Travel Writer Mark Eveleigh Takes TPro Bold Bags into Chiapas Rainforest

Mark Eveleigh is a photojournalist, adventure traveler, and book author. In fact, he is one of Press Gazette’s 50 top travel journalists. We wanted to see what Mark thought about the new rugged TPro® Bold collection from Travelpro, and whether they would stand up to the hard wear that a professional adventure traveler could give it. So we did what came naturally: gave him a couple TPro Bold bags and a Crew 8 backpack, dropped him in Chiapas, Mexico, and asked him to tell us what he found.
Here’s his latest entry from Chiapas.
The muddy water is up to thigh level and mosquitoes buzz in a hazy cloud around our heads. Things seem to be looking up: yesterday the water had been so high we had to fell trees for bridges and the mosquitoes had swarmed in masses that seemed almost solid.
Travel writer Mark Chiapas shows off his Crew 8 BackpackThe jungle is never an easy place to travel but the Lacandon rainforest in Chiapas, southern Mexico, is delivering challenges that I have not faced before. In the past few days there have been times when I’ve wondered if we have bitten off more than we could chew in this rash attempt to explore this uncharted section of jungle at the end of such a heavy rainy-season.
A few weeks earlier I had been contacted by Travelpro who was launching their TPro® Bold™ line and were keen for me to test their equipment under extreme situations on a series of very different expeditions. I knew that Travelpro bags were already the luggage of choice for the most demanding frequent fliers and that the crew of many airlines refuse to use anything else…so I was very excited to hear that they had designed a super-rugged range, ideal for the sort of expeditions and remote travel that I tend to specialise in.
As a freelance travel journalist I was setting off on a long run of assignments that would offer perfect proving ground for top quality equipment. The Chiapas expedition would be a baptism of fire, then a shorter jungle trip in Nicaragua. After that I would be travelling up the Amazon and chasing a rush of Brazilian assignments. Then it would be off to Africa for a month exploring and mapping Ghana’s national parks with a 4×4. In early 2011 I would do another ‘tour of duty’ through Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia.Mark Eveleigh sporting his TPro Rolling Duffel.
I was well aware of Travelpro’s reputation for tough, durable, user-friendly equipment and was convinced that the new, super-rugged TPro Bold equipment would live up to the sort of hammering that the next seven months on the road would hold in store.
But halfway through our trek, Chiapas is already proving tougher than I’d ever imagined. We are travelling with guides from the local Lacandon Maya community and, even with their experience and skill in jungle survival, it is hard to battle our way through the swampy forest to the mysterious island pyramid that remains sacred to their people. We cut a rudimentary boardwalk of branches to cross a swamp of sinking sand that is several metres deep and given a chance could swallow a man in moments. We cross Lacanja Lake in a leaky dugout, trying not to think about the huge alligators that are said to inhabit the lake: “oh, it’s fine,” Marcelino, our head guide, tells me optimistically, “they only come out at night.” It seems reasonable though to expect that seven of us splashing away from a sinking canoe might be cause enough for the ‘gators to make an exception!
When we arrive at the island, we hang our hammocks on top of the ancient pyramid and build a campfire under driving rain, fending off tarantulas that would like to share our shelter.
An old stock phrase in my profession has it that there are no bad experiences for a travel journalist…just good material. I begin to wonder though if this expedition is over-delivering when I am stung by a vicious tracker wasp that locks up my throat and sets my heart into overdrive with the scorpion-like venom of its sting.
The next day we are faced with another problem. Very few people have ever been to the far side of the lake and by mid-morning we are still scouting the cliff-face looking for a way up to the Sierra de Lacanja ridge. As Marcelino lowers the rope for the last of the luggage and my TPro Bold kitbag starts off on its vertical journey up to the ledge I joke that we are as good as home.
As it turns out though our cautious climb up the jungle-covered rock-face is just a practise run for still more obstacles that the gods of the Maya seem determined to place in our path. Two more days of negotiating the swamplands remain ahead and finally we will need to cross the Rio Lacanja in full flood.
No bad experiences…
©Mark Eveleigh, 2010
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