Monthly Archives: November 2019

Guatamala 2

17th – 19th Nov 

Guatamala city.

The fact we are now down to one computer which has a damaged screen makes any further trip planning difficult.
– we can’t take any photos.
– we have no mapping
– we can only plan a route and download to my Garmin which has no maps as they are too expensive.

So Saturday I cycled to some iphone retailers in the city.
On route I had to divert from the garmin plot as the roads where closed for some sort of demonstration, not too much of a problem as the city is built on squares and has numbered zones.

Whilst cycling I was hit by a passing taxi, nothing major but enough to fold his wing mirror in and to bruise my hip. My fault as I had to move around some pedestrians near a busy market and ended up in the path of a speedy taxi. I was surprised that I was not shaken up at by this but it was a good reminder to cycle thinking about all the other drivers around me.

At the Apple store all they where interested in was that the three devices were out of warranty and advised me that I should replace them with new, not very helpful and a very expensive option, there was offer of a service but he implied it would be cheaper to buy new.

A frustrating day for me, I enjoy the marvels of computers and iphones but when they all go wrong at the same time the frustrations are huge.

We did do some sight seeing in the city, the three dimension scale map of Guatemala is a good visit,  I was able to see where we had cycled in all it’s three dimensional glory.

Walking around the city feels very safe and the people are really friendly. Sunday’s are relaxed with a lot of stores shut and families relaxing outside in the clement weather.

Ginette – Guatamala has a really bad reputation (as do most Central American Countries.  However we have felt safe and everyone has been friendly and helpful. This is in contrast to the fact that the majority of buildings have barbed wire around them and there are armed military/police on nearly every street corner and outside most stores. Once the sun goes down even the corner shops are only accessible via bars on the windows.

Monday we moved hostels, this new hostel, Tequila Sunrise is much nicer and the kitchen is larger and we feel free to use use it, unlike the last hostel with a small kitchen that felt like we were intruding on. We both took a walk to an computer repair store called the  iCentre and the technician filled us with a sense that he knew what he was talking about (Talking via google translate) we left the two IPhones and ipad with him to analyse.

Ginette –  I risked getting my hair cut, fortunately it was a really pleasant experience helped by the fact that I could ask for what I wanted in Spanish and it only cost £10. Interestingly both times I’ve had my hair cut in South/Central America the hairdresser has cut my hair first and then washed it, this seems far better than washing it then cutting it. 

Tuesday we checked out and cycled to the icentre. He had repaired one of the iPhones with a new screen and battery for £80, he informed us that the ipad would not be ready until the following day, which meant another day in Guatamala city. As he had done a good job, we asked him to repair the laptop.

We checked back into the Tequila Sunrise, we plan to pick up the IPad tomorrow, leave the iPad and bus over to Panajachel.

Ginette – it is very strange being abroad for the festive season, I have asked Gary to refrain from singing/whistling festive songs until the 1st December, he is trying but occasionally I have to give him the look. That said I have heard Gary whistling/singing Christmas songs at home in the middle of June. There’s no hope really.

20th – 22nd Nov

Panajachel, Lago Atitlan.


We collected the iPad repaired with a new battery for £80.

The bus station to Panajachel for the cheap chicken bus would of been very hard to find if it wasn’t for another couple’s blog that described how they found the bus depot. It was really just the maintenance shed, we had to wait an hour while a mechanic fixed something under the bus then our bikes were loaded on the top of the old school bus and we were charged £6 each for the trip. The buses are old and knackered and you can feel every bump in the road, the driver gunned it as much as he was able up the winding hills so the engine could cope but this meant he was taking the bends to fast for my liking and we were all having to hang on and lean into each turning. I like the native experience and cost of these chicken buses but do not like the journey, they are far to dangerous.

It was just getting dark as we reached Panajachel and unfortunately there was a huge bank of dark cloud cover so we didn’t get to enjoy the views coming down the mountain road to the lake.
Ginette – as the bus reached Panajachel the drivers mate indicated it was our stop and encouraged us to move quickly. Our bikes were handed down to Gary whilst I tried to take all 10 bags off the bus. It was almost like we’d been thrown off. No sooner was the last bag on the floor than the bus sped off.  Once we’d checked we had all the bags Gary and I laughed it was all a bit surreal.
The chicken buses in Guatemala buses are very colourful it is almost like they are trying to outshine each other.

After finding a hotel we set off for a wander and some dinner and even had a few beers watching a live duet of guitar and violin with a bar full of Americans.

We spent the next day strolling around the town and the lake edge, it was a warm sunny day so it was easy to relax. Ginette was a bit nonplussed all day as she had heard she hadn’t made it through to the last set of interviews.
Ginette – By the end of the day I was fine, I hadn’t lost anything and there was a lot I could improve on. I wonder if fate intervened, if I had been successful we would have had to return to the UK in Jan/Feb where as now money permitting we can stay on the road a little longer.

The lake is huge and is surrounded by mountains  and volcanoes, it makes for a pretty backdrop. We had considered hiring a canoe to paddle to one of the other towns but as the afternoon came so did the cloud cover again and with that the lake lost its placid waters and was getting choppy. We plan to take one of the many ferry boats tomorrow to go around the lake and visit some of the other villages.

Friday we hopped on a water taxi over to Santa Cruz, this small town is a bit of a steep walk up the hill and even when we reached the square the village is still going up on a steep incline, there wasn’t much to see but it is a nice village with great views over the lake.

From here we followed a path around the lake towards Jaibalito, the path also went up a little and although it was well trodden it was narrow and it didn’t look like a lot of people took this route. There were a few different types of accommodation scattered around this section of the lake, some looking very posh and looking ideal for honeymoon couples. We past a hostel called Free Cerveza eco lodge, it looked to have a friendly and relaxed vibe but we had definitely raised the average age by stepping over the threshold.

Jaibalito was even smaller than Santa Cruz with tiny lanes just wide enough for the tuk tuks

We was planning on taking another ferry further around the lake but the one waiting at the dock was going back to Panajachel, however he gave us a price that was double what we paid to get over there and we were worried that the trend may be for each distance away from Panajachel that the price back will hike up so we opted to go straight back and chill in Panajachel again.
Ginette – as we sat enjoying the view of the Lake it was amusing to watch Japanese tourists stop to have their photo taken with Gary’s.  I think if the money situation gets  really bad I can sit him down with his Ukele and charge for photos or/and his playing.



23rd Nov 

Very hilly ride and a burning volcano

Today we cycled just under 50 miles and climbed a total of 5900ft up some of the steepest climbs we have done for a while.

We had a few 28% climbs which were hard work, Ginette found herself wobbling on these steep climbs so found it safer to get off and push, I was able to park up my bike once past the steepest bits and walk back down to help Net, so a pretty challenging day but we both coped well.
We had some great views across the valleys and the surrounding volcanos, although we were at 7000ft the vegetation was lush and colourful.
We past several towns celebrating weddings with banners and tinsel decorating the churches and halls all the locals in their best clothes.
At the top of one of the the long climbs we found a coach of French holiday makers and they were very impressed we had managed to cycle up these steep climbs.
Ginette – it was rather embarrassing receiving a round of applause as we arrived.
At one place the road had collapsed into a river so we had to divert for a short dirt road stretch and make our way through the stream, Ginette’s spacial awareness is a bit off today so I cycled both bikes through the stream and helped her across the stepping stones, sometimes she can be such a girly.
Ginette – I am a girl!!!
We are in Antigua, it’s famous for its colonial buildings with cobble streets and the views all around of volcanoes.
We didn’t check in till after dark so plan to spend a full day here tomorrow.
Now it’s dark you can’t see the volcano but you do get to see the occasional red glow at its tip.
24th Nov

Resting in Antigua.

Our hostel last night was quiet but they had a litter of 8 husky puppies, they were well behaved and quite in the night but cooking and eating in the kitchen and shared living room meant sharing the space with the puppies as well and three adult dogs.

