Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Going north again... will miss Central America (16th May to 5th July 2016)

Going north again... will miss Central America (16th May to 5th July 2016)

On May 16th we strolled around again in Granada… a nice town, we met a German couple traveling in their old green Mercedes truck ( Rundhauber ) with 2 small kids…. We looked for a stop for lunch and to update our blog… wasn’t that easy to find a restaurant with good internet… was kind of slow everywhere we went. We got back early to the camper and did some general housekeeping and got the camper ready to leave in the morning.
Last impressions from Granada:

On May 17th, it was time to move on. We had heard that the Masaya Volcano was open again for the public, so we decided to stop there. It was the most amazing view of an active volcano we ever had. They restricted the time to stay on top to 10 minutes, and we could not spend the night at the visitor center. We arrived at the parking lot and saw fumes coming out of the crater. As soon as you get closer, you see the crater with the red lava cooking about 60m down the crater, from where we were standing. You could see the power of the lava, kicking around rocks, breaking through the black layer of cooled down lava… really amazing! As we couldn’t stay longer and it was still early we continued our way, stopped for lunch and made it finally to the mountains close to Matagalpa/ Jinotega, where Juergen, a German expat lives with his Nicaraguan wife Anabel who grows his organic coffee and rents some bungalows. http://ioverlander.com/places/14767-1-finca-aguas-del-arenal What a difference to escape from the heat of Granada to the cool mountains over 2500m.

Masaya Volcano:

On May 18th, we hang around and enjoyed the trails Juergen has put on his property. Really a little gem… In the evening we had Jürgen’s famous Pizza… which somehow was interesting as we were sitting in the family living room, while they had friends over and had a nice chat there.

On May 19th, we decided to stay a day longer…. We enjoyed the coolness during the night, the light rain every day…. And we made Schnitzel and Schwabian potato salad.
Jurgens coffee farm:

On May 20th it was time to move on. Our next stop was Chinandega where we wanted to do some volunteer work at www.Chinatlan.org . We got the contact from some other German travelers. We always had mixed feelings about volunteer work. We had met a lot of people, and places who do/offer volunteer work in exchange of a free stay and food. But they would do regular bar tending, cleaning, etc. jobs, which is not what we thought is correct. We did not want to take away work which locals could do, but rather show them something they don’t know. On the other hand there are the religious organizations. We met several American churches, where you would need to pay to do volunteer work… this wasn’t the idea either. We contacted several organizations to give English lessons to locals, but we did not receive an answer or they wanted us to stay between 1 and 3 months. So as we contacted Chinatlan they told us we could help with IT, so we thought ok let’s give it a try. As we arrived there we were greeted by Javier the Manager. He showed us the office in town and the plant outside of town, where we could camp during our stay. The road there was about 4km dirt road in bad conditions and the plant, where they produce Fruit wines and Juice concentrate, was surrounded by uncountable Mango trees, Nim and Morningo Trees. Finally we found a spot where the electricity would not die while using the AC. It was so hot and humid (the hottest place in Nicaragua as we were told, so AC was a must).

On May 21st we just relaxed and stayed around the property, trying to keep cool… We had nice fresh mangos. On Sunday, 22nd May, Since we wanted to stay for a while the first thing to do is to drop the camper. We got invited at 2pm by Javier and his wife Anabel to join them for a trip to the beach. Sounded good. When we tried to lift the camper 2 of the lifts decided not to cooperate… Nice.. Now what?. First course of action. Get the hammer but that didn’t help so I decided to get the tools and the manual. After taking the thing apart and figured out what was wrong the solution was easy. Just help the legs with a wrench and the motor will do the rest. I guess the rust got to it. At 2pm we got picked up and went to the beach had nice food and stayed at the beach until it got dark. They took us back to the camper and it became obvious we are going to sweat a lot.
Paficfic coast of Nicaragua, close to Chinandega:

On May 23rd We got up early dressed appropriately and went to the office for our first day. I should mention that if you don’t need to go to Chinandega … don’t. The city is not nice, it’s very hot and the traffic will run you insane. Roads that are open one day close the next and vice versa but back to the story. We arrived got introduced to all the staff members and were told what software they would like to implement. I was promised the software was in English which it wasn’t and what was worse it did not suit the business they were doing. Long story short after about 2 hours it was clear that I could not help them. They had some organizational and Excel problems where Steffi could help. Again they did not speak any English so I was out. Anyways we decided to stay for a week. At least they had fast internet. In the evening we went shopping and returned to the camper. Did I mention the traffic was crazy.

