Category Belize

Border wars

Now, where were we?

First, a track. This is a big one. Belmopan through the border, to Ni’tun, to Antigua
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Back at Belmopan I changed brake cables, did a bleed. No center stand, so Lucinda got tied to a post and her bars tied while I worked.
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Which all took two hours, about an hour and a half more than it would take someone who had done it a bunch of times. And off we went, through beautiful Belize, which I mentioned before is horsey. This tree, btw, is the rain tree because it drips for hours after the rain stops
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The trees in Belize are monumental
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So off we went to San Ignacio, which is on a pretty river. It’s almost record-setting hot here so for miles people are trying to cool off in it
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A river crossing in town
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The border is interesting. You see that little white building centre-right? That’s where you get your photocopies of everything made.
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So after going through Belize Immigration, clearing our Belizean permit, going through Guatemalan immigration, getting copies made, we then hit a solid wall at Gautemalan customs.
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So here’s the story.

My re-entry in Mexico a few weeks ago was partly to see the Yucatan and Belize but critically I had to clear my Guatemalan permit by April 14, which I did. Applying for a new permit at Melchor de Mencos a couple of weeks later, last Saturday, to re-enter (yup, I know, a lot of entries and re-entries) I was told that I couldn’t re-enter until July 14. What?!

None of my friends knew this (they don’t expire a three month permit first) and I’d read ADV and HUBB exhaustively about Central American borders, and had heard nothing about a three month wait between bike permits. I couldn’t believe it. Screwed. So I asked for a transit permit straight through to El Salvador and they said no way. After the supervisor grilled me about what I had been doing in Guatemala, where I lived there, who I knew, what my plans were, he decided that I was planning to stay and I had no intention to go through to El Salvador in a few weeks. Let’s just say he was a jerk, typical of the problems you run into.

So I rode back to San Ignacio, about 20 miles back and checked into a hotel to plan my next move. I had 12 days to clear my Belizean permit and be somewhere else other than Guatemala. I made a reservation on the boat from Belize City to Puerto Cortes in Honduras. My back-up plan. Easy and time to burn.

But it’s not what I wanted to do. Firstly, I loved Guatemala and wanted to see Tikal, Semuc Champay, monkees, and had made a promise to someone that had to be cleared.

So I called Julio and Taz. Julio knew someone who knew someone (really) who could help me pay a *fine* and get a transit visa at least. Then there was another option – import the bike. Complex, time consuming and perhaps expensive, we all looked at that.

Julio’s friend’s friend handled the *fine*. Taz rode up to assist with the import, if it came to that.

I can’t tell you how difficult it was getting a 72 hour permit, which effectively, because of the time it was issued, was a two riding day permit.

I think they both said at different times “hey, that’s why they call this adventure riding” and I took solice in the knowledge that there have been worse stories in the recent past down here, including to ‘Chefonbike’ from BC who got refused in Costa Rica about 2 weeks ago. They said his ICBC document wasn’t an ownership document. And ‘shmula1’ who had his bike impounded for 24 days because his NY title looked bogus, but wasn’t.

Anyway, by the time it was dark it got done. Taz, Lucinda and I raced off into a huge lightning storm to Ni’tun, about 2 hours away, on mixed dirt and pavement.  The storm was huge, the road awash and the dirt sections ‘sketchy’ as Taz put it. But imagine how big a push this was for Taz who, who had ridden very fast for six hours to get to me before hand. Wow.

Ni’tun was a magical place and served the best food of any small lodge I’ve stayed at in Guatemala. We were there for 10 hours only – lots of food and a little sleep.
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In the background we were still working the problem. We found out that Lucinda’s blue-book value was way less than I had imagined and did the maths on importing her so I could complete Guatemala. Julio knew how to do this and had a friend in Guatemala City who had done a few bikes for him previously. But we had 24 hours to do it before Lucinda became illegal again.

The following morning we pulled a 545km day, which on these roads is big. At midpoint we stopped to eat at Rio Dulce in incredible heat. Taz reckoned 105F.
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To make another long story short, Taz and I raced off yesterday back to Guatemala City to see Julio’s friend in Aduana (customs). We had four separate rides, maybe four hours, of hair-raising fast lane-splitting (about 60% of the time) in the chaotic GC traffic. If we failed, or something went wrong, I had to skip to El Salvador by midnight last night. Interesting.

And we got it almost done. One more thing I have to do and there’s no more Central American border crossing hassles, as most of the countries honour my new Guatemalan plates, when I get them. In the interim I’m legal again as they process the plates.

It’s difficult to easily accept how hard Julio and Taz pulled to help make all this happen. But they are, after all, ADV riders, and have been through hell and back themselves. Two more years of this I’ll be one too and ready in BC as they and others come through.

And Lorena, thank you.

A monster moth, 6 inches across
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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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