i took the boat at eight o’clock back over the lagoon. the one after most of the people left to go about their daily business and there was enough room for the bike. after getting back to the main road i made my way to the belize city bypass as i try to avoid bigger cities. i ended up on the western highway between belize city, the former, and belmopan the current capital. i didn’t like this stretch. the headwind took its toll and i had to get off the road a couple of times. in belize you have only the right to ride on the road as a cyclist as long as passing traffic has enough room to overtake you. halfway along the way i saw the sign for the monkey bay wildlife sanctuary and decided to call it a day. quite a big place with its own library above the office and though it had too much sand flies on the campsite, the library and the common room were good places to avoid the bugs.
the next morning it was raining a bit too much for my taste to start cycling and to get back on the busy road to belmopan. so i did some writing for this blog, the first time on my newly acquired e-reader, which took a bit of getting used to, but is surprisingly comfortable to work on. the rain stopped around noon and i started to half a days ride past belmotan where the hunningbird hwy starts and the scenery is changing dramatically. there is dense jungle on both sides of the road and i had to climb the first hills since cancun. as the sun was about to set, i stopped at the saint herman’s cave visitor centre. there i was told that the blue hole national park, where i intended to camp that night, is closed and got directions to the yaxche jungle camp instead.
surrounded by the rainforest, this is a unique experience. set up by the guys of maya guide adventures to cater for the guests of their adventure tours, it is also a place to just set up camp for a night. i had dinner with a group of people which trained for their jungle and expedition survival certificate, most of them still in their survival gear with the machete hanging from their sides. the training goes for four month and is quite expensive, so most people out of the group intend to pursue a career in that field.
the next day had some serious climbs on the menu but also beautiful scenery to offer. out of the forest came sounds i never heard before and i seldomly spotted the animal causing it. after those sweat producing climbs, the downhill part was a joy. with the wind in my back, i hardly had to pedal and the white markers with the mileage just flew by until i came to the junction with the southern highway.
in the afternoon i arrived in hopkins. a laid back village which has a bit of a backpacker crowd coming in but seems to be too relaxed to care if more tourists come in or not. i stayed at the kismet inn as it offers camping directly at the beach and patricia the host can cook some delicious vegetarian dishes. i stayed an extra day as i had some time before i had to be in punta gorda from where the boat to livingston in guatemala is leaving only twice a week.
Tags: food · locations · people · travel
the immigration procedure is straight forward and i was in belize in no time. the first kilometers i wasn’t that impressed by belize. like many developing countries there were not many places along the road which invited to stay or to take a closer look. the first place which did was orange walk. it was after my first night of wild camping and this was a good place for a late breakfast. i got some delicious sweat bread at a bakery and some cocoa butter to protect my lips against the sun before taking a rest at the central plaza.
this is the first time i saw a couple of mennonites, immediately recognizable by their way of dressing and their fair skin. i later learnt that they are highly respected in belize because of their craftsmanship and though living their own lives within their communities are integrated because of the work they do for and together with the other locals. apart from that, most agricultural produce come from these communities and many belizeans are happy that the laborious work on the fields is done by the mennonites these days.
after breakfast i went on to change my remaining pesos. no bank is willing to do so but i heard about a place which changed small amounts. when i asked around for it, i found out it was closed and replaced by the chinese store i just went to and was directed towards a mayan tortilla manufactory instead. this place is great. machinery that looks like out of a museum is humming away in this busy place even hotter then the outside and produces corn tortillas in different sizes which is packed right out of the machine into small packages before being weighed and sold for a small amount to the waiting customers. while making a purchase i could change my pesos and happily returned to the bearable heat outside.
making my way out of town by noon, i continued towards the crooked tree sanctuary. after the turn off and a bumpy three mile ride, the road just ended and where it once continued the lagoon had spread out, making the small village an island. i was about to turn back when i met a mason coming back from work in belize city. he told me the coast guard came in providing emergency relief and is running a boat shuttle that was to arrive soon and we made our way jpast the parked cars and school buses to a makeshift pier out of wooden pallets. to bring the school bus over from the village to the road not effected by the flooding was one of the first concerns of the people and now every morning between five and seven, school children, teachers and workers make their way across the lagoon before continuing by road and life just goes on. with one exception: the tourists stay away. it takes at least two weeks of dry weather before the lagoon will fall back to its normal level.
