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Discussion Starter #21 (Edited)
Well there goes me being the first to do it in an FJ - lol. Yeah I'm not looking forward to the shipping.

When I get to the bottom I plan to drink a sugar-free Red Bull that's sitting in my cooler right now, so I figured I will carry it all the way. Should have been a beer but I didn't think of that. After that I haven't figured much out. Probably check out Brazil some, then ship my car back to the US and do a little East Coast road trip I've always wanted to do. I'd like to see all the National Parks - visit my friends.

Then it's get a job again. Although I may settle somewhere along the way and try to work remotely.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
A few more 4x4 questions - I'm considering homemade skid plates.

I'm going to be in Puebla for a week studying Spanish. The Spanish teacher knows a guy around the block with a CNC machine who can make and install skid plates for me. My questions are:


  1. What are the essential skid plates you'd like to have if your primary 4x4ing is really rough roads with huge divots and large sharp rocks all over the place?
  2. Does anyone know of a design or measurements somewhere online I can give this guy for his CNC machine, or do we have to measure and wing it?
  3. Would you attempt something like this?
Thanks a ton!
 

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A few more 4x4 questions - I'm considering homemade skid plates.

I'm going to be in Puebla for a week studying Spanish. The Spanish teacher knows a guy around the block with a CNC machine who can make and install skid plates for me. My questions are:


  1. What are the essential skid plates you'd like to have if your primary 4x4ing is really rough roads with huge divots and large sharp rocks all over the place?
  2. Does anyone know of a design or measurements somewhere online I can give this guy for his CNC machine, or do we have to measure and wing it?
  3. Would you attempt something like this?
Thanks a ton!
If you get to some good internet, look at RCI skid plates.
FJ Cruiser
Those are what I run. Unless you plan on some serious rock crawling, I would consider aluminum plates. They are lighter and will protect you on those trails that you might bottom out on.
Steel skids will weigh you down.
Engine and transmission skids are what you probably want. Remember to leave yourself room to get at the oil filter for when you change the oil. You'll see what I mean on the RCI skids.

Also, look into the rear differential skid.

So, next time you get to some wi-fi, see if there are any offroad facebook groups in Mexico. I know there are some Baja ones, but I'm pretty sure there are other ones.
All the groups I've seen love showing off their trails "Con los gringos" :)
 

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Discussion Starter #25
Thanks a lot - I'll look for off-road groups. But as far as home-made skid plates, I dunno all the manufactures ones I see look pretty sophisticated - with bends and holes. The problem with ordering skid plates from the states down here is it takes forever to get through customs.

I wonder if I could find some in Mexico City? I will google around. Do FJ's share a chassis with Tacomas or anything? There's tons of those down here. Or are we unique?
 

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Discussion Starter #27
Got it thanks.

I emailed BudBuilt and asked them if they could ship to Mexico. Maybe that will work out.
 

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Thanks a lot - I'll look for off-road groups. But as far as home-made skid plates, I dunno all the manufactures ones I see look pretty sophisticated - with bends and holes. The problem with ordering skid plates from the states down here is it takes forever to get through customs.

I wonder if I could find some in Mexico City? I will google around. Do FJ's share a chassis with Tacomas or anything? There's tons of those down here. Or are we unique?
Most important skids:

LCA skids
Engine skid
Transmission skid
Rear diff skid
Rear link skid
 

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Hi, I did this trip in my FJ in 2009/2010. It was an easy and incredible drive! I didn't add any extra fuel reserves and never really needed them. I am still in Argentina with my FJ. The biggest hassle is shipping from Colon to Cartagena. It's not difficult, it is simply time consuming and expensive. What are you going to do after you reach the bottom?

The Luck Hunters - Sizzle Reel - YouTube
I had no clue that one couldn’t drive through Panama and reach South America until I read this post, it’s crazy that the roads just end and at the Darien forest and that’s that. After reading a bit it’s littered with drug runners and smugglers so I guess overlanding is out of the question.
 

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I had no clue that one couldn’t drive through Panama and reach South America until I read this post, it’s crazy that the roads just end and at the Darien forest and that’s that. After reading a bit it’s littered with drug runners and smugglers so I guess overlanding is out of the question.
Yeah, currently it's blocked off by the Panamanian military due to the FARC rebels still in Columbia on the other side of the gap. There have been expeditions in the past, 2 or 3 successful crossings if I remember, but it ain't easy.
The Expedition Overland team had a good video at the end of the Pan Am highway in the Central America series.
I remember seeing some old footage of folks going through the gap on some youtube videos.
 

