©2019 by Jelle.

Via Belize in Guatemala

24/11/2018

Part 2 of my journey started really smooth. My parents brought me to the airport and our goodbye was very different than the one in February, when I flew to Canada. After the usual security checks, I didn’t have to wait very long to board the plane. When I settled down in my seat, a stewardess of the airline (TUI) approached me. “Good morning Jelle, follow me!”, she said friendly. I followed her and she told me that she was gonna give me a free upgrade to the first class of the airplane. Maico, a friend and former class mate, works at the office of TUI and arranged all this for me. The stewardess also gave me a goodie bag with some food, a bootle, a TUI cycling jersey and a card with a personal message of Maico who wished me good luck on start again. Extremely kind that he arranged all that and that really gives me a kick start.

 

In my brand new TUI outfit

 

So my flight to Mexico was really comfortable and we arrived fast. I took a bus and collective taxi to Andrés house and it immediately felt like I never left. Andrés was still in his working routine, nothing special happened here. I brought some typical Dutch stuff for Andrés to thank him for everything that he had done for me.

 

I stayed the weekend and the beginning of the next week at his house to prepare myself before I would leave. I checked my bicycle (I did a bad job in hindsight), bought some practical stuff and repaired some clothes. Just like in the Netherlands in January, I tested the fully-equiped bicycle once to feel how it feels. Everything felt alright and I was mentally and physically ready to start.

 

I cooked some eggs in the morning to give myself energy to leave. A month earlier, I had decided take the bus to the Mexican border with Belize. In my opinion, it’s not worth to cycle three-and-a-half days on a highway with nothing but trees on either side of the road. I had to cycle 35 km to take this bus and I didn’t have the luck to reach it without a flat tire…. After 28 kilometers, I already had one. It’s mainly my own fault because I continued too long with my worn-off tires. Luckily, I brough a new (foldable) pair with me from the Netherlands, so I could replace the tire. I quickly put some air in my flat tire to catch my bus. It wasn’t very easy to get everything inside the bus, because it was already stocked with luggage from backpackers that are travelling through the region. Eventually, I managed to put everything in the bus and off I went to Chetumal, a small Mexican city close to the Belizean border. I went to a bike shop and I let someone replace my tire and fix my inner tube for $2…. I’m not gonna do it myself for that amount of money, I will probably have to do it more than enough times in the future. I obviously gave him a good tip. I cycled 10 kilometers to the Mexican border where I unfortunately got scammed for $30 because I wasn’t aware of the regulations. I saw four equipped bikes at the Belizean border. After effortlessly entering Belize, I talked to the group of cyclists. Three Mexicans and one Lebanese guy who also lives in Mexico. Their journey begane here, in Chetumal, and goes via Belize to Guatemala. They invited me to join them, they already had a place to stay. It’s really nice to begin this way!

 

We cycled to the local football club of Corozal. We could spend the night in the change room of the club and we parked our bikes in the referee’s room 😊.

 

Javier, Akiles, Tamayo and Marco at the football club

 

Akiles, the Lebanese guy, also knew someone in the next village, Progreso. He told me that the location is normally a resort where big parties or events can be organized. It was only 25 kilometers, so we had all the time that we needed. I therefore went to a bike mechanic to let him check my cracky pedals and rear wheel that was out of balance. The one-and-a-half months in a tropical environment without using the bicycle has done some harm, but nothing that can’t be fixed. On our way to Progreso, we had to take a ferry to cross a river and we enjoyed the quiet roads of Belize. The roads in Quintana Roo are pretty busy, so it felt like a relieve. The resort was beautiful, it was a big terrain with view on a lake. We could stay there because of two Polish cycling tourists that Akiles knows. These Polish guys, Konrad and Peter, were working at the resort in exchange for accommodation and food (via workaway.com). I had never heard of this community, but I think it’s a really good opportunity to find out what you’d like to do.

