Well now, after all of that jawin’ in my last report, I forgot to tell you all about the other group that was at Black Rock with us. I apologize in advance because I can’t remember their names. We took to calling the guy in the group Michael Vick for obvious reasons. For those that don’t know, Michael Vick is the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. He was staying at Black Rock with his fiancé and her mother. They were getting married later in the week in Cancun. The mother was originally from Europe but now resided in New Mexico (?). If I remember correctly, Michael Vick was originally from Hopkins but was now residing on Ambergris Caye.
At the start of dinner the night before, we had squash soup which was green in color. When someone asked what it was, Darren said he thought it was cactus soup. This became a running joke among everyone for the duration of our stay. Always the good sport, Darren initiated most of the jokes at his own expense. I guess you had to actually be there for it to be funny. During the course of our dinner conversation, we were laughing with Wim and Chantal about how dark it was around our cabana. Wim then mentioned to us that they had a night watchman who patrolled the grounds all night with the dogs. Darren told Wim it was a good thing that he told him about the night watchman ahead of time because he, the night watchman, would have probably caught a bottle upside the head if he startled us. Michael Vick almost spit out his juice laughing.
Ok, now on to Saturday! Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and heard Darren muttering that he had to use the bathroom and has had to use it for about 5 hours. I ask him why he didn’t just go and he says because he can’t find the flashlight and I told him not to get out of bed without first checking the floors :rolleyes: . I told him that was just a precaution against stepping on scorpions or tarantulas. I get up and get the flashlight for him. Yes, there is 24 hour electricity at Black Rock but because it’s solar/hydro powered it isn’t nearly as bright as we’re used to. Back to bed. I woke up around 5:45am and just laid there listening to the Macal River. I couldn’t believe I was up so early! But then again it was 7:45am back in Atlanta. Man! That was the best sleep I’ve had in a long, long time. The air was so refreshing! Around 6:15am, I got up grabbed the laptop and camera and went outside to sit in the hammock and download and label pictures. It was SO peaceful! As I downloaded our pictures from the day before, I watched the sun chase the mist away from the mountain tops. After awhile Darren comes out and says he’s going to go get us some coffee. After I finish downloading the pictures, I am determined to start on my trip report. I don’t even get past the second paragraph before I put the laptop aside and stretch out completely in the hammock. Ahhhh! This is the life! Darren returns with coffee and we sit outside as we try to decide what we’re going to get into that day. Darren returning with our coffee
After about 15 minutes we decide we’ll finish discussing the day’s activities over breakfast. I run inside, throw on something, and we head to breakfast. Darren had pancakes, eggs, bacon, and orange juice. I had French toast, eggs, bacon, and orange juice. The total for both breakfasts came to US $18. A tad pricey we thought. Breakfast was good. Not bad but not great either. The orange juice was EXCELLENT! It should have been with all the orange groves around. Rogelio had been our server since we arrived and we had become fast friends. We learned that he would be leaving tomorrow morning to head back to Guatemala for a few days. I think it was 15 days of straight work and then a few days for vacation. He wouldn’t be serving us breakfast tomorrow but he would be around. We made a note to make sure we saw him before he left. After breakfast we talk with Wim about things to do. I mention that I wanted to go back into San Ignacio and Wim suggests mountain biking. I was floored because I didn’t think you could bike back into town. Wim assures us that you can and matter of fact, we could bike to Xunantunich if we wanted. Now I was really intrigued because the tour price for Xunantunich that Black Rock was offering was US $175 for 1-4 people. If we were the only ones on the trip, then our cost would be the full US $175. If we could find others to go with us, the cost for the two of us would be right at US $87.50. If we took the mountain bikes, it would be US $40 for both of us. It was settled, we would take the bikes. Wim shows us a map and I make a hand drawn copy of the map to Xunantunich. We run off to get ourselves ready and Wim goes to ready the bikes.
