Friday, February 29, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -19.1258
Longitude: -66.4154
Nearest Town from unit Location: Thola Palca, Bolivia
Distance to the nearest town: 2 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 02/29/2008 19:39:03,-66.4154&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -23.2731
Longitude: -59.1635
Nearest Town from unit Location: Estancia Rinc*n Charr*a, Paraguay
Distance to the nearest town: 15 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 02/27/2008 11:42:40,-59.1635&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Sunday, February 24, 2008


So I’m attaching a pic to verify that the last SPOT message was indeed in the middle of giant, rain covered,salt flat and not a Google Earth anomaly.   I last slept yesterday at 8am.  Once I recover from the fatigue I’ll give an update of the day’s events.  300miles of dirt and washboard.  Entered Argentina.  700 miles of pavement.  Entered Paraguay.  Filled and drained my truck of 102 liters of diesel fuel.  Filled with 105 liters of gasoline. Spent 90 mins arguing with and mocking, in English, the petty tourist police in Formosa who were trying to extort a bribe at 4am for a  bogus made up charge.  Was refused, then offered, again denied, and eventually granted passage into Paraguay. Although I’m pretty sure it isn’t legal.  Had my phone die, magically start working, then die again.  Had dinner with 7 gringos (peace corp volunteers) in a town of 3000 indigenous Bolivians. Visited 17 ATMs trying to find one that actually worked.  Descended thirteen thousand feet and increased 70 degrees in temp  and somewhere in there I managed to eat a tiny bag of mini oreos and a bottle of coke. 


One of the best days of my trip. No place I’d rather be than here in Asuncion, dead tired, hungry and sweating again. Awesome.

Friday, February 22, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. on a mountain in peru or ideally in the desert.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -20.3271
Longitude: -67.0233
Nearest Town from unit Location: Colchani, Bolivia
Distance to the nearest town: 10 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 02/22/2008 16:33:50,-67.0233&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Colombia V


Yep that’s five with a ‘V’.  Anyone remember that show V from the early 80s?  I think it was a miniseries.  If I have an connection I would dial up the good old IMDB and check it out but I’m writing this sans internet in my hotel room in La Paz, Bolivia.  I rotated my tires today and put in front brake pads.  Forgot to top off the fluid, will have to make sure I do that at the gas station in the morning.  First gas stop since the first week of December where Expedition Americas will have 2 members. Justin arrives seven hours from now.  Good thing I’m up late typing a blog post.  And with that, back to Bogota…

I awoke in the lovely, or at least passable, Hotel San Sebastian and opened my window to a brilliant sunny day, with busting streets below and Montserrat towering above.   I took my time getting going and called another name/stranger from IH8MUD.  Alvaro had sent me an email about a month before my trip. We chatted about plans for the day and decided to go to dinner that night.  Alvaro, his wife Liliana, and 14month old (I think) daughter Mariana.  They pulled up to the hotel in a beautiful silver 80 series Land Cruiser.  I had seen pics but in person it was even better. It is also nice to know trucks with snorkels get stared at in Colombia too. It’s not just an American thing.  I hopped in and we proceeded up the hill to a great view of the city.  Somewhere in passing I had mentioned to Alvaro that I was looking for a Bolivian guide book in English (odd that I’m now in Bolivia writing this post) next thing I know it we’re at a mall looking at 2 book stores. I kept thinking we were there for a restaurant but nope. Just a stop so the gringo could find a book he could read.  We struck out and climbed back in the truck for dinner.  On the way I discover we’re taking the scenic route past the LDS Temple in Bogota. I think Frank (from Cartagena) had mentioned to Alvaro that I was LDS and they thought it would be cool for me to see it. I took some pics for my friend D who is a facilities manager for the church and then we were off to dinner. I had what I’ll call a chicken stew.  It was really potato soup but was so loaded with veggies and meat it felt like a stew. Damn tasty.  After dinner they took me back to the San Sebastian. The long way. I was meeting them in the morning to go wheeling with some locals and instead of leaving me to my own devices they drove the very route I would need to take to get to their home.

Morning came WAY too early. We were supposed to meet the rest of the group at 7 which meant a 6:15 start for me.  I drove the empty Sunday morning street of Bogota to Alvaro’s home.  We loaded up and set out for the meeting place.  A group gather, then another group showed up, next thing I know there are 20 trucks in the gas station parking lot headed out on separate wheeling trips.  I took a ton of pics, introduced myself. Forgot every single name in the group I was with and off for the hills we went. Along the way I was truly shocked at the number of cyclists out on the road.  Thousands.  Yep that’s right thousands of riders were headed for the hills as well. I stopped count after the 15th group with more than 50 riders.   We passed them for 30 miles.  Insane.

