Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Reports
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 10:02:38 -0800
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - 961008.rpt
Monday September 30
Hopefully my part will come today. I'm ready to hit the road again.
Tried 2 long-distance places yesterday to see if I could send/receive my
email. In both cases, when they found out I wanted to hook up my computer
to the phone line, they said that is not permitted, only voice is permitted.
I could never get an answer which I could understand as to why it was not
I'm beginning to think the only reliable way to do it is either have an
acoustic coupler so I can just use the pay phones like I do for my voice
calls, or bring a cell phone and the appropriate connections to use it.
Surprisingly enough, I've seen cell phones numerous places here in Mexico. I
do not know how prevalent cell phones are in the rest of Central and South
America, though have read that in many countries the wireless phone system i
better and more reliable than the old wire-based system. I wonder if you
need an account in each country, or if one account back in the States is
sufficient. Shows how much I know about cell phones, since I've never used
one even back in the US.
part arrived 2pm
nothings ever easy - had to remove heated handgrip, then restring the wire
through the handlebars. with all the interruptions from people stopping by
to talk, it took me 2.5 hours to finish.
Afterwards I thought I should have had Cal send me another pair of gloves.
Tuesday October 1 56115
Temp: 7:30am 80F
Left around 8am after hearing the latest CNN news while eating breakfast
across the street.
Went through the military checkpoint at the intersection with the road to
Ccobah for the 4th time in the last week. It was raining fairly hard so the
soldiers just waved me on through.
By the time the rain stopped my pants were completely drenched, but once the
sun came back out a couple of minutes later, it became quite hot and the wet
pants felt good. An hour of riding in the sun at 60mph and my pants were
A deer ran across the road in front of me. Although it wasn't close, it
still surprised me as I wasn't expecting to see a deer in this part of the
Yucatan. I think it was the first large wild mammal I've seen south of the
A little bit later, a small, bright, sky-blue bird, the sixe of a sparrow
flew across in front of me, almost hitting the windscreen. I have no idea
what kind it was.
At the town of Bacalar, I turned off the main road, onto the Costera Bacalar
a divided avenue which winds along the shore of Lake Bacalar. The town of
Bacalar has an old fortress built over a lagoon to protect the citizens from
pirates and Indians. Mqny large, expensive homes line the lakeshore along th
Costera Bacalar. Most had docks extending out into the lake, many with
power-boata or sailboats tied up alonside. The lake is a popular swimming
I had lunch in a restaurant alongside the lake. It rained quite heavily whil
eating. 5 little kids, ranging from 3 to 6 years old, are swimming in the
lake and a small wading pool at the edge of the lake. It's pouring cats and
dogs and they're out in it having a great time. When I go to leave, I'm
talking with the waitress and a young guy in his 20s who works at the
restaurant, and not paying attention to what I'm doing and drop the bike as
I'm taking it off the centerstand. Right in front of them. I look at them,
shrug my shoulders and laugh, and they laugh as well. the guy helps me pick
it up. Just like last time I was parked on uneven gravel, had less than 100
miles on a full tank, and let the bike lean too far to the right. With a
near-full tank of gas, there is not much leeway in leaning it away from you
and keeping it upright. I laughed, but I'm really pissed at myself when I d
this. No damage to the bike fortunately.
The hotels along the lake are too expensive and I don't want to camp, so I
decide to continue on the 20 miles to Chetumal, which is within a couple of
miles of the Belize border. I'll cross first thing tomorrow morning. In
Chetumal I get a room at the Hotel Ucum for 55 pesos. This place requires a
5 peso deposit just to get a towell. Unbelievable!
My bike must have a very distinctive or unusual sound. Throughtout Mexico,
and again today, as I'm riding along the highway and approaching pedestrians
walking with their backs to me, more often than not they will turn around to
see what is approaching. Must be the more open StainTune muffler.
Wednesday October 2 56335
Temp: 9:30am 90F
Woke at 6am to heavy rain, so rolled over and went back to sleep. By 7:30 it
had stopped, so got up and had a long breakfast at the restaurant at the
front of this hotel, while reading up on Belize.
Have only 75 pesos left and I should be able to use most of those to top off
my tank before crossing the border.
Took my weekly malaria pill today. Only have one left so will have to try t
get more locally. I wait till I get into Belize since it should be easier
since they speak English.