 

On the ferry

 

Paradise 1

 

The next morning, we cycled to Sand Hill, about 90 kilometers. Belize is a very quiet country with less than 400.000 inhabitants. The official language, mainly spoken by the government, is English. However, most people also also speaks Spanish and I’ve noticed that when two Belizeans are talking among each other, they speak some kind of creole English. It’s like English although you don’t understand a thing of it. It’s also strange to see that the majority of local businesses in Belize are owned by Chinese, while they only form a small part of the population. Someone told me that the governments subsidises them for 10 years and that many of these Chinese people return afterwards. I have no idea whether it is true. After a day of cycling, we ended up in the garden of a Rastafari dude.

 

The next day, we cycled to the capital of Belize, Belmopán. I always thought that Belize-City was the capital, but they changed this due to the city’s vulnerability for hurricanes. We camped behind the fire department in Belmopán. One of the voluntary firefighters told us that he had already spotted us in the morning and already expected us. Belmopán is by far the strangest capital I have ever seen. It’s like a small village that has a small section that is filled with International organisations and embassies.

 

Camping on the firefighters' field

 

 

After 5 days, it was already time for the next country: Guatemala. We cycled to the border where an unpleasant surprise awaited us. Akiles, the Lebanes guy, was traveling with a Venezuelan passport and he didn’t know that he needed a visa. He went to Guatemala a couple of years ago without any problems, but Guatemala had changed the regulations. They allowed Akiles to sleep one night in Guatemala, with the group, but he was obligated to go back the next morning. I entered Guatemala without any problems, pretty useful to be Dutch….

 

After a short goodbye, we continued without Akiles towards El Remate and from there it was only 30 kilometers to Flores. Flores is the capital of the province and it has a very small touristic peninsula that is connected by a kind of dike. We slept there in one of the many hostals, including an amazing view on the lake. We had a nice last evening together but for me it was time to leave the group behind and continue solo.

 

View from the hostal

 

About two months ago, I cycled with seven Mexicans (Rodando por America) through Mexico. The group separated and everyone went its own way. I stayed in touch with some of them. Omar, for example, continued with $200 in his pocket and Argentina as final destinations. Mission Impossible. He made it to Panamá, which really impressed me. His plan was to work in Panamá with his uncle to gain enough money to make it to Argentina. This plan failed, because he needed a work permit which he couldn’t afford. So now he’s back in Mexico, making some money. He’s gonna do a second attempt to reach Argentina within a couple of months, we might cycle together for a while. On his way to Panamá, Omar already crossed Guatemala and he therefore has a network of people that he met on his way. He passed me a number of Walter, who owns a small bike shop in Poptún. Poptún is about 100 kilometers from Flores. The group of three Mexicans returned to Chetumal and I cycled to Poptún. I had to walk the last 4 kilometers in the dark because I got another flat tire and didn’t want to fix it there and then. We fixed everything in Walter’s bike shop and he brought me to a gigantic house where Marilou had already prepared a bed. I’ve been really lucky in Mexico with the people that I met and it looks like my luck is not over yet.

 

Paradise 2

 

Omar recommended me to enjoy Poptún because it’s a unique place. I want to continue and make some kilometers, but I’ve been talked into staying a couple of nights. It’s just too tempting to stay a couple nights. And why wouldn’t I? These couple of days are not gonna make any difference. I’ve used the opportunity that I had with Walter to fix some minor issues that I had with the bike. Walter is a very good bike mechanic and he is an autodidact. Even my high-end bike has no secrets for him.

 

Unfortunately, the camera that I borrowed from my aunt is having some problems. I can start it up, but it won’t make any pictures. The quality of my pictures will therefore deteriorate significantly, because I’m dependent on the bad camera of the smartphone that I’m using. My apologies and I’ll try to fix the problem as soon as possible, but it might take a while. I’m currently in Poptún and will leave Sunday morning (25th of November).

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