So we’ve made it!  Our third country in what will be a line of many.  It’s funny to think of how much time we spent in Mexico, just over 6 months, and now how we will be crossing borders relatively quickly on our way down to South America.  I am anxious to hit the road today, leaving from the town of Flores situated on Lago Peten Itza, and head south on some dirt roads Kurt has dug up through consulting some National Geographic maps.

I will be sure to fill you all in more once we get a week or so under our belts, but for now I can say that… it is beautiful and the people are amazingly kind and friendly.  Like most things, we have been warned about traveling in Guatemala.  This may hold true for Guatemala City, though we will not be visiting there so we can’t say for sure.  As always, every warning we get and image placed in our head is noted, but is quickly dispelled within hours of being wherever we are.  It has been true for Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.  People’s ability to cast fear on what they may not necessarily have a firm grasp on never ceases to amaze me.

Here are a few photos of our first couple of days here.  I hope everyone has a nice weekend and can enjoy some outside time!

 

The obligatory border crossing photo...

Our camp sight buddies. The night we ended up camping near this pasture area, we had been getting dumped on by rain all day. We made a hasty tent set up above a graveyard at dusk and spent the evening defending our tent against leaf cutter ants...

The town of Flores, which sits on an island in the middle of Lago Peten Itza...

We found purchasing vegetables and bread from the markets in Santa Elena and picnicking by the lake was the cheapest way to go...

Not as colonial as some of the old Mexican cities, but there were some beautiful cobblestone streets to navigate...

The town of Flores is both colorful and accommodating. We found a room for $70 Quetzals (about $9 US). The room was nice and small, and included a fan and a bathroom, as well as free internet and a great rooftop to look out over the lake...

Flores is a popular spot for language students, as lessons are relatively cheap around the lake. There was no shortage of international travelers passing through the streets...

 

Kurt and I sipped a few beers in honor of St. Patty's day, now aptly dubbed Shane Patrick's Day, and watched the sun fade for the day...

 

 

 

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...

 

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!!)...

Crossing the border…

July 22, 2010

We were accompanied by Glen on our way out of Silver City, and for the first time since Oakland I felt a pang of leaving a place behind.  As we rode away, I wondered what William and Angel were doing on that fine afternoon, a natural thought after spending such a long time in their company.  Nonetheless, I was more than happy to be back on the road, once again heading for places new and exciting.  Our journey to the border lasted two days, dodging afternoon monsoons and taking time at the last of the American rest stops to support the local economy with what US dollars we had left.  Of course, mine all went to postcards to use up my stamps.  I can say with pride that over the course of traveling so far I have written in between 40 and 50 postcards.  So many I lost track.  Having the time in Silver City allowed me the luxury of even printing out my own photos to send as cards.  If you’d like to get a surprise postcard at some point, just email me your address and I will be sure to follow through.

We camped underneath the water tower in Hachita, witnessing a lighting show far more impressive than the fireworks in Silver City.  At some points, the sky was illuminated in four different places, with brilliant white bolts striking down here and there.  After a quick breakfast in the park, we filled our water, had a few words with the locals and started to make our way towards the border.  After about 20 miles we found ourselves once again in some rain and took shelter in an abandoned garage, making tea to warm our insides.  Somehow, this was not the weather I was imagining we’d encounter so far south at this time of year.  The tea turned into tuna sandwiches as well and before long I realized it was after 2pm.  The border closed promptly at 4 and we were still 25 miles or so away.  Not wanting to get caught for another night on the US side, we started our mad dash to Mexico.  To some, 25 miles in an hour and a half is no big thing…but not so much to me.  The slow buffalo I am doesn’t like to cover miles in a pressing fashion, but this time I turned it in to high gear and kept on it.

We made the border with about 4 minutes to spare.  The guard let us know they’d be closing in a bit, but to feel free to take some photos, making sure to point out the places people take “good photos”.  It was then we realized he thought we were turning around.  We informed him we wanted to go into Mexico and were soon after escorted through the gate, which had to be unlocked at this point.  We cruised up to the Mexican immigration office and apologized for being so last-minute, explaining that we were hoping to get our passports stamped before they closed.  On came the barrage of Spanish we both agreed later on that we had not been entirely ready for.  “Where are you coming from?” “Where are you going?” “How long are you staying?” “When will you leave?” etc.  Some we had answers for, some we did not.  It took a bit to explain we would not be leaving Mexico at any point, but actually riding through Mexico out the other side.  After a bit we got all the basics covered and were granted the generous 180 days of travel.  We were also given 7 days to find a bank and pay the $262 peso turista tax.  (Currently pesos are 11.something to the US dollar, so the tax equals roughly $25 US dollars.)

Our bags were then patted down for guns and other such dangerous items and we were sent on our way.  As you can imagine, the “other side” of the fence was pretty much the same at that point.  Same grass, same ominous clouds, same mountains.  But to me everything seemed new and beautiful and exotic and Mexico.  The road did turn back to dirt, which was nice, as it always is if it is not raining.  We took a minute to take in the massive expanse of fences and barbed wire stretching as far as the eye could see, designating this land versus that land.  Pretty soon after beginning to ride again, the skies opened up on us yet again, turning it into one sloppy, slippy-slidey mess.  This mud was actually an interesting consistency at this point, making it hard for us to even stand up in, let alone push our bikes.  As with most things, hilarity ensued and I found it difficult to push my bike at times because I was laughing so hard.  We eventually made it out to the highway and took one look at the shoulder, or lack of, the monster trucks barreling down and the puddles they were each conveniently displacing and decided to seek refuge under an awning for a bit.  It was but a matter of 10 minutes or so when we were able to continue down the highway.

And here comes the big way-to-effing-go!!!  It was with that border reaching that Kurt had officially completed the Continental Divide Mountain Bike Route.  A year in the making, with several detours and some parts ridden more than once, he can now add this to his ever extending list of bike trails mobbed in epic proportions.  Way to go Kurt!  And how did we celebrate such an occasion you may be wondering?  Well, by sleeping in a field full of cow shit of course.  The sun went down and we found cover from the road in some bushes the best we could, the field just happened to be a hot spot for cow dumps as well.  With the highway to our left and mountains to our right, we just settled in for our first night in Mexico before it was too dark to see anything.  Once again, we were welcomed seemingly with open arms based on the beautiful sunset playing off the thunder clouds.

Back on the trail, heading towards the border...

The secret life of ants is something that continuously fascinates us. Kurt and I have spent a considerable amount of time following ant tracks here and there to see where they go...

To our delight, a bag containing some seriously meltable things formed into one gigantic chocolatey, nutty treat...

Bear Hunter resting at Sam's feet, two of the locals we met in Hachita. Sam picks up CDT hikers and helps them accoplish such tasks as getting back to the airport or getting more supplies. After a whole lot of "baloney" (according to Sam), he became a certified CDT trail guide...

Riding towards the ever-ominous midday monsoon...

The border patrol vehicle. Just one of the defenses used against people who want to work really hard for a better life in the US...

Gringo y gringa, having just crossed the border...

Many forms of fencery, designating clearly one side from the other...

The beautiful scene as we enter into Mexico...

A view looking back. Goodbye US of A...

Leftovers from the earlier rainstorm. It was not long before...

...the mud gave us the "push only" option. The consistency of this gray mud had me in fits of giggles, slipping around so much that most of the time it was hard to stand up straight, let alone push a weighted bike...

Our camp spot the evening, complete with lots of obstacles to practice your short distance hopping...

As muddy as it gets, you can't complain too much when you get sunsets behind thunderclouds such as these...

After leaving Joshua Tree, the only other town you go through (about 15 miles down the road) is Twentynine Palms.  After that it is a 1oo mile stretch until any water or services are available.  I figured I’d load up with as much water as I could,  ride from 4 to 10pm and finish the other half in the morning.  As the night would have it, I was feeling super energetic after covering the first 60 miles.  I understood that the more I rode at night, the less I would have to do during the heat of the day.  Normally, I don’t like riding at night because I miss out on seeing too much, but this night I made an exception.  What is a girl supposed to do, all hopped up on Snickers on a Friday night? I decided to keep on it (at no point did I feel unsafe on the road, otherwise I would have stopped and bedded down for the evening) and ended up riding the 126 miles to Parker, AZ over the course of the next few hours.  It was really not my plan, and I have never in my life tried to ride that much.  I don’t want to take too much credit, as I had a fantastic tailwind and it was downhill if anything.  I was very happy to get that stretch over with.  It was quite awesome to pull up to the Colorado at 1:30 in the morning, knowing I could make a splash in it as soon as the sun came up.

These guys hooked me up with a sandwich and all the water I would need to get across the desert stretch...

There you have it...

Desertscape...

Capturing what it feels like catching a glorious tailwind...

Tom, another biker I ran into going the other way that evening right outside Vidal Junction. He had the same idea of escaping the heat and sun...

I need a Tshirt that reads "I rode 126 miles through the dark and all I got was this boring photo"...

Sweet, sweet Colorado river. I spent the morning catching up in the journal and taking dips in the water.

The bike and I sharing PBR's by the river. Unbelievably, I was feeling pretty good after one. The bike on the other hand, let hers get too warm and I had to pour it out. These long bike days sure seem to be having an effect on me...