From touristville to slumsville in a short days ride

12/13/16

Hopkins, Belize to Punta Gordo, Belize

154.6 Kilometers ridden.

The plan was simple. We would get up early and make a ride for Punta Gordo where we could spend the day looking at the southern portions of Belize and take some photos of the sea.  Aaron and I had decided to ride together as Ed had already come from the south and would be doing his own thing.

Like all plans, it went to hell right away.

When it was time to get up the sound of rain pounding the small cabins roof was overwhelming. The dusty wooden shutters could do nothing to stop the water from reaching the sill and even dripping into the room. With a choice between an on time, but soaked, departure or sleeping in, sleep won.
A cold shower, while a little better than a wet ride, is not the ideal way to start my waking day. A delicious hot breakfast would have been a perfect pick up to break from the dreary grey day, but stale from the package lemon cream cookies and a few peanuts was all I could manage to round up for meal.

After a few hours of waiting on the rain, Christine and I took a walk to store for fruit and monster. I made my selection and went to the counter. The oriental woman running the counter rang me up for the monster, $5. I balked and asked what happened overnight. She stared at me like I was nuts until I explained I had bought one here yesterday for two Belize dollars.  When I asked why the price change she just laughed and said it was five dollars.  While the conversion meant it was only $2.50 US it was the sudden change of price that turned me off. I left the monster there and we walked to another shop where I grabbed my caffeine fix.

Another attempt to use my credit card resulted in another denial of the charge. As I was planning to use the card for the bulk of possible transactions to preserve my meager supply of US dollars, and avoid the foreign transaction fees that come from using my debit card, this was a problem.

I broke the great bit of conversation with Ed, Aaron, Christine, and a few German adventure bikers that had arrived to call, at no small expense, Bank of America to try and sort out my card. Just a few moments into the call the rain finally let up and Ed took his cue and exited stage left. Due to our plans to ride together Aaron holds off of departing to let me finish my call, and uses the time to keep chatting up Christine in what appeared to be his own little Nirvana.  In a little over an hour on the phone I have spoken with five separate people including a supervisor who started out by threatening to hand up on me and ending with heartfelt apologies for Bank of America putting me in such a bind due to their own mistakes. While he couldn’t replicate the work done while I was in Texas to turn the card back on he was able to express ship a card to me at an address I felt was secure.  Because I was talking with a friend about flying into Costa Rica to ride with me over Christmas I risked it and though I would be there. On the suggestion of the supervisor we shipped the card to a Four Seasons resort thinking they might hold it for me.

As I finished my call Aaron and I geared up to roll out. It was now mid-afternoon and our plan to be off the roads early was evaporating into the already muggy air. As we zipped up jackets the sunny patch suddenly shifted back to a torrential down pour and we again chose to wait it out for a bit.

With another wait of unknown length I opted to run out to the food stand out front and order a grilled chicken salad so I had some real food before leaving. While I waited for my food I got my laptop back out of my top bag and prepared to get some writing done.  Just seconds after my salad arrives and I start to write the rain clears. I stuffed my face as I shut everything down and loaded up the bike.

The road to Punta Gordo was along well repaired blacktop and was slightly winding as it followed the coast line. The mountains loomed to our west as we worked our way through the rain forests, sections of evergreen trees, and beaches that intermingled beside both sides of the road.

Once in town, we made a loop through to try and find the cheap place Ed told us about. We did a few loops before a local guy on DRZ400E tries to help us. Both Aaron and I got an uneasy feeling about the guy who kept trying to lead us to a hotel he know about. Despite multiple assurances that we were fine he followed us for two stops before we could convince him we would not be following him.

After a few loops we found that we had passed the cheap place on our way in but made it back easily enough. The proprietor wasn’t on site but one of the residents agreed to give him a call. It took almost 20 minutes before the owner arrived to show us the rooms. I stayed with the bikes and trusted Aaron to decide on the best deal for the room. He got us a decent rate to share a triple room and we secured the two bike together with cables and got them covered and partially hidden behind a concrete planter with a small tree in it. After we carried our gear upstairs to the room Aaron couldn’t find the key to his motorcycle and a small panic ensues as we try and find it. Aaron was able to find the Key sitting on the concrete we had hid the bikes behind and we both get a good little laugh out of the experience.

The night was warm and humid and we were both hungry so we set off to get some money from an ATM we had passed while looking for the hostel. The vestibule of the bank was not only clean, but air conditioned. We both talked about just pitching tents here for the night, but only half joking as we were pouring sweat from just the short walk. With cash secured we walked the streets of the small city looking for food. We were offered the chance to purchase weed and cocaine no less than three times before deciding on a small diner that ended up serving a fine meal.

The view from our porch

After we walked back I got a surprise call from AT&T to tell me I was over $135 over my data I had just purchased. It turns out that what I thought was two gigabytes of data was actually 200 megabytes.  That wouldn’t have been an issue except that I had been so frustrated with the faltering internet at the hostel that I had attempted to download a 990 megabyte mad pack for my GPS over the cellular network.  There wasn’t anything I could do but eat the cost and learn my lesson.

Despite the bed creaking loudly if I so much as thought of moving, I was able to focus on writing for a bit before passing out on the lumpy threadbare mattress. It was hot, humid, and hard to sleep but I was loving every moment of it.

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