And back to Mexico

Sunday 15th December

Motorbike ride to nature encounters.

After yesterday’s little cycle ride we wanted to see more of the island but decided the best way to achieve this was by hiring a motorbike to ride.

The island has a road that goes all the around it in a figure of eight around both volcanoes but only the east side of the main volcano is sealed. We headed around on the sealed road to a town called Altagracia, we thought this town may be bigger but it wasn’t. We only had a short wander around the main plaza and I managed a second breakfast of chicken and chips.

Ginette – Gary really has got hollow legs, we rarely go more than 2 hours before he declares he is hungry.

We headed to a waterfall walk another couple had told us about, this was on the east side of the second volcano and we had about 10 miles of bumpy dirt road to contend with.

The waterfall walk to Salto San Ramon was a bit of a climb which translates to a 3 hour round trip some of which was over a rocky stream bed but also through a rainforest. The waterfall was very high and up a steep cliff so it made for an awesome sight. To reward our effort there was a small shallow pool to cool down in.

The nature on the walk was the best bit. We had 4 or 5 encounters with Monkeys of different breed and we could hear a howler monkey in the forest. The bird we have been trying to take photos of around the island put a photo shoot on for us and we know now it’s called White crested Magpie Jay. We also watched an army of ants on the move, there was so many you could hear them.

We had our packed lunch at the lakeside on a jetty watching a young teenage boy heard his few cattle down for a drink on his horse.

To break the journey up going back we had a break on a hilltop cafe with views over the lake and the second volcano. And finally we stopped at Punta Jesus Maria again, the black sandy outcrop to watch the sunset.

Monday 16th December

A trip to the seaside.

We grabbed the ferry back to the mainland and while in the port town stopped at a hotel offering parking to check whether they would keep our cycles for three weeks while we travel back to Mexico which they can.

We had a 10 mile ride down the Pam American highway then another 10 miles across to the coastal town of San Juan De Sol. I was hungry and we found a shop on route and devoured a pack of biscuits.

Ginette wasn’t feeling well so took to bed for a rest, I had a spot of sunbathing and sea dips in this dead calm horseshoe bay. I was busy reading and only just noticed the tide lapping at my feet in time, by now the local bar had some beers with my name on them.

Ginette – I had another kidney/urinary infection, not pleasant but nothing serious. Once the drugs had kicked in I was able to join Gary for a beer to watch the sunset.

Tuesday 17th December

Exercise by the sea.

Ginette was not well last night, she has a kidney infection so after breakfast went back to bed.

I found a fish market and having purchased some prawns left them marinating in chilli and garlic.

I went for a walk up a hill to the left of the beach, not vert pretty at first as I had to walk past some very poor homes with barking dogs on leads lots of rubbish and smelly waste water running down the mud track. The track was trodden but you could tell it was not a popular walk. There were some view good viewing points of the bays at the top but the paths were overgrown and I had to walk along with my anti spider web branch in front of me and was on constant snake look out.

I met Ginette on the beach were she was recuperating.
After lunch restless me had another trip, this time I ran to the right side of the beach up to a large Christ statue, the hill climb was pretty steep and my run was not much faster than a walk but I made it to the top. There was a charge to go in to the viewing platform at the Christ statue and I nearly didn’t bother but after the effort getting up the hill I paid the fee. There were some good views across the bay and some information about the statue but all in Spanish.

I finished the run with a work out and stretching session on the beach, normally I wouldn’t do this in such a public place but there was hardly anyone around and one of the ladies nearby was already into her own routine. It’s great to be able to run into a warm sea to wash the sweat off.

Ginette – It can be hard work having a puppy for a husband, I felt exhausted and washed out and he was boucing all over the place. At least he was a good boy and took himself off for some exercise. I managed to finish my book in piece.

Wednesday 19th December

Up at 5.30 to ensure we caught the bus, as it happens we were hustled onto a bus as soon as we approached the bus stop getting on in a rush only for the bus to stop in another street and wait till 7am to set off. This bus took us straight to Managua so all good.

We took a taxi the 4 miles across the city to our next bus station (we had a big bag which wasn’t easy to carry).

We arrived at the bus stop 30 minutes before it was due to leave but unfortunately the bus was full. We enquired whether they had spaces for the following day and was informed there were no free spaces until the 24th Dec.  We were directed to another bus service but on arrival we found that we full too,  luckily we had an English teacher from Salvador also searching for a bus and he took us to another bus station in his pickup.  Fortunately this bus had seats but would not be leaving until 2am YUK

We finally found a hotel to book into after haggling them down from 33 to 25 dollars.

Ginette – this is one of the jobs I find really difficult, especially as I know Gary feels uncomfortable with the process. On this occasion he was patient even though he was starting to feel Hangry. On this occasion I knew there was a hotel within a few miles at 20 dollars so there was no way I was paying $33.

Walking around the city was far better than our last visit. We wandered down a Main Street with about a mile of scattered nativity scenes of quite elaborate designs, took a stroll around plaza de revolution where there are Christmas decorations and 2020 new year signs. We found a park with a whole range of family entertainment such a merry go rounds, boating lakes, roller skating, baseball pitches, basketball areas and an assortment of play areas. A fantastic open space for the families to come and play.

We stayed around the park and Royal palace Plaza people watching, it was clear that a show was being prepared for in an open auditorium. The show included lots of different dance groups of various ages, we sat for an hour watching the dancing.

Once it got dark we walked back up the main road past all the nativity displays which got us into the Christmas spirit with all the lights and carol songs, it was almost as if each display was competing for the most attention.

We found a restaurant on this strip which had a live band and the guests were already up and dancing (it was only 6pm, but felt much later), after a beer and a rum (Rum was 50p beer was 87p) we joined in on the dance floor. Watching the locals dance was entertaining as all ages were up to very modern fast beat music (the type that usually gets rid of us old farts and only the youngsters stay on the dance floor) the men and women really know how to do the bum wiggle, some of the bigger ladies bum movements were quite hypnotising.

Ginette – It was a really enjoyable day, a big apology to El Salvador it has far more to offer than we previously thought. 

Thursday 19th December

LONG travel day.

Up at 00.40 am and a walk to the bus station for the 01.30 check in for the 2am bus to San Salvador.

We reached the first border between Nicaragua and Honduras and had a queue to contend with. Along with our 52 seater there was also another coach, when we reached the desk we were lucky to have Hector (El Salvadorian teacher we had met at the bus station) around to help smooth over the language issues, once through the exit process at Nicaragua we then had to board the coach to travel the 100 yards to the Honduras border to repeat the queuing.

It turns out the Friday before Christmas weekend is a bad day to travel as every man and his dog was going home for Christmas so the checkpoints and roads were very busy.

Another hour or so later in Honduras the bus broke down, we sat by the side of the road for a couple of hours for a mechanic to bring along a new fan belt.

Later in the journey we pulled into a police checkpoint and had to empty all the hold luggage so they could check our baggage, this didn’t take too long and the search was a bit half hearted.

Reaching the Honduras El Salvador border we had an epic Alton towers type queue snaking inside the immigration office and was there well over an hour.

Back on the coach to El Salvador this time the Salvadorian police boarded the bus and collected our passports so the delay was not so long.

Later we were pulled over by the police again and the coach was searched by sniffer drug dogs.

Ginette – We finally arrived in San Salvador at 9pm, 6 hours later than scheduled, exhausted but chilled. We tried the first hostel, the only bed available was a double in the dorm room. I wasn’t keen on this, I imagined a double bed in the middle of the dorm with no privacy. So I dragged Gary across the road to look at another hotel this was priced at $60 a room 3 times the price of the double bed in the dorm so we returned to the hostel tail between our legs and booked the dorm room.  It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I feared, the bed had a curtain so we had a little privacy and the hostel sold much needed beer.

Saturday 21st December

A flight to Mexico City.

We slept well in the hostel, it was a small dorm room but the built in bunk beds had curtains across them so we had a little privacy. There was a man snoring a little louder than Ginette, when I mentioned this to her in the morning she said if she’d have known she would have tried harder, not that she’s competitive!

We did a dummy run of the bus journey we would need to take to reach the bus station for getting to the airport, it was near the historic centre so was not out of the way. The local bus cost peanuts but was really packed.

The bus dropped us off at the Center into the throng of a very busy market which looked as if it had expanded into side streets and what should be plazas, it was extremely busy with Christmas shoppers. We realised that this journey would not be possible with our bags and that we would need to get a taxi.

The market experience was unexpected but a good experience, some of the stall owners actually grabbed our wrists while talking and trying to get us to look at their goods. Ginette wasn’t keen on this but it was harmless and when they realised you couldn’t understand them they had a good joke with their friends with giggles.

We broke out of the mayhem in front of the Palace and cathedral, a pretty area with Christmas decorations all around.

Back at the hostel to collect our bags we decided to see how much a taxi would charge to get us to the bus, fortunately it was only $8, not cheap but it would save us the hassle of navigating the market.

The bus was packed and we had to stand for the 45 minute journey, we were the only Europeans and the only two to actually get off at the airport.

Ginette – the children on the bus were mesmerised by the two of us, we are much taller than the average Central American and of course with my blond hair and Gary’s beard we make an unusual sight.

Our flight left at 9.30 pm, we had a couple of hours to kill in the airport and only just managed to get something to eat as all the shops and cafes were closing.