Took about an hour to clear Mexican an Belizean customs. On the Mexican sid
I had to find the Banjercito (Mexican Army Bank) office and get my vehicle
permit canceled and the hologram sticker removed from my windscreen. The
permit is good for multiple entries, but only for 6 months, so I will need t
get a new permit when I return in 9 or 10 months. I then drove through
Mexican customs and since there was no guard, that I could see, standing
anywhere near the road checking outbound vehicles, I proceeded to head acros
the bridge into Belize. Al of a sudden I heard whistles and looking in my
mirroe I saw a border guard running after me, waving. So I turned around an
went back and he indicated I needed to go into the nearby building with my
paperwork. I apologized and he was laughing so there was no problem. Insid
I presented my Mexican Tourist Card to the lady, and she looked at it and
waved me out the door. Got back on the bike and rode back across the bridge
into Belize. I guess it was all for appearance sake.
The Belizean side was straight-forward; Fill out a short form and get my
passport stamped, then go to another desk and show them my bike title, and
the cancelled Mexican vehicle permit, (which they kept). After checking the
VIN on the bike, they issued me a vehicle permit. When I drove through
Belizean Customs I had to show the guard my insurance binder providing
coverage in Belize, in addition to my passport and vehicle permit. And then
I was in Belize. Very painless, but then again, I was dealing with English
I find myself constantly replying in Spanish, and have to remember that I'm
back in an English speaking country again.
I head to Corozal, 12 miles south of the border to exchange some money. The
Belizean dollar is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 2 Belizean dollars
per 1 US dollar. The banks here do not have ATMs, so I cash some travellers
Siting on a bench in the town plaza across from the bank, I meet Mario, a
60-something taxi driver. He told me how he rode bikes till about 10 years
ago, and told me of trip he took when younger, on a 250cc Honda, to Guatemal
City, and on through Central America.
After lunch I visit the 2 drugstores in town and the local government health
center to try to replenish my supply of Mefloquine malaria medication. The
drugstores have nothing and the health center only has Cloroquine. They
suggest I may be able to get it in Belize City.
Back at the town square a teenage boy on a bicycle stops to talk. He says h
knows of a new guesthouse in town run by a Canadian guy for 25-30 Belize
dollars per night, and he leads me there on his bike. It's a nondescript,
1-level concrete-block building, painted bright blue, with a narroe concrete
porch along the front. One of the signs on the front wall says "Email".
Vince is in his early thirties, from Toronto, and has an East Indian wife an
a 5 year old son. The place is called the Corozal Central Guesthouse, and
its only been open about 9 months. He has 2 rooms now and is working on a
third. He has a direct internet hookup (PPP account) through the local phon
company Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL). I'm initially a little
concerned about having to park my bike on the front porch, but both Vince an
the boy convince me it won't be a problem, so I take the room. Vince ran a
guesthouse in Toronto before coming down to Belize.
After a shower I walk the 1 block to the BTL office to try my luck with
email. The personel there are very friendly and helpful and help me get set
up and connected. I'm pleasantly surprised to find that there is no
additional local surcharge to call the local Sprint tollfree access number.
Simply dial 115, ask for the Sprint operator, and then you get prompted to
enter your card # and dial your phone #, or wait for the operator to come on
line. Unfortunately, I arrived only 10 minutes before they close at 4pm, an
able to make only one attempt. I actually get through and connect, but
something is wrong with the connection and there is a lot of gibberish on th
computer screen. I've seen this before, primarily when I've dialed manually
which is what I did this time because I had to verbally ask for the sprint
operator. I think it's partly a bug in the software. I tell them I'll be
back in the morning. Maybe I can also try at Vince's tonight.
Earlier in the day I found out that, surprisingly, Belize is on Mountain
time, one hour earlier than the rest of mainland Mexico,
Later, I walk a couple of blocks to Nestors, another hotel/restaurant run by
a Canadian expatriate, for dinner. He must have been a Texan-wannabe, since
the place was decorated with posters of country-westrn singers, and the
Country Music Awards were playing on the TV in the corner of the bar.
There's another, older American couple that have been staying at Vince's for
a month or so now. They're trying to find a place in Central America to
retire to, but she wants to be able to also continue her Chiropractic work.
She was griping about the beaurocracy here in Belice, and also about not
having their expenses paid by a local Belizean woman who was supposedly
"sponsoring" their trip. It wasn't clear to me what kind of arrangement the
had, but to me it looked more like a case of 2 Americans, expecting somethin
for nothing, and I didn't have a lot of sympathy for them.
