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From Alaska to Argentina to Africa in a Patrol GU/Y61

143957 Views 339 Replies 71 Participants Last post by  globatrol
Hi everybody!

I have posted a few pics here on the forum earlier, but so far no travel stories from the Americas. As I've used this forum for inspiration and advice when planning this trip, I would like to try to give a little bit back in form of stories and pics from the journey from the US east coast to Alaska, and the long way south to Tierra del Fuego on the southernmost tip of Argentina.

We are now in Guatemala, but I'll start the blog from Pico de Orizaba in Mexico. Older blog posts can be found on our pages unurban (in english). We will of course try to answer questions (if any...), but it could take some time before we reply.

So! Here it is..
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Pico de Orizaba, Mexico

After strolling around in the city and on the ruins it was time to turn up the action level a click or two. Close to our route to the east coast is the Peak Orizaba, the highest volcano in North America, the third highest mountain in North America, and Mexico’s highest point. Pico de Orizaba rises 5635 meters above sea level (18488 ft), and fortunately for us, it is the perfect time of year for climbing it! We had already spent about two weeks at about 2000 meters (Mexico City and Teotihuacan is at about 2300 meters), so the acclimatization had already started and would give us and advantage when driving up to base camp.

We didn’t know too much about the mountain and the routes going up to the summit, but after doing a bit of research on the internet we had a fairly good idea. One detail that we really liked was that with a 4x4 you can drive all the way up to the basecamp, called Piedra Grande, at 4250 meters (13944 ft). Our map did not show the road up to Piedra Grande, but on the internet we had found a company called Summit Orizaba ( Climb Pico de Orizaba | Summit Orizaba )in Tlachichuca that said they could help with everything needed for the mountain. So on the way to the mountain we stopped by their place where we met a smiling and helpful Maribel. She gave us a description to find the road up to Piedra Grande and some info about the conditions on the mountain.

Then it was just to start the climb/drive up to Piedra Grande driving through a really nice landscape and forest with amazing views to the mountain.

The Patrol definitely felt the altitude, and just before 4000 meters we had to engage the low gear. But we made it up to base camp at 4250 meters with no problems, and that is good when we know we are going to the Andes further south.

At Piedra Grande we found an almost flat spot and put up the roof tent and the annex so we had our base camp. While putting up camp we could really feel the altitude, and only small efforts (as putting some rocks on our annex (on the “snow valences”)) felt like hard work. Still we were able to eat a good dinner and have a good night’s sleep.
Since there is a road going all the way up to Piedra Grande, most people that go for the summit arrive there one afternoon, sleep in the basic hut that is up there, do an acclimatization hike the next day, go to bed early, and then get up and start the climb to the summit from the hut at 2-3 o’clock the following night. As we are not really short on time we decided to take it a bit slower and get better acclimatized.

Our first day in base camp we were reading books in camp, enjoyed the view which is just amazing, and towards the evening we did a short walk. When we got back to our camp we were invited to eat tacos and mole from a group of Mexican students that had parked next to us.

These guys were just up for a day trip, enjoying the views and had a picnic. While we were camping up at Piedra Grande, we saw several cars with Mexicans doing the same thing.

On our second day in camp we had a slow start, but at lunch time we packed up about half of our gear and hiked up to 4740 meters were we put up our mountain tent as an advanced basecamp.

When it was all set up we hiked back down to the car to sleep there one more night, and then move up the next day. But the next morning Malin did not feel ready to try for the summit, so we spent another day reading and relaxing in camp. The rest did good, and the day after we both felt ready to move up to our small tent. Well up by the tent we put on crampons and hiked another 200 meters up the hill so we had a better view of our route the next day.

Our alarm went off at 5 o’clock in the morning and even Espen managed to get up early. Everything is moving in slow motion at this altitude, so we weren’t ready to start the summit attempt before 6.45. The advantage at starting relatively late is that the sun is getting up at the same time, and it followed us the whole way up so we did not have to walk in the shade. This makes a big difference at high altitude as it is difficult to push on in order to get warm.

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Pico de Orizaba - part 2


It was slow going up, and the last hill (at about 35 degrees) is a “monster”! You don’t really see the summit, and it feels like tis hill doesn’t have an end… The last 100 meters we were just able to walk 30-40 steps before we had to rest. But at 11.30 we were on the summit. And it was spectacular!!

It had a huge crater in the middle that is not visible before you suddenly are standing on the edge. Some years back we climbed Elbrus in Russia, witch is about the same height (5642 meters) and also a volcano, but there the summit is just flat. Not nearly as spectacular as the summit of Orizaba.

