Tuesday, 29 October 2013

249 On to Belize

Monday 28th October 2013
Miles today  225 Total 26,502

After a traditional 11am check out and a couple of cups of coffee to use up some of the local currency, we set off for the Belizian border. We turned up at the Mexican side and after a serious debacle over getting the VIN (vehicle identification number) photographed by the customs people, they finally agreed to reimburse me with the $400 deposit. We then had  our passports stamped with the exit stamp and we were free to depart.
Our arrival in Belize, having crossed a long bridge with barbed wire and high walls either side, was a bit odd. Firstly I had to get Wallace fumigated. I was turned back and sent to a hut with a garden hose outside. On arrival a guy came out, sprayed the bike with pesticide and charged me $15BZ (about£5) for the privilege. I paid in Mexican and asked if he could change the rest of my Mexican. He did and I walked out of there with $35BZ. A currency with the Queens Head on it. Nice.

It was then on to customs and immigration. The immigration officer asked us what we did for a living and when we told him and showed our cenotaph photo in full uniform he chilled out completely and asked if we had come to arrest anyone.

Customs was a formality and Wallace was added as an immigrant to my passport. We then drove out of the restricted area and bought a weeks worth of insurance at the government insurance broker just outside. We paid about £9 for a weeks insurance and whilst in the office discussed the roads we intended to use that day. The broker told us that one of the roads, a dirt one, was flooded the last he heard. We will see.

It was then into town to get some more currency. We soon found a bank and were off again. We had about 225 miles to go and had no idea if we could use the roads that we wanted to. It was now around 1pm, the sat nav told us we would be at our destination, Placencia, at about 6pm. About 1/2 an hour into darkness. Not good in a place where pot holes are accepted as the norm.

The good thing about Belize is that it's a British colony and the Queen is the head of state and much like Canada, the "Queen" is the legal prosecutor and the laws (as posted on the appropriate walls) are written in a form that we as ex police officers are familiar with. The biggest bonus though it the fact that English is the national language so communication is a lot more relaxed.

Anyway, we had to get a move on and the weather situation had not changed. The roads were almost permenantly wet with strong showers passing through al the time. It was not an enjoyable ride and twice we were driven off the road by idiots overtaking into our lane. Fortunately, Wallace has the best brakes in the world and saved our skins when needed. I love this bike.

These people have been suffering the same tropical depression that we have had to endure. There were floods everywhere.

We eventually arrived at the road that we had been warned may be flooded and thought we had better find someone to ask about it. It was raining and the only people about were kids on their way home from school. Karen then stated "I don't think we need to ask, look at that". I looked down the road and 200m in front of us was a lake where the road should be. We decided to go and have a look to see if we could ride through it.  

 So clearly it would be difficult but we thought we would take a closer look to see if it was fordable. The alternative was a long way round.

 Looks pretty deep. What is that moving around in the water ????

My God is that a person ?????

Oh, it's OK. It's just a kid on his way home from school.

Despite the rain, the jungle was still very pretty.

Needles to say, we had to take the long way around and we eventually arrived at Placencia at around 7pm having driven and hour and a half in the dark. Trying to find a hotel among the myriad of other small hotels on a 4 foot wide concrete pathway, in the dark and rain turned out to be a pig. We eventually found it and I went up to the manager and asked if he had a reservation. He checked his computer and 5 minutes later, a very polite "No" was the answer. I was somewhat confused and asked to check my e-mail on his computer but for technical reasons it would not let me do it. We decided to find a bar with WiFi and found the 'Purple Space Monkey'. We had some dinner and a beer whilst I checked the mail. The confirmation e-mail was the very hotel we had just been in and when we went back I showed the e-mail to the manager, Juan.  Without hesitation he gave us a key and showed us the room. We later found out that the hotels conformation e-mail had been sent to a sister hotel. Doh !!

We moved in and I prayed whilst I rode Wallace through a dark sand bottomed flood up to the hotel. We moved our gear in and then went back to the bar to (I was going to say 'drown our sorrows' but we are well past that stage) get drunk.

Tuesday 29th October 2013
Miles Today 0 Total 26,502

After a good nights sleep I woke up with a hangover and as normal, Karen didn't ! 
 (that's because  I don't drink as much, ha ha ha if you believe that, you'll believe anything).
The water overnight had gone down a couple of inches exposing some more of the walkways to the atmosphere. We took a photo of the hotel and nicked one from it's website for comparison. 

The website photo....

...and today. I could not take it from the same spot without standing in a foot of water.

The floods were everywhere. You can see why we had trouble finding the place.

Wallace on dry (ish) land

Juan, the manager. An absolutely lovely guy that could not do enough for us.

