Belize

Day 32 – Who’s That Trip Trapping on my Bridge?

So today we have to leave Hickatee Cottages.  This has been our favourite place to stay in Belize so far, and we’ll miss Ian and Kate, and their wonderful humour, opinions, and hospitality.

I’m up early to photograph some of their plants, and to take a hike in the jungle on the trails around their property.  We have a light breakfast, and we’re off with hugs and handshakes to see the Chocolate Plantation.

Familiar with the route, we head back on the gravel roads towards the Butterfly Farm.  On and off it has been raining, but never heavy enough to get our rain gear out.  Even the heavy moments pass quickly.  We ask locals a few times for directions and realise that we’ve passed it.  I gingerly turn the bike around on the wet, loose gravel.  I think we now know exactly where it is.

Up ahead is a narrow wooden bridge.  The boards are uneven, and slick from the rain.  About halfway across I feel the bike slipping, and then the front tire drops into a groove between two boards.  I can’t wrestle it back out and I feel the bike tipping to the left.  The bridge has no railing, and if we tip now we’re falling 20 feet into the rocky creek below.  I can tell I’ve lost control.

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I didn’t want to go down the middle b/c of rotten boards…

In an instant I make the decision that I’d rather crash on the other side of the bridge than over the edge.  I twist the throttle and yell to Rebecca that we’re crashing!

We almost make the other side before the bike goes off the bridge.  The front wheel hits the bank and I’m in the air.  I can tell this is going to be a bad one.  At one point I can see the bike in the air above me doing a pirouette.  I can hear Rebecca screaming, but don’t know where she is.  As things start to slow down I realise that we’re in the creek bed, and the bike is above us, hanging on the bridge.  Still not sure where Rebecca is I’m yelling for her to get under the bridge because I’m sure the bike isn’t quite done its acrobatics.

Safely under the bridge I try to assess if Rebecca is okay.  She’s really shaken up, and not making sense yet.  The bike is above us, in shambles, but still running.  I grab Rebecca and firmly say, “I need to know if you’re okay?!  Is there anything that hurts or won’t move?”  Holding back tears she tells me she thinks she’s okay.  I rush back over to the bike to look for the kill switch amidst all the pieces and tangles of vegetation.  Above us I can hear people running to the scene.  That’s when I notice my right thigh doesn’t feel good.  I can tell something bad has happened to it, but I can put weight on it and walk, so I’ll deal with it later.

We clamour up the embankment to find the entire village out to see if we’re okay.  Before long lots of men show up with ropes, and together we haul the bike off the edge of the bridge and back onto the road.  All in all, it doesn’t look too bad.

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Oops

Now to look at my leg.  I step off the roadway and unzip my riding pants.  Most of my thigh has swollen up almost an inch, and half my leg is turning colour already.  I know what already hurts is going to hurt even more tomorrow.

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The aftermath

The next couple of hours are spent assessing the damage, and putting things back together.

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Roadside repairs with an audience

  1. Windshield destroyed (and cut my riding pants)
  2. Handlebars bent forward (courtesy of my thigh)
  3. Cell phone mount broken (and 4 matching bruises just below my groin)
  4. Left Side Jesse Pannier punctured in 2 spots
  5. Left Side Jesse bracket bent badly (1 hour bending it gets it close enough to ride with a bungee cord for added security)
  6. Left Side Jesse Lid bent – no longer water proof – cooking gear in that side, so okay
  7. Left side Throttle Body dislodged
  8. Left side Throttle Cable unseated
  9. Left side Engine Cover Guard sheared off (now held in place with bailing wire)
  10. Engine not running well.  Stuttering and sputtering.

Still shaken, we decide that the Chocolate Plantation will have to wait until another trip to Belize.  We limp the bike north 2 hours to Placencia to see if Jacki still has a room at Casa Placencia for us, and see if we can get in touch with a guy in Maya Beach who knows BMW’s.  We were given his number last week in San Ignacio by a fellow GS rider “just in case”.

Fuel mileage is way off, so we barely get to Placencia on the tank.  Safe and sound in our hotel room, we ice my leg and head to RumFish for Rebecca’s Fish Tacos, and some ice cream at Tutti Frutti’s.  Scary day.