We were the only ones on the summit, and we were sitting there for 45 minutes at 5635 meters in sun and with no wind.

The views in all directions are amazing, and we could look down on the town of Tlachichuca 3000 meters below us. Climbing the “monster” hill was worth it!

Walking down from the summit was so much easier. Back down at the small tent we had some food, packed up, and then continued the hike down. At 16.30 we were back down to the Patrol at base camp, and we made a quick decision to pack up this camp too and drive the 1 ½ hours off the mountain and down to Tlachichuca. A warm shower at the SummitOrizaba, dinner at their restaurant, and a proper bed, was more tempting than one more night in the tent in 0 degrees celsius...

All in all a fantastic experience!

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Rain, ruins, and roadblocks!

After about a week up in the mountain we drove from Tlachichuca at 2700 meters where it was all dry and yellow, and got down on Mex 150 and continued to drive down and down. The landscape changed a lot with the altitude, and after a couple of hours driving were we at 100 meters and driving next to sugarcanes and lagoons in 34 degrees Celsius. It was amazing to suddenly be in the tropics and jungle, it was so green.
First stop in the lowlands was Catemaco in the state of Veracruz. One day we drove out to have a look at the cost at the Mexican Gulf.

There we found some really nice beaches, but the weather was gray with a drizzle. Not so good for beach life.

During the night we learnt why this area is so green. Rain, rain and a lot of rain, so the next day was a good day to leave Catemaco. We decided to drive the road on the east side of the lake and not the normal one on the west, but 40 minutes into the drive it was full stop.

Because of all the rain, a river that was not marked on our map was flowing over the river banks and a bridge. If we really had to, we could probably have crossed, but thinking about the rivers that was marked on our map further down on this road, we decided to turn around so that we wouldn’t be “trapped” between rivers. The whole drive from Catemaco to Palenque, about 460 km, it continued to rain.

In the Lonely Planet we could read that Palenque is “in an area that receives the heaviest rainfall in Mexico”.

After one more day with rain the rain god finally decided that it was enough and we could explore the Maya ruins in Palenque.

Palenque flourished from 600 to 800 AD and is known for its fine stucco bas-reliefs and inscriptions.

After exploring the nicely restored ruins,

we just had to follow a path out in the jungle to see if we could find the parts of the ruin city that are still covered by jungle.

From Palenque we wanted to drive 225 km further south in Chiapas to San Cristóbal de Las Casas. About 40 km south of Palenque we had to stop behind some cars that had stopped in the road in front of us. Then we saw that the locals, kids, teenagers, men and women, had put homemade spike roadblocks across the road in front of the cars, and they refused to remove them until a “toll” was paid. First they wanted 100 pesos to let us pass, then we saw a Mexican car paying 50 pesos and they were happy with us paying 50 pesos too. Then the spike roadblock was pulled to the side and we could pass. Chiapas style toll road….. After a few more kilometers we saw that a string was pulled across the road and we were thinking “oh no, not again”. Then we saw that a middle age women is using this trick to stop the cars to sell bananas. We did not feel the urge for bananas at this moment, so she let us pass.

We realized it was Saturday and the road between Palenque and Agua Azul is probably full of tourists so we’re guessing the locals use the opportunity to take in some extra money on the weekend. Chiapas is one of Mexico’s poorest states and about a quarter of the inhabitants are Maya. The Zapatistas are fighting for indigenous rights.
The major attraction along the road is the Agua Azul Waterfalls, and we had read that this tourist destination was run by the local people.

First we were stopped and had to pay 10 peso per person to the local Zapatistas, and then a bit further down the road 25 pesos per person as an entry fee for the area. And then in the end it was the boys that wanted 5 pesos to look after your car….

In the end we were able to have a look at the waterfalls, and they weren’t exactly azul because of all the rain, but it is a really nice waterfall and worth the stop. After a walk up to the top view point and some photos, we got some empanadas from a food stall, and continued on to San Cristobal de Las Casas.

From Agua Azul there were no more unexpected stops or fees (just an army check point). It had been a long day driving on narrow winding roads and we were pretty tired when we got to the campground. Interesting day, and now it is time to go to bed.

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And thanks for all the comments, everybody!!

San Cristobal to Guatemala and Lago de Atitlan

After hanging out for almost a week in San Cristobal, we packed up the roof top tent and drove towards the Guatemalan border. As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post (or was it only on our web page???), we have adjusted our route to meet up with some family from Norway on Yucatan in the beginning of March. We are therefore making a loop down into Guatemala and Belize before driving back up to Yucatan. And this means multiple entries to Mexico for both us and the vehicle… Which, according to guide books, shouldn’t be a problem as both the vehicle permit and the tourist cards should allow multiple entry to Mexico. But theory is one thing, crossing the border can be a different matter.