We booked into a hostel Zocola, we arrived at 1am by taxi as public transport stopped at midnight, first impressions were not great. There was no sign at the front of the building,  our room has three steel framed singled beds and looks like something from a prison TV program. Fortunately it’s so late that Ginette has just settled into bed before the guards come around and put her in the jankers

Ginette – If I hadn’t been so tired I would have kicked off, I had booked an executive double, but apparently there were none available.  It had been a long day so I put a positive head on and found some positive points : 

3 beds meant we had one each and one for playing in

breakfast was included

we had a roof terrace and the hostel looked clean and was in a central area of the city

Sunday 22nd December

Mexico City and the missing link.

We used the metro, which is a great cheap way to get (at only 25p a ticket to anywhere) to the museum of Anthropology which is set in a large park. The walk through the park saw last lots of street vendors and cafes. It was a chilly affair as the temperature was around 14 degrees and we are not used to being under 30 degrees.
The Anthropology museum is huge, it is well laid out and you can move from each exhibit in a near chronological order of history. However we were both tired from the trip from Nicaragua and lack of good sleep so we got bored of trying to concentrate after 2 hours, you could easily spendall day in the museum if you had a mind to.

Discussion point.
Something that Is becoming glaringly obvious as we visit all these ancient sites and museum is the lack of real evidence of how the human race evolved. We have the theory of evolution and the experts are still arguing about whether we are evolved from Gorrilas, Chimpanzees or Orangutans (I have researched this and there is still no agreement) I have noticed that the older (1000bc ish) clay ornaments have humans depicted with large eyes and strange body shapes and feel the scientists are ignoring the obvious answer is that an Alien life came to our planet to breed here. Hence the reason no missing link or LCA last common ancestor has been found. I am not saying evolution and survival of the strongest is not a true theory but surely looking at the ceramic evidence and sudden leap in technology with pyramid construction how can the alien concept not be considered.
Also it would go a long way to explain Ginettes uncanny ability to know who it is that’s calling before answering. Experiencing pain when Hayley is in pain and predicting things that are going to happen.

I am not saying this is what I believe, I just think that if this was the angle the scientists took then it would be really easy to make a museum with a timeline that could be made to give strong evidence to back up its theory (bac to the ancient pottery of alien figures) after all the current belief is still just a theory.

The streets and parks were full families, friends and lovers, we took a busy metro to the centre getting off near the Palace and main plaza. The plaza has a stage set up and the buildings nearby which in their own right are great looking architectural sights have been spruced up with Christmas decorations.

We wandered the central area being bumped and jostling along in the crowds. There was a lot of street entertainment round, we particularly enjoyed a street blues band and watched them play for ages along with a large crowd and two couples dancing. In each couple the man was elderly but sprightly and with great rhythm, I estimate one at 70 the other at 80 years.

We hung around till dark so we could see the main plaza lit up, as we reached the plaza the stage and stands either side was being filled with children all dressed in white. By 7 the music started in the form of a small orchestra and all the children singing and moving in time. It was lovely to watch and listen to this free show along with a huge crowd filling the plaza.

Unfortunately as we are both pretty knackered we had a little spat this evening, we don’t have them often and they are never big but all the tiredness from travelling the last few days takes it toll.

Ginette – You will be glad to know as I write this we have kissed and made up, it is Christmas after all. 

We hope you all have a lovely Christmas, the next blog will not be posted until the 12th January as we are taking a break from our adventures and spending time with Hayley in Cabot San Lucas.

 

 

Nicaragua

7th Dec

Cycle breakdown and a festival town.

Woken this morning before dawn by fire works and truck loads of singers passing the hostel, this is part of the celebrations we experienced last night.

Christmas Season in Nicaragua is a celebration that everyone in the country looks forward to, and it begins early in the month of December. On December 7th, Nicaraguans celebrate “La gritería” to honor “La Purisima”, the purest and Immaculate Conception of Mary. This is a boisterous tradition paying homage to The Virgin Mary. For this event, thousands of people in the country, especially children, go from house to house singing Christmas hymns and carols of The Virgin Mary. The houses where the carolers perform rewards such singing and praises by offering treats like rosquillas (doughnuts), leche de burra (a candy called donkey’s milk), oranges, and other sweets

My bikes front wheel has some nasty creaking and crunching coming from the bearings and the wheel has tight spots, I found a cycle mechanic but he couldn’t fix it as it’s too far gone and now it is even worse.

We had to take a chicken bus to Chinandega, we found a line of cycle shops in the market but no new wheels in my size. We jumped on another bus to Leon, the logic being that it was a more touristy town and we hoped we would have more luck, plus we had some sights to see while the bike was being fixed.

On the second bus ride one of the other passengers noticed we had been overcharged and must have complained on our behalf as the conductor came back with some more money for us, the fare was still approx £5 for us both and our bikes.

Ginette – when we were offered the bus price by the tout, I had started to negotiate, I knew the price was too high but Gary just wanted to get to Leon, so I let it go, without making a fuss.

Arriving in Leon, we found it was pretty busy, it wasn’t until we found no rooms in any of the hostels that we discovered the town was enjoying the special festival day in a big fashion. After having no joy in a few hostels we restored to searching on line using one o fit hotels ultra slow wifi connections. the only place we could find was a hotel on the outskirts 4 miles away. While we were searching a German backpacker told us he was also looking for a room and having no luck.

We didn’t want to cycle out of the town and miss the fun and fortunately as we were searching the internet outside another hostel a couple agreed to stay at a beach hostel they were volunteering in so that we could have a bed for the night. The situation was not ideal, we were in separate bunk rooms with a very young clientele.

We had a quick wash and ventured out to enjoy the fireworks and festivities, a lot was going on so to summarise:

The cathedral was lit up and had cheery music playing, the priest in his refinery was having selfies with the public.

A group of tall puppets with people inside were dancing to a massive crowd.

There were well decorated and lit religious displays around the plaza, inside shops and houses

Large 30ft tall dolls decorated the plaza (puppets held on sticks)

there was a queue of people young and old all around a large church waiting to stroll past a line of tents with religious displays with people giving away sweets.

There were several shops and houses with Virgin Mary displays that were also handing out free sweets to queues of people

All in all a very festive and friendly feel to the evening

Ginette – it was a great evening, with the added bonus of finding a local restaurant and having a buffet lunch for the equivalent of £1.50 each. I noticed there were a couple of these restaurants around the city, the portions are not great but at such a low price it was not a problem.

On 8 Dec 2019,

Another bus ride.

We was up at 6.30 having breakfast of poached eggs while the other hostel youngsters were sleeping off the 4.30am return to the rooms which they did very quietly but still woke us.

Ginette – I had thought I would have had a troubled evenings sleep, I am not keen on sharing a dorm but I surprisingly slept very well. Sleeping in the top bunk brought back memories of being a child and sharing a bunk bed with my sister.

We did venture back into the centre of Leon, it’s a pretty city with 70 churches, and the streets were already cleaned from the previous nights festivities.We had a guided tour of a revolution museum with two German ladies. One of the guides was a soldier from the revolution the other an English speaking lady, but one of the German ladies had excellent Spanish and English and did more translation than the guide.

It was hard to follow the Information about the revolution so a bit of self researching was required to fill the gaps. The most striking feature of the tour (although I suspect the soldier was more interesting but I could not converse with him properly) was walking on the roof of the building on a corrugated steel structure flexing under the feet with rusty holes in it, the guide warned us to avoid the holes so that made it all OK (Health and safety at your own risk).

Ginette – it would have been helpful to have a time line, the murals were interesting and informative but clearly displayed from the revolutionists perspective.

We moved onto the city of Managua by bus, it’s a bigger city with better scope for cycle shops (Trek and Specialised have stores here). We arrived on Sunday so most of the shops).

As we arrived at the bus station we had the usual touts coming to us to see were we wanted to go, if you are ever in this area of America you don’t need to worry about finding your bus as the touts find you plus the destination is written on the buses. The first tout wanted to charge us 300 and wait an hour on an empty bus. We walked away and found another full bus ready to leave that snapped us up loaded the bikes inside and was off within 10 minutes all for 200 (£5 for both us and the bikes).

Ginette – this sounds so simple, but the reality is, we often feel hassled, and had to negotiate with the touts. This particular tout was quite stroppy and as we walked off he threw his hands in the air ’not my problem’.

The bus we eventually took was a rust bucket, we could see the floor under our feet. It was rammed full, many people standing for long periods. It took about 1 hour and a 1/2 to cover 50 miles, stopping often to pick up passengers, one passenger was even carrying a life chicken. Riding on the local buses is not for the feint hearted but we find them interesting if not a little uncomfortable. At one point an older lady sat her big bottom on Gary’s knee, you should have seen his face.

9th Dec

Curse of the bank holiday

Just our luck, the city is celebrating a bank holiday so nearly all the shops are closed, we have managed to get groceries but the cycle store we came to the city for was closed.

Ginette – although most of the shops were closed we did pass a market with about 10-20 vendors all selling fireworks.  Celebrating Christmas in Nicaragua is a big thing and includes fireworks most nights, parades and lots of nativity scenes and sparkly lights.

We had a 6 mile wander around the part of the city, and we have nothing really to report, we did spot a family playing baseball in the middle of a side street.

At least the accommodation is OK so we can sit around and read and WiFi.

10th Dec

A bus ride to Grenada.

I finally managed to find a bike shop that was open and willing to help on the third attempt.

The city of Managua did not hold much appeal to us so we decided to move on to Granada, my bike however remained at the bike shop.

First impressions of Granada are better than we had for Managua, it has some nice plazas with grand churches and is by a large lake. By the time we settled into our hostel we only had a few hours of daylight left so took a quick stroll around the main plaza and a nearby market. Granada has some rough edges and at night there are a few drunks around so is not a perfect tourist spot but there are several tours we can do from here so we have some decisions to make on whether we want to spend any more cash on trips.