We moved to another hostel with no huskies and a roof top terrace so we could take advantage of the volcano views.
The town is fairly small so we have spent some time wandering the cobbled streets and found a market where we managed to buy fresh fish and prawns to cook tonight.
Most of the churches were full as we past them and the main plaza was also packed with a nice relaxed feel to the place.
Personally I am ready to move on again, I am a bit restless after these few days so looking forward to cycling again, but tomorrow will bring another bus ride the 23 miles to the city (The roads get really manic as you approach the city) however we need to collect the laptop that we are having repaired.
25th Nov

Reunited with the laptop

This morning the skies were clear and we had a great view from our terrace roof of the active volcano blowing smoke and ash from its peak.

We decided to take the bus to Guatemala City to avoid cycling into the city, it didn’t take long to find the bus we needed as all the drivers and drivers mates were touting for business.

We went on the local chicken bus again with the bikes on the roof, this trip cost us £4.
The driver was much better and I never felt at risk this time. The bus was as full as any in the UK’s rush hour with people standing squashed in the aisles whilst we managed to fit four bottoms on our two person bench seat, as did all the others. The drivers mate took the fares once the bus was moving so people just get on and found a place to squash into, then after a few stops the drivers mate actually forced his way down the middle of the penguin parade collecting fares as he went.  If you had a phobia of tight spaces or personal space then this bus is not for you.The istore had done a great job of Ginette’s laptop and we now have a new screen and a fully functional finger pad, this was fairy costly at just under £500.

The cycle ride out of the city was pants, busy bumper to bumper traffic and no cycle lanes, Ginette was not a happy bunny. I managed to plot a route slightly off the main Pan American highway but we had a huge hill to climb, I am sure this cheered Ginette up as I know how much she has come to enjoy hill climbing, she even got off a few times to push the bike so she savour the hill for longer.

Ginette – I really don’t mind hills, but I hate busy roads with little room for error. This road had the tinest hard shoulder with exhuast spewing lorries and buses roaring past. I hated it and had a little melt down, I even considered getting on a bus to El Salvedor.

We took another back road and it went down down and down, I was enjoying this when a motorcycle pulled me over. He had been chatting to Net to warn her this road ran out of tarmac so she sent him racing down after me to give me the same warning. So we turned around and went back up, up and more up.

Ginette – this was a much better road, with far less traffic.

Back on the Pan American highway and the traffic had eased off plus the going was pretty much all down hill for 20 miles, we wasn’t expecting to cover so much ground but we managed to settle in a small town called Bartolome near a lake and national park, it was dark by the time we got there. I was aware of a hotel the other side of the lake but cycling through the shanty town we asked around and found a Love motel to stop in. It charged by the hour as well as for the whole night, we have gone for the whole night (I think the man was impressed) tomorrow we should pass into El Salvador.

Ginette – the closer we got to the border, we saw less women dressed in the traditional skirt and tops instead women were dressed in western clothes.

We really enjoyed our visit to Guatemala, the people were really friendly, the country offers mountains, beaches, lakes and volcanoes. It is very green and great for people like us travelling on a low budget. 

Guatamala

On 3 Nov 2019

Guatemala

Our iphone is not working as it got wet in Ginette’s top box, hence we have no camera other than the ipad. (It’s been drying in the sun on the bikes handle bars all day, hopefully the 33 degrees will sort it out).

We had a 10 mile cycle to the border, we did have a couple of missed photo shots such as a hand wheel operated ferry crossing a fast flowing river.

The border crossing was painless other than the charge of $20 American dollars each for exiting from Belize. The security guard that checked we had our passport stamped couldn’t answer a question I had about the Guatemalan border as he has never crossed and says he has no wish to ever cross into Guatemala.

 Ginette – there is no love lost between these two countries apparently they’re still in conflict regarding where the border is between the two countries.

We had another 40 odd miles to cycle to a lake area with lots of accommodation available. The route was winding and much hillier than anything we did in Belize or Mexico with some fairly steep climbs to do, but most of them were only short climbs.

The ride was enjoyable (until the last 10 miles when the old legs got tired) I was trying to understand why today was more fun, I think the winding road with hard shoulders, undulating hills and changing landscape plus the Spanish signs and Latino music from the shops we passed all went together to keep the mind occupied whilst cycling.

Ginette spotted a family of six on a motorbike, speaking of which there are far more motorbikes here than cars, and the traffic is light.

We arrived at El Renate just as the sun was going down over the lake making for some pretty views across the lake with thatched roofed huts on the pontoons. We tried a couple of hotels before settling on one by the lake, it was getting dark so it was only a matter of having somewhere to sleep and a reasonable priced restaurant to eat in. Unfortunately there was a local couple that had been drinking too much and had the restaurants huge music speaker right next to them so they had to shout at each over to be heard. The staff did turn the music down but had to do so a few times as the couple sneaked the volume up again, they were harmless but you never know how people will behave when they have had too much to drink so we didn’t stay long.

 Ginette – The highlands of Belize and Guatamala are very green and undulating. It is beautiful, we are both enjoying the cycling despite the fact that there is rubbish thrown outside of the towns. For some reason there appears to be piles of dirty nappies being dumped outside of the towns.  The Presbyterian and Baptist Churches have been replaced by Catholic churches. Apparently 60% of Guatemala are catholics but most are from Mayan descendants so to be on the safe side they also worship Mayan symbols and continue to celebrate mayan traditions. I love entering a new country and researching it’s history.

 

Very colourful cemeteries

4th Nov

Tikal Myan site.

We only had 20 miles to cycle but there were a lot of steep hills to climb so it wasn’t an easy ride.  At the half way point we entered the Tikal national park and spent the ride searching the trees for the Howler and Spider monkeys that live there.

The half way point was the gateway to the park and where we had to pay the fees to enter the Tikal Myan site, we had decided that this was a site we wanted to visit so knew in advance about the £15 each entrance fee. What was odd was that if you needed a guide you also had to book him from this entrance even though it was still 10 miles to the actual site. We eventually agreed to use a guide getting the price down from £20 each to £10 each, reasoning we had cycled out of our way to reach the site and we had not had a guide for the other sites.

Ginette – we agreed to meet the guide at our camp site leaving us one hour to cycle a very hilly jungle road. We made it but had no time for lunch so ended up eating biscuits on route. The guide was very informative but had no sense of humour, sticking purely to the facts. Perhaps if we’d paid full price the guide would have come with a sense of humour or perhaps he simply didn’t get our English humour. It wasn’t a problem he made up for this small imperfection by providing us a running commentary on the Mayan ruins, the wildlife and trees.

We really enjoyed learning about the Mayan history but we were both easily distracted by the spider monkeys, exotic birds and small mammals. I am sure if we had been free to wander on our own we would have spent more time playing find the monkey than looking at the ancient temples, which would have been a wasted opportunity as I am sure we will see more monkeys on route.

We managed to finish the tour with just enough time to put the tent up before it got dark. We pitched the tent in the Jamaican Inn gardens, it cost £10 which is a little expensive for a camp site but we had hot water and clean toilets so we’re not complaining.

Dinner was a simple affair of rice and vegetables followed by biscuits for dessert.

It is amazing to think that the Mayan’s built these amazing pyramids using man power alone.  The question I found myself asking is Why?? Why would you build solid pyramids, 70 feet high, the answer our guide gave was ‘so they could speak to their gods.’  Amazingly many, many miles away the Egyptians built similar structures (we are still convinced the aliens had some part in this). At the end of our visit we were left with more questions than answers. For example how could such an educated group of people have made so many advances in engineering, astrology etc and yet today the very same people live in poverty in rural shacks. Our guide tried to help our troubled minds and said the elite people dispersed and with them the knowledge leaving only the common people. 