Tags: help · locations · people
as i arrived in bacalar there was a rally at the central square and people got invited to join an event later that day to raise awareness about domestic violence. that day was the national day against violence in mexico. there are a couple of campgrounds in town but only one is really central, just two blocks behind the central square. yaxche camping is a nice place with plenty of space, enough shade and a well equipped kitchen in the center, complete with sound system and a fruit juice squeezer for the grapefruits which grow on the site. as the owner stopped by it turned out that he attended the event against violence and that he is also the head of the government office in that district.
one of the few sites to see is the fortress de san felipe bacalar. once built to defend the city, it is now a museum. i went on to get a pair of sandals and then some veggies for dinner. it took me a couple of days to realize again, that it is better to rely on local produce instead of products from the supermarket. not only is it cheaper but it tastes simply amazing. the kitchen area was my hangout for the night and i sometimes turned off the soundsystem to listen to the singing of the church service next door. and in the morning i had the music class of the school next to the church as my wake up call.
Tags: locations · music
the rest of the day just had views of thick forest on both sides of the road to offer until i reached felipe carrilo puerto. i was thinking of checking into a hotel which i heard of from another cyclist. but prices seem to have doubled since he came through, the rooms were like a sauna and i expected to see something grow out of the mattress any minute. so i decided to go on though it was already getting dark. i doubted this decision after a few kilometers out of town as every path leading off the highway was a driveway with a sign saying “private property, keep out” or “armed security on premises”. but then there was a turnoff to a lagoon and fifty meters further a sign which clearly stated that cycling and camping is cool.
at the lagoon were some women with their kids and one of the boys seemed to be in charge as he told me it was fifty pesos to camp. but as i wanted to give him the money he apologized for his english and said it was only fifteen, which is about a dollar. after i set up camp and washed in the lagoon, i met the four brothers who actually run the place. each one of them a character of his own. the oldest being the calm one, while one was the mexican version of tom jones, the other of sammy davies jr. and the youngest the communicator, though i forgot to mention that neither of them spoke a word of english and i don’t speak spanish yet. as in most of these situation the best communication is when you laugh together and your misunderstandings seem less troublesome and you enjoy the moments you actually get a thought across. they offered me to use their kitchen and the food that was around as long as i prepared it myself and in the end let me stay in one of their cabanas.
they had a wooden watchtower which i’d already seen in the evening and in the morning i finally made it on top.
Tags: locations · people
the maya ruins in tulum were busy all day and i preferred to spend most of my rest day at the beach. twenty kilometers into the next day i passed muyil and made my first visit to an old maya site. what remained of the settlement were mostly two temples. some of the buildings were hardly recognizable anymore but the main temple looked pretty intact.
some of the settlements are really remote and the mayas made pathways through the jungle to be used by messengers to communicate between the villages and ports at the sea. many maya sites are still difficult to reach today and makes you wonder why some of them made it into prosperous cities at the time.
this one was right next to the road to felipe carillo puerto and a great way to break a day of cycling in half, to stretch out the legs and see and learn something about the country.
i made a stop at a bicycle shop before leaving town. everything took a little longer and so it was past noon when i left cancun. the heat was only sometimes mellowed by a passing cloud. but once you start to ride, the breeze takes of the edge. it wasn’t a pleasant ride along the busy highway towards the south, but the shoulder was wide enough to feel save all the time. there was a bit of a tailwind, the surface even, the land flat and i was surprised how easily i moved forward. after three hours i made a stop in puerto morelos, a laid back place which receives less visitors than cancun or the riviera maya south from here. i just wanted to see the ocean and then continue. but as i was having some lunch, some guys set next to me on the bench and one of them invited me to camp at his house where he is living with his girlfriend. a small house but with a lawn big enough to pitch a tent. the kitchen was outside the house and this is where we had dinner and a couple of beers which i bought from the nearby store while my hosts were busy cooking. i guess my host jayo had a couple of drinks before we met since he got pretty drunk after a while. just about the time we sat down in front of my map and he wanted to give me some advise for my route. and soon he dozed off.
