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Old 10-16-2006, 03:47 PM   #46
salcar OP
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Joined: Nov 2005
Location: Nicaragua or Mexico or ?
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Diaries from the Jungle

Diaries from the Jungle.

I heard about El Mirador when I crossed the border into Guatemala. The biggest and tallest pyramid found in Mesoamerica with a base the size of two football fields and the fact that is in the middle of the jungle grabbed my imagination right away. Once in Flores I talked to a couple of tour agencies for prices but the price was too high so I was giving up on the idea.

That changed when I met Oscar a Park ranger recommended an alternative route than the one of the travel agencies. It would be a little bit longer but I would get to see more archeological sites and walk in parts of the jungle that are not used by tourists and trafficked very little by the locals. I was sold on the idea even if it met cutting my trip short at the end. He recommended an older man who has a lot of knowledge. But that didn’t work because the man wanted 1,500 dollars and 15 days due to the bad conditions of the road. After several phone calls and several guides turning down the offer because of the bad terrain Oscar told me he had found one that would do it. It would cost me 300 dls, it would require at least 10 days and I would need to buy the food for the guide and myself. It was longer and cheaper than what the agency wanted so it was go.

More money
I had lost one day finding a guide and a mule. Now I would loose another day trying to buy boots, food and getting my self to Uaxactun. The boots cost 25 dls and when I showed them to my guides they were “wow those are top of the line boots!”. Buying the food was a challenge because I wasn’t sure what to take and where to buy the stuff. The trip could last up 15 days but we knew that was the worse case scenario. So we ended up buying food for 12 days - that cost 100 dls! I think it was so expensive because most of it was canned.

Buying food at the market with Oscar:

That was the first problem because I didn’t have enough cash for it. So I went to the bank to get more cash and my ATM card wasn’t working. I came back to the hotel to pick up other ATM card but I had forgotten the pin number. I called one of my friend and asked to send me money via western union but that failed for some reason. So several hour passed trying to find money until I decided to use my emergency cash. Luckily I tried the ATM one last time and it worked. Oscar at that point called in sick into his work to help buy the reminder of the stuff. Since he lost he’s day of work I ended paying him 25 dls and bought him lunch 10 dls.

Once I bought the food and boots I went to the pharmacy to buy a few more things including antibiotics, mosquito repellent, pain killers and pills for the stomach. I also need to buy something to purify water. I asked at leas 4 pharmacies and they didn’t have anything for it and didn’t know where to buy it. I ended up buying a little bottle of chlorine that it’s sold at supper markets to clean fruits and vegetables. I got worried that it might not work and surprised hat no one knew where to buy ‘something’ to purify water.

At that time it was around 2 pm. I came back to the hotel to pack my all my stuff and head out. On my way to Uaxactun it started raining heavily and had to stop because I couldn’t see anything. By the time the rain calm down a little bit I could see it was starting to get dark.

The road from Tikal to Uaxactun is a dirt road of approximately 15 miles. Everyone I asked (approx 6 people) told me it was in good conditions. Except for one person that warned me that I was very slippery and because of the rain he recommended going slow. In fact, it was extremely slippery. The road had several parts where the rock was exposed and moss/algae had grown on top of it. Also it was covered with a dirt like clay than when is wet it becomes very slippery. The algae and ‘clay dirt’ and the uneven road made it very difficult to ride. It felt like riding on ice. The 15 miles that was supposed to be a 30 minute ride turned out to be a 2.5 hours ride. The night felt on me which added another dimension of difficulty and driving in the middle of nowhere was a little bit sketchy. I got some what scared when I slid and dropped the bike.

Trying to bring it back up was a challenge because I tried to push the bike and the bike started sliding sideways. After several try’s I was able to bring it back up. I got into the town and went to look for my guide which of course wasn’t there because I was late by almost 8 hours. But the town was small and it was easy to track him down. Once I met my guide Jaime he tells me that he can’t go but has found another person that will go Gulliermo and that another person will join us Jose. The first though was that we wouldn’t have enough food but another person with experience in the jungle would make the trip more ‘safe’.