We pass lots of homes that look just like the one in the pictures below, very basic compared to the ancient monuments in Tikal.

6th Nov

Woken by Howler monkeys 

It was a reasonably cool last night and no rain but it was hard to sleep as our tent was by the hotel and the other guests sat chatting outside untill late. We were then woken at 04.00 by the howls of a few Howler monkeys in the forest.

The ride back through the Tekal national forest was taken slowly whilst we checked out both sides of the forest for wild life, cycling with anticipation of seeing some more monkeys.

We didn’t see any Monkeys but the forest was full of bird noise and branches creaking or breaking. We did see more of the following

Toucans
Coutes (a bit like raccoons)
A bird of prey that looked like an Owl
Redbreasted large bird

Once out of the park we had a 30 mile ride to Flores, I was feeling a bit queasy today so was glad of a shorter ride. we cycled past an airport on route and was serenaded by one of the military guards in a watch tower who was happily singing away to himself.

Flores is a little island on a lake that is connected to the mainland town of Santa Elena.  We cycled through Santa Elena, it’s a built up town but not a city size, we needed to find an ATM. It is a busy town with a big market and a new shopping mall on the outskirts complete with a Burger King.

Once we headed over the causeway to Flores the vibe and clientele changed to a pretty little tourist island. This place is fairly small and apparently you can walk it’s circumference on 20 minutes, it’s a small circular island.

We stopped at the first hostel “ Green World” but being a tourist area the prices were high, they let us use the internet to search elsewhere but whilst searching offered to discount a double room down from £20 to £15 a night so we agreed to stay.

I was a bit weary so we didn’t really look around much but even so I think we covered half the island.  Living on an island, oh boy we’re having fun.

6th Nov

In the morning I felt better but we decided to have a rest day as this place is nice and we haven’t really seen it.

So a day of no cycling, very little walking, a bit of shopping and bike maintenance, truing Ginette’s back wheel and tightening up bolts.

Felling chilled except for the researching we tend to do when stationary in a WiFi spot, it would be much more relaxing if we had no WiFi

Ginette – I didn’t necessarily need a rest day, but Gary was clearly tired, he had a rash on his hands and he was a little achy. We checked the rash out at the pharmacy and it didn’t appear to be anything of any concern. The pharmacist prescribed some cream and it appears to be working.

7th Nov

16 miles in the wrong direction but a bonus of Howler monkeys.

We had a 42 mile ride to do to a town called Sayaxche, at least we would have had if I hadn’t missed the turn at a broken bridge meaning adding a detour of an 16 mile round trip.

The initial terrain from Flores was cattle country with big ranches, lots of cows and felt like cycling through Hertfordshire. However the houses are becoming more shack like and the poverty is clear to see. The women and men are starting to dress more rural, we saw more local stalls and at one drink stop witnessed an eight year old carring a pot of peeled corn to the back of the shop only to walk back out 5 minutes later with the corn now ground into a bread type paste but was now a 60 year old women, we were just commenting on how quickly they age around here when the eight year old also came back out so it turns out this was not an accelerated ageing zone but really two people.

At the 8 mile point of the wrong turn, we discovered we had gone wrong when chatting to a Hundorian man with excellent English, he was very chatty and we learnt a lot about his personal life and his countries politics but also that we were in the wrong town – Doh.

Cycling back we had the good fortune to hear and see howler monkies in the trees right near the roadside, the noise was weird and at first we thought it was some sort of mechanical digger in the woods. After this we also spotted a very large but dead Tarantula, early in the day we spotted another dead coral snake.

We are receiving a few more stares in this area so I guess cycle tourists are not very common here.

Ginette – this is mainly due to the fact that we took a wrong turn and the area we were heading for was up towards the Mexican border a real no go area. So understandably not many middle aged cyclists choose to cycle this route.

On the approach to Sayaxche and back on the correct route we spotted another monkey just above us in the tree line, he had a few others with him so we stopped and filmed them for a while.

To get over the river to Sayaxche we had to cross the river by ferry, as did all the other traffic on this main road, we were able to use a smaller motorbike ferry and the process was quick and easy.

This town had a real frontier feel to it, it’s not a frontier town but had lots of little snack shacks blaring music and an edgy feel to it. We booked in to a bit of a dump of a hotel but it’s possibly better than a tent.

Ginette – I would not have chosen to stay in this hotel, but Gary was tired and it was clear he would not have been impressed if I’d turned it down and moved onto another hostal/hotel. There were huge cobwebs on the wall, no water, no toilet roll, no towels (all of which were provided when we asked but were of poor quality). Personally I think the tent would have been better.

I have not been enjoying the cycling for a while now, it’s not just the cycling it’s the routine of riding, finding somewhere to stay and finding something to eat, we are travelling through interesting areas but they are not floating my boat, there is an old saying about having to much of a good thing and I think I have reached that stage.

We have been chatting about this tonight and will see how we both feel once our Christmas and new year break is over in Cabo San Lucas with Hayley. We have the whole world as a playground we just need to see what toys we want to play with next.

Ginette – I’m enjoying the cycling but agree, we are getting to a stage in our adventure when we are seeing the same, same but different.

8th Nov
Hey Gringo and Gringa

A hot sweaty night with no air conditioner only a fan that barely blew.

The road out of Sayaxche went through a national park so we cycled along with the usual anticipation of wildlife encounters, plenty of noises but no sightings but it’s still fun cycling these exotic areas.

As we travelled through cattle country we could here the distinctive call of Howler monkeys but these were way in the distance.

We did have a gert big live Tarantula walk in front of us, we managed to film him getting annoyed with me trying to get it to move to show it was alive and to move away from my bike.

A lot of the ladies and girls are wearing the same type of blouse and long pleated skirt, they are not keen on having their photos taken but I think we have sneaked a few shots, we spotted one young lady in the pleated skirt walking her piglet on a string lead.

We have had a lot of breaks today, the weather has been threatening storms all day and we have had to shelter several times, once at an open well covered with a shelter. This area is very rural and the towns tiny, but we did found a small but very busy market town complete with bus station, this little stretch of road was at odds with the rest of the day’s quiet riding.

We stopped in a mountainous area although we are winding our way around valleys at present, we have seen a few people busy in the fields but lots more sitting in there homes with there families. We have been shouted at along the route Gringo and Gringa in a friendly manner but going through the last few towns such as El Cruce the calls stepped up as it appeared the whole villages children got really excited by seeing two mad cycling Gringos passing through their village, some groups turned the Gringo call into a singing chant that was still going long after we had passed. This was really cute and we tried to film this reaction to us but it’s difficult as you don’t know when these impromptu calls will come.

We camped behind a petrol station at San Antonio, it’s not the prettiest spot but at least we had a dry place and we were not in the forest with Ginette’s favourite Spiders.

Ginette – finding the petrol station was a real bonus, we had somewhere safe to camp, just the rain set in for the evening. As an added bonus the petrol station had a shop/cafe where we could look at emails and have a beer and crisps (dinner).

9th Nov

Off-road up in the mountains with only the locals.

A wet night last night and the discovery that the tent ground sheet leaks near my head, we hung the wet stuff up but the sun was shy so we couldn’t dry it all.

We had 52 miles to reach our destination but we knew that there were some hills to climb so we weren’t sure if we could do this in a day.

The first set of climbing wasn’t to bad, it had some steep bits but we were coping well. We past lots of small villages with shack shops so supplies were readily on hand, we still had a few Gringo calls but not as intense as yesterday’s village.

During one hill climb the tarmac abruptly stopped and left us with a very steep rubble road to climb, there was no way we could cycle it. We stopped to check we hadn’t taken a wrong turn and was slightly reassured when other transport also past us including the local buses.

This road kept going higher and at times I had to park my bike and help Net push hers up some of the rockier steeper sections.

We managed to wave down a truck and had a lift for 5 miles with the locals also thumbing a lift from him so several stops letting people on and off, one middle aged women was really chatty and funny but we have no idea what she said.