We spent a night camping at Lagunas de Montebello (pic on the top). This is an excellent option if you are driving south along the Pan-Am, and want to cross the border at La Mesilla in the morning. It took about an hour and a half to get to the border from the campsite. It would also have been fine to spend a few days at the lakes as it is a really nice and quiet area.

Because of heavy rain in September and October the beach front cabañas are no longer at the beach front, but in the lake…

We had to get exit stamps from Mexico without handing in our tourist cards, and for unknown reasons this turned out to be a problem at La Mesilla. So we actually ended up having a beautiful drive along the valleys in Chiapas along the Guatemalan border. It took us about four hours to reach the city of Tapachula, where we ended up spending the night in a “auto hotel”… We weren’t exactly impressed with our overland camping abilities this night.

The next morning we went for the Talisman border crossing, and here we got our stamps and the help we wanted. A detailed description of the border crossing and the paperwork is posted on our web page for those interested.

From Talisman – El Carmen we drove the RN-1 highway towards Solola (via Quetzaltenango), and from there to Panajachel at Lago de Atitlan. This was an interesting drive. From almost sea level at the border the road takes you up to about 3000 meters (9000 feet), and then back down to about 1500 meters (4500 feet) above sea level at Lago de Atitlan. Along the road we could also see traces of the above mentioned heavy rain, as the road foundation in jungle areas is obviously not the best…

Five months later they are still working on clearing the landslides.

The road going down to Panajachel IS steep....

1000 meters (3000 feet) lower in Panajachel we camped at Hotel Vision Azul. We found the coordinates and a description on the web page at “”, but we have to say that the new owner (speaks English) has made major upgrades. This shows also on the price (75Q per person), but the facilities are clean, the shower is warm, toilets have seats, there is free WIFI in the hotel lobby, and the location is fantastic!!

Next stop: Antigua!

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Antigua Guatemala

Camping is not a tradition in Guatemala and it is only a couple of formal campgrounds in the whole country. So most of the time we will have to depend on Hotels, restaurants and people that let us camp at their property. In Mexico we have used “Traveler’s Guide to Mexican Camping” by Church & Church and it has been really good and helpful for us. They have also listed a few camping possibilities in Belize and Guatemala, but the options they listed for Antigua did not sound too tempting to us. After googling and talking to a fellow camper we heard about the possibility to camp in the city center of Antigua at the Tourist Police compound for free.

At our arrival in Antigua we “checked in” with the Tourist Police, and facilities included flush toilets, cold showers and free internet…

Antigua is a really nice city, and it is great to walk around town looking at the marked, all the old colonial buildings, plazas,

many old churches that are still in ruins after being destroyed in earthquakes,

and the mix of tourists and locals.

There are also many nice cafés and restaurants. It is almost embarrassing to admit we had “dinner” at McDonalds in Antigua,

but it is the nicest McDonalds we have ever seen.

After travelling in Mexico for a bit more than two months our Spanish has not improved much and we realized we needed some help. When we took a Spanish course in Norway two years ago, a good friend who speaks six different languages asked me, “Are you paying money to learn Spanish? “. And the answer is YES. Antigua is known for the amount of language schools and we signed up for 20 hours of Spanish over five days one to one with the teacher. It was really good and it is a totally different thing to be one to one with a teacher compared to sit in a class. Some days I felt like my head was ready to explode, it was really intense.

We learned a lot and now it up to us to continue practice what we learned, no more excuses.

While we have been here in Antigua we have also meet up with other travellers who are doing the same as us. Some we have bumped into before, some we have known about and some are new. It is good to be able to discuss traveling routes, get good advice and get to know new people. Fun to see that we are all doing the same, but all in different kind of vehicles and at different speed. It is impressive to see families that travel with two or three kids and do homeschooling for about two hours a day. The family that has impressed us the most is a family with three kids where the oldest is using a wheelchair. Everything is possible if you really want to.

Here are the webpages from our fellow travellers mentioned above:

Dernières nouvelles - 1er février 2011 - rissfamilys jimdo page!
Adventures of Dave and Ann
Sprinter Life
La familleroux au Tour du monde en camping car

After nine days in Antigua it’s time to move on. Hope to drive up to Lanquin area tomorrow.

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No, we are definitely not going there...

