A North American Travel Adventure

Nanaimo, BC, Canada to San Jose, Costa Rica

Bon Voyage – Nov 23/95


Ray and Rafael are off on QUITE an adventure. Their quest is to drive a 1984 Ford Bronco from Nanaimo, BC, Canadato San Jose, Costa Rica. Believe it or not, driving a vehicle to Costa   Ricais the most feasible and time-saving of all of the options, including ocean freighter. Everyone is relieved that one of the harshest rainy seasons in history is over and the ground can start to dry up. After placing all of the various maps together, I noticed that they will be trekking through a lot of territory, mostly the coastal United Statesand most of Central America. My guestimate is that approximately 4,000 miles worth of rubber will be worn, so I want to know what kind of tires they will be traveling on. Apparently they will be buying new tires somewhere in Arizona, as the law requires that they have new tires in order to enter Costa Rica if it is a foreign vehicle.

Looking at the map, the shortest route is through the states of Washington- Oregon- California- Arizona. In Arizona, these two will visit a long-time friend and colleague and specialist in mining and an industrious broker in the United States. I expect that they will cross into Mexicoat the Arizona/Mexican border town of Nogales. In Mexico, they stop over to visit another colleague and renowned mining expert who is getting married soon.

It’s that Central America part that makes me shudder. They will have to traverse about in Central America’s unpredictable countries such as Guatemala-Honduras-Nicaragua before they even enter Costa Rica, some of which are notorious for indulging in war. It’s a good thing that Rafael is Spanish-speaking and understands a lot of the custom requirements, besides being a prominent lawyer in his native country. They expect the trip will take 9 or 10 days, but we can only speculate as to the actual time frame because of unforeseen circumstances or bandits en route can lengthen the journey. Rafael is going to be the journalist on the scene, so he will be reporting to this office at intervals along the way.

This writer is on the edge of her seat from here-on-in until they actually arrive inSan Jose,Costa Rica and I am wondering if I might like to be on an adventure like that.

Progress Report #1 – Nov 26/95

The first bit of news about our adventurous duo is that they had arrived at Nogaleswhich is on the border ofArizonaandMexico. As they stopped in Vancouver to take care of business before heading south, I would say that 1700 miles of rubber has been worn off so far in pretty good time and they are right on their original schedule. They did include a quick how-ya-doing inPhoenixand were on the road again. They are to stay in Nogales overnight and part for San Carlos in the AM of Monday, Nov 27. They expect to reach San Carlos in time to dine with their buddy with his new bride. The notion to travel beyond the southern Mexican border has raised some anxious questions in everyone’s mind.

Progress Report #2 – Nov 28/95


Our adventurous duo arrived inSan Carloslast night and met with the newlyweds. They stayed at the Hotel which is owned by her family, the Fiesta. They had a great supper last night, shrimp & crab stuffed corvina. When Ray woke up this morning he was looking out at the sight of the ocean and beach framed in bouganvilla of orange and red. They had a little trouble at the Mexican customs though. It seems that if you are in transit, the only point of entry is from Texas. They thought their travel plan had been foiled at that time, but with a lot of conversation and a jar of Yvonne’s (Ray’s wife) canned salmon, they got a tourist permit good for six months.

The first bit of trouble with the Bronco was in Nogales, USA where a Mexican mechanic told them that he had several cars ahead of them and it would take 3 hours or more by the time they were mobile. Again, a jar of Yvonne’s salmon and 10 bucks and they were on the road.

In all of the hub-bub, Rafael left his briefcase somewhere at the border, maybe the Mexican Consulate USA (Nogales) or Mexican Immigration (Nogales). I must now get a hold of the Consulate and see if they can find it and have it sent here to Nanaimo. It was a good thing that there was nothing of much importance in it at the time.

The four-lane highway is excellent Ray said, and they are traveling at steady speed of 100km per hour. They will be leavingSan Carlosat about 10:30 this AM (same time zone) and expect to sleep inCuliacannearMazatlantonight. “Things are going well” was his salutation. Now I must fax a report to Rafael’s children inCosta   Rica.

This writer is poised at the edge of her seat until the next report.