Once we went to go get the mule the lady that was supposed to rent it raised the price of it at the last minute. I was really annoyed!!! After some negotiation we settle on a price that I was not happy about but there was little I could do at that point I had to pay.

That night I met Guillermo, Jaime and Jose. I camped in Jaimes house and we talked about the trip and challenges. The trip could get delayed if it continued to rain heavily and we would have to wait for the water to be lower in certain rivers that might be flooded so that the animal could cross them. They also tried to convince me to rent another horse that way if I would get tired or hurt I could ride the horse instead of walking. It sounded like a good idea but I couldn’t afford to spend any more money. I asked hundred of questions until it was late and needed to go to bed because we where waking up at 4:30am the next day.


Day 1

Woke up around 4a.m. this morning and left around 9 am. We walked 11 hours and got into the campsite at dark. The road was muddy but I was expecting much worse from what they have talked about. Today I found out that we are not carrying anything against snake bites. Oscar had told me they would have one – wrong! They don’t carry one because is to expensive approx 80 dls. They know several plants that can be used to treat a snake bite and prolong your life up to 8 hours until you get to hospital. The problem is that we will be up to 2 days walk from the nearest road. Also, there is little you can do if you get bitten by the snake coral one because you don’t feel the bite and second it only gives you an hour to be alive. after dinner I spent the night helping Guillermo figure out the cost and potential revenues of having his own arria since he works as an arriero. An arria is composed of 6 mules. We stopped at a campsite where there are people collecting gum from the trees I got so see how they work it and packet so they can sell it.


Day 2: Icotea 4:30 am
It’s going to be a rough day with several parts of the trails flooded. Picked up my cloths that I left drying overnight on the fire the smell of sweat and smoke. Yesterday we walked on a trail that haden’t been used with animals in 25 years at leas. Jose had to cut down some trees and weeds that had grown so the mule could pass. The mule was tired and walked slow.

10:45 pm Finally going to bed. Today’s walked revoke old memories of being completely tired (rowing memories). We walked from 8am to 5 pm with only on 45 min break. Two nails on my feet are about to fall off. The mule is ‘mañosa’ because every time we tied down the load it inflates it’s belly. So once you start walking it get loose really quickly. Outside my tent is packed with insects that will devour you. Guillermo has got bitten twice by bees since we left yesterday. Today we are at least one walking day from the nearest road and 2 days from civilization. This morning shoot a wild turkey. We made soup tonight with half of it and the other half is being left on the fire overnight. Both my legs are sore. The right one hurts behind knee I think it is a ligament. I think that Guillermo and Jose are also tired no word was spoken this afternoon while walking. We saw a faisano (bird) and Jose whistled like a faisano baby bird and the faisano came on top of us looking for the chick. I could have been an easy shot to kill but we didn’t want to waste the meat so we let him go. Jose fed the mule this tree call Ramon which is the mules favorite food. He had to climb this tall tree and cut a few branches and once on the ground had to cut it into smaller pieces so he could eat it.

Today heard the story of a little boy that broke his collar bone and arm. He wouldn’t cry because afraid his dad would beat him up. That dad would ask him ‘does it hurt’ and he would say ‘no’. He had be carried out walking on the back of a couple of people including his siter that was 11 years old. The sister wasn’t strong enough and a few times felt on the ground with him on her back and boy wouldn’t cry.

They showed me all the different plants that can be used to treat snake bites and feel a little bit more comfortable walking.

When Jose was 11 years old went to work to an orange plantation and a Barba Amarilla snake bit his hand. Said he pull the hand and snake was hanging on it. The teeth of the snake were more than an inch long. The person closed to him wouldn’t help him until someone else came. They gave him some herbs and took him the hospital. He was hospitalized 1 year and his hand got deformed.

