I’ve been listening to quite a lot of Bjork these days.  Dreamy music for these dreamy Belizean days.

At the end of the Hummingbird Highway, Kurt and I hit the Great Western Highway and made a big ol’ left.  We spent a good bit of time in the town of Belmopan, catching up on the internet and discussing reptiles and such with a man in the restaurant.  We also took some time and visited the hospital where Kurt caught up getting his Yellow Fever shot, something that will be essential for crossing into South America.  The shot was absolutely free and he was in and out in about 10 minutes.  Makes you really wonder why the US has to make it so difficult for all of us to get proper health care at an affordable rate.

It wasn’t long before we were scooped up by a loving family and offered not only their backyard to camp in, but also fed to the brim with sausage, beans and fry jack.  We watched the news all together, mulling over the catastrophe unraveling in Japan.  The next morning we had an early start which put us into the next town of San Ignacio in no time.

San Ignacio is a small but touristy town, used maily as a jumping off point for the nearby Guatemala border and the close ruins of Tikal.  We spent the evening out at some amazing waterfalls, Kurt doing backflips into the water while a local kid impressed us with his jumping in from fairly high tree limbs.  The next day it was a meander to the border and the exit was an easy one, costing us $37 BZ each , a tax we were well aware of before reaching the crossing.  And then it was goodbye Belize…. until next time!

 

Marie Sharp's, the Belizean hot sauce of choice. Made with the finest of ingredients, I was sure to pick up a bottle to bring along with us...

Kurt snapped this photo as we headed along the highway looking for a place to pull off and camp. I really do love the way it turned out...

We spent the night with Patti and her family, an extremely kind bunch of folks living alongside the Great Western Highway...

Like a good mother does, we were fed to the brim both in the evening and in the morning...

As excited as I am for Guatemala, I will be a bit sad to leave the Caribbean feel behind. I don't seem to ever tire of reggae music blasting at all hours, around every corner...

A good place to stock up on all the fresh fruits and vegetables Belize has to offer...

We passed through Santa Elena and crossed the bridge over into San Ignacio. These are considered sister towns and they are the last big towns in Belize, resting about 12 or so miles from the Guatemala border...

As I've mentioned before, Belize's first language is English, but there is a Creole spin to most of it...

Some places in San Ignacio have a very Louisianan feel to them, with very polished clapboard houses and big swinging porch chairs...

I normally do not photograph people. It is not something I feel very comfortable with, the idea of sticking a camera in someone's face has never sat well with me. However, I do want to get better at sharing images of personalities I meet along the way. I decided I am going to suck it up and start asking more people if I can take their picture. After talking to this Rasta for a while, he said it was okay and let me snap this one...

 

Coconut ice cream, one of the many things made out of the abundance of cocoas in the area...

 

And if I didn't need to give you one more reason to love Belize, there you go. Belize does work hard at respecting and taking care of its female population...

 

 

 

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Our whole reason for first heading south down the coastal road was to eventually hit up the Hummingbird Highway and ride the north westerly direction on it.  As it is fully paved now, we were rewarded with a good day and a half ride, through beautiful, hilly terrain.  Belize’s greenery casts dramatic views along the way and each curve and sweeping hill afforded our legs to work back into the shape we need them in for the Guatemala highlands.

 

Greenery at it's finest...

The whole place smells like citrus, with orange trees lining the roadside...

We were constantly passed and waved at by huge trucks carrying the fruit here and there. Shown here is one of the loading stations situated at the edge of an orchard...

Kurt waits while I dry off after a swim...

And just to keep it realistic... unfortunately, even in the most prettiest of places, there is never a shortage of human generated trash, waiting to be burned for disposal...

Wanting to ease our bodies back into the constant sun, we took many breaks throughout the day. At one place we found some checkers to occupy our time...

All that hard thinking prevailed, as Kurt's last double jump really did me in...

The whole town gathered round for this match, so naturally we stopped in the shade to catch a few minutes as well...

Those emerald hills and painted sky were there around every bend, making for an excellent day of riding...

 

Belize part deux…

March 18, 2011

Given the impending wet season, we really are on the scoot to get down to Panama.  We forewent the southern part of Belize this go round, promising in our hearts that we will return one day and spend some serious time exploring the lower half and it’s subsequent cayes.

