Friday, July 11, 2008

First Impression: Belize is awesome!

A road in signs, no lane markings, and pretty rough. But, beautiful country side!

This is a traditional Belizean home, although they are becoming more rare in favor of the concrete block homes I saw everywhere in Mexico.

Sooooo happy to be clean! Laguna Bacalar in Mexico.

Getting down to the lake was a bit of an adventure.

This lake was a welcome sight, I needed a bath after sweating through three tough days of riding.

A typical little Poblado in Mexico.

I found a great place to camp on an abandoned farm, out in the jungle in Mexico.

Day: 124
Miles: 40
Total Mileage: 6,366
Money Spent: 6-10: $34

I have only been here in Belize for a day, but what a nice day it was. Crossing the border was a cinch, I went across at the small town of Sta. Elena instead of the much larger Chetumal. I stopped to buy a nice meal as I had about $10 in pesos left over and so had a huge plate of chicken fajitas and loaded up on water.

You are meant to pay a $15 to $30 exit tax when leaving Mexico, but I didn't have that much and didn't want to go to an ATM so, as I usually do when crossing military checkpoints, I just put my head down and road through it and as usual, no one said anything just staring at me as I passed. I rode over the Rio Mahacal, got my 1 month Visa and that was about all there was to getting into Belize, it was a breeze.

Belize is a wonderful mash up of about a dozen different cultures. It began as a part of the Mayan empire, sometimes being conquered by rival kingdoms, but essentially Mayan, then it was conquered by the Spanish and became a colony. It served as a hideout and base for pirates and then the British came in with Caribbean and African slaves and workers to use the land for logging and agriculture.

In time, the land became a British colony in all but name. As a result of being a de facto part of the commonwealth, Belize has seen immigration from India, ex pats from Australia, England, and Canada, as well as quite a few Americans. There are also a number of Chinese, and Japanese living in Belize. The Caribean and Africans brought over to work still remain as well as Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants and the Garifuna, who are a mix of Carribean, African and indigenous peoples who speak a dialect of English that is so strong, it is basically its own language. (think: Hey mon, take it easy)

So essentially you have a crazy mix of people from all over the world who have come to this tiny, beautiful, tropical country that runs to a Bob Marley soundtrack. They all live side by side and on a single street, you can see families from every ethnic group you can imagine, all living and working in the same communities.

The official language here is English, but it helps if you can speak some Spanish as well. I have to admit, it is nice to be able to speak English again and to have everything written in English.
Within minutes of being here, I met nothing but nice people. I thought Mexico was full of incredibly friendly people, but I honestly think Belize may take that title if the rest of the country is as welcoming as the north. Everywhere I went, people were smiling, everyone waves at you and each other, little kids come out of their house to say hello and run along side the bike. Families hang out in the fron yard, talking to the neighbors, wathing kids play and just passing the time nice and easy. People who drove by me would honk and wave or give me a thumbs up. One guy pulled over to ask me where I was going and where I had come from and his son had a million questions for me. He thought cycle touring was about the coolest thing he has ever heard of and decided he would ride his bike across Belize when he was old enough. The funny part was, it was a Latino dad and son who spoke English with a Rasta accent! Stuff like that is common here and makes me laugh because it is so cool.

Here are a few quick examples of the kind of people I have met here.

While riding down the road trying to figure out how to get to where I was going (there are petty much no roadsigns of any type here) two teenage guys rode up next to me and asked me where I was going. They showed me how to get there and we rode together for about 7 miles shooting the breeze. They rode everyday on single speed beach cruisers to their sisters town about 10 miles away. In the heat here and wearing flip flops, that is no joke! They were also nice enough to show me where a water pump was where you could pump some water out of a well and take a little mini shower to cool off.

I didn't find an ATM while riding and I was trying to make it to the first city (well, a city by Belizean standards) called Orange Walk that had a bank. I ran low on water on the way as it was very hot and I pulled over to a shop in a tiny little town to get some water. Belize uses their own currency and American dollars, and I had a few quarters sitting in the bottom of my bag so I dug them out but unfortunately, the stores don't take American coins. So, I thought I was out of luck, but one of the 5 or so guys that was hanging out at the store told me to come back, and he bought me a Strawberry Fanta since I looked thirsty. How nice was that? Who could honestly say that they would buy a total stranger a drink just because he looked thirsty? I stayed and shot the breeze with the guys for a while and they all thought I was crazy but wished me luck on my trip.