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Discussion Starter #33
Yeah a guy I met on the trail hopes to do it on motorcycle with some British Special Forces guys he knows. No idea how that will go. Someone did it in a Land Cruiser I think. But it's basically a huge expedition where you're hacking jungle, building makeshift bridges etc. Here's a nice write up on the current state of the Darien Gap: https://www.outsideonline.com/2098801/skull-stake-darien-gap

My big adventure that I may try if I get a totally wild hair and I meet someone willing to be a co-pilot - is to drive across the Trans-Amazonica highway. Like these guys: Driving The Transamazônica (Brazil) - Landcruising Adventure



As you can see - copilot is 100% necessary for guidance across bridges.

And then if I want to get really crazy - try to cut through Venezuela back to Colombia. But I literally haven't heard of one person who's tried that recently.
 

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Discussion Starter #34
New blog post is up - 2 weeks in Puebla. If you like food this one is for you: Puebla - city of foodies - Ushuaia or Bust, Drive to South America



In the next post I rip half my bumper off and miraculously get it fixed by some local wizard for $25. Also I think I've given up on trying to find skid plates or a 3rd party bumper/winch down here. Just gonna roll with what I have.
 

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Discussion Starter #35
So I broke one of my roof rack end pieces going over a rough speed bump that I didn't notice. Part of the problem was that I didn't properly re-adjust the width when I added the car carrier on top (because I didn't have the star tool needed). So it was sort of biting the pole w/o being nice and flush. Then I put some heavy stuff in the roof rack.



Luckily I only really need two of the slats right now. So I was able to make it work.

2 dumb questions:

1. If I order one of those star screw drivers or detachable star head (whatever the hell you call those) on Amazon and have my friend bring it to me in a few weeks. What size should I order? I'm guessing like 4mm or something? Sorry I am on an island and don't have the piece in front of me right now. I'm going to try to find one in Belize but if I can't I'm going to have one sent to my friend who's coming to hang out in Guatemala in a few weeks.

2. Does anyone know what those end pieces (the broken thing above - the one that grabs the side rails) are called? I am looking on ebay for a new one but I don't think I'm searching for the right terms.

Thanks a lot for any help. New blog post is coming soon. Here's my current status on Caye Caulker in Belize.

 

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Discussion Starter #36
Well I ordered a set of star bits for my friend to bring down when he visits. I still have no idea what the roof slat end pieces are called - but they don't seem available on ebay. Just have to look in junkyards when I get back to the states I guess.

New blog post, lots of food again in this one (Oaxaca) - also I get the FJ's bumper fixed for about 1/50th of what it would cost in the use: It's Oaxaca! - Ushuaia or Bust, Drive to South America

And I eat a cricket.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/QX7TGkCDeqM
 

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Discussion Starter #37
Hola, it's been a while. Finally got some new posts up! We're caught up through Tulum, Belize and Northern Guatemala. Guatemala - Norte - Ushuaia or Bust, Drive to South America

Older posts: Blog - Ushuaia or Bust, Drive to South America

Next up is Antigua. I had a blast in El Salvador and Honduras. I'm going to try to get totally caught up in the next week.

The FJ had a fun encounter with a cow's ass in Honduras. I was passing some cows and one of them got spooked and somehow forced another cow to ram its ass into my door as I was passing. I looked in the mirror and didn't see a cow down, so I just took off. I didn't want to deal with some pissed off farmer.

After a few miles - we checked out the door. It had a big dent, with a nice **** stain along it. Also the window didn't want to roll down. Argh. But apparently somehow trying roll down the window popped out most of the dent. And after that everything worked fine. I just have some little residual dents around the handle and middle of the door - that I will probably never bother to fix. Gotta love how tough these things are.



I'm currently in Leon Nicaragua - which a week ago was rioting and blood in the streets (some 40 dead across the country in massive protests and govt crackdowns). I was planning not to come, but apparently the country can bounce back to normal in a matter of days. Crazy.

Oh yeah it's about 4000 degrees here and no one has AC. No wonder people are rioting. I spent one night in a non-AC room last night. Never again.

It would have been fine last night if the temperature in my room was anything close to the temperature in the open-air hallway just outside my door. Instead it was at least 10, maybe 15 degrees hotter in the room all night. You'd think the Spanish colonial architecture would try to account for this by putting a hole in the ceiling or something for the heat to escape. Instead the high ceilings just act like a giant heat sink, trapping all the hot air.

