Tag Archives: overland

Rain Soaked in Uruguay

It was three in the morning as I sat naked, confused, disoriented, and a bit groggy from the drinks of the evening. I was sitting in the reclined driver seat of my truck in a major city in South America, downtown, in an upscale neighborhood.

IMG_0489

It started as a travel day like any other, moving from one place to the next, just like we’ve been doing for the past fourteen months. We spent the past two nights camped at “The Point” of Punta Del Diablo on the Northern coast of Uruguay. We shot up to the border town in Brazil to fill up with gas and load up on some tax free goods. The skies were clear, the color of the ocean resembled chocolate, the wind was howling through a windowless structure. Its was a weekday, so the beaches were lonely.

IMG_9933

Hours were spent driving south down the coast, the landscape in Uruguay mostly rolling hills where cattle roam the fields waiting to be consumed by humans, the small crowds of tall trees growing close to one another in the wide open fields bearing resemblance to socially awkward teens in an auditorium at a junior high dance. The climate is not tropical, but palm trees grow wild. We would occasionally see small flocks of kermit-green birds spastically flying in close proximity to our faces. We watched for whales while surfing, the occasional startle from a curious seal as it popped its head out of the water only a few feet from where we floated.

IMG_0502

Then there was the drive through upscale Maldonado and Punta Del Este, the bright white skyscrapers contrasted against the blue sky. The sea was choppy and wind blown, so surfing was out of the agenda. There was a certain comfort provided by the upscale communities we had traveled through. The surroundings felt safe, the off season kept the crowds in check, and well groomed beach combers wished us well. This was all too easy, but the entire day still lay ahead. So we decided to go to Montevideo, the largest city in the country.

IMG_0524

Navigating large foreign cities in the truck is not our strong point. On any given day we would drive into a big sprawl, I would get an anxiety attack, and we would quickly drive out. But Montevideo was clean, organized with courteous drivers steering through the streets while locals exercised up and down the malecón. The clean city beaches below the high-rises, were separated by well-manicured lawns littered with mate sipping bystanders. Although we were in South America, it felt more like Europe.

IMG_0468

Camping in urban areas where we come from is often referred to as “homeless.” Our roof top tent attracts unwanted attention and firing up exotic curry dishes in the rear of the Toyota also attracts wandering eyes. Sometimes I wish we had a van.

IMG_0585

We found a spot to camp amongst other overland vehicles, sandwiched between a gas station and the Atlantic Ocean. The situation was suspiciously perfect. The gas station provided bathrooms and free wifi. The green grassy field we parked in had other overlanders (safety in numbers) and a horizontal view of the Atlantic lightning storm which we would later find out, would unexpectedly changed our night’s plans.

IMG_0536

The wind was strong all day, but the rain came around midnight, soaking the tent and shaking the truck violently. It was about 2am when the wind clocked in at over 30 mph, the roof top tent resembling a giant clam shell closing down on us while we helplessly tried to sleep inside. At this point Sara feared for her safety and retreated to the cab of the truck, pleading for us to join her. Lupe and I stayed in the tent giving in to the comfort of warm wet blankets and a half drunken slumber. The tent was on the cusp of eating us alive and then blowing away in the night sea.

IMG_0565

Rational thinking finally kicked in, the tent was on the verge of explosion, we needed to get the hell out, and quickly. I cradled the dog and exited the tent, instantly soaked we entered the truck and hatched a quick scheme. Wearing only a bathing suit and a rain coat, blinded by wind and rain, shivering cold, Sara and I struggled to break camp while Lupe laid comfortably on her bed in the cab of the truck. It was 2:30 am, the truck was now running, the streets were flooded, the downpour was torrential. Police barricades blocked flooded streets and we noticed were the only ones out in the city of 1.5 million people.

