Sunday, 31 March 2013

Orange Walk To Sarteneja

A ride to Shipyard (a town) that has a Mennonite Colony there was the first part of our day, the road varied from nice tar seal to WW2 bomb holes, I slowed the whole trip down avoiding the rough stuff were we could.

We were just about there when we were flagged over and stopped by a guy in a ute on the side of the road, having a chat with him he said follow me I know a shortcut ... so we did.

Well that was interesting ... sand pits and mudholes etc kinda fun but not two up. 

Carrying on to Shipyard we watched the Mennonites go about their business in their old fashioned way but they did have tractors and motorcars so not totally old school.

Returning we came back the same way so we could show you the road, ok in the dry but being peat swamp with clay I would think it would be slippery as, Sjoerd advised us against wet back road travel and we can see why now.

Back to the hotel to pick up house an contents we made our way out to Sarteneja, the first part of the road we were doing 15 - 20 mphr (imperial here in Belize) going around the potholes.

1.5 hours later we had ridden 60 km or 40 miles and arrived at the back packers, $47 BZ ($23.50 US) for the Cabana or $14 ($7.00 US) for a camp site .... we set up out tent.

Off to town which is a ten minute walk the place was really cool, we decided to walk back and grab out togs then go out on the jetty were the locals were and joined them for a splash.

There was a yachting regatta on as well so there were boats in the water everywhere

Very blue water

The local bus shelter, note the bottle wall at the back


We bought some food for tea as we had cooking facilities so we made the most of this, our entire days food and drinks cost $41 BZ, less than just dining out and getting not much for tea so it is still considerably cheaper at least to self cook here in Belize, maybe not so much in Mexico.

Included in the food total was two cans of coconut juice which cost $8 so we added some rum to these to spice them up .... yummo.

K, off to bed.

Belize Border To Orange Walk

Belize ..... Welcome to Belize mun.

Easy getting in, we did ride straight past the spraying and insurance both cos no one came running out at us ... public holidays eh.

We clocked into customs, clocked Maya in, went back to the insurance office and bought our insurance and Maya got sprayed with WTF they spray her with .. just as well she is not ticklish.

I had a larf with the guy saying I thought he was going to wash her but that joke kinda fell flat cos she is still covered in oil and undersealed from the oil pipe splitting.

With all the formalities done we were off into the unknown again, destination Orange Walk ... for us it shoulda been Orange Ride.

Along the way we stopped at Corozal for lunch beside the sea.

Finding a reasonable priced hotel was a challenge, first one was way to spendie next one was spendie but we didn’t have many options, it was later in the day, we were tired and slightly dehydrated so yeap take it, nice place it was.

Walking into town the place was dead ... we thought WTF have we done but later on the roller shutters rolled up and the town was breathing. 

The bridge over the river behind our hotel

Tug boat setting a pace!!

This looked more like a KTM shop than homely stuff

Tea was an eat in that night as we had food we needed to finish from Mexico so that was nice, on walking around the town we stopped and looked in the corner shop / dairy ad they sell booze!! Black Stollies to be precise so I bought one to take back to the room and it almost made back.

Mexico Sum Up And The Heart Speaks

With mixed reactions about Mexico we have a combination of love and hate.

Firstly we didn’t like it not understanding enough Spanish which is our fault, we have been doing Spanish but nowhere near enough as we planned a month in Guatemala which is essential for the rest of our trip to get into the local scene rather than just skim it from the top. 

We got by no problem and to be honest once we were grounded within a week or so and understood more about Mexico we both really enjoyed it with the only limitation of not understanding more talking with locals.

Moto wise Mexico was a big torment for us with Ellens crash, again not Mexicos fault but we had difficulties experienced with an accident, add to that in a foreign country with foreign language, something you don’t really think about until it happens then you rely heavily on the very people who are trying to help. 

