April 2013
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Month April 2013

Dinosaur hunt 3

This was supposed to be the big one. Go to the river, wait until dark, and find a crocodile where they rest, under partially submerged logs. The average size is about 7 feet and 12 feet is not uncommon. David says they’re docile, same as the scorpions, snakes and tarantulas, all of which we’ve now found. In fact according to David, everything is docile. Bullshit, according to Andy, the lodge owner, but anyway.

We go to a hardware store about 12 miles away and buy two flashlights that are ‘water resistant’ for $9 each. I have my snorkel stuff, he has his.

We go down to the river bank and wait here until dark

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Then, before the moon can rise, and it’s pitch dark, we wade in. We swim both shores separately for about an hour. The river is very warm. But no croc’s. But it took us two days to find a decent scorpion, so maybe next time. Except my bike parts are due tomorrow, so I’ll be off Saturday morning maybe. If not we try again.

Here’s what it was like in the river. Video courtesy of my trusty ‘waterproof to 40 feet’ Lumix point-and-shoot. A catfish under flashlight

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Dinosaur hunt 2

We crossed this field
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to some old stables. After hunting for a while: a scorpion on my watch strap
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Dinosaur hunt

Well actually just snakes, geckos and bugs but we found a couple of cool things.

David and I set off after dark into the local jungle. Looks like I’m set to fend off any dino’s we run into or at least that’s the only quip I can think of right now for carrying a stupid stick (actually it’s for peeling bark back looking for scorpions, which evaded us)
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Into the dark
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Where the leaf cutters were busy

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And this

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And my brake line, brake pads etc are now in Belize, potentially
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We’re hoping that Belize is in better administrative condition than Guatemala, where this shipment got on the Miami flight and was never heard from again
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How’s your morning going?

‘Cause mine’s off to an interesting start.

We’re heading out for the border, beginning with 5 miles of this great road.
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We get to the end, where it turns to pavement and we slow down for the intersection. No front brake. Zip.  I lock up the rear (gravel) and fishtail towards the traffic. Lucinda goes *oh for Pete’s sake*

I look at the reservoir and it’s half empty, look down and I’m blowing brake fluid all over. Holy shit, lucky we weren’t going faster.

There’s a gas station on the corner and we pull in. There’s fluid everywhere. The last couple of ounces pours out
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The brake cable bracket on the fork guard is completely loose
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The cable has fully expended downwards and has been rubbing against the wheel hub and has worn through
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But not before taking a mm of aluminum off my wheel hub
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So I call L.A., not too happy, then ride back to the lodge.

Here’s the current situation. As it happens I own these spare parts in L.A. already and they’re going to DHL them out today. No idea what the delivery time is, hopefully a day.

Then I’ll do the fix here.

So that’s the plan, let’s see what happens.

Chetumal to Belmopan to Hopkin’s to Belmopan

So two days ago I crossed from Mexico into Belize.

Leaving Chetumal. Forget Chetumal
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The border, unbelievably, is another breeze. Both the Mexican and Belizean sides are modern and slick. Getting Lucinda cleared out takes ten minutes. Here she gets her tatt photographed by the customs girl
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She silently allows herself to be sprayed for bugs. *As if *she mutters to me
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Then insurance. You’ll notice I have the Packsafe lockable wire mesh over my duffle. A good idea when solo at borders and you have to leave you bike to go into a a building
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Then the money changers. I’ve made a note of the exchange rate pesos/belizean dollars the night before (6.07) and shown the guy the phone screen so he can’t screw me and he takes the 7 basis points plus the quote spread, which sounds OK
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Then no more than 10 minutes later, we’re at the Caribbean!

That’s Lucinda posing under the palms. She knows she’s hot and looks good pretty much no matter what so this never takes long
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Then, to start, we blast off down Belize. This road trip we’re on isn’t a holiday, and we’re behind a bit after the bike parts debacle, so we’ve decided to blast through rather than dither in two of the countries: Belize and Honduras. So we pass all the sexy dive/snorkel resorts and destinations, headed for Belmopan where we can set up for a more difficult border crossing – back into Guatemala.
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An hour or two down this road is where I meet Christophe and Toni, from the previous blog post. Christophe is WAY into patches. After listening to him for a while I realize he’s tough and experienced so I give him a *pass* on the patches
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And as I said in the previous post, this van pulls up and out jump these two black dudes, and a girl. They’re Jehovah’s Witnesses. Christophe and I can’t believe that in the middle of nowhere, no-one for miles, we riders meet, and minutes later this is happening. I guess you had to be there
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Toni’s a few minutes behind on the plot and they’ve got him reading the Watchtower. I’m beginning to think Christophe is sponsored by Klim or Arai because he’s jumping into every shot looking heroic
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Then it’s the beautiful Hummingbird Highway. I’ve done it twice in two days.This is a great riding road. Only an hour long, it’s a must when in Belize. Lots of single lane bridges to speed up and go whooosh over

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The country
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And
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A toucan
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And then this strange white clay surface that I imagine would be hell in the rain, through a valley bottom, past horses which seem to be a big thing here

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To this wonderful place. The Jungle Dome. It has a pool which is the thing that keeps (an old man like) me renewed once in a while if it can be found. Gonna run out of these pretty soon
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It’s on the banks of the Belize River, much like Las Guatamayas was on the banks of the San Pedro a while back
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Then, yesterday, I get an email from Toni saying he’s at a cheap place at Hopkin’s that’s right on the beach, so in a spontaneous moment I take off and spend the evening chatting to him and another Canadian, Blake from Saskatchewan (down on a dive holiday)

Comfy
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The beach at dawn
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Today I returned to another border set-up, ready and looking forward to monkeys a day and a half out.