IMG_0554

We retreated deep into the city streets, wind blocked by apartment buildings, rain intercepted by tree. It was still uncomfortable, but compared to where we came from it was a better situation. We striped off our wet cloths, tired and disoriented, this was where the story began. How long could we sit here in the truck, naked, drying off, in an upscale neighborhood, and not get arrested. The storm was bad, no one was around so we had the night to ourselves. We re-setup the tent, laid in wet blankets in the soaked clamshell of a tent and surprisingly, we slept the rest of the early morning in downtown Montevideo.

IMG_0647

Waking up to the light of day, we climbed down the ladder from the roof of our truck, in a neighborhood where respectable citizens were on their way to work. They give us the “button eye” while they briskly walked past. I didn’t blame them, we looked pathetic. Then driving through the city we spotted the golden arches. There is no better place for a couple of pathetic Americans than a McDonalds. Americans seem to be the only people who travel thousands of miles to eat the same hormone injected protein we could get in our local shopping mall parking lots back home. We try not to make this a habit, but free internet, clean bathrooms, and hot coffee was hard to resist after a tiring night exposed to the elements.

IMG_0626

It looked like rain for the rest of the day in the entire country. All hopes of exploring the city were denied, everything was shut down. We were wet, everything was soaked, and we needed to find a room somewhere. So we headed towards the Argentinian border in hopes of crossing over within a few days. We drove towards Colonia, only a few hours away. The gasoline light illuminated; I had 30 miles left until empty but Colonia was only 10 miles away––no problem. Five miles from town, the traffic stopped. Then, cars ahead began to turn around. I was in desperate need of gas. I passed the line of traffic only to discover that the road had turned to a rapidly flowing river over 1/2 mile across. We headed back to where we came from, finding a gas station just as the last fumes were consumed by our engine.

IMG_0652

The next several hours were spent exploring the surrounding area, where we searched for a safe route to Colonia, only to be disappointed with more flooded highways. There was no way in or out of Colonia by vehicle. So after more hours of driving we pulled into the riverside town of Mercedes. The river was swollen but the town sits safety on a hill, protected from the waterlogged river bank and flooded parks. The day ended and the sun sank on the horizon. The sky and buildings turned the color of salmon, a rainbow spanned the late afternoon sky. The worst was over, we could sense it in the air. As the last few raindrops fell from above, we sipped wine and looked out the window of our rented room. Exhausted and relieved, we embraced our hard earned relaxation, the wine too good to describe. Tomorrow would be another day, one of drying wet clothes and gear. Such is life on the road.

 

Advertisements

3 Weeks in Chile

We were craving a bit of organization. When I say “organization” I’m mostly referring to safer drivers and pasteurized cheese. After traveling some of the poorer countries in the Americas, It will be an interesting transition back to the so called “first world.”

IMG_9713

We were not surprised we got denied at the Chilean border, Lupe’s papers were insufficient. Chile is  very strict about any pets, eggs, vegetables, and various other animals and food products one may try to pirate across national lines. For this might contaminate the country with disease and foreign fauna from the bordering countries. Being unsure of the specific paperwork we might need for Lupe, we just rolled in to see what needed to be done. Smuggling her across the border (like we did in Panama) is a risky move, because Chilean authorities have the ability to take your pet from you, for a variety of reasons, including no paperwork, so we’ve heard.

IMG_9549

Approaching the border we are surrounded by grey mountains of sand and rock. It could be the backdrop of any haunted desert movie. Everything was dreary, the overcast sky, the color of the sand, the trucks driving by. We had no choice but to drive the 20 miles back from the border to the Peruvian border town, in search a vet to provide the proper papers for Lupe.

IMG_9468

Before the days end we made it through the border legally. While approaching downtown Arica, I immediately notice a difference in the Chilean drivers good etiquette, as well as no senseless horn blowing. Not to mention we are in a beach town during the off season, and I can’t help but admire the resemblance of Arica, to the off season at the Jersey shore. I immediately liked Chile.

