headache for all overlanders headed south.
Panama City is where overlanders must arrange shipping around this swath of rainforest. I would say it tops the list of all overland PanAm travelers fears (the ones that have gotten over the whole kidnapping/beheading nonsense at least). Imagine loading your baby into a dark box, hoisting her high into the air, placing her among thousands of strangers, and setting her off to sea... Not to mention travelers have been stuck without their vehicles for months, forced to pay exorbitant fees, and there have been some whose trucks never showed up at all! Lauren and I approached the city with trepidation knowing what lies in store.
As we came upon the sprawling metropolis full of gigantic skyscrapers, super highways, and malls I was instantly reminded of my home city of Miami, Florida. Mix in everybody speaking Spanish and driving like crap and I really felt like I was back home!
We had a few goals for the big city of Panama. #1 See the Panama Canal. #2 Arrange shipping from Panama to Colombia.
We made some friends off the internet who had been traveling south as well. <a href="http://www.adventuretheamericas.com/[/img]Adventure the Americas</a> is a group of 3 friends who set off in a 4runner from Colorado and are now in Panama City. Pretty cool.. even cooler when you think only 3 weeks ago they were still in Colorado. Yes you read that right. In 3 weeks they managed to drive all the way from Colorado to Panama. A process that took Lauren and I over 7 months to complete! We told them they were crazy. They told us their plan is to circumnavigate the entire continent of South America and return home to Colorado in only 6 months! Then we told them they were just F'n nuts.
Aside from being crazy they turned out to be pretty cool dudes and we instantly hit it off. We spent the night sharing beers, swapping stories, and scheming our plan to ship around the gap together. It is cheaper to double-up and place 2 trucks inside 1 container. They had already laid some of the ground work for the process, found a shipping company, and begin the initial paperwork. These guys were fast.
Team Adventure the Americas and yours truly.
Since it was the weekend and we could not move forward with any of the process we decided to do some sightseeing.
First off we headed out to the walled-city of Casco Viejo. Panama City's historic district. It was built in 1673 after the old Panama City was completely destroyed by the dastardly pirate Henry Morgan (Yes of Captain Morgan rum fame) and his crew. Casco Viejo was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997. The area itself was getting quite run-down for a while and is now undergoing massive remodeling and restoration. It was crammed to the gills with beautiful colonial architectural, ornate churches, palaces, and now hip bars/restaurants. There is also a seedy side to the place which I can only imagine will get shoved out as real-estate values increase. Ahh progress.
After scoping out the city we headed up to a large forested area called Ancon Hill. Ancon Hill was under U.S. jurisdiction as part of the Panama Canal project and thus avoided urban development. It is an odd island of green surrounded by the urban sprawl of the city below.
We had read that the hill is home to monkeys, sloths, deers, and all kinds of wildlife cut off from any other jungle. Our friends from Adventure the Americas had seen a sloth up there just the other day, we hoped we would be so lucky.
As we climbed the hill we were greeted with sweeping views of the city between the jungle brush.
CAUTION: GIANT BUTTS CROSSING
Read more on the blog at http://homeonthehighway.com/panama-city
Last edited by defrag4; 08-23-2012 at 11:57 AM.
|07-30-2012, 10:10 AM||#231 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Member # 168118
We rose early on Monday morning and met the guys from Adventure the Americas downstairs in the hotel lobby for our gratis gourmet breakfast of a cup of coffee and piece of bread. We confirmed everything was a GO with Seaboard Marine, our chosen shipping company, and mapped out a plan for the day.
Today mission was to get the initial inspection of our trucks to confirm the VINs matched our import permits and to confirm we had no outstanding warrants/traffic tickets. With this clearance we would be able to move onto the next step of the process.
Keith from Adv the Americas had already loaded up the GPS with the coords of the inspection yard. We jumped in the trucks and hit the crazy streets of Panama City.
After battling our way a few miles through heavy morning rush hour traffic we pulled into a dirt lot in the middle of one of the roughest neighborhoods we have had the pleasure of entering thus-far. I would have thought we were lost if our buddies Brad and Sheena from DriveNachoDrive and 10 other trucks weren't already queued up waiting in the lot for inspections of their own.