A very incomplete post, but sketchy internet again yesterday for pics and video, so. Tomorrow should be interesting…

And then

I met Brian from Canada somewhere in Arizona I think. Other than that I haven’t met any solo long distance riders out on the road. But if I saw one at a distance I’d know it, obviously. The bike, the gear – impossible to miss.

So imagine. I’m riding through central Belize this afternoon, in the middle of nowhere on this long straight stretch. All of a sudden I see a big bike ahead. I speed up, pull alongside and we look at each other in surprise. We pull over and chat, exchange email addresses and agree to meet in the next couple of days. Toni, from Germany.

I take off. 30 minutes later I pass another guy! We stop and chat. He’s headed north, home, so I won’t see him again. Here’s another shock: Christophe’s from Vancouver! And we share a mutual friend, Ross.

Then along comes Toni again. He stops, we laugh and tell a few stories.

Then, on this desolate road, a van comes to a screeching halt alongside us and out jump these black dudes, and you wouldn’t believe what they want.

More tomorrow, chores await.

Me, Christophe, Toni

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Meseta de Zoh Laguna

Happy that I’d discovered Campeche the next question was what next in the little picture. This was pretty easy. No way was I going northeast to Cancun. So that left two ways to get back into Guatemala. Either back to La Florida or through Belize. Maps trump Basecamp for overviews, so last night I pulled one out and lo and behold there’s a huge blank section in central Yucatan. Maybe the most remote area in eastern Mexico. And a little road goes through it con nada por 100 miles, from the town of Dzibalchin to Xpujil. It goes through the Meseta de Zoh Laguna.

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So Belize maybe tomorrow, assuming this 250 mile route doesn’t turn out to be dirt. Then we’re bivvying.

An hour later the GPS blanks out again and loses my route. It first did this in Georgia. My problems are hardware related I think (I’ve cleared everything through a new profile) and the best Garmin can do for me is to ask me to send it back for repair. Oh sure, in the middle of an RTW. It’ll wait, now that I’m understanding its idiosyncrasies (it’s nice to be able to do this) and I pull over and unpack my duffle, pull out the PC and transfer the route again. No problem. I can do this all day you little bastard. But best not to flash expensive stuff like this around so I do it in as public a place as possible, counterintuitively, and do it fast, and bolt.

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Then off through the backstreets of Campeche

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Into the country. Temperature? Hot, but getting used to it.

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We left early so we’re hungry, before we get to our little road, and stop in a village for brunch (don’t ask)

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The final town before our road is old and interesting. Judging from the looks I get no one comes this way

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Then our road. It’s fantastic. Barely 1 1/2 cars wide it’s pavement, with about 10 miles of dirt at the end, and winds perfectly between encroaching vegetation endlessly. The should be a must-do for riders going through the Yucatan

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For 100 miles!

Then the one other town, paved with red brick, which deceptively gives it a prosperous feel

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For about 30 miles we ride through swarms of butterflies. Rather like Texas hill country. Here’s a male.

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Then when our road ends it’s a horrible 50 miles of freeway to Chetumal, for a border crossing in the morning. It’ll be ugly.

Track:  Palenque to the Caribbean

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And this is the sea

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If we can’t escape from the heat, we can at least run for the sea. The last place we saw on the Atlantic was Savanna.

And so we start off due north in 100F across agricultural land with another 250 mile day ahead of us, through large scale agricultural land
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And occasional small farms. This one was raising turkeys
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At one point there we saw boats on a riverbank and rode down to explore. As pretty as a painting
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Later we rode through a brushfire. This didn’t help my eyes, which are almost completely red from riding in the heat. Visor down is suffocating. My goggles aren’t tinted so I ride with sunglasses visor up. And every couple of hours I dump half a bottle of water down my back which feels amazing before it evaporates.
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261 miles later we were passing through shanties as we approached the Gulf of Mexico
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We passed through the town of Champoton

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To Campeche. I knew nothing about Campeche until I read about it two nights ago. It was built by the conquistadors starting in 1540 on top of the Mayan town of Canpech. and is fortified because it was under almost constant attack from pirates and buccaneers, including all the heavies, for 180 years. Cool.

We stopped on the waterfront for the obligatory shots
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Which was alright, but after passing a couple of big casinos I began to wonder what all the fuss was about
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Lots of small and beaten fish boats
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Windswept piers
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But a block back from the water is the real city and it’s colonial bliss. I wasn’t prepared for the glory or scale of the place. Why don’t we all know about Campeche? Oh maybe you do.
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It’s huge, 250K people
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It’s stuffed with money. The shops, local, not tourist shops are state of the art. I went into a kitchen shop that was almost as good as any in our Princess City. The old fortifications are integrated
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Sculpture down Calle 59, pedestrians only and about a mile long
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A modest square
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Very few bikes, which is odd. But a few
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How beautiful is Campeche? This is a parking lot

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So I wish we had more time to explore this place, but we have to keep moving in this heat.