Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 16 - Corozal to Tikal

RobT:  Daybreak started out clear and sunny and we saw little or no effect of a hurricane passing during the night.  I finally remembered to take my malaria prophylaxis pills. (RobC edit:  What a wimp!)

As luck would have it, we left in a heavy rainstorm.  We were going to sit it out but both Rob and I were getting stir crazy.  Needed to get on the bikes, no matter what.  We decided to get coffee and breakfast down the road.  We finally stopped at a place called Orange Walk.  There was a young women from Nicaragua  waitressing at the roadside restaurant.  I wondered what life goals she had.  Where she saw herself in 5 years.  Coming from Nicaragua to Belize to work in a greasy spoon. Do these people have any hope?  I thought back to how easy and lucky we have it back home.  The main roads into Belize City from both borders were what we back home would consider a 2-lane, 80 kph country back road.  No painted lines either.  I guess no money in the budget for that.

Breakfast stop, dressed up a bit for Halloween.

Check out the first item posted on the menu ..... neither of us tried it.

Belize was not what I expected.  You gain, or at least I did, a certain mental image from all the travel procures but I didn’t see any of it.  Nothing.  Period. What I saw was poorly constructed houses, filth and waste.  The largest city in Belize, Belize City, looks more like a ghetto of 100,000 people.  Houses on stilts slanting this way and that, surrounded by murky water (or waste), you wondered how they hadn’t collapsed.  Paint peeling, run down cars on the streets, furniture on what was a lawn, mold, or at least it looked like it, growing on the wood siding, no windows, doors hanging off kilter, garbage everywhere  .... it was depressing, yet the people seemed jolly and friendly.  They were very anxious to help us out without us even asking. They asked nothing in return.   Amazing!  I guess all the marketing photo shoots were taken on the Cayes, the offshore island where the second-largest coral reefs are in the world with all of their underwater splendor.  We never did make it snorkeling, as the locals were not venturing out into the hurricane aftermath.  Next time.

Side street in Belize.
RobC in the lead.  I watch him for submerged potholes, then I know where not to go.  :)

Local people assessing the hurricane damage.

RobT checking the video camera production on his computer (and my camera had a little hurricane moisture residue between the lens and the filter).

Guy on the bike was trying to barter an even swap for RobC's ride.  That didn't work, so he tried selling me "ganja" and whiskey.  He was wired and it was noon.  This was a common site in downtown Belize.

Yup.  RobT joined the Belize Highway Patrol.  That's a Yamaha Royal Star.

We decided to try to cross the border to the west into Guatemala.  All along the Western highway toward the border you could see the damage caused by Hurricane Richard.  This was the route we were to ride the day of the storm, yesterday.  It tracked it exactly.  Power lines down, roofs laying several hundred feet from where they were supposed to be, endless uprooted palm trees, stagnant water everywhere, garbage, mud  and vegetation debris lined the road, signs laying on the ground, fences flattened and the rivers were swollen and fast moving.  The capital of Belize, Belmopan, was without electricity.  Funny story, the government moved the capital of Belize from Belize City to Belmopan to mitigate tropical storm affects.  We spoke with a highway patrol officer and asked him what it was like. He said he was a little nervous.  Said the sound of trees breaking and snapping all around his house for 3 hours was scary.

The border crossing into Guatemala was a little lengthy, but friendly and simple.  The first people to confront us were money exchangers.  Then the motos needed to be “de-loused” again, off to Immigration and custom and a  19 USD exit fee.  We were out of Belize.  100 ft away, Guatemalan Immigration and Customs. 20 Guatemalan Quetzales (3 USD) for Immigration and another 40 for customs.  The frontier was a bit peculiar in the sense that there seemed to be a lot activity, more like a trading post.

Guatemala border.  Apparently it's a HUGE no-no to take pictures at the border and it's done at your own risk. 

Looking back at the border toward Belize.
We decided to try to make it to Tikal, "the New York City of the Mayan World."  We thought this would be doable as the road on the Guatemalan was freshly paved.  Great!

Not great.  There were several sections that, for some reason, were very slippery mud and gravel.  The first one we hit was a stretch of about 5 km of pure "slip 'n  slide."  We both thought we’d end up dumping the bikes along this stretch.  Neither of us did.  Next thought was we’ll never make it to the next town before nightfall if this was what we were in for.  If we have to ride on this in the dark, we are toast.  All worked out and we found an amazing place for 20 USD per night for the both of us.  Clean, secure, warm water and internet, albeit painfully slow.

Belize City day after Hurricane Richard video #1

Belize City day after Hurricane Richard video #1

RobC:  Have I told you that my riding partner is very fast at everything? He eats fast, showers fast (with soap, I think), has his bike loaded well before me, takes pictures and videos while he rides, updates the blog while I am still trying to get on the web, etc., etc. I am not used to taking a back seat and I am getting spoiled. All I do is edit his rapid-fire blog entries (and internationalize them a little for non-Canadian readers) and add a little here and there as the spirit moves me.

And have I told you that my partner is flexible? Everything is fine with him. I agonize over the right route to take and what to order for dinner and he just says, "I'll have that too." He is a great travel partner and we have many similar likes and dislikes. One small difference, however, is that I am still amazed by motorized and electronic technology and he thinks that the people who produce them are all bumblers and idiots and that everything should always function 100% perfectly.  :-)

I think this is going to be a great trip. Despite being slowed down a few days on motorcycle repairs, waiting for UPS and sitting out a hurricane, we are making pretty good progress - more than 6500 km (4200 miles) up to this point.

One thing that is making this ride more pleasant than usual is that we are in intercom contact while we ride, which allows us to comment on things we see, warn each other about speed bumps and livestock on the road (such as monkeys this morning), and sometimes we see things that are very funny and we laugh our heads of under our helmets.

One more small thing we enjoy is (free) Skype communication with our loved ones at home.


  1. Rob C, this is Bethany. I am glad to see that you have a good travel partner and are enjoying yourself. Mig and I are reading your blog together and showing Sophia your pictures to which she happily yells, "that's Opa". I can't wait to see your pictures of Tikal.

  2. 'And have I told you that my partner is flexible? Everything is fine with him. I agonize over the right route to take and what to order for dinner and he just says, "I'll have that too." ' - Rob C.

    Oh yes..... That's soooo Robbie! It's amazing, isn't it? The most laid back man I know...truly! I only know of one thing that can rile that ducky and I'd be worried if it didn't! You really did pick the best possible international travel partner Rob. Take care of him! :)

  3. Hi Bethany,

    Thanks for the note and take good care of my "nietecitos!"

  4. Adrienne,

    I guess we will have to guess what that "one thing" might be. Glad you are following the blog, the production of which actually cuts quite severely into our frivolity time. :-)