View from the inspection lot.
Talking to Brad we learned that he has spent 3 days at this lot now. Apparently the inspection offices were closed the past 2 days for "meetings" of some sort. Of course in standard Central America practice no one bothered to inform the large number of people/cars waiting around outside...
When we arrived we met a long line of trucks hoping to finally make some progress. Lots of fellow overlanders from all over the world. Canadians, Swiss, Germans, Mexicans, and a few American gringos like ourselves. A regular United Nations of automobile travelers.
We were all waiting around in this sketchy parking lot confused and stressed, wondering if the inspector would actually show today.
Eventually a man in a white shirt with a clipboard came out of the inspection office. We all ran to our trucks, gathered our paperwork, and stood tall and straight trying our hardest to impress. After all, clipboard dude was the critical first step of the shipping process and if we managed to screw this up who knows how long it would be before we got another shot.
He went from truck to truck, inspecting paperwork, making notes and giving the royal thumbs up or thumbs down to the owners.
Brad passed his inspection, Adventure the Americas passed. I was up next. I was nervous as hell as "Clipboard" came my way. I locked eyes with the inspector who all of the sudden did a 180 and started marching back to the inspection office. WAIT! What about me!?
I ran around asking random people questions, Is he done for the day!? Is it lunch time!? Did I piss him off somehow!? How do I look?? No one had any answers.
30 stressful minutes passed waiting around in the parking lot, shady characters prowling the fence eyeballing our trucks like hyenas. I was just about to give up in defeat when the office door swings open and out trots Clipboard once again... 10AM coffee break I guess?
He comes over chatting on his cellphone and seems bothered by my presence. Maybe he thought I would disappear if he went away for a bit? He takes a quick cursory glance at my paperwork, makes a few grunts, and says everything looks good. We passed!
On to the next step. We need to wait for Clipboard to process the paperwork and send it across the street to the "Secretaria General" office. This complicated process of walking the papers across the street is estimated to take all morning/afternoon and we are all told to come back around 3PM.
We head back to the hotel to kill some time. Around 2:30 we head back to the inspection lot, park the trucks and then play a high-speed game of frogger across the 6-lane highway.
We receive little badges that say "Secretaria General" and enter a large office full of people waiting around. We ask the bubble-gum snappin'-cellphone chattin'-front desk girl where can find the Secretaria General. She instructs us to take a seat, so we do.
30 minutes pass, No one has moved. We start to get restless. We ask the lady what is going on. She just smiles and tells us to wait.
An hour passes. OK what the hell is going on! Its 4PM now. We assume the office closes at 5. There are 8 of us in here waiting for the same paperwork and we have made no progress past this initial waiting room.
We ask the gatekeeper again, What is going on? She laughs and tells us to wait with no further explanation. Seemingly perturbed that we were interrupting her game of "Angry Birds"
A fellow overlander emerges from behind the gatekeepers magic door. He explains that he was just with the Secretaria General, there is no one in there and he just walked by the front desk lady without saying anything to her about an hour ago.
Damnit! That's what we get for asking for permission...
We hatch a plan, Brad and Keith are going to cause a distraction and I am going to army-crawl past the desk, through the magic door, and into the office of the Secretaria General. We are just about to put the plan into action when our eyes catch the Camo-clad security officer fingering his pistol and licking his lips. He can sense the gringos are up to something. We put the plan on pause.
Finally the gatekeeper takes a break from texting her loverboy and says 2 of us can enter. Instantly, all 8 of us rise up and rush the door. She starts yelling at us. Only 2! Only 2!
"DON'T LOOK BACK!" I yell to Keith and Brad.
We all keep pushing past the door. We soon find ourselves running blindly through the hallways of the government building desperately seeking refuge. We find the door marked "Sec. Gen." We fall in and slam the door behind us fully expecting some crazed rifle-wielding Military dude to come kick our asses at any second.
We find the Secretary General pleasantly sitting all alone at her desk. She sweetly asks "Why were you guys waiting outside?...
