Exploring South: A Nimbl Central American Journey
Jul 19, 2022
Since taking the wheel of Proto, one of the first full production Nimbl campers, back in December 2021, my family has been on the move across a variety of terrain and through extremes of climate. The verdict? This vehicle is a game changer!
Those of you who know a bit about my family will know that we have been on the road since 2010, permanently since 2012. For all those year we have traveled in a 2002 Land Rover Defender which we converted with our own hands into a camper, beneath the blistering Floridian sun. That Defender took us on a circumnavigation of South America, West and East Africa, from Argentina to Alaska and across Europe to Asia. It is fair to say we have seen our fair share of the world.
The Nimbl is a very different creature. Yes, the Defender has a small toilet and water tanks, a portable shower and beds for four people (if you count the poor person sleeping in the passage), but it is a very basic layout, done on a budget by optimistic hands. The Nimbl is designed and built by engineers, it is a work of art which is simultaneously practical and precise – a Swiss watch or knife. I won’t bore you with the specifications, you can find those on the website, but it is safe to say that this vehicle is built to take you anywhere, in comfort, with style and with peace of mind.
Our journey with Proto began in Northern California at the Nimbl office in Colfax with snow on the ground. Being South African we have always had a healthy respect for winter and would avoid snow and ice, the Defender not being equipped for a proper Northern Hemisphere winter. We headed out with Proto onto the frozen Donner pass and found ourselves many hours later camping in the snow, icicles hanging from the roof of the camper. Were we cold? No! Were we comfortable? Yes! The heater worked perfectly and kept all of the vital systems warm and operating perfectly. A short while later we found ourselves exploring north of Boise, Idaho, taking to mountain passes after being obstructed by roads closed by heavy snowfall. The Nimbl proved to be more than up to the task of dealing with deep snow and icy roads while keeping a family comfortable and motivated. The vehicle earned our respect, so much so that we may even consider driving her to the Arctic Circle, in winter. Watch this space.
If you had read our last blog (find it here) you will have enjoyed our mad dash journey from California to Baja Mexico and our adventures exploring there. With temperatures climbing, we made the decision to head over to mainland Mexico and make a beeline for the mountains where we could enjoy cooler climates, traveling West Africa and the Southern USA in summer had made us all wary of extreme heat.
The ferry crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan was uneventful but not quite fun. Crammed in between large trucks on the upper deck we ate our snacks and dozed, trying to ignore the loud rumble of the ferry engine, imagining that we were sleeping somewhere else entirely. With morning came our disembarkation and, within minutes, we were driving the streets of Mazatlan, heading for an old mountain pass into the interior. Yes, Mexico (and the Sinaloa state in particular) has a bad reputation but we have crossed the length of Mexico before and knew that we should stick to well trodden paths and avoid driving at night. The beauty of the Dodge Ram 2500 is that it has a powerful engine which would make for a quick getaway if we needed to.
That night we slept at a dust camp under ponderosa pine, four male wolves pacing nervously and unexpectedly in an enclosure within the camp. The drive had been beautiful and we were astounded by the large bridges and tunnels which eased our passage over the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range and led us to Durango where we camped at the Sierra de Órganos National Park and spent a few days hiking and enjoying the solitude of an under appreciated national treasure. From Durango and the set of many a Western movie we headed to Zacatecas, where we put the finishing touches to our book Travel the Planet Overland II, before heading to San Luis Potosi where we camped and relaxed with old friends with whom we have camped and relaxed on three continents.
Tamasopo is a small town blessed with a network of incredible clear, blue rivers which run between green forest. For four days we swam the river network, exploring the waters and finding a paradise, home to a multitude of birds and even a cheeky water snake which nearly scared Luisa out of her skin. We camped beside a blue pool, we grilled dinner and ate cool fruit and enjoyed a blissful week together, reminded why exactly we travel the way we do.
With commitments back in the USA I left the family in a campsite south of Guadalajara and flew to Flagstaff for the Overland Expo and finally got to see the new Nimbl MAX which had been inspired by a conversation I had at the home of Jon Turner, Nimbl founder and head engineer, before we left for Mexico back in December 2021. I had suggested a vehicle which would showcase the rough and ready capability of the Nimbl concept and the team knocked the idea out of the park. On the Ford F550 base the Nimbl looks at home, symmetrical, extremely capable and ready to take on any challenge! An idea began to form in my mind…
Back in sweltering Mexico the family greeted my bags and the gifts which I brought with enthusiasm.
Next we explore southern Mexico and head over to Guatemala. Life is good!