Volcanoes trip by tour bus right to a molten crater viewing point

  • Volcano hike through a forest with possible animal encounters.
  • Boat ride to the nearby lakes scattered island feature to see wildlife and locals.
  • Hire a canoe and do the same trip under our own power

The problem is these are all expensive, $20 plus each, are they worth spending money on when we get to see some of these things on our bikes for free

11th – 14th Dec

Living on an Island, oh boy we’re having fun, but not getting high.

Grenada is a pretty city and not too busy. We had a day wandering around by the lake, the market and up a church bell tower to take in the views.
In the afternoon I decided to jump back on the bus to Managua as I had received a whatsup message saying the bike was ready.

Arriving at the bike shop I found they had a front wheel, it was second hand but at least it was fitted with a tyre and inner tube, but they hadn’t been able to fix the rear derailer as the parts hadn’t arrived. I took the bike back to Granada by bus as I hoped  I could get it fixed in Granada!

Next day I had no joy with the Grenada cycle shops and was wondering what to do. We met a Canadian couple of cycle tourers at our hostel in Granada, it’s good to share stories. Even better as he took a look at my bike with me and suggested I try a new chain as I haven’t been able to have the rear derailer cog changed. Turn out this has done the trick.

We had been off the bikes for a while and hardly cycled any of Nicaragua so was itching to get going again, in a way it’s a shame as another day with the Canadian couple wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

We cycled up over a small climb and headed towards the town of Rivas. An uneventful ride other than Ginette having issues with her knee. On arrival a young man called us over as he was also a cycle tourist from Argentina, he took us to the place he was staying and I suspect we could have also stayed there but the language barrier and body language of the owner left us in doubt. We booked into a hostel, pretty tight packed little home stay but cosy enough.

The town was celebrating another religious ceremony and had a festival feel to it, the kids were dressed in fancy costumes and the plaza was well lit with Christmas lights.

Next day we cycled to the ferry in San Jorge to go over to the Isle of Ometepe. It was a strange protracted process getting the tickets, one till for the tourist tax, one till for the ferry ticket then another for the cycles tax. Topping that off we also had another fee for the bikes once on the ferry. After all these fees it still only came to approx £6 in total, but one desk and one fee would have been far easier.

Ginette – it was fascinating watching the locals load the ferry, we were all crammed in like sardines. As we waited our turn (last on, even though first to arrive, this was to protect the bikes) we were surrounding by a swarm of wasps, fortunately not they were in a good mood.

We are now in a hostel called Casa Mauro, on the Isle of Ometepe. It’s a nice place with a big kitchen and friendly owners. The island is made of two large volcanoes so the main activity here is walking up one of them. We are not sure if we will do this now, Ginette has not climbed one on this trip but reading the reviews now we are here it sounds like a hard trek with a high chance of cloud on the top. Since we have been here the volcanoes have been shrouded in cloud at the peaks so paying the $20 dollars for a guide each to the top doesn’t seem worth it.

Ginette – The walk would take 10 hours, I love walking but I think my knee would definitely object to a harduous climb and descent. Hopefully we will get to climb one of the volcanoes in Costa Rica or Panama.

We have taken a short cycle around our side of the volcano to try to find a beach by the lake to bathe on, we did reach a few. One was really just a place for cattle to reach the water. The other was used by the locals for laundry, the third was another 6 miles so we decided to head back to the hostel, hammocks and beer.

Ginette – We are passing time until we head to Mexico, we don’t want to cycle into Costa Rica until after Christmas as the cheapest flight we can find is from El Salvador. This is not a problem although it does mean each day, I have to find something to entertain the puppy (Gary). 

bees, there are a lot of them on the island

Just after I took this photo, the cow knocked over the bollard and the cows scattered in all directions. I had to wait until they’d calmed down before I could catch Gary up.

Pink chickens

one of these is a real moth and one is for decoration

 

 

El Salvador to Honduras

Nice and short blog this week – with photo’s

30th Dec 

A hard, hard afternoon, knackered.

We had an easy day planned of a 45 mile ride to a beach area with just a 1000ft climb in the middle, we planned a short stay in this beach area for a break.

The morning was along a main road that turned onto a side road to a beach area called playa Del Espino. The road was sealed and had light traffic so was ok to cycle, the 1000ft climb wasn’t too bad but we were a bit weary from yesterday’s long ride. At the top we met a rare group of other fun cyclists (we see lots of locals on bikes but these few are the first MAMEL Lycra clad ones), one had good English and when we told him we were heading for Playa Coco his and his friends reaction was a bit of a shock, he then reassured us that the road was bad but we would be OK on our bikes as we had wide tyres. I wish he had been more pessimistic and warned us off.

Ginette –  it felt pretty good cycling up this stretch of road on our fully laden bikes to see ‘fun cyclists’ struggling to climb the hill. 

We cycled down the other side of the climb which was pretty steep but didn’t get to the beach area as our turning was up from the beach area. We could see that the road we needed to take was now a gravel one. We could have gone further down to the beach area but we knew we still had to either take this road or go back up the steep climb the next day so we opted to continue, how hard could it be!

The answer turned out to be very hard, we had 16 miles of off-road conditions which at times deteriorated to a single track with huge round stones making cycling impossible. We did manage to cycle about 60% of the route but this was a lot of getting on and off the bikes. Some of the ups were steep and pushing the bikes up over the rocky ground was a real effort, we both dropped our bikes a few times losing control of them. Ginette has now lost her teddy that has traveled with us all the time.

It was dark as we arrived at Playa Coco and the first accommodation we had marked from ioverlander (an app that identifies accommodation for campers) was near the small town and the room was a bit poor, The road improved and had tarmac so even though we were tired and tetchy we cycled on past other hotels (we asked at one and the price was to high we didn’t bother with the others) which meant another 3 miles to another ioverlander recommendation.

We finally stopped at Adelas restaurant and hotel, we opted to pay $25 for a room and ate in the restaurant. It was pitch black and late and we were both knackered. 

Ginette – this was a really hard day, it is days like this that really test your relationship. It was hot, we were tired and having to work together to get the bikes from A to B.  Fortunately we survived, but I do recall at one point telling Gary to ‘go away’ he was annoying me (he had chosen this route even if he didn’t know it was going to be bad and he was grumpy) and in fairness I was annoying him (I dropped my bike several times and I struggled to push it up the steep hills and I was grumpy). It can be incredibly challenging spending 24/7 with anyone, even if it is with the one you love. 

2nd December 

Sun sea and sand.

A nice lazy day sunbathing swimming in a safer rolling wave Pacific Ocean and a walk to town.

We are still in Adelas but have moved out of the room and have set up the tent right by the beach, we have the place to ourselves and the rest is very welcome.

Ginette – we decided we had too many white bits so we spent the day trying to fill in our patchwork quilts of bodies. Would you believe it we had to do this on an empty sandy beach, with bright sunshine and a very warm sea to play in – do I hear the violins : ) 

3rd December 

Unlike Sampson Gary is still strong 

The tent has been put up with the vestibule off the ground to let more air in, it helps but it’s still hot in the tent at night but ‘almost’ bearable.

Another day on the beach, a bit of bike maintenance, a short ride to a nearby town as a recce for when we leave, resulting in a good but steep road that cuts 10 miles off when we do leave.

I have had a haircut and the bearded has been lightly trimmed, it feels so much better to have short hair again. The barber had a job on his hands as he tried to use a comb in my hair which would be the first in 7 months. 

Ginette – it feels like I have a new man, very sexy but I’ll be glad when the beard goes.

I really enjoyed waking up to the sound of the sea, doing yoga on the beach and having time to read. 

We have both been looking at the UK political party manifestos and trying to work out who we should vote for. We have applied for a proxy vote but after several days of reading and discussing the options but we are still no wiser.  What a mess…

4th December 

Honduras.

After 3 nights at Adelas on Coco beach front we packed up and set of for the Honduras border which was 45 miles away.

We had a couple of hill climbs at the beginning of the day then the rest of the day was spent going up and down much shorter climbs. 

Ginette had a slight twinge in her knee and had a constant thirst on today, I thought she would want to stop at the border but we pushed on past for another 20 miles into Honduras, so a long ride today.

  Ginette – both of these comments are an under statement, my knee, thumb and other parts of my body ached, my knee was quite sore for the first 10 miles. I think this was due to the fact I was dehydrated, I had a constant thirst on for most of the day. At one pitstop I managed to guzzle a 1.5 litre of water and a fizzy drink.  

The border crossing was relatively pain free, we changed €60 US for 1380 limpiras, these high number currencies are really hard to get your head around. For example I bought a beer later and thought I was being overcharged as they wanted 20 limpiras, when this is actually less than a pound.

 Ginette – as the banker in our relationship, I really struggle for the first couple of days, in Honduras we only had two days so I didn’t think it would be an issue but by the end of day we had virtually spent $60. I had hoped this would last two days, but it only provided for lunch, visa payments, hotel and evening meal (which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t in Central America).  

We had lunch just past the border control of rice and prawns and lots of drinks to sate the ever thirsty Net machine – all for £6

The 20 mile ride in Honduras was on the main Pan American highway but with good lanes for us to cycle in off the main road. Lots of calls of Gringo again and the people are quicker to shout hellos to us. For a country with such a bad reputation so far we have felt very welcome. 

Ginette was not impressed with the love hotel we had made our way too, it was not as good a quality as the others we have been in. She is getting fussy and didn’t like the cockroaches and army of ants in some of the rooms. We cycled another 1.5 miles and arrived at Hotel Sunset exactly as the sun was actually setting.