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Old 10-16-2006, 03:48 PM   #47
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Day 3 Leontina
Leontina is another word for watch/clock. This place is call leontina because a chiclero (person that coolects gum from trees) lost one in that area. Woke up at 5:45am to eat a piece of turkey with tortilla. Today I came out of the tent stumbling my legs are hurting bad. It’s raining already but looking forward to reach El Mirador. While eating at least 6 ants bit my feet. There are a lot of ants.
El Mirador
Not sure what time it is. Guillermo has the watch. We left this morning at 11 am but not sure if it was old time or new time because Guillermo keeps giving us both confusing the hell out of me. Today the day was marked by water. There where several flooded areas and a lot of thick mud.

It rained but we decided not to put the rain covers on mostly because the trail was tight and would rip the coats. We ate in the middle of the road. It was fast under the rain and we got cold. Although I laughed a lot watching Jose mess around with the mule. The mule made some face expressions that where humans and really funny seeing it getting annoyed with Jose and not letting Jose eat.

Guillermo is 25 years old, married with two children. He went to first elementary school when he was 17 years old he said it was really hard because all the other children were really young and called him grandpa. After finishing second grade his parents told him he needed to back to work in the field because his two other brothers where already in school. He resents that his family wouldn’t let him study. His house doesn’t have electricity or TV.

Jose doesn’t know how to write and when he adds he adds with his hands.

Day 4 El Mirador
A lot of the people working here are coming to our campsite to check out who we are. One of the guards asked about our trip and then asked if we had 4 mules. when he heard we had only one he said ‘hollyshit’.
Today everyone is hurting including Jose that is always acting tough. I’m learning a lot about survival and about what I like under this conditions – definitely warm milk at the end of the day.
The plan for today is to go see the ruins, see if we can buy milk and get everything ready leave early in the morning.

7:30pm back in base camp. It’s raining hard. We are worried the water might be chest high tomorrow which will try crossing anyway but will have to unload the mule and carry everything ourselves to the drier are in several trips. We woke up around 7 in the morning and stood around the campsite eating soup, flour tortillas dipped in coffee and milk and drinking coffee. I went to get water in the lake and because is flooded the water is brown.
La Danta is the tallest and biggest of the pyramids in El Mirador. It also the scariest because to get to the top you have to go the equivalent of four floors high of wooden ladders and wooden platforms and a small free climb. It was scary because the wood slippery and the infrastructure a little loose because of the rain.

Almost all the work being done here is done by hand. They carry the dirt in buckets which they put on their backs and walk a couple of kilometers on slippery mud. They also pull on top of the pyramids the big rocks for reconstruction by hand!

Tonight ‘Tio Felipe’ came to drink coffee with us. He’s been working two years here. He works 5 hours per day 6 days a week but says they usually spend more time working. He makes around 270 dls per month which is not enough. He doesn’t mind working there but he says it’s boring and hard because you don’t know anything about what is happening with his family.

People here aver very simple they used a lot ‘aja’ when talking. A lot of conversations end with the person listening saying ‘aja’ the one talking says ‘uhum’ and the one listening ‘hmmmm’. The conversation might continue if the person listening repeats the verb of the last sentence from the person talking.

Nobody is hungry tonight. I think because everyone is thinking about tomorrow which will be our hardest day yet. Dinner tonight is corn tortillas, can beans, spam and mosh (warm milk with oatmeal).

The most common job for the people that leave in this area in Chatero. They go out into the selva to cut a special type of leaves. It’s interesting that they’ve been doing this for decades but they don’t know what the leaves are used for. One rumor is that they used them to get the green color of the dollar.

Day 5: Water, Death, Pain
Woke up at 4:30am. Everyone was sleeping, woke them up so we could leave early but probably have to walk at night like our first day. We are running late already. I hope tonight that jose or Guillermo don’t cut themselves ramonenado (cutting tree branches at night to feed the mule). Guillermo cut himself in the knee a few months ago with a machete ramoneando. Once we brought the mule to the campsite you can see that it’s ancious to go back. While we were eating it kept moving in circles and scratching continuously the ground. While I was taking the tent a part I saw that one of it’s pole is broken probably from yesterday when putting the tent together with Guillermo. He pushed it really hard and we heard it snap. I probably should have explain to him better to be gentle.