On May 24th We went back to the office. Steffi did her thing and I was surfing the net. We had lunch and tried to get oil and some new tires for the truck. No luck. In the afternoon we went with Anabel and some other staff to a small village towards the Honduran border to do some training with the village people about chronical kidney disease and how their social security system works. It is sad, that people nowadays prefer to spend the little money they have on a coke or other soft drinks or alcohol, instead of using the mangos and coconuts to make them a hydrating drink, like coconut water or agua de mango, melon, etc. Instead you see spoilt mangos all over and the people, mainly male, get dehydrated from working in the heat and get chronical kidney disease…

On May 25th We stayed at the plant and Steffi helped Anabel with the organization of the wine production and I tried to stay cool in the camper.

On May 26th Another office day. Not very exciting. At least we got our laundry done for a lot of money. I guess people don’t do that and the truck got a much needed wash. They did a good job and thanked us for coming to their place. They also saw that we caught a big ass stone in between the dully tires. No way to get it out other than deflating one of the tires. After another traffic disaster and some tries we got the stone out. I just wanted to leave this place. Steffi continued working with the office guy to solve his excel problems.

On May 27th Went back to the office to finish up and say good bye to the employees. We returned and put the camper back on the truck. In the evening we went for dinner with Javier and his wife and returned back to the plant.

On May 28th. It was time to leave and we were ready. I prayed that we don’t blow a tire on the bad road going back into the city and took off. Funny was that people we did not know said good bye to us. It seemed we were known in town. For us the next stop was Choluteca Honduras. The drive to the border was easy. We filled up on Diesel and crossed the border. It was busy with the upcoming mother’s day so we had to wait for quite some time. The roads got bad again so it took a while until we reached the hotel where we camped  http://ioverlander.com/places/1242-hotel-gualiqueme . They had good internet and a pool so we relaxed the rest of the day because tomorrow would be another border crossing into El Salvador.
Road impressions:


On May 29th. We took off about 10 am and 2 hours later we were at the border. Not one police control on the whole way in Honduras. Everybody had told us that police wants to get money if you take the short way through Honduras. We don’t know if we were lucky (driving on the weekend, especially Sunday morning might have helped as well), or the other people just were exaggerating. The crossing was easy and the border people in El Salvador very friendly. Here goes a cliché. We continued to Intibucá beach with a stopover in La Union to have lunch and buy groceries. We were a little disappointed about the food and the prices in the supermarket were very high. Like a lot more than in the US. We came to the beach and stayed at one of the places from the Tortuga Verde hotel. http://ioverlander.com/places/5301-tortuga-verde It was hot but we got electricity for the Aircon so we were fine.
El Salvador roads and La Union:

On May 30th We liked it and decided to stay for 2 more nights. We walked along the beach, enjoyed the nice breeze from the ocean, and had some nice fish at a small restaurant. Steffi went to Yoga class with ocean view.

On May 31st Another relaxing day at the beach and we met the owner Tom who is pretty cool so we had a long chat. Steffi had yoga again and myself looked after the Pelican.
Tortuga verde impressions:

On June 1st. Enough beach life, time for new adventures. Next stop La libertad with the famous fish market. We bought fish and shrimp went for lunch returned to the camper and went shopping in the afternoon again. Very nice but also very hot and no aircon for the night so it was hart to sleep. http://ioverlander.com/places/13110-nuevo-altamar