IMG_9256

Some of our food was confiscated at the border by the vegetable cops, so we decided to do a quick shop. The large grocery store resembled one from back in the states, genetically oversized veggies, pre packaged cheese and meat, individually packaged tuna burger patties. This was familiar, and noticeably more expensive than anywhere we’ve been this past year. Then we found the Chilean wine, which is only three dollars a bottle, so it all evened out.

IMG_9432

We camp on the beach every night with the overcast landscape, sounds of the ocean, and the occasional drizzle. Our mornings were spent watching surfers shred “El Gringo,” which is a large barreling wave that breaks on a shallow sharp reef. Expert surfers and body borders only, due to the danger factor, which is why watching proved to be entertaining. We were restricted to surf all the other breaks in the area, and did so every day we were there. The wind picks up in the afternoon, leaving the jaded vagabond to roam the beaches or explore the pueblo.

IMG_9447

Afternoons were mostly spent wandering downtown, buying car insurance, stealing wifi, eating epanadas and completos. “What the fart is a completo?” A completo is a regular sized hotdog in an oversized bun, laced with guacamole and mayo, and possibly other various sauce and toppings depending who you buy it from. This might sound disgusting and sloppy, and you are right, it is gross. I bought a completo and did not like it, plus it made a mess on my lap. Eating a completo while driving is not recommended. Unhappy with this hotdog creation, I just thought I went to a bunk vendor. I tried a new vendor and I got the same results. Sara got it all over her cloths forcing me to kick her out of the truck. The completo was not only messy for our relationship and apparel, it also does not look very appetizing to begin with. The popularity of the completo will forever remain a mystery.

P1020434

Ten nights in Arica, a daily routine, several acquaintances made, we could stay here longer (and later wish we had,) or start heading south down the desert costal highway. Arica is laid back, and an easy place to live in your truck. Our favorite city in the country we hardly traveled at all. Chile is safe, beach camping is not a problem. From what I gather, the most dangerous thing I experienced in Chile was almost chipping my tooth on an olive pit in my epanada.

IMG_9554

The costal road is littered with nameless fishing villages, sandy cliffs, and waves crashing on the rocky urchin covered reefs. Driving days spent passing several grassless golf courses, a suspicious number of pet cemeteries, one abandoned and possibly haunted house. Once again faced with the dilemma of having no place to be and no specific time to be there, we walked the cemeteries and wandered old buildings while overlooking the never ending Pacific blue.

IMG_9490

There is cloud cover every day, while a few miles inland the sky is as blue as can be, its that time of year. Over several days we drive through and pirate camped to the cities of Iquique, Tocopilla, then to Antofagasta. None of these places matched the relaxed vibe and waves of Arica, which is why we wished we stayed there longer. While questioning our next move we drove to the “Mano del Desierto” also known as “Hand of the Desert, and had a team meeting discussing our next move.

IMG_9640

We wanted to go more south, we wanted to see the rest of Chile. With the budget dwindling, It would be tough to make it work. You could easily spend 6 months exploring Chile and Argentina alone, we don’t have the resources at the moment to do it properly, so we decided to save it for the next trip.

IMG_9668

Our time in Chile was cut short. While leaving the “Hand of the desert” we unexpectedly decided to drive East and prepare ourselves to cross South America, with Uruguay as a final destination. The Atacama Desert, salt flats, and the Northern Argentinian farmland is what lies ahead for the next week.

IMG_9706

2 months in Peru

Petrol pumping on the beach, street side pork stands, reckless drivers, world class surfing, and glaciers. We must be in Peru.

IMG_8842

After an overcast couple weeks of mediocre wave riding in Ecuador, we decided to hustle down South to Peru. Peru has a reputation of being a country where the culture and history of ancient civilizations are abundant, amazing food for the frugal traveler hunker around every corner, the disconnect between the rich and poor are strikingly apparent, and travelers will experience a complete sensory overload, only comparable to our travels through Mexico.

IMG_8522

The border crossing was a piece of cake: new facilities, uncrowded, organized, and fast. Our paperwork was complete, the vehicle import permit granted, and a seductive glare from an auto insurance sales women sent us on our way. A generous bag of plantain chips was purchased, split open the top, and our greasy hands dug into the feast. Now we head Southbound through the desert.