I am not sure what language they are using in this mountain area but it doesn’t sound like Spanish and Ginette can’t even order a drink of water using her well practiced Spanish.

The truck stopped at the guys shack/shop and we still had a long way to go, the family were interested in us and our bikes and let us take photos of them all.

Setting off again and we were pushing more than cycling due to the bad road condition. We tried getting lifts again with every vehicle that past us and even tried to engage someone to drive a parked truck but couldn’t get our message across. Hence we struggled all afternoon pushing our bikes up and down steep rocky tracks.

The people’s faces as we come past their village is a picture, Ginette was walking in front so I would get to see the families walk out of there shacks onto the road to watch her walking off in the distance. I wonder what they must of thought as it would appear that not many Gringos pass this way.

We camped in the corner of a football pitch near a school and church, this place appears to have no houses near it but as soon as we started putting the tent up we had an audience of 4 or 5 kids. Once we started cooking we then also had granny and mum watching us to see what the weird Gringos were cooking, we were celebrity chefs.

When the sun went down we had an insect firework display, the football pitch and surrounding trees had fire flies dancing their little flashes of light for us. It was quite a sight and when you add in the jungle noises it was quite a good camp site.

I am sure Ginette will have a lot to say about today, it would appear that off road cycling is not her favourite pastime and I don’t think she is keen on my chosen route.

Ginette – I will bite my tongue at this stage, however the previous day I did mention the road was bad and asked Gary to check it several times. I found it really frustrated pushing a bike in the heat however there was no point complaining so rather than whinge I accepted the terrain as part of our adventure. My frustration was mainly directed at my ability to cycle off road. I learnt to cycle properly as an adult so I’ve never had a mountain bike or cycled off road and find it really hard. I think Gary would probably have cycled 40% of the route where together we are managing 10%.

We chose to camp on the football pitch because we ran out of light but I will leave you with this thought – how do you go to the toilet when you are the villages star attraction?

10th Nov

Lanquin at last.

Although we were sleeping on the edge of a village the night calls from the jungle still woke Ginette several times whilst I slept through it all.

Ginette – how anyone can sleep through howler monkeys calling out in the middle of the night is beyond me. I didn’t mind, I enjoyed listening to the jungle but my bladder didn’t like the fact that I refused to go out for a wee. I could hear all sorts of noises and there was no way I was going out to explore in the dark.

Gary’s hearing seems to be getting worse, we often have cross words because he can’t hear me and I have to repeat myself. He thinks my tone is harsh when he hears me but it may be the 3rd or 4th time I have asked a question or commented on something. I often say something and then a minute later Gary will say the same thing expecting a comment, not realising that I’ve already made the same observation. I am trying to raise my voice to help him but it does not come naturally.

We only had a short stretch of 4 miles to the village of Campur but we still had a lot of pushing on the rough track to do, it had rained in the night so we also had puddles (the whole path was a puddle) and slippery rocks to deal with.

Just as we approached the village the road became concrete sealed so were able to cycle, it was bliss. The village was small but had a few shops and a little more traffic, we couldn’t see any obvious bus stops so after buying some stock we set off on our new sealed road as we only had 13 miles to do, initially we had a really steep section to get out of town and as we reached the top the sealed road ended, and our hearts sank as well. We opted now to wait and try to blag a lift from a passing van. We tried a few and ended up getting an offer of a lift to the cross road turning for Lanquin which saved us for 5 miles.

We had to wait on the back of the truck for 30 minutes before the driver set off, passing the time trying to communicate with the young boy passengers. As soon as the truck rounded the first bend the sealed road appeared again, bloody typical we both thought, but it disappeared on and off for the trip so we took the right decision.

Once dropped off we had another 7 miles left and it looked like it was going to be all down hill but on another rough track.

The going was not as hard as the other days as it was all down hill but a lot of it was too steep and rocky for our loaded touring bikes so we were still doing a lot of walking.

We arrived in Lanquin around 2 pm having had to push up a last few hills to the town centre.

Ginette – I have to confess to being hot, knackered and stroppy. Several locals stopped us to offer us trips to various tourist destinations and accommodations. I was not interested, all I wanted was a cold drink and to rest. We stopped in a cafe and a lovely cold glass of lemonade and Gary ordered a pizza. Due to the lack of toilet facilities at the football ground I felt really uncomfortable, all I wanted was a private loo and a bed to rest on.

We booked into a really nice hotel called Vista Verde, it even had a pool. However the track to the hotel was up a steep but paved track, we had to both push one bike at a time up to the reception. Later in the day we sat in the bar as others arrived puffing and panting from getting up the slope, as we sat smuggly watching.

On 11 Nov 2019

Semuc Champey swimming in waterfalls.

So as old farts we were laid up in bed trying to sleep while the hotel and neighbouring hotels partied the night away, individually we both woke and thought about joining them and promptly fell back asleep, party animals we are not.

Ginette – in fairness we had spent the previous 2 nights camping and spending the days pushing our bikes in the heat of the day we were well and truly knackered and asleep by 9pm.  The party went on to well past 2am each time I thought I’d get up and join them, I thought they’ll probably be finishing soon so I’d roll over and go back to sleep.  

Guatemala beer is very strong it is called Gallo, after 2 cans I just want to sleep.

We have opted not to use the hotels tour services and make our own way to Semuc Champey, we had a wander around the local market all the time hassled by locals wanting to take us to the river resort, in the end we found a truck full of locals about to set off and haggled the price down to £2 each (Probably still a lot more than the locals are paying). Once on board we traveled 50 feet and was transferred onto another truck, at the time it was empty but as it drove along it stopped at another hotel to pick up another load of tourists.

We had considered walking back from Semuc Champey but the truck ride was if anything worse than the previous few days so we were grateful to not be walking, rough roads lots of mud and puddles but also a lot of truck traffic which would make the walking pretty rubbish

The waterfalls
A short walk through the jungle path led us to the lower pools, the water falls are just slow trickles over a wide band of rocks but the pools are large clear areas that look like inviting swimming pools.

We carried on walking past a approx 5 levels of these large pool areas, some also had lots of little pools around them.

At the very top area there was a huge fast moving mass of water, it was disappearing under the area I was standing in, there was no way you would want to get into this beast, the pools all below us are fed from this river but are far calmer and safer.

Ginette was looking most unimpressed and frankly a bit unhappy, we stripped off and waded into the tranquility of the top pool. The little fish came and started nibbling our feet straight away and Net wasn’t even very keen on this.
I knew she had expected a bit more and wanted to be able to go down each pool area from the top to bottom, so I left her to gather her thoughts and explored this possibility.

Ginette – I had seen the pictures and had looked forward to hiking up to the mirador but unfortunately this was closed. I’d read lots of blogs that had stated how great the waterfalls would be but to be honest I was hugely underwhelmed by the tourist site.  Realising I was being silly I gave myself a good talking to and sat in the water to let the fish eat my feet (my mind tells me this experience is wrong but to be honest I quite like the sensation). When Gary returned, I was keen to experience what the waterfalls had to offer and although not the exhilarating experience I had been hoping for it turned out to be good fun.

I was a bit nervy as no one else was trying to do this and the rocks were very slippery but I managed to navigate a way down all the different pool levels. I had to walk back up the track to Net.

Fortunately by the time I had completed this little adventure Ginette had relaxed and was up for a challenge, she came with me down the slippery slopes not all the different pool levels. It wasn’t the safest thing to try to do, but I think the worse that could have happened was we would have ended up with a few cuts and bruises if we slipped.

Adrenaline rush over and pack lunches done we headed back in the back of a truck, these are so easy to catch and nearly as exciting as the waterfalls.

Back in town we picked up snacks and beer for twice the price of areas outside this tourist trap and planned to spend the rest of the day chilling in our nice hotel.