Progress Report #3 – Nov 29/95

It sounds like our adventurous duo’s travels are smooth so far. After saying “Adios Amigos” to pals and family at 11:30AM yesterday, they arrived in Culiacan 7:00PM last evening. They noted that it was a good size city and it appeared that farming is the backbone of its economy. They compared the semi-desert country-side to the area around Wickenburg, Arizona. On leaving the State of Sonora they entered into the State of Sinaloa and were awed at the way the landscape had dramatically changed into the largest farms Ray had ever seen. Even larger, he noticed than those between San Francisco and Los Angeles. They identified some of the crops as corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and beans. The temperature of 80deg F made for a much hotter climate than where they just came from. “Everyone wants to help”, they stated, and they had a good happening at a police checkpoint. Apparently the police were searching all foreign vehicles and they were expecting at least a one hour delay until the officer in charge came immediately to their Bronco and said “You, Canadians, friends of Mexico. Pass.”

Tomorrow they expect will be a big day and they reckon they will travel well past Chapella. The four-lane highway #15 is an excellent road which is a toll road that charges $3.00 every 150 km. Very few cars and trucks are on the pay-as-you-go road. Good hotels are costing $40.00US and they are not stopping to eat much as they purchased a cooler and munchies to save time. A Mexican told them that they must look out for the Q.Q. fly down there. It seems that if you get bit by it, you must make love within 8 hours or you will die. Ray thinks that this is quite a fly and they should import them to Canada. Ha,ha. It sounds like they are keeping each other good company and they are telling a lot of jokes. So far the have not taken many photos. Rafael has been looking for postcards for me but they have been non-existent so far.

Bye the way, I did track down Rafael’s briefcase at the Mexican Immigration office in Nogales, Mexico. I now have to figure out to get it up here or to his home in Costa Rica as the lady I spoke with, Smiethye Sumsa, (darn spelling) said that he will have to come back and sign for it. She is looking into it though for me and will call back. Perhaps we will retrieve it yet. I also found the little town of San Carlos, Sonora. Smiethye said that it was very close to Hermosillo, Sonora, and we do know that it is on the beach. The tire company is going to make some money on this trip as they have approximately 2,500 miles behind them and the Bronco is well on the way to it’s next tune-up.

This seat is getting a little uncomfortable sitting the edge like this.

Progress Report #4 – Nov 30/95

Our adventurous duo did not travel much distance toward their destination today because the Bronco was snorting through the exhaust (back-firing) and the possibility of muffler problems made them head for the closest mechanic which they found in the country-side about 26km from Tepic. Since Culiacan they have added only a couple of hundred miles to the odometer.

It seems that the Q.Q. fly is not the only thing that bites down there, though. Opportunity had a little nibble on Ray when he got into a conversation with the mechanic, who related to Ray that he has a friend who has a gold property. So, they went prospecting for the day in Mexico. They describe Tepic as a lovely, clean, and historic little town and the people are extremely friendly. They compare this area to be like the Las Juntas area in Costa Rica, where they are headed to analyze our situation at the Mina Mario Project. Ray was having some tummy trouble and had to see a doctor so he looked one up in the little town. He found the doctor to be very professional and friendly and added that the cost of the prescription and the doctor’s fees are about 20% of what they are at home.

Tomorrow they plan to get well-past Mexico City, all things being equal, but, if tummy trouble continues they will stay put for a day. Ray claims that in the condition that he is in, if the Q.Q. fly bit him, he would have no choice but to kick the bucket. Ha, ha. Perhaps they are a wee bit optimistic when they say that they are four days from San Jose’. Getting back to the tire situation, apparently they had them all replace in Arizona with PEP BOYS finest all-weather, heavy-duty radials, probably their own brand of Futura which have a 70,000 mile warranty. They gotta be good as Ray and Rafael are going to need them for some of the terrain after the Central American rains.

As far a Rafael’s briefcase, there’s a little stickler. Smieythe Yencunca advised me of the situation (she apologized to me for her not-so-good English, but, it’s better than how I’m spelling her name). Anyway, she assured me that Rafael had to go back and sign for it personally, but, we don’t know when he will again be in Nogales, Mexico.

I’m going to need a new chair soon, I’m wearing the edge off of this one.

Progress Report #5 – Dec 01/95

Biding their time was not on their schedule, but our adventurous duo made it good in spite of exhaust problems. They are back on track and healthy, and more determined to be in San Jose’ by Monday than ever. Time to regroup is always a productive necessity, even when on an exciting trip such as this one. They reported in this AM at 10:00 their time which is now one hour ahead of our time. I was told that Arizonatime does not change to Daylight Saving, but, in Mexicoit does. It is hard to judge an accurate distance as the roads are so winding and I don’t know just which route they will take, but 750 miles should be close, then add another 150 to San Jose’.

