Mexico/Belize/Guatemala – Laguna Bacalar, Altun Ha, El Remate

Loaded up and ready to leave Tulum, I start the bike, vrooooom! Pull the clutch lever and SNAP! Broken clutch cable. Oh the joy… Fortunately, I had a spare cable and was able to make the swap easily and hit the road about an hour later than planned. Once on the road I thought about how lucky I was to have a spare cable and for it to snap while I parked in a safe location. This could have easily happened on the road in the middle of nowhere with no spare…

Laguna Bacalar 001

I rode south to Laguna Bacalar, a beautiful freshwater lake near the Belize border, and camped at what might be considered a campground. Although it was more like a grassy patch next to a local’s shack. Nevertheless, the setting was beautiful.

Laguna Bacalar 004

The lake is crystal clear with a white sandy bottom and a few limestone “lilly pads”– absolutely stunning. A swim felt mighty good!

Laguna Bacalar 008

A view from the tent door:

Laguna Bacalar 014

I met back up with Justin that night and the next day we headed for the Belize border. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the border after hearing so many Central American border crossing horror stories, but the cross was quite simple and were in and out in about an hour.

First, we went to the migration shack office to cancel our tourist visas and then about 50 meters later to cancel our temporary vehicle import permits. Then as we crossed the bridge we stopped traffic to take a photo. (Oh god, I hope my kickstand doesn’t fall through the grates…)

Border (1)

After the bridge we were flagged down by a few guys in a shack to have our bikes “fumigated” or sprayed with water for about 2.5 seconds for $3USD. OK????

Border

Now in Belize the culture is very different, very Caribbean, and not Latin. No more Spanish, we’re back to English. It’s not a standard English though, we’re talkin’ very Caribbean mon! It’s getting late in the day and Justin and I went fast down the Old Northern Highway (single lane dirt road) dodging pot holes until we reach the Mayan Wells Restaurant (and campground). We roll in just as night sets in and set up shop for the night. The owner, Simon, is very friendly and we cooked some dinner under the palapa right next to a train of army ants. These little buggers are straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. We painfully learned the next morning not to step in their path. Turns out their path moved right through our tents and within seconds of standing there Justin’s legs were covered with nasty biting army ants!

Altun Ha 004

Early the next morning we awoke to the wild sounds of jungle birds. We the visited the ruins of Altun Ha about a mile down the road. Images of these ruins are on the Belize currency and beer labels. The site was beautifully manicured but tragically restored with concrete work over all the steps.

Altun Ha 009

Justin left afterwards and headed for Guatemala (he spent less than 22 hours in Belize).

Altun Ha 021

The next afternoon the owner of the restaurant tells me they have crocodiles and jaguars in the area. Cooking dinner in the dark under the palapa later that night had my senses on high alert when I heard a deep purring coming from the jungle… I lived through the night and the next morning took a few pictures of the beautiful flowers around the grounds.

Altun Ha 028 Altun Ha 020 Altun Ha 024 Altun Ha 026

Oh, and I’m not sure who Bob is or what he stands for but every telephone poll in the town tells me to vote for him.

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I spent another night waiting to hear from Charles. No luck the next morning (Christmas Eve) either. I wanted to see more of Belize but I’m also shocked at the sticker prices in this country. I made the executive decision to move onto Guatemala to meet back up with Justin. I left Mayan Wells on the small one lane road. Tour buses were speeding towards me on way to the ruins without slowing down or moving aside. Each time I had to jump onto the dirt shoulder 4 inches below the level of the road. Riding for a few hours I passed through most of northern and western Belize admiring the architecture and culture that was quite different from what I’d grown accustom to over the past 6 weeks in Mexico.

I feel a bit sad though that I stayed less than 48 hours in Belize. I didn’t try any food or even the beer. Although, I did try to buy a can of beer at a grocery store near the border but they were sold out… Oh well… Next time I’m in Belize I’ll have to explore more and certainly make it to the famous islands and ATM cave.

I crossed the border into Guatemala with ease. So far the tales of heinous Central American border crossings haven’t lived up to the hype. Bienvenidos a Guatemala!