12th Nov

Scary bus ride

A good nights sleep and leisurely packing session, then the pushing of the bikes up the steep dirt road to the town.

We waited a short while and managed to get on the minibus to Coban, the bikes strapped to the roof rack. Most of the customers were local Myanmar but one American/ Mexican born gent was on holiday, he was chatty and fun. He kept giving the small kids treats from his bag and even bought them all sweet treats from the vendors that boarded the bus at the stops. I also treated myself to a chocolate coated iced banana lolly.

Ginette – at one point there were 7 kids on the ‘chicken bus’ (local mini bus) under the age of 10, unlike children in the UK they were exceptionally quiet and well behaved. When the American handed out his treats, he never asked the parents permission he simply distributed them and the kids gratefully accepted them. I would have felt obliged to ask permission from their parents.

We were held up for a while at road works, the drivers congregated next to a set of concrete barbells egging each other on to try to lift them, this went on for a while so I went over to join them. They took great delight when not only couldn’t I lift them but I also landed flat on my arse. Apparently my bus load of Myan where delighted by my display.

When we got the go ahead to pass our driver turned into a demonic race driver as he had been overtaken by a bike and van which jumped the queue, he was racing at full pelt chasing the bike and van risking skids on the bends and overtaking on blind bends. This was not fun, he didn’t look in control to us but the other passengers seemed non plussed by his erratic driving.

We arrived save and sound if not shaken at the mountain city of Coban, we were both hungry and needed the loo so first stop a cafe then booked into a cheap and frankly tacky hostel “Calverio”

We had a few WiFi jobs to do and future destinations to plot so an admin afternoon

13th Nov

An Unnerved Netty and a wet afternoon.

Ginette announced that she wanted a short break, I wish she said this when we was in Semuc Champey and not in a large nondescript city as a few days rest there would have been great.

Ginette – I didn’t realise we both needed a break until I spoke to some other travellers who explained that they stopped for several days in each destination. The longest we have stayed anywhere without doing anything is a day.  We are starting to get a little tetchy with each other, but I agree with Gary I should have voiced this concern in Semuc Champey not on the road to Guatemala. 

We have two choices of route, one is shorter and more direct with less hill climbing and all on sealed roads, the other is longer with lots of climbing and a stretch of unsealed road. My preference is the longer route as it is likely to be more rewarding with views and seeing the rural Guatemala. Ginette is not keen on this route so we have compromised. We did think about splitting up for the 5 days but we are going to cycle the shorter route and I may take off for trips to the mountains once we reach our destination.

Ginette has been on edge this morning thanks to the mad driving of the bus yesterday. The road we are on is a main route from Coban to Guatemala City so was busy with traffic and it took till the afternoon for Ginette to gain her confidence again.

Ginette – the road we have chosen to cycle is sealed which is great but it has been built over an older road. The part of the road we are cycling on is the old road and every 100 meters or so there is a kerb/lip which we have to cycle up. On previous roads like this, on more than one occasion,  I have seen Gary lose control of the back of his bike. As this was a main road with huge trucks and buses passing by there was no room for error, added to this the road was very steep so on the few occasions I got nervous and stopped, it was difficult to get back on the bike.  

We stopped at a shack for lunch of pasty and chips watching with amazement as a JCB was demolishing part of a petrol station while they were still serving fuel and shoppers had to time it right to go in and out of the shop to avoid the rubble falling. As we had the camera out we asked if we could take a photograph of the people at the food shack but one men shook his head, however an older lady was happy to sit for us, what the photo we took doesn’t clearly show is another young man hiding behind Ginette with his coat right up over his head so as not to have his picture taken.

It has rained a lot today and we have had to shelter a few times, we had planned to camp in Biotopo Del Quetzal national park but the rain made this an unpleasant task so we have stopped slightly short at a town called Puralaha in a hotel type complex called Balneario Arroyo Verde, we have a chalet with two double beds and en-suite for £20. This place is great as it has a lot of grounds with trees bbq areas a river running through the middle and lots of little pools which on a sunny day would be great to explore.

This national park area has a rare bird called Quetzal (the currency here carries the same name after this bird) we have been looking out for a sighting but none yet, we hope to spot them as they are colourful and have long tail feathers.

our little cottage picture taken on the rainy day.

14th Nov

Rest day if you don’t include the 8 mile walk.

We both slept well and this morning the sun has come out to play. We have decided to stay another day here to relax and enjoy the grounds, the pools and the stream are much clearer today and the sunshine brings out all the colours.

What a difference a sunny day makes

We have hand washed some clothes to take advantage of the drying weather.
A walk into the town found a busy market and we managed to buy some fresh fish for dinner tonight. We had no WiFi so have paid £3.50 for a Guatemala sim which includes internet access, we have two Apple devices which will not take a charge, the local shop tried some charging cables but it looks like we have a software issue so plan to find an apple store in Guatemala City to get them fixed.

Most of the day was spent reading, Ukulele playing and enjoying the sunshine
We took a tuktuk ride the 5 miles to Buotopo Del Quetzal during which we realised the wallet was back in the room so had to ask the tuktuk to turn back, once at the park we paid the £8 fee for the two of us and at the entrance the park warden showed us a small bright green snake that was crossing the path.

The walk around the rainforest was fairly strenuous along a well marked path but up into the mountain, the forest was very wet and humid and surprisingly quiet, other than a few small birds and the initial snake it was only trees and fauna for the rest of the afternoon. We was hoping to spot the rare and shy Quetzal bird but no joy. We did see the camp site we would have been staying at and both felt that the little oasis of our current hotel was far better.

We walked most of the way back to town before managing to hail another tuktuk to take us to town.

Ginette – it was lovely having a rest day, with no wifi, we really enjoyed each others company. I would still like a few days rest somewhere, I feel like I need a duvet day or two. 

15th Nov

A strong day for Gary but not Ginette.

We spent most of the morning climbing and dropping and climbing again through a beautiful area of rainforest and deep valley views with other mountains in the distance, signs telling us we were still in Quetzal bird territory but didn’t spot any.
I really enjoyed today and was feeling strong but Ginette struggled from the start, which was a shame, we both have phases of strong and weak and today seemed to be Nets turn.

We cycled over 60 miles today, Net could have taken a bus at halfway but decided to carry on, a good call as the road then descended for 20 miles with a few small climbs. The views where stunning and it was getting hotter as we changed altitude.

We reached a potential stop town at 52 miles but it was only 1.30pm, there was a larger town another 8 miles on and we knew that 5 miles of this was all climbing but Net said she had another 8 miles in her legs so we pushed on.

This was the straw that broke the camels back, Net really struggled with the climb, we was making slow progress and the temperature was now 34 degrees so we were getting very hot and sweaty.

We stopped a few times as Ginette’s body was not doing well, she was overheating and feeling faint. When we finally dropped over the hill to the town she had to stop and sit in the shade as she felt very faint again.

Ginette –  Over the last few weeks I have been taking more and more weight from Gary’s bike as he was slower than me on the hills so I initially thought the weight distribution between the bikes was wrong.  To address this at our first stop we changed one of the heavier bags on my bike for a much lighter one on Gary’s bike. However this didn’t really help, Gary was simply stronger than me. I was happy cycling at my pace but every time we stopped I felt feint and this feeling got worse the hotter the day became.  At our last stop all I had to do was walk my bike across the road, but my vision was really blurred and I knew if I didn’t sit down I would fall down.  It was a hot day but we have cycled in much higher temperatures, so I am not altogether sure what is going on. Perhaps I should have listened to my body in Suc Champney. However this would have meant I would have missed the lovely views, which at times were breathtaking. 

Eventually we cycled into town, Guastatoya. It’s quite a big town and busy, it had a water park as it’s main feature. We stayed in a hotel and treated ourselves to a pizza.
We have 48 miles to go to Guatemala City and it’s all up hill, Ginette is thinking of taking the bus but we will see how she feels in the morning.