  Ginette – We were tired, hot and sweaty and it was dark.  Gary would have stayed in this ‘hotel’ but no matter how many rooms they showed me I really couldn’t. The rooms were motel style, the first was covered in giant ants, all over the floor and in the bathroom wall was covered. As we opened the door for the second room, a big black insect, probably a cockroach scurried under the bed. In addition to the wildlife the toilet only had a plastic curtain around it and the door for the rooms was metal and had a bit gap under the door. I think you had to be there to see it. The next hotel we visited was cheaper and far better but still had a curtain to cover the toilet (this apparently is the norm.)

Dinner was a pizza cafe found after a short walk into town, it was a messy affair and probably the worse pizza we’ve had for a while but it filled a hole.

We past the young lady waiting outside our hotel for a lift! In a really short skirt outside our hotel. She was still there when we got back so business must be a bit slow tonight, seriously though it’s a shame to see these young girls having to make a living this way.

6th December

Goodbye Honduras hello Nicaragua.

We left Nacaome fairly early, we had decisions to make on route as to our final destination as the mileages to known accommodation did not work out well, so we would have had a short day or a long day.

We reached San Lorenzo and as it’s roads were busy we opted not to attempt to go to its centre and continued past on the main road. We did stop for drinks and fruit, the locals were friendly and curious about us and we felt pretty safe.

We have been raced along the road by a couple kids giving a backie all the time the one doing the pedalling having to work frantically whilst his passenger kept looking back at us smiling and geeing on his mate.

We have seen lots of horseback cowboys herding cattle in the fields and along the road, I am no rider but they have a different posture and riding style, just like the cowboy films.

Ginette – several of these ‘cowboys’ are very young children, we have been fascinated by the way they heard the cattle (horses and cows) along the grass bank right next to the main unfenced road.  Poverty levels are high, therefore many children do not attend school and help in family businesses. 

It appears to me that the collection of wood for fires is a chore given to the elderly as you will see them struggling along with their wood loaded on there backs or in wheel barrows.

We are still getting shouts of Gringo but also American sayings thrown at us “how you doing “ “what’s up man” but all in good jest and lots of waving. There are still a few that like to ignore us as we wave and say hello but mostly the locals are nice.

Ginette – Although we have a very wide hard shoulder to cycle on several vehicles have overtaken on the opposite side of the road and have had to use our hard shoulder to pass. It is quite disconcerting cycling along with a vehicle speeding towards you. With the exception of one vehicle they all were in total control and there was no risk to us but this would definitely be classed as reckless driving in the UK.

I have struggled today, by 11.30 at Choluteca I wanted to stop, we planned to do just that and used a cool air conditioned Wendy’s to have lunch and look at hotels. After a long break in this cold environment with food and three large fizzy drinks in me I felt a lot better, it was still early in the day so we decided to continue to the border which was 32 miles away.

The afternoon was better for my body but I was still not firing on all cylinders, the heat played it’s part as it reached 38 degrees so pretty sapping.

Ginette – the previous day I’d struggled to keep up with Gary, but today I felt like I was pushing him most of the way. It is amazing how the body works. 

Approaching the border we past a queue of lorries 1.5 miles long. It was late but still light, the exit out of Honduras was straight forward but entry to Guatemala was not. We had to jump through a few hoops and wait around to be processed which took at least an hour, which meant when we left it was pitch black.

Ginette – I had not been looking forward to Honduras we had heard so many negative things about the country (drug gangs, one of the highest homicide rates in the world etc, it had been under a military coup only 10 years ago). But in our limited experience it did not feel that different to any other Central American country. The people were more friendly than they had been in El Salvador, we were instantly met with people happy to see us. Vehicles on the road gave us plenty of space (most of the time) and the road conditions were fairly good with a wide shoulder for us to cycle on. There’s still alot of rubbish by the roadside (my pet hate) and there was also a lot of dead animal smells.  At one point we cycled past vultures eating a decomposing cow. The main food source seems to be corn and chicken, the weather conditions allow two crops of corn a year so it is a staple food for Central Americans. Personally I don’t like the smell and corn bread is served with everything. People are dressed in western clothes however women wear pinnies over their western clothes and in some areas wear a white scarf over their heads. There’s still lots of stray, very timid dogs, many of them look very ill (Julie you would hate it) we’ve bought dog biscuits to give out whenever we stop because Gary thinks they need fattening up.   

During our very short stay we felt safe and welcome and would not hesitate visiting again. However I am not sure how I would feel as a solo female, I cycled ahead of Gary for 5-10 miles and during this time I was wolf whistled and blown kisses and received lechy looks from drivers. This has happened in other countries but was much more noticeable in Honduras. We also avoided cycling in the north of the country where apparently the crime levels are much higher.

We are now in Nicaragua and our chosen hostel Santa Cruz was only 4 miles from the border so we didn’t have to cycle far in the dark.

The border town was in full celebration, several streets had small parties going on and they all looked to be religious in nature. The plaza had a large Christmas tree and all in all the place had a lovely feel to it, surprisingly so for a small border town.

El Salvador

27th Nov

Ginette playing dropsies. El Salvador.

We had breakfast in one of the towns small roadside cafes, (scrambled eggs, mashed black beans a little goats cheese and some French bread) the lady was really smiley and attentive and made us feel very welcome and all for £3 each.

Ginette – the lady had a lovely smile and reminded me of my Aunty Jenny, as kids we spent a lot of time with this amazing woman and her family.

The ride to the border was mainly down hill but we still had a few climbs to do, the road conditions varied greatly and we had to be careful on the downhills due to pot holes. This area is lush green and we had had some great views today.

Stopping for a picture Net lost control of her stationery bike and did a slow motion crash, no harm done other than breaking her headphones cable and a few bruises.

At one of our drink breaks a young man came over to us as we were about to go and gifted to us a cold sports drink, these guys don’t have much themselves so it’s lovely when something like this happens to us.

For dinner we aborted our attempts to order food in one cafe, the lady was a real “computer says no” type of person so we walked out. In contrast we ate a Chinese meal from another street cafe and witness the lady cross the road to a shop to buy the drinks we ordered.

Ginette had some Guatemalan spare cash so treated us both to new tops, however these only cost £1 each so didn’t use much of her money.

Ginette’s bike must be tired because whilst we were shopping it did another kamikaze dive, a local lad came over to point out Nets bike playing dead across the road. 

The border crossing was so easy we were worried we had missed a station, we were stamped out of Guatemala but there was no office on the El Salvador side, we had to check with a policeman that we didn’t need a stamp entering his country.

We had 8 miles to cycle to a known love motel and this was all up hill, climbing approx 1200ft.

The Love motel was actually quite nice, the shower room was fully tiled, spacious and clean. The best we have had for a while and at £11 not a bad price.

Ginette – first impressions of El Salvador, we have heard/read so many negative stories about this country that I jumped out of my skin when a car back fired, I seriously thought we’d been shot at.  The people are less smiley than Guatemala, I suppose they have a lot to be wary about, as the country has a very high homicide rate (mainly drug related).

28th Nov 

Day one El Salvador and a very hilly start

We had a meal of Pupusas last night. Pupusa is a traditional dish in El Salvador of corn bread flatbread stuffed with your choice of ingredients, it’s served very hot and you eat it with your hands, hence you need to wait for it to cool down. The corn bread has the same off putting smell as the Mexican and Guatemalan corn bread but the addition of the ingredients inside seem to help as we actually enjoyed them and they only cost us 40p each.

Ginette – the pupusas were OK but as I looked at the chef, her daughter and granddaughter I couldn’t help thinking, about the calories contained in these little snacks. After dinner we wanted something sweet but the only shop available was behind bars, I find it really restrictive asking/pointing for what I want without being able to browse the shops. We take it for granted in the UK walking around shops/pharmacies, but in South/Central America especially after dark it is rare to walk into a shop.  Even if you have this luxury, it is highly likely there will be an armed guard by the till and the door.

In the morning we made our own coffee on the stove as usual, cooking in the room but had breakfast in the nearby town of Ahuachapan as we needed to find WiFi to decide on our route options. First stop in town was to purchase a SIM card as my phone had no signal using the Guatemalan sim. The small shop I used set this up for me but between us we couldn’t communicate so stopped at another Claro store where they set me up with credit and WiFi as well.

Ahuachapan is a fairly large town and had a good feel to it, lots of stores and busy streets so a good place for sorting the phone and breakfast. We decided to cycle the Route De Flores, it is supposed to be very scenic and have a few pretty towns to pass through, we are then headed down to the Pacific coast to have a break from the mountains.

Today we have been climbing again up hill’s ranging from 5% to 8% with very little in the way of flats and downs for breaks, cycling up these hills in 32 degrees is hard work especially as it took us nearly 3 hours to reach the first town where we finally bought some cold drinks as we were parched.

Conception de Taco, the first town, was kind of touristy. It had the usual souvenir shops and even a tractor drawn carriage ferrying tourists around. There were some westerners here but most of the tourists were South American. I am now the proud owner of a new shirt to wear for New Year’s Eve and other occasions, all my other clothes are far to shabby (like me at the moment).

Ginette – the town had lots of colourful murals on the walls and cobbled streets.

We cycled up again to the next town of Apaheca, this was not so far but by the time we reached there I was feeling pretty much done in, Net suggested we stop here so we stopped in small hostel. One double bed and two single beds in our room, it’s a bit squashed but at least we had it to ourselves. It had a kitchen we could use but it was open plan next to the living room in which granny was sitting watching telly. This place was more an air B and B but without the hosts leaving.

