The tour started in San Jose with Rice & Beans for breakfast. What other can you wish than having a Rice & Bean Dinner at a Maya Temple at Doomsday? Well it was more: Rice, Beans & Chicken plus a bottle of local Rum and the Howler Monkeys in the trees at sunset!
The temple was really deserted. Besides us, only 3 guys from Dallas were around to experience their doomsday at this Mayan place. Nothing like a huge Maya or commercial festival. It was an ordinary day. At least at this site.
Nevertheless, we setup our dinner table at the foot of the Jaguar Temple. The final supper was enriched with two bottles of complementary rum. Before any of the thirsty riders could enjoy the ‘enriched’ water, the first sip of the rum had to be given to the Maya gods in a ceremonial gesture. Henry and Cristiano performed the duty and the first drops of the bottles were spilt over a sacred rock, making sure there remained enough of the tasty fluid for us in the bottles. After weeks of ‘purified’ water, what a welcome change!
Only the Howler Monkeys were curious about what was going on in their territory and couldn’t take their looks from the strange ‘aliens’ in their fancy outfits with some odd rituals.
It was already dark, when we returned home to Belize City, in ‘The Blue Bird’ an old and rattling school bus.
The high priest of the temple was already waiting for us on top of the pyramid. His prayers could be heart for miles as we approached the holy arena. Howler monkeys added their sounds to the fearful atmosphere.
In his ultimate ecstasy, the shaman asked for a sacrifice to please the gods and prevent the world to end. Mike, the bravest of us volunteered to step up willing to give his life to safe ours – nobody knew at this time, that he had a secret ‘joker’ that would ultimately safe him too. The shaman immediately continued his ceremony and asked Mike to step forward and come closer. Nobody knew what would happen next, when the priest eventually caught Mike at his throat.
In the claws of the shaman, doomed to pass out soon, Mike all of a sudden produced an item that the shaman could not resist to inspect. What was this?
It were Joey’s cherished and heavily ‘duct taped’ set of cycling shorts, that were like a second skin to her. How hard must it have been for her, to sacrifice this unique piece of cycling history! The shaman recognized the value of this gift to the gods and released Mike. Together they send a final praise to the gods and the world continued to exist beyond the doomsday …
The last stage of the tour was either a long fight against a nasty head wind, followed by 40km of unpaved roads for those who decided to cycle to the temple. For the others it was a 90 minute drive to the New River, followed by a 40km boat ride on the river to the Lamanai temple, at the banks of the New River Lagoon. It was said, the this river is the only in Belize that flows south to north and is totally fresh water. It was used by the Mayas for trading with their neighbors, as it runs into Mexico. It was a fast ride on the calm waters. Everyone in the boat enjoyed the breeze of the cooling wind as we moved on through narrow and wider ‘channels’ in the lush vegetation only interrupted when wildlife or notable plants were to be seen. What a difference is a boat ride, compared to cycling
Once we reached the wide lagoon we could make out some humans on top of the roof of the forest, actually on top of a temple. Can you locate them in the photo below?
We arrived at the Lamanai temple site, where we soon reunited with the cyclists. Lamanai is the Mayan name an translates to ‘Submerged Crocodile’, if pronounced correctly: La-ma-na-i, with a focus on the ending i. If pronounced La-ma-nai, it translate the ‘Submerged Mosquito’.
The doomsday sun was just rising, when 6 glorious riders – Dan, David, Eric, William, Sarah and Hendry – left in the morning sun from Belize City to ride the 130km to the Lamanai Temple. They are accompanied by Astrid, Jessica and Lisa, who will ride the last part from lunch to the temple where they all will reunite with those, who take the boat trip. With a final dinner at the temple the tour will end after 5 weeks of great and challenging cycling in very hospital and beautiful countries.
The final rolling downhill to sea level from San Ignacio to the capital city of Belize started in the morning mist. It was kind of easy rolling, however the closer we got to Belize City, the more dangerous was the traffic. Other than in Guatemala, the drivers here a very impatient and sometimes very reckless, leaving almost no safe space between us when they squeeze themselves through the traffic – often at high speed. Luckily no accident. Once down to sea level, we were riding through wet marsh land, with rivers meandering through it. I saw a crocodile dozing in the sun, when I passed over a little bridge. Unfortunately it submerged before I got my camera ready. The ride was kind of relaxing, although we were facing head- or crosswind all day long. Belize City welcomed us with a heat wave and finding shade and a cold drink was essential. In the evening Astrid refreshed our memories of the early days of the tour, with a fantastic slideshow. Thereafter we had our arrival dinner in a very relaxed atmosphere.