Brad's paperwork is processed without a hitch. Everything matches up and he is given his clearance paper. His shipping partner was not so lucky and had to make a last minute mad-dash out of the building for copies.
Keith's turn came up. The SecGen got 90% through the process when she hit a snag. His import permit listed the truck as an "ALL-TERRAIN VEHICLE" but "Clipboard" had marked it down as a "CAMIONETA". This inconsistency was all that was needed to flunk the entire inspection process. Keith would be unable to get his clearance until we had the import permit changed at the customs office across town. FAIL.
My shot. I get up with my paperwork, 90% through. Snag. My VIN number was fine but where it asked for Motor VIN the import permit listed N/A. This would not do. DOUBLE FAIL.
We slunked out of the SecGen office defeated.
Read the rest of the story on the blog at http://homeonthehighway.com/the-pana...part-1-panama/
|08-02-2012, 02:11 PM||#233 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2011
Member # 188478
|08-08-2012, 12:47 PM||#236 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Member # 168118
The urban sprawl of Panama City soon fades as we rise higher and higher into the clouds. Miles of housing developments, sky-scrapers, and asphalt soon give way to lush virgin jungle. We were flying over the Darien Gap. From the looks of it I think the 4Runner coulda made it... Of course its easy to talk crap from 30,000Ft.
After a quick flight our plane descends into the chilly mountain city of Bogota. A welcome change from the sweltering temps of Panama City. We were shivering as we climbed the steps onto the tarmac to head for our connecting flight to Cartagena.
Everything is running smoothly, We grab our packs, rush through customs and head to the connecting gate.
Our luck ran out when the "Shipping process Gods" realized it had been over an hour since our last grand disaster. We suddenly realize there is a sheep missing from our overlanding flock. 3 Americans and only 1 Australian stand at the flight gate.
"Where the hell is Daniel?"
2 of us run back to the customs, No sign. We check the bathrooms. No sign.
I speak with the customs agent, wondering if Daniel had been captured, his long run as a secret Australian drug runner finally catching up to him in Colombia. WAS HIS NAME EVEN DANIEL!?? I wonder.
Nope, replies the custom guy. No white guys today.
We finally find him, outside of the damn airport wandering confusedly around the Taxis. He mistakenly walked out the front glass sliding doors of the airport instead of swinging a right to the connecting flights gate. An easy mistake to make but unfortunately security would not let him re-enter the building. We discuss his options as the automatic sliding glass door continuously opens and shuts in our faces. Well, we sure as hell weren't coming out there! He would have to make his way all the way around the entire airport, go back through security and meet us on the other side at the connecting flight. He had 30 minutes before the plane left.
We wished him good luck and jumped on the bus which then took us 3/4 of a mile across the airport to our connecting flight which was located in an entirely different section of the airport in a brand-new concourse under construction.
Daniel was equipped with his only ticket and a spanish-phrase book. Chances of him finding the new concourse, clearing security, and then finding the gate in only 30 mins looked dim.
We all anxiously paced around the gate as they announced boarding. No sign of Daniel.
We had no phone or internet to communicate with him. I gave Lauren my bag and waited at security. Kevin gave me all his electronics and headed out of security in a last ditch effort to track him down. After 10 minutes of searching, we heard them announcing final boarding.
With no sign of Daniel, Kevin gave up and came back through security as we headed towards the plane.
Our buddy was lost somewhere in Colombia but we got planes to catch. Good luck Daniel!
As we board the plane and hand over our tickets we hear someone yell "WELL WHAT ARE YA WAITING FOR, WE GOT PLACES TO BE!"
We swing around to see Daniel, cheery as a chipmunk, walking up with ticket in hand.
Apparently he had been sitting at the wrong damn terminal the entire time thinking smugly he had beat us to the plane. Only realizing at the last minute that the "helpful" airport employee had mis-read the ticket and sent him to the wrong gate.
We were all relieved to see him, called him a damn bastard, and got on the plane.
We soon landed in Cartagena, found a taxi, and after a quick head count, made our way to a hotel.