Thursday October 3
In the morning I try dialing in from Vince's phone and succeed after only 1
or 2 attempts. I program the modem to dial my Sprint account #, followed by
the phone # of my Internet Service Provider. Then I dial 115 on the phone
and ask for the Sprint operator, which gives me a dial tone to which I can
enter my Sprint # and the phone # I am calling. The only tricky part is
initiating the modem at the correct time, so that it doesn't start dialing
the numbers too soon, but also does not wait too long, in which casd the
human operator comes on line.
I have 33 messages waiting for me. Actually not too bad considering it's
been 5 weeks since I last dialed in. Since I have access to a known good
phone line, and I also want to catch up on my email, both reading and
replying, as well as sending my trip reports, I decide to stay another night
here in Corozal. Spend a lot of the day reading and replying to email,
interrupted by breaks for lunch at Nestors, and a break in the afternoon to
go with Vince over to a building on the waterfront he is renovating as
another guesthouse. In the evening I watch a video, 12 Monkeys, with Bruce
Willis and Brad Pitt, with Vince and his wife.
Got some more details on how Vince and his wife, (she goes by Pinky; I didn'
ask) met. It's kind of interesting. Vince was in the process of setting up
his new guesthouse in Corozal, and needed someone to work there and help him
run it. Pinky had just come over from India, with some other relative, her
brother I believe. I believe the brother had a green card for the US, but
Pinky did not. Vince knew the relative peripherally somehow. She needed a
place to work/stay, and Vince needed a worker, so she began working at the
guesthouse. He said it wasn't long before both of them realized that there
was a spark between them, and he said it wasn't long after that they got
married. Pinky was just learning English, so she did not speak a whole lot.
Vince had lived in India for a while with his parents when younger and could
speak a bit of whichever language Pinky spoke (I forget which). Vincde said
it was only a month or so ago that she stopped wearing the sari.
Friday October 4 56355
Vince had the same software package I am using to access my email during thi
trip, Net-tamer, bud had been unable to get it to run on his 286-based PC.
He asked if I would take a look at it. It turns out his Internet Service
Provider is BTL, the government phone company. Anyways, after about a half
hour I get it configured properly and he's able to send and receive his
email, and surf the Web using Net-Tamer. He says it was way faster than wha
he had been using, Eudora. Take that MicroSoft! Maybe that's my business
opportunity, Doug's Roving Internet Consultant Services.
I leave about 1pm and ride a whole 60 miles south to The village of Crooked
Tree, within the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. The last 3 miles is on an
easy graded dirt road, but I can tell that with a lot of rain, the dirt/clay
would become slicker than snot.
I stop at the small Visitor Center just outside of town, and chat with Steve
the ranger on duty, for over an hour. The Belizean Audobon Society runs mos
if not all the preserves and sanctuaries in Belize, and Steve works for them
I believe he said he makes $150 every 2 weeks. He has a wife and 2 sons,
ages 5 and 7. He says times are very hard in belize right now, especially
for farmers, who can't sell their crops or cattle. He says the Value Added
Tax which the government instituted within the last year is to blame.
Steve says that medical treatment is very bad in Belize, especially in
Crooked Tree. There is a nurse in the village, but very little medicine.
People must pay 50 dollars for a ride to the nearest large town, Orange Walk
about 20 miles away. He says a lot of Belizeans go to Chetumal in Mexico fo
treatment, or even to Merida, a 6-8 hour bus trip.
Steve tells me about his own experience, in which he was bed-ridden for over
a year, spending all his money going to various doctors in Belize, trying to
diagnose his illness. He got various diagnosis, including heart disease.
Finally he went to a doctor in Chetumal, and was diagnosed with an internal
parasite (something related to triconosysis), and taking a few drugs cured
him. He didn't have a lot of faith in the Belizean Medical System. Smiling
he said, tat as soon as he was betteer, he got married, and had 2 kids.
The village is fairly small, though I'm told that 900 people live her,
however because it is spread out over quite an area it seems a lot smaller
than that. I get a room at Rayburns, run by Owen Rayburn, a distinguished
looking black man in his 60s. An older woman, Maggie, with a heavy German
accewnt, who I believe is Owens wife, shows ne the room. She apologizes
profusely, since they are in the midst of some renovations, prior to the
start of thew tourist season at the end of ctober. But the room she shows
me is very nice and clean, a corner room on the 2nd floor with a fan and a
lot of light and ventilation. The bath is shared. 20 Belizean dollars.
