These Guys Took a ’76 Landrover Through Central America and Mexico and Scored!
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five stories by Sam Evans and Wyatt Fowler about their travels from Costa Rica to Los Angeles via Land Rover. Check back soon for the next installment.
There were just two of us on the trip, myself and Wyatt. We had grown up together surfing on the eastern seaboard of the United States, mainly in the Long Island area. After graduating from college I had flown down to Costa Rica to start working at a hostel in Jaco, where Wyatt had been working for close to a year. Jaco, Jaco, Jaco, with seedy expats, cheap thrills and pick pocket night clubs. But it’s also a melting pot of cultures and has a strong group of do-gooders improving its image à la Brooklyn meets Vegas nestled in the rainforest of the central Pacific. Yoga studios and surf schools are as common as drug dealers and working girls, yet everyone gets along.
Dispatch Central America: “We Survived Border Bandidos”
By Samuel Evans
Thursday, September 28, 2016
If there were no sense of risk, Central America wouldn’t be so exotic or mysterious. Mexico especially has been romanticized as a lawless country. However, what Wyatt and I mostly found were friendly people who would bend over backwards to help wayward gringos, especially if they knew a little Spanish and had some time to chat and share a laugh.
Guatemalan mechanics let us sleep in their garage while we waited for our car to be fixed. Gas station attendants helped us patch up our gas tank in Mexico. Countless others gave us rides, food, places to stay and indispensable advice.
Yet even the locals espoused the dangers of other Central American countries, just not their own. When we left Costa Rica, we were told that we would be robbed in Nicaragua. In El Salvador, it was Guatemala that was truly the dangerous country, and in Guatemala they couldn’t believe we had made it out of El Salvador unscathed and warned us against continuing on to Mexico. Precautionary tales were so commonplace that we eventually learned to brush them off. The appearance of guns multiplied as soon as we left Costa Rica, but most were in the possession of the military, or guards. Honduras turned out to be the only country that lived up to its outlaw reputation.
A long surfing drought ensued after we left El Salvador for Guatemala.
By Samuel Evans
Monday, October 3, 2016
We chose to venture inland to explore the lush mountains, colonial cities, and still lakes surrounded by volcanic rings. We were held up by a gas tank leak that forced us to camp in a mechanic’s parking lot in Xela, the second largest city in Guatemala.
After the tank had been haphazardly patched back together we were anxious to get back to the coast and quickly made our way to Mexico. Once we were safely across the border, we thought we were home free, only to find we were stuck in a bureaucratic limbo. We were essentially being held captive in Tapachula, a Mexican border town, trying to fix a paperwork snafu for Bessie so that we could roam freely throughout the rest of Mexico.
We couldn’t go back to Guatemala as we had given up our insurance there when we crossed the border, and couldn’t get past the aduana (customs) in Mexico without the necessary paperwork. We wound up sitting in the hotel room for two weeks with wrappers from the Oxxo (the 7-11 of Mexico) littering the floor and an almost empty bottle of rum on the nightstand, talking about evacuation plans if the paperwork didn’t come through.
This Is What It’s Like Camping in a Cave at Scorpion Bay on A Transcontinental Surf Trip
By Samuel Evans
Monday, October 13, 2016
“Es de los Estados?” (Is it from the States?)
“No senñor, es de Inglaterra.” (No sir, it’s from England)
“Ahh, es duro, no? Cuatro por cuatro?” (Ahh, it’s tough, huh? Four wheel drive?)
“Si, es duro, pero un poco despacio.” (Yes it’s tough, but a little slow.)
The old weather-beaten Mexican man seemed satisfied with our answers and told us he had never seen a car like Bessie before. We had become accustomed to such conversations during our trip, and while the subject remained the same, each little chat was as exciting as the first.
Whether it was military, border patrol, local cops, gas station attendants, or just casual passersby, everyone was drawn to our little home on wheels. As their eyes focused on our Costa Rican license plate, expressions of curiosity would manifest themselves in bursts of Spanish directed at our heavily tinted windows. To their surprise, every time the window opened it was two blonde haired gringos, grinning from ear to ear, happy as could be, and rarely in the know of their exact location.
With nearly a year of broken Spanish under our belts, we could have a decent conversation with patient people.
In this instance, we were on a rarely visited stretch of beach on the Southern half of the Baja peninsula on the far side of Scorpion Bay. We had dodged seals, the remains of boats, and forded rivers in the search for waves in this far flung locale.
Look out for the next (and last) installment soon.