A small parade passed through the town of men women and children all on horseback with music fireworks and gunshots. The town had an eating area a bit like a Butlins / superstore cafe area, we again ate the local Pupusa dish, this and two beers for $4.

A dog had taken a liking to me, resting his head on the chair next to me and eventually resting his head on my lap.

Ginette – we stayed in the Butlin like resort longer than planned as it was raining, Gary had a double banana split desert which was easily big enough for two but he managed to wolf it down.  

 

29th Nov

We can see the sea.

We were woken up at 5am by the same group of horseman and drummers, parading at 5pm singing and blasting guns and fireworks 

I used the kitchen to make coffee and cereal and the old lady of the house appeared and kept an eye on me. She was muttering to herself and when she went into the loo was having an animated conversation with herself. I suspect she is not particularly well.

We had an easy ride today, the first 18 miles was all down hills of 4 to 8% we hardly needed to use the pedals. We had some good views across the valleys and of the volcanoes. This road is called the Ruta des Flores, the route of flowers. Lots of roadside blossoms all down the hill.

We stopped at Sonzacate, a large town bustling and noisy. We find the Central American shops are competing for business by seeing who can play the largest speakers from the doorway. 

El Salvador has a bad reputation for the amount of crime and murders committed but we feel safe enough around these people some are outwardly friendly but I have noticed it is harder to achieve any smiles.

The ride after this town was on the main roads as we had left the ruta des Flores, the large main road had heavy vehicles but a hard shoulder for us to ride on. We turned off as we headed for the coast and are cycled on a B road that was pretty flat and we were close to sea level (this morning we were higher than Ben Nevis at over 4400ft).

An impoverished woman with hairy patches on her arms and her 6 year old filthy dirty son with soil encrusted hands (this is not a judgment, just trying to show the condition of this little family) came and tried to talk to us, she mentioned comer(food) well as we were sitting eating our packed lunch we could hardly let them go without so shared food and sweets with them, along with a few dollars.

I will point out that there were others around who didn’t look so poor so there was also a healthy community here.

We camped on the beach at a poor campsite, the owners live on a beach in a straw shack and cooked us dinner of prawns rice and salad (we enquired about buying some fish for us to cook but ended up with them cooking for us) there were a few other local shacks around, a bunkhouse and a posh resort hotel 50 metres down the beach hence we are the poor neighbours.

The sand was black and the sea was warm with big waves to play in. We arrived early afternoon so had had a good refreshing play in the sea.

The beach area was nice, The campsite was cheap and functional but there were few grocery stores or bars so we decided to take a risk and move on to the next cluster of beach surfing towns, hopefully this will not be the wrong decision 

Ginette – this was a lovely quiet area but the facilities were very basic, the toilet had a door but it didn’t lock, there was no shower facilities and at times no running water to wash our dishes or hands after using the toilet.  It was interesting watching the local families living what appeared to be a very simple life of fishing, eating and chilling, but their houses were very shack like and vulnerable being so close to the sea.

30th Nov

Should have listened to our nagging doubts.

A very hot sweaty night, our tent is not good in hot climates, the Hilliburg is a good quality tent but we had not researched how it would cope in hot weather.  Sleeping outside in the fresh air is a nice idea but the only way to enjoy our tent is to keep all the doors open and unfortunately although this makes it bearable, the insects think we have invited them to dinner.

We were in two minds weather to stay another night as the area was quiet, the beach was nice and we could put up with the ropy campsite. However there was a surfing resort 28 miles along the coast with loads of backpacking places so we opted to cycle on so we could settle for a couple of nights in one place.

The ride was hilly with several climbs and descents to contend with, we climbed over 1800 feet but never higher than 100 feet in altitude. We did have some good views of the Pacific Ocean and past a few other beach areas, most were lower down the cliff faces of this rocky coastline.

Arriving at our destination of El Tunco we found a week long surfing contest taking place, loads speakers broadcasting on the beach and a busy resort. The place was at odds to everything we had seen elsewhere, it had loads of cafes and hotels all squeezed in a small area protected by security gates at each entrance. We quickly realised that all the prices were hiked up in this area and knocked on a lot of hostels and hotels to try to get a good price. We did find rooms at 25 dollars, and a really rough camping pitch for 5 dollars but the cafes and shops were also overpriced. We soon regretted leaving the last site.

We moved on another 5 miles to a larger town called El Majahaul, but we had the same problem trying to find a discount hotel as the town was close to the main city and it was Friday so it was due to be busy for the weekend.

We cycled on again to Playa SAN Diego, it was now getting late and we ended up still paying 25 dollars for a room, but we were at the beach and we had a pool even if the hotel was a little tired itself. 

The sea was well fierce and we had a little play in the waves but we didn’t venture too deep as it looked and felt risky.

There was not a lot else in this area to keep us there another day so we made the decision to move on again, this meant an inland trip of another 110 miles till we can reach another beach resort.

Ginette – a very frustrating day, we have a tight budget and know that outside the resorts we can find accommodation for under $15 so resent paying more but towards the end of the day we decided to give in and pay the extra money. On the upside we had a balcony overlooking the pool and sea on the downside we shared the room with spiders, a colony of ants and god only knows what other wildlife. The air-conditioning didn’t work, the springs in the bed were poking through the mattress which was exceptionally saggy and we had limited water for the sink and toilet. Not great but we’ve stayed in worse. 

30th Nov

A day of head down cycling.

We covered approx 65 miles on main roads of varying quaility, we had 110 miles to go to the point of interest so that meant the days riding was about covering ground.

We did stop at the 30 mile point at a large town called Zacatecoluca (not an easy one to pronounce), it was the usaul busy noisy town that we are used to. We completed some food shopping and had lunch and took some photos by a large christmas tree and snow men.  I am not even sure if they ever get real snow here.

I was getting weary with 18 miles to go so had to stop more often for drinks but a shot of coffee sorted me out, Ginette was doing fine but flagged with 3 miles to go and stuffed her face with dry biscuits and warm water.

We spent the night in an Auto motel, or as we prefer to call them a love motel, charges are by the hour as well as all night fees. They are usualy clean tidy and roomy and this one was one of the better ones so we were happy with it especialy as it was only $10 a night

If you are aware of how jumpy Ginette can be then you will find this next bit funny. We were just starting to settle into the room when Ginette thought she heard a knocking, when she heard it again she searched for the source, lifting the lid of a box by the side of the bed she jumped out of skin when a hand poked through with a TV remote control, towels and some soap.  There are now finger nail marks in the ceiling that will tae some explaining.

Ginette – This was hilarious the man kept on talking to me but I was reduced to a fit of the giggles. Can you imagine opening a box next to your bed and a hand poking through?? These Love Hotels are really quirky, they include mirrors and tissue boxes above the bed but they are so clean and roomy. I love them.

More pictures from El Salvador

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.

 

Mexico to Belize

19th October 

Santa Elana a bit of luxury.

We are now cycling in an area of Yucatan which actually has some hills, the riding is now undulating but not too high just slow rolling hills. The morning was cloudy,  hot but bearable but by the time we reached Santa Elana the clouds had gone and the temperature notched up. We had a decision to make, cycle on another 45 miles to make the next destination or stop here. We was outside a posh red called the pickled onion which advertised a pool so we opted to be extravagant and pay the £30 for a room. Partly because we wanted to treat ourselves, partly so we say we could stay in a pickled onion and partly because we also have another 65 miler to do after we reach the next town.

The blog went on this morning, thanks everyone for taking the time to look at the pictures, it seems the Tarantula is a bit hit, our host here says they are harmless though.

Ginette – I wasn’t sure about stopping so early in the day but I was glad we did, it was lovely to have a little bit of luxury

20th October

A nice cycle day but hot, hot, hot.

We enjoyed our luxurious stay at the pickled onion, a pool to cool down in, hammocks to rest in and a great breakfast this morning. The owner, Valeria is a Lancashire lass and came over a couple of time’s for a chat.

We stopped at a Myan site after only 8 miles, Kabah. This was a great site to wander around and it was cheap to enter, we nearly had the place to ourselves and we could climb over most of it. We had birds like swallows flying around and nesting in one of the ruins and as we wandered around we admired the large lizards sunning themselves.

The rest of the ride was through mainly jungle surroundings but there was cleared farmland with corn crops. As we came closer to Hopelchen these fields of crops became much larger, this was good for us as the terrain was still undulating and with the cleared crop areas we could see more of our surroundings. We have been bombarded by colourful and large butterflies most of the day. We spotted a mammal which looked like a cross between a squirrel and a fox.

My front wheels dynamo is broken so I have not been using the Garmin but today I wanted to do a temperature check so used it a couple of times results as follows.

32 degrees in the shade
41 degrees whilst cycling in the sun

We stayed in a town called Hopelchen, it has a large plaza area and is partially made up of a community of Mennonite, we think these are like Amish people, we passed some ranches earlier that looked different to any we had seen in Mexico having buildings and a layout that resembled our impressions of Amish settlers.

Ginette – we stopped for lunch in a small town, it was the least friendly town we’ve visited, people seemed a little wary of us, rather than smiley and welcoming.

I loved the butterflies, for a good few miles i had two large yellow butterflies fluttering right in front of me. For the first time ever Gary has taken to listening to music whilst we cycle along.

The road although undulating is a little tiring as there are very few towns on route and the heat is exhausting.

We stayed in a cheap hostel which we shared with at least 4 cockroaches yukkkkk.

21st to the 23rd October 

Rest day in Campeche and a change of direction.

