Tales about Aviation, Coaching, Farming, Software Development

We are building a dirt road in the jungle

Last Sunday we started in earnest to build our own dirt road to the farm. We have about 2 km to cut through the forest. This road will end at the river which marks the farm limit to the south. It starts at another dirt road that has been built in the past by our neighbors. We’ve got permission to use a shortcut over someone else’s farm for a while but in the end we want to use a different route where the terrain is more flat. In the end the dirt road we will have to maintain will be about 7 km in length.

I believe that we won’t have much trouble with the maintenance in the future because for the most part the road is on top of a mountain ridge and gets enough sunlight to dry fast after downpours. In general with dirt roads water is the enemy #1. Water finds a way to flow downhill and if there is none, then it will make one. On badly built dirt roads that have no drainage to the side the water will flow over the surface of the road and within short time create deep canyons. Let’s hope we can avoid that as much as possible.

Our current work is to widen a path that is officially a servidumbre and used by peons to get to fields that were cut into the forest a while ago. Most of the work is clearing brushwood left and right with a machete but we have to cut down a few trees as well to get the desired width so that a vehicle can pass. We only do what is necessary to get through with the Jeep. We try to avoid the use of heavy machinery. Where we can drive through with the Jeep we can pass with cattle as well and that’s all we need. In hindsight of building such a road to the farm we constructed our special offroad trailer which allows us to bring in further construction materials and supplies without the need for a real road. No need to spend thousands of dollars or even more on the perfect road just yet.

Driving offroad and driving through the jungle is not the same. Most offroad drivers put in the 4 wheel drive in 4H which makes the vehicle put power on one front wheel and one rear wheel. That helps a lot on clean dirt roads and allows you to move with some speed. The real offroad thing is to engage the 4L setting which uses lower gears to put more power onto the wheels and as additional support we can use differential locks for the front and rear differential. With that we can have power on all four wheels and due to the 4L setting the vehicle moves slowly with the full force of the 220 HP on the wheels.

Unfortunately all that technology and power doesn’t prevent the car from slipping on all the leaves covering the ground. I have to say that these leaves are worse than mud. The leaves move and there is nothing the tires can grab onto.

The guys working on the road first chose to go up a bit further to the left in the picture above. The slope was a bit steep and the Jeep got stuck with the nose some 45 degrees up. Now there is trees all around and somehow I had to free the vehicle with very limited space to maneuver. As you can see in the picture to the left we’ve got our first victim. They should not do these things in plastic on a 4WD vehicle ;-) Just doesn’t make sense.

So that’s probably going to be another job for Luis and his welding machine. Although I don’t know at the moment whether it would be better to have the tire in the open. There would be one less thing that could be bent and block the wheel.

We will sweep the road with makeshift brushes to remove those leaves. It’s better to drive on the dirt.


Further ahead a few additional touches were needed and then we needed to cut away these stumps:

Looking down it already resembles a road - doesn’t it?

After walking it up and down I put myself into the driver’s seat of the Jeep and with some slipping to the left and right due to the leaves I got up. You can spot the yellow Jeep to the left in the picture. That’s where our road ended on Sunday. The place is a former maiz field. The forest had been cleared but nobody cared to remove the fallen trees. They where simply left to rot and people started to grow something between the stumps.

In these places nobody cares about plowing a field before seeding something. They cut down the forest and through seeds onto the ground.

Our road will cross that field where the guys are walking. The next picture shows where it will lead to. It will go around and behind that little hill with the trees moving to the left and follow the ridge until it reaches another patch of forest.

Gregorio and his father are working on the road. Here Luis and Gregorio’s father are happy with the results so far. We’ll be there tomorrow again to see what progress they’ve made over the last three days.