Crossing into Belize was a simple task more or less. Customs was easy other than the part when they didn’t realize or ask if I was going to exit through Guatemala. So, I almost walked away from the customs desk without my temporary import paper. Once finished at customs, David, Brett, and I made a quick stop at the local insurance company to get our insurance. Insurance is mandatory, and we would soon find out that they check for this quite often. If caught without insurance, it’s a $500.00 fine and a trip to the jail.
(No man's land between Mexico and Belize)
(Insurance office right after the border crossing)
After our insurance stop, we had a quick lunch at a road side / ocean side restaurant and made some loose plans for the day. We were told that the roads in Belize are pretty bad. That was an accurate statement. There are lot’s of potholes and broken pavement. However, they have quite a few unpaved roads. We decided to take the road closest to the coast which lead us to a small ferry crossing. The coolest part about this was the ferry was manually operated. Hand cranked.
(Waiting for the ferry)
We continued to make our way south, and as far as they eye could see, we were enveloped in sugar cane fields. This is one of Belize’s primary products, which of course, leads to the production of rum. Rum in many cases is actually cheaper than beer.
For our first night in Belize we aimed for a monkey reserve where we could camp. We arrived, and for five dollars, we were allowed to camp on the grounds. While making our way down the main road to the reserve, we passed a van registered in Canada. It turns out that the van belongs to a guy from Montana. His girlfriend was here doing work for her university, and working for a man who owns the lodge behind the monkey reserve. The camping option at the monkey reserve was somewhat bleak, and near the road so, when we talked to Christopher, he offered us a plot of nice grass at the lodge for our tents. They even had a restaurant were we ate dinner and breakfast. Chris and his friends entertained us into the evening, and rum was on the menu. The rum here is so good, it actually has a buttery consistency and flavor.
The next morning we woke to Brett nearly packed and ready to roll. Brett had a friend in southern Belize that offered him an invitation to stay, as she was working with the Peace Corps here. Brett said his goodbyes, and he was off leaving David and I to our own. After breakfast, we said our goodbyes to our new friends who were quite hung over, and got back on the road.
We continued south following the dirt tracks as far as we could before returning to pavement. So far I’ve found out that Cenrut, which is a map of Central America is not panning out to be all that and a bag of chips. Meh, you get what you pay for. Fortunately, Mapsme, and Google Maps have turned out to be fantastic.
While taking a pause, David had mentioned that we should stop at Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce factory. Marie Sharp’s famous hot sauces are world renowned and you can have a tour of the facilities. Since it was on the route, and minutes away, we decided to make it part of the day. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were greeted by a locked gate. It was Sunday! Ah the pros and cons of motorcycle travel and loosing track of time.
Pressing on we stopped at a small seaside town for some lunch before pressing on to our destination at Palencia. We chose a place were many locals were eating, right on the water. Across the street the locals were playing in the water and enjoying life in the sun. A local man in the bar offered us beers and we made conversation. Of course everyone is always fascinated by the bikes and the fact that we were traveling such far distances.
Seeing that we got an early start and the nothing in Belize is far away, David and I passed a Zoo, and decided to go and check it out. I’m not always a fan of Zoo’s. In the USA, Zoo’s have become more like sanctuaries, and have habitations for the animals, but in many poorer countries, Zoo’s are less advanced and still utilize displays. The zoo here in Belize actually did a good job at creating habitations for the animals. Another good thing about local Zoo’s is that they generally have only indigenous animals. So, if you want to get a good look at Howler Monkey, then a zoo is good place to learn about them. After spending a few hours at the Zoo, we pressed on to Palencia, a small town at the end of a skinny peninsula.
(Tarpin. If someone says you are hung like a Tarpin, this is a compliment!)
Palencia is a heavy ex-pat town. My impression; A bunch of old white people who continue to have first world problems in paradise. Many of the business were owned by Americans or Canadians. And my gut tells me these people are in contrast with their lifestyle and political views. There also seemed to be a strong but silent animosity towards the ex-pats. Signs on business informed you if it was locally owned were prominent.
We arrived in Palencia late in the afternoon and looked for our hostel. The only way to the hostel was to take the pedestrian way. We motored our bikes carefully looking for the hostel. It didn’t take too long before a grumpy ex-pat, whined about the sound of our bikes. He persisted in complaining after we explained that would only be there for a moment, and David gave him some choice words and suggested he go away. Go David go!
