323- Pablo and Anna Comic Strip, Season 01

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px 5px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]A comic strip about travelling around the world with a van???

Sometimes breakdowns occur for a reason. In August 2014 we were in the northern tip of Newfoundland, with a broken torsion bar in the land of very far away, when a guy arrived with his overloaded motorcycle. Cemil Alyanak was travelling from Washington D.C., and got surprised with our story of 14 years non-stop living in the road. We had dinner and he left the following day with a bug in his brain.

One month later he wrote to us with a brilliant idea: ‘everybody has done books and documentaries about travelling, but no one has ever done a comic strip. Would you be interested? I’ve read your books, and I’m sure you’ll have a lot of funny stories to share.’ We loved the idea.

He had a friend, Mike Cucurullo, a very good illustrator from Boston, and we started to have fun in very long Skype conversations.

All started with a crazy idea. Again.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 5px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]THE HOUSE OF YOUR DREAMS[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-2.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/06/pablo-and-anna-comic-strip-no1/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-3.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/07/pablo-and-anna-comic-strip-no5-the-luggage-for-an-overland-trip/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]THE LUGGAGE FOR AN OVERLAND TRIP[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]SLEEPING ON THE COUCH [/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-6.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/07/pablo-and-anna-comic-strip-no4-sleeping-in-the-couch/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-7.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/06/pablo-and-anna-comic-strip-2-washing-clothes/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]BATH TIME[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]BORDER CROSSINGS[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-5.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/07/pablo-and-anna-comic-strip-no6-border-crossings/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-4.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/07/pablo-and-anna-comic-strip-no3-15-years-on-the-road/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]15 YEARS LIVING ON THE ROAD [/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]DAMN MONKEEZ![/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-8.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/07/pablo-and-anna-comic-strip-no7-damn-monkeez/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-10.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/08/pablo-and-anna-comic-strip-no8-that-cheap-language-courses/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]THAT CHEAP LANGUAGE COURSE[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_gap size=”50px”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-center”]SMELLS LIKE…[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Cartoon_collection_01nueva-tipo-9.jpg” alt=”” link=”true” href=”http://viajeros4x4x4.com/2015/08/pabloandannacomicstrip9/” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 5px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Get the books about Pablo and Anna’s real stories on the road @ Amazon.com and Kindle, or download the first pages HERE!

Follow the latest adventures of the real Pablo and Anna on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube @viajeros4x4x4

•••••

On year 2000, Pablo Rey (Buenos Aires) and Anna Callau (Barcelona) quit their jobs and rented out their apartment in Spain to travel around the world during four years. Four somehow turned into fifteen. The couple, living out of their small 4WD van, a.k.a. La Cucaracha, has travelled more than 220,000 miles, passing through 60 countries, with no end in sight.

After leaving Southern Europe, these committed nomads have driven through the Middle East, Africa —from North to South, the entire American continent —from Tierra del Fuego (at the Southern tip of Patagonia) to the Arctic Ocean in Alaska, before settling in for a couple of years of discovery in North America. Getting here was no small feat. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean from South Africa to Argentina in a fishing vessel, survived elephant and Kalashnikov attacks in Africa and paddled down an Amazon river in a 6-log wooden raft. Their engine broke down in the middle of the Sudanese Sahara and froze at 15,000 feet during a very cold winter in the Bolivian Altiplano, and that’s just scratching the surface.

In 15 years they have met, shared food and stayed with some truly amazing and hospitable people. Whether in a house, hut, tent or under the stars, the take away is the same, in whatever culture, remove the dogma and indoctrination and you realize that we are all the same, one big human family living in a beautiful, albeit fragile, Earthly home.

Pablo has written three books in Spanish. The Book of Independence, translated into English in Canada, is available at Amazon.com and Kindle, or download the first pages HERE!

Follow the latest adventures of the real Pablo and Anna on Instagram Instagram, Facebook and Youtube @viajeros4x4x4[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]




309- Get Lost | story for OUTDOORX4 MAGAZINE

www.viajeros4x4x4.com

(c) Pablo Rey. Published in OutdoorX4 Magazine, Issue 12, December 2015

•••••

After 15 years living full-time around the world in a 1991 Mitsubishi Delica 4×4 called ‘La Cucaracha’, Pablo Rey begins to share his nomadic way of life with OutdoorX4.