This morning these two galavanters were in Cuernovaca, Mexicoand on their way to Tapachula at the Guataemalan border. They stayed in Tolucalast night where the elevation is about 9,000 ft. I checked it out and they were about 3,000 metres above sea level. They are near the top of a mountain, in snow even. Now this is quite a drastic change considering they came from yesterday’s summery climate conditions of 80deg weather.

In comparison to our mountains in BC, this one has more of a radius at that height by the indications on the contour map in this atlas. The surrounding country-side is comparable to our Okanagan, except in the mountains where the pine trees are as abundant as in Flagstaff, Arizona. Ray bought some Christmas decorations from a booth around the farming area that they drove through. “You cannot bargain with this type of bargain”, he quipped as he paid the $3.50. I can’t wait to see what Ray and Yvonne have on their Christmas tree and around their house this year, because I adore Mexican ornaments.

The traveling duo had to stop again at another mechanic and have the muffler repaired while they were sending this fax, but they figure they will be watching the sun rise in San Jose’ on Monday morning yet.
I hope that they are right before I order my new chair when I wear the edge out on this one, which will likely be once they get beyond the Mexican border and into unfamiliar territory.

Progress Report #6 – Dec 04/95

It is now Monday morning and our adventurous duo have yet to fax home an updated report. We did however, receive one from Rafael’s kids this AM at 5:30 our time (7:30 Costa Ricatime). Rafael had just called and told them that he and Ray were close to El Salvador, but they still in the country of Guatemala. We don’t exactly know what caused the two-day delay over the weekend, but they missed watching the sun rise in San   Jose’ today. I heard that the roads are pretty bad in that part of the world and it is hard to send a fax from Central Americaas they don’t have a telephone system like ours. With Ray back to his old self and the Bronco all fixed up, they are well on their way now and they should make good time. We are certain to hear from them at the first opportunity to fax and they may tell us what their little setback was all about.

I have brought another chair into the office as mine is out having the edge repaired.

Progress Report #7 – Dec 06/95

How adventurous can this duo get? We got the scoop this morning fromCosta   Rica. It seems that they had sent a fax from Oaxaco over the weekend, but we did not receive it. We have to backtrack here in order to keep in tune with the sequence of events. These two learned some interesting foreign terminology while they were seeking an abode for the night inToluca. Apparently, the definition of ‘motel’ inMexicois a place where you take your mistress or hire a hooker. What one needs to find for lodging is a ‘hotel’ with indoor parking and they are located near the town square. They spent the night in a great hotel where they were cordially entertained by the Mexican musicians as they enjoyed a good dinner and the room cost only $30.00.

To retrace a few steps, we can go back to seeing them on top of the snowy mountain in the high country ofToluca. As they traveled higher up the mountain range, they were surprised even more at the frost in the fields and the snow that was on top of the volcano at 4,600 metres. Old Spanish Cathedrals are the most striking feature in each and every town they noted, and lots of history is there to be seen. The Bronco was declaring war on the Mexican folks every time Ray let up on the gas as it back-fired and there were people scurrying and donkeys jumping every time. Finally the muffler blew off. That is when they had it replaced in Cuernavacaand also had the timing adjusted. This created a different problem as it caused the Bronco to heat up in the high mountain country in terrain that is much like the painted mountains of Utah.

They stopped at an Indian village and purchased a colorful plaque paying the seller’s best price of $2.00. From there they nursed the Bronco to Oaxaca (pronounced: wahawkaa), which they said is like entering a new country. The area itself is depicted as self-sufficient and the mountains tend to separate it from the rest ofMexico. Farming is the strength of the economy, although tourists are attracted to the Ancient Indian archaeological sites.

They found excellent accomadations in a hotel there that had a dining room for $30.00. In Oaxaca they looked up a mechanic that could speak English. They found one who had spent 12 years inLos Angelesto earn enough money to purchase a business in his home town. He obviously knew what he was doing because he fixed the Bronco right up and “Boy. Does it ever work well now. Power. Power. Power.” It seems that one of the floats were stuck in the carburetor. They made the most out of the time it took for the mechanic to make the adjustment by fulfilling Ray’s lifetime dream to visit the Ancient Indian MIXTECO Ceremonial Center of Monte Alba’u. That was a thrill. He was so excited though, that he left his video camera in his hotel room. It’s a good thing he had the 35mm camera in hand and he also bought a book as a keepsake.