Day 5
To tired to write… woke up at 4:30am and to wake up Guillermo and Jose so we could leave early. I just realized that I wrote this morning!
The walk today was really hard. There was water everywhere. Out of 10 hours that we walked today at least 6 hours where with the water above the heel. We crossed a couple places where water reached the waste. The hardest part was when there was water, dip mud below and roots. Also trying to walk fast like we do you end up kicking roots which are messing up my feet.
Great I just killed two fleas in my tent!
We started walking at 8 am and there was a little bit of sun which lasted an hour or less then the rain started again. I tried using the satellite telephone to call my mom but for some reason it wasn’t working. Today we started with dry boots and socks and to keep them dry as long as possible Guillermo and myself went off the trail in a less flooded area. We had to jump from mud islands, to fallen trees, to roots.

It was fun for the first few minutes until you missed a step or slid on the slippery roots and had to keep equilibrium by reaching out a tree that most time had thorns and ended up scratching your self. That lasted for about 30 minutes until everything was flooded and couldn’t jump anymore.
Jose went ahead with the mule that was walking fast and Jose wanted to hunt so he could take some meat back home. He got 3 big birds of which one will be made in soup tonight.
Today we crossed several places where people have died.
One baby girl got sick and died walking to the clinic which was two days walk away.
One ‘chatero’ (leaf cutter) got bitten by a rattle snake and was found the following day three steps away from where he was working.
One old man that went to work and never came back, no one really know what happen to him if he got bitten by a snake or killed. His boss never sent anyone to go look for him because the old man owed him money. Jose thinks that is bullshit because he was working there at the time. The boss sold the old mans possession to the other workers.
My whole body is aching in particular my legs and feet. My feet have been soaking in water for 5 days now. The water makes them mushy and at every step it feels like you have paper cuts underneath of them. In addition to the pain of busted blisters, the pain of a nail that is going to fall of any time now and all made worse every time that you kick a root or fallen branch. Every miss step I have to make some weird movement with my feet which makes everything else worse.

Day 6 Ants, Nature and Survival
Yucatan 5 am

The tent smells of sweat, mule, rotten leaves and smoke. My body is still in pain and probably will be so for several more days. If we can make it we’ll try to reach La Marimba which is a 7 hour walk if not we’ll stay in La Muerta where there is a lake where we can fish (maybe not if it is flooded) or we’ll stay in la Icotea where we can catch fresh water shrimp.
It’s raining again!!! But Guillermo says is not rain but ‘sereno’ from the trees. Last night I passed out early after eating some soup…

Icotea 4pm:

Ants ‘arriadoras’:

I’ve seen several types of aunts but this have been the most interesting. This ants love meat but it has to be alice and they must kill it. I started observing them this morning when I woke up. There were covering and area of at leas 3 meters square and several lines of ants that were moving in and out of this area. The 3 meters square area was moving slowly forward. The ants bited everything that moved in that areas and got inside every hole they could find – they were hunting. Also if something moved close to the lines (stepped close to them) they will scatter and create a large area to bite what moved. If they didn’t find anything in a 20-40 second period they would reorganize again and walk in line. When we arrived in the afternoon to La Icotea the same types of ants where organized in what I call ‘highways of ants’ – several lines of ants (8-10) moving in the same direction and there was no more a large ‘ant area’. They were all working to take home the hunt of the day. In our campsite of the afternoon they had killed 4 big scorpions, a couple cockroaches and a grasshopper. We helped them kill two scorpions that were running away from them. We pushed them back were the ants were able to bite them a couple more times. It was interesting to see that after they bite the scorpions the ants would hold onto pieces of wood/grass to create weight and hold the scorpion from running away.

Preserving nature and survival:

While writing I’m watching Jose cut the wild goat that I saw taking in it’s last grasp of air after Jose had shot him. The goat looked at me in the eyes while dying and I was getting ready to take a picture. With his eyes he asked me ‘is this right?’ Between today and yesterday I’ve seen the killing of 4 beautiful wild animals. But what can you tell Jose that is handicapped, doesn’t have any education, is making less than 7 dollars a day while working up to 18 hours in one day (approx 30 cents per hour).