Some months ago, at the close of the last Overland Expo West, I was introduced to Bill Burke, instructor of the International 4WD Association (I4WDA) and member of the 1991 U.S. Camel Trophy Team in Tanzania. That was the right place and the right year for 4WD masochist mud lovers. We talked about the thrill of adventurous driving in places where you cannot make any hotel reservation because nobody is expecting you, about crossing paths with a herd of wild elephants on forgotten jungle trails, and about meeting strangers in faraway places.  It was natural; sooner or later we would start to talk about the secret places, those ones not listed in the guidebooks.

‘I’d love to write about certain islands or remote places where we’ve been during the last 15 years on the road,’ I told him. ‘But I’m afraid they could get lost too. They should be protected from outsiders.’

‘When I guide people, there is a moment when I ask them to turn off the GPS’, he said with a look of complicity.

During the last weeks I’ve been remembering his words while thinking on my first article for OutdoorX4. I was hesitating about whether I should write about the road in Southern Utah that Bill had recommended to us. He had also given us a topographic map with his own handwritten notes, something he had never done before. I don’t know, however, if he gave it to us because we get on well, or because his dog Henry had eaten half of our Utah map.

How can I keep my word to Bill and, at the same time, keep my word to OutdoorX4’s Editor about sending him good stories for the magazine? How should I write this article about this beautiful lost place in the U.S. without betraying any of them?

Why not recommend that people get lost, make less precise plans, hit any road without knowing if it is the right one? What if I only give a few GPS points? Just a few names, a starting place: San Juan River, close to Mexican Hat, for instance. It could be a good way to start playing with maps, so everyone can find his own trail and discover his own lost paradise.

www.viajeros4x4x4.com

 

KEEP GOING

We’ve been four and a half years driving in the U.S., Mexico and Canada and one of our preferred places in this part of Planet Earth is Southern Utah. The big plateau of the Colorado River -eroded into spectacular canyons and arches that stand up in defiance of logic, imagination and gravity- is a unique playground in the world. Every time we return, we find new zigzags, hidings, secondary roads, muddy tracks and rocky trails we haven’t seen before. When I’m there, I always make plans for the next time, for the day I’ll come back with a motorbike or a kayak. I highlight trails on paper maps with colorful markers and add some points on my offline maps in my tablet. And sometimes we just go, “What the hell, let’s see what we find here,” taking our house on wheels to places where you should carry only light 4WD rigs.

The Valley of the Gods had been in my bucket list for some time. Just the name was a good reason to detour to this 17-mile road into the Monticello BLM lands. Actually, we discovered it was an unpaved highway, a flat and well maintained dirt road we could have driven in a Ferrari without risking a scratch. Here, the adventure wasn’t on the road, the adventure was on the sides of it. The vertical sandstone walls make up a fantasy landscape where you can let your imagination fly and see a woman in a bathtub instead of some balancing rocks; a giant fowl laying eggs on the top of a hill; a war ship in a long bluff; and even seven sailors wearing a beret keeping an eye on the entrance to the valley.

The road, slightly wet after the intense rains of May, was taking us towards its end on road 163, when we bumped into two 4WDs coming in the opposite direction. Their occupants were waving their hands out the windows to stop us. They warned us, “You cannot cross! There is a wash! There is seven feet of water! It’s better to turn around!” We decided to keep going. If we could not cross, at least the show would be spectacular.

On the other side of the wash there were three men dressed in Mad Max motorcycle clothes, watching the brown water as if it was full of piranhas. Two other 4WD rigs, with big tires and big engines -certainly more powerful than our little Cucaracha Diesel 2.4- were waiting for the first courageous one to cross. I took off my boots off and started to walk across like I used to do in Africa, looking for big rocks or treacherous holes. Africa is the best school: you find yourself so often at a dead end that sometimes you have no other choice than to gather courage and keep going.

But there was nothing in this wash. The water level reached my ankle. So I understood the seven feet of water were long, not deep. I kept walking thru different parts, looking for the danger. There had to be a mortal trap I had not seen yet; an anaconda the size of an RV or a hole so deep that would drop us into China.