Welcome to Colombia!
|08-11-2012, 05:51 PM||#237 (permalink)|
Zeus of the Sluice
Join Date: Sep 2000
Member # 1746
Location: Colfax CA
Holy crap what an excellent adventure!
I just listed everything I own for sale.......no, not really but I will when my kids are old enough!
Thanks for sharing your adventures with us
Still Politically Uncorrect
|08-23-2012, 11:49 AM||#238 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Member # 168118
Growing up in Miami, arguably one of the hottest/muggiest places in all of the United States, I thought I was familiar with stifling tropical heat. Cartagena, Colombia made the hottest summer in Miami seem like a visit to the North Pole. This place was downright hell on earth. The temperature in the shade would hover around 95F at 90% humidity. I think Sheena figured out the heat index came out to around 130F degrees. We spent most of our time huddled up in our air conditioned hotel room waiting for the cargo ship to arrive with the 4Runner.
The short excursions we did make out of the hotel showed us a beautiful city full of life and action. If I could get permission to strut around town in nothing but a thong and sandals this would be my kind of city. Ahhh ya, you got that vision in your head now and its NEVER coming out.
Our hotel had a rooftop area where we could hang out, drink beers, and watch the baseball games that took place all day in the street below. These guys were serious about baseball. We watched many fights and arguments break out over calls, score, turns, you name it, they loved to argue about it. I think they spent more time arguing about baseball than they actually did playing. Either way it was great entertainment as we sipped beers watching the sun go down.
Keith and I enjoying yet another heated argument in ladies street baseball.
We had a great view of the spanish fortress across the bay from our hotel. The "Castillo San Felipe de Barajas" was beautifully lit up at night.
Alongside our shipping partners Adventure the Americas, we were hanging out with our friends Drive Nacho Drive who found the hotel in Cartagena. Many nights were spent sweating it out on the roofdeck enjoying the view and talking about adventures we have had and many more to come.
Eventually our ship arrived at the port and it was time to do the dirty. Team Adventure the Americas and I studied up the best we could to get a general idea of the process and headed out.
NOTE: Unfortunately our camera battery died and the charger was locked up in the truck. We have no pics of this process. I apologize for the WALL OF TEXT
Our first step was to head to the Seaboard Marine office to receive our official "Bill of Lading", basically a sheet confirming all of our payment and container information. We grabbed a cab who took us right to the port about 15 minutes from the hotel. After asking a million questions to random people at the port we finally found a little window tucked behind some trees where they had our paperwork waiting and confirmed the container had arrived. YAY! Our trucks were in Colombia... Somewhere.
With our Bill of Lading in hand we hopped another cab back to the DIAN (Colombian customs) building where we needed to register for a mandatory container inspection. We would need this inspection of our container/vehicles before we could legally leave the port. At the customs office we were directed to an uninterested lady who took our paperwork, stamped a few things, and told us the inspection was scheduled for 8AM tomorrow. Alrighty then.
We decided to go back to the port that day and attempt to physically locate our container in order to be best prepared for inspection the following morning.
Back at the port we spent 2 hours hassling anyone and everyone that would listen. We knew the container was at the port, we even had a general idea of where, but no one would actually let us in to see the damn thing. Eventually these gaggle of gringos pissed off enough people that the head of Port Security was brought out to talk to us. Bossman said that we could not access our container today since we did not have proper footwear and we needed hardhats to enter the actual container area. When we balked and argued he promised that tomorrow he would personally escort us in his truck to the container to meet the inspector. Score!
With not much left to do for the day we headed back home.
Next morning we were up early, I squeezed into Lauren's baby-sized sneakers (I had only brought sandals and you need closed toe shoes to enter the port) and we headed back to the port.
Upon arrival, we asked around for our supposed escort from the Head of Port Security and were directed to his office.
We knocked on the office door, no one home. We asked around some more and were directed to another office where a lady got on a radio, relayed some unintelligible information, and told us to wait.
10 minutes... 20 minutes... 30 minutes... By now it was 8:15 and we were worried we were going to miss the inspector. We asked the lady what was going on and in typical Latin American process she told us to wait some more...