When I first arrived in Belize, I started to think of how I would extend my visa to stay longer than the allowed 30 days (something I’ve heard is pretty easy to do.)  I’d quickly fallen quite in love with the country and it’s people.  On this second return, we knew we only would have but a few days, traversing south and then west, before venturing into Guatemala.  We enjoyed them just the same, and soaked in the country with every mile we rode.

 

Jessica, all ready for school. We hung out a bit, camping close to her family's home. She told me she swims in the Belize river behind her and the dolphins keep her away from the alligators...

We linked up with the coastal road, which went south. It was beautiful, but very sandy at parts and full of jarring washboard the whole time...

With the scorching sun on our winterized bodies...

...taking multiple dips were essential...

Savannah-like in parts...

...spiky in others...

Roadside haircuts...

We took a hop out to Gales Point, and rode the path through town. It is said that Gales Point's modern inhabitants are the descents of logwood cutters or escaped slaves from the 1700's. One of the world's most renowned drummers and drum makers, Emmeth Young, also lives here...

 

It felt great to be back on the bikes...

...with days ending like this again...

 

 

Touching back down…

March 18, 2011

What took us 6 months to ride our bikes toward, we flew into in a matter of hours.  We were right back in Cancun, landing in an airport we had only visited once in order to try to extend our Meixco visas in their immigration department.  We stepped off the plane, tanless, carrying backpacks and wearing clean clothes.  The reactions we got were funny.

“Hey, backpackers!  Wanna ride? Wanna ride”  Wanna taxi?  Wanna go to the hotels?”

“We’re cyclists” we grumbled.  And then we started our walk out to the highway where we planned to hitch as far down to the Belize border as we could.

If you’ve ever cycled toured, you can probably relate to the feeling of pride you have when you arrive somewhere by bike, having rode there all by your own power and gumption.  Being without bike, we did not feel very whole.  Luckily, it only took us two rides to get all the way down to the border.  We arrived about 3 kilometers from the checkpoint and settled our tentless selves into a cheap motel for the night.  The next day, we walked across into Belize (not getting charged an exit fee this time, thank you Mexico).  We happened to catch a bus right there from Customs all the way to Ladyville, where the airport is, for $8 Belize each (total $8 US for both of us).

By early afternoon, we were unlocking the door that had safely kept our bikes from view in the semi-abandoned hotel next to the Belize Airport.  John and Judy, the missionary proprietors of the place, had kindly kept our bikes secure for the almost two months we were gone.  We can not thank them enough for this help.

We did unfortunately find, to all of our surprise, the room had not received enough ventilation, and most of our stuff was  molded over and the bikes pretty rusty.  It was a bit of a sock to the gut.  Based on the way the outside of our frames look, we shudder to think of all the deterioration there must be on the insides.  These last few months definitely took off some serious life from the bikes.  But… what are you gonna do?  We cleaned and fixed them best we could and washed our stuff, including our sleeping bags, which were very overdue for a washing anyway.

By the second evening in Belize, we were whole again, setting off in a direction untraveled by us.

 

From the air, back to the blue...

We spent the afternoon after landing getting to the border. Within two rides, we were there. One trucker gave us a ride all the way to Chetumal. I happily sat in the back singing along to the 90's power dance jams he put on especially for us. There's nothing like a little Ace of Base to get out those plane ride cobwebs. Overall the journey went like this. We hitched...

...we walked...

...we took a bus...

...and one more breezy ride...

...and we were back where we had left off,. the Ladyville airport...

The picture I know you have all been waiting for. That is where our bikes were stored for the time being, thanks to John and Judy, the owners of the joint...

Hello mold. I'm taking my pants back now, thanks...

And rust!...

Sheesh. Had we had more time and the circumstances been different, we would have definitely done a bit more research on a dryer place to store our stuff...

Some comedy for the day. Given the total house cleaning of the bikes and panniers, I was able to find this huge (the picture doesn't do it justice) rusty bolt Kurt had hidden in one of my pockets months ago, apparently. Go ahead, you can laugh. I did. And to think, I'm already a pretty slow buffalo...

What it looks like when our bags explode...