After a shower and washing some clothes... houses on stilts a&b restaurant,
old mobile home with thatched roof porch out front, Bab Marley tunes blaring
on the speakers and a 5-6 young men out front laughing, joking, and drinking
rum and cokes.
I suck a coke down, then walk to the edge of town along the lagoon. I follo
several trails along the lagoon, seeing a few birds, ending up back at A&B's
at dusk. Bob Marley is still wailing away. I go in and order the fish and
chips. The fish was fried and covered in a spicy red sauce with peppers and
onions. Very good. With 2 beers the bill came to 8 US dollars.
While eating I talk with Charlie, who has a very heavy Jamaican accent to hi
English, so I have to work to understand him. As I'm finishing up, 2
Americans, Dara and Mark, come in, accompanied by a Belizean. They're from
Philadelphia, but are doing 6 months of volunteer work in Belmopan, the
capital of abelize. The Belizean is Sam Tillets, the local bird expert, who
runs a hotel and gives guided boat trips. He says he is going out tomorrow
morning with Dara and Mark, and asks if I would like to go along. That is
just what I was looking for, since a boat costs 60 dollars but I wasn't goin
to pay that much by myself. Given that I had seen no other tourists in town
until I saw Mark and Dara, I was beginning to think I might not go.
We have a choice of going to one of 2 areas. The first area we'd see a lot
of birds of various types, including the rare jabiru stork, with a wingspan
of 10-12 feet. The second area we would see many birds, but no storks, and
also howler monkeys. Since Mark and Dara, like myself, are planning to go t
the Baboon (howler monkey) sanctuary, we all agree to go to the 1st area and
see the storks. We'L also be able to wade through ankle deep warter for
about a 100 yards to see crocodiles. That sounds exciting. I have to meet
them at 5:45 tomorrow morning.
By the time we're done talking, it is pitch black outside, since the moon is
nowhere to be seen, though the stars are visible. Of course I've forgotten
to bring my flashlight and have to walk the hlf mile back to my room in the
dark. Heat lightening flashes in the distance to the west, and fireflies
flicker in the fields along the road.
Saturday October 5 56416
I strongly recommend anyone going ro Belize, go to Crooked Tree, and go on a
guided boat trip with Sam. He has an immense knowledge of the local birds,
their habitat, birdcalls, and can spot and identify them with his naked eye,
long before I couls usually spot them with my binoculars. He's self-taught
himself everything about the local birdlife in the surrounding lagoons and
jungle. Even if you're not an avid birder, his enthusiasm is catching. He
brings the Audobon and Petersen Guidebooks with him on the boat, and tells
you what the identifying marks of the various birds that you are seeing are.
By the end of the 3+ hour boat ride, he is asking us to tell him what birds
we are seeing and we usually can identify them!
The most rare birds we saw included the Jabiru stork, with a wingspan from
10-12 feet, a Laughing Falcon, and a Perigrine Falcon. Naming a few of the
birds we saw: Green Heron, Great Blue and Little Blue Heron, Rossette
Spoonbill, Yellow Warblers, Jacalas, Great Egrets, Snowey Egrets, Cormorants
Wood Storks, various ducks I can't remember, Ringed and Banded Kingfishers,
Snail Kites, several types of swallows and Grebes, and quite a few others I
can't remember, sorry Janet. I was really wishing Janet could have been
along. We also saw two Iguanas, the largest being over 6 feet long from nos
to the tip of its tail. I was surprised how far up in the leafy parts of
bushes and trees they climb to sun themselves.
We also saw a 4 foot crocodile which had been killed the night before. Both
Sam and Steve yesterday say that poaching is a real problem. Steve said tha
the rangers are trained as law officers, but are issued no weapons. He said
that psychology is his weapon, and that it takes every psychological weapon
in his arsenal to deal with the poachers he comes across during his work. H
said it can be dangerous at times.
When I arrived at Sam's place at 5:45 his wife served us juice and coffee,
and sliced watermelon. When we returned at 9:30 she served us breakfast of
fresh, warm, homemade bread, homemade plum jam, juice, and some type of
ommelette-like egg dish, with salsa. Very delicious. The price for
everything, including breakfast was $20US per person.
