Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dat Der Ees Dee Caribbean - Man

August 27th to 31st

We leave Tikal happy, but minus a pint or 2 of blood.
Everything bites in the jungle and we are a mass of spots, swellings and itches as we ride out. Anna has had a particularly tough time - she's just so succulent and juicy and one particular type of green and yellow 'deer fly' took a real fancy to her. One bite on her knuckle swelled up alarmingly, making her knuckles completely disappear like the mangled, oversize hand of a bare knuckle boxer. She was beginning to feel a bit woozy from the injected poison.

Apart from feeding the wildlife, it was a memorable experience and the 'Chewbacca' style roars of the howler monkeys follow us out of the park.

We take another night in El Ramate by the beautiful Lake Peten Izta....

Before heading out early next morning for the Belizean border - now just an easy 45 miles away on heat hazy, lazy rolling black top.....

The last day's ride in Guatemala is another mixture of high pitched insect buzzing in the isolated areas of dense green jungle, interspersed by coconut tree lined grassland with skinny cattle....

The border crossing is a formality, but one strangely conducted in English. I automatically address the Belizean immigration officials in Spanish - it's just a habit by now, only to be told - 'You can speak Eenleesh 'ere - man' and it's a bit of a shock to hear my own language after eight months in the Spanish world.

It seems a bit more formal and organised here compared to Mexico and Guatemala; we are even asked for ID numbers for the bicycles and proof of ownership. Well, it's formal in a totally casual, laid back style, all very chill-axed and easy man.

Current day Belize is a land mass about the size of Wales and was formally 'British Honduras', a British colony between 1862 and 1981 when it finally declared independence, hence the use of the English language.

The first day in a new country is always interesting as you try to get your bearings and adjust to your new surroundings, looking for ways in which things have changed.

Gone are the dull grey cinder block dwellings with tin roofs of Guatemala to be replaced by brightly painted wooden shacks, usually a bit warped and twisted and a little rickety looking....

People call out from the comfort of their hammocks as we pass by 'Aaaal-right' or 'Hey man - how ya doin', in thick drawled out accents.

Theirs an olde worlde charm to the place. This wooden clapboard house is the local police station....

We are in for a bit of a shock though when we reach the first town and try to withdraw some money at a bank. 'There are insufficient funds to complete this transaction' is the worrying message - repeated at all the banks in town. Tales of card cloning and bank accounts being emptied race through our minds as we struggle to find an internet cafe with a working connection. When we finally log on, we are reassured our money is still there, which is a huge relief, but it's a good job we are travelling in a 4 and can borrow money from Anna and Ali.

The bank shenanigans have eaten into the morning and it is scorchingly hot when we get back to the road and head out on the 'Western Highway' towards the capital 'Belmopan'. It's an easy ride on almost empty, flat tarmac laced with potholes....

Turning off just before Belmopan, we head south on the 'Humingbird Highway' that passes through the heart of Belize, crossing several national parks on the way. We hit 'Blue Hole National Park' after 50miles or so and call it a day, pitching the tents amongst the greenery. The park is named for a beautiful blue grotto from which an underground river emerges and we take an evening swim as the sunsets through the hibiscus flowers....

There's a huge tropical storm in the night, which carries on through the morning and we cycle under leaden skies treated to occasional blinding flashes of lightning. It's mostly easy riding past miles of orange groves, their ranks of fruit laden trees organised in endless grids, soaking up the rain. Occasional steep pinches keep the legs warm....

And suddenly there is the tang of salt in the air! The skies clear and we begin to see the distant shape of sea birds wheeling overhead. We leave the main highway and make for the town of 'Dangriga' - where we get our first glimpse of the Caribbean Sea!! On a white sandy beach, we get our first taste of 'Belikin' a dark, cold beer - brewed right here in Belize.

From Vancouver, Canada via Washington where there was snow on the ground - to this! This is a Caribbean Beach!


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