IMG_9199

In need of the ATM machine, we search the streets of Tumbes. I park street side, enter a casino, and withdraw some bills (not knowing my bank is about to red flag my account because a transaction has been made in Peru). With cash in pocket, I return to the taco to find street folks trying to sell cocaine to Sara and Lupe. We brush off these clowns, lock the doors, U-turn on main street, and head for the desert highway. We are anxiously excited as we seek out the beach town of Punta Sal.

Punta Sal

Punta Sal, from what we have read and heard from other travelers, is a good first night stop while driving the coastal border crossing from Ecuador. It is on the beach, safe, and provides a welcoming first impression of the country. We find the gated entrance (most costal towns in Peru are gated with security guards), sign some paper that states we will not rob, rape or murder while visiting the community and creep down the dusty beach side road in search of a place to set up camp.

IMG_8155

We drive on the beach ready to set up for the evening, when a man (Jimmy) approaches us, and explains that we cannot camp on the beach. He then notices our New Jersey plates, and states that he used to live in Elizabeth, NJ, where he drove a taxi and sold cocaine in the 70’s. He smiles, shakes our hands, and politely insists that we camp in the driveway of his hostel. Jimmy has a clean, well manicured little hostel on the beachfront in Punta Sal. He performs Ayahuasca ceremonies (a psychedelic brew known to enlighten people spiritually) for people at his beachside crash pad. He was caring for a client at the time of our stay in his driveway, so we made sure to keep quiet, and respect his profession. Our first night in Peru was clear and starry, the desert beach was comfortable, and there was a noticeable difference in scenery and temperature from close by Ecuador.

IMG_8170

The next day we arrived in Lobitos. Lobitos is a town in the baron desert with little to no vegetation, off shore winds most of the day (in actuality it is a very windy place), and travelers seeking good surf. There is not much to Lobitos and if your not looking for surf there is absolutely no reason to visit this place. The noisy petrol pumping litters the sandy landscape, the ocean horizon is contaminated with drilling platforms, and 6 breaks of world class surfing with waves all year round. Although the town is not crowded, and very spread out, the surf is jam packed much of the day. If you can work the crowd in the water, the reward is quite superb. Lobitos has been, without a doubt, some of the best waves along our Pan-American journey. I describe this place, as the movies, Mad Max meets Point break. An industrial wasteland of abandoned dilapidated buildings amongst desert landscape, with consistently wicked surf. We rented a cabin (Tres Cabanas) in Lobitos for close to 3 weeks, surfing everyday under blue skies. Countless waves ridden, full moon, ceviche, windy afternoons. Would I come here again? I hope so.

After a full days drive Southbound, In search for more surf, we inspect several breaks to set up camp for another couple weeks. Anxious to surf Chicama (one of the longest waves in the world) we arrive to flat seas. If we hang out for several days, and wait, we will surely become overwhelmed with boredom. We move on. A couple days here, a few days there, a quick bribe to a corrupt cop at a traffic stop, and we find ourselves in Huanchaco. We set up camp at Huanchaco Gardens, a hostel/RV park on the north side of town. Huanchaco is famous for their reed boats that fisherman have been using for thousands of years. The town is booming, cheap street food is abundant, The waves are big, fast rolling masses of power with virtually no one else was in the water. The paddle out was difficult, the water was filthy, but the wave was amazing. At Huanchaco, I surfed the biggest, fastest, longest wave of the trip, and my life. All the way from the point, past the pier, into the bay. Several waves, and a very long walk back to the point through traffic and tourists, lets do it over and over again.