We were just about to get up and walk out when a giant Colombian in a hardhat came into the building and told us to come with him. We followed him through the port entrance, snaked around a bunch of guys ripping apart tons of pallets and bins whom I assume were searching for drugs, and eventually arrived at a parking lot with a bunch of containers.
Our giant directed us towards the end of the row where we recognized our container number. We ran over to it and found that the doors had already been opened (We had thought we needed to be present for this process) and the port guys were already removing all the lashings that held the trucks in place. Keith and I both jumped into the container and inspected the trucks. Everything seemed to be perfectly fine, nothing out of the ordinary, no damage, and nothing missing. By the time we turned around our giant friend had disappeared and we were standing in the middle of the port with our container, our trucks, and no idea what to do.
Soon the port guys started yelling at us to pull our trucks out of the container. Uhhh I think we need to wait for inspection?
NO! GET THEM OUT OF THERE!
OK OK, We pulled our trucks out of the container and parked them in the road. Now what?
We asked around if anyone had seen the inspector. Not surprisingly most people didn't know what the hell we were talking about and were yelling at us to get out of the way. The few that did understand believed that the inspector had already left for the day.
We sent Kevin off to run around and see if he could track someone down with more info while we waited by the truck. Eventually he came back and confirmed our fears that the inspector had indeed left for the day. Great! We missed him sitting around waiting for this damn head of security guy.
Eventually we make our way back to the Seaboard Marine office to try to get some answers. They too confirmed the inspector had left for the day. They told us we could park our trucks in front of their office, they would be safe there. But told us we would need to go back to DIAN and register for yet another inspection.
Sunnuvab... Well nobody said this was going to be easy.
Back in the taxi, Back to DIAN, Back to the uninterested lady. We were registering for a new inspection when an english bloke overheard us talking. He came over and started chatting with us, we relayed him the whole story of the day and how we missed our inspection. Apparently the bloke imports cars into Colombia for a living and knows the entire process, all the inspectors, and every loop hole in the book. He took us over to the very inspector we were supposed to meet this morning. He explains the situation to the inspector who barely even glances up at him before dismissing us and returning to his paperwork. Apparently the bloke is used this guy piss-poor attitude and keeps pestering him to help us out and just sign off our paperwork without seeing the cars. Unfortunately, Inspector guy will not budge and brushes us off yet again.
Bloke takes us off to the side and gives us some inside info. He explains that all the inspector cares about is seeing a picture of the car, the license plate, and a few pictures of the VIN. According to bloke, he goes to the port himself, takes the pics, and brings his camera to the inspector. He said if we brought pictures of the trucks to the inspector today then we might have a chance of moving on with the process. Only problem he said is the inspector leaves for the day at 1. We looked at the clock. 12:15.
We thanked the bloke for his info as we dashed out the front door of the DIAN. We start running down the street trying to hail a cab as we make our way back to the port. Cab scoops us up and we tell him to hightail it to the port. That cab driver driver seemed up for the challenge as we hauled balls through the crazy streets of Cartagena making it to the port in record time.
We blew through security, ran to our cars, and started snapping millions of pictures of the VIN, the plates, all sides of the car, whatever this guy could possible want. GO GO GO! Clocks ticking!
Once we were satisfied with our pictures we ran back to the street, hailed another cab and made it back to DIAN by 12:45. IMPRESSIVE!
Camera in hand we run to the inspectors desk. He's not there. Our hearts sink to the floor. Did we miss him??
We decide to take up residence at his desk hoping he would soon return. We noted that only in Latin America could a group of guys waltz into a government office and start hanging out at random desks.
After about 10 minutes he comes back, yells at us for sitting at his desk, and shuffles around some paperwork. We show him we have the pictures. He uninterestingly glances at only a single picture and decides its good enough. He starts filling out both of our inspection permits! We quietly sit there not wanting to piss the guy off anymore. Eventually he hands us some papers to sign and we are done. SUCCESS!!
With our official inspection clearance in hand we head back yet again to the port.
For those at home who are keeping track, this is our third visit of the day and our fifth cab ride of the day. Port security is starting to think we are insane as we check in yet again.