Darren has packed one of the backpacks with energy bars, chips, plenty of bottled water, rain ponchos, and the camera. Wim has the bikes ready and we’re off. Before we even leave Black Rock’s parking area there is a monster of a hill. I take one look at it, decide I don’t really want to recreate the bike scene from E.T. by soaring over the valley of the Macal River, and start to walk my bike down the hill. Darren is a little ways behind me and asks me ‘What’s wrong?’ He takes one look at the hill and proceeds to walk his bike down as well. At the bottom of the hill, we’re off! I’m enjoying the scenery and the coolness in the air. I start to think this has to be the best way to really see this area when we approach our first hill. As I start to go up the hill, pedaling becomes absolutely impossible. I put every ounce of strength I have into getting the pedals to move in at least one full circle. I can’t do it and have to get off the bike to walk it up the hill. I’m embarrassed because I know I’m not in the greatest shape but thought I was at least in DECENT shape. Hell, we haven’t even been gone 5 minutes yet and I’m having problems. I look back to apologize to Darren and start laughing because he’s walking his bike up the hill as well. As he gets closer to me, he says ‘Damn! I know I’m not in THAT bad of shape!’. We talk the problem over for a minute and decide the hill WAS pretty steep so we get on our bikes and pedal on. The next hill is just a baby hill and I’m not even really paying attention to it as I approach it until, once again, my pedals lock up going uphill. Once again, I’m off the bike and walking it. This happens two more times and by now we’re almost completely exhausted and we’re probably not even a mile from the Lodge. The idea of heading back is mentioned and the idea is quickly dismissed by both of us as we’re sure the staff at Black Rock took bets on how long it would take before we returned. “I give them 30 minutes”. “I give ‘em 7 minutes”. Turning back is not an option. I tell Darren there MUST be gears somewhere because there is no way we shouldn’t be able to make it uphill everytime. We search and search and search but can’t find any gears anywhere, so we push on. Luckily we’re on a downhill slope and the ground is level after that. While riding this part I happen to look down and notice what appear to be the gears on my handles. I mess with them while riding and instantly the world is a better place! I stop and wait for Darren to catch up. We adjust his and we’re on our way again. Life is much easier now but unfortunately we can’t really enjoy it because we expended so much energy at the beginning of this trek. And then, just as we’re starting to relax a little we hit the road at the end of the orange groves. If we thought the road was bad in a car, it was magnified 20 fold on a mountain bike. Pits, holes, and rocks of all sizes littered the road and if that wasn’t bad enough, we seemed to have more uphill battles than downhill slides. We pushed on. We were determined. We could do this.
On the way we see leaf cutter ants making their way across the road. We tell ourselves we’re stopping to watch the ants but we both know it’s a much needed break. These little ants are amazing in their strength, how organized they are, and how they work together. Leaf Cutter Ants Leaf Cutter Ants
We pick up our bikes, carefully step over them, and get started again.
FINALLY! The highway! No, not exactly, but it was a smoother dirt road than the Black Rock road and made for easy going. When we did finally reach the highway it was pure bliss! There was a really long hill a little ways after we turned onto the highway. It was a welcome treat. I knew I should put on brakes but I didn’t care. I was happy to be moving without having to work. The wind was so strong I looked Asian and still I didn’t slow down. Apparently Darren was thinking the same thing because he came flying past me and all I heard as he passed was ‘TOO FAST FOR THE KID! TOO FAST FOR THE KID!’ I could tell he was trying to slow down and I burst out laughing. I laughed so hard tears were streaming. The good thing is the momentum from that hill carried us quite a ways. Finally we ran into the little village of San Jose Succotz and made our way to the hand cranked ferry to Xunantunich. We had no problems at all finding our way to Xunantunich from Black Rock. Hand cranked ferry to Xunantunich
