Belize, 2014


Article Index
Belize, 2014
Getting to Hopkins, 24th to 25th Jan
Around Hopkins 26th January
Around Hopkins, 27th January
Around Hopkins, 28th January
San Ignacio and Caraco, 28th to 29th January
Around San Ignacio, 30th January
The Hummingbird Highway and Hopkins, 31st Jan
Big Falls, 1st to 2nd Feb
Big Falls, 3rd Feb
Big Falls and Placencia, 4th Feb
Hopkins and the Coastal Road, 5th Feb
Belize Zoo, 6th Feb
Coastal Highway and Hopkins, 7th Feb
Going Home and Highlights
All Pages

I had problems trying to decide what to do for a holiday this year. I wanted somewhere warm, with beaches, but also with lots to do, and motorbikes to ride. I toyed with the idea of some Caribbean islands, but none were big enough to warrant a motorbike, and I couldn't find anywhere that rented proper motorbikes as opposed to scooters. I looked at renting bikes and riding the road to Machu Picchu, but that didn't give the relaxing side of the holiday I wanted. Eventually I found Alternate Adventures in Belize; did a bit of Googling, bought a lonely planet, sold Karen on the idea, and bought tickets.

A while later I discussed it with a couple friends: Nathan, a friend from my childhood in Papua New Guinea, who now lives in Texas, and Nick, Karen's brother. Both loved the idea as well, and joined in.

The plan was simple. Alternative Adventures is based in Hopkins, a small town on the coast of Belize, about half way down the country. Hopkins was only a fishing village a few years ago, and has not grown big enough to lose its charm (at the time of writing). It is touristy enough to have lots of places to stay, and lots of good places to eat, but not so much so that the high rise concrete blocks and package tour buses have come yet. We would hire the bikes in Hopkins, spend a couple days acclimatising, then head West to the San Ignacio area for a couple days, then South to the Toledo are for a while, and see what time we had left after that.

We contacted Emma of Alternate Adventures, booked the bikes, booked three nights' accommodation at the Tipple Tree Beya Guesthouse, and dreamed of sunshine and dirt roads.

Sunrise at HopkinsCaracol - Mayan TempleMotorbikes, Karen and the Coastal Highway





Getting to Hopkins (Jan 25th, 2014)

Karen, Nick and I flew to Dallas, where we overnighted at Nate's parents house. They collected us, fed us, entertained us, let us take over their spare bedroom and living room, then fed us again in the morning and returned us to the airport. Thanks all y'all!

In the morning we met up with Nathan and got on the plane to Belize. Our flight from the UK had been quite empty, but we weren't so lucky on this flight, where pretty much every seat was taken. We landed OK, and walked across the tarmac at Goldson International Airport, getting under shelter just in time to avoid a huge tropical downpour. It took a while to get through immigration, but only a couple of minutes to walk around the airport once inside, and find where our next flight left from.

The next flight was a 10 (?) seater Cessna. K, who isn't a good flyer, was petrified, but fortunately was looked after by the lady who sat next to her, and kept her chatting the 15 minute flight to Dangriga. At Dangriga there were taxis waiting for the plane, so we hopped aboard one, and 30 minutes and US$50 later, we were dropped off at Tipple Tree Beya, in Hopkins.

A little more should be said about the roads, as they will feature a lot more later. The paved highways are good quality, with some pot holes and speed-bumps (some signed, some not). The rest of the roads are, shall we say, variable. The road from the highway into Hopkins was pretty rough, although they were repairing it the entire time we were there, and it did end up pretty smooth. The road in Hopkins has some smooth bits, but is mainly potholes strung together with the occasional speed bump thrown in.

Trish from Tipple Tree Beya met us at the door, and showed us to our lovely rooms, which opened onto a wooden deck, and then the beach. I think we pretty much claimed a hammock each straight away, and worked hard at relaxing, while Trish answered our questions about the local area.