Peru is a beautiful country with a wide range of things to do and see. Like all places in the world, Peru is not without its problems. Especially the costal regions we’ve noticed just so much trash everywhere. In the desert, its hard to decompose, and the wind will take it flying down the coast. Driving behind a bus, people are throwing their styrofoam take out containers out the window for miles on end. I see people eating in the streets and throwing wrappers on the ground while a trash can is within arms length. People picnic while leaving bags of trash and miscellaneous rubbish to blow around the beach. Maybe there is no organized garbage pickup? Maybe there is no money to correct this problem? Maybe locals have zero respect for their home? Maybe people are blind to the disgustingness of this behavior? or maybe I am ignorant to the root of an even bigger problem? This was the disappointment with Peru.

IMG_9158

For the past month, surfing daily, satisfied and physically unscathed, we thought it would be a good time to head to the mountains and breath some clean air. We planned on a few days but it turned into a couple weeks. Snow caps, glaciers, hikes, and cheap living. The markets were similar to those of Mexico where you find meat for sale hanging from hooks on the streets, entire cooked pigs sit on tables while chunks get sliced off and sold to lined up street walkers. You sit and feast amongst locals and the plate of the day is a measly dollar or two. The markets are bustling, the eats are abundant. Its difficult not to enter a market and stuff yourself to the gills. The variety of food is unlimited, and cheap, so why not gorge? During this trip I have learned that my stomach is bullet proof, I have not been sick. I eat anything, served from anybody. This is a talent I’m proud to exploit. I am a pig with no self respect when it comes to street food.

IMG_8777

On the way to the mountains we accidentally stumbled upon the famous Canon del Pato (duck canyon.) The canyon carved by the Rio Santa gives one an epic few hour drive through a massive rock canyon going through 35 one-lane tunnels. This route is a must see to anyone driving through Peru. Once through the canyon opposite the coast, one is rewarded with unlimited opportunities of the mountainous inland life. Exploring the city of Huarez, and the surrounding area over the next couple weeks, we hiked to glaciers and lakes during the day, had wine and cheese at night, and purchased large bags of veggies and trout for only a few bucks. Camping in the mountains, (We recommend camping at the sustainable hostel outside Huarez “The Hof”) one is rewarded with stunning snow capped views, old rock rubbles are evidence of expired civilizations, and road side cheese stands under clear blue skies. While we explored underground tunnels built by ancient ancestors, Lupe the dog was not allowed entry. We each took turns trotting along the 2000 year old subway passages. With no other tourists around, the lonely tunnels gives one a haunted presence of life back then.

We want to get back to the ocean, the sea is always calling. We heard the beaches on the southern outskirts of Lima are supposed to be welcoming, so we head there.The drive through Lima was riddled with close calls of crashing the Taco. The drivers in Peru are the worst to date. Overall I’ve noticed the drivers here are dangerous and take unnecessary chances while passing on blind curves or with oncoming traffic. We make it out of the city in one piece, we camp here and there. The more south we go the less towns there are. The Pacific Coast of Peru then 1000 miles into Chile is all desert. Its a beautiful stretch of baron coastline, scary and desolate. Driving the Southern Coast of Peru into Chile, one is rewarded with awesome cliffside highways looking into the deep clear Pacific. This time of year the water is moving North, so the clean 1st world waters of Chile are reaching Peru, which makes the South coast a true beauty.

IMG_9248

Peru is a huge country covering half a million square miles. We only scratched the surface. The coast is mostly South West facing, making it a perfect wave making machine. The waves here will blow you mind, if you don’t mind wearing a wetsuit. This is a place of endless exploration, a rugged country that suffers on many levels. Amazing food for the broke and rich, and gold toothed indigenous selling anything one desires.

1 YEAR ON THE ROAD!

One Year on the road: 11 borders crossed, 4 vet visits, 1 bribe payed, 2 dead bodies seen, dozens of fish caught, countless waves ridden, and many friends made.