i left a note and started early before they got up, to avoid the heat if only for a little while. the road was about the same as the day before and i was looking forward to reach tulum, setting up camp there and going for a swim. the famous ruins of tulum are located before the town if coming from the north and directly at the caribbean sea. just a few hundred meters further is a place called santa fe. it gathered some fame along backpackers for being one of the few budget places along the shore and today is maybe the only one with a campsite.
and some steps to the left is the beach.
the photo was taken quite early in the morning. it gets a bit busier during the day as this is also the public beach area of tulum. but it is still pre saison here and tourists will not start flocking in until december. this is a perfect place for a rest day. tomorrow i’m off to felipe carrillo puerto and then the lagoon at bacalar before making my way to belize.
Tags: locations · postcards · travel
after eleven hours we touched ground in cancun, mexico. the entry formalities are quite easy for a citizen of the european union and only to clear customs took me a while longer since my luggage seemed a little less usual. at the baggage conveyor belt i met conrad, another cyclist, just as i was about to take his bike. well, they do look alike packed in a bikebox. i was thinking about cycling into town, but since our flight was delayed it was already dark. a lady told us it would be no problem to get our bikes on a bus. we paid about five dollars extra for the bikes and off we went. conrad met his couchsurfing host at the bus terminal while i got a little lost wandering around town and looking for a hostel. while walking through the streets i could happily certify a prejudice of mine. yes, mexico does dance and sing. it dances in circles while singing or as a couple alone on a stage in a park to the sound of a ghettoblaster, it sings in restaurants, on the streets or else let loudspeakers do the job. it was quite late til i finally checked in at the haina hostel. nothing fancy but with very helpful staff.
my first adventure took me just across the street to an electronic store which also sells guitars. i already looked online at the collection of guitars and since this was supposed to be the best adress in town to buy a guitar, i was a little disappointed. once inside the shop it looked a little more promising. seven or eight guitars looked about right. the first one i picked up was a mahagony fender. it took me a while to tune it while the guy next to me was practising with his vacuum cleaner. it played alright but had some buzz sounds on some frets although the action was already quite high. another guitar had a crack, the other had a crooked neck and in the end there was just an epiphone guitar left. it plays beautifully, has good intonation and the sound is much better than i had expected to find at this price point in cancun. very happy about this. here’s a picture (this is already in tulum):
the staff of the hostel helped me to locate a bicycle shop (elite cyclery), to get the right fuel for the cooker and to find a bookstore with a decent selection of maps. otherwise i found cancun not much to my appeal and i was getting a bit restless. i think mostly because i wanted to get to guatemala and start a spanish course. there’s just too many conversations which fall short because of my lack of spanish skills. it was time to pack up. the next few days i will ride along the riviera maya until tulum.
Tags: equipment · locations · music
it’s time to reactivate this blog. after working as a velocab driver in the summer of 2012 in berlin, i concentrated on writing and recording songs over the winter. when autumn came to the city and the grey skies blocked out the sun and at times inspiration as well, i was about to book a flight to mexico. but since my mind was still processing the experiences from the last trip and i didn’t want to leave the possiblities i had here with the intruments and recording equipment, i decided against going on the road again. i finished some songs over the winter but am not quite there yet to start recording another album. i will do so in time and in a way i feel it’s right.
in spring i got back to the velotaxi job, started to save up and in mid season i booked my flight to mexico.