We line up in the main office, wait around for a while, show our clearance forms, pay our port fees, and receive an exit form that we have paid and are officially allowed to the leave the port. Or so we thought...
We excitedly jump in the trucks, head to the gate to leave, and are stopped. The gate-man is yelling something at me in Spanish. I can see sweet sweet freedom only a few feet away. I highly contemplate just running the gate and escaping this god-forsaken place. He tells me that I need one more inspection and to back up and wait.
Today's word of the day is: WAIT
We back up the trucks and sit... and sit... eventually a young kid comes up with some paperwork that we sign and he runs off.
We wait... and wait... 45 minutes later we are having a serious conversation about just bum-rushing the gates and leaving. We even hatch a plan and send Kevin to retrieve our passports from security in case anything goes wrong.
We get cold-feet at the last minute and abort mission. Opting to just go to lunch instead of ending up in a Colombian prison.
When we return we find the kid waiting around our vehicles wondering where the hell we have been. HA! HOWS IT FEEL!?
He hands us our final inspection documents and with nothing more than a wave goodbye, we drive our vehicles out onto the roads of Colombia. We honk our horns in a battle cry of victory up and down the boulevard in front of the port.
WE HAVE DONE IT! OUR TRUCKS ARE FREE AND CLEAR IN SOUTH AMERICA!
|08-23-2012, 07:21 PM||#242 (permalink)|
Zeus of the Sluice
Join Date: Jul 2003
Member # 21320
Location: BC Canada
|08-27-2012, 09:09 AM||#243 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Member # 168118
Spending the week sweating our butts off in Cartagena we were excited to finally have the truck back and we hit the road the next morning. Camping was #1 on our priority list. We considered cruising along the Colombian coastline but fearing the mercury would stick near 100F we decided to head for the hills instead.
We busted out the maps and started searching for the absolute highest point we could drive and camp in northern Colombia. Lucky for us Colombia contains the first section of the longest continental mountain range in the world, the legendary Andes. The Andes are massive, with over 50 peaks over 20,000 ft high. The average height along the 4,500 mile range is over 13,000Ft. Consider that the highest mountain peaks in the continental U.S. are just over 14K and you have an idea of what we are working with.
We battled traffic out of Cartagena and eventually popped out into the flatlands of Colombia that divide the coast from the mountains. It was still incredibly hot here but at least it was beautiful and free from the insane traffic of the city.
The road snaked along through farms and fields until finally climbing up into the mountains. The temperature and humidity faded away and was soon replaced by cool breezes working their way up the forested canyons. Ahhhh it's good to be back in the mountains, my friends.
We decided to take the scenic route and ended up in Cucuta, a frontier city on the border of Venezuela. Our guidebook warned us this was a sketchy place and we didn't bother to hang around much. We did however take advantage of the contraband gas that is illegally brought over from Venezuela and sold up and down the city streets.
$1/gallon! I considered having them just strap a few barrels to the roof.
Fueled up we were soon climbing once again higher and higher into the Andes. We were way out here now and did not see much traffic, just the occasional hacienda nestled in hills.
Eventually the pavement itself ran out as we found ourselves bouncing along abandoned dirt roads of the AltoPlano (High plains).
We bounced along for hours without seeing a soul. Eventually we decided to just pull over and setup camp for the night.
Not a bad spot.
Preppin' camp that night was a challenge, even getting out to take a pee was a chore as our lungs and bodies acclimated. We felt like 2 fat kids in dodgeball huffin' and puffin' doing the most basic tasks. We were sitting at 13,000FT. A new altitude record for both us and the truck! Our poor altimeter was freakin' out and stopped working around 12K. The temperatures dropped below freezing that night. Wild to think that just a 2 days ago we were dying of heat exhaustion and now I need to tuck my water bottle into my undies to keep it from freezing up.
I had hoped it would roll over!
We got up the next morning and continued bumping down the trail, eventually dropping into a beautiful little hamlet.