After a local dinner in a local restaurant, which we all enjoyed very much, we went to bed early, and slept as well as we could, jet lag and local cockerels permitting.




Around Hopkins (Jan 26th, 2014)

Next day I woke up early courtesy of the cockerels and jet lag, but had no complaints as the sunrise was beautiful. I took my Kindle with me, and my head torch, and read till the light was right for photos, at which point I got up, pocketed my Kindle, squatted down to take a photo, and broke the screen of my Kindle. Hurrah! The photos I got were worth it though. Nick and Nate came out, as well, and joined me in my early morning sun worshiping ritual.

I woke Karen up around 8, and we wandered the 100 yards or so down the beach to the Sandy Beach Cooperative for breakfast. The ladies there fed and watered us well, with our first Belizean breakfast: eggs, refried beans, fried jacks (a local bread like product, very tasty) and fresh tropical fruit. just two meals in, and our plan to loose weight this holiday had already evaporated in the morning sunshine.

After a lazy breakfast, and a lazy stroll back up the beach, we lazed in the hammocks a bit longer, before walking through the village to Alternate Adventures, where we met Emma, the owner of the business, and our Meilun ML200GY-5 motorcycles, which we had booked for the next ten days.

After getting the essentials out the way (payment and licenses) we lazily discussed plans of where we could visit. Even though we had a fair idea of where we wanted to go after reading the Lonely Planet, it is good to remember the guide books only contain a few of the places there are, and that a 'local' opinion is just as useful. Emma circled a few things on the map, and gave us a few other suggestions, after which we lazily wandered over the road (I think you get the idea - we didn't rush much this holiday!) and had lunch.

That afternoon we spent in the local are getting used to the bikes and roads. It was Karen's first time of being a pillion on dirt roads, and Nick's first time riding a motorbike on them, although Nick took to it quicker than Karen. His experience of riding lots of different motorbikes in the UK, and doing a fair bit of mountain biking stood him in good stead, and he was soon off with Nathan, splashing through puddles and racing through potholes. I took it much easier, as with a pillion neither of you can stand up, and every bump is felt much more. But Karen soon mastered her fear, although I don't think she ever quite got over it.

After an evening meal at another restaurant, we spent the evening swaying in the hammocks to the gentle sea breeze, listening to the sound of the surf, and catching up, before heading to bed early.




Around Hopkins and the Mayflower Bocawina National Park (Jan 27th, 2014)

Another early morning, and another glorious sunrise. I wasn't glad when the cockerels woke me up, but I was glad when i got outside with my camera. By the way, don't let all the talk of cockerels put you off. I am a light sleeper in the mornings, and the jet lag didn't help. After another photo session, and another visit to the ladies of the Sandy Beach Cooperative, we took the bikes the few miles up the road to the Mayflower Bocawina National Park, where we planned to visit everything, starting with the Thousand Foot waterfall. We passed a few old stone walls, apparently left over from the times of Mayan temples, but nothing that impressive. The walk to the top of the falls, though, was impressive, showing us all just how unfit we had become. We made it to the top, though, and rested while taking in the views. We then carried on the few yards further to the swimming hole. The water is clear and cool, but the rocks are sharp on the feet. I went in and had a lovely refreshing swim, and Karen paddled in it, but 'the boys' stayed on dry ground.

After the exhaustion of the walk to the top of the Thousand Foot falls, we decided to skip the other two falls, and just do the walk to the stela (a carved standing stone). The walk was interesting, but the stela was a bit of a let down on what we were expecting, and when we got back to the bikes Nathan couldn't find his camera, which he had last had at the stela, so he and I went back to look for it. We were only a couple of yards from the stela when Nathan remembered where he had put it, and that it had been in his bag all along. In punishment I sacrificed him to the Mayan gods as best as I knew how on a stone slab in front of the stela.

We rode back home, and had a meal in a Chinese restaurant, where Nathan borrowed my camera for a few portrait shots. Then again it was back for an early night. The next day we would start our adventure for real.