Border (Belize & Guatemala) 002

Instantly life changed across the border. The people are no longer of Caribbean and African decent, they are Mayan and Spanish. English was forgotten immediately and I was back in Latin culture. The road turned to dirt for a few miles and then to spectacular pavement. Green forested rolling hills lay in the background and several herds of cattle and a few random pigs crossed the street every now and again. A short ride later and I’m in El Remate, a beautiful town that sits on the lake’s edge. Justin and I spent the afternoon out on the dock, swimming in the crystal clear water, diving off the dock, drinking liters of beer, and taking photos and GoPro videos.

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Here’s a short video from the afternoon. (If you can’t see the video below in the email, click this link: http://www.vimeo.com/8382683)

Mon Ami Hotel advertised a delicious Christmas dinner. A bit pricey at $9 USD but we figured it would be well worth it to celebrate considering we’d both been cooking our own meals for a few days now. Unfortunately, the cold mashed potatoes, few vegetables, and turkey bones weren’t quite the meal we had envisioned. Oh well, so is part of the journey… At least the homemade hot chocolate was tasty!

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Charles’ Update:

Charles trucked his bike out of Colorado and then continued riding south. In Texas his bike basically ate itself (ya, that’s technical talk) but luckily he noticed the problem moments before his engine would have completely died. Fortunately, he met up with another motorcyclist and got together with a mechanic who got him back on the road with only a day lost. He cruised through Mexico pulling 12 hour days just rolling out the kilometers until he cut across the Yucatan peninsula when his bike broke down again. I don’t have the full story but he was able to find a mechanic in Chetumal who will be able to fix the bike. However, parts need to be shipped in from Cancun and with the Christmas holiday it’ll take a few days before he’s back on the road. A few days rest will do his body good and he’ll be here shortly. Charles, I can’t wait to ride with you finally!!!

Merry Christmas from Guatemala! Enjoy the snow at home!

El Remate 008

Categories: Belize, Guatemala, Mexico | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Mexico/Belize/Guatemala – Laguna Bacalar, Altun Ha, El Remate

  1. That lake looks amazing! Good thing you had a spare clutch cable too. On a beach in El Salvador, looking into getting a rig for a surfboard on the bike!

  2. kevin watts

    Yo, Ben.
    Sorry for not replying till now.
    Reading most of your e-mails.
    It is very interesting to read your updates. Pictures are beautiful. … Keep them coming.
    The jetboil production team looks forward to your updates.
    I’m visiting the grand-kids in Cincinnati this week. Nothin’ like it!!
    Going to the Bruins / Flyers hockey game at Fenway on the 1st … Will be a high of 19 degrees on the 1st.
    Keep safe and remember the reason for the season!
    Kevin

    • Benny

      Hey, Kevin. It’s great to hear from you and I’m glad everyone likes the blog. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that New Years day hockey game will be amazing! Tell everyone I said hello and I’ll be thinking of them while I drink my beer out on the dock after a swim🙂

    • very nice place!!

      Magic Bacalar

      http://www.campingbacalar.com

  3. Wow! You make Guatemala look GREAT. I think I’m gonna ride up to where you are…here I was being all fuky in San Pedro La Laguna!

  4. Scott Perry

    Hey Ben!!! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

    It appears you’re making good time. I’m a sucker for beautiful swimming holes, and you’ve found some awesome ones! The pictures are great, now I’m starting to get a little jealous.🙂

    It was a high of almost 50 degrees today, if it keeps up, Michael Phelps might be playing center for the Bruins on New Year’s Day!!!! It was close to 0-5 degrees earlier this week, typical NE weather.

    I hope the breakdowns stay manageable and you continue to have a blast with the fewest possible problems. I love the pictures, keep them coming!!!!

    Be safe out there!!!!!

    Scott

    • Benny

      Hey Scott! Glad you like all the pictures. I’ve been “stuck” at this swimming spot for almost a week and it’s hard to leave. What a beautiful place!!! Enjoy that crazy NH weather. I hope it all works out for the hockey game. Keep in touch.

  5. Haley

    Merry Christmas, looks like you had a good one despite the turkey bone dinner!

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