We stopped about 30 mins out at a roadside stand and noshed on some fresh bread for breakfast. I loaded up on the rolls, pan do bono I think, for a lunch of peanut butter and honey pan.  Another truck, our trail leader, joined us in the tiny town of San Francisco and within minutes were at the trailhead.  Along the way we I took dozens of pics of the amazing vistas, snowcapped volcano, gravity defying hillside farms and the locals staring at us as we drove through.

As we prepped for the trail, airing down, more introductions, arranging trucks, the nerves hit me pretty bad.  There is not a lot of mud wheeling to be had in Utah.  It’s a desert. Snow, slickrock, high speed dirt, yes. Mud no.  These guys were in their element. I was not.  I was the 4th truck in the line right behind Alvaro.  As we began our way up the rocky, slick, muddy, narrow trail someone informs me that one of the guys had rolled his truck on this very trail.  Just what you want to hear when you have the heaviest, tallest truck in the bunch.  I did have one thing going for me.  I am a damn good driver. Wait I mean I was one of only 3 trucks with lockers front and rear.  I won’t bore you with the details of the trail but I will say Ruby Claire performed like the amazing beast she is.  Only 3 trucks didn’t use a winch.  The fj40 leading the group, me and Santiago in his Range Rover V8 powered, Defender 90.  Now the thing is in my neck of the woods, the winch is usually a sign of failure or humiliation.  It means you didn’t have the skill to get over the obstacle or made a mistake and got yourself stuck.  In the rain and mud of Colombia the winch is no different than a locker or big tires. Just a tool of the truck. No shame. No embarrassment. 

The thing that stood out the most for me about the day was exactly how normal it was. About the similarity of wheeling with my friends at home.  There was a lot of laughing. A lot of little kids on the trail. More laughing.  Guys giving each other crap. Guys helping each other out.  Now I couldn’t understand 99% of what was being said but I was laughing too. It’s contagious.  A few of the guys went out of their way to speak English with me. Some very well. Others just cheered me on and we did our best to communicate with my poor Spanish.  From the second we hit the road I felt like one of them. Not like an outsider.  Senor Connors from 10 countries away was welcomed into the group without hesitation. 

Then a funny thing happened which just sealed the deal for my long term friendship with Alvaro and Liliana.  I was out taking pics and hopped back in the truck for my turn at the hills. Liliana and Mariana were in my truck hiding from the rain and looking for a ride up to their truck.  I had the Dave Matthews Band, Live at Piedmont Park dvd playing, Warehouse was the song to be more precise.  Liliana started singing right along.  Come to find out her and Alvaro are huge fans. The only ones they know in Colombia.  (now I need to explain to those of you who don’t know me personally why this is so significant.  My first dmb show was August 2, 1996 at the Horde Festival at Park West, UT.  Since then I think I’ve seen 38 more shows, collected thousands of hours of live shows and travelled all over the country to see them.  And that just scratches the surface of my neurosis)

The rain hit pretty hard near the top of the trail and we set off back into Bogota. I said goodbye to the Fullsizes4x4 club, got separated from Alvaro and Santiago on the way back into the city and went straight to the hotel. It was a great day of wheeling. I laughed a lot, got wet and muddy and felt very much at home on the muddy hills of Colombia.  I put all the pics from that day here.

I hit the mall the next morning, and spent 20 mins arguing with the joker in the ticket booth for the parking lot. First he said I couldn’t park there because I was too tall. Yet it was an outside lot. Then, as the cars began to line up behind me I pointed out a Land Rover with a roof rack and gear just as tall as me. Then he tried to tell me I couldn’t park there because I wasn’t from Colombia.  Finally someone with more power showed up and told the kid he was an idiot and let me in.  Even now I still have no idea why he didn’t want me to park there.  I tried to find the DMB dvd for Alvaro but struck out as it hadn’t been released in Colombia. I had picked mine up in Costa Rica and was disappointed not to find a gift.  I ate at Crepes and Waffles again and went back to the hotel. Once again I went to dinner with Alvaro and Liliana. You’ve seen the pic of the two of us with our bibs on.  A nice steak.  Back to the hotel I burned some DMB for them and went to bed. In the morning I dropped it off and said goodbye.  It was then that Alvaro gave me some more good news. Santiago had spoken with his grandparents who lived on a farm in Southern Colombia near Cali.  They had welcomed me to camp on their property on my way to Ecuador.  Another generous offer from a stranger in Colombia. 