Around Hopkins (Jan 28th, 2014)

This morning I walked further up the beach for my habitual sunrise shots, and found an old peir or jetty that was mostly derelict. I later found out that the whole village had been stood on it watching a celebration when it collapsed, which caused much amusement for those who hadn't fallen into the water. This morning, though, I was using it as a foreground for my sunrise photos, when various different birds decided to pose on the old stumps for my photos. I believe the birds were mainly a type of gull, but there was one magnificent frigate.

After yet another great breakfast we packed up, dropped most of our belongings at Alternate Adventures, and headed out on to the Hummingbird Highway, next stop San Ignacio.




San Ignacio and Caracol (28th to 29th January)

Well, the next stop was actually the petrol (gas) station just north of Hopkins on the Hummingbird Highway, where we filled up the bikes with about 120 kms on the clocks. The bikes should be good for 200-300 kms, but we thought we should fill up while we could.

A few hours later we pulled into the Blue Moon cafe outside of Belmopan, and had lunch, before carrying on to San Ignacio. We crossed the bridge into San Ignacio, then stopped to discuss where to go. A couple guys stopped to tell us different places we could try. We kept finding this, people were offering to help us without being asked, and without wanting any payment. It was such a refreshing change after some places we have been. It turned out we were right outside Mana Kai, a 'camp site' with quite nice, simple cabins. We booked a couple for two nights, parked up the bikes, and discussed the day's ride while resting in the hammocks before heading in to town. We ate in town, filled up the bikes with fuel (another 120 kms) and had a few beers and Cokes while planning our trip to Caracol the next day.

We woke up early, and got straight on the road. Apparently the Guatemalan rebels used to cross the border and attack tourists travelling to Caracol, so the army insisted everyone join a single convoy with an army truck leading and another following, to keep everyone safe. Everything we read and everyone we talked to said we had to be at the army base by 9.30 and that it would take two hours to get there, so we set off at 7. The road was quite rough, and Karen really didn't enjoy it, but Nick and Nate rode off ahead, waiting periodically for us to catch up. We got to the base just before 9, where the army chaps said we could carry on or wait for the convoy, so we went on ahead, not wanting to get stuck in a convoy of 4x4s, all kicking up dust and holding us back.

After another couple of hours riding we suddenly came across a really bizarre sight: a partially over grown tarmac road, snaking off through the jungle. Karen was much happier on its smooth surface, and we were soon at the Caracol site, where we stopped for a cup of tea, before investigating the ruins.

The ruins are spectacular, and have been rebuilt, and concreted together, providing a safe, strong surface to climb on. In a way I felt let down by this. I understand that to allow tourists to walk all over the site, it needs to be safe, but it has almost become a theme park. That is a little exaggerated, but it is how I felt. We wondered how rebuilt and replaced the site was, and found at a later site that some of what you were walking on was original, but some was new stones, and some of the carvings were fiberglass replicas, with the originals buried safely away from harm. Still, it is well worth a visit, and made for a great day out.

We were eating our lunch in the rest area about 1.30 when an army truck arrived, and a load of soldiers jumped out and ran off into the bush. The leader told the guides of the other parties that Guatemalan rebels had felled a tree across the road with the intention of stopping tourists on the return journey, so everyone would have to go back in the convoy. It wasn't too much of a let down for us, as we had spent a fair time their already, and we would have to set off not long after the convoy to get back to San Ignacio before dark, anyway. The convoy sounded organised, but wasn't. We set off with a couple of the 4x4s, and soon were riding on our own.

It had been a long, hard day, both in the riding on the dirt road, and in the heat, and when it started raining Karen stopped a 4x4 we passed, and asked for a lift. They were headed to San Ignacio, so we agreed a meeting place, and left her to her air conditioned, dry, comfort. We could pick up the speed a fair bit as their was only one person per bike then, and we got back to San Ignacio quite quickly, having great fun on the way. In case Emma from Alternate Adventures ever reads this, I will only say none of us came off the bikes, even if they didn't always stay 100% on the road. If ridden properly some of those speed bumps can be quite fun.

