Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK

Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK
Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Border Crossings and other Comedies



Into Belize
                              

It's been amazing so far. Of course. What else am I going to say? This wandering by bicycle through tropical America is a drag? Hardly.
 
I arrived in Bacalar on a hot windy afternoon. It's a small Mexican town in the south east of the Yucatan Penninsula.The main road isn't much but the ride into town toward the lake is quick and the expanding view of the lake is breathtaking. Bacalar is a big freshwater lake just inland from the Caribean. 
Found a great campsite right on the lake in a small family run operation. The campround sported plush green grass and shade trees. A pleasant change from dusty lots covered in dead cars             and dog poo.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 I cycled the distance into Chetumal, Mexico but about thirty miles. I don't really know why I went there, it's got a nice waterfront but not much else to see. I did manage to find some sun shades that fit over my eyeglasses.  They have this incredible glare during daylight hours. They work great at night! I stayed in a crappy hostel that was quite dirty. Nothing wrong with old and beat up but filth just gives me the creeps. 
The trip into Belize was direct but not so straight forward.  I followed the Highway signs that said, "Belize".  Seemed simple enough. Nope.  There is another route for cyclists and pedestrians as I discovered. 

 Due to my fabulous sunglasses and the lack of signage  I was in the wrong place. In fact, I cycled right past two soldiers dressed in full combat gear carrying what looked like small cannons.
They were not obvious because they were standing in the shade of an enormous mango tree.  Anybody with any sense would be doing  the same thing at that time of day in the blazing sun at 90 degrees. 

I stopped when a tall man in a blue uniform and reflective Ray Bans stepped out in front of me. He wanted to know why I didn't stop.  I pretended to not understand Spanish. He was a little angry at first  but  I smiled and said "hello" in my best American twang.


Anyway, the guy realized I really didn't have any idea where the hell I was going and I was not  attempting to smuggle a hundred pounds of heroin into Belize on my bicycle. We then chatted a bit, my Spanish improving at an amazing rate.  He told me how much he admired cyclists who toured and how               he'd like to do it himself one day. He was very warm kind with a lovely smile. He sent me back the way I came with more explicit directions. Why don't they sign things like international border crossings better?

The Mexican side was easy. There is nowhere to go except up to a window to present a passport and $30.00 US. Getting INTO Belize seemed like guesswork. No signs ANYWHERE.

 I followed some other  tourists and figured I'd just keep going until somebody told me to stop or I heard shots fired.

Formerly, British Honduras, Belize gained independance from Britain in 1981. Once in Belize, it was a  quiet and nice ride into Corozal. The whole town was at one time a private estate. 
I passed a bar/restaurant run by a gentleman who happened to be polishing the bar with his elbows.  As it turns out he had an AirBNB property and was a Couch-surfing host. He let me camp on his property. I'm too cheap for Air BNB. I went for the couchsurfing option. 
"Marc" was was born in Jamaica, lived much of his life in in the states and settled in Belize. He is attempting to build an eco-resort. I ordered the  Stew Chicken (not stewED) with rice and beans. 

I rode the thirty odd miles to the village of Sarteneja the next day. A fascinating place rich with history and color. The road is a series of muddy potholes connected by islands of gravel and two free ferries. They are both operated manually by a crank that pulls the boat along a cable. The road was not completed until 1971. Until that time the only way in or out was by boat. It had been a Mayan village and subsequently abandoned. There are un-excavated ruins.  It was repopulated by  refugees of the caste war in Yucatan to the north in the late 19th century.


I went on a tour of the village guided by a young man who was born and raised there and told us a little about his own genetics. His ante-cedants haled from Africa, India, Yucatan and Spain. 
The children in the village attend school where all the curriculum is taught in English.  After school they go home to parents and grandparents who for the most part only speak Spanish.  
It's a quiet remote village. There might be 10 motor vehicles total.


Sarteneja also hosts Wildtracks animal rehabilitation center. They work  with primates rescued from the  illegal pet trade. They also hosted manatees in stages of recovery from injuries caused by motor boats. Sarteneja is also home to The Shipstern Conservation, Management Area And Butterfly Breeding Center. A large swath of forest and mangroves held in protection for the sake of education and biodiversity in the region.

 These are both owned privately by foreign organizations and receive almost no money from the government of Belize. From what I hear both function better without government aid. 

I found it difficult to leave Sarteneja after five days because it's so incredibly quiet. It's also really cheap. I figure the value of accommodation by multiplying the nightly price by thirty. Roughly, what I would pay for rent for a month. VERY cheap. It was also hard to leave because I was procrastinating. I was not looking forward to the bone jarring bike ride back toward civilization and on to Progresso. It's a one way road . I ended up leaving for Caye Caulker (not worth mentioning) by water taxi and leaving Tanque behind for a few days. I'm headed back to Sarteneja tomorrow to collect my bike and move on.
Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Mri said...

Hey Robin!!!! Enjoying your blog! Yeah Central America!