Monday.
In the main plaza of Hopelchen at dusk the birds gathered again and made an incredible amount of noise, it’s a bit like the way that in some areas the frog chorus starts.

Ginette – The mexican villages are lovely, lots of the women wear beautiful embroidered dresses and men wear sombreros. The traffic throughout this area gives priority to pedestrians and rather than lots of honking of horns people smile and wave at you.

The cycle route to Campeche according to the map had no towns with shops so we had a 53 miles to be self sufficient in. However the maps were not accurate there were several small settlements along the way with places to purchase cold drinks and food, this suited us as it was another very hot day and our own drinks bottles were cooking.

The terrain now has larger cleared forest with huge plantations mostly corn but also some other crops, possibly potatoes.

We arrived at our apartment In Campache late afternoon, Ginette was really feeling the effects of the heat so it was a relief to be able to rest in an air conditioned room.
We waited until later in the day before venturing out, treating ourselves to a meal in a fish restaurant.

Ginette – I was exhausted not from the cycling but the heat sapped my energy, by the time we arrived at the apartment my blood felt like it was boiling. I found it hard to function, all I wanted was some shade and an ice cold drink.

The apartment was ideal, although the wifi could have been a bit better, a great place to rest for 2 days. In the evening we had dinner in a seafood restaurant, it was a little bit expensive but it was great to have vegetables and fish. We have found it really hard to find vegetables in the villages.

The owner was very welcoming and although he could not speak english he introduced us to his dog Rambo. 

Tuesday , Campeche.
Campeche is a walled port town, the wall was built after a disastrous pirate attack. However since the wall was built the pirate were not such a threat in part due to the British sovereignty removing it funding of some of the piracy through its shock at the way in the pirates had destroyed Campache.

The town has a nice Maceron along the coast and due to its geography this town has some fantastic sunset views. Inside the walled city the houses are well painted in various colours and makes for some nice photo shoots and a pleasant walk about. The heat of the day does get oppressive at temperatures in excess of 40 degrees so once we had visited the Mayan Arqueológico museum and wandered around town we headed back to our air con room for a rest.

I have been a bit bored of the terrain in this area of Mexico, at first the jungle was interesting to cycle through but the wildlife spotting is not up to much and the bird life although exotic is not as extensive as it was in Paraguay.

Ginette – I now see squshed tarantulas and snakes on a daily basis, they still make me a little squeemish but we rarely stop to inspect them.  Gary is too busy looking ahead and misses most of the road kill, I have had to point out a number of specimens. It is however difficult to miss the dead dogs with their guts hanging out and vultures circling overhead yuk. 

We discussed our options, if we continue with our current plan we will end up with another 3 months in Mexico and although I am sure the terrain and people will vary as we travel north I would prefer a change, I suggested a trip to Cuba.

Ginette researched this and a trip to Cuba would cost approx £400 each return which is a large lump from our savings.

Ginette – this would include return flights to Mexico City and internal flights to Tijuana. I woke the next morning with a new suggestion…

We have decided to change direction and head down to Belize then Guatemala, we had planned to cycle these countries after Mexico but we are only a few days from the border of Belize and they say a change is as good as a rest.

Ginette – We experienced one of the worse storms since arriving in Mexico, fortunately we were inside the apartment but it managed to take the electrics out across the street. It may also have contributed to a road accident at the end of the road.

Weds
We have looked at the route across the peninsula to Chetumal (the border town near Belize) and are not too keen on the initial route out of Campeche so we have opted to take a bus to Xpujil, this will put us in the middle of “reserva biosphere Calcamal “ . We will be in the jungle but on a main route with settlements that we can stop at.

Ginette – We arrived in Xpujil at 18.30 in the rain, we had accommodation booked so it wasn’t a problem. We were amused to be met by the owners son, who was 14 years old but looked much younger. He spoke excellent english and clearly knew how to greet and book guests into the hostel. He later took our order in the restaurant (including two beers) and presented us with the bill.  

24th October 

A long day in the saddle with cooling thunderstorms.

Two can see toucans.

We had breakfast from the shops of fruit, yoghurt and cake then headed to the towns Myan ruins.

Xpujil has lots of Myan sites all close to the town and one within 0.5 mile of town which only cost £2 each to enter. This site had a short walk through the forest and three main structures, there was no one else there so we had a good hour wandering around and climbing on the ruins.

Our cycle ride was potentially a long 62 miler with little in the way of stops on route according to Maps.me. But we did find several settlements on route so getting hold of cold drinks wasn’t the problem we thought we was going to have.

We had an undulating road through the jungle so it was tiring but interesting, we spotted tiny lizards that ran away by hoisting themselves up onto there hind legs, they looked funny like a lady running off and having to hold up her flowing skirt.

We spotted the usual Tarantula roadkill and also a venomous Coral snake.
Ginette spotted loads of frogs but I had my head in the trees so missed them all, however that meant we did get to see a large yellow beaked toucan.

Today we had lots of cloud cover and several thunderstorms to deal with, we only got caught in the heavy rain once, the other times we managed to shelter in bus stops. The storms pass as quick as they build so we don’t have to wait long, it’s amazing to sit in shelter and witness the winds really pick up and then the rain crashing down, thunder and lighting booming overhead and then 10 minutes later blue skies break through some of the clouds and the rain on the roads steams as it evaporates.
These rain storms and clouds actually helped us today, they kept it cooler so that we were able to cycle the 60 miles without the effects of heat exhaustion.
The wild life were more active after a downpour, the birds breaking into song and keeping us entertained.

We have stopped at a small town called Ucum, on the outskirts of Chetumal. The hotel has a nice pool that is great to cool down in after a long day on the bike.

25th October 

Belize.

Ginette had some admin to do this morning so it was gone 11.30 by the time we set off, we did have a few choices of destination but we opted to head over the border to begin our next stage through Belize.

Ginette – for the record we spent an hour or two looking at where we would be going, we had three choices but we found it difficult to choose between them. In the end we opted to go straight to Belize.

The border crossing was not as smooth as it could be, the Mexican border guard wanted to charge us a tourist tax. We thought that this may have been included in the flight and entry to Cancun but our ticket only stated taxes, not what the taxes were for. Ginette set about trying to contact the airline and also researched other sites to see if we were being scammed. After half hour with no proof of whether we had already paid this exit tax we coughed up the $30 American dollars each to leave Mexico, a bitter pill to swallow as we are coming back in December and will have to pay this tax again.

We didn’t cycle far and have stopped in the first town called Corozal, it’s by the Sea but today the sea was a murky green colour and very choppy so not inviting.

Ginette – my first impression of Belize are not very good, the roads are in a poor condition, the luxurious hard shoulder we experienced in Mexico has disappeared and the drivers are far less considerate. To add to this Corozal is a little run down and everything is a lot more expensive than Mexico. I’m not in a great mood, my mum would have been 70 today and Hayley moved house, although she had much appreciated help from family and friends, I feel like a bad mum for not being there to help her. I have found it really hard to hold it together, sometimes being on adventure on the other side of the world is hard.

The biggest difference so far in Belize is that English is readily spoken, immigration was easy as everyone spoke to us in English. After so long in Spanish speaking countries it is taking a little while to adjust to hearing so much English, even the road signs are understandable now.

The first two hotels in Corozal we tried were priced at around £45 but one of the receptionist told us (in English) of a cheaper place called a Twin rooms, we are now booked in for £24. Ginette negotiated a discount as the room was not ready when we arrived.

As the room wasn’t ready we popped back into town for beer and food.
We found a place called Scottys Crodile cove, it looked like a typical expat bar with a small group sitting around the bar all chatting in English but mostly Americans.
We met a couple that had just moved down here from Maryland having driven across Mexico with there belongings packed in a trailer, they had a few issues at each of the many police control points on route but are settling in nicely now they are in Belize.

Ginette – loud, drunk, annoying swearing Americans  (told you I was not in a good mood, roll on tomorrow). I am sure everything and everyone will be lovely again.

Mexico part 2

13th October

Long day in the saddle with a break to see a pile of old stones.

We left Tulum and found ourselves heading inland on a paved road with far less traffic and jungle all around us. The birds singing exotic song, hundreds of butterflies seemingly following us, huge locusts sunning themselves on the road and the occasional dead hairy spider.
The road was long straight and flat so easy riding made interesting by the wildlife.

We stopped at Coba, an old Myan ruin. We were told we couldn’t take our bikes in but as soon as we entered we you the gate the touts tried to hire us old rickety bikes, dam cheek.

 
The ruins are scattered over a large area with the only accessible ones within a 1.5 mile walk (bugger if we was going to pay to hire a bike) we are not sure about the history as we had to do the tour with no guide, they resembled other Asian sites we had visited. The best thing about this site is it has a really tall pyramid and you are allowed to walk up the steep steps to the top.
This is a nice site to visit but without a guide it’s just a load of old stones.

We had thought we might stay in this area but as it was only 2.30pm when we had finished wandering aimlessly in the rain we opted to cycle another 18 miles to Chemax as we could see it had at least one hostel on maps.me.

Chemax was our first non tourist town we had been to in Mexico, we drew a few stares and the kids enjoyed shouting Gringo at us, the residents were all friendly.
We had very little cash and there was no ATM in this town. We did find the accommodation but the owner turned us away as he had no rooms.

This meant cycling another 18 miles onto Valladolid, on route we where given a gift of a large bottle of Pepsi from woman passing on a tractor (I kid you not). We were now on a road with a few more cars but a nice hard shoulder to ride on. 18 miles is a long way when it’s added to the end of your day, it was dark when we reached town. In total we cycled 65 hard, sweaty miles.

