Saturday, April 28, 2007

Around the world in 80 days!

Well ok, not the whole world exactly and it was actually 81 days but you get the picture! Helen, Donkey and I left Baja California on the 5th of Feb. and returned on 26th of April, (my 44th birthday; 43 was one thing but 44 was just too old!) having covered 6,390 miles taking in another 13 Mexican states, pretty much all of Belize, (not difficult really as it's pretty small) and a fair sized chunk of Guatemala.

Despite all the rumours of bandits, highway robbers and murderers; we met nothing but the friendliest of people on our way; I'm pleased to say the bike performed faultlessly even though it's now in need of a good service; the nearest thing we had to a problem was two punctures; in the same tyre, at the same time! We came out of our luxury hotel room, (it must have been good, after all 10,000 ants seemed to enjoy their stay there!) to find the rear tyre flat however, there was a gas station across the road with a pump and not half a mile away there was a tyre repair shop. 10 minutes and 20 Pesos, (including a 33% tip) later we were back on the road! And we like to think we're a developed country...

It wasn't all such smooth going though; slip sliding an overloaded and overweight sportbike down 25 miles off Belizean bumpy dust track, (or would have been dust had we not been in the middle of a tropical storm - it is after all a rain forest I guess!) made the potholed, corrugated Mexican roads seem like an American 8 lane highway! Running the gauntlet with Guatemalan buses in the mountains was an education; if you've seen bike couriers in London's rush hour you'll know what I mean! And no I'm not exaggerating; they slow down for no-one, (even passengers getting on and off have to do so at a jog!) overtaking long lines of traffic on blind bends while all oncoming vehicles pull of the road to make way; or is that to save themselves? It's the only time I've ever been overtaken while filtering past stationary traffic on a bike!

We bumped into a live crocodile on the beach in Mexico, a dead one on the side of the road in Belize, a four inch long scorpion in my shorts, (twice!) "hey, there's only room for one ***** in my shorts! Howler Monkeys in Guatemala that didn't see why we should be eating bananas when they had none! Then there was the packs of wild dogs that hunt in towns and are right up there with the fastest at the traffic light Grand Prix! Thankfully the sharks, sting rays and moray eels we saw whilst diving kept themselves to themselves!

We met our fair share of crazies; two of the most memorable ones were Adam from Manchester who is on a five year trip 'couch surfing' the world, ( and a German teacher who is one year into a three year solo trip on a 14 year old and 60 kilo all up weight push bike; 15,000 Kms and counting! ( Made our trip seem a little tame!

We dived in the aquamarine waters off the coast of Caribbean Mexico, along the second biggest reef in the world off the Belizean Cayes and in a volcanic caldera 5,000 ft up in the Guatemalan mountains. Accommodation ranged from hammocks, (I don't care how cool the image is - it just isn't comfortable however much you drink beforehand!) through beach front 'palapas' made from palm leaves to a Holiday Inn, (well it was Helen's birthday!) with cable TV and wireless internet.

We managed over 1,000 miles in one three day period on the way home, (target fixation I believe they call it) the longest of which was 432 miles in 12 hours! And we must have hit and I mean HIT a thousand speed bumps, or ‘Topes’ one half mile stretch of village may have a dozen topes; some painted, signed and even fairly smooth, others cunningly disguised in amongst the shadows of trees and more like riding up a kerb than rolling over a speed bump! UK drivers - be grateful for small mercies, at least your speed cameras are bright yellow!

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