From the very first day, I was really intrigued by Belize. It was strange to come from months in Mexico and speaking Spanish to crossing an imaginary line on the land and now speak English. The bathrooms now were clean and stocked with toilet paper and they were free….wow, what a luxury.
I noticed lots of farm land, crops and livestock…maybe it’s my South Dakota roots, but I notice those things. And I noticed people riding on horseback, farm trucks, people plowing fields. After seeing old-fashioned plows and oxen used in Mexico it was strange to see modern farm equipment in use here, big combines and trucks. And then I noticed a buggy and single horse pulling it along the road. At first I thought it was an Amish person, but I later found out it was a Mennonite. And there is a BIG Mennonite population in Belize, especially relative to the overall population of the country at only 350,000 or so.
My friends Heather and Bruce stayed at a small lodge outside of San Ignacio and there was a Mennonite family staying there too. I spoke with them one morning while I loaded some things on the bike. They were so friendly and kind, and wished me well in my travels.
Saturday mornings are crazy in San Ignacio and I get to spend two of them in this town. On the first one I wander over to the market, which is the cause of all the ruckus here. There are loads of veggie and fruit and meat vendors set up and ready to sell. Women come from all over the country by bus and buy all their fresh groceries for the week, which here might mean 5 pounds of tomatoes, 10 pounds of fruit, 2-3 pounds of onions, grocery bags filled with carrots, cabbages, turnips, zucchini, etc. Most women I see are carrying 4-6 grocery bags filled with veggies and some fruit. Then they travel back home on the full buses carrying all the heavy bags by hand.
The center of town and the market area are reached by crossing the Lower Bridge which is wooden. It makes a nice background for sunset one evening.
On the Saturday before Easter Sunday, my second Saturday in town, we walk over the wooden bridge and up the hill to watch the Cross Country Classic bicycle race which I am told is the longest bicycle race in the western hemisphere and its been running for something like 86 years. Riders pedal all the way from Belize city to this western border town, ride over the bridge to a roundabout at the center of town and then go back over the bridge and back to Belize City. It’s hot today, and very humid. I cannot imagine riding my motorized bike much less pedaling all the way across this country and racking up 150 miles in this heat. I think it’s a good day to be a spectator.
And later that day we have been invited (by some incredibly nice locals) to a bbq. Black Pearl Harley-Davidson from Belize City (owned by a gregarious and really nice guy named Al) has set a tent up and has invited riders and friends over for a shindig, and we are among the lucky invitees. The day before Al and his lovely wife, Mary Lee, had us over to their house and made us feel so welcome. What a great bunch of people. My first bike was a Harley, and as much as I love my Kawasaki, that will still always be my favorite bike. It’s something very American about me. And hanging out with a great group of Harley people just makes me feel good.
The bbq is held at a lovely couples house, Nigel and Yvette, who are from San Ignacio. They cook some incredible food and spoil us rotten and I have a blast with all the dogs and kids (two of my favorite things) that are there. The day before they had made conch soup which was to die for.
And today Yvette is making a great big pot of chili, Belize style, and I wish I could give you a taste and smell of it here…cuz it was amazing. But no such luck…poor you. Nigel grills some inch-thick pork chops and that’s only part of the incredible food this gang had that day.
Thanks so much to Al and Mary Lee and all the Black Pearl Harley-Davidson Gang and to Nigel and Yvette (Mark and Eleanor, Dory and Kenny, and all) for making us feel so welcome. When I get back to SD, if any of y’all ever come up, I hope you know you have a place to stay. Biker friends are the best friends.
And for those of you that travel to Belize, make sure you stop and get a tee at Black Pearl Harley-Davidson and stop in San Ignacio to eat at Miss Irva’s place as she is Nigel’s mom and makes some incredible food.