The guy at the ferry was really nice. He wanted to know where we were coming from. When we tell him Black Rock, he gives us a sympathetic look and says “Bad, bad road”. This is a look and saying we will come to know well before we make it back to Black Rock. He tells us they don’t get many bikes heading up to Xunantunich and for the first time we realize that we’re either doing something incredibly stupid or incredibly courageous. He also tells us that we have about another mile before we actually reach Xunantunich. What he didn’t tell us was that it was all up hill. Darn Mayans! Didn’t they believe in flat surfaces at all?!?!?! A little Suzuki jeep passes us as we struggle up the most monstrous hill I’ve ever encountered in my life. This one is WAY more formidable than the E.T. hill leaving Black Rock. Halfway up the hill we stop for a water break. Darren looks back down the hill as if he wants to blow it into little pieces. Darren pissed off at the hill
Finally we push on. We stop at the main entrance area and are shown where we can lock down our bikes. We then pay the entrance fee of US $10 for the both of us. I think that’s how much it was. We were thankful to be off the bikes for a minute until we see the hill that’s waiting for us. We trudge up the hill. Darren has fallen way behind me. I’m not sure he’s going to be able to make it. I see the Welcome sign and I get my first glimpse of a ruin. Welcome sign and first glimpse of ruins
This is enough to get my adrenaline going. I muster my last bit of energy and run the rest of the way up the hill. This is what I came for. This is what I’ve dreamed of. The Mayan ruins can be crossed off of my list of things to do in life. As I turn the corner I see a gorgeous pyramid type structure with greenery and dirt still on it. I begin to smile. As I make a beeline for this structure, something huge and massive appears in my peripheral vision to my left. As I turn my head, my breathing stops, my eyes get wide as saucers, and a tear rolls down my cheek. I stand in awe at what’s before me. Darren catches up to me and says ‘That’s pretty impressive’. But I can tell there’s no enthusiasm in his voice. This is my part of the trip. I’m the history buff and he’s the reef buff. Then he follows my gaze and says ‘Holy S*&%!’. He was looking at the first structure I had seen but now we were both standing in awe of El Castillo. El Castillo Darren at El Castillo Nikki at El Castillo
We make our way to El Castillo first. In case we run out of energy, we wanted to make sure we climbed El Castillo. On the way up we met two ladies who were on their way down. We stop and chat with them for a minute as I think we all needed a break from climbing. They said to us ‘You finally made it!’. We were a little baffled at first and then we realized they were the ones who had passed us in the Suzuki. We all got a good laugh out of that one as they told us ‘At least it’s all downhill from here’. They were two older ladies, sisters, who were camping throughout Belize enjoying life. I thought that was the nicest thing! I couldn’t get my sisters to camp in the living room! They told us it gets a little steep trying to get to the very top and they didn’t make it all the way. They told us how to get to the top because it was a little tricky to find. We chatted for about 15 minutes and then wished each other a pleasant trip and continued on our way. The going did get a bit steeper and I tend to get a little nervous with heights as evidenced by the picture of me holding on for dear life and locking my knees on the stairs (see below). Notice the smile that says ‘I really don’t appreciate you taking a picture right now’. Nikki climbing El Castillo
Despite the instructions from the other ladies we still made a wrong turn and ended up in an enclosure that smelled like monkeys slept in it. There were flies everywhere. We beat a hasty retreat out of that area and Darren found the stairs leading to the top. On the way to the top we passed a tour group led by a guide. We said our hellos and one of them mentioned they saw us on bikes. The guide asked where we had biked from. When we told him Black Rock, the now famous sympathetic look was given and a conversation ensued about how bad the road was at Black Rock. One member of the group told us ‘Better you than me’. The guide told us ‘At least it’s all downhill from here’ and we all went on our way. Once at the top we sat down to take a much needed extended break. The view from the top of El Castillo was breathtaking and peaceful! I could fall asleep up here! Darren and I sat in silence enjoying the beauty. There were about a total of 2 or 3 groups of 4 or 5 people there. We practically had the place to ourselves. WONDERFUL! View from the top of El Castillo View from the top of El Castillo Frieze at El Castillo
All of a sudden an armed guard appears from around the corner. He kind of startled us and I think he knew it because he came over to talk. As we talked, he gave us a brief overview of Xunantunich. Somehow the conversation turned to our bike ride. Once again “The Look” was given. After about 10 minutes he left us to make his rounds. We stayed at the top for awhile and then headed down. I wanted to see the other structures.