A frigate bird.
We took this picture as there were lots of these floating overhead. They are amazing birds. These birds do not swim, cannot walk well and they cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan to body ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for weeks at a time, landing only to roost or breed on trees or cliffs. They feed in the air and often steal from seagulls. In flight they look a lot like pterodactyls. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

248 Cancun and on to Chetumal

Friday 25th October 2013
Miles today  0 Total 26,025

 The crap weather continued. We booked 3 whole days where thinking we could chill out by the beach, unfortunately the opposite was true. We spent most of our time sat watching TV out of the rain and wind.

Who would fancy a swim in this....

Saturday 26th October 2013
Miles today  0 Total 26,025

We got fed up with waiting for the weather to change so we went in the sea during a break in the rain. It did not last long and we were soon back in the bar watching the rain.

We did however spot our first wild Iguana. Actually lots of them came out when the rain stopped.

Sunday 27th October 2013
Miles today  252 Total 26,277 

The "fun" was over and it was time to move on. These pictures were taken after we had packed the bike up and we going to breakfast. The sun had finally come out just in time for us to leave. We surely are cursed. 

The resort as it should be...

We stopped off tho use the ATM and saw this chappie in the car park. It was huge.

The 230 mile trip to Chetumal on the Belize border was extremely boring. Mainly due to the fact that there was only jungle on either side of the road and therefore nothing but a strip of tarmac and 2 strips of jungle to see all day long.

The local goat herd deciding the grass was greener on the other side.

We arrived in Chetumal at around 3:30 and the clocks having gone back last night meant that we lost an hours daylight. We found a nice hotel, the hotel Fiesta, it was a bit expensive but the others looked a bit suspect. We settled in and sorted out our accommodation for tomorrows foray into Belize.

Friday, 25 October 2013

247 Chichen Itza and on to Cancun

Tuesday 22nd October 2013
Miles today  343 Total 25,809

The view from our balcony in Palenque

A long haul today due to the hotel in Cancun being booked already, there is nowhere in between to stay and we needed to make haste.

It was a long and boring ride....

Yes, thts Karen's Kindle attached to the back of my jacket.
 Until we found this little oasis....

Beer, sea, sand and sunshine......

 We were joined by this little fellow.

We arrived at our days destination, Merida and went in search of a hotel. At the same time, the heavens opened up and dropped a big lake on our heads. We found a hotel that was ridiculously overpriced but the weather forced our hand.

Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Miles today  216 Total 26,025

We checked out of hotel costalot and drove via the local Yamaha shop to get some service bits, oil and a filter.

We then drove 80 miles to a village called Piste. It's only claim to fame is that it is adjacent to another Mayan settlement called Chichen Itza.

The village church in Piste
The outside of the Mayan settlement is a bit ostentatious and is surrounded by people with their hands out for one reason or another. To start with I had to pay 22 Pesos to park Wallace, the same as a car. Grrrrr.

Photo Sir,  Photo...

Then we went to the ticket counter and paid 128 Pesos each. 71 as Tax to the national government and 57 to the local state government. We then had a quick snack (breakfast at 1pm actually !)  before turning up at the turnstiles armed with our 128 Peso tickets. Needless to say we were refused entry as we did not have the correct ticket. We were then shown to another kiosk where we had to show then we had paid the tax before we could purchase a ticket to actually enter. After handing over another 125 Pesos each and collecting yet another ticket, we were let in. So far we have not even seen a stone and have shelled out the massive sum of £26.  I would be a lot less fed up if they had just asked for it in one lump instaed of queueing up again and again.  (He has a Grumpy T shirt for a reason)!

Once inside there were more hands held out, fortunately, this time with gifts, or more correctly, articles for sale. There was some serious crap here but some good stuff too.

These stalls lined the route everywhere.
 Finally some assembled stones. Another Tomb Raider film set. I liked those films, not because they were any good but because they had Angelina Jolie playing Lara Croft.

 I know it is a bit corny, but there is something a bit special about buying something that has been hand made and to see the guys actually doing it in front of you.

Anyway, after I finished fantasising over Ms Joilie we set off again for the last 130 miles to  Cancun. We set off and followed the signs for the  motorway and in true Mexican style the signs ran out and we were dumped on the old slow road for the full 130 miles. It was a nightmare. Every couple of miles there was a village and each village had the regulation 4 speed humps and we were slowed to 10mph for about a mile each time. The journey took forever and was interrupted by the now regular storm.

We finally arrived in Cancun just after dark and during the evening rush hour. It was a nightmare and we were glad to finally get to the hotel at around 7pm. 

