September 27, 2006 GMT
Little Britain

Riding around the Yucatán peninsula has been interesting, and not only for the Mayan ruins at places like Palenque and Chichen Itza.

The province of Chiapas is Zapatista territory (motto "The Government Obeys Us") and there are warnings of 'trouble' even on the main road. Once in Quintana Roo the local police display big handpainted billboards showing which roads are in good, OK and bad condition, which is helpful although so far the roads have been uniformly pretty good.

I had a lovely swim in a cenote at the foot of a cascade, called Misol-Ha; this is where they filmed Predator and is very jungly (and noisy due to the howler monkeys).

In the interests of completeness, and my curiosity, I decided to pay a visit to one of Britain's erstwhile far-flung Imperial outposts, to whit, Belize (formerly British Honduras).

What a sweet little country it is too, about the size of Wales or Lebanon. Although Belmopan is theoretically the capital, just about everyone ignores it in favour of Belize City, which is around the size of Newbury but without the tall buildings. They've been busy celebrating 25 years of independence so it all looks quite festive, and the whole place is rather jolly.

I've been talking to locals because I wanted to find out what they really think about Michael Ashcroft, who still owns about 20% of the place (including the telecoms company, the main bank, and the hotel I'm in). I was pleasantly surprised to find they quite like him - apparently he does a lot of good stuff and doesn't throw his weight around. In fact, I missed him by a day as he was here opening a new orphanage he's financed.

The official language is English, and the banknotes bear a picture of Her Majesty. And it was such a treat at the border not to have to decode my V5 for the bike import documents once I'd convinced the customs chap I really was English and not German (they get a lot of Germans on bikes here), and to have all the signs in English first. It's quite difficult to remember to use English instead of Spanish, although inevitably many of the people speak some Spanish as well.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at September 27, 2006 09:52 PM GMT

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