But we ended up in Guatemala City. The Patrol desperately needed new oil and filters after travelling through North America. No parts for the ZD30 engine to be found anywhere, and the filters we brought along had been used for the service we had up in Whitehorse on our way south. Guatemala is the first country on our way south that actually imports the Patrol. Hopefully it will be easy to find parts from here on. Well, easy is in relatively easy. The only place we could find the parts was in Guatemala City – down town!

We took off from Antigua in the morning, trying to get into the city just after rush hours. We had plotted in Nissan’s position on the GPS, but we knew from experience that the maps in the GPS didn’t include one way streets and accurate highway on- and off ramps. So even if we knew we were in the right area, and that the Nissan garage should be right around the corner, we spent almost an hour trying to find the entrance. Frustrating when you actually can see it, but it is only possible to turn in coming from the other direction and no U-turn is possible.

But finally we pulled in, and the office came to live. They told us they had been following our blog, and that they had been hoping we would drop in. Excellent! An hour later the Patrol was up in the air, and at least two mechanics were working on changing the filters, oil, tightening up the wheel bearings, and looking over breaks and suspension. And I really got the impression that they knew what they were doing. We were even allowed into the garage to take pictures so we could document the happening.

And when the Patrol was taken care of (and even washed!) we were invited over to the main office to say hi and to a photo session! We were really taken good care of during our short stay in Guatemala City.

A BIG THANKS to Nissan for helping us out - you’re the best!

We left 15 minutes to six, and half way through the city center (this time in rush hour), our GPS switched to night mode. By the time we reached the city limit it was dark. Interesting. This was actually one of the two places we had told our selves we shouldn’t be or drive after dark. The other place is Caracas in Venezuela. But it all went smooth, and people seemed friendly - even those driving. Around seven thirty we were back in Antigua.

Mission accomplished!

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Thanks for comments!!
I have to confess that it is Malin who is the chief photographer in the unURBAN crew...

...and we'll try to stay away from McDonalds from now on :)

Tikal, Guatemala

From Antigua we wanted to travel north via Cobán to Lanquin before taking road nr. 11 north to Flores. Then we heard that Cobán and the department of Alta Verapaz region was under “State of Siege” since mid of December when the army moved in to help the police fighting the Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel. Reading the US embassy’s advice about Guatemala we should probably not be in Guatemala at all. We wrote some emails to the Norwegian embassy in Guatemala City and they told us to that robberies happened quite often in the most popular tourist destinations so look after your valuables. Something we learned our self a Saturday night in Antigua when a friend’s purse got stolen in a restaurant. When we asked the Tourist Police they said Cobán was safe, so we decided to drive the way we had planned to go.

We left Antigua in the morning, and we wanted to drive a road that did not take us through Guatemala City. Driving into the city once was enough. So we took some back roads from Antigua and north to Salamá.

When we came to Rio Grande O Motagua we found that the bridge had been washed away so for the first time on this trip we actually had to drive across a river and not just doing it for fun (The road out past Petersville in Alaska doesn’t count as that whole drive was for fun..).

Since the bridge had been gone for a while it was kind of a “road” where the cars and motorbikes crossed. No problems. It was a really nice drive in these valleys north to Salamá. From Salamá we were back on the “highhway” to Cobán. Took a couple of wrong turns in Cobán, but found our way out of the city at around 17.45, we were pushing to get to Lanquin since we did not really wanted to spend a night in Cobán. And that was good since we later this evening learned from some other travelers that it is actually a 6 o’clock curfew in town…

Spent a nice and quiet night in a hotel’s parking lot in Lanquin. Next day we packed up and drove to Semuc Champey witch is one of the attractions in the area.

It was just a totally amazing place with turquoise water in the jungle. It was great to jump in and swim around in the different pools.

Cahabòn River is flowing down the valley and then the rivers runs into a natural limestone tunnel for 300 meters. On top of the tunnel water flows out of the sides of the valley and forms the different pools with the turquoise water. Amazing place to spend a sunny day.

Second and third night in Laquin we spent at Zephyr, a true backpacker place, and they had a spot where we could park our car and put up the tent. So we joined in for happy hour and stone oven pizzas :)

Last afternoon in Lanquin we looked around in the Lanquin Cave where there was no need for a guide and we could walk around by ourselves. At sunset we and a few other travelers were sitting in the entrance to the cave as the bats were flying out to look for their dinner. I had never been so close to so many bats before and I was truly impressed about their navigations skills as not a single bat hit us as they were whizzing by our heads.

After some nice days in Lanquin area it was time to head north to one of the major tourist attraction in Guatemala, the Maya Ruins in Tikal.