Both of our chains needed to be replaced. Luckily, we do carry extras that di not get rusted over. Kurt's is actually a chain and a half, given his bike's length...

And some new goodies were added, such as this little frame bag Kurt had made for me while we were in New Jersey...

It's perfect for holding all of those little bits that normally get lost in my handlebar bag...

And this great recycled bike pin, thanks to my cousin Toni...

 

Back on track…

March 10, 2011

A big breezy hello from Belize!  Wanted to let you all know Kurt and I have made it back to some seriously rusted bikes and molded belongings.  But that’s the worst of it!  We made it down to the Embassy Hotel, just outside the Belize Airport, within a day of arriving at the Cancun Airport… a hitchhiking feat we are most proud of.  I will be back tracking a bit with the postings of some of the things we got into while home in New Jersey, but I will try to get up to date in no time with our current progress south.  Remember… you can always check our Spot page (follow the link on the Spot page at the top of this blog) to find out our daily locations via GPS.

I will tell you that my heart has gotten lighter and lighter with each passing moment.  Getting back to it has not been an easy task, there has been a lot of heavy thoughts and feelings accompanied with traveling again and being away from my family.  But, as I said, each day’s morning brings me happiness and excitement as to what might be up around the bend.

Looking forward to sharing it with you…

Gettin' back at it!...

Our gang of five spent a few blissful days traversing the eastern side of Belize, making our way towards Belize City and further on to Caye Caulker.  The days were spent chugging along on flat dirt roads and the nights spent swatting at the mosquitoes and diving into our respective tents for relief.

As with our earlier experience with the folks of Belize, every interaction we had proved to be better than the last.  We met several road bikers along the way, all of which offered us places to stay or friends to contact along the way.  We enjoyed longer mornings with coffee and tea chatter and midday dips in tiny rivers.  After a failed attempt at visiting the Belikin Brewery together (too expensive for our tastes) we sat together making plans and tracing routes before splitting from Evan and Sarah, who were both headed to language school in Guatemala.

From there, Kurt, Silke and I put some pepper on it in order to get through Belize City and onto the last water taxi of the day. We’d been warned several times by many locals that Belize City is not really a place to hang out these days.  We take a lot of advice in stride, but this was one bit we did respect and chose to adhere to.  I did not feel uneasy as we rode through the streets toward the marina, the place reminded me actually of certain parts of East Oakland.  Either way, we did manage to grab the last water taxi to Caye Caulker and set off in the setting sun.  Kurt and I had plans to work with a school on the island, helping to teach basic bike maintenance.

Beautiful days...

...spent riding with new friends through the cane fields...

An impromptu break. The roads were quaint and quiet, perfect for allowing 5 cyclists to stop in the middle when the feeling presented itself...

How Belize does the mobile home...

Things tend to get a bit dusty from time to time (and a shout out to the Bikework's gang in Silver City, NM!)...

Nifty bike gate along the way...

Our scoot through Belize City at day's end had us looking backwards at the city's docks in no time...

Silke and I sat below on the water taxi heading while Kurt got to ride on top in order to keep an eye on his "over sized" bike...

Traversing the water we caught this view...

...and I expressed a heart-felt goodbye to the day's warmth...

Fruit of the tropics…

March 4, 2011

Cocoas…

Eye pleasing. A coconut tree can produce up to 75 coconuts per year. The sturdy, hard shells are used to make such things as bowls or buttons..

To begin the devouring process, first Jaime chops off one side with his machete. He gets as close as he can with a few whacks without demolishing the coco. The idea to chop at it enough to expose one small opening to sip the water through...

Jamie has mastered the art of getting into them and we were all handed coconuts with perfect sipping holes. Coconut water contains proteins, fiber, sugar, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and works as an excellent isotonic electrolyte, making it an ideal beverage for any body working on a hot day...

Once you finish drinking the water (there's not all that much in there) the coco is chopped in half to allow for the eating of the meat. We used other broken parts of the coconut shell as our scraping spoons...

Coconut meat, super fatty and relatively tasty...

Silke approves...

Sometimes places are just the way they are supposed to be.   I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…

Fading from top to bottom, left to right, just blue blue blue blue...

Homemade crab dumplings, thanks to Jamie's wife...

