Monday, April 7, 2014

Mennonites and Hummingbirds

The morning started early. I wanted to check Mike's front fork seals, clean everything to get the dust out of them and see how bad the damage was. It's light at 5.30am, so the tools came out 2 minutes later! The seals looked fine but both fork legs showed wear and pitting… in just 40.000 km… hmmm. Mike was sure the Triumphs would show wear too… they didn't. Both have done the same trip and under the same conditions… but, unlike the Yamaha, my Bonneville had already done 40.000 km before we left… You may draw your own conclusions, I have done too.

The lady at the Kismit hostel offered to make us a cooked breakfast! As we hadn't had any dinner the night before and were completely out of food too due to all the hassles in finding a campground yesterday, we gladly accepted! Breakfast turned out to be more expensive than camping, but what the heck. We were hungry!
When we asked her about petrol, she told us to go left past the police station, then right and ask at the house before the shop… Arriving there we found ourselves talking to a lady with a baby in her arms, who asked us how much fuel we needed. We calculated about 7 gallons should cover us to Belmopan where we should be able to get fuel. 'Park the motorcycles next to the shed' she said and came out with 7 ex-washingpowder containers… which contained one gallon of petrol each. It's a scene I would have expected in Africa maybe, but not here. I checked each drum to see if there was any debris in it, found they were all clean and thus poured them in the tanks. Any dissolved washing powder in there should clean the fuel system… :-)

We took the Hummingbird Highway towards San Ignacio, which is a beautiful road. It's called a highway but don't get any wild ideas, it's not a 4 lane affair but a single lane winding road through dense forests and hills without a lot of traffic. Not a highway as we know it. We rode through small villages and had a 'smoko' stop at the entry of a National Park. Temperatures are high and the humidity is even higher so we have to keep drinking to prevent dehydration. The park ranger liked our bikes and started a conversation about bikes, Australia, etc. Before we knew it we were chatting for half an hour!

Just up the road is Belmopan, which looks just like a provincial town but is in fact Belize's capital city. We filled up with fuel, used the drive-thru at the Scotia Bank to fill up the wallet, filled up the food supply at one of the many Chinese operated grocery stores and left for San Ignacio. There wasn't much traffic but the truck drivers we saw had adopted some unusual driving habits. Desperately trying to keep their momentum going, we found them cutting corners, running extremely wide in corners and belching out smoke while they tried to press the accelerator through the floor. Going uphill we got stuck behind one that was crawling up a hill. Overtaking was no option and after a while I was thinking 'why doesn't the bloody thing break down?' Be careful what you wish for as it did break down, seconds later. An airline must have blown as it suddenly came to a juddering halt after blowing air from the right-hand front wheel. 

Petrol station… 7 gallons of fuel standing
on the ground ready to be poured through the
At the turn-off to Spanish lookout (who comes up with these names?) was a sign informing us about an Motel and RV Park. We followed the signs for a while and then asked a local where it was. 'Ride on until the next intersection, take a right and stop at the glass place, they'll know where to go.' We did and rode into Mennonite territory. A weird sensation. Behind us was 100% Belize, in front of us a Mennonite colony that looked more like a US farming area. Everything suddenly changed, the buildings, the people, even the landscape which had been modelled to Mennonite standards over the many years they have lived here.

A young kid comes up to Mike and asked if he was Italian… now why would anyone think Mike is Italian? Italians are short and skinny, Mike is tall and… not skinny! When Mike said no, the kid said to him in a strong Mayan accent 'careful man, weird people here… we call them Men-no-nites'

The Motel and RV Park turned out to be extremely run down, which made us decide to move on to San Ignacio. We had heard mixed reports about that one too, but at least some of it was good. The helpful man at the glass place had told me about another road to San Ignacio, via a small ferry. Sounded good, the GPS knew where to go and soon we found ourselves on gravel again. A good gravel road this time. The ferry was a small one, just big enough for two cars. It's cable operated and for some reason was moving incredibly slowly. So slowly that when I first saw it, it looked like it had stopped in the middle of the river. It hadn't. The 2 car ferry had been made into a 3 car ferry by keeping the loading and unloading ramps permanently horizontal and use them as deck extenders. The ferry was slow as it is hand operated… Riding off the ferry meant riding through water as they stopped just before the ramps hit land.

The Mana-Kai campground turned out to be a good one. The first campground we've had since the USA where we have a sink and thus can wash the dishes. There is a covered eating area, wifi and a hot shower…(!) On the door is an unusual sign asking us to flush toilet paper through the toilet, instead of putting it in the bin where they usually want it.
Michel Rebmann travelled from Switzerland in this
contraption. It's an air-cooled, 6 wheel drive,
Steyr Puch that runs on petrol 
Talking to the owner that evening we heard he was updating the whole campground. He had build 3 new bungalows and was just in the process of upgrading the whole electrical system to cope with extra air conditioners. 'The campground' he said, 'is for Tommy, my youngest son. I'm doing all the work for him because it will be his business'. He has a swimming pool planned and all!
It's a nice place to stay and one we can truly recommend. We stayed a couple of days and made day trips. The owner offered to store our gear in an unoccupied cabin if that would make us feel safer. Very friendly guy!

The San Ignacio markets are almost next door and held every Saturday. A little bit further away, but still within walking distance, is a very good Chinese restaurant that also does take-away. We had 4 dishes for US$ 5,- each. The bridge over the Belize river is a good place to swim. Jeanette made a new friend here too, see below…