I have to head to the airport to pick up Justin in 6 hours so I’m calling it a night.  Tomorrow we’re off toward Sucre and the wilds of Bolivia.  Ideally I’ll have better luck with a connection than I’ve had today.  Apparently AT&T lost their Blackberry service today and thus no connection for me. I’m going to send this out from the hotel computer.


Monday, February 18, 2008

come one, come all

To the most erratically updated and sometime incoherent show on earth.

Those of you blessed with very basic deductive logic and the slightest disposition to care may have noticed the discrepancy between my planned 14k miles and my current 19k+. Honestly the original plan was 14-18. Now we’re looking more like 25-26 by the time it’s all said and done. So what does that do to my 10 month plan? Well it cuts it down to about 6. So again deductive logic, or just simple math means that I have about 2 months left on the road.

Two months that I hope to be the most exciting for me and for you. Let’s just look at what lies ahead. World Highest Navigable lake. (tomorrow), Worlds Most Dangerous Road, World Largest Salt Flat, World Driest Desert, Highest Road in the Western Hemisphere, World Southernmost City, Worlds Second Most Voluminous Waterfall (okay that one is a stretch) but I guess superlatives aren’t necessary when you can lay claim to those titles and I am visiting them all plus Patagonia, the Gran Chaco and if things work out right Antarctica.

So did I grossly misread my maps? Maybe. Did I not fully understand the size of some of the countries? Absolutely. I’ll try and come up with an allegory (or is I a metaphor? Does it matter? do you care?) or maybe just and example that will help explain my miscalculation. One I think a lot of you can relate to or understand.

Remember the first time you went to Moab. I do. I was 7 or 8. But let’s take it to the adult era when things like buying gas matter. If Moab doesn’t work for you pick a nice area in your state that you find truly amazing. Moab is about 230 miles from Salt Lake City. You figure you can run down there for the weekend mess around and come home 600 miles round trip tops right. Well as you begin the descent into town from I-70 you are suddenly and rapidly overwhelmed by the beauty of the red rock, the desert, the La Sals, the clean air. As you pull into town you cruise the strip to check it out, hit up City Market for Granny Smith Apples, Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter, some bagels and Coke. You overhear someone mention the artesian well north of town so you head out there to fill up your camel back. There you find out about the Moab Brew Pub. So back through town you go. Get some Jack Daniels Tri-tip and if you’re like me head out into the hills for a campfire and solitude before climbing into your sleeping bag. The next morning you drive north through town again to get to Arches to go see the park. Then back into town. Next morning you drive down to the Needles District of Canyonlands to hike the Joint Trail which you fall in love with and vow to return as frequently as possible for the beauty and to topple all the tacky and unseemly cairns the tourists have stacked up to prove they were there and ruin the desolation of the trail. Back into town for dinner and some nighttime wheeling out on Fins and Things or Onion Creek Narrows. Next morning you hit Dead Horse Point on your way out of town where you finally arrive home having turned 1100 miles on the odometer.

Now extrapolate that scenario across a dozen countries (with 5 more to go) and now you’ll know why my return is rapidly approaching. Long before leaving on my trip I told people it didn’t matter if my trip was 5 months or 15 as long as made it to Ushuaia I would be happy. I’ve taken the approach that I’m here to savor every minute and enjoy the experience, not extend my aimless wandering as long as possible at the expense of pleasure and enjoyment. So right now the thinking is after Ushuaia I will return to Chile and ship the truck home. To all those who contributed to my cause I can’t tell you how grateful I am. Your donations will allow me to ship Ruby back to the US with cash where as the original plan was to do it via CC and pay it off with whatever job I land upon return. I’m sure you can all appreciate the different between returning home penniless vs returning home over a grand in debt with no job right. Of course I still have a few stickers left to sell. Just enough to pay for the gas home from Cali or Galveston.