Read the rest of the story on the blog at http://homeonthehighway.com/from-95f...des-mountains/
|08-29-2012, 04:17 PM||#244 (permalink)|
Zeus of the Sluice
Join Date: Jul 2003
Member # 21320
Location: BC Canada
|09-05-2012, 12:40 PM||#245 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Member # 168118
The 4Runner led the charge tracing through the sinewy backroads of El Cocuy National Park. Due to the consistent rainfall around this time of year, the unpaved road had transformed from nicely packed dirt to slick snotty mud. I had to use 4x4 a few times to make it up the inclines.
Traveling with our good buddy Nacho is kinda like hiking with a fat girl. Sure, sometimes you gotta stop and help her up the hills but... she always has the best snacks!
We scoped out a flat spot of land in the mountainside and excitedly setup camp. Coming off weeks of insane paperwork, expensive hotels, flights, giant cities, and a general overload of "the real world". We all needed some time to decompress, reflect, and re-align our chakras in good ol' mother nature.
I do not think we could have picked a more beautiful place to do it. I stepped out of the truck into a fairytale scene. We were parked 2000 feet above an expansive deep green valley, dotted with ancient stone corrals, and bisected by a raging river cascading over giant boulders below.
Next door to our campsite was a small mountain cabin. Brad and I went over to investigate. It was there where we found the owners insanely cute daughter, Jenny, wandering around with her dolly "Nina"
Jenny introduced us to her mother who agreed to let us camp for the whopping price of $2/per day. The family piped spring water down from the mountain for the site and even had a nice little shower if someone felt brave enough. Only the set of icicles hanging off the showerhead to deter you.
We spent the next few days camping out, exploring, acclimating ourselves to the 13,000 foot altitude, eating like kings, and generally loving life. To steal a line from my friends Life Remotely, THIS IS WHY WE OVERLAND.
Jenny was very intrigued by these milk faces in their big trucks sleeping outside her cabin and came over to talk from time to time.
My poor attempt at child interaction. I am not good at kid.
I am good at scaring them off though, Jenny sneaks off under the barb wire fence to her cabin.
Rest of the story and pics on the blog at http://homeonthehighway.com/el-cocuy...lombia-part-1/
Last edited by defrag4; 09-05-2012 at 12:42 PM.
|09-06-2012, 11:31 AM||#247 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jul 2009
Member # 138920
Wow just spent the first 1/2 of my work day reading your story / trip: Impressed I am by your organisation and courage. You will have interesting bed time stories for the rest of your life. Keep up the posting and pictures. Be safe
|09-25-2012, 11:00 AM||#250 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Member # 168118
Not ones to stay down, the next morning we regrouped and relocated the trucks to another trailhead.
We found a nice little hacienda where we could camp and the host would cook us dinner, all for ~$5 each. Not bad!
We spent most of the day relaxing and drying out our camping/hiking gear, preparing to hit the trail the next morning.
It got pretty chilly that first night. The four of us huddled into the hacienda kitchen while the owner cooked up dinner. Soon enough our bellies were warmed with delicious sopa de avena (oatmeal soup).
While we devoured our food the old man regaled us with stories from his mountain. He had lived up there his entire life. We all poured over his logbook that went back years and years, crammed to the gills listing travelers from around the world.
A quick cup of coffee and some bread in the morning and we hit the trail. The old man told of us a cave up on the mountain that was a popular spot for people to camp. Once Brad and I learned the caves name is actually "Cueva del hombres" literally translated as "THE MAN CAVE". Our destination was set in stone.
We set off through a valley of rolling green pastures.
We were sandwiched between beautiful set of mountainsides that jutted straight up out of the lush pasture into stark jagged rock.
Our hike took us down into another "Valley of Frailejones" and we stared in awe again at the Dr. Seuss-esque (yes thats a word) plant life.
After an easy stroll through the valley, the climbing finally began.
Looking back down into the valley.
We eventually reached a false-summit and turned further into the mountain. Some fellow trekkers built this giant cairn here to indicate the pass. I took a moment to add another rock to the pile. My mark on El Cocuy.
Read the rest of the story and lots more pics on the blog at El Cocuy Parque Nacional… the hidden secret above the clouds of Colombia Part #2 | Home on the Highway