We filled the bikes up on return to San Ignacio, and found we had done 170 kms of hard riding, plus a few hours exploring. No wonder we were tired!

The place we found for dinner that night, Hode's Place, only a couple of minutes walk from Mana Kai deserves a mention, as does Dora, the waitress who had to put up with us for several meals, but always remained cheerful, giving us as good as she got, and some very good food. There is a sign as you come into the restaurant saying bicycles aren't to be ridden in the dining area, but it doesn't mention motorbikes, although we didn't try it out to see if they were allowed.

Over beers and Cokes in the hammocks back at Mana Kai, we discussed the alleged attempt by the Guatemalan rebels, and were all of the same mind that it was a ploy to get the tourists out early and shut the site down. No one we spoke to had heard of any issues over the past few years, and said any such attempt would have been on the news. Still, it pays to be safe.




Around San Ignacio, Cahal Pech and Xunantunich (30th January)

The next dawned lovely and warm (for us Brits), but freezing cold for the Texan, so Nathan warmed up with a hot chocolate for breakfast (along with the eggs, fried jacks, refried beans and fruit), before we headed off on a more tarmac orientated day.

On the hill above San Ignacio is Cahal Pech, a small Mayan site, which we visited before going on to Xunantunich, a bigger site half way between San Ignacio and the Guatemalan border. Both were worth a visit, and we ate a picnic lunch sat on top of one of the buildings at Xunantunich, looking over into Guatemala one direction, and across Belize towards the coast the other. After a quick ride up to the border, we returned to San Ignacio where again, the evening was spent eating dinner served by the lovely Dora, a wander around the town, and then swinging in the hammocks.




The Hummingbird Highway and Hopkins (31st January)

We took the road back to Hopkins (the Hummingbird Highway) much slower than when we headed up to San Ignacio, stopping at a few places on the way.

The first stop was the St Herman's Blue Hole national park, where we had a look around St Herman's Cave, and then rode to the Blue Hole itself, a mile up the highway. When we got there we found it full of American kids, who were on a 'do-good' trip helping build a hospital, or school or something similar. Still, the Blue Hole itself was quite cool. it is a cenote, or an underground tunnel that the roof has fallen in on, leaving water bubbling up through the bottom of the hole, flowing out of the pool, then off into another cave.

We then carried on to Kropfs bakery, where we had cookies and yogurt, then on to Cafe Casita De Amour, which the guide book makes a big fuss of. We didn't find it that exciting, apart from as somewhere to stop for Karen to have another cup of tea, and Nathan to pass out from exhaustion.

After refilling the bikes again just before Hopkins (155kms), we dropped the bikes off with Emma at Alternate Adventures for her to oil the chains and check them over, and for us to book them right up to the last day of our holiday. We were lucky to get accomodation at such late notice, but Emma rang round and found us a couple rooms at the Seagulls Nest. Maybe we had been spoilt by Tipple Tree Beya, but we didn't enjoy Seagulls Nest as much. Everything was OK, but just not as spotless and well kept as we found Tipple Tree to be. Nick and Nate had to share a bed, which they didn't mind too much (being great friends by this point), but in the morning they found they had shared it with a bug of some sort, which left them covered in lumps for the rest of the trip. We didn't mind the sand flies on the beach (and most places raked the sand which kills the eggs apparently), and we could cope with the mosquitoes, but whatever bit Nick and Nate there, and the little black fly that ripped our legs to pieces at one five minute stop by the side of the road were awful.