IMG_2589

Sometimes you get sick of it all; burnt out, tired, hungry, living in a truck, the rain, the cold, the heat, the bugs. There are fleas on the dog, fleas in the tent, sand in the pants, salt in the eyes. Washing dishes in the sea, showering with a bucket, dried food on the forks, dried sweat that makes your socks stiff like stale bread, stale bread and old eggs, fresh bread and local cheese. There are drivers with no regard for human life. Days with no propane means no coffee, no morning coffee is like a punch in the face.  You sample alien fruits, uncertain regarding the proper way to consume them. People are talking, not knowing what they are saying, just nod and smile, walk away, fake it. Locals yelling, selling, and talking at you, “grrrrrringo!” I would still take it any day of the week over the routine back home.

IMG_4808

Its not all stale bread and sandy butt crack, and it is always more good than bad. A bad day on the road is still a day on the road, and any day on the road, is a good day indeed.

IMG_6530

The markets South of the border, specifically in Mexico and Peru, provide access to all sorts of culinary delights. The food that we know as “Mexican”, in the states, is not Mexican food at all (I have yet to see a burrito south of the border). The tacos, salsa, meats, and price leaves one speechless. I will eat street food from anyone who sells it (no matter what it is). Often times I place my order without knowing what I will receive. They slide a plate my way, and I send it to my gut. They tell me what I am eating, but I don’t know what they say (my spanish is fickle). Down the hatch. I do this in every country, and sometimes several times in one day. There is fish stew for breakfast, guinea pig for brunch, ceviche for lunch, and trucha frita for dinner.  I find myself eating hamburgers with ham, while the pigs freely roam the dusty streets. The only bouts of food poisoning that I have experienced have occurred in the states (several times I might add).

All the locals have been welcoming and warm. Although each country has a different overall attitude (with kindness occurring on a spectrum), in general, people are good. People are happy. Locals are welcoming. They ask where we are from, shake our hands, ask how dangerous our dog is. Bravo? No matter how poor, or how rich, people have been universally good. But!… don’t forget, that no matter where you go, there will always be an asshole. Assholes are everywhere in this world, and just because you are in their country it does not mean that you have to be nice to them. In terms of the big picture, 9 1/2 times out of ten people have been awesome. In reality, most assholes that we cross paths with are American expats who can be found complaining about any number of things (usually locals).

IMG_6476

Camping south of the border is cheap, and many times free. If we pay to camp it means that we are taking showers, using wifi, enjoying the luxury of  bathrooms, and sometimes cooking up a fancy meal in the communal kitchen. There are sometimes even perks such as pools and flat screen tv’s, and “Law and Order” is always on. On average camping costs anywhere from $5 to $15 a night, but one must remember that this does add up, over time. Free camping on the beach is fun, but you are often exposed to the elements, and sometimes need to get creative with how you go to the bathroom (especially if the area is crowded with other beachcombers). We could write an entire blog post just on that topic, but we will keep moving forward. There have been several free camp spots that trump any pay site. This is due to seclusion, surf, scenery, adventure, and the general satisfaction that occurs when one discovers a pristine location with an unspoiled backdrop . We camp for free as much as possible, but when we start to resemble the hippies and homeless, with our smells, haggard appearance, complete disregard to how a successful society should function, then it’s time to take a shower, wash the cloths, and email the family. It is a slippery slope. Maybe not?

The experience has been educational, enlightening, and an overall eye-opener. People in the states are frightened to travel to the 3rd world, but we like to challenge this idea. We met a couple from Europe that did this trip from the South heading North. They claim the most dangerous place they visited was Florida. They got robbed multiple times (one of which was a break in to their hotel room while they were sleeping). But hey, that was just one couples experience. You also learn to listen to others, but be aware that it is their experience. One must remember that the most dangerous situations are usually involving being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  As with anywhere, one needs to be smart, keep their eyes open and have personal awareness as to how they relate to their current surroundings. This is true whether you are in Northern Florida or Southern Colombia.