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Oups... Title is "Lanquin, Guatemala". Tikal is the next post...
From Russia we just watching your journey
I envy you
Thanks Nikolay! Russia is also om my "want to go list", but probably not on this journey...

Well I'm back home from Alaska. Are yous in Argentina yet? LOL
Give us another six months or so.... ;-)

Tikal, Guatemala

The Maya ruins of Tikal is one of those places you just can’t miss. We drove north from Lanquin along a narrow and winding road trying to cut short to the highway north to El Petén area. It was pouring rain. We hadn’t given much thought to the fact that it was Saturday, but when we got closer to the first village we understood that something was going on. There were heaps of people walking along the road, and they were all going in the same direction. Market day! And the main road through the village was closed… After detours and detours from the detour, we finally managed to get back on the main road on the other side of the village. Now driving against the flow of people. It would probably have been both fun and interesting to see what you could find on a market in a small village up in the Guatemalan mountains, but we had a long way to drive this day and the roads were really slippery from all the rain.

As you drive down from the mountains going further north, the landscape changes into more and more farmland. It has probably been dense jungle at one point, but now it all seems to be banana production. On the road north (Highway 11) we also got to try a nice little river crossing (this time on a ferry…).

The closest bigger town to Tikal is Flores/Santa Elena, and we stopped there to fill up with food and fuel. From here the roads in to Tikal are paved and pretty good. But with some quite entertaining road signs….

We camped behind the restaurant Jaguar Inn that is located just next to the Tikal ruins. We spent a good five hours to explore the old Maya city, and this is a magical place. Several of the temples are well restored, and the view from the highest pyramid is nothing less than spectacular! The archeologists think that there could have been as many as 115,000 people living here, and the city must have been a majestic sight in the jungle with all its temples painted bright red.

Back on the parking lot we ran into Judith and Christof in their Land Rover Defender 110, and they camped next to us the following night. It is always fun to catch up with other travellers, and we were discussing ruins and jungle roads until quite late….

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El Mirador?

When we drove through the town of Flores on our way up to Tikal we noticed a road sign saying “El Mirador: 145 kilometers”. This triggered our curiosity. El Mirador is one of the biggest Maya ruins out there, and they are not yet excavated and restored. According to all the guide books the only way to get there is a five days arduous trek through the jungle with mules or, for the people with fat travel budgets, a flight in with a helicopter. But a road sign saying “El Mirador: 145 kilometers”??? We just had to drive up there to have a look…

In Tikal we had met up with Christof and Judith in their Land Rover 110, and after a nice dinner at Jaguar Inn they were in on the plan! So the next morning we drove around the Lago de Petèn Itzá lake on the north side, and headed north towards a village named Carmelita, which is where the treks start from. The road up is rough, but not difficult.
When we got there it was getting late, and we asked around for a place to stay. Jack jumped out of nowhere and told us this was a friendly place and that we could camp pretty much everywhere we wanted. So we decided to camp just next to the air strip in the middle of “town”.

Jack turned out to be from Africa, but now living in Guatemala working as a tour guide. He had just transported a group of people up here for a trek in to El Mirador, and he told us that driving in could not be done. And we had heard the same thing from the military check point a few kilometers down the road. Not promising… The least promising detail was perhaps that El Mirador was now a National Park, and making new roads is strictly forbidden. Cra#! Now what?

The next morning Jack came over and he had had a chat with some locals that mentioned a few other possibilities for driving in the area. Jack didn’t have a 4x4 truck (make a note of that for the next post…) so he was interested in joining us if we wanted to check out some local 4x4ing. And there are ruins up here that are not on the maps! One is supposed to have a fantastic location in a lake, but would require a chainsaw. We saved that one for the next time… And then went for another road going out to a different ruin via a jungle lake. We had already decided to drive a bit back south to try another “missing road” that would take us through the jungle and back to Tikal from the north, so we didn’t want to spend the whole day looking for these ruins. But after two and a half hour chopping our way through the jungle, we were exactly half way by the lake, and realized that we wouldn’t make to these ruins and back the same day.

We turned around. Going back the same road took us about half an hour as all the trees were cleared away and we knew the mud holes.

It is possible we were driving kind of fast on our way back out. We wondered for a long time what this frog’s last thoughts could have been... (sorry for the graphic pic (but it didn’t suffer, as it was most certain instantly fried after landing on the hood...)) :)
Back in Carmelita we had a break and then started driving south to some Maya ruins called El Zotz. Jack had some stuff to do in Carmelita, but told us he would try to drive in to El Zots a later to check out the place. The road in was a lot tougher than we expected, and the 30 minutes that the military check point guys told us it should take, was suddenly more like two hours. On the way in we drove through quite a few big mud holes and had to clear trees laying across the road.