You trust the tow truck driver to do well by you in your time of need ...NO WAY, I knew they would try and bump the price but they blatantly quadrupled the price and tried to steal our cookset so I went absolutely ballistic at them as they were kicking a man when he is down which is just week minded and seriously wrong in any country .... welcome to the real world. 

We won in the end, I would not back down and threatened Policia so they suddenly found our stuff and charged us less (noting we still paid heavily)

Prior to that "heading south" Jim on ADV rider helped us out with bringing our chains and sprockets in as they were late leaving the dock in the US, so thanks Jim for that we really appreciate that and SR, Airhead Wrangler you guys and all good buggas!! 

Highlights for us were the silver lining of Ellens crash Lo De Marcos, Nobert ... you rock. Isy and Rob, Alesandro and Mable and as well as George and Carol you guys all made life a treasure for us when we hit the ground after Ellens crash.

Our new Canadian family, we are coming to Canada to see you guys further down the track as we feel indebted to you for the help and warmth you gave us. 

Copper Canyon, huge and neat place, loved it along with all the very dangerous roads that banditos were going to kill us on .... more likely to be run over by a truck. 

The Mexican people, how can you explain to someone who listens to the American news that is full of shit that Mexican are very warm, friendly, welcoming, helpful, friendly, open, friendly, nice, friendly, except tow truck drivers ... you get the picture.

The two majors pissoffs for me with Mexico is the people don’t get a shit about rubbish and it is everywhere, just like in China in the tops of the mountains there is crap everywhere and there are signs on the side of the road saying “NO TIRE BASSURA” which means “NO THROWING RUBBISH” 

We have followed cars, trucks and even the Policia Federalia just hurtling rubbish out of their window and it is a crying shame, the second for me is barking dogs, all day, all night, every dog and more so the little ones that are really short with something to prove but yet the owners do nothing, this is really frustrating when you pay for a hotel room and the dog barks all night right outside your window stopping any hope of sleep.

At Palenque I ended up hoping up out of bed about 3 am and yelling at the dog that was just barking at nothing into thin air and it shut up for about 2 minutes then started again, so I went down and woke up the owner who was disgruntled to be woken but his house room was way around the other side .... i.e. away from where the dog was barking.

With the dog still barking its head off at me I swung run and booted it in the chops and yelled at the owner .... things finally went quiet... needless to say at breakfast he was not entirely friendly.

I will add at this point I am a dog lover having had dogs all my life but their comes a point where frustration overwhelms acceptability even in “their country” through lack of sleep one can get pushed over the edge. 

Cost wise, Mexico hasn’t really worked out any cheaper than the USA due to the fact we camped 90% of the time in America and Canada and in Mexico camping is not a great idea nor is it very accessible unless you are in the know so our accommodation costs basically doubled from what we were used to but I qualify that by saying our level of accommodation went up not having to put the tent up so it is all relative.

We found some camping places, they wanted $100 pesos each and a hotel room with toilet and shower, lockup etc was $250 so a no brainer realistically. 

All in all I have enjoyed Mexico and it has its own beauty and more so in the south than the north in my opinion but don’t take my word for it, highlight for me being San Cristobal and the low definitely Ellens crash.

The Heart Speaks

Andis view

With Ellen dropping her bike at Yoquivo and hurting her ankle it made things difficult, then when she dropped her bike on the devils spine reinjuring that same injury I was pretty unhappy, while she was looking for sympathy I was telling her off as it was making my life and her life much harder to the point of me not enjoying the trip (echoes of Denali Highway here)

Then her final unexplained crash heading towards Lo De Marcos was extremely hard, first reaction was to get her right and second was to say that is it!!! no more riding as I cannot spend my hard earned RTW trip riding my mirrors anymore as I had had enough, the trip isn't all about me but when "me" is not even enjoying it WTF is the point in carrying on with it?. 