There is no denying that this has, in fact, been one big learning experience. For example, did you know that eggs and meat don’t need to be refrigerated, 90’s rock is huge in South America (from the remote villages of Colombia to the beach towns of Chile), and there are ALOT of people in Central and South America with family in New Jersey. In Peru when I ordered an egg, cheese, ham sandwich, they actually brought me an egg sandwich, a cheese sandwich, and a ham sandwich. Separately. In Central America its more glorious to drink beer from a can, rather than a bottle.  And people cannot comprehend how we are married and have no kids. In an effort to keep the mood light, we just tell them Lupe the dog is our kid. That always brings a smile.

IMG_6237

Life is short, work is hard, surfing is fun. After all working takes the best years of a persons life, right?

IMG_9270

Gear Review for overlanders

Everyone travels differently, and has a variety of values while on the road. Some things that may be important to you, might not be a necessity for others. Not to mention, different travelers have a variety of different budgets to manage. A big part of travel, camping, and adventure is the wide variety of gear one can purchase before or during a journey, and sometimes its difficult not to go overboard in this category, especially considering all the amazing gear and new technology out there. Some like it fancy, and some like it simple. During our travels we have bumped elbows with a wide range of people. We mingle with everyone from wealthy retirees who drive luxury big budget ex-military vehicles, all the way to lost hooligans peddling their way across countries by unicycle. Me personally, the more time i spend on the road, Its important to keep it simple and cheap, while not sacrificing gear reliability and personal enjoyment. Fancy new technology is always fun to play with, but how much of this do you really want to bring to unfamiliar locations in the third world. Dont get me wrong, I do have and iPhone, lap top, sweet camera, and more than a few nice surfboards. But when push comes to shove, and this stuff gets broken or stolen, I can only hope I don’t get too bent out of shape over it. Which leads me to believe, less is more, keep it simple. I’ve met plenty of travelers who have very little, and having less makes you more free in a certain sense.

IMG_5863

With this being said I’ve come up with my personal review of gear that has been more than helpful on a daily basis, and in my opinion, no overlander should venture without. In no particular order…..

IMG_1234

1. Bucket ($0.00 – $6) Like a lot of great things in life, the bucket is multi-use. I left home with no bucket, and quickly realized how badly I needed one. The best buckets are usually old 5 gallon spackle buckets which can be found for free at almost any construction site. Besides the obvious of washing clothes and dishes, My bucket is my chair, table, I bring it fishing, fetch water from several underground wells, weapon, collecting firewood, and the list goes on. If you can’t buck-it, fuck-it.

IMG_8697

2. Insulated coffee mug ($1 – $10) Us americans like our coffee, and if coffee is not your cup of tea, you can drink a cup of tea. Being from the east coast I like my coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. Its tasty, you get it quick, and the price is reasonable, unlike the racket Starbucks is running. Most if not all Dunkin’ Donuts sells insulated coffee mugs ranging from $3 plastic ones to $10 stainless steel ones. We left NJ with 3 of these. One got lost, the other one blew out, only one remains. I purchased a replacement mug at a supermarket in Nicaragua for $1 and its just as good. I use this everyday, several times a day, for hot and cold drinks.

IMG_5351

3. String / rope ($0.00 – $5) Another multi-use item. We live in a truck, mostly on the hot beach. We are sweaty disgusting people who share a bed with a dog. We are constantly washing clothing and bedding out of our bucket. At our campsites we always have a clothes line set up. sometimes we have several lines set up drying clothes, dish rags, wet suits and the list goes on. I also use my string collection to tie down tarps, the awning, lowering my bucket into mysterious wells, and stringing up the hammock to any and everything, blah blah blah. String can be found amongst the rest of the trash that washes upon the beach or you can buy it almost anywhere.

IMG_8698

4. Smart phone ($50 and up) This item goes without saying. A smartphone is basically a small computer. Besides stating the obvious that one can email, Skype, and stay connected to family and well-wishers, there are many other great uses. The calculator comes in handy when contemplating exchange rates, maps, entertainment, we know the rest. Ive also used my camera several times to take quick photos of my license and passport, email to myself, then print it our for border crossings. The notes app is good for writing down important info and wifi passwords. Functioning without this would be very difficult.