At El Zotz “park” there is basic camping facilities even including cold showers. And if you ever decide to go there, remember to keep driving past the first group of houses, and up a small hill to the left. The road ends there in a big “parking lot”. Only minutes after we parked our vehicles we saw in the sky why the Mayan called this place El Zots, meaning “bat”. When the sun goes down millions of bats fly out of nearby caves and fly over the temples. An amazing sight!

We did of course ask the guys working in the park if it was possible to keep driving through the jungle to Uaxactun north of Tikal, but they all told us that this would not be possible. Hmm… Would we have to turn around a second time? We postponed the decision to the next morning. And where the he## was Jack…?

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Aaaaaaahhhhhrrrrrrgggghhhhhhh! The drama, much thanks for posting.
Okay, okay, okay!! :D:D

Some good offroading.
For a Patrol on 37s??? I hardly engaged 4 wheel drive... ;)

El Zots and a jungle road

After breakfast the next morning we went to look for the El Zotz ruins. This site is still unexcavated, and all the ruins are in the jungle just as they were when they were found. Here we could actually climb to the top of the ruins by the help of lianas and roots. Fascinating! From the top of the highest ruin we could see the highest pyramid of the Tikal ruins 25 kilometers away (in a straight line).

Back in camp we were discussing what could have had happened to Jack as he never showed up the last evening. We concluded that something had come up, and that he never left Carmelita. And IF he had tried to drive in to the ruins, he would definitely have come across the mud holes, and turned around. After all he didn’t have 4x4 on his pick-up truck…

We packed up and decided that we should take a look at the road continuing further into the jungle. This morning we had talked to a guy that told us that there was some kind of a road, but he thought it only would be passable on a motorbike. Seeing is believing...

The first few kilometers weren’t as bad as we had been told. Only smaller trees across the road, and the mud holes were passable. The Land Rover was in front as it would be a lot harder for him to pass a mud hole after us (with 37s), not to mention that we are about 1000 kilograms heavier to pull out if we would get stuck.

Some smaller trees and brush to get through, but most stops took only a couple of minutes. We were about 20 kilometers in when we had our first little setback. A huge tree across the road, and it was just about to get dark. We had different info on how far this drive should be, ranging from 20 to 35 kilometers. We were of course hoping for the first, so potentially it could be as little as a couple of kilometers left. However, we had some very inaccurate maps on our GPS, and they indicated at least 10 Ks more.

After assessing the situation we saw that it could be possible to clear some smaller trees and moving a big log to get under the big fallen tree on the “higher side”. After some sawing and axing, we attached the winch to the log on the ground, and pulled the whole thing away from our path by the help of a pulley anchored to another big tree some 10 meters past the obstacle. When the road was cleared after about an hour work, we could just pass under the fallen tree. And if you come the same way later this season, you can get through if your vehicle is not higher than 2 meters 54 cm. NOT 2 meters 56!

By now it was pitch black (camp pic above is from next morning), and we continued driving for another kilometer or so before we ran into the next tree across the road. This wasn’t very big, but we were too tired and too hungry to start on that one. We camped in the middle of the “road” being pretty sure nobody would come driving through this night (as nobody had been driving through here for quite some time..). After dinner we popped the roof top tents and climbed in for a good nights sleep.

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Through to Uaxactun!

Coffee never tastes as good as it does in the forest or jungle, probably because of all the insects and stuff that fall into the pot when brewing. The tree that had stopped us the night before was gone in less than 15 minutes, and we were again ready for the road to Uaxactun. Then something funny happened. There was a weak sound of an engine growing stronger and stronger, and we all stopped doing what we were doing and waited for what was to come. Out of the jungle came a local guy on a motor bike and I would definitely say that was the most surprised look on a face I ever saw. But after a few seconds of mild shock he gave us a big smile, and when we explained what we were doing there and asked if we were on the right way he just started laughing and laughing. Eventually we got around to ask what he was up to in the middle of the jungle, and he explained that he was cutting certain kind of leafs that was exported to Canada for use in flower decorations. No wonder so many of the locals down here think of North America as a strange and exotic place….

After some small talk he hid his bike in some bushes and disappeared into the jungle, and we got back into our vehicles and started towards Uaxactun. The flower decoration guy told us it was still about 15 kilometers to go, and that there was another huge tree in the road that we couldn’t get past. We, of course, wanted to “take a look”…

And there it was. Definitely a bit of work without a chainsaw, which we didn’t have. And this tree had a nasty twist and tension on it that added a little bit of excitement to the cutting.