With this post I am vowing to each of you, my loyal and also my sometimes occasional readers, to update my blog far more frequently than the last few weeks and attempt to entertain as well. Quantity AND quality is the goal of Expedition Americas. So tell everyone you know that the roller coastes is approaching the apex of the first hill and the clicking of the chain is beginning to slow. The madness and g forces (nope they do not apply at ALL to this situation) lie ahead over the next two months and if you enjoy my blog I’m sure they will too. So come one, come all and I’ll do my best to make it worth your while. I hope to be caught up through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru by end of this week and can get back to present tense writing. I owe it to you and to myself to do so. Ideally I’ll get a high speed connection in La Paz this week and upload a few more of my 5000 photos for your perusal.

assorted assortedness

Yes more random thoughts…

This title is nowhere near as clever and tidy as ‘random randomness’

A Citizen Eco-Drive dive watch works after 3 months of darkness. I swapped out the Luminox for the Citizen for some unknown reason. It had no power for about 2 hours then the solar power kicked in and my watch is working again. Neat.

Something peculiar happened to me twice in a week’s time? No I didn’t find myself on the pot without tp. That happened THREE times. I had two separate people ask me if I was Australian. Apparently my Spanglish comes with an Australian accent. Not sure how that happened. My English is still good ole talking too fast and slurring my words Dave Connors. It may be even worse now. I get so excited when someone speaks English I think I rattle off 50 words in 8 seconds. What do I get in return? The same confused and uncomprehending look I have given to hundreds of waiters, waitresses, hotel clerks, police officers and gas station attendants over the last few months. Yep I know that incomprehension very well.

One of the sites I find myself visiting when I get a connection is A Long Drive. Shreesh and I have distinctly different writing styles. His are thoughtful, intelligent, informative. He wants to learn Spanish to read Borges in the original text. I only read Borges because my professor made me. I talk about bodily functions and quote cheesy movies from my youth. He talks about the culinary wonder of Oaxaca. However I enjoy his words and am jealous of the pace and length of their adventure. Maybe you will too.

There is this tool I use to monitor site traffic. apparently there is a large fan base in Tallahassee. I also learned that if you search on google for 'Ushuaia Prostitutes' you'll get my site.

I drank a bottle of sprite, ate two granola bars, a small banana and 2 small pieces of bread over the course of 3 days. Since then I’ve had Alpaca twice, cuy (guinea pig) four fruit smoothies (mango, orange, strawberry, and some fruit I can’t spell mixed with carrot), peanut M&Ms, a pizza, a calzone, some chicken soup with rice, and about 8 bottles of water. I feel like I’m back to full health.

I walked into a bar last night in Cuzco after visiting Machu Piccu. I order dinner and looked up to see the NBA All-Star game on TV. It really hit home how out of touch I have been with my ‘old’ life. Having once attended All Star Weekend with my by Bush it always high on my list of sports highlights. The Freshman/Sophomore game might be the best bball game all year, college or pro. I watched about half the game, it was boring. I finished my meal, thanked the owner, Nick from the UK, former soundman for a few mid-level british rock bands, and went back to my hotel. I guess the NBA doesn’t matter too much. Nice to see Deron Williams win the skill challenge though. I’ve been defending him since day one in the face of all the Jazz Fan Chris Paul lovers.

At said bar I learned how to play Inca Darts. Throwing metal pucks at a golden frogs mouth. Weird. Good thing I don’t drink or I’d be still hung over tonight.

Missed a turn today and drove 40mins down the wrong road. Good tunes and beautiful scenery will do that.

Peru is HUGE.

3 more days and I’ll be able to talk English all day long as a friend joins me in La Paz.

I heard Radiohead in a restaurant. Was almost as shocking as hearing Jay Z’s 99 Problems at the Mickey D’s in Costa Rica.

Something else happened in Cuzco that hasn’t happened since Cartagena. I was offered the full gamut while walking down the road. Exact same approach.

‘hey man you speak English?’

‘almost exclusively’ (man I am one witty cat)

‘you want to come to a club tonight?’

‘no I’m pretty tired, just headed back to my hotel’

‘okay man, it’s a hot club though, here’s a flyer’

‘no I’m good I’m heading out tomorrow anyway’

‘you need anything else? I got pot’

‘no I’m cool, really’ as I continue walking toward nowhere

‘you want coke, heroine, I got it all? How about a girl, I can get you a girl too, they like gringos, they’ll do whatever you want’

‘nah I think I’m okay’

‘man it’s cool here policia don’t care it’s cool, no one cares, it’s cool’ apparently the word ‘cool’ is going to convince me to change my mind.