A weeks shakedown at Lo De Marcos, buying Maya with our “just in case” bucket, insurance backing out on us, Ellen unable to walk or ride her bike back to the US it all got on top of me, on the way back to the USA in the back of the ute we had an epic scrap at which I wanted to go my own way .... completely.

It would be fair to say stress levels had exceeded safe limits and I was not happy at all. 

Ellen had booked a week away with Lihong (her sister who lives in Montreal) and to be honest it was what we needed, had she not gone and with the anger and frustration that had built up it would have had serious consequences for us. 

Fast forward slightly, we were pissed around with the trucking company and Maya arrived two days prior Christmas, this was meant to be a joyful time however I cried, when I put the key in and started her she rattled badly and I was gutted, ringing the previous owner right there on the spot he said “it is the nature of the beast” WTF ...lier.

I seriously had had enough and to be straight up I was ready to chuck it in and go home, I said fuck this!!! if this is RTW travel it is not for me.

From the strength and support from Bevan and Clare in Phoenix and the Phoenix KTM community and especially Spencer we persevered. 

We were ripped off and many of you will have read about the whole drama, still to this day Alfred Lamarre the lying fuckwit (which is french for lying fuckwit) ((Sorry Pierre))from Portland Maine still has not responded to any calls, emails or pm. 

He has now been permabanned by ADV Rider for his arseholism and not even responding to ADV Rider to try and give his side of why?

Alfred Lamarre of Portland Maine, YOU WILL DIE with this on your conscience, the world is not a big place and your time will come. 

With a few issues still to deal to we are nearly there I hope.

Now riding two up was not in the plan either and I would have to say it is a lot more work for me, I am not a big dude and certainly not that strong so it has meant that I am getting a little more tired, coupled with not doing the exercise like in NZ it means I will have to shape up a bit more and get stronger. 

I am now writing this from Habana in Cuba, with Wifi harder to find than hens teeth it has given us some reflection time to look back and assess what has happened, the luck and goodwill that has come our way post bad accidents and bad dealings.

Sometimes when the shit hits the fan so hard that it stops it is hard to make good calls while your head is not working properly so any help and support you get becomes a silver lining .... my advice to RTW travelers is take it at the time to spread the load with the view to reciprocating to others when they need it (as we had already done in NZ and will do on our return), I guess it is like “paying it forward” and don’t wait to help someone else before you need help. 

Also, I would like to make a mention for Al Jesse for supplying and fitting luggage to Maya and going the extra mile with the strengthened subframe etc, the panniers and top box are second to none and this has made our travels with this far easier, thanks Al your blood is worth bottling.

The Dymond family of Mexico are Diamonds, Garry and Ivonne hosting us in Mexico City, warm, welcoming and great people and their daughter Leslie in Playa Del Carmen looking after Maya while we were tormenting Cubans and having us stay, you guys truly made a huge effort which is seriously appreciated so WHEN you come to New Zealand our Casa is your Casa.

Playa Del Carmen To Chetumal

Firstly, thank you to Leslie for looking after us.  

Leaving Playa Del Carmen were given a nice day.

Mostly uneventful we had lunch at a small bus stop, we were there only a couple of minutes when a car pulls up, a young guy hops out, all waves and the car left .... wouldn't have been two or three minutes later a Ford explorer pulls up fairly hastily.

I very pretty young lady opens the window, ... me , I am thinkin the lucky bastid!!!

She hops out of a car and we unwittingly become part of a “break up scene”

She was clinging onto him and crying her heart out and he was pretty much looking straight ahead and staunch, even tho we understand very little Spanish at this point the heart felt discussion made me feel sad.

We quickly finished our lunch and started gearing up when the Taxi arrived, the crying got louder, he got in the Taxi and for her it was a scene of total devastation, we got our gear on even quicker and left ... my heart sunk knowing we had just seen first hand a Mexican break-up which seem to hurt as much here as it does in New Zealand... love the hardest game to play!!

Back to our trip we arrived at Bacalar where were going to stay, all accommodation a was booked out with Spring break / Easter so we carried on to Chetumal.