But there was not even a branch that could menace our radiator. It was absurd. There were only 10 centimeters deep of fast water. Suddenly, one of the motorcyclists, six feet tall, calls to me. As I already have my feet wet, he wants me to walk next to him and to hold him in case he falls from his bike in the wash. The amazing beauty of nature in Southern Utah attracts everybody.

Adventure could be at any corner. The word can have so many meanings…

Related link: La Cucaracha, a house on wheels

IMG_1283-Wash

www.viajeros4x4x4.com
Wash in the Valley of the Gods, Utah

 

COMB RIDGE

The sun was setting down when we left Bluff with extra diesel and a weeks’s food supply. It was our last chance to stock up before getting lost in Manti-La Sal National Forest. From the west Comb Ridge access, it is easy to find the two tracks running along both sides of that magnificent ridge, raised millions of years ago by seismic movement. It is the gigantic stern of a fossilized Titanic, the most beautiful landscape you can find after a brutal cataclysm.

Today Comb Ridge is an isolated and little travelled area, tinted in a supernatural red color by the sunset rays. After we set camp, we start to play with the walls of the cliff that reflect our voices in an echo charged with magic. We jump from boulder to boulder greeting the sun that shines under the clouds in a long, slow greeting. Soon it will fade into the horizon. We make a toast with two mugs full of sparkling sangria, something that doesn’t exist in Spain. Life is full of moments.

“This is bad, but makes me laugh,” says Anna, with her eyes shining in the warm light of sunset.

We are approaching, step by step, the places Bill had marked on his map. His secret perfect roads were muddy and empty, with zigzags between trees, mountains and precipices. It was a real paradise for outdoor people, with petroglyphs, abandoned First American houses hanging over cliffs, old watch towers and black bears wandering along solitary tracks. We were arriving, getting deeper and deeper in Manti-La Sal National Forest.

I understand, people get worried and safety is always a consideration. But for the explorer inside, getting lost is the best way to discover places you never knew existed. For the good, or the bad, it is an infallible way to be surprised and find new challenges; like an unexpected wash. Getting lost is a chance to experience some uncertainty in an over-insured world, and this place is in the middle of the U.S.

The impressive landscapes of Southern Utah are there waiting for the next explorer. It’s easy to get there, but if you want to discover its wonders, you have to let go and turn left or right where your gut commands. I’m sorry, I may have said too much. I have to keep my word.

•••••

On year 2000, Pablo Rey (Buenos Aires) and Anna Callau (Barcelona) quit their jobs and rented out their apartment in Spain to travel around the world during four years. Four somehow turned into fifteen. The couple, living out of their small 4WD van, a.k.a. La Cucaracha, has travelled more than 220,000 miles, passing through 60 countries, with no end in sight.

After leaving Southern Europe, these committed nomads have driven through the Middle East, Africa —from North to South, the entire American continent —from Tierra del Fuego (at the Southern tip of Patagonia) to the Arctic Ocean in Alaska, before settling in for a couple of years of discovery in North America. Getting here was no small feat. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean from South Africa to Argentina in a fishing vessel, survived elephant and Kalashnikov attacks in Africa and paddled down an Amazon river in a 6-log wooden raft. Their engine broke down in the middle of the Sudanese Sahara and froze at 15,000 feet during a very cold winter in the Bolivian Altiplano, and that’s just scratching the surface.

In 15 years they have met, shared food and stayed with some truly amazing and hospitable people. Whether in a house, hut, tent or under the stars, the take away is the same, in whatever culture, remove the dogma and indoctrination and you realize that we are all the same, one big human family living in a beautiful, albeit fragile, Earthly home.

Pablo has written three books in Spanish; one has been translated into English, Around the World in 10 Years: The Book of Independence, available at Kindle and Amazon.com. Download the first pages here!

Follow the latest adventures of Pablo and Anna on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube @viajeros4x4x4




297- La Cucaracha, a house on wheels | OVERLAND JOURNAL

Published first at Overland Journal, Fall Issue 2015. Written by Chris Collard. Photography by Pablo Rey and Chris Collard.