Discovered later…

Throttle Position Switch broken (low idle stall, 4000 RPM engine stutters)

Left Front Fork Seal shot

Categories: Accidents and Incidents, Belize | 2 Comments

Day 30 – Butterfly Adventure

Ian, the owner of Hickatee Cottages, is also the manager of a Butterfly Farm.  Apparently there are only 5-6 Commercial Butterfly operations in the world that supply  pupa to all the Glass House Butterfly exhibits around the world.  His is one of those.

In order to get a tour you MUST stay at their cottages, and the tours are held on Fridays only, and are limited to only 4 guests.  The reason is that the facility is quite small, and they need to control access.  They have problems in the past ranging from corporate espionage to people wearing bug spray and wiping out entire crops of butterflies!  Unfortunately, Ian’s tour for today is booked up.  But I ask about the limits of only 4 people, and that is because that is all the 4×4 truck holds.  So, I push a bit more to see if it would be possible to follow the 4×4 with the motorcycle.  Ian inspects the bike, and says “I make no promises.  The road up there is very steep, bumpy, and sometimes muddy.”

So, off comes as much luggage as possible to make the bike more off-road friendly, and we follow the truck.  There are certainly some challenging moments, and one of those makes Rebecca scream in terror… but we make it to the farm.

Once there we have an amazing tour, and learn a lot about the process, the life cycle, and just how much work is involved in producing butterflies for market.  The biggest limiting factor, beyond just whether or not they’ll breed in captivity, is providing the caterpillars with enough (and correct) food sources.

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We get back to the cottage and grab a relaxing afternoon siesta.  I’m woken up to a strange sound in the trees behind our cottage and discover a troop of howler monkeys slowly moving through the canopy.  They’re fun to watch.

Then, after dinner, we relax chatting with Ian and Kate, while enjoying some Belizean chocolate along with some Cocoa Liqueurs.  Heaven!

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Categories: Belize | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Day 29 – Fruits and Spices

Heading back through the “building boom” of Maya Beach we go looking for the world famous Miss Emma’s Kitchen and Farm.  There are no signs for it, but I’ve read about it in travel blogs online.

Down some gravel roads, we pull into a property to ask directions, and we’re told, “You’re here.  That’s Miss Emma over there.”

Miss Emma is a tiny little fireball of a lady from the Phillipines.  She was the cook for the Philipino Embassador to Belize.  During her time in Belize she developed an amazing garden for fruits and vegetables to use in her cooking, and once that appointment finished, the land owner (a commercial shrimp farm) allowed her to stay on to feed his workers.

Today she is much sought after for plants for landscaping around resorts throughout Belize, and for cut flowers for special occasions.  While we toured the gardens with her she took 3 calls for orders of plants.

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Belize’s national flower, the Black Orchid

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Now, a tour with Miss Emma is a whirlwind.  She’s never stops moving, and even though she’s under 5’ tall, you have to really motor to keep up with her.  She had us tasting, touching, and smelling everything in sight.  If it’s exotic in the produce section back home in Canada, she was growing it here!

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Ms. Emma with her gourds

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Star fruit

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Luffa. Never knew it grew as a tree fruit!

Then, after the tour, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch with the best, fresh limonade (with cane juice) I’ve ever had.  We finished 2 pitchers!

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The “autograph” tree

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Miss Emma and I

She recommended on the way to Punta Gorda that we stop at the Belize Spice Farm for a tour, so an hour later we’re stomping around another garden tour.  This one features only a few crops:  Vanilla, Nutmeg, Coffee, and Cinnamon.  Seeing all the steps necessary to produce vanilla it becomes obvious why it is such an expensive food ingredient.  It takes a full year for it to be ready for market, and the whole process, from hand pollination of the orchid plant, to the drying and heating of the beans, is done by hand.

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Nutmeg

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Cinnamon

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Cocoa Tree

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One of the drying rooms

With my horticultural fix satiated, we head into Punta Gorda.  We’ve been warned that it’s a rough and dirty outpost town, and on first impression, I’d agree.

We get horribly lost within minutes.  There are no road signs, and all the roads are deeply potholed sand and gravel.  We ask for directions several times from locals to get to Hickatee Cottages.  Some don’t know the place, and in one instance, we simply couldn’t understand the guy’s directions because his accent was so thick!  Then, lost once more, we stop a young guy (18ish) on a bicycle.  He says that we’re on the wrong road, and to follow him.  He then takes us almost 20 minutes out of his way to ride us all the way out of town to Hickatee Cottages.  Punta Gorda may not be as rough as we were told.

Categories: Belize | 1 Comment

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