Snooze pups facing up to the pace in Sarteneja...

Nighttime jive (around a bicycle, naturally)...

A Sunday stroll through town to check out the schools and building of a fishing boat...

...which knocked my socks off...

The precision and angling were truly captivating. When I grow up, I want to learn how to build a boat like this...

Ground cover of clovers...

Silke...

Evan and Sarah...

And our very gracious host Jamie, who had spotted us riding the day before as he headed home from work as a lobster diver. Once he reached his humble house, he loaded his kids on his bike and came to find us in town. We stretched out in the town's playground late into the night, listening to stories of his life growing up in Belize City to his present occupation, the special boats built in town and the way of life round those part. We also were let to camp on his yard and spend our Sunday with him and his family....

Days end…

It was within minutes on our second day with Silke that I saw what appeared to be a group of… more cyclists?! ahead of us on the side of the road.  Yup.  We rolled up on 3 others, making it a giddy group of 6 standing on the side of the highway, straddling our bikes and swapping stories.  Evan and Sarah, from Alaska, had flown into Cancun about a week earlier and had been zig zagging down the coast heading for Belize.  The other rider was a man from Poland, heading north from Tierra del Fuego towards Alaska.  We shared hugs, high fives and took some photos, before the 5 of us heading south continued on together.

As much as the highway was pretty flat and boring, it was great to have such a nice group to travel with.  For the rest of the day, we took turns riding with each other and getting caught up on ideas of where we wanted to head and how long we might be able to travel in each others’ company, not to mention loads of stories about our past lives and life thoughts.

The five of us spent the next few days together, each one better than the last.  As much as Kurt and I have a good thing going, traveling day in and day out together, problem solving and making all decisions with only the two of us to consider, the opportunity and experience of traveling with others was/is really a highlight. We look forward to being able to do this a bunch along our journey.

And yes… after all this time in Mexico, we did eventually cross the border into Belize one beautiful, sunny morning by way of the Corozal crossing.  The instant changes were apparent… English was spoken, dollars (Belize) were once again used, miles (instead of kilometers) were printed on signs.  To communicate again! After our months in Mexico, our spanish has certainly improved, but is nowhere near conversational status (aside for answering the usual questions).  To be in Belize and able to converse and joke around was an incredible feeling.  We immediately made friends and were offered a place down the road to camp.  We spent our first afternoon traversing a dirt road heading out east, our destination of the small fishing village of Sarteneja but two days away.

The group converges on the highway side...

It wasn't long before the five of us stopped for a snack and ran into another man just finishing a loop around the Yucatan. Here my Bridgestone got to meet his nice Bridgestone and we all oogled at the gear he rode with, with him having collected it over a long lifetime spent bike touring...

So close. After having spent a full 6 months in Mexico, our impending border crossing was especially exciting...

And just like that, we entered the English speaking country of Belize...

...where signs were easily read and many business were Chinese owned...

The crossing was relatively simple and painless. There is a $20 exit tax for Mexico and a stamp (free) you must get from Belize, but other than that, not much. Knowing the price of fruits and vegetables were about to go up, I regretted not filling my panniers before heading across the border (in my case, they did not check my bags)...

Hurray for human power! A hand cranked water crossing as we head down one of the back roads toward Sarteneja...

Also along the way, we spotted this once in a lifetime viewing...

Ahhhh. This picture still gets me every time. So the moral of the story... never bite off more than you can chew. This python thought this full coati (thanks Josh! you had it correct.) dinner was a good idea. His mid section thought otherwise. This photo shows his belly, where he split in half as the farmers dragged his body from the field...

Just after crossing the border, we were graciously told where we could all camp for free down the road. We were able to set up on a secluded inlet front, stretching out with our hammocks and tents. We enjoyed both evening and morning fires, and I a chilly morning dip in the shallow inlet waters of Laguna Seca...

Silke and her layout. As a solo female traveler, she immediately gains my respect. She travels with not only four fully loaded panniers, but also a mountaineering backpack strapped over her back rack, containing mountaineering boots and the like. Silke is working on climbing some very high peaks on her way down to Tierra del Fuego. She has already completed the summit of Pico de Orizaba (and she's a grandma!!)...