16th Nov

Up up and away, then lost with no IT, where are you Netty?

Ginette decided to take the bus to Guatemala city, we turned up at the bus stop and a bus was already waiting, it was an old style American school bus, the cycle was loaded in the back door space all in a matter of minutes. We said our goodbyes and arranged for Net to e mail me the address of the place she books when she gets into the city.

My cycle ride took me 48 miles along the same busy main road and 90% of this was all up hill, I climbed a total of 7650 feet. I enjoyed the challenge of the climbing but the route was really busy and I had to ride with extra caution taking the gutter to ride in on the right hand bends so that the lorries coming up the hill had room to go past me as they couldn’t see me on these bends.

I stopped several times for drinks and snacks and unfortunately dropped the iphone and the screen went black and now refuses to play. This was an issue as I now had no maps and no way to contact Ginette.

The last part of the ride into the city was rubbish, the hard shoulder disappeared and the traffic was heavy, with no maps I had to stick to the main road. I hoped that Ginette was still heading for Zone 1 of the city as the street signs did state the zone areas. I cycled past zone 2 thinking I was close then after a few miles was out the other side in zone 7, hence I had to turn back, this was after all the hill climbing so a bit frustrating but with no maps I was reliant on the street signs and asking the locals.

Arriving at zone 1, I asked a posh hotel if I could use there computers to contact Ginette. I couldn’t log onto  icloud as it was sending security questions to my broken phone. I set up a new e mail and contacted Ginette to find the address of the hostel she had booked, she should have been there hours ago but had only just arrived as she also had trouble finding the place having no maps as well.

Ginette – I had hoped for a rest day, my aim had been to get into the city, check into a hotel, get my hair cut and possibly find an iPhone shop to repair our broken devices.  However my bus took several hours to get to Guatamala City stopping in several towns on route.  The bus eventually stopped in Zone 17 some distance from Zone 1. I didn’t have any navigational devices (phone, garmin, maps etc) so I had a choice stay put for several hours and ask Gary to meet me at the bus terminal or make my way to zone 1. I decided on the latter, which was just as well, given Gary’s phone had broken.  This was a slow process, the roads into the city were busy and I had to stop frequently to ask for directions. I am not used to cycling abroad on my own and on at least two occasions I found myself cycling in the fast lane and had to stop and try and navigate across the road to the slow lane, which was a little scary. I eventually made it into zone 1 and stopped to make a hotel reservation. I emailed Gary the details and jokingly said he would probably find it before me.  I didn’t realise at the time that it would take me an hour and 1/2 to find the hotel as the google map was wrong.  Every time I showed someone the map I was sent to the wrong address.  I eventually worked out the road system and found the unmarked hostal on a road I had cycled and walked down already.  I had half expected Gary to be there when I arrived but once he had the address, he got a puncture and had to virtually carry his bike to the hostel. It was a very frustrating day for both of us.

We are now down to one computer, and the applemac has a broken screen with 30% of the screen blacked out. with no working phones we have no cameras and no mapping devices. we have seen that this city has some apple affiliated stores so hope to get some repairs done, the snag is its Sunday tomorrow and all but one are closed.

Ginette – on the upside at least we get another ‘rest day’.  I can only hope it doesn’t involve a 10 mile hike/bike ride. 

 

Belize – Un-belize-able

26th Oct

Belize a Caribbean feel.

Heading off from Corozal we managed to purchase another gas canister for the stove from a hardware store and some snacks, the stores don’t stock as much as the Mexican one especially lacking in cake.

We had several small towns to pass through and the area has a strong Caribbean feel to it, houses of wood, built on sticks some with verandas.

Chickens and pigs roaming free and lots of horses. Some houses of top quality and others falling down shacks.

We past a hurricane shelter as hurricanes a frequent occurrence here, looking at some of the homes it hard to imagine them surviving a hurricane.

    

Ginette – it was clear to see the effects of the hurricanes, lots of wooden buildings were falling apart and looked uninhabitable but still people lived in them. I suppose they don’t have a lot of choice but they looked very dangerous to me. Several had broken staircases, and wooden beams hanging off the properties. People sit outside of their properties on car seats, settees or hammocks, other work on their properties or in their gardens/fields. The island has a very laid back feel to it but we’ve been warned that crime levels are high so we are on our guard.

It is great to see signs like: 

No working during drinking hours 

and Go Slow 

In addition to these signs there are many religious ones on the road side like this one:

Prepare to meet thy god. – A little sobering as you cycle along.

Ginette – The Belizean’s love puns and all over the country there are bill boards and tourist gifts with a play on the word Belize including:

Un-Belize- able

You better Belize it!

Beyond Belize

Do you Belize in life after love?

Some of the locals are looking much more Jamaican and there is a real mix of nationalities here, it seems the shops are run predominantly by the Chinese.

The people are really friendly waving and chatting with us, a lot of English is spoken here and it’s still strange to be in a foreign environment but being able to converse easily. I think my mind is conditioned to not be able to understand the language.

Ginette – a lot of people speak creole in a supermarket I heard an exchange between a group of older men and the only word I could understand started with F and had four letters but was peppered throughout the conversation, along with a lot of laughter.

We arrived at Orange walk town around lunchtime and had a meal of chicken rice and beans (no chicken for Net) in an air conditioned cafe. The cafe guests represented the eclectic people in Belize, Chinese, Rastafarian, Amish and British. Walking out into the open air we were struck by the heat again.

We have been lucky with the weather, we had big black clouds nearby and thunderstorms but managed to miss the rainstorms, theses cloudy conditions stop the sun from making the heat closer to unbearable.

We had a long boring cycle in the afternoon along a straight road with no more towns, however each side had flooded woods so there was a bit of bird life around. Road kill today was a mammal like a raccoon and a tiny tortoise.

Ginette we have passed a number of churches mainly presbyterian and baptist they are small community buildings and do not compare to the large catholic churches that are in most Mexican towns. A number of buildings and houses have large posters displaying the 10 comandments. Most people we have met or passed in Belse have been very friendly and have gone out of their way to welcome us to their country. It is great to stop and have a conversation with people, we’re bemused by their expressions when we explain we are cycling to Guatemala.

We ended the day at Crooked tree national park staying at Jacana Inn right next to a large lagoon. The main migrating birds don’t arrive till next month but there was still a bit of exotic bird life around.

It was dark shortly after we arrived and with no street lights, it was pitch black so we didn’t venture out. Instead we ordered chicken and chips for dinner, I made Ginette a cheese wrap.

Ginette – I really struggled with the last 4 miles, it was an off road section and very muddy. I lost control of my bike a couple of times and for the first time in a long while walked my bike along sections. I was a little annoyed with myself but didn’t feel in control, so walking suited me but it meant we took much longer to cover this stretch than we would have if we’d cycled. 

On 27 Oct 2019

Sweeps retirement forest (as in Sooty and Sweep). Belize city, a bad reputation!

We was up early, both had an uncomfortable night due to the itchy mozzie bites we have accumulated.

Ginette – you would not believe the amount of bites we have, I think there must have been a mosquito party on my bum, I have at least 20 big angry bites there alone, Gary even managed to get a bite on his cock. We are trying not to itch them but it is really hard to ignore them.

We went for a short walk by the lagoon and around the village, there were a few birds around singing away to us, we recognised the large white storks and the groups of green parrots also a fairly large Kingfisher.

We also saw another bird looking just like a Stork but with pink feathers like a Flamingo, it was definitely not a Flamingo.

The biggest treat and surprise was finding Sweep. One of the birds call we recognised instantly as Sweep from the Sooty and Sweep show, this must be where he has come to retire.

Walking in the village along the chalky roads we were greeted kindly by all the locals and in clear English, the village had a very rural feel to it and as it was Sunday morning everyone seemed chilled. Some where dressed in Sunday best on the way to church.

