The next morning, I rose after a poor night’s sleep, went back into town for a quick breakfast in the market, followed by a fleeting visit to the Internet café-no messages, before setting off for my fist solo border crossing and Belize.
I used up my remaining pesos on fuel, fags and fast food and hit the border at around 10 am. I queued for emigration and then was turned back as I didn’t have any pesos left to pay the exit fee. Back I went to the gas station where I had just spent my last pesos, to retrieve more for the exit fee.
I got back to the border about 20 minutes later, and sailed through emigration, then customs and then immigration, then customs again, paid my fees, got the bike sprayed with disinfectant, purchased by obligatory but no doubt useless insurance, and entered Belize an hour and a half later, and a few dollars poorer.
Just riding the roads in rural Belize, I knew I was in a different country. The small poorly paved roads cut through flat, tropical grasslands and the air had the distinct smell of the Caribbean. I was so reminded of St Martin, in the French West Indies where I had lived some 15 years prior, I almost felt like I was coming home.
Again, I was alternating from being high on the buzz of entering my first new country for 4 months, as well as being in my first Central American country, to being gutted that I couldn’t share it with Jacquie. Still, the beautiful day, the lush countryside, the quaint roads, and Belize itself raised my spirits. I stopped a few times along the way to have a soda and chat to some locals. I had almost forgotten that Belizeans spoke English, and the strong Caribbean accent was music to my ears. Everyone welcomed me to their country and were eager to chat to me about the trip and how I liked their homeland.
I stopped and ate fried chicken by the green- blue Caribbean sea, and took out my Lonely Planet for inspiration, I had no idea where I should aim for, but I had decided I definitely needed to spend some time here, and not take one of my options, which was to ride straight through Belize to Guatemala in my first day.
The owner/waitress/chef brought my lunch over and we started to natter. She asked me where I was headed for and I told her I wasn’t quite sure, I hadn’t really made any plans.
Without any further ado, I was treated to a full scale explanation of all my options, and I decided I would take her advice, and head to Belize city, get on a boat, and “reeeeelax ‘pon one o’ dem ‘dere hammocks for a coupla days, take it easyyyyyy.”
How could I not!
I rode on through the north of Belize, sideways down the country towards Belmopan, the capital, before turning left onto the Western Highway.
Time was getting on, so I pushed ahead to Belize city and after being welcomed once again to everyone I stopped to ask directions from, I arrived at the Water Taxi terminal at 4.30pm. I went in and was told the last boat would leave in 45 minutes. The question was, what would I do with the bike. There were no car ferries, as there were no cars on the Cay Caulker, my destination, so why would there be anything but passenger ferries. I was pondering my predicament when a tall Belizean walked over to me and introduced himself as Cobra. Cobra told me he was a licensed cabbie who worked in conjunction with the Water Taxi Association, and that I could keep my bike in his backyard for a few days. We negotiated a price and I followed him on my bike as he drove back to his house.
Somehow I managed to ride the bike through the narrow gate into Cobra’s yard, took out my beach bag, locked up the bike and covered it up with my dirt encrusted bike cover before getting into Cobra’s taxi and racing back to the terminal to get on the boat for Caye Caulker.
A short 40-minute high-speed boat ride later and I was on Caye Caulker, the “Go Slow” island. I disembarked, walked down the jetty to the shore, and checked straight into Tina’s hostel. I walked into my dorm room and was welcomed by my new roommates. I couldn’t have wished for better company. I was sharing with two gorgeous Swedish blonds and a beautiful French brunette. I got the feeling that I was going to like the Cayes.
The four of us sat on the balcony as the sun set, drinking beer and eating chips, and were soon joined by our neighbours, and then by the residents of the floor above. By 7 o’clock the party was in full swing. People came and went, but the core posse of the four of us from room 1, stayed the course. I was DJing with my computer and one of the Swede’s portable, and very loud speakers, and being fed beer and chips, whilst the crowd on our balcony swelled.
The party didn’t stop for three days, alternating between our balcony in the evenings to the split during daylight. Good friends were made, and on the last day we all went on a snorkel trip with the Ragamuffin Crew.
We had a great day of Snorkelling over the very shallow barrier reef, swimming a few feet above scuba divers, and watching the Nurse sharks, Southern stingrays, Sea turtles, and a plethora of tropical fish going about their business. On the return trip to Caye Caulker, the rum punch came out, the music got turned up, and the party began.
We got back to shore having drunk far too much of the sweet Rum punch, and I staggered back to my dorm to collapse.
Early the next morning I packed up, and with sadness in my heart, got back on the boat for Belize City and said goodbye to Caye Caulker.
Cobra was at the Water Taxi terminal when I arrived, and he took me back to his place to retrieve my bike. All was well under the bike cover, and a few minutes later, I was back on the road, headed for Plasencia.
I rode southwest for an hour or so until I came to my turnoff. As I turned the corner, I spotted a couple of lads, one of them wearing a Harley Davidson leather jacket, pushing an ageing Yamaha along the other side of the road. I pulled up opposite them, and got off the bike, ready to lend a hand, but before I had turned off the ignition, they had already jump-started the Yam.
They rode over to me, and introduced themselves as Leo and Jimmy. We spoke for a while about the usual, bikes, roads, trips and countries, before I was invited to ride with them until their turnoff, about an hour or so down the road in the right direction.
We rode together, along winding roads, which were just like English country lanes. There was hardly any other traffic on the road, and the ride was joyous. We pulled over on the side of the road some 70 or 80 miles later, shared a Caribbean cigarette, and went our separate ways.
I continued down the road a little further until I reached my turnoff, and started the 25 mile dirt and gravel track, bumping and bouncing my way down to Plasencia.
I arrived hot, tired and hungry at Plasencia and set about the arduous task of finding a reasonably priced room that wasn’t too shabby, or at least clean. In some places this is an easy job, in Plasencia it was a chore. With the help of some friendly locals I found Oscar’s Guesthouse, unloaded my gear, and set out in search of some good old Caribbean fried chicken. I wasn’t too taken with Plasencia, and set off after a hearty breakfast burrito back up the dirt road, along the wooden plank bridge, and towards Guatemala.
I stopped for a quick drive by of Dangriga, a sleepy beach town but with a bit more soul than Plasencia, and secretly wished that I had spent the night there instead. A few hours later and I was at the border to Guatemala
Posted by Dan Shell at August 07, 2009 09:55 PM GMT