We crossed into Belize without any problems at the border. We actually bumped into another Brit riding a Triumph Tiger who was doing a round the world trip solo. The first overland biker we have spoken to in 5 months.
We were quite shocked to see how desperately poor Northern Belize is. As poor as anywhere we have been including Malawi, Nepal and Cambodia. People were living in tiny, falling down shacks and the landscape was pretty desolate.
Belize is tiny and you can ride across in a day but we decided to take two days so we could visit the coast. The stunning islands or cages are not accessible by bike or on our budget so we went to Hopkins on the mainland Caribbean coast instead. En route we took the Hummingbird Highway. We did not see any hummingbirds but there were plenty of potholes and some rough road surfaces at times.
We loved Hopkins. It is a real Belizean village with just a few cabanas and small guesthouses. It is pretty poor but the people are friendly and there is a real community feel.
The language in Belize is English and it was great to chat to local people without a language barrier.
We treated ourselves to a beachfront cabana as it was only for one night and we were greeted with a coconut each cut down from the nearest tree. We had a few beers and some veggie curry at a beach shack and chilled out.
A local dog adopted us as is always the case.
Belize was a British colony right up until the 1980s and in the local shop we could buy PG Tips and McVities Digestives. The biscuits were stale but our dog friend enjoyed them.
The next day we rode to San Ignacio and I spent the night with a high fever. I am pleased to say the the antibiotics have now worked and I am completely recovered from the tooth extraction.
The border crossing into Guatemala was something we had dreaded, expecting it to be long and hard. Arriving at the Guatemala side, we met a couple of young boys who were trying to earn a few dollars helping tourists through the formalities. Douglas and Osman were a pleasure to have around and we enjoyed their company and valued their assistance. The Guatemalan border staff were helpful and friendly and we crossed both sides in 1 hour and 20 minutes.
We rode straight to Tikal. This is one of the major Mayan ruins in Central America. The Mayans built this city a little after same the Romans built Ancient Rome. When you think about it like that, it is not that impressive but they did not have the wheel or metal tools.
These Mayan cities made up of dwellings, administrative buildings and temples were right in the heart of the jungle and still are today.
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon but in doing so avoided the other foreign tourists who throng in their thousands at sunrise. We loved the fact that there were Guatemalan families sitting around on the grass with children running around, as if it was still a living city.
We really enjoyed the brief jungle experience a lot. We saw an endangered howler monkey and a few other animals and birds. I made sure I got up at 5am to hear the jungle come to life and I could hear the terrifying growls and scream of the howler monkeys in the distance. We hope to encounter them more later in the trip.
The staff at the hotel in Tikal were truly amazing and it was a wonderful welcome to Guatemala.
The next day, we rode to Flores, a tiny islet, in a large lake, linked to the mainland by a causeway. There were some lovely colourful buildings and cool looking restaurants.
We stayed in a nice apartment overlooking the lake which was very comfy and we were able to cook.
Yesterday we left early for a long journey to Coban on our way to Lake Atitlan for Xmas. The journey started and ended with a lot of potholes.
At one of the towns, there is no bridge and so you have to use a ferry.Dave and I love a ferry so it was a real treat. We also go to chat with another Brit from Nuneaton who is travelling here for three weeks.
We passed some amazing Mayan towns with huge markets that we had to ride straight through. The women still wear local dress but don’t like having the pictures taken.
Late in the day, the rain started coming down and the roads become a bit worrying. Some of the bridges were out at points during the day and roads were being resurfaced in patches.There were also some uneven surfaces and huge potholes.The cloud came down low but it was still pretty.We were pretty wet and a little cold when we arrived but the hotel was cosy and welcoming and the owner brought us hot tea. We are holed up here today waiting for the rain to pass. Just two more days until we get to Panajachel and Xmas can start.