Speaking of women and money. I was at a national park near Huaraz. I paid my entry fee (did I tell this story already?) and filled out the form for my ticket. I’m talking to the large, smelly indigenous woman behind the desk in my best castellano. She asks where I’m from, I tell her the US. Then in perfectly rehearsed English, ‘can I have a tip?’ didn’t even skip a beat. I smiled, laughed, thought of dropping a Michael Scott ‘that’s what she said’ on her but told her I’d pay her on my way out. Oh whoops I was doing the loop. I am fine tipping people along the way. The guys at the garages are my favorite, hoping that will keep Ruby safe. But I refuse to tip anyone that asks for it. The waiter during my recent puke fest actually refused one and gave it back, said he was just doing his job. I think he felt bad for Sir Gringo in room 201.

There will be one more post following this one for the night.

Friday, February 15, 2008

a quick update

So what have I done over the last few days with no internet connection?

Well, I’ve puked about 30 times, shat about 5 fold that number, gone through 6 rolls of very rough toilet paper, shivered, sweat, and fevered (yeah I know, that word doesn’t make sense but deal with it) my way through a set of sheets, destroyed the rear of a Toyota corolla taxi while going less than 5mph, paid $138 to get it fixed and went on my way, covered some of the most amazing miles of my trip so far, ran with my cruise control at 70mph at 14,900 feet, higher than any point in the continental US, took the 5000th photo of my trip, passed 19k miles on the road, felt the desire to be home rather than here for the first time (cradling a fairly dirty toilet in a shady motel in your arms, while lying on the cold tile floor will do that to you. more than my own bed or a toilet i had a history and comfort level with I was totally fixated on drinking a 440z Cherry Coke filled with enough ice to make my throat burn from the cold while bs'ing at Corner 22 or on the porch with one of my friends),threw out my back after 2 days of bed rest and very violent dry heaving, had a sweet calzone for dinner and downed a bottle of water to try and rehydrate for dinner tonight, found a nice, but cheap, hotel to make up for the last two awful nights, spent 2 days in a hotel room with only one English language tv channel which showed the movie The Juror back to back, and finally tonight for the first time in Peru was able to connect to the internet via my phone. I’m going to put off Machu Piccu until Sunday to make sure I’m not stuck on a train vacating my dietary tract in one fashion or another. I think it’s the expedition gods’ way of reminding me that 5 star hotels are not appropriate for long term dirty stinky overland travel. I tried to sneak it in but I’m sure they noticed and I have been miserable ever since. However, I think I made it around the corner tonight, we’ll see. Tomorrow I’ll have time to recount the last few weeks in more detail since I’ll be kicking it close to home base. you know just in case.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

high above the streets below...

…I sit in my enormous and climate controlled five star hotel room trying to figure out whether or not staying here was the right choice. My bathroom with separate bathtub and shower is larger than some of the rooms I have had over the last few weeks.  This luxury thing is nice and I am sure I could get use to it. But the reality is I only have so many Marriott points to spread around and this hotel is no different than one in Chicago, Seattle or San Diego. I am here to experience South America not posh digs and superb customer service.   The king size, 6 pillow comfort with ice I can use is very nice though.


How about we have a little chat about real South America and the beauty and filth that is Peru? After leaving Mancora and the beach I took the advice of the hotel manager and took a right down a road through a field of oil pumps and pipelines.  I never would have been on that road without and recommendation. I trusted the advice and kept driving.  After about an hour I found a road under the pipeline and out onto the beach.  Oh wait I talked about that in my Randomness post.  Let’s just ahead to my visit to the shaman.


So I woke up in Chiclayo and headed east into the mountains and the ruins of Sipan.  Sipan is a tiny little town, dirt streets and roofless cinderblock homes in the middle of an amazing valley.  It reminded me a lot of the Coachella Valley of Southern California actually.  Massive lifeless desert mountains framing a green fertile valley but instead of golf courses and condos  there were sugar cane farms and irrigation canals.  The Sipan ruins are small, still being excavated and world famous for their preservation.  National Geographic ran two articles on them back in the late 90s when they were first unearthed.  If you want the real reason I went there it’s because my guide book regarded them as a true Indiana Jones adventure (people were killed over the treasure during its’ discovery 15 years ago) and what kid my age didn’t grow up worshipping Harrison Ford in either his Han Solo or Indiana Jones personas?  So out I went to the tiny ruins, possibly no larger than a football field, or futbol pitch as it were, and gazed upon a skeleton of a warrior exactly where it had been placed a few thousand years ago.   And also the skeleton of a priest, and a king, and some children.  And the immaculately preserved pottery. Amazing. 


