Hitting the slop of Central AmericaBelize, Central America
The image of Land Rovers in the jungle is ingrained on most people's brains through Hollywood and National Geographic, yet many newbies to the 4x4 world only think of these fine rides as mall bait and poseur fodder. True, the Land Rover lineup is without a doubt upscale luxo-utes, but we've proven time and time again that the Rover pedigree still stands for real 4x4 capability. Of course, we never get a chance to really wheel these expensive vehicles like they should be, as the press fleet manager would never understand what Arizona Pinstriping is, or why rock rash is desirable in a real vehicle. And heck, returning it full of mud in the leather-clad interior would be a bit hard to talk our way out of. That's probably why we jumped at the chance to do some unreal-world testing of the 2006 Land Rover lineup in the jungles of Belize.
Belize is located south of Mexico and east of Guatemala, facing the magnificent Caribbean Sea, and has some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world. A temperate climate, friendly people who speak English, and a great exchange rate all make for a vacation getaway, even for paupers like us. But we didn't have to stowaway or escape to the shores like a Cuban refugee and wash dishes for beer money. As the guests of Land Rover we enjoyed the "Land Rover Experience," which is a bit different from our regular digs. But like our regular life, the wheeling was the same-incredible swampy two tracks, mud- and bug-infested jungles, and everything except headhunters that you'd expect in the jungle. Night wheeling, water crossings, winch-a-thons, and machete whacking all made for an experience we wouldn't trade for anything. Luckily, we had Land Rovers fitted with BFGoodrich mud tires, and the combination carried us through most of the muck and mire with ease. The Warn winch mounted up front on one of the Range Rovers proved extremely handy, as 2 feet of mud will stop almost any stock 4x4, and ours were no exception.
Since the updates for the entire line of vehicles only consisted of more horsepower and other refinements, Land Rover felt this trip could show off their present rigs better than in Beverly Hills. In true fashion, the Rovers shined, although we wished we had the chance to try the new LR2, but its debut won't be until after you read this in the spring of 2007, we hope. This trip also allowed us to see the great Mayan temples of Belize, considered by many to be the finest in the world. Land Rover regularly gives grants to the government to fund the sites, many of which are still buried in the jungle undergrowth. For more information on Belize, check out www.travelbelize.org.