“Life doesn’t have to be easy. It just has to be worth it.”
Checking out of my room I’d rolled all of 500m back towards the city centre and happened upon a coffee shop I’d spotted the previous evening. Almost resisting the temptation to pop in I rolled past before making a U-turn. Still before 8, there was time for a quick decaf to kick off the day. What I discovered behind the unassuming frontage was a gorgeous garden and decking area over the river I’d sailed in on the previous evening. I could sit here all day. Actually I could sit here all day… I have 4 days to ride 300km down to Punta Gorda, so quite easily – yes I could sit here all day. But the time in Belize will be short enough already. There’ll be other stops…
Already it’s June. And the fast approaching 12 month mark in North America, I have landed on the mainland of Belize. Exhausted I arrived into Belize City yesterday evening and found my way to a cheap hostel not too far from the docks. I’d arrived from San Pedro, a Belizean island to which I’d sailed into from Chetumal a day earlier. The plan had been to spend an extra night on San Pedro but for the expense of the foreign tourist destinations I’d rescheduled slightly. I was recovered from the double century I’d covered a couple of days before but the previous evening had been spent bivi’ing on a disused pier, which was beautiful, but the wind which so kindly kept it cool and kept the mosquitos away had made it loud, too loud to sleep well and with sunrise at 5am it was a short night.
As for Belize City I wasn’t sure what to expect. Belize is dangerous – there are no shortage of statistics to throw around in support of that if you need to. Corner shops around here are like kiosks where you would get served at the window much like at 2am in a petrol station back home. The hostel was fortified with military grade barbed wire. And there are seemingly permanent police checkpoints on most junctions. So after a quick shower, as the sun was setting I popped out for a stroll to buy some supplies!
The final couple of days in Mexico had been pretty awesome, perhaps not the incredible cycling, scenery and terrain I’d been yearning for but worthwhile none the less. After crossing the Yucatan from Chicxulub to the Caribbean coast where I’d met up for lunch with an old school friend who’d sailed in with the cruise ship he now manages; after the brief detour back north – the Gulf coast of the Yucatan peninsula is actually a greater latitude than Mexico City; it was a matter of riding south, following the Caribbean coastline, more or less, down to the southernmost part of Belize. Spinning south from the tourist resort of Playa del Carmen the road became very uninteresting. After the comparative wilderness of the Yucatan the ‘coast’ road was a long straight flat highway. Not really on the coast either, just following the frontage of numerous holiday resorts. I’d accepted that this would be Tourist Central so I didn’t mind so much. The first stop was a short ride south to Tulum, to the Mayan ruins there and the last point before the road diverged inland from the coast. After a little deliberation I decided to cut the ride and spend the afternoon there. Tulum, the archeological site, had been on the tick list having missed Chitchen Itza a few days earlier, the latter being one of the few things I’d had on the agenda for Mexico; but approaching the entrance I got cold feet. As a line of 30 louder than necessary tourists queued amongst the chaos for tickets I decided an afternoon on the beach was probably more the afternoon I needed.
Outside the Eco-hostel in Tulum where I was staying there was a sign, a mile marker, or more accurately a kilometre marker, indicating 231km to the end of the road south. The end of of the road that was the Belizean border. Given the now uninteresting road it seemed like a good target for the following day, or 200 out of the 230 at least. So with a good night’s sleep and an early start I was rolling south. It started as probably the easiest 200km I’ve rolled but the afternoon was tough after the sea breeze picked up. As I counted down the kilometres Belize and the thought of Central America started to put a smile on my face again. Big days come with tick off points, usually emenating from some sort of simple mathematical logic. All I had was the km markers as I’d yet to replace my speedo that I’d lost in Oaxaca. But as I stopped for a break at km 160 the absurdity of that target sank in – though I’d ridden 71km to that point there was still 160 to go, 160km is a nice number as it equates to 100 miles but when you’re counting down the distance that’s still ONE HUNDRED miles to go – which is a big day in itself! Anyway the miles rolled by and after a chance meeting with a local, a former cycle tourist, I was recommended a campsite not far off the end of the road, fortunately 205km from Tulum otherwise I might have though twice about stopping there! The campsite was stunning, sitting on the side of the freshwater lagoon, relaxed and just beyond the scope of foreign tourists. I could have stayed there for a few nights. But Belize beckoned.
Needless to say, waking up the following day I was tired. A double century of kilometers takes its toll and a slight lack of dinner the previous night hadn’t helped either. But my breakfast carrot was very tasty! With some pesos to get rid of and the final morning in Mexico was filled with great food. Somewhat unexpected as I hadn’t made a point of stopping anywhere particularly flash, just good luck and helped by my hungry and fatigued state! After chatting with Jose the Mexican cycle tourist I’d learned that there was actually a ferry to Belize via the island of San Pedro.
San Pedro started to feel like the Caribbean. A notch above the Mexican Caribbean. And worth the visit. If I was coming back one day it would be for a, probably all inclusive, scuba diving trip. Enquiring about scuba diving recently it’s now that my BSAC, rather than Pay-And-Dive-In (PADI), qualifications seem to be a bit of a hinderance. When I learnt to Scuba Dive in the UK I was told it can only get better, seeing the Caribbean, had I not have already, I’d be inclined to agree!