Back into Chiclayo I went.  Parked at the hotel and went to see the Shaman.  The market in town was large and like all SA markets has dozens of booths stacked on top of each other selling the same knock of nike backpacks and tshirts, then rows and rows of shoes, purses, clothing. What makes the Chiclayo market unique is the southwest corner. It’s a collection of fortune tellers, shaman and sooth sayers.  If the tarot cards, robed septuagenarians , and mystical music didn’t give away the product for sale the massive amounts of incense, marijuana and BO would have. If I’d been one to partake the amounts of hallcenignes was unlimited.  As far as I could tell something similar to peyote was the chosen method for dreamweaving in Peru. I asked about it but couldn’t understand the replies.  I search for an English speaker to give my money too but no luck.  The last thing I wanted was to miss out on my fate and future because it got lost in translation.  So I took in the odor of the area,  bought some bananas and another Vallencia jersey and walked back to the hotel.  I stayed another night and had a excellent dinner of grilled chicken and French fries.   I have taken the approach in Peru that I roll without a schedule.  No alarm clocks, no pushing myself too late into the day.  Wake up and drive.  When I get tired I stop.  If I want to keep going I do. That would change dramatically on my way to Huaraz the following day.  But guess what?  It’s check out time here in the I’ll have to finish this story from another bed or cafĂ© later tonight.  Chances is are it won’t be with 6 pillows, a/c and a down comforter though.  Time to get back to life on the road.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Cashed in some Marriott points for my stay in Lima.  Will have a real post up later today with all my adventures, and there have been plenty, from Peru. 


Friday, February 8, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. somewhere in ecuador. ideally on a dusty road circling some volcano
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -9.047
Longitude: -77.6057
Nearest Town from unit Location: Yuraccorral, Peru
Distance to the nearest town: 1 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 02/08/2008 18:23:46,-77.6057&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Colombia IV

