An important development in the days prior to entering Belize was that it looked promising that I had secured an enticing job in northern Colombia working on a forest conservation project. Because of this I was suddenly in a rush to make ground south. This sudden rush left me with mixed feelings as I weighed the benefits of the job to the sacrifice of rushing through this fascinating part of the world.
After a full three months of cycling through Mexico, Belize was a tremendous change and I experienced a solid dose of culture shock. I had to resist greeting people in Spanish as I encounter diverse peoples including Criolles who speak a distinct and very laid back sounding dialect of English, Mennonites dressed in 19th century attire, traditional Mayans who speak fluent english in addition to their native tongue, asian immigrnts who for some reason own every single grocery store and Garrifuna villages founded by escaped or marooned African slaves. Also a big change is that I see a clear emphasis on ecotourism and recognition of the services provided by intact ecosystems. Belize has the lowest population density in Central America (15.11 persons per sq. km) and tourism and ecotourism accounts for about a third of GDP and employment, thus large tracts of the country are undeveloped and many have been designated as conservation areas. For myself, this is fantastic to see and a big change from what I have so far witnessed through the US and Mexico.
|if you are looking for a good read I highly recomend "Secrets of the Talking Jaguar"|
Unfortunately, the road quality is worse as they are paved roughly with coarse asphalt and in the northern portion of the country debris fallen from haphazardouly loaded sugar cane trucks litter the road. The sugar cane trucks themsleves are a real danger as well becase they often pass with sugar canes dangling from their side, sometimes at head height or pitched forwards as if to joust me from the road. Here I am hit with big storms too. After two wet days riding south I decide to take a rest day camping under a palapa at Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and make a visit to the Belize Zoo, which provides habitat and rehabilitation for injured animals. There I see jaguars, crocodiles, tapires, ocelots, black jaguars, otters, macaws, toucans, a harpi eagle and dozens of other interesting animals. Even though I was aware that the zoo was helping injured animals Its still tough seeing such noble wild animals locked in cages.
For the rest of the day I relax in the wildlife sanctuary´s extensive library. I find a text on tropical forest ecology by T.C. Whitmore and study the first three chapters carefully. This may sound boring but I am delighted to read about the amazing ecosystems and endless diversity within these forests. I have so much to learn. Science in general still has so much to discover about these complex systems.
|My route is from Chetumal, Mexico to Punta Gorda in the south|
|A remote Mayan village undergoing a massive transition as a new trans-border highway is built through the heart of it.|
|a rough path lead to the village of San Jose|
In the morning I get my passport stamped and jump into a speed boat bound for Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. A complete traverse of Belize highway from north to south in only 8 days. I can really appreciate this feeling of accomplishment after spending 3 months to get across Mexico! Overall it was a very easy flat ride with low traffic volume, rough paved but not trecherous roads and a pretty good feeling of safety, though, slightly less than I felt in Yucatan, Mexico. A few days of rain lowered my spirit a bit but under the incredible heat a few days later I could then appreciate the rain. The worst part of my traverse was the terrible fire ant bite I got just before entering Belize and the many more I got at Crooked Tree. Fire ants leave long lasting very itchy welts on me. Not fun at all! The best part was definitely seeing the successful efforts to preserve their natural wealth and the crazy cultural mosaic of Belize. I liked all the groups I encountered and it was a refreshing dynamic from Mexico.
|25$ US for the speed boat trip to Guate. it was beautiful, I was stoked!|
|A very large and likely very old Ceiba just south of Corozal along main highway|
|Same tree, another view. This was probably the most impressive tree I saw in Belize, for size|
|Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. I received another 5 or 6 fire ant stings well here.|
|A cooperative vireo poses for a shot|
|the village of Crooked Tree|
|The Hummingbird Highway just south of Belmopan|
|Karst rock on the Hummingbird Highway|
|The Maya Mountains as seen from Hummingird Highway|
|A beautiful and large Ceiba near southern end of the Hummingbird Highway|
|6.5 km dirt trck into Hopkins|
|km 44 on the recently paved Southern Highway|
|Looking west towards a huge no-access wilderness area where rumour has it that there is a pair of nesting harpi eagles|
|Hannah from England starting a hill bomb|
|Nice swimming hole near San Antonio. We saw a river otter and an agouti here.|
|Punta Gorda on Caribbean coast|
|Arrival in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala|
|sunset at Puerto Barrios, Guatemala|