I did it! The end of my doomsday ride …
Tomorrow is Doomsday, which we will ‘celebrate’ at the Lamanai Temple, 130km northwest from the city. 5 riders, will be cycling to the temple. I decided to ‘retire’ from cycling, give me and my bicycle a rest, and take the option of a boat trip, with 10 others, through the swamps to get to the temple, where we get together for the final Doomsday dinner.
Although Isla del Flores was a nice place to stay, it was about time to leave it to make it right in time to Belize for the final showdown of the tour. And who wouldn’t trade in a hotel in the city with a hilltop hotel. That is what welcomed some of us in San Ignacio. Unfortunately not everyone was lucky enough to get a room in this place.
Today we had 109km to go, 93 thereof in Guatemala before we crossed border into Belize. Border process was easy – pay 20 Quetzals in Guatemala to leave and get a free stamp in Belize to enter. However Belize customs required to register our bicycles in the passport to make sure, we don’t leave the battered piece of metal in their country, when we leave.
What a change is Belize: English spoken here!
I immediately completed my lucky bracelet collection in the first village after the border and continued to San Ignacio, which is only 10km after the border. The hotel is nicely located on a hill overlooking the plain that will lead us to Belize City the next morning. It has a big pool and even the toucans come to feed in the garden.
I still have an issue with my health condition. Some flue virus is still bugging me and keeping my body temperature high. Or maybe it is vitamin C poisoning, from getting an overdose of the delicious fruits in the past weeks? Nevertheless I want to ride the remaining days and kilometers to Belize City. I have mastered the most difficult, hardest and longest riding days, no need to say that I will finish the easy days, too. So you see me riding with arm warmers when others are sweating in the heat. I try to make it quickly into the next destination hotel to give my body a hot shower (if available) and an immediate rest on arrival.
The rest day in Flores was planned for a visit to Tikal, a 90 minutes drive northeast. Most of us wanted to be there to watch a spectacular sunrise over the ancient site, thus got up a 2:30am, taxied to Tikal at 3am and after another 40 minute walk waited at the top of temple #4 for the sun to rise. Unfortunately nature has its own rules and shortly before sunrise mist pulled in and covered the forest into a white nothing, which only revealed the voices of the howler monkeys and birds. Only this photo could catch a bit of a glimpse of what it would have possibly been, if there were no clouds …
Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala. Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemala’s Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site (source: Wikipedia).
We spend about 4 hours at the huge site with a guide. Some of the pyramid temples could be climbed and opened a fantastic view over the dense forest and the other temples.
Although the conditions at Tikal were not the best the group kept its good mood and didn’t miss a chance to entertain the rest.
Parrots and Spider Monkeys added their part to the show …
Btw. What does it mean, that the guides license expires on Dec. 21, 2012?
Our Hotel in Sayaxche kept a secret that nobody was aware of until he or she was trapped behind the high walls of the building, that was additionally guarded by heavily armed soldiers.
The nicely arranged garden around the pool area turned unexpectedly into a pre-historic jungle from which no-one was able to escape anymore.
Soon we were surrounded by giant creatures which immediately took hostage of our bicycles and some riders.
It was almost impossible to escape from their claws and jaws.
With a final gulp I disappeared into the dark throat of this ancient and long thought to be extinct creature, revealing a last glance onto the shocked fellow riders at the far end of the scene … Was this the end, although the real Doomsday is still 5 days away?
It was yesterday night at the ‘Del Rio’ when a sudden blast rocked us out of our post-dinner lethargy. A loud explosion followed by a bicycle that flew past the terrace in the upper floor of our hotel, with a tire and inner tube dangling from the rear rim. Usually a loud bang is nothing odd in a Central American country. It could be anything from a fireworks cracker to a gun that is often fired. However the shiny white bicycle frame high in the air, in a cloud of blue anti-flat slime, caught our attention. What has caused it to fly that high and who’s bike was it at all? Those who do not have a white frame were immediately relieved, however those with a white frame were in shock! First JJ came running to check for Jean’s bike, as she was doing some tire maintenance prior to dinner. Eventually the bicycle was identified as David H’s, from the still attached Doomsday plate #116. So, it was Cristiano’s duty to pass the message to David, who was already relaxing in his bed. With the determination of a Canadian Mountie David showed up at the scene and immediately started to cleanup the slimy mess and patiently started a second attempt to make his bike fit for the next day’s ride to Flores. Besides some blue stains on nearby bicycles, there were no more signs the next morning of the late night incident.
It is further to mention, that the locals must have inadvertently taken the tire blast bang as their signal to start a big and loud firework with more big bangs and sparks in the air.