Date: 28th February – 4th March 2012
Where: Corozal (Belize) – Crooked Tree – Belmopan – San Ignacio – El Remate (Guatemala)
Distance: 818 to 1037 miles
Our journey through Belize was short but sweet. It didn’t take long for us both to realise that we will be making a return trip to this small but culture and wildlife rich country. This made it easier for us to miss some of the country’s highlights (including the second largest barrier reef in the world) and instead enjoy the more day-to-day Belizean life. We entered Belize from the North with no trouble whatsoever and headed straight for the super laid back coastal town of Corozal. It was soon evident that this was a very different place to Mexico. Not only could we speak English thanks to it being an ex-British colony (it was known as British Honduras until the 70s), street signs were in yards and miles, the wooden architecture was completely new to us and the population make-up fascinating. Belizeans are a mix of Maya, Spanish, descendants of African slaves, Chinese (the Chinese own pretty much every shop in the country) and even more randomly Mennonite communities who still use a horse and cart as transport. What’s more, the shops are stocked with British goodies such as custard powder, ginger nuts, Campbells soup and Guiness.
From Corozal we cycled on the only road heading South towards Orange Walk and shared the narrow main road with endless trucks transporting sugar cane to the rum distillery just south of this town. With elections looming the following week, each and every lamppost and pylon was plastered with different party colours and slogans – even some houses had been painted to show their political allegiance. It felt as though we were cycling through Tropico, a sim city type computer game based on a Caribbean island. We arrived at the small village of Crooked Tree in the dark, tired, hot, covered in sand and dead midges, disappointed that our new map seemed to be inaccurate. A delicious but cheap dinner at Carries restaurant helped us feel human again. Early the next morning we walked around the village and saw some amazing birdlife. We set off from Crooked Tree late morning straight into a headwind on the fast and narrow road (we regularly got pushed off the road by impatient drivers) and didn’t get very far when we stopped to stock up on food at the Biscayne grocery store. We ended up camping in their back yard and used the remainder of the day to clean our chains from sand and grit and cook up a large pot of spaghetti. The next couple of days were not particularly enjoyable cycling due to the strong headwind, bad state of the roads and strong sun but we met a variety of very sweet, friendly and helpful people and ate some delicious chicken stew with rice and beans by the road side and at markets.
Cycling westwards towards the Guatemalan border the scenery became more and more interesting with small hills rising from the flat plain we had cycled on since Cancun. Prince Harry was in the country and due to travel through the area and a young girl thought Geoff was Harry! Our last two nights in the country were spent just outside San Ignacio with our first ever Warm Showers hosts Rodolfo and Carla, their children Mary, Mark and Rafael, their two dogs and four puppies. Rodolfo had cycled toured around South America for 18 months and was a great source of advice for us. We encountered our first tent wildlife experience in their garden with a tarantula choosing to shelter under a pannier during the night – we have started to shake out our shoes each morning now. We really enjoyed their company and were well taken care of, thank you all very much! Belize, we’ll be back.