We opted to cook our own breakfast of porridge and coffee then set off back down the 4 mile dirt track back to the main road, yesterday Ginette struggled with this route but this morning it was a bit drier and she managed with no problems.

We stopped at a garage for a break and sat with a local Creole family chatting about the weather and mosquitoes amongst other things.

We bought some local wine from a man by the roadside, one made from Cashew fruit the other from a red local fruit. We learnt from the man that Cashew nuts grow on the outside of the fruit, he had pictures of these fruits with the nuts on the outside.

Stopping at a supermarket nearer Belize city the pay counter was behind a wall of steel bars for security, we have read that Belize city is improving but has had a bad reputation for crime.

 

Cycling by a large river there are signs for Manatee sight seeing trips and Manatee notice boards. This is an animal we have never seen so maybe we will be lucky on this trip.

Arriving at our hotel “New Chon Sing restaurant “ we were greeted in the bar by two or three friendly locals who were stoned and drunk, they were openly preparing Dope and offered us some saying it was legal here, we declined the kind offer.

Ginette – In almost every city we have visited since leaving the UK we have been offered drugs but none so openly as Belize. Locals have shouted at us to come and buy their Ganger (weed, ya know, good quality, cum try).

Walking around the corner to our rooms was a bit un- nerving as the street had shanty houses and loud Reggae music playing, but our room was behind a gated courtyard and actually quite modern.

Ginette – We had dinner in the restaurant attached to the hostel, it was chinese food and delicious. We ordered three dishes and they were huge, somehow we managed to clear them much to the waiters surprise apparently people normally only order one dish. 

On 29 Oct 2019

Chilling on Caye Caulker.

We took a ferry over to one of the islands off Belize city’s coast that this area is famous for, the ferry ride was smooth and cost us $27 Belize dollars each return.

Arriving at the island we were both a bit disappointed, the sea was choppy and green, not the flat calm, blue sea we had been expecting.

The streets had hard packed sand and the only vehicles allowed on the island were golf buggies and push bikes (but we did spot a JCB and a truck). There were lots of hotels and hostels, bars and restaurants so although the place had a laid back feel it was also a major tourist attraction. There were also signs warning people to slow down and relax.

It didn’t take long to walk around the north end of this Caye, at the tip is a gap called the split, the island has been cut in two and to access the top section you need a boat or swim. Swimming across would be easy enough as it’s a short distance but there is a bit of boat traffic so you would have to be careful.

We settled ourselves in a sea front bar area called the Iguanas reef inn, the sea around this side of the island was flat and calm, it was still a green hue but was really warm to swim in. There were hammocks set up in the sea and swings to play on, I had a photo shoot with a Pelican sitting on the end of my hammock. The owner had laid some netting near the jetty so Seahorses can nest safely, these things are tiny and blend in well with the sea weed but we did spot a few.

We had a couple of Fry Jacks from a street vendor, these are like pancakes with a savoury or sweet filling of your choice.

The rest of the day was spent chilling by the sea, swimming and reading until the 5pm ferry back. The ferry ride was fun as we managed to get seats on the top deck and watched the sunset one side and a lightning storm the other.

Ginette – We enjoyed Caye Caulkner but unless you have very deep pockets there’s not a lot to do, we had hoped the snorkelling would entertain us but there wasn’t much to see from the beach and the tour operators on the island wanted to charge a further $50 to take us out to the reef. We didn’t mind chilling on the beach, occasionally retreating in the bar from the rain. We are still out of season but I can imagine the island is very lively with backpackers in the height of the season.

29th Oct
Ginette’s job interview and of then to Belmopan.

Ginette had a Skype interview for a potential job on our return, so we had a later than normal start.

We were supposed to be cycling to just past Belize zoo then taking a non paved road to the southern lakes so we could camp there and then visit the Manatees, but when we reached the turning a local advised us that not only was the road in a poor condition it was also dangerous, so we opted to continue along the highway to Belmopan which is Belize capital city. On route passing lots of sugar cane fields.

There were not many stops on route, at one of the few garage stops a guy I was chatting to told me how he had left the States as he didn’t like the prisons, he said he wasn’t a bad man but had some mental health issues which sometimes got him in fights. He said that his worse experience was 20 days in solitary. Amazing the conversation you have after sharing your biscuits with a stranger.

One of the things I like about Belize is that I can converse with most of the people, they all seem really friendly and genuinely interested in where we are going, however there is a dark edge all the time as there is a lot of poverty and abundance of drugs so I wouldn’t go so far as say I would trust any of my new friends.

I have now found another Belize dish I like, Estache. It’s a chicken soup with a tang and is served with a separate plate of rice.

Ginette – the food in Belize is really good, helped by the fact that we can read everything on the menu.

As we approached Belmopan we saw a Toucan perched in the tree unfortunately it flew off before we can take a photo we were within a couple of miles of town so was surprised to see one so close to a built up area.

Ginette  – I spent the morning reflecting on my interview, I had thought the FaceTime call would be to discuss the logistics of me attending/participating in an interview which if successful is scheduled for the end of Nov but no this was an interview with a recruitment agency to see if I would be shortlisted for an interview. Keeping my fingers crossed, it would be good to return to the UK with a job lined up especially a job that I would enjoy and feel enthusiastic about.

30th Oct

Toucan + toucan + toucan = sixcan

We woke to heavy rain but it soon cleared and we set off down the hummingbird highway towards Hopkins.

The city of Belmopan doesn’t fit my image of a capital city, which is not a bad thing. It is more like a large residential area with few high rise buildings.

We had a long ride today of 67 miles and got into Hopkins just before sunset, the last 25 miles were just hard work but before that we where cycling along a beautiful stretch of road and the first set of hills we have encountered for a while. Although the hills are hard work they keep thay and overtook me to set a faster pace, I think she was in a hurry to get a cold beer.e route interesting, we had forest either side of us and the trees were huge plus some very different and exotic looking trees and plants.

 

We did see lots of birds, even had three toucans fly in front of us, we didn’t  see any hummingbirds or Howler monkeys. Also I didn’t see any Elephants but apparently there aren’t any here so that could explain that.

Road kill of a coral snake and a little tortoise.

The people have been really chatty, one car pulled along side whilst the family leaned out of the windows asking questions, the other cars had to go around him.

In a cafe we were given some local knowledge by an off duty deputy police commissioner. He explained that it is legal in Belize to carry 10oz of marijuana but it’s illegal to buy or sell it, a bit of a dilemma in how you can end up with the drug in your pocket under those rules?

Ginette – He also informed us the citrus fruit crops were bad this year due to greening disease. We also discussed the cost of living the price of petrol in Belize is an unbelievable 10 Belizian dollars thats approx £3.90 per litre. No wonder Belize is so expensive compared to the other cental american countries.

Ginette – we were served by a local girl who had a huge, black, hairy birthmark across her face, it did not detract from the fact that she was beautiful. She didn’t seem to be embarrassed by it so neither Gary or I mentioned it until later that evening but on reflection I wish I’d told her how pretty she was.

Ginette was on a mission today and overtook me to set a faster pace, I think she was in a hurry to get a cold beer.

Ginette – too right, it was hot, humid and we had a long ride to do before sun set. It was a beautiful highway with lots to see including lots of citrus of trees. However at times I found myself willing Gary to go faster we crawled along at 8 -10 miles an hour. In the end I decided it was easier if I set the pace. Only to find there was a head wind but I was determined to go faster than 10 miles an hour so put my head down and fortunately we hit town just before sunset, which is at 6 pm. The sun goes down very quickly and there are very few street lights and we do not have sufficient night lights to be riding out on the country roads so it was worth the extra push. It was knackering but the beer tasted so good.

