I was particularly excited to be heading into Belize because everything is suddenly in English. No longer did I have to rehearse my language before attempting to speak with anybody, or have that awkward moment when you launch into conversation only to realise you don’t know the Spanish for the second half of your sentence. It’s safe to say I was happy to be putting my language fails to bed for a few days.
The boarder crossing was super easy with lots of very helpful and smiley immigration officers on both sides, we were soon pedalling down little deserted roads heading for the nearest town to try and get some money (weirdly there hadn’t been any currency change at either of the boarders). We parked ourselves in the town square to eat lunch while we found the nearest cashpoint. Quite quickly an old guy came up and started talking to us, as it was a Sunday there were quite a few people milling around and a few of the local old boys gave us a bit of a knowing smile and a nod. Clearly this was the town crazy who had our attention for a few minutes. At first he seemed pretty harmless going on about God and welcoming us to his country, although when he started on about God creating man and women being secondary Ryan took Kirstin and I to find the cashpoint and leave Herbie holding the fort. It was when we returned things got really interesting, he wanted us to give him all our food. The cashpoint hadn’t worked for any of us so we were without any local currency and the little food we did have was definitely going in our bellies after a long morning of cycling. He was now being super aggressive trying to steal food out my bag and condeming me to hell. In the space of a few minutes he’d gone from a preacher welcoming us to his country to a bandit trying to steal my food and wish me death on the road.
We decided this was not the place to eat lunch.
Off we pedalled to find a less exciting spot to eat and hoping this was not a sign of things to come.
As if to counteract the mornings excitement, while on the road in the afternoon we had a family cruise along side us offering us a place to stay for the night. Apparently Sunday is family BBQ day and all four of us we were invited to eat, drink and camp at their farm. In hindsight we should have taken them up on the offer but in reality we were hoping to do another 45km that day so declined their offer as graciously as possible with lots of thank-you’s. Karma had restored itself and we were super happy again.
The next day we had planned to leave early because of the heat, there weren’t too many hills but the drivers in Belize are abysmal! I’m not sure if they hand out licences with your 15th birthday card or something but it’s the first place where I genuinely thought I might become road kill. I digress, it was hot and Kirstin hadn’t been feeling well for a few days so we were aiming for an early start. It didn’t happen. Four people talk way too much in the morning and as a consequence nothing gets done, we left at around 8:30 and it was already a scorcher. We were planning a short day anyway and ended up in Crooked Tree, a kind of wildlife sanctuary / small village. This is where we figured out Kirstin really wasn’t well. The little lady hadn’t been telling us the truth about just how bad she felt and she just kind of exploded (figuratively not literally). Sorry Kirstin! Up until this point we had been pushing pretty big days in 39 degree heat and every day Kirstin had been feeling worse and worse. Well now we realised and now we were going to rest. Kirstin was adamant that she wanted to sleep in the tent for a few days and we were all adamant that we were going to get her a room. Luckily, no matter how stubborn Germans can be the three of us won and we checked into Crooked Tree Lodge for a little rest and relaxation. The most beautiful lodge I have ever stayed in, it was full of wealthy retirees on bird watching holidays. Not quite their usual clientele we turned up as sickly, disheveled looking cyclists who were in desperate need of a shower and were able to convince them to let us check in for a few days. It’s run by an English / Belize couple who are absolutely wonderful and looked after us like kings! They have three great children, about seven dogs and actual crocodiles that live in the lake. We only saw the babies, mommy croc eluded us for our entire stay – maybe for the best?!
After the r & r, a little research and because the drivers really are THAT awful we decided to skip the bottom half of Belize and swing West into Guatemala so we could visit Tikal. Being possibly the worst tourists ever Herb and I had’t seen any Myan ruins during our whole time in Mexico, but we’d heard that if you’re only going to do one, Tikal is where it’s at. It was a few days ride away so it was West to San Ignacio for our last night in Belize.
Trying to leave Crooked Tree we were stopped on the road by a guy on a motorbike demanding an entry fee to the village. We were leaving the village! Apparently all tourists have to pay it because it’s a wildlife reserve, we tried to point out that his motorbike was causing the wildlife reserve more damage than our bicycles. Yes he was wearing a wildlife reserve uniform but he had no documentation proving there was a fee and there was no way we were going to hand over $20. Luckily being a group of four and having Ryan on board (a 6ft10 gentle giant) was enough to avoid paying whatever tax he was asking for. I have no idea if there is a village entry fee or not so I’m unsure weather to feel guilty about leaving the wildlife reserve $20 short? If there is, I am sorry – but please either make a sign or a gate, don’t have randomers biking round looking for gringos.
On to San Ignacio and if we thought our little intro to Belize was bad than our last night was down right ugly. We found a great campsite on the iOvelander app which was close to a farmers market and french bakery. We pedalled there with great gusto, Kirstin and I very excited about vegetables and croissants. We set up camp and set about buying all the vegetables we could get our hands on and cooked up the most nutritious meal ever to have existed on two camping stoves. In the campsite there were also a few other backpackers who we quickly made friends with and had some beers over dinner. As we were all retiring to bed our new friends decided to continue the party and headed out to find a bar, off to sleep we went our only mild concern being woken up by singing drunks when they came home. We were woken up, at about 2am by a guy with pupils the size of saucers saying his friend was in prison. The boys decided to go to the rescue and headed down to the local police station to see what was going on. Apparently they had been doing coke, saucepan pupil guy was adamant this was not the case and started trying to bribe the officers for release. Herb and Ryan decided bribing wasn’t going to get anybody anywhere and they were eventually told to come back in the morning when ‘prison guy’ would be able to speak to his embassy, face trial and be released. A sleepless night followed, but we made a unanimous decision to stay and try to help out Prison guy. Nobody knew what had happened, Saucepan guy hadn’t yet surfaced form his tent and nobody apart from us knew he was locked in a foreign police station.
Without a complete blow by blow account of the days adventure it involved the boys making countless trips back and forth to the police station and Kirstin and I eating a lot of cinnamon rolls, tent sitting. It turns out the Belize police were pretty useless and nobody quite knew what was going on, at one point it looked like he was going to be transferred to the national prison for the weekend. In the end it took Ryan and Herbie loosing their patience with the police and getting a bit shouty when suddenly things started to happen. He was transferred to the courthouse, trial over in about 3 minutes, the judge loosing her patience with the police incompetence and minimum fine imposed. We still have no idea what on earth happened, was he being silly, did somebody plant drugs on him? However the lesson is that down in Central America it doesn’t quite work like it does back at home. The good news is we all left the country pretty unscathed, with a great dinner party story to tell in a few years!
Unfortunately for us those few incidents in Belize meant we didn’t quite have the time we were looking for and we were pretty excited to cross the boarder. It is indeed an absolutely beautiful country (with road signs in english). Those three things could have happened absolutely anywhere during our six months on the road, it just so happened that for us they all occurred in one country. Well, they say things come in threes so here’s to hoping our bad luck is over and the future is bright!