Big Falls (1st and 2nd February)

We woke up early next morning, booked our return flights to Belize City through Emma at Alternate Adventures, and picked up the bikes again. After stopping at Tina's Restaurant for a lunch of pigtails (where we were served by Tina's sister Ruth, another friendly lady and great cook), we headed south turning off the road at Big Falls village, and following signs for the Lodge at Big Falls. I think we all vowed to stay there no matter what the cost when we first saw it. We booked two cabanas between us, dropped our stuff off, grabbed the car inner tubes from beside the pool, and headed down to the river. Because the Lodge is on a loop of the river, you can hop in the river on one side of the Lodge grounds, flow gently downstream for at least half an hour, passing a hot spring and locals swimming and washing, and then get out again just a couple of hundred yards from where you got in, at the other side of the Lodge grounds.

We mentioned to the owners of the Lodge that we were planning on visiting Coleman's Cafe in the village for dinner, so they called ahead and asked them to stay open for us, which they did. Again, it was great food from lovely people.

The next day we decided to have a rest day. Nick's back was bad, Karen had tweaked hers on the road to Caracol, and Nathan and I both had various aches and pains as well, so we booked the rooms for another night, and stayed around the Lodge all day.

The Lodge has partnered with a family in the Big Falls village who keep the traditional basket and hammock making and bag weaving skills alive, so we contacted them and Karen and I went round for the afternoon. The family showed us which vines to collect from the rainforest for basket making, and which bits of the vines were edible. We then had a go at splitting the vines and making the baskets ourselves.

Then we were shown how to make string from a local plant with fibrous leaves, and the how to weave a hammock from it. Finally we had a display of how they had weave the traditional bags. It was a good afternoon, with some very friendly and knowledgeable people, and I would highly recommend it.

We went back to the Lodge, collected Nick from the side of the pool, and Nathan from a hammock, and rode into Punta Gorda to try Asha's Kulcha Kitchen, as recommended by the people at the Lodge. We had to ride pretty much all the way through Punta Gorda to get to it, and it didn't look much when we got there, but we soon were glad we had gone. Asha welcomed us and explained all his food had a secret ingredient: love. We loved the place, a shack on stilts out in the sea, and we also loved the food. It was obvious from how busy it was that others did as well. Lionfish features heavily on the menu, which is a non native fish, which is causing lots of issues, so we felt it was our moral duty to eat it. That was one moral duty that was highly enjoyable!

After that we filled the bikes up (190 kms) and rode to a bar for Nick to watch the Superbowl. Nate stayed with him, but after one drink, Karen and I rode back to the Lodge. Later in the evening when Nick and Nate arrived, we discussed the ride back, and all agreed Emma had been right when she advised against riding at night.




Big Falls (3rd February)

We had another great night's sleep at the Lodge, and while at breakfast booked our rooms for yet another night, as we still hadn't seen much of the area. We spent that day investigating a few local sites, starting with Nim Li Punit (another Mayan archeological site), then along a dirt road to Lubaantun, which we seemed to agree was our favourite site so far. I am glad we visited the bigger sites, but they seemed more fake somehow than Lubaantun, which was still quite unrestored. While we were there there was a big downpour of rain, so we got talking to the person in charge of the site, a very interesting man called Santiago. He was a Mayan, who had been heavily involved in the original excavation of the site in the early 70s (74, I believe). After the excavation finished, he left, but was contacted a year later and ask to work at the site. He didn't push himself on us, but had lots of information he was happy to share when he saw our interest.

After a while he took us into his office, and showed us some of the clay figurines Lubaantum is famous for that they have found in ditches, streams, and while clearing the undergrowth off the site. He played a clay whistle that was over 1300 years old, and then, when he saw our interest, showed us some replicas he had made himself, one of which now sits above my desk, and another is in Texas with Nathan. He is well worth spending time with.

We then rode back towards Punta Gorda, to find the IXCACAO Maya Belizean Chocolate 'factory'. When we got there they were just closing, having had a very busy day, and having sold out of most things. They showed us the cocoa trees, and had a quick chat with us, but they did stress they only work on a pre-booking system. We were grateful for the time they did spend with us, and found it interesting, even though it was brief.

We then rode back to the Lodge, making sure we got back in the daylight, then headed to Coleman's Cafe again for another great meal.