How can his family survive if he doesn’t supplement his income with what nature has provided him. The government allows them the killing of a certain quantity of animals but is not clear what you can kill or not and not clear what is in danger of extinction. This people are not being educated on how to read or write less on how to preserve their environment. And if you take this meat away from them then what will their children eat? I told Jose jokingly that he was an assassin and would destroy the environment but didn’t know how tell him more… I’m impressed though that both Jose and Guillermo were not greedy. There were plenty of opportunities to kill more animals but they were selective on what to kill and how much to kill. They could have easily killed more and sell it to the other people in town.

Today the walk was ‘short’ 5 hours only. Today I finally realized why Jose and Guillermo on our way to El Mirador kept why I had been lucky. The road today was probably 65% covered with water – many time knee high - the reminder with mud. The rain of these past couple of days has been filling up a lot of the lower parts of the region. I fell I’ve been more in water and in dry land on this trip. Today it just rained a little bit while walking maybe an hour. When we got here the sun was out..ahhhhh! it felt good!

On our way here Guillermo found a Mayan axe made of white Jade close to some small ruin. It was probably washed out by the rain. He thinks he can sell it for 150 dls but Jose thinks they’ll give him 15 dls at the most. Jose has done some deals with a Mexican guy who breaks into ruins to steel all the ‘treasures’ and sell them in the black market. I hope Guillermo is right and make some more money.

Day 7: arguments, the hardest and most expensive day
Icotea 6am

Woke up at 4am and our situation has changed. Today it was supposed to be a long and tiring day. But now it will be much more than that. The mule ran away last night and nobody noticed it until this morning. Everyone needs to be in Uaxactun today. Jose and Guillermo because they need to take the uncooked meat home and go find the mule and myself so I can continue my journey. We’ll leave everything behind except for the meat and my luggage. So we’ll have to carry more luggage ourselves making the last day harder.

Jose’s load before leaving

Jose left earlier to see if he can catch up with the mule in La Manteca where we hope one of the workers there will stop it and them ride back the mule to pick up the rest of the stuff. Today is going to be a hard day!!!

La Manteca
The mule is not here. From the tracks it seems that it took the wrong road and heading to a place where is likely to get stolen.

Uaxactun 7pm
This morning while waking up and making coffee me and Guillermo started joking around and telling jose that he had unleashed the mule last night to show us that he was stronger and could carry more stuff than us. Jose got upset really easily and said he didn’t like joking even though we have been joking this whole trip. Guillermo really thinks that Jose might have unleashed the mule because Jose had been previously involved in a similar situation with a mule running away even though it was well tied. Jose left a couple of hours before us. For breakfast we had milk, coffee and soup made with the tail of the goat. Last night I gave up trying to start the day dried and didn’t try to dry my socks or boots. Today again we had to walk on water and mud with some rain. When the sun came out it was hot and humid. When we reached la Manteca we found Jose and there the tension rose bc the mule had gone the wrong way. We started talking about whos fault was but that was dropped quickly because Guillermo and Jose were getting angry at each other. So we talked about all the possible scenarios of where the mule might be and how to retrieve it. The most likely route was that if followed the main road to Cruce del Jaguar a well known place where animals get stolen and disappear. To get there it would require to go back to Uaxactun and take two buses to get there at least a whole day to get there. However, if the mule was not stopped/stolen there it could have taken one of 3 other roads that lead to other towns that would require at least 2 days from Uaxactun.
So what would happen in the animal disappeared? Guillermo joked and said I would have to pay for it. In my head I was already saying that it wasn’t my responsibility and I wouldn´t pay the full cost of the animal and that both Jose and Guillermo would have to take some share of the cost.
We decided to head back as fast as possible so they could call the town nearby where there were some contacts and see if they could track down the animal. At that point we split again Jose going one way and Guillermo and I going a different route – not sure why but Jose wanted to hunt one more bird. But it was clear that the main reason was that the tension was building up.
One hour before reaching uaxactun we stopped to eat a little bit and wait for Jose. Jose had shot another bird and we waited there a little longer to let Jose relax. For a moment everyone was happy to reach home and I was happy to get back to my motorcycle. The last hour was probably the scariest because we took a bunch of shortcuts in thik bushes that seemed prime spot to get bitten by a snake. I followed Guillermo’s foot step and tried no to touch anything.
Once we arrived to Jaime’s house where I had left my motorcycle we told him about the mule running away and his first words where ‘this is a huge problem!!!’ Looked at me and said ‘for a lost mule they’ll charge you like a new one at least 700 dls’ then seeing my serious face tried to break the tension saying ‘you’ll have to sell your motorcycle to pay for it’. It was clear that they would try to do everything to make me pay for it.
Jaime’s brother went to the public phone to call the people they new in the nearby towns to see if anyone had seen the mule and Jaime went to the mule’s owner house to see if by some miracle the mule had found its way home.
Jaime came back 15 minutes later and thank God they mule had made it safely home!
You cannot imagine how relief I was eventhouth I would have to pay another 20 dls to go retrieve the mule’s aparejo (thing that goes on top of the mule to carry stuff), to retrive Jose’s and Guillermo’s gear and the left over food. The relationship between Jose and Guillermo got worse when Guillermo paid him less than what Jose expected and Jaime said that he would never give a tour to Guillermo. The night ended with people coming to Jaimes house to check on us. I realized that everyone was gossiping about someone else in the town of 500 people. I felt asleep in the hammock completely exhausted after walking 10 hours with a heavy backpack and dealing with the stress of a lost mule. I was looking forward to get moving to another city.