Sam was such a good guide, that both Dara and Mark, and myself are probably
going to go out this afternoon/evening with Sam again, to the area where the
howler monkeys and crocodiles are. That leaves at 2:30 this afternoon.
I go back to Rhayburn's and take a 2 hour nap during the hottest part of the
day, and it really is very hot and humid here. My pores are pouring out
sweat, lying on the bed with a fan blowing on me. At 1pm I walk back to A&B
Restaurant via a trail along the lagoon, and have a burger for lunch.
At 3pm went back out with Sam, Dara, and Mark. This time we headed south in
the lagoon. It was a completely different experience. Whereas in the
morning the ride was for the most part in a wide open area of the lagoon,
interspersed with area of water lillies, this afternoons route took us along
narrow 30 yard wide waterways, lined by jungle. Again we saw many types of
birds, including: Anhinga, aztec parakeet, osprey, limpkin, ringed, belted,
green, and amazon kingfishers, black collared hawk, vermillion flycatcher,
rosette spoonbill, fork-tailed flycatcher, osprey, moscove duck, vulture, an
We also saw several Jesus Christ lizards, so named because they literally ca
walk across the surface of the water on their long hind legs with large feet
and several water snakes.
We did get to see one troop of 3 Howler Monkeys and another lone monkey.
When agitated, they really do make a racket.
Sunday October 6 56416
Left Croooked Tree at 6am for the ruins at Lamanai, 8 miles east as the crow
flies, but 60 miles by road. The last 30 are dirt, the first 18 of those
graded, the last 12 not. I don't think it rained at Crooked Tree, but it
must have along my route, since the road was wet at places with standing
puddles. The graded portion is of a clay/sand consistency and where wet, it
often slippery. The non-graded stretch is much rockier and rougher, but
offers great traction for the bike's tires. It takes me about 1.5 hours to
get to the ruins. I stop for breakfast at a small 2-table restaurant in the
village of Indian Church a half mile from the ruins.
These ruins are in a magnificent setting, on the shores of the New River
Lagoon, surrounded by lush, dense tropical jungle. From the top of the 112
foot high temple N10-43 one looks out over the jungle and lagoon. The site
is largely unrestored, though archaeological work is ongoing. Saw no other
tourists while there.
On the road to Lamanai this morning I passed some conservative Mennonites o,
a horse-drawn wagon. Their dress was similar to what one might see in
Pennsylvania, black pants, suspenders, broad-rimmed straw hats.
There is a dinkey toll bridge on the main road between Orange Walk and
Crooked Tree. Toll for a motorcycle is 0.25 Belezian dollars. The toll
booth was closed this morning. Two days ago when I came south, there was a
young Mennonite boy selling peanuts to vehicles passing the toll booth.
It's always funny, the things that you notice orthat strike you as you're
riding along. On the main road just south of Orange Walk, there was a
Coca-Cola Bottling or Distribution Plant, set back from the road a hundred
yards. The area between the plant and the road was a perfectly manicured
beautiful green lawn. In the States you wouldn't have even noticed it, but
it was definitely an unusual site for Mexico or Belize, at least for the
areas I've been travelling through for the last 6 weeks.
I leave Lamanai, riding back through San Felipe, August Pine Ridge, Yo Creek
to Orange Walk. South of Orange Walk I turn off the main road, ther Norther
Highway, east onto the old Northern Highway. It is now pot-holed, and in
many places has reverted to dirt and sand. In many places it narroes to one
lane and winds through the hilly countryside. All in all, a fun, trashy, GS
type of road. The new Northern highway, which replaced this road is very
straight and boring. I continue south on the old highway to the ruins at
Altun-Ha. After Palenque, Uxmal, Chitzen Itza, they are a letdown, but the
guidebooks had prepared me for that. At the site I run into the couple that
had been staying at the guesthouse in Corozal. They had been to Dangriga on
the coast and were now heading back up to Corozal. They had had their van
broken into several times in the past 3 days, though had nothing of much
I end the day by riding to Bermudian Landing, 15 miles south, as the crow
flies, of Crooked Tree were I started this morning, but 176 more miles on th
bike's odometer. Bermuduan Landing is the largest of 7 villages along the
Belize River which have formed the private Community Baboon Sanctuary, to
protect the 12 or so troops of Howler Monkeys living in the area. Most of
the local villagers, farmers, and landowners have voluntarily agreed to abid
by a voluntary set of guidelines concerning land use and farming practices,
such as maintaining corridors of native jungle along riverbanks, property
lines, and other sensitive areas. This provides the necessary habitat for
the monkey troops to flourish. The villagers, in turn, have benefitted
economically from the tourist trade that the sanctuary has brought to the
area, by providing lodging and meals in local homes, providing guide
services, and renting canoes and kayaks for river trips.
