A relic of British Honduras is the road system, in that it doesn't look like much has been done since the 1950's. There are 4 highways - the Northern, Western, Southern Highways which lead to their respective borders, & the Hummingbird highway, which connects the Western and Southern. Its a pretty easy system to get the hang of. What I haven't seen yet are the foreign built roads - in SE Asia, the poorer countries such as Laos would often have roads that were paid for by foreign governments, such as France or Germany. This sort of foreign aid is often the mot effective - help people to help themselves by providing jobs in construction, and eventually a more efficient route on which to trade and do business.
They are improving though - new bridge under construction
Anyway, I got into Belize city (the biggest city - pop.70,000) and found some accommodation. There's not a whole lot I can say about Belize city that's positive, although the crime rate has apparently dropped. Most of the historically and architecturally interesting buildings have been destroyed by hurricanes over the years, and their replacements aren't worth a photo. The only interesting thing is the swing bridge. Built in the 1920's in Liverpool, it is one of the oldest swing bridges in the world, and the only one still manually opened - twice a day, 4 men have to turn a wheel to swing the bridge open, and allow boats to pass, bringing the city to a halt.
Typical scene in Belize City
The swing bridge - notice the pivot point in the middle of the river
The next day I headed to Belmopan, the capital. To explain Belmopan, it helps to draw parallels to Canberra - after Belize city was levelled by a hurricane, Belmopan was built away from the coast, intending to become the new capital and main city. The embassies and public servants moved, but everybody else stayed put. Consequently, there's not much to do there if you don't have government business. I had intended to get my visa for Brazil there, but after meeting the Consul (in the gorgeous little house that served as the embassy) and having a quick chat, he told me it'd be cheaper and much quicker in Venezuela. I had a good talk with the Consul about Brazil, where I should go, and the conditions of roads down there. I thanked him, and continued on my way (after he recommended a restaurant in Belmopan), past the fortresses masquerading as US and Mexican embassies.
Embassy of Brazil
After a beautiful lunch of stewed chicken and rice (post coming soon, I swear), I headed off to Hopkins, on the Caribbean. On the way, I passed the Blue Hole national park (not to be confused with the much more famous offshore national monument), had a swim and went for a jungle hike. After settling into Hopkins, I went for a stroll. There isn't much to see in town, and the beach isn't exactly stunning (Ive found that many beaches here aren't all they're cracked up to be compared to Perth's), but the locals are the most friendly I've seen in a while. Everybody waves, says hello and asks how I am in a thick Caribbean accent.
Blue Hole National Park
The next day I headed to the closest big town, Dangriga to buy a tarp for camping, and a few supplies. While at the checkout, I was approached by an Australian couple who asked about Isabella and my trip. I walked outside with them and couldn't believe it - they too were travelling around by motorcycle, and not just any motorcycle, but a KLR250! this is the first time since the US that I've seen any long distance motorcycle riders, and the first time that the bike has been a KLR250. We had a great chat about travelling on the bike, and about our respective plans. Jack and Annette have been staying in Guatemala for several weeks, found their bike in Antigua, and were taking it slowly throughout Latin America. It's good to know that there is someone else out there who doesn't think I'm crazy. They too have a blog, so when I get the URL I'll post it up for everyone to have a look at.
Isabella & her new friend
Cockscomb wildlife sanctuary is the world's first Jaguar reserve, and its approx. 130,000 hectares is home to 60-80 of America's largest cat. I headed up the access track (worst 'road' so far), set up camp, and went on a walk to a waterfall through the jungle. It seems showering in waterfalls has become my life! I saw or heard a startling array of wildlife, from Wild Pigs to Howler Monkeys to Hummingbirds. While I didn't come face to face with a Jaguar (thank god!), the map pointed me to a tree that the cats had used as a scratching post. It was somewhat disconcerting to see how deep the grooves went - they would have no trouble killing a human. They are notoriously shy animals though, and they're nocturnal nature and ability to climb trees mean they are rarely seen, outside of automated cameras set up throughout the reserve. I slept ok in my hammock, but kept my knife close by.
The next morning I headed out of Cockscomb, past an old plane wreck, and continued on to the border with Guatemala.
ALL PHOTOS AVAILABLE HERE