•••••

LA CUCARACHA: 15 YEARS, 50 COUNTRIES, 330,000 KILOMETERS, AND A DRIVE-THRU WEDDING. 

 

Why We Love la Cucaracha (©PabloRey)

La Cucaracha has its own personality and idiosyncrasies. We have loved and hated it, often in the same day. There was a time when we wanted to throw it off a cliff and cash in on an imaginary insurance claim. We’ve had a few major breakdowns: in the Sudanese Sahara, Kenya’s Sibiloi National Park, on the Bolivian Altiplano, and again in the Chilean Andes. When the springs broke in Mozambique, we travelled almost 1000 kilometers with them attached with wire until we found a used replacement set as a permanent repair. After the motor died in Iquique, Chile, we installed a second-hand motor – a great junkyard find. That was nine years and 200,000 kilometers ago. Once we learned how to drive and care for it, la Cucaracha became a third member of the family and problems stopped.

It had previously been known as the Cow (it is very heavy), the Dragon (it smokes a lot), and the Mitsushiti (it broke down a lot). We found the perfect name, la Cucaracha (the cockroach), while travelling in Colombia. Like a cockroach, it is small, can stealthily sneak into any space, and survives anything – even us.

We appreciate that it has a short wheelbase, fits perfectly in a shipping container, the bed is always made, and we can watch the moon through the sunroof at night. We have slept in la Cucaracha for more nights than in any of the conventional brick houses we have lived in. We have shipped it twice: the first was from Cape Town to Buenos Aires (for a reduced price), and again from the Guajira Peninsula, Colombia, to Colón, Panama (for free), where it was tied to the deck of an empty Bolivian cargo ship named Intrepide. It has been our only four-wheel drive, and has taken us to the ends of the world.

LA CUCARACHA ©ChrisCollard

Though many of us dream about building the perfect rig for that “big trip” around the world, few actually act upon that dream and see it to fruition. This was not the case for Pablo Rey, a creative advertising consultant who was suffering from an acute case of career burnout. In 1999, during an off-the-cuff trip to Southern Africa, he had an epiphany: to see the African continent in greater detail and never to buy a return ticket again. Though he did find himself back home in Barcelona, Spain, it didn’t take him long to quit his job, buy a vehicle, and talk his sweetheart Anna into trading professional life for that of a vagabond. The latter was a bit of a challenge. Pablo recalled, “I remember the look on Anna’s face like she was in front of me today. It said, ‘Drive around the world! How? With what money? Toward where? What did you hit your head against?’ He reasoned with her, “Almost every country in the world is connected to another by a road, thus nearly every road in the world starts at the door of your house.”

Their original 1-year plan to experience Africa on an intimate level while taking as many turns as possible morphed into two and a half years, and then expanded to include South America. Two more years passed, then another three, and they were still embracing their nomadic existence. They eventually realized that life on the road wasn’t simply an extended vacation or escape from reality – it was reality.

La Cucaracha, a 1991 Mitsubishi L300 Delica four-wheel drive van, wasn’t gleaming gem when Pablo plunked down $10,000 and the wayward duo drove it into the new millennium. The soon-to-be world-travelling insect was second-hand, bone stock, and lacked nearly all of the items many of us deem as necessities. Rather than spending months prepping the vehicle, they decided to keep up with the speed of life, get on the road, and make modifications as the trip progressed and needs arose. The bull bar was fabricated in Chile ($100), the fancy snorkel was crafted from 3-inch steel pipe in a shop in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe ($40), and an aluminum storage box was added in Buenos Aires, Argentina (free). The yellow tow bar (which after nine years has only recently put to use), was received as a gift from a friend in the Atacama Desert.

They eventually realized that life on the road wasn’t simply an extended vacation or escape from reality – it was reality.

La Cucaracha’s drivetrain remains in factory form; a good thing since Pablo readily admits that he is not a mechanic. In contrast to the normal male/female roles, Anna, who completed a course on automotive maintenance, manages most of the mechanical issues. Pablo, the creative one, focuses his energy on photographing the journey and penning books on their adventures.