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Old 10-17-2006, 09:54 AM   #48
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Incredible tales!!! Do you have enough info to piece together some tracks or waypoints of your Jungle journey? It would be interesting to see where and how far you walked in that muck. I got tired just reading it
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Old 10-17-2006, 11:12 AM   #49
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Epic! Thank you for taking the time to tell this tale! Keep it coming.

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Old 11-07-2006, 11:17 AM   #50
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Oddometer: 1,743 - Looks like Salcar is heading into Columbia...
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Old 11-07-2006, 02:12 PM   #51
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Holey crap! This is some great stuff. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to get to the more remote ancient sites. WOW! You are Doing It All. Thanks for the write-up.
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Old 11-07-2006, 03:06 PM   #52
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Another fantastic update. Thank you and best wishes for a continued safe journey
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Old 11-09-2006, 11:13 PM   #53
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Your trip in the jungle is unbelievable. Sometimes I forget that there is another life besides comfy Los Angeles. I was surprised not to see more pictures of the piramids. Were they in ruins? It's unreal how people still live in 21st century, no wonder they are going across the border in search of better life. Stay safe, take your time and don't forget to report where you are, I was a little worried that you disappeared. Cheers!
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Old 11-10-2006, 09:19 PM   #54
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Nice report, nice pics, Thanks for sharing the good times, suerte en tu viaje
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Old 11-11-2006, 03:57 PM   #55
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I enjoyed reading every single word, looking on every single picture.
Thanks for sharing this!
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Old 11-11-2006, 09:31 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by sandiegoland - Looks like Salcar is heading into Columbia...
That would be COLOMBIA,CARAJO!!!
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Old 11-11-2006, 09:48 PM   #57
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Originally Posted by theturtleshead
That would be COLOMBIA,CARAJO!!!
Hey, Ohio would be an adventure too... ever been?
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Old 11-12-2006, 01:16 PM   #58
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Salcar, sounds like a great trip and wish you well for the rest of your journey. Am thinking of a trip to Central America next year and hope to use your trip as a guide... good luck and thanks for sharing.
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Old 11-12-2006, 02:33 PM   #59
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What kind of riding gear do you have Salcar?

What does 'Salcar' mean?

About to buy one of your shirts to support your ride!!! Go Boooooy!
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Old 11-12-2006, 03:17 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by sandiegoland
Hey, Ohio would be an adventure too... ever been?
Nope too cold,too many Gringos and no filtering in traffic!!!
I,ll stick to the tropics thanks.What with being a Scottish ex London depatch rider I,ve seen enough cold and rain to last a life time,so no Ohio adv for the time being,thanks for the offer though!!!
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