On June 2nd. We needed to cool down so we went to cero verde, the highest volcano in El Salvador. Very good roads in El Salvador and the people very friendly including the police who stops you just to shake hands. Unbelievable! On the way there we bought a Macheta! Most of the machetas are produced in El Salvador o Columbia. We arrived in the afternoon and decided to take the tour next morning to the volcano. http://ioverlander.com/places/1238-cerro-verde-national-park My knee was better so I thought it would be fine.
Our new Macheta gets sharp
On June 3rd. We got up early. Joint the group at 10am and walked for 2 hours up the volcano. At first it looked like bad weather and fog but in the end we had a beautiful view on the crater lake. The way back was easy and on the last 2.5 km we got driven by the police. Did I mention how nice they are J At 5pm the whole place was deserted and the fog takes over. Very spooky place. We went to bed early.
Climbing up Cerro Verde Volcano:

On June 4th. Time to move to Juayua. We camped at a hotel parking lot, just 5 minutes from town center, http://ioverlander.com/places/849-hotel-vision-inn-and-suites Only problem was my knee was hurting badly. I could hardly walk. As we arrived and parked the rig, Steffi went into town to get me some Voltaren. At this time I thought I hurt my knee on a Volcano in Costa Rica and it just takes it’s time. The town is famous for their market and the food they sell on the weekend so we went into town and the food and the atmosphere were really nice.

On June 5th We decided to stay for 3 nights and enjoy the flair of the city and hope my knee is going to get better. Which it did for a while. I should also mention that they had a bakery with nummy cakes for little money. We had to go there every day, eat a cake there or take one home….


On June 7th Time to return to Guatemala. Destination for today was Mixco and the friendly people, Walter and Antoinette, at cabana Suiza. http://www.cabanasuiza.com/ The drive and the border crossing was easy but first we had to get a machete. They are the best in El Salvador they say. We stopped for lunch after the border and arrived in the afternoon. Of course crossing Guatemala City is always an adventure. Walter came shortly after that to welcome us and to take us for a beer and some food. We had a great evening. Always a pleasure !
Dumping on the way to Guatemala

Impressions from Guatemala City:

Lola from Cabanas suizas:

On June 8th We continued to Antigua but first the truck needed an oil change. Luckily I had my own oil filter so it wasn’t a real adventure. Funny thing was that I told them I will need 11 liters and after checking the computer for 30 min they said we only need 9. They sold me 10 so I had some extra they said. I just shook my head and thought go for it. Needless to say I had to buy more. At least I did not go for the Liquid Molly they tried to sell me. In Antigua we went to the tourist police where you can stay for free and went into town. http://app.ioverlander.com/places/7246-policia-turismo-antiqua  The market is always fun and the Austrian restaurant has always good food and internet.

On June 9th We met Steve and his family who are traveling in a converted truck and are on the way to the US but Mexico did not let them in. We already heard about a misinterpretation of the law in Mexico and every vehicle with cross weight of more than 3500kg cannot cross the border. So, that would be us. For now we didn’t worry too much and enjoyed Antigua. There were 2 more overlander couples from The Netherlands and Germany and we had a nice chat, exchanging our travelling stories, before it started to rain.

On June 10th Steffi went back to the market and I relaxed my knee. This is taking way to long. I should maybe see a doctor. Birger and his wife Christiane also continued to Lago Atitlan so we might see them again. We had another relaxed day in Antigua.
Antigua impressions:

On June 11th. Next destination…. San Marcos, Lago Atitlan. Does not sound very spectacular but the road to get there is. It took about 4 hours and the road down is very bad, steep and curvy. Sometimes I had to back up to get around a curve. Luckily we found the place quickly. http://ioverlander.com/places/964-pasaj-cap-lago-atitlan Pierre a French guy has created his little paradise there. We were ready for a week of relaxation and Spanish lessons for me. We also saw Birger and Christiane again. We went back to San Pedro with them and another day visited a German restaurant who had Spätzle in another small village called Jaibalitos. We took the boat there, and Steffi and our friends walked back and I had to take the boat. We also met Paco the Parrot, strolling through San Marcos,  who was very friendly walked around the streets and we had a lot of fun. The knee is just not getting better… damn.
Enjoying Lago Atitlan:

San Marcos:


San Pedro:


 German Restaurant in Jaibalitos:

 Hiking from Jaibalitos to San Marcos:

On June 18th. We are off towards Mexico but since it takes too long and it is very hilly we decided to stop over for the night in Quetzaltenango. There is a Mc Donald that is perfect for the night and I got a burger and breakfast in there ( they had good internet), even though Steffi didn’t like it. http://ioverlander.com/places/11491-quetzaltenango-mcdonalds We gave the security guys a tip and went off to the mall shopping or at least looking around. We also purchased insurance for mexico for the truck and activated our phone with unlimited talk/text in mexico and 6gb internet.