A peek inside reveals the epitome of function and efficiency. If you think about it, travelling year-in and year-out requires one to carry clothing and equipment for all seasons. Every item has a specific space and there is a place for every item. They don’t travel with an ice chest or electric fridge/freezer, as this would occupy too much real estate. As a result they eat a lot of fresh food. The galley consists of a homemade single-burner stove, 6-liter propane bottle, and a small plastic storage bin for pots and pans. Sundries and clothing are stored under the foot of the bed in used aluminum boxes from Panama Jack. Moving rearward there is a home-fabricated wood storage compartment that contains everything from shoes and spare parts, to tools and bundles of books. Out back are two slide-in plastic crates with maps, more tools, and automotive fluids. Throw a 3-inch foam pad on top and you have a bed for two. The shovel, camp chairs, sunshade, window cleaner, and a host of other knickknacks reside in a cubby. On the starboard side is a hands-in (opposed to walk-in) closet stuffed with bins, bags, toilet tissue and blankets. To port is a world map with a thin spaghetti-line representing the trio’s 15 years of wandering the globe.

More conventional upgrades include General Grabber AT2 all-terrain tires and Baja Design LED lights. After meeting Sergio Murillo, owner of BajaRack, at Overland Expo, la Cucaracha found its way to Ensenada, Mexico, where Sergio and his team fitted it with a custom roof rack designed to provide a full view of the heavens through the sunroof. Peeling away the canvas tarp (a used roof top tent cover) reveals fold-up bicycles, backpacks, sleeping pads and bags, and emergency fuel.

Due to sticky hands in many parts of the world, five of the vehicle’s windows are plated with aluminum, and basic latches and padlocks secure the doors. None are elegant, but all fulfill the requirement. Because it is illegal to possess a firearm in many countries, added security is in the form of Pablo’s favorite ninja golf club and Anna’s “quick draw” bear-grade pepper spray – both of which have been utilized with full effect.

Pablo and Anna maintain that you will only regret the things you didn’t do – never the things you tried and failed to do.

One might wonder how la Cucaracha finances its travels – a good question for those who possess “the dream.” The first rule of engagement is to align oneself with humans that don’t require filet mignon every night. The second is to influence them to work. Though most of the couple’s time is spent moving slowly while taking as many turns as possible, Pablo has written several books and is a regular contributor to publications around the world. Anna picks up contract work with a concert promoter in Spain, and weaves colorful bracelets and necklaces. If you run into them on the road, they may be sitting on a street corner in front of la Cucaracha peddling their wares.

This June marked their 15th year on the road, living together at arm’s length in a 5-square meter van. They are true nomads, and recently confirmed their love for the road (and each other) by taking a right turn into a drive-through chapel in Las Vegas and tying the knot. La Cucaracha (who performed the duties of best man, father of the groom, bridesmaid, witness, and only guest) has carried the pair 330,000 kilometers through more than 50 countries. Its body carries battle scars from flying stones in Kenya and Ethiopia (unfriendly locals), rogue tree trunks in South America, and boulders in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Disguising these blemishes are tattoos of cave paintings in Zimbabwe, Moche snakes of Peru, sleeping banditos, and cactus from Mexico. Though life on the road – in close proximity to your two best (and worst) friends – may not always be a bowl of cherries, Pablo and Anna maintain that you will only regret the things you didn’t do – never the things you tried and failed to do. Good words to live by.

Specifications

•••••

Get the books of Pablo Rey about Around the World in 10 Years @ Amazon.com and Kindle, or download the first adventures HERE.

•••••

 




294- Travelling thru Narco County |OVERLAND JOURNAL

www.viajeros4x4x4.com

© Pablo Rey, Overland Journal Magazine, Gear Guide Issue 2015

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TRAVELLING THRU NARCO COUNTY.

International nomad Pablo Rey assesses Mexico’s world of cartels, farmers, fishermen, and cerveza fría.

The Mexican immigration agent was as clear as the customs agent who was as clear as the taco seller. The three of them shared the same words, the same advice, with the same stern face, “Don’t drive at night.” We were leaving the U.S. thru the Calexico/Mexicali border and instead of feeling unsafe for entering a country where the narcotics business is responsible for about 10,000 deaths per year, I was entertaining myself with the names of the bordering towns. Calexico was derived from names California and Mexico, and Mexicali from Mexico and California.

Should I have been worried? “Don’t drive at night” was an unfinished sentence. It lacked the portion that a friend from San Luis Rio Colorado shared with us while we were enjoying corn tortillas with pulled pork and cold Tecate in her backyard. She said, “There are civilian controls at night. Armed men stopping the traffic on the road to ask for documents and check the vehicles.” “Narcos?” I asked without realizing that this word should not even be whispered in Northern Mexico.

We had spent 21 months overlanding through Anglo North America and had just crossed into Mexico. Crossing the border meant going back into Latin America, a different world, one that was less than perfect and with more opportunity for spontaneity. I was eager to exchange the smell of burgers and fried chicken for the slightly salty aroma of innards wrapped in tortillas. I wanted to speak in my native language, listen to Latin American music, camp on a beach, and walk through fruit and vegetable markets that would never be clean enough for the health authorities north of the Rio Grande. I wanted to go back to a place where life was less predictable.

Our goal was to explore the Sonoran Desert, to see for ourselves if it was as beautiful as the deserts we’d come to love in Baja California. We knew that there would be military checkpoints on the road and policemen who would want to know what we were doing and where we were going. Maybe they would inspect our vehicle, searching for contraband we might have hidden in grandma’s pot or between the crates of books that we sell to help pay for our travels. The risk at these checkpoints, whether they were civilian or military, would be when our antagonists fringed on the extremes of boredom or tension. We would need to be calm and give them short, direct, and cordial answers. There is nothing more dangerous than finding yourself in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of armed people who are bored or stressed.

By the end of the second day we had travelled nearly 600 kilometers, and surprisingly, the police, army, and bad guys had been as absent as they had been in the U.S. Where was the “Mexican drug war” the American media had been parading on the nightly news, the one that had infected our excitement about traveling south?

 

If the earth were dissected into various parts -arms, legs, head, and feet- many would say that we were in the heart of a territory ruled by one of the best-organized narcotic cartels in the world.

 

With two hours of daylight left we decided to change plans and take a detour to Puerto Libertad in search of a palapa, a palm-leaf roofed hut, to camp in: The temptation to sleep on the beach had won us over. We needed only to ask the attendant at the Pemex station about the best route. “It is a dirt road,” he said, “You’d better take the tar road to El Desemboque and then the coastal road. People in towns on the way to Puerto Libertad have their crops and don’t like stranger. It is getting dark soon, you better go to El Desemboque.” We had a feeling he wasn’t talking about the usual crops of corn or tomatoes, but I didn’t ask any more questions. We turned down the long road to El Desemboque and I pressed down on the gas pedal.

If the earth were dissected into its various parts -arms, legs, head, and feet- many would say that we were in the heart of a territory ruled by one of the best-organized narcotic cartels in the world. At first glance, this region controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel was living a normal life, the same as any other part of the country. Nothing revealed that we were in a dangerous place ruled by a parallel power. We hadn’t crossed a border or passed through immigration or customs checkpoints, but somewhere ahead there was an armed civilian corps with its own justice system.

We didn’t know what would happen if beyond the next curve the road was blocked by men with guns. Could it be a bad situation? We couldn’t say, “Sorry sir, we didn’t know,” as we had been advised not to travel there. As the sun touched the horizon I stepped on the accelerator, abandoning our 90-kph routine. I wanted to cover the 105 kilometers of narrow tar road to El Desemboque before darkness could hide the area’s details. We didn’t want to be en route in Mexico at night…or so we’d been warned.

Sonora State Highway 37 is long and winding, like a noodle dropped on the ground. Only when the road dipped into a dry riverbed did I slow to the speed recommended by the various bullet-holed traffic signs. On the left, red rock mountains rose over a bushy desert, a visual barrier to the cultivated valleys of corn, hemp, prickly pear, poppy, and fruit trees. The landscape was rough and dry, and it seemed to be some time since the drug lords had invested in these rural and hidden lands.

The people working the plantations in this area are the poorest farmers, the ones forgotten by economists and politicians. But maybe they had realized that a crop of cannabis or poppy would provide the same profit as several years of growing corn. The chemicals needed to grown such crops weren’t a big problem. They could arrive hidden in the beds of 8-cylinder pick-up trucks, amazing beasts that were much more efficient than their horses or mules. The finished product, white bricks or green pressed bundles, could then be sent north in small aircraft that flew just high enough to avoid phone and power lines.

El Desemboque was too small to be in the guidebook that Anna was reading. I hadn’t seen a picture of this coastal town. No one had said if it was beautiful, ugly, dirty, or quiet. We only had the advice we were given earlier. We still didn’t know where we were going to spend the night and our destiny was uncertain.

The purest form of travel in my opinion is to move forward without knowing what you will find along the way. Throw the dice, let the chaos find order, and land on your feet like an old cat that has lost count of how many times its life has been saved, but here we could not sleep on the side of the road or turn off on a dirt track to camp in a place with no name—or between hills with names that are better to forget. I keep whispering one of my favorite mantras, we will find a place, hoping to invoke the magic of coincidences.

Two white lights appeared in the rear view mirror. They were intense and catching up with us quickly. My mine recited the Pemex attendant’s words. I pressed the accelerator further towards the floor, moving the speedometer needle to the supersonic speed of 135 kph, to the point that the steering wheel started to shake – the physical limit before the body of our 1991 Delica van would start to fall apart and leave pieces here and there. The lights continued to get closer. Was it someone with a bigger engine and more fear than we had? Maybe they were just in a hurry. They overtook us, leaving a silver trail on the road. In the distance, the silhouette of a roof appeared against the red sky and a green road sign announced we had reached El Desemboque. Night had fallen and the tar road turned into a dirt street.

Around the World in 10 Years - www.viajeros4x4x4.com

In the darkness El Desemboque looked like a town inhabited by ghosts, its unpaved streets illuminated only by the light of a few houses. Shadows turned away and ducked into doorways when they heard the noise of our engine. A few men drank beer in front of a shop under a big Tecate sign, their faces showing curiosity and surprise.

In front of most of houses were boats painted in white and with sterns empty; I supposed it was safer for the engines to sleep at home. The street turned left, then right, and continued to a row of old structures at the edge of sea. After a confusing detour we saw a light in a backyard that opened to the sea. A yellow bulb hung over two men who were seated in front of a small building, eating from a pot with their bare hands. I left the engine running, got out, walked towards them, and said hello.

Their first words were the offering of food, freshly cooked crabs from the pot. Strangely, one of them asked if I was from Texas. I told them we were driving to South America and we were looking for a place to sleep. They offered me a beer, and by my second sip told me to park our van beside the table and that it was okay to sleep there.

During the last four days we had driven nearly 800 kilometers through the heart of Narco County. What happened to the “dangerous Mexico” we had been warned about? Where were the bad guys and the corpses that were said to be hanging from bridges? Where was the war that caused so much suffering and death?

After a year travelling through most of Mexico we’ve learned that, like most other places in the world, we only had to be cautions of common thieves. The drug war is certainly present, but Narcos typically don’t mess with foreigners. They have other business, business that is much more important and profitable than hassling tourists.

That night we ate crab and drank beer with Pedro and José, our new friends. The following day I learned how to filet flat fish by imitating the precise movements of their knives. I helped them retrieve fishing nets they had left overnight in the Sea of Cortez, which were full of sea snails and more flat fish. We shared stories and we laughed. We could have encountered Pedro and José in Mexico City, Michoacán, Cancun, Monterrey, or Sinaloa, on the Pacific or the Atlantic coast, or on a forgotten beach in Narco County. Mexico is big, its people kind and friendly, and we were welcomed with open arms and lots of beer.

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Get the books of Pablo Rey about Around the World in 10 Years @ Amazon.com and Kindle, or download the first adventures of the journey HERE.




290- How to avoid being eaten by a bear | EXPEDITION PORTAL

www.viajeros4x4x4.com

©Pablo Rey. Published at Expedition Portal website on August 28th, 2015.

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HOW TO AVOID BEING EATEN BY A BEAR.

Traveling the world for more than 15 years, Pablo and Anna of Viajeros4x4x4 share their advice on how not to get eaten by a bear.

The usual way to scare off bears on North American hiking trails is by wearing a bell. Seriously, it sounds as if it may as well be a dinner bell. Tilin-tilin! Here I am! Tilin-tilin! I’m fat and juicy! It’s absurd. Personally, I prefer to walk in the woods singing Austrian mountain songs. It’s creepier and less embarrassing.

“Do you know the best way to avoid being eaten by a bear?” Anna, my travel partner, asks right after scaring away my first bear by menacingly wielding a spoon and a metal mug, the one we use to drink coffee every the morning. The real Anna, the one with a sharp and slightly evil spirit, was resurfacing.

“To avoid being eaten by a bear you have to walk in a group… and run faster than the slowest person!”

Then, she looked past my shoulder and ran away.

There wasn’t a bear about to scratch my back behind me, but her reaction was sufficiently unexpected to make me feel nervous for a while. Let’s be honest here: Anna runs faster than I do. In the last 15 years on the road we’ve seen lots of wild animals. Llamas, bucks, truck drivers, snakes, bus drivers and some crocodiles in South America. Monkeys, sloths and taxi drivers in Central America. But carnivores able to use your fingers as toothpicks? Only in Africa and at the zoo.

That’s why, while devouring hundreds of kilometers along the green tunnel, the road to the Arctic in Western Canada, we started gathering some brochures on what to do in the event we encountered a bear during a hike. All of them recommend making noise while hiking. They all tell you to leave your food locked in your vehicle, or hanging from a rope on a tree branch at least 3 meters up and at some distance from the tree trunk. Then, they give you some practical advice which appears to be written by an undercover bear.

If you encounter a bear that comes towards you growling and salivating, keep calm. It might be stressed by your presence. Hold on.’

He-he. In a situation like this, the one who’ll be stressed is me. I’m not at the office, I’m in nature!

‘You have to stand up on a big rock or on a fallen tree and slowly move your arms up and down and to the sides while you speak in a soft and friendly tone of voice.’

Ey yo… everything’s ok. Duuuude. Peace and love. I’ll go my way, and you’ll go your way. Let’s pretend we haven’t seen each other… Understand? Do you speak English?

‘If the bear runs towards you, it is most likely a defensive charge to frighten you, and it will probably stop a few centimeters from your face. You have to hold your position. If you run away, it means you are scared. And if you are scared, you are prey.’

That’s it, just to make it clear who is the boss. Like in Africa, if you see a lion while walking in the jungle, you have to remain calm, stand still, and wait for it to leave. It works at noon, their lazy time. If you find one at dawn or at dusk, your only chance is to become invisible. You can try to influence it by saying ‘I’m a bush, I’m a bush and you don’t see me because I’m a plant, and you lions are not vegetarians…’

‘If the bear only wants to make it clear who’s the boss, you will be able to move slowly away. Never turn your back to it.’

Remember, you have a bear growling at a short distance, less than a meter away from you. You know it hasn’t brushed its teeth since its’ last meal. That must have been a long time ago. If you haven’t shit your pants yet, you’re my hero.

‘On the other hand, if the bear is looking at you and keeps its ears up, be ready to defend yourself.’

Yes, you keep an eye to its ears. If they are pointing to heaven, remember bears need protein, too. They hunt for cattle, goats, deer, elks and… what was your name, again?

‘In this case, you have to fight for your life. Your backpack will protect your back. You have to point the bear spray at the ground because bears run and charge on four legs. Pay attention to the wind direction.’

The bear spray! The wind! What pocket is my bear spray in?! The wind!

‘If you are not carrying bear spray and a black bear attacks you, hit its eyes. If a grizzly attacks you, play dead, let it shake you for a while until it gets bored and goes away.’

Yes. Yes. Play dead. Sure. Think of it as a giant soft Teddy Bear. In any case, you are likely going to die on the next 5 minutes of natural causes; a heart attack, for example.

Usually, when a bear hears you’re around (or sees your coffee mug), it will hide in the forest. We, human beings are the most dangerous animals in nature. If you are in its way, you have to allow room to let it pass. But if it’s hungry or feels you‘re a menace to it or its cubs, be prepared. Go back to page 1.

Go hiking in bear territory with someone that runs slower than you do.

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Get the books of Pablo Rey about Around the World in 10 Years @ Amazon.com and Kindle, or download the first adventures HERE.