Big Falls and Placencia (4th February)

After having breakfast, settling the bill, watching the hummingbirds and saying goodbye to new friends, we set off north again, destination Placencia. After filling up near Independence (190 kms), we stopped in Placencia and sent Karen to find us somewhere to stay. We ended up with two rooms on the top floor of the Cozy Corner, right on the beach. We had a wander around, had ice cream at Tutti Frutti, then ate at a new Chinese/Japanese restaurant near the Purple Space Monkey bar. Maybe it is just us, but no matter how beautiful Placencia is, to me it had become too touristy. It hadn't completely turned to Florida, but as someone else said, give it a few years and it would be. It was almost at the stage where it could have been any beach destination catering to western tourists. Brilliant if that is what you want, but not quite what we were looking for.




Hopkins and the Coastal Highway (5th February)

After breakfast (where I had gibnut, very tasty), and a swim in the sea, Karen had a back massage, then we set off towards Hopkins. We stopped in for Emma to give the bikes a service, and for us to get what remained of our clean clothes, then carried on North.

Our aim was to ride along the Coastal Highway to the Belize Zoo and find accommodation before it got dark. Unfortunately we faffed around too much, and didn't leave Hopkins till nearly 4 pm. We filled up with fuel (170 kms), then took the Coastal (Manatee) Highway at the turn off. Apparently the road gets pretty bad in the rainy season, but we were in the start of the dry season, and they had started to repair it, so the first few miles were loose rocks and gravel, which is fine to ride on if you are the rider, but bone shaking for the passenger. I couldn't slow down as we had to get at least back on to tarmac before dark, so Karen had a bad time of it. In the end we had to slow down, as Karen couldn't take any more, but by that time we had got most of the road done, and to the part that hadn't been repaired.

I suddenly found a huge set of potholes all the way across the road in front of me, at one stage, and had no alternative but to hit the brakes and hope I stopped in time. I did, but Nathan and Nick were following a little too close. Nick managed to go right, and slid to a halt beside us, while Nate went left, but didn't stop so quickly, and went straight into the pothole, covering us completely with a tidal wave as he hit the water in it.

We carried on, but we were all getting tires, and Nathan wasn't feeling well. Suddenly, in a muddy rut, his front wheel caught the side and he went down, getting the handle bar in his stomach. He was okay, but felt even worse. His clutch lever was snapped, his gear lever bent, and his front brake caliper came loose.

We picked the bike up, found the clutch still worked, straightened the gear lever, and tightened the calliper with a Leatherman. After a quick breather we continued, and found we were only a few hundred yards from the tarmac. We had made it, and it had only just started getting dark. We scanned the guidebook, decided to try the Savanna Guest House.  The sign was hard to see, but we spotted it, and pulled in.

The Savanna Guest House was built to house film crews, who were there to film local animals, then became the zoo, and now the zoo has its own site is the house, film studios and guest house of an expat couple. The downstairs room is fine, but the upstairs rooms, with their verandas and hammocks, and the cool breeze, are worth the extra money (US$10 when we stayed). We rested that evening, just heading up the road to Cheers, the only local restaurant we could find, then headed to bed as by that stage Nathan was feeling quite ill.





Belize Zoo (6th February)

Next day we woke up, and enjoyed a breakfast of fresh banana bread and fruit, before heading the mile up the road to the zoo for opening time. Apparently the animals are much more active during the earlier parts of the day, so getting there when they first open means seeing more of the animals. None of us had planned to go to the zoo originally, it was just looked a good destination to fill the time we had remaining, but we all really enjoyed it, much more than we thought we would. Everywhere we had been we had seen vultures soaring majestically over the forests, but here we could see them close up. We also got to see tapirs, monkeys, toucans, gibnuts (so that is what I was eating!), and multiple members of the cat family, including Junior, a young jaguar who had been born in captivity, and who played ‘sleepy kitty’ for us for a while.