Each troop has from 3 to 8 monkeys and roam over a territory of about 3
acrea. Generally territories of different troops do not overlap, and the
males howl and bark to disuade signal other troops to stay out of their
territory, fighting if necessary to protect its territory.
Admission was 10 Belize dollars, and includes a short guided tour. I arrang
with the Visitor Centor to spend the night with a local family, and while th
young boy walks down the street to arrange it with the local family, I wande
through the small Visitos Center which explains about the Sanctuary's
history, and about the Howler Monkeys and other Belizean wildlife.
The town has no running water, so only a couple of expensive lodges have
running water, showers, or toilets. For 15 Belize dollars per night, the
house where I am staying does not. The vvisitoe Center gives me directions
to the house, saying it is the white house just past the cattle guard across
the road. I find it with no problem, and 4 kids ranging in age from 5 to 14
watch me as I pull into their backyard and park the bike.
I could either wash out of a bucket by pouring water over myself in a
makeshift shower stall in the backyard, or go to the river about 70 yards
away. I chose the river and the 2 youngest girls and the youngest boy led m
along the bath to the river. They warned me to bathe in the eddy on the
upstream side of a boat ramp, saying the current would sweep me away
otherwise. Very refreshing after another sweaty day in my riding gear.
After washing I returned to the river with some clothes which needed washing
Most houses in the area are actually 2 stories. The upper floor is enclosed
like a normal house and is where the kitchen, bedrooms and living quarters
are. The lower floor is usually left open or has only low walls, and during
the heat of the day, most activities take place in the shade it offers. You
usually see one or more hammocks strung up on the lower floor.
In the house I was staying at, it appeared that the lower floor, at one time
open, had been converted into 4 small rooms, each a little bigger than the
bed they contained, and having a single light and electriv fan. Dinner and
breakfast the next morning added 10 Belize dollars to my bill. I had been
hoping to eat with the family, just to interact with them more, and was
disappointed when my meals were served downstairs at a table in the hallway.
The meals were very basic, nothing special, chicken, rice with peanuts, and
tortillas. To drink there was something which tasted like Kool-Aide.
The local BTL office was a phone in the stoor next door to the house I was
staying in. It was a regular looking house-type phone and I could have
easily hooked up my modem to it. Got Noemi's message machine and left a
message. The store had no bottled water but suggested "The Club" up the
street. They too were out, but I had a local brew, Beliken Beer, while
watching the locals shoot pool, and the kids run around making noise until
the pool players got annoyed at them and quieted them down.
Monday October 7 56592
I had scheduled my guided tour for 6:30 this morning with Alvin, a talkative
spirited, 62 year old man. The tour was only about an hour, through a nearb
patch of jungle where a troop lived. There were 4 monkeys in this troop, an
we were able to get quite close. The smallest was a 7 month old baby. The
male was quiet until Alvin, started imitating a male. Then the head male of
the troop let loose with a series of low, gutteral howl, and he didn't stop
for the next 45 minutes while we were in their territory. The howls were
intersperced with dog-like barks. Soon, another neighboring troop also bega
howling. It's difficult to explain verbally the racket they made. Quite
impressive. I really wish I had a tape recorder with me. Alvin also new
many of the birds and plants in the area. The army ants were quite
impressive. Stamping on their large mounds, brought out the large ants
several minutes later, they having had to make their way several feet to the
surface. He picked up one with a leaf; it was about 3/4" long and you could
see the mean looking pinchers on its head. It began pinching/eating the edg
of the leaf. Alvin then grabbed it firmly behing the head so it couldn't
pinch him, and held it up to his hankerchief. It grabbed on and wouldn't le
go, no matter how hard he shook the ant which was now holding the hanky.
Then he started pulling on the ant and eventually the head broke off, still
firmly gripping the hanky. In ancient times, thew Spanish acutally used arm
ants in such a manner to stitch wounds closed!
After the tour I returned to the house for breakfast, again nothing to write
home about, eggs and spam, and then packed up the bike. I put the youngest
boy, Paul Jr., on the bike's seat and he really got a kick out of that. I
took a picture and then got their address so I can send him a copy.