Despite my last randomness post this is part IV, not V.   some of you may still be trying to figure out why I’m writing Colombia so far after the fact and why I didn’t want to ‘jinx’ it while I was there. Jinx was not referring to my safety or any sort of negative. The trip through and the people of Colombia had been amazing up that point and I didn’t want to ruin the bounty I’d stumbled upon.
Yet again, however I need to begin with a digression.  One of the largest dilemmas I’ve had since starting this harebrained scheme back in May was Venezuela.   How would I make it safely there, were the beauty, ruggedness and amazing spectacle of the 4x4 Fun Race  worth the potential risks?  One of the aces I had hidden up my sleeve was the land cruiser connection.  Cruiser owners willing to show me the back country and avoid some of the more hazardous areas.  The risk was worth the pay off until I got to Costa Rica.  Then a couple of things happened to derail the agenda.  I’m typing without and internet connection but a quick Google or search will give you the full story.  First Chavez lost and election that would have made him essentially ‘president for life.’ This started a bit of turmoil within his own party and inspired confidence in his detractors.  I tried my hardest to ignore the US Media propaganda when it came to Chavez. But locals and credible print media are enough to let you know the guy is driven by fame, his loathing of US policy and values, and his not so hidden desire to be seen as a modern day Simon Bolivar. Yep that is me summing up the entire situation in one sentence what would really take volumes to delineate.  Obviously I don’t know the whole truth but had to base my decision NOT to go to VZ  on what I knew.  However, even after the election my route still included VZ.  Then the Emmanuel situation happened. That chaos spurs yet another hostage negotiation with FARC (look them up for sure, labeled my most gov’t as terrorist and a scary group regardless of title, Noam Chomsky be damned) that succeeded.  Chavez acknowledging the guerilla group is a slap in the face of the Colombian democratic process.  A few conversations with Colombian locals only confirmed this.  So with a contentious border zone, Chavez reeling from his electoral loss and headlines being made of the Chavez/FARC relationship I decided to save VZ for another trip.  I felt right about it then and still feel right about it now.
And with that I find myself, climbing groggily out of bed in clothes from the night before in lovely downtown Medellin. After checking out and finding my truck intact and safely parked where I left her I decided to bail on the inversion choked City of Eternal Spring and heads toward Bogota.  There were plans to go wheeling on Sunday and I figured if got there Friday night I could enjoy the city on Saturday on foot.  The road form Medellin climbed aggressively to over 9k feet. Near the airport in the high mountain valley is a series of new round-a-bouts. None of which had signage yet.  After going around in circles, literally, I pulled over and looked at my map again. As I was doing so 2MPs rolled up on a 175cc motorcycle.  My experience with the military in Colombia had been very positive but after the lowlife crooked police of Panama I was still skeptical of all uniformed ‘authorities.’  I explained my dilemma. I needed gas and the road to Rio Negro.  They agreed to show me the way.  So I followed them to the gasolinera, filled up the tank, bought a Coke for me and two Gatorades for them, then explained I needed to find an ATM for all the tolls between there and Bogota.  Yep I know risky thought. ‘hey follow me to the bank.’ But I was out of cash and knew I would need it. So they took me to the airport.  Told me to park in front of the terminal. I asked if it was okay and one replied ‘you’re with us, you can park wherever you want.’ So I ran in to the airport, got my cash and climbed back into my car.  They then led me 8 MILES! to the right turn off. All going 45mph in the thin air and rainy streets.  Once I got to the turn off I ‘arranged’ my money so I make it easy to give them a low cost bribe. They got off the bike, shook my hand and wished me well on my trip.  Just like that. 20 mins police escort through the hills east of Medellin.
Back on the road I rambled through hills, valleys, farms, river, towns, on my way to Bogota.  About 40 mins outside of Bogota I pulled over to look at my map, organize my truck and plan my route of attack for the city.  Venturing into large foreign cities is quite the adventure.  Luckily Bogotá was one of the more organized cities I’ve visited. But typically I always stop outside the city, memorize the route I want to take and a few of the larger arteries, accept the fact that I’ll be lost 10mins into the it and get my mind right for the ensuing chaos.  Bogota is over 8million people and was by far the largest city since Mexico City.  Even more exciting I was hitting it right at dusk.  Dusk and rush hour but I’ll take some daylight and congestion over darkness any day.
So I descend into the valley and onto the streets of Bogota.  10mins in per usual I am somehow in express lanes going toward the city. Okay that works.  Wait a minute. It’s only me, buses and taxis. How did that happen? I know I followed a normal car in here.  Okay just roll with it. Oh crap these lanes go into the transit center. Guess I’ll roll with them.  Sweet a few thousand people out on the curbs waiting for taxis and buses. This CAN’T be right. Hey I’m right, that police officer is flagging me down. I explain to him I have no idea what happened and just took a wrong turn. He stops all traffic, that would be a grand total of 16 lanes while I back out of the terminal, across 6 westbound lanes and 4 east bound lanes to the proper area. 100s, if not 1000s of horns blaring.  Sweat dumping off my head, my back, my netherlands, everywhere. The gringo in the big truck always draws stares, that night it was stares, smiles, laughter and a bit of guile.  Expedition Americas in its finest and in retrospect one of its most humorous moments.   Back on track I kept heading east into the city. And heading east. And heading east. This is a big town. I find an artery and head south. Once I find the area, La Candalaria, where my hotel is I realize I can’t go left.  So I make the 3 right turns to get to my hotel. But find myself on another bus only road. Dammit not this again. It’s pitch black by now and I’m tired and lost. But I keep driving around. All the roads lead OUT of where I want to be. So I give up and pull an Amazing Race.  I ask a cab driver if I can follow him to the hotel.  He says sure and we agree upon $2.  Once there ,they’re full.  I try 2 more. Full. Find a 3rd, they have a room and parking.  I take it. The 5 mins turned in to 25 but the driver still only took $2. It’s now 10pm and I just want to sleep. So I climb INTO the sheets this time and go to bed. The next day would bring new friends into my life, a tour of an amazing city and yet another example of Colombian hospitality.
For you, my dear readers, that will have to wait for another day.  It’s 1am and wrote 15 emails tonight before starting this post so my burning eyes need some rest.  Enjoy and more tomorrow. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

random randomness

75 pics or so added to the gallery. Southern Colombia, Ecuador, Peru. (yes the one of the reflection of my gut is intentional as is the uploading the one of my hand while trying to self-photographize, yep made up word)


After losing a filling in Costa Rica my tooth disappeared in Mancora, Peru.  Either I’m tough as hell or the tooth is dead because no real pain.


Plugged the clippers in tonight, took the risk and lost. 220v fried them. So no beard or hair trimming for a while.


Missing tooth, scraggly beard. I’ll look like a bum. Like Cain wandering the earth.


Speaking of Cain. I’ve been doing what I call the ‘royale with cheese’ test every now and then. Checking in on US food joints to see how they differ and what is similar.  KFC in Ecuador,  Kentucky fried shrimp. Crispy only. No original recipe.