I finally opened the door and put my personal fan on a table in front of the open door (the room fan was mounted on the wall and semi-useless). There I slept in my underwear on top of the bed. Funny how privacy goes out the window when extreme heat is the other option. I did get a little self-conscious when the sun came up though, and shut my door - which of course made it hotter again.



One reason I could never totally quit drinking - "new country, new soda" just isn't that fun - even if each country did have a new soda. At least Nicaragua beer seems closer to the 4.9% as claimed on the label. I swear Honduras and El Salvador is 3.2% at best. I literally couldn't get drunk on it, and damn did I try.
 

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Glad to hear you are making out ok. Was starting to worry after there were no posts for quite some time.
 

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Discussion Starter #40 (Edited)
FJ adventure travel update! I'm currently stuck in Bluefields on the sparsely populated Atlantic side of Nicaragua for an extra 5 days (hopefully not more) due to mass protests and roadblocks that basically block all car traffic from the Pacific to Atlantic side. The roadblock at Nueva Guinea went up at noon Thursday. I showed up at 4pm.

If my flight from Corn Island hadn't been delayed from morning to afternoon - I probably would have just made it. Or just missed it by like 5 minutes, which would have been really painful.

I spent the first night in my car along with everyone else - hoping they'd open up at some point. Btw in case you're wondering my 2007 FJ burns about 4 gallons of gas over 12 hours idling with the AC running. Then in the morning I gave up and went back to Bluefields. The minimum I heard for the roadblock was 2 days. There seems to be a word-of-mouth schedule to these things, but it changes a lot and no one really knows for sure.

The only thing I know for sure is there's a Managua/Bluefields bus trapped in Bluefields. When that moves I know the road will be open. I've got a local guy here keeping me up-to-date, for which I'm buying him a few meals. He also told me there's no panga boats to La Rama - not that that would help me much. Although he told me there were no flights to Managua, which is wrong. But he knows the panga captains so I think he's accurate on that.

Nueva Guinea to Bluefields is about a 2 hour drive but through some gnarly construction that gave me a flat tire the first time. I have since aired down to 20psi and been fine. This time it was raining on the super-slick clay mud. The mud is so slick literally you can barely stand up on it. I drove on a small patch and all 4 tires spun for a bit when I got back on the pavement, until the mud burned off. They were towing cars uphill to get through it. I saw a road-grader towing a bus towing a car.

So there's another fun factor to worry about - might get trapped by the rains. The cool part was they picked my car out of the whole line to be the first one down the hill. People were walking by remarking - "cautro por cuatro". It would be fun to try to get up it sometime. When I came back the next day they had spread rocks around and it was much better.

I went back to the front lines today and saw all the same people - no one's moved - even people in nice cars. The line was actually shorter than when I left the previous morning - as like me plenty of people gave up and went somewhere else. There are makeshift campsites all over the place. Multiple people said 3 more days. So I came back to Bluefields again. So frustrating because it's like a 5 minute walk from where my car is stuck to where I want to be. They don't block foot traffic, bicycles or horses - only motorcycles, cars, buses and trucks.

Myself and my car get a lot of attention in that line as the only gringo with a weird car they never see, and with USA plates - and people get drunker and want to joke around with me more as the night goes on. It's good natured and I'm sure it's most likely safe, but I felt a little like a sitting duck. I did see my drunk neighbor who kept calling me gringo and was making me a little nervous from the night before. He had gotten a hotel room and cleaned up, and was very nice during the day.

It's hard to tell the spectators and trapped people from the protestors - maybe that's by design. Except for a couple guys walking around with makeshift rocket launchers. They fire these throughout the night as fireworks - but were also firing them at cops (and getting shot at for it) in the protests a few weeks ago.

So by my guess it's maybe 30 protestors, a few of them armed with glorified fireworks. I didn't see any other weapons. But I did see some people in the back of a truck with a serious military rifle - driving towards me, about 20km away from the scene this morning. No idea what that was about. If everyone who's stuck just banded together I bet they could push these guys off. But maybe then hidden weapons come out or something. I've heard most of the other roadblocks at least let people trickle though - not this one.

Hopefully I get out of here Tuesday or Wednesday - if civil war doesn't break out.

https://www.vostv.com.ni/nacionales/7152-zonas-afectadas-por-tranques-en-nicaragua/





Hanging out in our new home away from home. I moved the tanks to upright, but they were empty until now. I filled them just in case of emergency, and now they're denting the roof a little. I think I can put one of the extra roof slats under it. Or try to find a 1x4 tomorrow.
 
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