In the end we had cut all the branches but one, and that one wouldn’t let go without a fight. Even if the trunk was cut all the way through, the weight of the upper part of the tree was so heavy that we couldn’t haul it away using a strap attached to the Land Rover. We set up the pulley again to change the direction of the pull and used the winch. After almost two hours the road was cleared enough to get through.

The last section was more or less brush and lianas, and we didn’t have many problems negotiating our way through these. However, a liana must have missed our attention, as Judith and Christof got some damages to their roof top tent mounted on the front of their roof rack. 10 kilometers later we saw the first signs of car tracks, a few buildings, and then a road sign saying “Rio Azul”!?! (this could be the “back road” up to El Mirador…), before ending up on the airstrip in Uaxactun! We were through!

After the high fives and an ice cream, we drove over to the Uaxactun ruins for a look, and these were really amazing. Hardly any restoration, but they are remarkably well preserved. In here were also a couple of buildings that were quite different from any other sites we have seen so far on our way through the Maya world.

We will absolutely recommend driving up to Uaxactun from Tikal if you are in this area (or through the jungle if you have a good 4x4 (and a friend also with a good 4x4…)). Three hours later we were back in Tikal, and the road from Uaxactun comes out through the site of the ruins. The guard asked if we had a permit for driving up to Uaxactun, so we showed him the ticket to El Zotz. He needed a couple of minutes… But in the end all was fine, and after checking that we hadn’t brought with us any animals or rare plants (fortunately he overlooked all the lianas hanging from our roof racks …) he waved us through. From Tikal we drove straight down to a campground in El Remate (By Lago Peten Itza) for a beer and a shower! A wonderful little detour indeed!

Oh! I almost forgot about Jack. Back in El Remate we checked our email, and we learned that Jack HAD driven in towards El Zots later that same day. He found the big mud hole… And got stuck… For two days! He told us he had learned probably the most important lesson in 4x4ing: Make sure you have 4x4!

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Epic trek Globetrotter looks like a whole lot of fun great read by the way.
Thanks, Smokescreen! And yes, it is a lot of fun! ;-)
Guatemala to Belize and the Caribbean

Leaving Guatemala the immigration women told us that we had to pay a departure fee of 20 Q each (2.5 USD). We told the women behind the counter that we paid 10 Q each for the tourist card when we entered the country, but then she just replayed that that was at a different border crossing and now we had to pay for this crossing. To be honest we did not really know all about the different fees we have to pay at the different crossings, we have just read reports from other travellers. From what we have read we paid the right amount crossing into Guatemala, but we have never read anything about departure fee. After discussing back and forth with the immigration women for a while we decided to pay her so we could actually leave Guatemala. After giving her the money and she put it away, we asked for the recite.. She just looked at us as if we were stupid, and then she asked us why we needed it. So after another discussion she finally wrote us one witch is probably not a very official one and probably not worth the paper it is written on. I guess the money went straight into her pocket or maybe the immigration officers share the money they charge the tourists in the end of the day…

The immigration woman told us that at the Melchor de Mencos border crossing going into Guatemala you do not have to pay for the tourist cards. We will see what she tells us when we will cross into Guatemala again in the few week’s time. Other travellers have told us that they did not have to pay anything for the tourist cards, others again had been charged 20 Q per person, but when they pretended that it was 20 Q for two people and paid just that it was ok too…. Maybe we have to practice our Spanish and see if the official Guatemalan pages say anything about the fees we have to pay when we enter and leave their country. It is not that it is a lot of money it is just annoying that officials use their posission to enrich themselves.

Aduana (costums) in Guatemala was no problem, and our vehicle permit was multiple entries for 90 days. The costumes officer wrote on some papers, took our original permit that he would keep in a folder until our return and we got a new piece of paper.

The border crossing into Belize was no problem and the car was stamped into Espen’s passport. A few hundred meters after the border was a small house where we had to buy liability insurance for Belize witch is mandatory. The insurance you buy is per week and we paid 23 USD for two weeks.

After more than three months in Mexico and Guatemala it was kind of strange to cross the border into Belize and read signs in English and having no problem understanding the locals when they talk to us. As soon as you cross the border you can see that you are in another country because of the differences in the building style, the colorful houses, and the people. Belize has the largest ethnic diversity that I have ever seen in one country. The largest ethnical group is creoles, descendants of African slaves and British pirates, one third of the population is mestizos, 10 % is Mayan people, and then there is the Garífuna and other small ethnic groups from Europe, North American and China.