My plan was to ride the 30 miles into Belize City, find a place to store the
bike for a couple of days, and go out to Caye Caulker, off the coast. How's
that saying go? The best laid plans of .....
I first tried to exchange some money, but found that none of the 4 banks in
the city would accept the 100 dollar US bill I presented. It had been folde
in my money belt, and they all said it was to old. That's one argument
against money belts. I exchanged $100 in travellers checks instead.
Then I went to the US Embassy, where I had been told I could store my bike
for a couple of days. Well I'm not sure what our tax dollars go for, but
they sure as hell don't go to provide help for US citizens at the US Embassy
in Belize. I was told by two different officials, that unless I was a
government official, I couldn't store my bike in their secured parking area.
F__k you very much!
The guard at the Embassing parking lot, a Belizean, suggested a hotel, but
they too said no. I'm not sure if I'm saying the wrong things, or talking
with the wrong people. At any rate, by this time, between these problems an
dealing with the Belize City traffic, my hassle threshhold for the day has
been exceeded, and I decide to just get the hell out of Belize City. I'm a
bit dissapointed and annoyed at myself for taking this "easy" out, but try t
rationalize to myself that my week on the beach at Playa del Carmen was
enough beach/ocean action for a while, and that the Cayes are fairly easy to
get to from the States: a cheap flight away. I know they're feeble
rationalizations for a cop-out.
I find my way back out of the city and onto the Western Highway, which leads
to the Guatemalan border. The road initially is straight and flat, crossing
the flat coastal plain, but quickly climbs into hilly country and then into
low mountains, and the road gets some character with a few curves thrown in.
I stop for the day in San Ignacio, about 12 miles from the border, at the
Hi-Et Hotel, for 10 Belizean dollars per night, shared bath. San Ignacio is
a blend of Mayan, Spanish, Mennonites, and travellers. It's an agricultural
town, there being a lot of farms in the outlying areas, but it now also gets
a lot of money from the tourist trade. The town lies on the Macal river and
a single lane suspension bridge, modelled after the Brooklyn Bridge and
pictured on Belizean currency, leads into town. Mountain Pine Ridge lies
south of town over some rough dirt roads, and the ruins of Caracol lie south
of that. They are my intended destination tomorrow, assuming it doesn't rai
and turn the roads to muck.
The term Pine Ridge in Belize refers to the type of vegetation which grows
their, and not specifically to a topographical feature, i.e., a ridge.
It's about 4:30 by the time I carry my stuff from the bike to my room, and
I'm feeling very tired and a bit feverish, so I lay down on the bed, with th
fan on, and fall asleep. I wake up at 10:30, roll over and go back to sleep
Oh yeah, today was my birthday, 38 years old. Happy Birthday!
Tuesday October 8 56694
I awake at 5:30 to the sound of heavy rain. It rains most of the morning,
which will make the roads wouth to Mountain Pine Ridge and Caracol very
treacherous according to everyone I've talked with. I decide to hang around
town today and hope things dry out by tomorrow.
It rains off and on through the afternoon and evening. It's not looking too
good even for tomorrow.
I try my luck dialing in with my computer at the local BTL office. No luck,
they won't let me hook up to any of their phone lines behind the counter,
despite their being a fax machine with the proper connections right in front
of me. The phones in the booths don't have the right type of connectors. I
try rationalizing with the guy, saying the BTL office in Corozal let me, but
that doesn't help. My opinion of the Belizean Phone system takes a dive,
though still above Mexico's.
In the evening I call sweetie from a curb-side pay phone. I get through and
as soon as she accepts the collect call I get disconnected. I call again,
and talk for about 25 minutes before we again get disconnected. This time
the phone displays a message "Out of Service", and refuses to work again. I
was the only public pay phone I had seen in town, so I give up for the night
At least in Mexico we'd get an hour before we would be disconnected. But
we're learning to deal with such phone systems: We say our "I miss you"s and
our "I love you"s early in the conversation, rather than waiting till the en
and risk getting cut off. My opinion of the Belize phone system takes
I find another possibility for my email fix. Eva's restaurant, a local
hangout for locals and tourists, and the local information center, has a
computer and an Internet hookup. I could telnet in and get my email, but
sending what I've already composed on my palmtop would be difficult. I'd
rather just be able to dial in myself using their phone line. Their compute
"expert" is not there at the time and I'm told to come back tomorrow.