Summary: On my birthday, Brad and I left on an epic and dangerous bicycle trip from Mexico, through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras up to El Salvador.
O wow, this is crazy. It’s so funny when you think about doing something, then do it, and afterwards write about it. It’s kinda a process in which you feel that you live the life that you want to live to it’s fullest possible level, because you do the things that matter to you and that you really want to accomplish. Lol. So, where was I?
Oh yes, Brad and me, we got to Chetumal, in the mission of finding suitable bicycles for our upcoming trip. We went looking to the all around the city, until well past dark. We visited 14 different bike shops all over town, taking cabs (luckily they were very cheap) and walking all over the place. I had had the time of my life the past weeks, and I had become midly sick, so after the 8hour search, we were off to bed.
5th October 2012: I woke up at Boston Posada, a very typical mexican-american style on Motel, on my 22nd birthday, with Brad singing the “Happy Birthday” song. It had been raining the whole night, but that morning the sun was as strong as ever. We went back to the first bike shop that we’d been in, with 2 single speed bikes on mind. But after trying them out, we realized that it would be impossible to even cycle the slightest hill with those bikes and our luggage. So we got 2 other mexican bikes, a pump, some tools, and even a handlebar mirror! Sure enough, we go started as soon as everything was set up, as we could not wait to hit off the road.
As soon as we exited Chetumal we were very glad we had opted for the gears. Under the heat and the sun we were driven like a magnet, towards the border with Belize. After paying the exit tax and crossing the bridge, we passed the free zone and arrived to the border with Belize. It was so funny there, because Brad went through customs with a huge machete roped to his backpack. It wasn’t even hidden, and it was so obvious. But the policeman just asked us if we had some fruits and vegetables, as it is illegal to bring any in. The situation just seemed really funny, being able to go through with a huge machete, but not with a banana.
The border was like a curtain separating two worlds, very different from each other. Literally, it was, as Belize is a third world country. The people changed from being all white spanish speaking with moustache (in Mexico) to being almost all english speaking black people. It was soo weird to change the language so abruptly! But the funniest thing about the language was that it was a “ghetto” english. People talked just like in the movies, and I found myself saying stuff like “Yo wassup homie” or “Wa’ssup men” to almost everyone. I greatly improved my slang english, which was not only well accepted, but the norm. They actually have their own language there called Creole.
We were suddenly cycling along a narrower but well maintained road, surrounded by sugar cane plantations. That was the primary industry from the zone, and we met many families directly working in that. It was while observing all that my pedal snapped which meant trying to pedal on a piece of metal that was continuously falling off. We were laughing our ass of because a few hours beforehand I had been convinced that “the bikes were solid”, which proved to be a very very wrong statement.
But all in all we made it to Corozal, where I replaced my pedal. We cycled around with some locals, watched the sunset by the pier, and tried for the first time, the “national plate”: rice & beans (with chicken). Brad enjoyed his favourite drink in the world: OneBarrel (Rum) with Coke. He actually keeps a bottle back home in Canada that he only uses in very important celebrations.
The following day we made it to Orange Walk. I loved the names from places in Belize. All of them sounded really cool! And oh, I have to mention that when the cars overtook us, they all honked. But those were positive encourageing honks. Arriving to town, we had the other second national dish: Barbecue chichen with tortilla and cooleslaw-carrot/mayonaise mix. Delicious. And the best was the freshness of the chickens, as they were all roaming around us while eating one of their friends. Well, ex-friends.
That day we started the series of seeing “european subvention” pannels, present virtually everywhere. And we also got accustomed to all the omnipresent misspelled pannels along our way. As the tap water was not safe to drink, the locals filled up their gallons and containers in “water-stations”, very simmilar to petrol stations but on a smaller scale.
As far as anytime snack goes, our favourite was bananas. It was one of the cheapest available quality food around. Everything else was deep fried, expensive, or non-existent. Vegetables were also soooo expensive, it was insane! Luckily, the oranges and coconuts were also very cheap, as they were locally grown. Basically, that was 80% of our diet.
That night we slept at Lucia’s guesthouse, in a very small room in a very unconventional place. The sink was broken in half, the corridor was done for walking spaghettis, completely un-insonorized as we heard a belician couple having sex in the morning, seconds before being hammered with a daily family talk and screams and… Lol. It is maybe a bit crude to say this, but it seemed as if english speaking people were much more efficient at communicating and understanding information, and generally more hard-working people. And as a spanish guy it is kinda tough for me to say that, but for example, every single time that I was a client at a spanish-speaking place, the service was horrendous, unproffesional and just so unfriendly. I noticed this even on the street when asking directions, and it was not a language barrier problem. Moving on, I also should say right now that Belician people are the friendliest nation that I have come accross. I have never experienced such positive feelings of being welcomed and positivity as there. I’ve lived my whole life in Europe where there black people are a very small minority, so going to Belize was for me like going into a movie. And I loved the movie.
The next day we cycled to Burrell Boom, crossing the crooked tree wildlife sanctuary. It was such a beautiful ride. We were all the time surrounded by nature. The road was the only string of human life around. The rest was just undisturbed nature with the local fauna and flora. But when we did see a bus stop, it was fully covered in religious writings. Despite the general infidelity, Belicean people are very religious, and there are churches even in the smallest of the villages.
We made it to Burrell Boom towards the sunset. We crossed a rusty bridge that crossed a muddy but very beautiful river, surrounded by palm trees. Brad had gone down that cocodrile infested river in a canoe 8 years before-hand, when he used to be a teacher there. We almost missed the deviation to the city, and when we got to the centre, we asked around for some cheap accomodation. But… there was nothing. After buying food in the only supermarket around, the owner told us that we could camp by the parking lot, which was of course not asfalted but floored with stones and grass. They lived there, so they watched out over us during the night. It was so cool speaking with all those locals, hearing so many stories, and showering off a water hose. And there was a turtle shell from a turtle that had served as dinner. In the background we could hear the monkeys screaming in the night, mixed with the mosquito buzz. We also had to replace Brad’s back tire, as it had cracked open.
In the morning, we had to fix another punctured tire under the heat of the road, and some kilometers later we had to replace the inner tube again, because the reparation patch had melted. Yes, both the quality of products was really bad, and the heat very strong. The asfalt was steaming hot, and it would have been possible to cook an egg on it.
We had started slowly, going from 40km on the first day and building up to about 65km then. It does not seem like much much in that sun and heat, it is completely exhausting. And that day we were about to cycle 75-85km. We went through amazing landscapes, through the zoo, through some insurance advert displaying a car filled with bullet-holes, and more nature. Towns were almost non existent. The plan was to cycle to Belmopan, but when we got there it was only 1pm. Hesitatingly, I convince Brad to keep going all the way to San Ignacio, many mountains after. Because I was faster than Brad, and I was carrying all the tools (and the tent), Brad got cycling while I finished a docen bananas/plantanes and a coconut. I munched that up while watching the rainbow over the road to the city.
Later, I stopped by to convince myself that what I was seeing was real. Yes, there was a tarantula just there, crossing the road. Few miles after, while going down a hill full speed, just coming off a turn, I heard a very loud BOOM. I managed to keep control and stop by the side of that almost empty road. It was my back tire, which had completely ripped appart. I only had a few belicean dollars with me (1US$ = 2 Belize$), and the very occasional bus did not allow for bicycles. And Brad was miles ahead, and I had no clue where I should meet him. So, basically, I was fucked. There was only one house close-by up to which I walked. But they did not have anything, and the man from the family was away with the car. The best they offered me was to wait there waiting for him to come back, and this could be anywhere between 30min until 4hours. But the sunset was fast approaching and I did not want to stay there or worry Brad.