On June 19th. We got up and wondered why we had so much sand on the camper. It just had rained in the evening, so it didn’t make sense. We talked to the Security people and found out that the volcano had erupted ashes in the morning. So we had to clean first a bit the white ashes off before continuing our way to Mexico. We wanted to get as close to the border as we could because we had an appointment the next morning with an SAT chief who should help us to get in (I already mentioned the issue with the weight ). Well the road was very curvy with lots and lots of topes. Some of them were not even visible. We first hit one at about 25km/hr and the rear tight down receiver were slightly bent but when we hit another one at 40km/hr the receivers looked like chewing gum and that was it. Sunday afternoon and we needed a welder who could fix this. We stopped at a gas station and actually got what we were looking for and could stay the night at the gas station. Of course we had to pay premium… For us it was 40$ and for him a weekly income so everyone was happy. We parked behind the gas station had power and went to bed early. The next adventure should follow.

Ash rain in Quetzaltenango and impressions from the road:

On June 20th. We crossed the border into Mexico. We checked out in Guatemala but only suspended the permit for the truck just in case they don’t let us in. We went to the Mexican site got the stamps in the passport. Already we could feel the unfriendly mood we haven’t seen in a long time. We then tried to the permit for the vehicle at Bancercito which after about 2 hours was denied due to our weight. Ok we said no problem, we know someone who will take care of this…… well that was what we thought. The SAT guy gave us 3 possibilities; actually none of them said we are going to suffer….. Luckily there is a 20km zone around the border which allows you to drive there without a TIP. We drove close to Tapachula where we stayed at a restaurant http://ioverlander.com/places/13677-restaurant-with-alberca . We then took a taxi and went to SAT to start the process. At SAT we had to deal with a person that was dummer then a door knob. He typed all the information into his computer just to give a blanc form. Fine, we smiled and filled everything out made all the copies returned the next morning and after waiting for an hour he told us we had the wrong form and this is the right one but we have to file it in Mexico city and it will take 3 weeks to get a 7 day permit to travel the country. At this time we thanked the moron and left. After countless calls we found out the form the idiot gave us would not have worked anyways. We went back to the camper and did not know what to do. The forums on the internet knew about the issue but no one had an answer. On the 3rd day we got a break and an appointment at SCT who offered to give us a paper that will clarify our weight and state it’s in limit. After 2 hours we had it in hand and we were happy. We talked to our contact at SAT and they said it is all good and we can go to the next border which was Tapachula. Next morning we did just to be informed that they had no clue what it was and we had to return to Hidalgo where we crossed. Ok so we did. We went to Bancercito and after 2 hours they told us if the SAT boss signs off we get the permit. So we thought no problem but SAT said they can’t sign it, they need the OK from Mexico City. We were screwed again and drove back to the restaurant. Jesus what do we have to do to make this happen. Next day we were still frustrated tried to call contacts we had finally we got the break through. Mexico city gave the ok, we drove back to Hidalgo and after 2 hours we had that stupid permit for 6 month. We stayed for another night at the restaurant. Steffi taught the family how to make Crepes and we were ready to move but wait. There is a teacher strike in Mexico and a lot of roads a blocked. We will try it anyways.

On June 25th. We are rolling again. Well only for 40km until we hit the first blockade. We took a 2 hour detour on really bad roads just to find out that they opened the blockade. Nice… we should have waited. It wasn’t the only road block that day but with some patience we managed to get through. By the time we made it to Puerto Aristo it was almost dark http://ioverlander.com/places/4909-jose-s-camping-and-cabanas . When I tried to exit the truck my knee hurt so bad that I could not walk anymore. It became clear that this is not going away by itself and we need to find a doctor.
Road blocks:

On June 26th. We stayed in Puerto Aristo watched soccer at a restaurant and enjoyed the beach. Unfortunately the mosquitos at the campground were pretty bad so we could not stay outside.
Sunday in Puerto Aristo:

On June 27th. We packed up said good bye to Jose who is the owner of the camp ground and drove to the nearest Hospital. We found it without problems and went to the emergency room. There were about 8 people waiting so we sat down and waited. After about 30 min a nurse came out and asked what we wanted. We explained and she said we should wait for the doctor. After about an hour we were called in. I was skeptical if they would help me but the doctor was very friendly. I had to lie down on a bed which was way too short for me and he looked at my leg. At that time there were another 6 people interested what is happening and came into the room. The doctor said I had dislocated my lower leg which was now putting pressure  on the muscles which created the inflammation in the knee. He also found out that my hip was dislocated. I guess my stunt in Costa Rica was worse than I thought. Strange is only that the other leg was hurting at that time. I was already seeing myself having surgery and rehab when he said he can fix it in 2 minutes but it will hurt. OK 2 minutes should be possible I thought and we agreed. He took my leg and started to move it. I preventively put my pain face on and thought it’s not too bad. He then told Steffi that it will hurt now which she preventively didn’t translate. He then bended my leg all the way turned it and pulled it back out. With all the people in the room staring at me I decided not to scream but tears were coming out of my eyes while I was holding my breath. After a minute it got better and I was able to move my leg around or did he just tear all the muscles out. He then relocated my hip which was a lot less painful. Next I got a shot to help with the inflammation and a prescription for a muscle relaxer and we were out. They did not care about my insurance nor did they demand money. Try that in the US… We got the medicine and a late very delicious lunch ( the best seafood cocktails ever ). We decided to try our luck and continued north. A couple of road blocks and several hours later it was clear we will not make it to the camp spot on the beach so we decided to stay at a Pemex gas station that night but first we missed a turn got into a city with more road blocks and had to return and take a route through the country side. That took a while. We had some dinner and went to bed early. http://ioverlander.com/places/925-pemex-ciudad-ixtepec-ok-free
More road blocks:

On June 28th. We got up very early. The plan was to outrun the blockade in the morning. At 5:30am we were rolling and the plan seemed to work. We got stopped twice but they let us pass so we made good time until…. Another road blockade on a 2 way highway. Semis were blocking the right lane so we had to take the opposite direction which we already did several times even on 4 way highways which is a lot more interesting because there is no way to get out of the way. Well in this case a taxi came towards us and I tried to fit  in between 2 semis. Didn’t work and the result was a scratch on the camper and a bend mirror on the semi. Now, semi driver are not the easiest people in Mexico and he definitely was a special guy. Immediately he started with 500$. Nice try… if he had said 100$ we would have paid but now it was time to call the insurance. The driver disappeared to go for lunch and we waited for the insurance guy. After 90min we called again just to find out he did not want to come due to the blockades and the gas shortage but the insurance was paying for the mirror. Nice now we just had to make sure the driver understands that too. We started the truck and drove through the blockade to look for the driver. Next we know he blocks the road and accuses us we wanted to run. What an idiot. After another couple of calls to the insurance and his boss the issue was settled and we could continue. We stayed that night at the La Jolla campground near the beach. The beach was nice and popular with the surfers. The restaurant was pretty good so we stayed the rest of the day. Walking is getting a lot easier for me know so I was happy. The only bad thing were the mosquitos, no chance to be outside at the campground. We decided to stay only for one night http://ioverlander.com/places/907-la-jolla-barra-de-la-cruz-top .
Barra de la Cruz beach:

On June 29th. Next destination, Playa Zipolite. First we had to stop meet the guy from the insurance sign some papers and get groceries. We haven’t seen such a well sorted and cheap supermarket in a long time. We also replenished some propane and continued without any blockades to Playa Zipolite where we set camp at cabanas la Habana http://ioverlander.com/places/271-cabanas-la-habana . What a fantastic peaceful place with a beautiful beach, lots of wonderful and reasonable priced restaurants and very diverse people. We decided to stay for a week. My knee got a well needed break and we could celebrate Steffi’s birthday. We also watched the EM quarter final and finally updated the blog. The weather was beautiful and almost no mosquitos. This place will be hard to leave.
Zipolite Beach, Puerto Angel: