Monday, December 9, 2013

Dec. 9th

I used to think I was good with directions before I started this trip. 

On my first day, it took me an hour to figure out how to get out of Merida. On my second day I took two wrong turns, but quickly perceived my errors when the pavement ended. One my third day I got up two hours before dawn so I could sneak onto the toll-road in defiance of several posted anti-bicycle signs undercover of dark via riding the wrong direction up the off ramp (a trick I picked up from poor Mexican drivers in Tijuana) all to enjoy a speed-bump-free-wide-shoulder expressway to Valladolid. After an hour and a half of paranoid cycling, I took the wrong “exit” (I actually hopped the guardrail and climbed up the overpass, no easy feat with a bicycle that weighs more than you do) and ended up adding about 10 kilometers to my trip. I also discovered that the highway “libre” I took so much pains to unsuccessfully avoid had very recently been repaved with beautifully smooth asphalt, not a single speed-bump, and a shoulder broad enough to be an additional car lane. And after spending an hour trying to find a place to eat in Valladolid (mind you, I've already spent 3 days in this town not a month prior), I glibly set out on a 37 kilometer dirt road that dead ended in the middle of the Yucatan jungle. Not only do I have a perfectly functional GPS and internet powered phone, I have people in the street waving me down and telling me I must being going the wrong direction because there's nothing that way. Yes, I am a navigational genius.

But that's just the third day. I'm not even going to get into the hours I spent at the Belize border were I nearly managed to re-enter Mexico twice or the several “scenic” routes I accidentally found myself on here in Belize where the signs are all hand-painted and rarely give you any of the information you're looking for and the people are either oblivious or derive some kind of strange pleasure from sending you off in the wrong direction.

I didn't much like my first day in Belize. The polluted bay on which sits the town of Corozal didn't strike my fancy after being in beautiful Caribbean paradises like Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun. The “Resort” I was so excited to have booked with bitcoin was dilapidated, bug infested, and had abysmal wifi access. You just wouldn't expect a place as cutting edge as to accept bitcoin would make their guests stand 20 yards outside their cabana to get a wifi signal. There was no lobby or even a place to sit down. I had to stand in the sand fending off the bugs that flocked to the light of my phone as I tried to make contact with the outside world. Fuckers even had the gall to give me a inflated bitcoin exchange rate that ended up over-charging me $15. Whatever.

The rest of Belize I have enjoyed very much. Everyone always talks about how expensive it is here so I was braced for the worst, but so far I've found it on par with Mexico, if not cheaper. Maybe its because I'm traveling inland toward Guatemala and most people visit the Caribbean Cayes. The diversity here is unlike anything I've ever seen. On every block there is a Chinese restaurant/general store with a creative name like "Chun Ma's Store and Fast Food (Chinese)" hand-painted on the wall. The town of Orange Walk is flooded with blond haired-blue eyed Mennonites speaking German and looking like they just came off the set of Little House on the Prairie. There are Hispanics from all the surrounding countries and of course African descendants who speak some kind of Cloud Atlas jib-jab that mixes English with a little Spanish and some kind of native language spoken with a kind Jamaican syncopation that feels all the more exotic when they completely drop it and address you in perfect Victorian English.

The flora and fauna are more diverse down here as well. Most of which I've observed as roadkill. Brightly colored birds and snakes and unidentifiable mammals. Of course, like Mexico, most of it is just dogs and cats and butterflies :( . Insects are everywhere. And they are huge. They have grasshoppers bigger than my feet.