Friday, December 3, 2010

Adios Mexico, Bienvenidos a Belize

The last week in Mexico was a tumble dryer; we travelled quickly and struggled in parts of the wilderness, pampered ourselves at an ecolodge and lay-low for a while in a campers hideaway paradise, and even played a small role in the theartical drama of a bustling populated albeit little Mexican town.

The boat to Punta Herrero from Punta Allen was in the end a mystery never to be resolved, the weather did not improve, at least not within a reasonable time bracket for our trip, and we took the rugged road through Sian Kaan to get to Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Cycling through the middle of a biosphere reserve jungle as four o'clock swings around, the day begins to yawn and you have no clue where you will sleep that night can heighten the stress levels just a tad. Luckily for us the lesser visited Caseta Santa Teresa did in fact exist and came just at the saving tick of time, Manuel the ranger working there was a saint and showed us into the very comfortable military style sleeping quarters and bathrooms. We had a great nights sleep after a well deserved warm meal and loads of liquids.

We reached Felipe Carrillo Puerto well into the afternoon after another tough ride and a minor puncture in Sian Kaan. The road closer to Carrillo seemed to be the hunting ground for many a poacher or logger, it was a sad sight to see the scars left behind as layers of jungle were torn out of the thick vegetation. A quick stop at the first little mini-mart, a few cold cokes later and we found a hotel to rest for the night. That evening and early the next morning we enjoyed the delights the regional town markets of Mexico tend to offer, fresh licuados and hot empanadas - yumm!

After the Sian Kaan adventure, the rough nights sleep in Carrillo and lots of headwind, the 75km ride to Pedro Antonio Santos for our next stop was a real, real tough challenge. We crashed for a quick lunch and a rest in one of the random staggered yellow concrete bus stops along the highway. We reached our destination late into the day, it was a beautiful end to our ride - the wind calmed, birds and grasshoppers flew across our view of the setting sun. We rode in these calm, dry and comfortable conditions until reaching the turn off to Laguna Azul, a German run camping and cabana hang-out on the northern edge of the Bacalar Laguna. We stayed for two magical and relaxing nights where we came to a deeper understanding of why people tend to move to live at the edge of a lake.

Vinko and Stefan attempting the world's first canoe launched Kite Surf, Laguna Azul

Our stay in Bacalar was eco-romantic at the Kuuch Kaanil cabanas, again the stunning lake and the relaxing setting made it difficult to cut our stay any shorter (we stayed for three nights). While staying with the nice people at Kuuch Kaanil we explored the lake for half a morning with a couple from Mexico city who were staying there on a friends recommendation. Our guide Angel took us to a 120 meter deep cenote (Cenote Azul - often used by deep sea free divers) as well as gliding through the Canal de los Piratas, a channel used by logging pirates local from the region who used to smuggle out mahogany to be used on expensive furniture made in England and Europe before the 20th century. This area is definitely going on our top picks list to return to and maybe start our eco-venture, it is truly amazing and very well worth looking after. The couple from Mexico city, Manuel and Mansul turned out to be extremely generous people. That afternoon they invited us to come along for a walk around Chachobben (they insisted on paying our entry fee!), a rarely visited group of Mayan temple ruins much more majestic and stunning that anything seen at Chitchen Itza - but this is probably largely due to the fact that you might well turn out to be the only person at the site to experience its calm wonder.

The mission ride to Belize turned out to be quite a bit more difficult (mostly due to head wind - again) and quite a bit further than we initially envisioned. We crossed the border after paying a departure tax to leave Mexico - a common feature it seems in most Central American nations. Right on the border between Mexico and Belize there is a place known as the free-zone, a place of bargain shopping with tax free prices the size of a smaller town, totally lawless and chaotic. Immediately upon entering Belize one could sense the striking differences in culture; the music, the accents, the clothing, the cars and of course the currency. We bought only necessary supplies in the free-zone and snatched a quick lunch at a road stall serving Mexican style buns with chicken and salsa, these went down well with a couple of soft drinks to quench our day's thirst.

We reached Corozal, our first destination in Belize, after a brisk hour ride from the border. Drivers on the road, again were very considerate and took sweeping lines to provide lots of clearance for us - this is even more remarkable when considering the fact that this was highway number one, a road with just enough space for two trucks to pass each other and no painted lines. Corozal is a cute little town with a lovely little central plaza or park, it had just the right number of shops and stops for us to stock up on supplies, get on the internet to complete this website (yay - milestone!) and get a night's rest. We got up very early the next morning for our boat transfer to Sarteneja, an end of the road seaside town with a more regional road access to Orange Walk - at this point our preferred travel route.

Three 250 horsepower outboards, that beats anything we saw as kids on Lastovo!

All in all, we miss Mexico already and having explored just a small number of gems that just the state of Quintana Roo had to offer, we pledge to return again sometime to explore more of this thriving middle ground and rich melting point standing between North and Central America. Belize it turns out, as we predicted, is already a lot more pleasant and friendly than people warned us along our route so far - but that's always the case, isn't it?!

1 comment:

  1. keep it up adn keep on telling your stories. E