Valladolid was having a party, the main square was busy, a band was playing and locals dancing in the street. A great atmosphere plus the cathedral was lit up well, it’s weird seeing all this nice stuff whilst soldier’s are patrolling with weapons and flack jackets on.

Ginette throughout Mexico we have seen a very high military presence. In one of the local towns the Mayor was dragged from his office, tied to a car and dragged through the streets. Apparently the locals were punishing him for not fixing a road that he had said he would fix. I don’t advocate this type of behaviour but can you imagine this in the UK.

We ordered a pizza for dinner, it was huge we only managed to eat half of it and although we took half back to our accommodation it ended up in the bin the following day.

14th October

No Chichen Itza but a Cenote in Yokzonot.

Researching the cost of the entrance fee for the Mayan site Chichen Itza that we had been heading for we found it had escalated from the 75 peso up to a stonking 480 peso due to a new tax the government, this is about £18 each ouch. We have also found out that there are many other sites around so we are giving this cash cow a miss.

Ginette – in fairness we had visited a site called Coba the previous day which has been described as one of the best Mayan sites in the country and it cost a fraction of the price of Chichen Itza. 

Many of the hotels and tourist attractions claim to have governement taxes but there seems to be no consistency in the tax added. For example it is possible to see two similar hotels in the same town with significantly different tax added to their advertised price.

We had a nice cycle ride in the hot sun, riding past the entrance to Chichen Itza. It was really hot and we had to stop frequently in little shops to get a cold drink and cool down in air conditioned shops.

We stopped at a tiny town called Yokzonot, we stopped there because there is an Ecolodge and there is not a lot in the way of towns and hostels in the area. We could have camped but it would have been unpleasant in the heat.

Ginette – It is not only the heat that puts me off camping there are lots of giant bugs around, we’ve also seen squashed snakes and spiders on the road and we are unsure what is scurrying away when we pass the bushes on our bikes but it is big enough to make a lot of noise. Added to that I’ve read accounts of the police waking campers to check for drugs and drug dealers waking people to steal money and believe it or not kidneys. We can usually find accommodation for less than £20 so we’d be stupid to camp unless there was no other choice.  

The town had its own Cenote, this is a water hole which was / is part of an underwater cave system whose roof has long since fallen in leaving a huge round hole with very deep clear fresh water in it. It had changing rooms, a restaurant, a zip wire over the top of the hole and a set of wooden steps taking you down to the water. You wouldn’t be able to get in without the steps unless you abseiled in as the sides are shear cliff faces and very high.

The water was crystal clear and it was a bit disconcerting swimming and not being able to make out the bottom even though you could see the edges of the cliff disappearing deep below but far beyond .
The entrance fee was only 80 peso (£3.20) and it was a surreal experience especially as there were only 3 others in the water.

Ginette – The room we had should have been luxurious but it felt kind of eery, the water in the bathroom didn’t work, so much for paying for a sunken spa bath facility and there were wood carvings on the wall that were a little freaky added to this by the side of my bed was a mirrored dressing table and the windows had blinds that we could see through. The accommodation was set in wood land and I kept thinking I was being watched either through the blinds or through the mirror. We both didn’t sleep very well.

Gary cooking in the on site restaurant, you can’t see from this picture but there were giant ants crawling on the shelf behind Gary urgh. 

15th October

Free Mayan site

The place we stayed in last night should have been great, we had a spa bath and an outdoor pool however we had a trickle of water so no way to fill the bath and the pool was empty, there were no staff at the hotel so we made the best of it. We had a nice large room with aircon but somehow we both felt like unwanted guests.

We didn’t have far to cycle, we were still in the jungle with sporadic small towns that we stop at for a cold drink, we can hear some pretty large animals scurrying away from us as we pass possibly large lizard or maybe snake (we have seen a large snake roadkill). Another large roadkill today was another hairy tarantula, all these sightings make it harder to get Ginette to camp.

The heavens opened so we sheltered under a tin lean too attached to a small house, the owners kept popping there head out the window to see we were OK, I have a photo of an elderly lady staring out at me with a twinkle in her eye.

We stopped in Izamal (according to Mexico tourism, it’s a small magical town known as the city of the Three Cultures or City of Hills) the place is famed for its cobbled streets and yellow painted buildings.

It has at least three remaining Maya pyramids and an impressive Franciscan Monastery.  We were able to climb to the top of the tallest pyramid, standing on them you can only marvel at the effort required to build such a big structure with no machinery and wonder how many lives were lost.

Ginette – the town had a special charm, although the paint work was a little tired probably last painted back in 1993 when the pope visited we liked it. We stayed in a lovely hostel with a great big room and modern facilities. In the town there are horse and floral carriages to transport people around the various tourist sites. 

Ginette has seen a job that she fancies so she spent the afternoon writing her application, it a long shot as she would have to interview via Skype but still worth trying, after all she needs a good job when we get back to keep me as a house husband.

Ginette – bloody cheek. Gary is right, it is a long shot but CEO jobs in the third sector don’t come up that often in Bristol. I particularly like what this charity offers so rather than living with any regrets I have decided to apply. If nothing else it has provided me with an opportunity to update my CV and think about what I want to do when we get back to the UK.

16th and 17th October

City break in Mérida.

A very hot sunny day cycling along a quiet road through small towns, we stopped at each town for a cold drink. Today we struggled to find cold still water so had a lot of fizzy water which is not my favourite drink. At one of the small shops we were entertained by some cheerful and lively Mexican music. in the rural towns people are taxied around by motorcycle carts or use bicycles, everyone is really friendly and we are often waved it is very welcoming.

As we approached the city the road became busier but the cycle into the city wasn’t to bad as we found a long stretch of bus/ cycle lane.

Our hostel was basic but OK however the WiFi was not working so at some point we would need to find a cafe as we had made no plans for the stages. We had a wander around the city and I purchased my first new Tee shirt of the trip. The 40 mile ride this morning was taking it toll on us and instead of enjoying the sights of the city we were a bit tetchy. We decided to stay another day as we felt we was not doing the city justice.

Ginette – we arrived in the city at about 2pm got changed and went out to explore, crazy! in the UK if we’d cycled 40 miles in the heat we would have headed straight for a bar to reward ourselves not send ourselves out on a culture trip. I tried to read the plaques and take in some of the culture but felt weary, hot, tired and hungry.  As Gary said instead of enjoying the experience we felt like it was a bit of a chore. I was glad that over a beer we decided to stay another day and really learn about the city rather than rushing off and not really understanding the Mayan culture.

We had lunch out in a bar called La Neigreta, it had live music and was a busy place. When my food came out it was covered in a black sauce, I am not sure what’s in this sauce but I am not keen on its taste and unfortunately the meal I had the night before was also covered in this black sauce Yuk.

Ginette – we had been looking forward to the food in Mexico, but the menu has been quite limited to tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and burritos, all served with meat. In most of the places we’ve visited the tortillas have been cooked on the same griddle as the meat and are very greasy.  There are a few veggie options including cheese, cheese and perhaps if I’m lucky avocado and a bit of salad. I’m hoping our options will improve as we continue to cycle north. I am craving some green vegetables.

 

Thursday morning we went on a free walking tour, the walk itself is just around central plaza but goes into the same buildings we halfheartedly walked around yesterday, this time was more interesting as the guide kept us informed about our surroundings and the city’s history.
We found an Internet cafe and booked a different hostel as well as setting plans for the next few days.

I get bored easy in cities, so will be happy to move on again.

Ginette – I was glad of the rest although I don’t feel particularly tired my left leg was covered in a heat rash and my feet were swollen from all of the walking and cycling. I loved learning about the Mayan culture, it was interesting to learn that it is obligatory for children to learn the Maya language in schools. I spent 3 hours in the afternoon resting in the room, researching a little more about the culture while Gary played his Ukulele. In the evening we went for a nice walk to Merida’s equivalent of the “Champs Elyse”.

18th October

To Muna via Unam, an anagram cycle trip.

Ginette was not very well in the night and didn’t sleep well hence she wasn’t ready to go till around 11am, I thought maybe we would be staying put but she wanted to soldier on.
It had been raining heavy in the night and the morning, I had breakfast at the hostel with a nice Dutchman and the Barcelona born hostel owner which was a nice way to pass the morning.
I have been adding an exercise routine to my day for the last month of some press ups and sit ups, I obviously get plenty of fitness from the cycling but we both notice that I lost a lot of my upper body strength hence the extra exercise regimen.

When we set off our kind hostel owner and his lovely wife gave us some of the apples and oranges from their own trees and fed us a Papaya also from the garden. The rain had stopped but cycling along there were huge puddles in the roads. Getting out of the city was busy and not great fun as our route took us down a busy road past the airport, which remained busy up to Unam after which we found ourselves on a main road but with far less traffic.

We spotted another dead large hairy spider and a red and white striped snake, we have jungle either side of us but it’s pretty dense so you can’t see any wildlife so these road kills remind us there is life out there.

We are in a small town called Muna, we stopped here due to the time of day and the fact that a huge thunderstorm with streaks of lightning were pounding away overhead.

Ginette – it is exceptionally hot during the day, it usually rains in the late afternoon and during the night but there is little relieve from the humidity. The heat really saps our energy and we find ourselves constantly seeking shade and cool drinks.

 

In the news this week there have been some violent clashes between drug gangs and police resulting in many deaths. We wouldn’t mention this but we have seen coverage on the BBC news. At present we are on the opposite side of Mexico but we are heading in that general direction so will take care to avoid the hotspots.