IMG_8702

5. Skobbler app for phone ($0.99) This offline world road map application is probably not considered gear, but its been pretty amazing. For those who don’t know, listen carefully. We downloaded this app in Panama (brought to our attention by southtonowhere.com.) We do not have a cell phone plan, and you do not have to be online, but the map knows your location (via satellite) and you can plan a route, and download maps specific to the country. Being from the states we are extremely spoiled when it comes to road signage and city infrastructure. Its a different story down here, and not to mention several people south of the boarder (mostly in South America) drive with absolutely no regard to safety or the well being of human life. This is highly recommended and has given me the ability to avoid countless anxiety attacks when lost in these confusing cities, as well as saving gas by not getting too lost.

images

6. Hammock ($10 – 80) The hammock could possibly be one of the greatest inventions ever. They are easy to set up. I have an anchor point on my truck so all I need to do is park near a tree or something to tie off the other end. After a long days drive, or some hours surfing, the hammock is a comfortable way to unwind and relax. Not to mention during those hot nights in Central America, its nice to get out of the tent and spend the night swinging in the wind. After Lupe the dog destroyed my compact camping hammock after having it for several years, I purchased a large cloth 2 person hammock in Cost Rica which is nothing short of amazing. During the drive South of the border there are dozens of opportunities to purchase several different styles of hammocks ranging from different prices. Hammock life means a comfortable relaxing life!

IMG_6074

7. Safe ($0.00 – $100) The safe is important for obvious reasons, and it should be large enough to hold all of your really important things. I built my safe out of scrap wood and metal from the shop I worked in at the time of my truck build. It can hold my laptop, folder, camera, phones, and more. Its also important to bolt down your safe to your vehicle somehow. Although we have not had any break ins, its also a good peace of mind knowing your important things are locked up securely. If someone was to break into my truck specifically, they would need a good amount of time and tools to get into my safe. Considering most breakins are a smash, grab and run situation I feel pretty good about my things being safe.

IMG_1273

8. Lupe the dog ($125) By no means do I consider our lovable pet a piece of gear, but I put her on the list anyway. We paid $125 at our local high kill rate shelter and saved Lupe’s Life. Im not looking for thanks but it was in fact our best purchase. Besides being part of the family Lupe acts as a great security guard. When a shifty individual approaches she makes her presence known, sending people in the opposite direction very quickly. When a friendly person approaches she is friendly and lovable. Several nights we have camped in questionable spots and when people get close I signal her to bark on command. Most people south of the border use dogs as security, so locals can only assume she is dangerous. Although she farts in the tent, gets fleas, frequents visits to the vet, and requires an expensive high protein diet due to food allergies, we love this dog like our own child and I’m confident she would seriously injure any person that tried to do us any harm. Not to mention Lupe is also a great mediator when Sara and I get into it.

IMG_8428

9. Filet knife ($1 – $20) Bringing a knife camping is a no-brainer. But I do recommend a large, sharp, durable knife. I bought one of those big white handle knives that professional fishermen use. It has no case and hangs out in the back of the truck. It cuts through live fish and dead meat, and veggies better watch out, cause Its sharp as hell, and has held up through over a dozen countries. these can be purchased in tackle shops, garage sales, or maybe you can find one in your garage that needs sharpening.

IMG_8695

10. Roof top tent ($800 – $5000) The RTT (roof top tent) does not apply to everybody of course. Some sleep inside their rigs on sleeping platforms, campers, or regular camping tents. We were lucky enough to find our Auto Home on NJ Craigslist for $900. This model tent from the factory might run closer to $4000. We put a clean mattress in, rigged up some swimming noodles so the surfboards fit nicely on top, and we’re ready to roll. The tent is extremely comfortable and is about the size of a queen size bed. Camping on the beach provides great views from above, plus scorpions and snakes have a hard time finding us on top of the truck. We decided that spending money on this item would be worth it, we got a good deal on it, also considering we will be spending the next year plus on the road.

IMG_6530