Down the road, I saw a Shell Station and figured they would have an ATM or take credit cards for sure, so I stopped in. Unfortunately, they did not have either, but the lady running the store just gave me a bottle of water! I couldn't believe it, the people are just so friendly.

I made it to Orange Walk and its a pretty small city really, no buildings over three stories and only a few streets. But it was full of the same mix of people that were so nice. As I sat there checking out my map looking for a Hotel I had read about, a little kid skid slides on his bike up to me and says: "Hey dude, whats happenin?"

It almost brought a tear to my eye to hear someone call me dude!

I told him I was looking for the Akihoto Hotel ($15 for a two person room with TV) and he said, "Yeah bro, its right over there."

I could have hugged the little guy, being called dude and bro in the same conversation brought me back to California, if only for a second!

So I checked in and decided to stay here for a rest day. I am developing saddle soars on my rear end and so I decided to let them heal up for a day. That, plus I found a taco shop here that sells three chicken tacos for fifty cents!! I am in heaven!

I will rest all day today and then head towards Belize City tomorrow, I may blow by it though, and stay along the coast somewhere. I have decided to stay in Belize as long as possible and will ride all the way through the country to the far south, and then take a ferry to Guatemala. I will miss a lot of Guatemala, but I am enjoying Belize so much that I feel it is a fair trade off. Also, from what I have read and heard, the southern part of Belize sees nearly no tourism, which means that it will probably be more enjoyable for me. I am finding myself enjoying the little villages and towns in the country just as much or more than the cities.

Until next time!


jesstheonlyartist said...

Wow... reading this blog really made me feel warm inside. Just to know you are meeting great people and seeing how people really should act (compared to a lot in the United States)... makes me happy. I think people admire you and your dedication considering Americans are considered 'lazy' and don't have the best image at times. They see you and see what good there is still in people.... just as you see good in them. I dunno if that made sense... but I really liked this blog. It made me smile.

Super glad to hear you got 'bro' and 'dude' *haha* AND come on... how can you pass up 3 tacos for 50 cents... it's a STEAL!!! Eat some for me!

Thanks again for restoring faith in humanity and the people out there....

Dickson Family said...

Richard!!!!!!!!! What's up bro!!! You are gnarly my friend. I just went thru the blog from the last couple of weeks to catch up on your adventure!! It sounds freakin incredible!! Is it just me or does that guard dog that you took a picture of look a heck of a lot like scrappy?? I am glad to hear that the people are friendly to you. I'm sure it is a breath of fresh air. And I thought our hitch hiking experience coming back from havasu was and adventure. I was sadly mistaken. I tell you what, this whole thing has sure with helped out with a pretty sick conversation piece for family events or even just talk around the "water cooler" at work. I mean come on, how many people have a buddy who is currently traveling around the world on a bicycle?? When I tell them what you are doing the first thing they say is .........oh... so he's mormon. Then I tell them no man he's just nuts. Of course then I always follow it up with the fact that I would actually have already made it to Chile by now on a unicycle getting ready for my trek across Africa barefoot, but I had kids so you know......that's the "only reason" I'm sitting on my couch instead!! hahahah. Keep it up man. You are doing something now that you will remember for the rest of your life. I'll make sure to post a comment from time to time.

Talk to you soon.


Steven Andrés said...

Ha ha ha hilarious man...

"I could have hugged the little guy, being called dude and bro in the same conversation brought me back to California, if only for a second!"

Dude, keep taking lots of pictures and enjoy yourself bro! --Signed, A Californian. Specifically, an H.B.-ian.

Amy said...

Reece!! I've been following all summer, and your story just keeps getting better and better. I'm so happy that you are able to experience so many amazing things. I feel like I am almost living vicariously through your adventures. Keep these wonderful blogs coming!!

Reecius said...

Hey everyone, good to hear from you all! hahaha, whatever Dickson! you wouldnt make it around the block on a unicycle! hahaha, just kidding, but that had me laughing my butt off.

yeah, the people in belize are incredibly nice, i really like it here. I have been haning out more than riding though! and hearing people say dude really does warm my heart!

i hope everyone back home is well.

Lisa said...

Wow...I'm not really into this whole blogging thing but I have to admit i'm really enjoying it and wish you the best in your adventure. One of your myspace friends!!!