Tags: music · thinking...
i stayed in my hometown for about a week and had a couple of drinks with friends before i started the last leg back to berlin.
i didn’t do much research about the long distance cycling infrastructure within germany before i started this trip three years ago, back then my gaze was already fixed on more distant lands. this time i had a look and chose a route over bamberg, the rennsteig, and along the river ilm until weimar where i planned to team up with alex, a friend from berlin.
it was still cold, especially in the early morning hours. but with the sun out it was always a promise it would warm up at least a little during the day. by the time i passed bamberg and coburg i was used to the cold and it was getting warmer every day. but when i climbed the hills of the thuringian forest the amount of snow still lying on the ground was increasing and by the time i reached the rennsteig, the bike and hiking trail on top of the range, the whole path was covered beneath layers of ice and snow.
from time to time i had to push my bike for some hundred meters as the snow was either too soft or too icy. this took a while and i was starting to worry if i would be in time to meet alex in weimar. i got up early the next morning and while cruising downhill, leaving snow and ice behind, i made up time and arrived at the train station at eleven o’clock. alex arrived five minutes later and after the greeting ceremony we made a quick visit to the tourist information in the city center. we got a few tips what to see but decided after half an hour that we had seen enough and had a second breakfast instead of more sightseeing before we were under way. alex had organized two couchsurfing opportunities in halle and in dessau. for the last night stop we found a hostel on a farm which had its former stables converted into a basic accommodation. very much alike the one we stayed in on our trip to copenhagen around five years earlier in the mecklenburg lake district.
here you see alex resting in merseburg directly at the river saale with the dome and castle area in the background.
our goal was to reach berlin in time for my birthday. the weather was glorious until we woke up to icy winds and rain on the last day. we cycled for about an hour to the next town and decided to take the train. once in berlin it was a flashback with all the grey surroundings, the houses, the streets and the leaden sky. the humming cars, streets signs and the trains hovering above our heads. we stopped at a corner coffee store for breakfast. quite exhausted as we were, we headed back to alex’s flat and rested for a couple of hours. in the evening we met up with some friends and had a couple of drinks in kreuzberg to celebrate.
and to conclude this post and the journey itself somewhat, on a sign in the middle of the forest somewhere along the way johann wolfgang von goethe found once more the right words not only for someone being on the road.
the translation would read something like this:
if it whirrs inside your head and heart
what better thing you’ll get!
who loves no more and errs no more
is yet as good as dead.
so… that’s it for now. i’ll work over the summer and see once winter arrives what whirrs inside my head and heart then. thanks for reading and sharing!!
Tags: locations · people · travel
i crossed the border to germany at fessenheim over the bridge at the hydroelectric power plant. my first stop was at bad krozingen, a typical town with a pedestrian zone in the city center and its historic buildings surrounding the market square where the farmers sell their goods on a saturday morning. it was nice to order in german again. i had a nice chat with a lad who approached me and the first time since years i was addressed with the formal “Sie”. his first question was if i was on a longer journey with my bike… i said i was coming from paris which seemed enough at that moment.
in the afternoon i arrived in freiburg were i met christoph, an old friend from home. the first evening we just had a couple of drinks, had a look at some pictures and exchanged stories. the next morning the weather was glorious and so we decided to go for a ride and while we were on it, took all we need for a bbq with us. from the house it took us less than five minutes to get out of town and into the woods of the black forest. there were still patches of snow and ice along the way and the climb took quite some energy because the forest paths were soggy from the melting water and last year’s leaves. some collegues from christoph’s school arrived sometime later and and by then we had a nice fire going.
the next evening we met with achim, a friend who arrived by train with his bike as we planned on cycling back to stuttgart together the next day. we choose quiet roads through the black forest until we arrived in schiltach which is part of the german timber-frame road.
the town was once part of the duchy of württemberg until it went to baden in 1810. we passed the historic border between württemberg and baden on our way out.
we stopped in alpirsbach for the night. it took a while until we found an accommodation. achim was quite particular about the kind of bed he wanted to sleep in. it had to be one without footboard and no place in town seemed to have one without. it was dark and we were both freezing until we finally settled into our quarters, the beds had footboards, but by then a hot shower and a meal was everything that counted. thus we were a bit late to visit the brewery and felt that the next morning would be the wrong time to do so if we still wanted to reach stuttgart before dark. so we made a quick stop at the abbey instead.
we had another half day of nice cycling but coming closer to stuttgart it was getting more and more difficult to avoid roads with heavy traffic and we eventually took a train for the last twenty miles into the city. thanks to achim for joining me in this part of the trip.
Tags: locations · people · travel