Our hostel was pretty cool, and was located right on the beach. There were a few couples from Europe staying there, and the atmosphere was relaxed. We spent a couple of days there, exploring and made plans to snorkel at Bird Cay. Belize is renown for it’s scuba diving and snorkeling. Since David and I were not scuba certified, we opted for snorkeling. We booked out tour, but the next day the winds were so high that none of the tours were going out the islands. So much for that!!
(David living a thugs life)
(Still working on the tan....forever)
Having to skip out on the snorkeling, we decided to ride south. David was thinking we might catch up with his son in Punta Gorda, although I thought this to be a bad idea, as Brett has been wanting venture off on his own for some time now. Cut the cord David!!
Looking over our options we decided to head to Lubaantun, a pre-Columbian ruin. Lubaantun although not as well know as some other ruins has some pretty famous points. One is that it is supposed to be the home to the most famous crystal skull found in the Maya civilization. The other is that it is one of the few ruins with curved corner stones on it’s temples.
Lubaantun was amazing. Probable one of the most tranquil places I’ve been on this trip so far. There were few tourist because it is somewhat out of the way, and the grounds were meticulously kept. I could have spent an entire day there just reading a book or write in my blog. It seriously baffles me how much work is accomplished with primitives tools and hand labor. Lubaantun was literally built on top of a large hill which was leveled and then reinforced. But, then all the efforts were abandoned only after 300 years. It makes me think how long a modern city would last these days.
(Rounded corner stones)
(Mystery of the Crystal Skull)
(Artist Concept of the city)
After exploring Lubaantun we were off to look for a camp or hotel. But on our way in I noticed an unusual house just near the entrance to the ruins. There was a sign that said “Earth-ship – Smoothie and Juice” so I suggested to pop in, take a look, and get a juice. Turns out that the Earth-ship is a project headed by a Scottish couple Richard and Alisa. The home is made of recycled materials. The walls were made of car tires filled with mud, bottles and plastics were used everywhere. The result was a beautiful house. The roof was designed to catch water, which then fed to tank, mud was extracted from the jungle for plaster.
We talked with the couple for some time and they were happy to give us a quick tour. Turns our Richard is a motorcycle fan and after hearing about our travels, offered us a bed for the night in their home. These are the moments and opportunities where the road offers you a different path than you planned, and in my experience, if there are no red flags, take it! We ended up having a wonderful meal and conversation with the family and with two guest that were staying as AirBnB guest. This evening would turn out to be my best memories of Belize. New friends, good conversation, and good food. Richard and Alisa were brilliant and kind. They had a wonderful family and they are they kind of people that give hope to the future.
(Dinner with new friends)
The next morning David and I set out for our next destination. After a stop in Hopkins for lunch, we decided to press on to the Blue Hole national park. This is not the Blue Hole out in the middle of the ocean off Belize, but a park in the center of the country that has cenotes, and caves. For a fee you can swim, or take a tour. Most of the caves are only accessible using a tour guide. We decided that the price was too rich for our blood. After a quick swim we retired in the capital of Belize, Belmopan. Belmopan was designed in the 70’s to be the capitol and is one of the newest capital cities in the world.
With only a few days left on our insurance, David and I started our way towards the Guatemalan border. Our was to our last night in Belize would be in the town of San Ignacio. On our way there we decided to explore some of the sites en-route. We stopped at a Butterfly reserve and then made our way to Big Rock Fall and the 1000ft Waterfall Mountain located in the Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Now, I will say that the reserve is great for dual sporting. You could spend days here exploring all the dirt roads and tracks.
(Big Rock Falls, Photo: David Swezey)
(David making the swim up river to the falls. Well done David!)
(David tearing it up)
We found a fun little hostel where we could park our bikes and explore the town. Turns out that the weekend we arrived, there was a celebration happening. A famous canoe race which started in San Ignacio. The race actually is over several days and end in the capital of Belmopan. However there are several checkpoints in which a team can receive prizes. The first was the bridge 500 meters from the start and the price $1000. The start was quite a spectacle as about 70 teams rapidly made their way towards the bridge with only two access points to pass under. Canoe’s clashed, crashed, and some even toppled at the bridge. It certainly made for a spectacle for the fans watching.
With the Guatemalan border only 30 minutes away, David and I were off. Leaving Belize behind with a weeks worth of memories, I can say that take it or leave it Belize is nice, but not my cup of tea.
Next up the ruins of Tikal and Semuc Champey in Guatemala.