Back on the road again they passed by small villages where each was overshadowed by a church. The churches are prominently located on the highest ground in the community and this appears to be consistent with the tradition of the Ancient Indian Citadels which are set in the same manner. They entered the State of Chiapas where some recent armed problems have been reported. This area is portrayed as wild rough mountain country. They took Highway 200 to Tapachula and the only evident problem that they were able to see on the excellent four-lane motorway was that all of the toll booths had been destroyed and they did not have to pay. Also, one could not help but observe the overwhelming presence of the Mexican army.


At theGuatemalaborder they spent 2.5 hours and $50.00, and to speed things up, another jar of Yvonne’s salmon in order to get their departure and entry permits. They took a photo of the Yvoni Restaurant from across the border to record the scene. When they last left us hanging on Monday morning, they were close toSalvador, but still inGuatemala.


Here we are picked up as they travel on the Inter-American Highway (CA1) towards Salvador. It seemed that they had found themselves in another era, about 50 years back in time, as they observed lots of people, vehicles, and very bad roads. It made for slow going with the delays at the border and highway checks and they were avoiding potholes big enough to swallow the Bronco. The Bronco, by the way, is working fine. Ray claims that it is the best vehicle for these roads.

Next, they entered Salvador. What a mess, they contemplated, as they waited at the border for another 2.5 hours and paid another $50.00. They stayed at the border crossing that night and slept in a very rough area. I’m trying to imagine a room that is a concrete cell with bars with all outside showers and latrines. They perchance to meet a Tico (Costa Rican) truck driver and he gave them some tips on the roads to take throughNicaragua. They estimated that at least 200 transports were stopped at the same border crossing waiting for their paperwork which could take up to 3 days.

Ray did not get a good night sleep as a little lizard kept him awake half the night in Escuintla as it chirruped like a little bird. It sounded like it wanted out of that place too, because it stowed away in Ray’s baggage and chirruped all the next night again.


They were inHondurasat the time and that’s where the little lizard jumped ship.Hondurasmust have been quite a sight for sore eyes as it was a pleasure to see it compared to the countries that have been torn apart by WAR. This day they had breakfast in a quaint little spot and the senora gave them Christmas cards. Ray has to wait until he gets back home before he can return the favor. They decided to travel the alternate road that was recommended by the Tico truck driver. It was a good road and the countryside was beautiful for taking photos.


At the border ofNicaragua, 3 hours of formalities was awaiting them. It seems that no Canadians had passed through this crossing and they could not make out what permits were needed. A $50.00 fee and that famous jar of salmon and off they went. While driving throughNicaraguathey noticed the great potential that this country has even after it had been ravaged by war.

Now driving on fairly good roads, they by-passed Managuaand headed for the Costa Rican border. They must have been feeling anxious by now as they violated one of their own rules by traveling after dark passing by a unit border checkpoint. So there they were inNicaraguaon unbelievably rough road being chased by what they thought were bandits. Ray lit off in the Bronco and when the other vehicle chased them and caught them at the Costa Rican entry, it was identified as border patrol. Besides searching the Bronco for drugs and contraband, the patrolmen wanted compensation for the damage that was done to their Toyota4X4 when it could not keep up to the Bronco.


After paying the last $50.00 permit fee and hanging their hats up for 1.5 hours they enteredCosta Rica. What a relief and culture shock it must have been to leave the army on the other side of the border just behind them as they enter Costa Ricawhere the military was abolished in 1944.

The leap into serenity that these guys must have felt in the final 4-hour leg of the the 4,000 mile plus journey through 8 countries in 13 days is beyond this writer’s comprehension. Today I have my chair back and it’s as good as new. I’ve got Yvonne down off the ceiling too, so I hope that Ray will not attempt another adventure like this one for a while. He will have to help can some more salmon when he gets back though. In the meanwhile, Yvonne and I are pondering the fact that she was to go with them.

Then they would have been “the adventurous trio” and I’d need a whole sofa to sit on.

Progress Report #8 – Dec 13/95

Now that our adventurous duo is rested up and feeling 100%, they can enjoy the Costa Rican summer. They are pictured writing their reports to us while sitting in the sunshine on the balcony in 70deg F as a gentle breeze is blowing wafts of tropical air around them. Quite a contrast from the rough and tumble of last week. They do feel sorry for us though when they watch our weather on CNN. At this point I will end my reporting on the Travel Adventure. I hope you enjoyed the trip.

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