Ambergris Caye, where we’ve spent the last week, is an island. It is home to a few large trucks, a handful of minivans that serve as taxicabs, and lots of bikes and motor scooters — but by far the primary mode of transportation is golf carts. They’re everywhere, and in San Pedro, the big town on the Caye, the carts are lined up and carefully locked with all kinds of mechanisms — chains, padlocks, and variations of The Club — as people go about their daily business.
One thing about golf carts: although they seem puttery and slow and therefore safe, they remain motor vehicles, as capable of a fender bender as any car. And, with no seat belts or other forms of passenger restraints, they can be dangerous in a collision. We saw a rear-ender where a little girl in the trailing cart went flying into the windshield and came up stunned and crying.
For the most part, Kish and I stuck to bikes and our feet.
Today we cycled back into the heart of San Pedro to a craft bazaar where local artisans sell their own handmade goods from wooden stands. Our mission — to find a matching bracelet at the request of the Lake Artist — was a success when a craftsman said he would make a matching bracelet, then and there. Thirty minutes later, bracelet in hand, we rolled back out of town.
It was a hot day, with clouds of dust rising from the road as trucks and golf carts rattled past. Suddenly, as if in answer to a thirsty prayer, a tiny, brightly colored grocery stand appeared on the side of the road. After ducking inside, Kish emerged triumphant, an ice-cold grape Faygo in hand. She loves grape Faygo. What are the odds?
Of course, I hate grape Faygo, but I couldn’t help but marvel at our good fortune as Kish mounted her bike and pedaled away, quaffing the soda as she went.
Today Kish and I cycled to the outskirts of San Pedro Town to meet up with the Fellow Readers for lunch. With the intrepid Mr. FR at the wheel of their golf cart, we cruised through the bustling streets of San Pedro in search of authentic Belizean cuisine, and found it at a place called El Fogon, where the food is cooked on an old open stove and you sit at wooden picnic tables carefully positioned to maximize your exposure to a large fan. All of the produce used in the food preparation is kept in baskets and crates right by the stove, next to the kindling.
Mr. FR and I both got the stewed chicken with beans and rice. It was a wise decision. The chicken was fall off the bone tender and delicately seasoned and went perfectly with the moist beans and rice, all washed down with the local beer. You could add to the spice level with a homemade salsa that would burn your lips, but I opted for the basic seasoning — reasoning that hot sauce would only up my beer intake and leave me less capable of navigating past the potholes on our five-mile bike ride home.
This morning we had a hearty breakfast, then decided to borrow some bicycles from our resort and pedal the five miles south to San Pedro. Our bikes were of the old-fashioned, balloon-tired, single-gear, pedal brake variety, with a top seated cruising speed of about 5 mph. (Standing, you might get it up to about 10 mph, and give your keister a respite, besides.)
The design of the bikes turned out to be welcome for two reasons. First, there’s lots of interesting things to see on any tropical roadway, and if you zip by too quickly you’ll miss some of it. Second, the road was unabashedly rustic in spots, and too much speed would do nothing but produced bruised kidneys and sore wrists. Slow moving, wide-tired bikes that could navigate between the potholes were the preferred mode of transportation — better than small cars, golf carts, or even motor scooters.
On our ten-mile round trip we learned that Minnesota is not only the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but also a brand to be reckoned with in the dentistry field in Belize. We rolled past condos under construction and dive bars on the beachfront, learned that bikes aren’t subject to the apparently occasional toll charged to cross the bridge north of town, were mystified by the exchange rate between Belizean and U.S. dollars, and for refreshment bought warm fresh water delivered in a sealed plastic bag. All were part of the many charms of the bumpy road to San Pedro town.