We headed back to the guest house for the afternoon. Nathan and Karen rested while Nick and I had a wander round the nature trail they have provided. It was quite interesting to see a completely different landscape than we were used to so far, with grasslands replacing the rainforest that we were more used to, but it was mainly just a pleasant stroll.

Then, after another meal at Cheers, we headed back to the zoo for 7PM, as we had booked a night tour when we were there earlier. We were given a guide and a bucket of bits of bananas, and then headed off into the zoo again. First stop was the tapirs, where we could feed them and scratch their backs. Indie was most pushy, but we also got to meet Bullet Head, named because he was rescued after hunters had shot him in the head and made him blind. The guide took us around some of the rest of the animals, and was quite knowledgeable, recognising individual animals by their calls. We also fed the gibnuts (made a change from them feed us) and then went round the cats. The Ocelot and Margay were cool, but the black jaguar was quite scary, as even when he was beside you (on the other side of a fence, fortunately) he was invisible in the dark, and was completely noiseless as he padded along; stalking the bucket of chicken bits the guide was carrying. Then we met Junior again, and got to stroke his paw that he put partially through the fencing while eating.

All in all in was a really good day, and I would recommend both a day and night visit.




The Coastal Highway and Hopkins (7th Feb)

The next morning we found the pain in Nathan’s stomach had gone, but now he was having to run to the toilet every few minutes. We decided to head back in two groups: he would ride as fast as he needed to, stop whenever he had to, and just get back to Hopkins. Nick would go slower, and wait for Karen and I. The road back was much more enjoyable. Not having such a short time to do it in we could ride slower, avoid bumps, and stop for a few photos along the road. We made it back early afternoon, dropped the bikes off with Emma (after filling up, approx. 210kms), and chatted about the trip with her (while Nathan kept running to her toilet). We then went across the road, had lunch, then headed to the rooms we had booked for the night.

Nathan decided to stay in the room for the evening, but Nick, Karen and I went to find a quiet restaurant (not so easy on a Friday night, when local music is played everywhere), and then headed back to the rooms.


Going home and Highlights

Nathan was feeling a bit better the next morning, after dosing himself up on Pepto-Bismol the night before, but after breakfast at Tina’s (again served by the lovely Ruth), Karen suddenly had to run to the toilet. We dosed her with Pepto-Bismol as well, and hoped for the best as we had quite a lot of travelling ahead of us. Fortunately, after the taxi arrived, no one seemed to have any issues, and we made it home safely (apart from Nathan’s bag, which turned up a while later, with most of the things he had bought to take home broken).

So, did we enjoy it? Yes, I think we all did, although some of us found some bits more challenging than others. We loved the country, and the people blew us away. Everyone was friendly and helpful, and didn’t seem to expect anything back from us. The only people who asked us for money were young children who were allegedly collecting for the school/basketball team/whatever (the reason varied through their story), but never in a pushy way, and when we said no, they happily went away. After we saw some of them buying ice creams not long after they had been asking us for money, we asked them if they were spending the money people had donated to them, but they claimed that most have been their brothers, not them. It was all quite fun and innocent. It was easy to see why people come, fall in love with the place, and end up staying and setting up a guest house / motorbike rental shop / film studio or whatever. If I could think of something I could do, I would have been tempted myself.

Karen’s highlight, apart from the people, was the zoo, surprisingly for someone who isn’t an animal lover. She found the off road sections of the ride challenging, to say the least, but did admit that she was proud to have done it all.

My highlight was different. I left my ‘home’ country when I was sixteen, before I got to do a lot of the things I had looked forward to for several years. I never got to ride my motorbike to one of the big towns with my friends, as I left before I was legal to ride on the roads, for example. I felt I had finally accomplished a lot of them, but also more, I had found a bit of my childhood that I missed, and that I thought had gone: an unhurried life, riding motorbikes to interesting places with good friends. In fact it almost felt like I was home.

Total distance done by motorbike: approx. 1325 kms (823 miles).

template joomla