February 24, 2011 GMT

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Caribbean Coast, Belize

After five months in Mexico it seems strange to be back in an English speaking country again, I didn't realise how much I had missed it until I could communicate without trying to think how to do it using a combination of Spanish, pointing and sign language. It made completing the immigration and customs formalities a bit easier on the Belizean side of the border. There were no problems and it only took about an hour and a quarter to exit Chetumal, Mexico and enter Belize. Fortunately Belize is small enough to make getting seriously lost difficult as I no longer have detailed street level mapping on the GPS, itís back to old fashioned map reading, pre prepared route notes and stopping to ask directions for the Central and South American legs of my journey. Iím experimenting with the GPS and setting grid reference way points (from Google Earth) to head for but up till now the only benefit I have found for the GPS is as a very expensive compass.

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Another Animal Species That Wants To Eat Me

My first destination was Belize City where I discovered that you were in danger of being a crocodile's lunch if you ventured too close to the river. Belize City has a reputation for not being particularly interesting and I never got the chance to prove or disprove whether it deserves it as I didnít have the time to explore although the possibility of being crocodile food can hardly be described as uninteresting.

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Tropic Air Flight To San Pedro On Ambergris Cay

I met up with a friend of a friend, Mike, an American who has lived in Belize for twenty years and works for Tropic Air, one of two Belizean airlines. He is an ex professional motorbike racer from the days when you had to do tarmac, off road and mile dirt ovals in the states. He fixed me up with a flight to Ambergris Cay, the island he lives on where I spent the day walking along the beach and exploring the small town of San Pedro with its busy streets full of golf buggies. San Pedro is about as close as you can get to the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world without getting wet.

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San Pedro Pub

The two of us rode to Placencia in the south of Belize to visit friends of his for the weekend. Mike has a BMW boxer with off road sport suspension and I was a bit apprehensive about riding in such esteemed company. We went fast enough so that there wasnít time to admire the scenery along the Hummingbird Highway, I was too focused on the back of his bike the whole time. He would stand up on the footrests and hit the numerous fierce speed bumps without slowing down making the back wheel bounce 8" into the air, with my luggage and self preservation instincts I was dropping into first or second gear for the bumps then accelerating like mad to catch up with him again.

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Mike on the Hummingbird Highway

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Placencia Beach

Alain, the guy in Placencia we were visiting was an interesting character, half French, half Spanish and raised in Morocco he has lived all over but usually by the sea on various tropical islands. He has delivered yachts for a living and worked for the Benetton Formula One team, designing the cars wings. He lives with his American wife and son in a beach house and has a thatched workshop where he carries out meticulous work on motorcycles, particularly BMWs. If you are in Belize and looking for a mechanic send me an email for Alainís details.

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Big Twin Workshop, Placencia

Leaving Placencia to ride back up the Hummingbird Highway on my own and at my own leisurely pace I was able to appreciate the scenery I had missed on the way south. Tractors pulling large trailers full of oranges to the fruit juice processing plants and returning empty made up most of the little traffic there was. The smell as you passed the processing plants was mouth watering. I was heading for San Ignacio for a couple of days before entering Guatemala on my way to Flores and Tikal.

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The Hummingbird Highway, Belize

San Ignacio is only nine miles from the border with Guatemala and the only place away from the coast I stayed in. I was advised to have photocopies of my documents for crossing the border and didnít have any driving licence copies left but the three photocopying places I went to in San Ignacio all had problems with their printers. They had all run out of ink cartridges! San Ignacio is a good base for exploring the surrounding area which offers a variety of activities such as caving, canoeing, horse riding and hiking but I only stayed long enough to get a look at the town.

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San Ignacio Car Wash And Presumably The River Is Crocodile Free

I wasnít spending too long in Belize as it is more expensive than its neighbours which is a shame as it has a lot to offer and is uniquely different from the rest of Central America with its Caribbean Island influence.

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at February 24, 2011 07:19 AM GMT

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