Wednesday, June 10, 2009
6/10/09 Into Belize
Wake up, get ready, head out and hope for the best. Bike seems to be running fine and the weather is great. Hot, but great. It's an hour and a half to the border with the last 20kms being a gravel road. It's not that bad though and pretty soon I'm at the last town in Guatemala before the border at Melchor de Mencos. All the worrying I've been doing about my passport goes out the window when I exit Guatemala in less than 10 minutes. I do pay a $2.50 exit fee which I am more than happy to do. The lady who stamps my passport seems to realize I have stayed longer than I should have but just smiles, lets me turn in my vehicle import permit and I'm on my way. Change over my last bit of Quetzales into Belizian dollars which are conveniently at a fixed rate of 1 U.S. dollar to 2 Belizian dollars. The Belizian entry is almost as easy, taking a total of about 20 minutes and after paying the mandatory 3rd party bike insurance (with a credit card, what a concept!) I'm well on my way to the Belize Zoo about 40 miles away. It's only 12:30am at this point and I leisurely cruise through the countryside. Signs in English, a tad bit run down but in a more rural way, not so much the poverty vibe of Guatemala, the requisite heat and humidity and beautiful and lush green scenery everywhere are the things which strike me immediately. Plenty of time to see the animals so I buy a ticket (again with a credit card) and have a look. It's a nice, funky set-up and although relatively small, the place is famous for having some bad-ass animals in a very natural habitat. It looks almost like they just minimally wrapped up the existing jungle. with strategically placed chicken wire. Monkeys, tapirs, eagles, jaguarundis, pumas, ocelots and the big highlight, standing face to face with a jaguar a few feet away were all a part of the experience. By the time I'm finished at 4 it is only 25 miles to Belize City on the coast, and the jumping-off point for the boat I want to take to Caye Caulker to chill for a couple of days. An hour later I've found the guest house I had read about right on the water and I check into a room with an amazing breeze blowing through the room off the water. I spend the rest of the day finding a local spot to eat and catching up on this blog at the guest house while relaxing with some other travellers. It's been a great travelling day, probably my best one yet. No passport or bike problems, good roads, into an English speaking country with no shortage of ATM's and the ability to take credit cards, cool-ass zoo, and for once doing MORE in a day than I expected. It did help that Belize is only 80 miles across. The downside is that things are WAY more expensive here, but I figure it will lessen the shock when I get back to NYC! Tomorrow, up early and on to the boat to Caye Caulker to chill for 2 days in the waters of the Carribean.