The place looked a bit shabby but adequate. We booked in and whilst doing so the hotel owner said, "Room only, yes". "No, all inclusive". It turns out that we screwed the booking up and to upgrade we had to shell out another £200 for the next 4 days. Oh well, our mistake, at least it is paradise. A very wet paradise, but paradise never the less.

We moved into our room, took a shower and then went to the restaurant for our "free" food and drink. Needless to say we ate as much as we could and drank as much crap spirits as we could fit in. The stuff was so weak that we were filled up with tonic before the gin and vodka made an impression.

Thursday 24th October 2013
Miles today  0 Total 26,025

We were awoken by the next passing thunderstorm. At around 6am the room was bathed in blinding light and the thunder clap almost helped our digestive system to finish its job off.  

Shorts and T shirts on and down to breakfast. It was an interesting mix and it is apparent that we are embroiled in the next cold war with guess who.....

"Hash Browns"

We are completely surrounded by Russians. Nice enough though they are, it was something we were not expecting. 

 The wildlife is different here. There are lots of large lizards here, they are about 3 feet long. Also there are nocturnal rodents that look like a cross between a very large mouse and a hedgehog. No pictures so far.

Our hotel, the low one not the tower block behind. Check out the palm trees in the wind.

We mentioned the wet paradise. The weather is very warm and is around 30C all the time bit the wind is strong and constant. When it rains it is biblical. This is a view from the hotel along the beach towards other hotels. One when clear and the other 10 minutes later in the rain.

Before the rain.

Where did they go ??

At 7pm we went  to a pre booked "free" Thai meal where the chef cooked a full Thai meal for 8 of us on a hot plate in front of us. There were 4 Russians, 2 Mexicans and us. As the food was served up the Mexicans and us waited for us all to be served and the Russians just got on with it. Different strokes for different folks.
The funny thing was, one of the Russian women feigned a tummy problem and did not eat most of the food. They left the Thai restaurant first and when we walked past them in the main restaurant, they, including tummy woman, were tucking into another meal. They like to get their moneys worth. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

246 Palenque

Monday 21st October 2013
Miles today  10 Total 25,466

We captured this little fellow sunning himself by the hotel pool.

Today we visited our first Mayan Temple it was only 5 mile ride so we left late. This was possibly a mistake as we arrived at the hottest part of the day and as the place was in the jungle, the humidity was seriously oppressive. 
The place was in the center of a national park and as we approached the barrier we were stopped by a picket line. Apparently the Government have recently taken the place over and aside from the staff wages, are keeping all the money instead of ploughing it back into the site for maintenance and the community. The staff were getting a bit fed up with the situation and decided to strike. They still let us in and we had to pay twice. Once to get into the park and then again to visit the Mayan temples.

On arrival at the gate we parked and were approached with a request to wash Wallace. Needless to say we refused, only we touch the bike. However the next question was to watch over the bike. This was a difficult one as you can imagine. We were about to leave the bike for an hour or so. We were over a barrel and I paid 20 pesos for Wallace's protection.

The scum bag in the blue shirt is the guy I had to pay to look after Wallace.

The Mayan ruins at Palenque date back to 226 BC and were abandoned in 799 AD (how they know this is a mystery too !). Anyway, the place was home to the local King and used as the center of the local Mayan civilisation. The site is huge and we only visited about a quarter of it. It is estimated that only 10% of it has actually been discovered and only half of that has been uncovered. 

More reading from Wiki here: Wiki Palenque

The place was straight out of a "Tomb Raider" movie with only the vines removed. One of the structures in the center of the excavated area has been left under jungle foliage to show how effective the jungle has hidden the civilisation for 1000 years. It just looks like a hill covered in trees and jungle foliage.

Tomb of the Red Queen.

Most of the history of the ruins has been gleaned from some seriously clever people reading hieroglyphics from the site.

The creeping vines that once dominated the ruins.

We then made our way back out of the park only to find that the dirt bag that was supposed to be looking after Wallace was getting on the back of another bike to leave. I am more annoyed with myself for even considering that he would still be there at all. Grrrrr....

It was then back on Wallace and halfway back we came upon a nice open air restaurant and after eating gingerly, we rode back to town and went shopping for essential supplies.
Whilst out we saw this. A whole family foraging for wood. 

Check out the machete that the little girl in the pink is holding.

After that it was a quick dip in the hotel pool whilst sipping away at a Corona beer.
The weather here is very humid and it will take us a few days to get used to it.  It feels a lot hotter than it is and you feel permanently drenched. We have a fair few miles to cover in the next couple of days, we are headed for Cancun, and the roads are not the best.