Our old travel companions in Valley and Lotti had met up again on Yucatan and when we got to Belize we found them in ****scomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. It was great to see them again and the first evening was spent updating each other on what the different parties had been up to since we travelled in different directions 6 weeks earlier. ****scomb is sometimes also referred to as the Jaguar Reserve, but I will still call it ****scomb since we did not see any Jaguars.

Then it was time to say hallo to the Caribbean for Espen and me. There is no better place to get the Caribbean feeling than in the Garífuna fishing village Hopkins. The village stretches for a mile or two along the coast and has 1800 inhabitants. We camped on the beach for BZ$ 10 (US$ 5) for the two of us. It was great to be on the beach again. Last time Espen and I camped on a beach was at Maruata Beach in mid-December.

Saturday evening we spoiled our self to a four course dinner at Chef Rob´s Gourmet Café. The food was incredible and the fish tasted even better with a cold white wine to accompany it.

Before leaving Hopkins we stopped by the local bakery to buy some fresh bread and muffins.

A bit further south along the coast from Hopkins is Placencia that lies at the southern tip of a long narrow, sandy peninsula. Placencia did not have the same feeling as Hopkins even if it is nice. There were more big houses and Americans or other foreigners owning properties here. It was enough of small cozy resorts and hotels, but nowhere to camp. After asking around in Placencia “city” center and finding nothing we drove further and further out and found Seakunga. The friendly owner said it was ok to camp in their parking lot and we got a place that was just our style. It did not take us long to find the beach, bringing our books and having one relaxing afternoon in the hammocks.

Then the cold beer in the bar was calling out to us. The bar was up some stairs and had sand floor. The owner told us that it was no point fighting the sand on the floor all the time, it was better to make the floor into an extension of the beach…
After some relaxing days on the beach it was time to see some more of the Belize and next stop was the Cayo district in the west.

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Belize - Cayo district

Our timing for Belize was good, we got there in time for the orange harvest. Driving the Hummingbird Highway we drove through orange orchard after orange orchard and trucks were driving fully loaded with oranges to the factories where they made orange juice. In one of these orchards the German, Swiss and Norwegian caravan saw a white Swiss Land Rover Defender, the drivers were out taking photos of the orange trees. The caravan stopped and we had a nice chat with Jolanda and Marco ( They are also on their way to Argentina. Since they were also heading to the Cayo district this day they joined our caravan.

In the Cayo district we drove past several Mennonites farms and horse and carriages transporting people and their harvest. It was a slight difference between their transportation and our Patrol. We took off from the Chiquibul Road and on to an even smaller dirt road towards Barton Creek Outpost were we planned to spend a couple of nights. Lotti was having a tough time on the rough road, but she did well when she was going slow.

Short before the Outpost we had to cross a river, and even Lotti made it with style!

The four overland vehicles set up camp at the parking area at Barton Creek Outpost surrounded by orange trees. Our host told us to pick as many as we wanted and use their mechanic press to make our own fresh orange juice.

It is the best orange juice we had so far on this trip…
From Barton Creek we had an early start and did a full day of sightseeing to the Maya ruins at Caracol with several stops along the way. Lotti was left behind and Isabelle and Franc got a lift with the other vehicles. Previously there had been some problems with robberies along the road to Caracol so now tourist could drive behind a ranger car in a convoy from Douglas de Silva to Caracol. The convoy was leaving at 09.30. We showed up a bit too early so we had just enough time to make a detour to Rio Frio Cave.

It was an amazing and huge cave with a small river flowing through it and along the river was even a small beach. Standing in the middle of the cave, you could look out at the entrance on each side of the mountain. Then it was time to join the ranger caravan. Arriving in Caracol we were discussing if there was actually a need to be escorted by the rangers since they were driving at a speed that none of the tourist cars could, or at least not would, keep up with. After a while they were gone and we saw them again at the archeological site. On the way back all the organized tour groups left before the rangers, and we decided to do the same.

At Caracols peak between 650 – 700 AD it is assumed that 150,000 people lived in the city and so far 36,000 structures have been marked. Today tourists can visit some of the main structures, but compared to the size of the city it is not so much we were able to see as most of the city is still covered in jungle.

Caana – Sky Palace is the tallest building in Caracol with 42 meters and it is still the highest building in Belize….

On the way back we stopped to cool down in the Río On Pools witch was an excellent end to a great day.

Then it was time to say goodbye to our friends again. Lotti, Vally and the Land Rover was all heading to Guatemala within a few days and we were on our way to Cancun to meet some family that was coming over from Norway for a warm winter holiday.
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