A few people had said Chetumal was not a great place, arriving we found a hotel and unpacked, doing our usual we walked to town centro and were surprised and impressed by it.

Given it was our last night in Mexico we Tacoed, Marquesitas and Churrosed ourselves out enjoying the last of the street food from Mexico.

I am not fat it is my fur 

Chetumal Centro

Fountain lit up with all sorts of colours

There was a massive moon out and it had a orange tinge from smoke or sometong and looked very cool, we only had the little camera so it didn't come out very good but the water looks spooky  

Next morning we set off to the Belize border, the seriously unhelpfull border guard wanting to charge 295 peso to leave and with no banks open due to easter we were stuffed, we had to ride back to Chetumal and get some cash from a change shop, lucky we had enough US on us to do it.

Back to the border it was busy with Spring break/Easter but that is the way it is, the only other thing that added lots of time was they were training people .... what a great idea on a public holiday!!!.

With our TVIP returned and refunded we clocked out of Mexico after a little over 4 months of enjoyment.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Playa Del Carmen After Cuba

We had organised to leave Maya in the good hands of Leslie who is Garry Dymonds daughter, Garry lives in Mexico City.

While staying at Leslies waiting for our flight I took on a number of small jobs for her that she had been wanting to get done.

These included fitting eight isolating valves to her sinks and basins, properly fixing the two basins to the walls and leveling them, laying floor tiles and fitting a blind in her bedroom, it was nice to help her for the help she gave us, Leslie works big hours too so giving her more free time to do play things was nice. 

On our return to Playa Del Carmen from Cuba Ellen had a very saw tooth so went to the dentist, turns out she has an infection in her jaw bone under a tooth and it needs a small op to be fixed.

Man talk about tribe of sick people, everything seems to come at once which is not a bad thing, the other positive is we are in a great place to have it fixed and hopefully properly .... now we are wanting to get it done and get back on the road again .... itchy feet.

The last few days has been relaxing and loading up all the Cuba reports and photos, quite a full job in itself.

We took in some local sights  .. both of them, cheek out the guy on the bike running knobblies in town.

There was a rack with interesting helmets which were useless but looked cool

We were very impressed that the little girl had floaties on her arms

There is an interesting selection of boats anchored too

Also here in Playa Del Carmen in Martin and his family from Denmark so meeting up with fello ADVers has been great. 

We were treated to a display of local talent, these guys were very good

With Maya’s oil changed and few other minor fixits taken care of we head to Belize for a week before hitting Guatemala for Spanish lessons and to meet the legendary Julio (Guaterider) who has very kindly helped us with shipping stuff for Maya to his address.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Cuba Sum Up

Cuba is far from “green”, I really wanted to remember Cuba for the Cuban Coffee smell but the smell I will remember Cuba for is half burnt oily diesel from mostly worn out engines and bad tuning and maintenance, this one wasn't bad tho.

I have to admit I had visions of Cuba been somewhat cleaner understanding you jump into a time machine 60 years but the state of disrepair of a lot of vehicles is mind boggling and we saw first hand the fatal effects of this.

Understanding though it is a very poor country they are unfortunately severely handbraked by their communist leadership and antiquated ways making Cuba a real horse and cart country literally and to the detriment of the people which is saddening really.

My own opinion (and interestingly enough talking to others behind the scenes) next time they have a revolucion and a good idea the people should really be better off, not stagnated or in a lot of cases gone backwards.

We stayed in a combination of Casa Particulars which are home stays, everything from seriously basic no hot water etc to very nice indeed, across the board the Casa hosts were outstanding to say the least and were happy to help, only two Casas out of 18 we could not get a smile out of the owners and both were the only ones who really tried to change the ball game from what was agreed.

Our favourite was right on the sea edge down on the south coast and undoubtedly the most basic by far but the people were great, friendly and good to us, what more can you want?