Camped on a beach by myself last night. All alone for miles.  Took the recommendation of the hotel manager in Mancora, drove through an oilfield and a gate and found desolation.


Dunes and desert for 3rd straight day. I’m very happy.


Took a bath tonight. Not a shower. A bath.


John McCain is winning. Hilary and Obama are both somehow winning.


Tomorrow I’m going to see a shaman and the Sipan ruins.


Found an adapter for my laptop.


Michael Jackson’s greatest hits somehow compliments the desert well.


Thanks to Jason Call and family I played the harmonica for an hour on the beach last night.


Gas is still $4.15 a gallon.


Inca Cola is awesome.


Truck is organized, ready for Justin to arrive 2 weeks from today.  I hope I’ll have learned to stop talking to myself by then as well.


They sell microwave popcorn here in Chiclayo.


Some of the pics, a hat store with BYU hats in a Colombian market. Owner was totally shocked when I explained to him what BYU is. Sunset pics in Peru.  Mountains of Ecuador, farms in Colombia.  I really wish the pic of the girl in traditional dress and texting on her phone wasn’t blurry but if I had stopped she would have stopped texting.  One of the traditions of Carnival is kids dumping flour on each other and spraying people with hoses or waterballoon. A kid in caught me with my window down and drenched me with a hose.  Pics of my hotel on the beach and the resort town of Banos with its mineral hot springs. And I think a few equator pics.


Expedition Americas has gone international.  Oh wait. Umm yeah that happened like 3 months ago. It is not longer Occidental. The Orient has accepted me into its home. I got a PM from a Cruiser owner in Hong Kong today on IH8MUD.  I’ll post the link to his blog in the morning.


Umm what else?  That is enough randomness for tonight. A real post tomorrow. Colombia V and Ecuador/Peru updates.



Sunday, February 3, 2008

aahhh aridity

If you look at the latest spot device link, which is bound to accompany this post if you get my blog updates via email you’ll notice from the Google Image that I am no longer in the jungle. I couldn’t be happier about it either. Don’t get me wrong I loved my time in the jungles of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and I look forward to the jungles of Peru. It has been nice, however brief the respite, to find myself in arid air once again. The change is good. Not sweating all day, no need for the Johnson’s Baby Powder. The sopping wet carpet in my truck from the still leaking windshield finally managed to dry out for the first time in weeks. I can’t for the life of me find my outlet adapter for the laptop so tonight will have to be a very brief post until I can track the dumb thing down. I have taken about 400 pictures in the last 5 days so expect a gallery update including a few pics of my hairy mug (not on the balding cabeza of course) to find their way into the gallery as well once I get a highspeed connection. I stayed in a hotel last night that had inferior screens and woke up with 100s of mosquito bites. So when I’m bed ridden in Lima with Malaria you’ll know why. The real highlight of the last week for me is something many of you may find boring or trite. Others will know exactly what I’m talking about and understand my obvious glee this evening. I spent 4 hours driving up and down a desert wash today. At the top was a nice dry forest of cactus, rock and some weird scrubby tree that bares a slight resemblance in appearance and texture to the tamarisk. Not only did I get to rally the wash with a cold coke (the arb fridge is set to 29degrees right now) and some solid tunes (no somebody this time) but I also returned with 3 shades of mud on my truck. She hasn’t looked this pretty since the first, and yes there will be a second, Utah Cruiser Expedition (right click, save as, it’s a 7mb file.) I thought the locals stared bad before. You should see them now. Oh did I mention my hotel room is on the beach, I walked 90 mins tonight barefoot in the soft lush sand. All for the whopping total of $35. However I get to pay $4.15 a gallon to drive around so it all works out. You would think I would find a way to break this thing up into paragraphs but that would be too logical. Besides I’m trying to save battery power right? That requires extra key strokes. I’ll be driving again tomorrow so I can charge the fine hp mobile workstation once again but loading and resizing pics has taken its toll. But because of that toll you get some visual stimulus today as a the cherry on top of the this sweet, succulent, and extremely well thought out post from yours truly.


By the way Ken Romer is a solid cat.

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. somewhere in ecuador. ideally on a dusty road circling some volcano
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -4.1941
Longitude: -80.8386
Nearest Town from unit Location: Fern*ndez, Peru
Distance to the nearest town: 1 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 02/03/2008 17:22:26,-80.8386&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1