Ginette – Mexican people are generally really smiley and welcoming, far more so than other areas we have cycled in South America. It is a shame that the drug cartels cause so much trouble for the country. Fortunately for us they prefer to kill each other and as tourists on bikes we would be very unlikely to encounter them. 

 

Guayaquil to Mexico

Not edited as we feel the updates give a good account of our thought processes

5th – 6th October

Back in Guayaquil and a change of plan

The last two days we have been in a hostel on the outside of town. We bussed back to our previous Air B and B to collect our bikes and bags, it was good to be riding again. When travelling on planes, boats and buses you are tied down to a timetable and other people’s whims but on the bikes we are free to do what we want and when.

I found a cycle shop and had to carry two cardboard boxes back to the hostel the 2.5 miles which was a little uncomfortable.
The bikes are now apart and packed in boxes ready for the flight to Mexico.

Unable to travel into the city because of the protests but I thought I’d take this opportunity to share pictures from our last day in Guayaquil before we went to the Galapagos islands.

A change of plan!
Ginette has been researching flights and put the cat amongst the pigeons and suggested that we fly to Cancun (the cheaper flight to Mexico City all had a stop over in Cancun). She also realised that by going to Mexico now we would end up with approx 5 months cycling in this country.

A little more research and we found the weather in Cancun was wet in the afternoons pretty much the same as the weather here in Ecuador so logic told us we could stay here and explore Ecuador and then Columbia before setting of to Mexico. If the weather is to wet and cold we could always skip to Mexico earlier if required.

Another issue which we are hoping will not be a problem to us is the current political upset in Ecuador. There have been recent protests and some looting in Ecuador because the president has removed the country’s fuel subsidies, just 2 days ago a state of national emergency was declared but has been lifted. We have seen the troubles on the news but as these are in and around the city centres so life in the suburbs seems pretty normal.

Ginette – we had several considerations, by flying to Mexico we would have had a further week in a city, which neither of us are ready for and the weather is still a little unpredictable in Mexico. I felt if we went to Mexico now and cycled until Jan (we have to be there from the 26th Dec to 9th Jan because we are meeting Hayley for her Christmas break) we would be pretty much fed up of Mexico and yet to get from the Baja Peninsula to Central America will take at least a further 4-7 weeks cycling in Mexico. In total this would have meant at least 5 months in Mexico, if we had an endless pot of money this would not be a problem, Mexico is huge and it has a lot to offer, but unfortunately we are spending money at a much faster rate than we anticipated thanks to constant repairs on the property (we’ve only received the full rent once since leaving the UK), and the decreased value of the pound to the dollar.

7th October

Another change of plan.

My front wheel is squeaking so I took it to a repair shop. They greased the bearings but struggled with the dynamo hence I now have no power.

Chatting to our English speaking hostel owner he has advised against any travel In Ecuador, there have been large demonstrations today and a lot of roads are blocked and looting is taking place in the major cities. We have also heard the land borders are closed, there are several other travelers in this hostel and the talk amongst them all is how and where they are/can go next.
Hence we have now opted back to plan F and have booked flights tomorrow morning to go to Cancun in Mexico.

Hopefully the airport will be open.

8th and 9th October

Transit days, now in Cancun

The flight to Cancun was pretty uneventful, we had paid for check in luggage and had another $30 each for the bikes which we were happy with.
Landing at the airport we were offered taxis at $70 dollars but we had already decided to put the bikes together and cycle if we couldn’t get a taxi for $20.
The cycle ride was hot and humid and down a busy road but the traffic seemed to be nice to us.
We are staying in Mermaid hostel in downtown Cancun, we have two shared single toilet/ shower rooms and our room has only a fan to keep us cool (and very telling are the mosquitoe nets).
The weather is hot but we have experienced heavy rain and thunderstorms. Out and about there are large puddles of water and unfortunately lots of mosquitoes.

Gary doing bike maintenance in the rain

We had some tasks to do such as shopping for gas canisters and oil so spent the day in search of stock
These last two days of travel, restocking and WiFi research have not been much fun and I am looking forward to getting back on the road, however it is looking like we are going to get very wet at times.

10th October 

A coast ride with very few sea views.

We opted to cycle out of Cancun down the coast towards Tulum then inland to Chichen Itza. We chose this route for practical reasons as there are more hostel stops at regular places, if we headed straight to chichen Itza then there were no known places to stop and camping is not a great option given how heavy the rain comes down when it strikes and the wildlife.

this is a picture of a flying cockroach – yuk in addition there are lots of mosqutoes

We cycled out to the coastal hotel area of Cancun. This was not a great route for us as it was really just a 10 mile dual carriageway alongside lots of great looking hotels either side of us.

Ginette – But it was great to be back on the bikes 

if you look closely you will see a lizard in the background – happy Nettie back on the bike

We did get to stop at Plaza Tortugas and had a cold beer on the beach, it’s a nice little beach and the sun was shining. We contemplated taking the ferry over to Isla Mujeres so we could snorkel and spend the night on the island. The ferry would have cost $25 American dollars each and it looked like once there we would have to go on a boat trip to snorkel the reef a further $60. The costs were mounting and as we had just had some fantastic snorkelling on the Galapagos we decided against this trip.

We didn’t get to see much of the sea after this just the big hotels, maybe we could have found a gap between these to access the beach? but we knew we were heading for another beach area  so didn’t try too hard.

Ginette – Cancun, was very touristy, lots of shops and touts looking for business, it was not for us but we could see the appeal if you only had a weeks holiday. Plenty of sunshine and beaches.

We did spot a few large lizards on route and although the road cycling was nothing great the weather was good to us, giving us sunshine and no rain all day.

We stopped in a hostel in Puerto Morelos, we stayed in a bunk room with 6 beds but it had air con and there were only three of us in the room. We had a kitchen, lounge and front and back gardens so all good, it was only the little pets that are a nuisance ( I mean the bloody mosquitoes).

This small town has a real nice vibe, it’s not too busy but has some good bars and restaurants, and a big bonus is the supermarket which is stocked like a UK one with all the goods you need and good prices, we have bought a large bottle of Rum for £5.

Ginette – I loved this town it had a real laid back chilled vibe to it. I would strongly recommend anyone visiting Cancun drives down the coast to this little gem.

11th October 

Snorkelling and cycling but not at the same time.

Puerto Morales does have a nice vibe and would make a nice holiday destination for a week. This morning we paid to go out on a boat to snorkel the reef (I made a hash of the bargaining and ended paying more because we had no cash and paid by card). The snorkelling was OK with reefs dotted around in shallow and very warm water. We spotted a small turtle, a ray and lots of other fish. All in all an enjoyable experience.

Ginette – the reef is described as the second largest in the world. It was no match for the Australian barrier reef but there was plenty of wildlife to see.  Unfortunately we both got a little bit sunburnt on our backs and legs. We have very white bottoms (you’ll be glad to see no photos of them)

We then cycled back down the busy main road to read Playa Carmen, the road is safe with a hard shoulder for us to cycle on but other than the huge amount of advertising bill boards there is not a lot to see.

Ginette – bill boards have included warnings not to feed the crocodiles, panthers and it is good to see notices re fly tipping

We arrived with only an hour before sunset, had a wander down to one of the beaches and had a two for one beer offer in a small cafe. The area is fairly pretty and I can see why people enjoy coming here on holiday but at present the sea is a bit smelly we think this is due to excessive seaweed.

The weather today has been scorching hot, we are both sunburnt from the snorkelling. At a service station break there was a beer cave, a large walk in fridge stocking loads of beer, it was nice to go in and cool down but stepping back outside and the heat really hit home.

Ginette – we didn’t get to see much of Playa de Carmen but I liked the way the restaurants were designed in a jungle (Centre Parc) type theme. Apparently it is a bit of a party town so as we are old farts we opted for accommodation slightly out of town. 

12th October 

Hot and tired today.

We set off and took a last look at Playa Carmens beach. The initial cycling was on a cycle route hidden from the main road by an avenue of trees but this didn’t last for long.

We past many signs again advertising all the hotels and attractions on route and there are many, even if we had the money it would take ages to be able to visit them all. But advertising does work and I am now hankering after swimming in a Cenote but I don’t want to pay for the pleasure.

We reached the beach area Akumal that was well over half way that we had planned to stop at but found the beaches inaccessible as they where lined with hotels and the only access point we had was through a turnstile gate with guards and an entrance fee. We have seen some fantastic beaches and have no intention to pay to go on one, we ended up having our picnic in the car park in the shade.

It’s been a very hot day today, I don’t know the temp in the sun but it was 31 degrees in the shade. We have been followed this afternoon by thunderstorms but none broke on us but it helped us with our no go on the beach decision.

I had a bit of sugar rush then the down that comes with it so had to stop for some food and water to keep my little legs pumping.

We are now in Tulum, we arrived late so haven’t really seen much of the town or the Myan site that is here. The little part we have seen nice enough with bars and restaurants and a fairly young contingent of tourists.

Ginette – the heat is exhausting, it saps all your energy but I’m loving being back on the bike. Tulum is a bit of a hippy town, it is known for its yoga retreats. Hopefully we will get to see a bit more of it tomorrow.

It is Sunday again a week since we made the decision to come to Mexico and although we think it was the right decision, the situation in Ecuador continues to be volatile,  it has been interesting reading the news in the UK. There have been protests in London closing roads and cafes, stabbings in two major cities and political unrest.  I can imagine if I was a foreigner contemplating visiting the UK, I could easily be deterred and that is not to mention the weather!

things we saw on route