Panama to Colorado - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-23-2005   #1
No seas pendejo
Uncle B's Avatar
Bonedale, Ra'do
Paddling Since: Nam
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Panama to Colorado

Dear fellow travelers,

currently i am in costa rica with my wife traveling. we will be in central america until january and we are considering driving up the pacific coast from panama to california.

we know what an endevor this would be. we were looking for advice anyone had about driving mostly in El Salvador and Mexico (boarders, roads, bandits, surf, etc). I hope some of you guys who have driven down to Agua Azul could help me out. we will be buying a 4x4 obviously due to the horrible roads and it being the wet season right now. also the car we plan on buying would be a diseal, if we can swing the $$, intercooled and with turbo.

so if you know any good routes or places to avoid please send them our way. all the info we can get the better. it will better put into reality the adventure to be had. thanks for the help it will be greatly appreciated and considered. Brent and Cara

salvation is in the mind, be mindful at all times
J. Kerouac
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Old 09-23-2005   #2
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 16
I'm planning on spending the winter in Mexico and am also in the planning stages. Here is one book that has been really useful so far:

The Traveler's Guide To Mexican Camping by Mike and Terri Church ISBN 0-97494-712-1 It's also available on there website This is a really great book for campsites, getting across the border, and trip planning.

I don't have any information on countries south of Mexico - Sorry.


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Old 10-02-2005   #3
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 335
hey Bong,
when you goin'? I take it you're driving,Iam going to Belize around late November ,will probably fly into either Mexico City , Guatemala, or San Pedro Sula, and travel by chicken buses stopping to boat en route.Should have 4 or 5 weeks am very flexible would consider driving to Mexico sharig driving and gas expenses .Iam interested in Veracruz area ,Oaxaca,and AGUA AZUL.I am solid class 4 boater ,speak spanish , and have traveled alot around southern mexico and northern Central America i bring my Aire Force ducky and hopefully rent hardshell if i can find one big enough for cheap to run class3.TMI sounds like an f'n resume,anyway if you would like,contact me at 303 3998572,to exchange info if nothing else.
uncle b sounds like a hell of a trip good luck fyi Agua Azul is one theeast side of Chiapasthough you can cut across Chiapas from pan american via Comitan cool area Jay
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Old 10-02-2005   #4
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 21
Driving from Costa Rica

I drove to Costa Rica about 8 yrs ago. We left from Canon City, CO and got to Dominical about 3 weeks later. We boated in Guatemala for 4 days to help break it up.

Good ideas are - bring a dog, the locals usually get pretty scared with dogs, so hassles are minimized.
Bring extra cash for bribes - it is just a fact of life.

Try to speak Spanish, be honest, hide any evidence of anything even remotely illegal. If you get searched, unload as slowly as possible, in about 20 minutes they'll get bored and you'll be off.
Take the toll roads - go fast.
Camping in the Pemex is ok, we camped the entire way until we ate bad Burger King in Guatemala City

Try and eat what you know is safe, it really sucks to get the runs on a 3 week drive.
Enjoy, it is really something else to see all of the culture and beauty on the drive.

You can email me with questions.

[email protected]
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Old 10-02-2005   #5
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 29
made the trek last winter at least to Hondoras and back. If you want to surf you can stay on the coast untill mazalan, then go to durango. I tried to go through parrala a little further north, bad idea. You will probally have better maps than I did, just stay on the pavement and you will be fine. I got bored and traveled down a dirt road, turned into a 8 day serious epic. Pemex stations are a great place to spend the night if you are in a pinch or just short on cash. The gas station attendents carry a grip of cash on them so there are guards at the stations, you may not see them but they are there. my email is [email protected] let me know if you want more info

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Old 10-03-2005   #6
pnw, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Hey knucklehead, why not just fly back? Ya bored with CR?
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Old 10-04-2005   #7
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 22
Driving to Cent Amer.

I did the drive a few years ago, and my main advice is research. You need to have paperwork (many copies) that prove that YOU own the car. I reccomend that you take a dig, (the bigger the better), but in many countries you are supposed to show a clean bill of health on the animal, which you can get from a vatrinarian in CR, (thats what I had to do). You need to be patient. At some of the borders, the crossing will be smooth, but the El Salvador/Honduras border is a nightmare, and you will go back and forth across the bridge at least 3 times (walking). As for security, I rarely drove at night, and locked my truck down tight when I wasn't in it. I had most of my cargo concealed under a wooden platform in the bed of my truck, and used a chain to "lock" the tailgate (the chain was locked from my kayak rack to the bumper, so the tailgate could not come down.) I took 2 kayaks, 2 surfboards and a mountain bike, and had no issues at all in terms of theft until I arrived in CR, and was living there. Organization and research are the biggies, and its not worth speeding, as the road conditions make it more dangerous, and the tickets are high. also, be careful that only the driver on the permit is operating the vehicle! In CR, I got stopped 50+ times in 6 months, because if I was not on the permit, they could have confiscated the vehicle (trasnlation= big bribe for the officer).
You will enjoy the experience if you realize that most people that you encounter are entrigued in you as an American who is taking on such an adventure. They are starring you down because they want to steal your stuff.
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Old 10-04-2005   #8
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 22

the last line in the above post is supposed to say "they AREN'T" starring you down because they want your stuff!
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Old 10-07-2005   #9
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 335
The people are definitely very curious about the crazy gringo,the adults usually try to be discrete ,but kids will blatently stare and make comments like "el gigante rojo". I stand out even more being a6'4" tall redhead carrying large yellow drybag and being the only white dude on the bus.I have some photos of me in crowds thatare very reminiscent of"Where's Waldo'.
Driving is a big adventure and a big hassle,with gas so steep right now probably a lot more expensive than flying and taking local you get burned out from all that driving,like someone said only the vehicle owner is supposed to drive.Also EXPECT unexpected costs and hassles.One reccomendation if you're taking a boat by plane,buy some of those cheap foam car rackslike 40 bucks,should fit in any but the smallest playboat,that way any taxi can carry your boat.
Score one for the ducky,its portability eliminates many of these hassles,and is avery versatile boat ; run class 4,ok inthe ocean,more comfort on nature floats.alright you can't do a quintuple phonix monkey or run class 6but you can do old schoolplay and have fun and adventure.It's a shame most duckiests never take thier boats anywhere but generic class 3 runs.The Force is a much more aggressive duck,better for play and creekin'.

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Old 10-08-2005   #10
Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 43
I have driven from CO to Central America and back. It was awesome, what an experience. I would be happy to answer any questions.
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