Our favourite Casa hostess is in Vinales, she was awesome, bubbly, welcoming and a ray a light.

The grumble, only thing we didn’t really like about Cuba is the “Them and The Us’s”, the tourists get clobbered for prices around 10 x to 25 x the amount of locals, even buying petrol we were declined at two service stations with the guy saying ... it is complicated????WTF ... it seemed simple to us, empty car, paying customers with cash in hand, petrol station with petrol and empty forecourt .... what gives??

Also when buying churos the guy beside us paid $10 Pesos, we got the same as he did and we handed over $20 Pesos and they wouldn’t give us anything back saying that is the price and they just turned away so we were not there anymore .... in New Zealand that would end in a pubscrap!!!! .... we just had to accept it.

Getting money out was a half hour ordeal and quite a mission including handing of passports etc and more paper than you can fit in a wheelbarrow but at least we got cash and at $30 CUC/US per withdrawal you get as much as you can.

Most Cubans were great people but some were very snide and begrudging of us and particularly me being blonde like we owed them something, people everyday just saying “give me money” and being harassed for it took the shine off it a little, there are NO favours done here EVERYTHING means money, CUC or CUP you better have it as even asking for directions will cost you if you are soft and they will jump on you.

I will qualify that by saying if you are known to them or already an amigo (paying customer) they will go out of their way to help a little but 99% of the time they will put their hand out for more even after agreeing the value, across the board not the friendliest mob we have met in all of our international travels (not just this trip) as smiles are few and far between, when you smile at them they frown back .... hmmm.

Time, millions of man hours each day are just wasted, lining up for the bank, lining up for bread, lining up for buses they don't have money but they have time.

The highlight for me at least was seeing so many old cars on the road and of course the Urals, couple of Harleys and MZ stinkies (two strokes) everywhere so I will miss that zing buzz and ring ding ding sound, I would also add on the human side a lot of the Cuban woman with African genes/descent are very beautiful as well, without sounding like a freak-show stalker I was lucky enough to have my photo with a Casa lady (so I got to touch her without being.....odd) , she was very nice to us and made our stay outstanding... just in case you guys wonder what she felt like ....well ... just the same as us whiteyfoos , I will remember her smile.

Our favourite city is Trinidad and the best Pina Colada I had was here in the wakey wakey shakey shakey bar.

Our favourite road was undoubtedly was the south coast road goin 4 wheelin in the rental car.

My worst experience was obvious the Gastroenteritis which didn't really rate on my fun meter ..... me dead in bed.

The lowest Cuban people day was the nice guy who smeared mud all over our car ... can't understand the logic with the man as I was polite to him but he had it in for us.

Our impression of Cuban people is a lot of them live behind window bars in the background, this lady was dancing to music and having a great time with a huge smile which was very nice to see however a lot just mill around looking out to the street with a very distant look on their faces.

For us across the board we found it to be a great place, really enjoyed it and it certainly was and eye opener, we have now ticked that box and ready for the next mission should we choose to accept it ... which we do.

Back to being travelers not tourists....

Cuba - Day 21 - Leaving Cuba

Havanatur was organised to pick us up at 9.30 am so we made sure we had breaky done and dusted and ready to race, 9.45 am no bus????

I went to the Havanatur office, a few frantic phone calls they then said we are picking you up at 10.30 am cos the time changed????? ours said 9.30 ...WTF???

Another hour just wasted, we could have slept in 

The weather had really caved in big time by this stage with water pissing into the hotel everywhere, during our breaky they blocked off half the restaurant and five staff turned up with buckets and brooms etc, they took about 9 - 10 buckets of water off the floor in five minutes. .

The roads were flowing like a river and the foot paths under water so it wasn't a bad time to be inside.

We saved this photo from the rest of "the petrolhead display" above as it fits in this post and was amazing to see, you can't halt progress just whip up a couple brollies and carry on

The view from our van on the way to the airport