Cartagena, Colombia

We had anticipated a grungy port city, enduring long days waiting for the van to arrive. But Cartagena turned out to be a joy to visit almost from the time we arrived. I say almost because there was that moment at the airport. Going through customs, we were surprised to see a short line just for Canadians. Wow! We skipped up to the window with the red maple leaf sticker. How nice to get special service. Our smiles quickly faded when we learned that incoming Canadians are slapped with a reciprocity fee of $80 US each. Continue reading “Cartagena, Colombia”

Panama City, El Papa, and the Darién

The 30,000 km Panamerican highway that we have been following stops dead at Yaviza, Panama. It begins again at Turbo, Colombia, leaving a roadless gap for 100 kilometres. Known as the Darién Gap, this land is home to three indigenous tribes, the Kuna, the Emberà, and the Wounaan. It also hides drug smugglers, illegal migrants on their way north, and enough paramilitary rebels to leave you shaking in your boots. There have been plans to continue the road but all efforts have failed.  A few travellers do manage to get through using jungle trails, wooden river lanchas, and even a short hop on an 8 seater plane. Continue reading “Panama City, El Papa, and the Darién”

Costa Rica – Pura Vida

As soon as we entered Costa Rica we noticed a huge difference from travelling in Nicaragua. We passed lush forest on clean wide highways, with no cows or horse carts on the roadway. Affluence was apparent in the numerous large billboard advertisements for hotels, tours, restaurants or businesses. In the first hour we saw a 3-foot iguana cross the road in front of us, and passed signs for 4 of the country’s 27 national parks. Continue reading “Costa Rica – Pura Vida”

Detour in Honduras

We fully intended on entering Nicaragua at Los Manos, but our entry was denied. The trouble began when we tried to cancel our Honduran vehicle permit. The woman at the Aduana refused to cancel it. She insisted I walk into Nicaragua, and return with a permit before she would process our vehicle paperwork. This is not normal procedure. But then, nothing here is ever normal. Continue reading “Detour in Honduras”

Guatemala to Honduras

We left Antigua in good time, picking a route that skirted nearby Guatemala City by a wide margin, first on the Panamerican highway, then north on 3 and 4.  Our drive took about four hours, the first half through lush mountains, and later a wide flat valley. We passed large affluent brick or cement homes painted in golden yellow or terra cota, with flowering trees of purple, yellow or white, hanging over the walls. Continue reading “Guatemala to Honduras”

Guatemala

After all the pre border anxiety, we were the only tourists at La Mesilla, and no lineups. Using a step by step description from the internet, it was pretty straight forward. But still stressful. First the Mexican side where at one office we cancelled our van permit and at another office we had our passports stamped. Then we drove through the entry into Guatemala where we were stopped to have the van fumigated for 39Q. Then to an office to filled out a form for entry. Then park and stand at Ventana 1 where a guy made out a new permit for our van. Then move to Ventana 2, I don’t know why, and the same guy handed us an invoice.  Next to the bank to pay 160Q and back to Ventana 2 with the receipt. An hour later, and with a sigh of relief, we were all legal for Guatemala. Continue reading “Guatemala”

Last week in Mexico

The city of Oaxaca, capital of the state of Oaxaca, is located in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains. Driving to the city on Highway 190, (known as the Panamerican Highway), we were treated to a good wide road and spectacular views of deep gorges, thin slivers of river way below, and lush  green forested hills extending back forever until they blended with layers of blue mountain ranges.  Continue reading “Last week in Mexico”