On the subject of beer, the popular drink here is Belikin it is served in a regular 12oz bottle of beer but the glass is thicker. It feels in your hand like a regular 12oz beer but the bottle is weighted. It’s priced the same as a 12oz bottle of beer but you’re only getting 9.6 ounces of beer. 9.6 OUNCES!  Added to this it is not cheap at 5 Belizean dollars a bottle.

31st October
Island paradise

It rained heavy in the early morning but the sun soon came out for us. Hopkins has a long beach area but the storms had stirred up the water and the sea was a brackish brown with debris in its wash and on the beach.

We cycled through to the North end of town to a river inlet to the large wetlands area in the vague hope of spotting a Manatee but no luck.

The houses in the town were a mix of well built brick houses and shanty wooden shack, some very stylish with ornate verandas . The people are lovely and welcoming.

Ginette – a lot of the verandas have ornate swans built into their frames, these are pretty but an unusual sight for Belize – Perhaps linked to England??

Last night we ate in a cafe with the locals, a boy of about 6 was hanging with us, he wanted to learn to whistle like me so we spent some time trying to get a noise from his lips

Ginette – the boy was really cute but as I tried to eat my dinner he informed me his favourite food was beans and rice and he had an empty tummy. I asked him if he’d had dinner or lunch and he simply shook his shoulders. His heavily pregnant mum was sitting at a table close by and I asked her if I could share my meal. She waved her finger at me indicating she did not approve. The boy begged her with his eyes and backed off a little. I felt bad and hoped if I left my dinner he may be able to eat it but his mum still disapproved. We realised later that his mum worked in the cafe and we could only hope as she cleared our plates away that the food we’d left would be shared with the boy.

We cycled the 20 miles back up the road to Dangriga, like Hopkins this town had an African Caribbean feel to it, however we weren’t there for long as we managed to get us and the bikes onto a small ferry boat for a trip out to Tobacco caye.

Arriving on this tiny Island we were left at the jetty by the ferry with no one else in sight, we walked the bikes in the sand through the many wooden huts and within minutes had reached the other end of the Island.  We had found someone to ask about somewhere to stay and ended up pitching our tent between the wooden huts with the use of one of the huts toilet and shower.

Ginette – there are no vehicles on the island or roads or paths so you can imagine the bemused looks we received off the islands residents. Apparently 17 people live on the island and cater for tourists all year round. The island has no electricity and relies on generators, most of the bars and cafes shut for hurricane season.

This camping pitch couldn’t have been more idyllic, we had a wooden pontoon reaching out to sea in front of us and we were surrounded by coconut trees and wooden beach huts, we had to take care not to camp under the coconuts for obvious reasons.

The snorkelling was nice in clear warm waters and the reef was a short swim from the beach. We needed to be careful though because there were a lot of sea urchins around so we needed to watch where we put our feet

Ginette  I struggled with my snorkel gear my eyes stung and watered in my mask and my snorkel kept letting in water. As I couldn’t see nor could I put my feet down I decided to swim back to the pontoon. On my way back I could see a big round shape under me, it startled me, but I reassured my self it was probably the sun throwing shadows on the water but later realised it was a big black ray. How amazing is that.

We watched four or five eagle rays (white spots all over their backs) gliding gracefully right under our feet whilst stood on the wooden pontoon plus another larger black (no spots) and a smaller whiter coloured ray. We spent ages watching these graceful animals circling around us.

We met a Canadian couple, they are surf ski kayakers so we had a lot in common along with the fact that the lady played the Ukulele.

We spent a few hours with this couple playing the Ukulele together, singing and chatting. It was a lovely evening

1st Nov

Chilled out island

Ginette was a bit tired this morning after last nights broomstick flying and general spelling and curse laying she was doing in the night

We had a hot sweaty night with rain in the night and in the morning, but the weather here changes fairly quickly so we had a hot but overcast day to relax in.

We cooked our own breakfast and lounged about reading and playing the Ukulele.
I set up the fishing rod, the first time since the Canaries and spent some time teaching my bait how to swim and avoid all other contact with fish, my issue is firstly my patience and secondly my choice of bait. Later in the day I had another attempt this time using little hermit crabs that I broke out of there shell, the little fish went wild for this bait but it was too small for the big ones I was after, a local fisherman offered to help me in the morning if I was still staying on the island.

We had a few goes at snorkeling but the snorkels we bought earlier in the trip are rubbish, they have a weird valve that doesn’t work so the snorkel slowly fills with water. This makes the snorkeling a challenge as you have to set up a rhythm to clear the snorkel before you are choked. But the snorkel issues to one side, the sea life is great, the sea is really warm and the water isn’t to deep so you spend ages in the water (if you wasn’t having to concentrate on not choking)

Some of the hotels have opened today for the first time in nearly 6 months as it is the start of the season but that said we nearly have the place to ourselves with a small handful of holiday makers and approx 18 islanders

Tonight on the jetty in the pitch black we witnessed a flashing white light display under the water as some form of luminesant marine life discharged its light show for us, unfortunately Ginette lost her reading glasses in the sea, perhaps we can swim in tomorrow to try to find them

Ginette – A very chilled day, a managed to read a book from cover to cover. Several of the locals stopped during our stay on the island to share their stories. Several of the men looked much older than their years, probably due to being out in the sun all day, drinking (they started drinking at 9 in the morning and smoking weed). They found it hard to believe we were in our 50’s. In contrast to that several of the men on the island have referred to me as Mama, I suppose I should be grateful it is not grandmama. 

 

2nd November
The wheels on the bus go round and round.

Another very hot night in the tent, there was a fairly strong wind all night but also rain so we couldn’t just leave the tent door open.

Breakfast of porridge and coffee on the Omni stove. On the table next to us a local was hammering open conch shells to get at the meat inside and then cutting out the bad bits so he a large plate of what looked like large white whelks.

I had a little dip in the choppy sea in the hope of finding a Ginette’s reading glasses that she dropped off the pontoon last night while we were watching the luminescent lights in the water, no glasses found.

We packed the tent and kit away, the weather wasn’t brilliant so we planned to get the 9am ferry back to the mainland. The ferry driver knew we were leaving this morning and was hanging around the island waiting for us and another two locals who were also going back.

We said our goodbyes to the locals and took the bumpy small ferry ride back to Dangriga.
We arrived at the bus stop just as a bus was about to go, but the bus was too full to the our bikes so we were asked to wait for the next bus. There is not a lot to see in Dangriga other than local shops and eating holes so we opted to wait in the bus station, we didn’t have to wait long.

We managed to get the bikes in through the buses back door with the front wheels removed and we were charged double as the bikes were taking up a seat but it was still
Cheap at £14.

Once in Belmopan it was only 12.30 so we headed off to cycle the 22 miles to San Ignacio.

On the ride we had to stop for a rain storm for 30 minutes in a school playground, it’s Saturday so no one was in the school. A man stopped to offer us a free camping site at his home but having spent the last two nights camping we had already got our hearts set on a room for the night.

As we neared the town a large group of Brahman bulls ran alongside us fortunately they were enclosed in their field as they are huge.  They’re the result of cross-breeding four types of cattle brought over from India. They’re able to withstand extreme heat and drought.

Ginettes bad luck day today, losing her glasses, then she left her top box open during the downpour and her waterproof top box did a good job of collecting water. Then shortly after this her front brake cable snapped. I am not letting her touch me tonight in case it falls off.

The good news is that we found a new cable at the first shop we stopped at, it was a hardware store with everything in it, also another can of camping gas.

Ginette – it truly has been a day of disasters for me, I ended the day by opening a can of beer on the bed and it exploding all over the covers, the floor and wall.

Belize has been amazing, the locals are so proud of who they are and their heritage, where ever we have cycled they’ve been keen to welcome us and ask if we’re enjoying their country. In nearly every town someone has stopped to talk to us, either to ask about our journey or to provide us with some information about the local area. I will always remember Belize as a warm welcoming country.  Tomorrow we cycle over the border to Guatamala.