On the way out, we stopped by the little museum to see the stelae they had removed from the structures. Didn’t spend too much time in there because it was H-O-T HOT in there. Stela 1 Description Stela 1
In total we spent about 2 hours at Xunantunich. We stopped at the main entrance to stock up on water and we were on our way. GREAT :rolleyes: ! The ride down WAS quite pleasant because it was all down hill. At the bottom of the hill, right before we got to the ferry, there were huge iguanas all over the road, in the trees, and along the rock walls. We stopped to watch them for a minute and then continued on to the ferry. We spent a few minutes milling around San Jose Succotz enjoying the sights and sounds. We bought a couple of slate carvings from some locals and then went across the street to look at hammocks. The hammocks were too big to fit in the backpack so they would have to wait. There was a Mayan mask in the store that Darren and I both REALLY liked. The young lady running the store wanted US $40 for the mask. Honestly, all we had left was US $37. We didn’t bring much money with us because we were biking. She knew we really liked the mask but she wasn’t willing to take what we had which was probably best because it would have left us with no money in our pockets at all. Oh well!
We were going to stop by Clarissa Falls for lunch on the way back but we were too tired. Plus if we ate, we weren’t sure we would be able to make such a strenuous trek back to Black Rock. We checked the time and saw it was 1:15pm. We thought we could make it back in enough time for lunch, so off we went. The first part of the road was fine until we got to the turn off for Black Rock. I didn’t think I would make it. I pushed myself to the limit. Harder than I’ve ever pushed myself before. I couldn’t give up. I didn’t want Darren to be disappointed in me but I think he was pretty much on his last legs as well. He kept falling farther and farther behind me. He joked later that the workers at the Orange Grove were probably saying 'The lady will make it but the guy will be vulture chow.'
. Even when you got a good downhill ride, you couldn’t enjoy it because of the rocks and bumps in the road. At one point we passed some cows on the side of the hill that appeared to be running in a certain direction. There was a flimsy little wire that separated us from them. I wasn’t worried about the cows but then I saw “The Man” and he looked like he meant business. He gave us the evil eye the whole way as if he were daring us to mess with him or his girls. All I could think was ‘God, please don’t let this bull come after us. I don’t have the energy to get away from him.’. I finally decided if he did charge us, I was just going to lay there and let him gore me. I was too damn tired to even care. About halfway to Black Rock, Darren caught a serious cramp first in one thigh and then in the other. We tried to work them out but they appeared to be there to stay. I told him I would ride ahead and find help but he wouldn’t let me leave him there in the middle of nowhere. We decided to walk the bikes for awhile and finally his muscles loosened up and we were on our way again.
Only by the grace of God did we make it back to Black Rock. We looked like we were in the last legs of the Tour de France. Heads down, arms shaking, inner thighs and butt burning, legs slowly pumping. I wonder if even Lance Armstrong would have taken on this challenge? At the final hill leading up to Black Rock (the one I wouldn’t ride down at the start of this journey), I had made up my mind that I was leaving the bike at the bottom of the hill and telling Wim he could pick his bike up there. I could barely carry myself up the hill much less that darn bike. Darren prodded me on though. A climb that should have taken us 1 minute took us about 7 minutes. We slowly trudged up the hill with the bikes. We toyed with the idea of getting back on the bikes at the top of the hill and acting as though we had rode up but we were too damn tired to play games. Wim saw us and smilingly asked ‘How was it?’. From the look on Darren’s face, I thought he was going to rip Wim’s throat out. But instead he asked about lunch at which point we were told we had missed lunch as it was 10 minutes to 3:00pm and lunch ended at 2:30pm. The “ripped throat” look passed on Darren’s face again and then disappeared. He was too tired to be mad. Wim wanted to talk about the bike ride but we were too tired and now hungry. This became a point of contention for Darren because he’s used to eating when he wants. I was a little peeved but got over it. Thank goodness for the snacks! We were able to tide ourselves over until dinner. When we got back to our cabana, Darren said he thought his “guys” had retracted into his stomach from all the bumps in the road. I told him I was afraid to even look at my inner thighs for fear of seeing raw meat. We couldn’t help but laugh at each other. I don’t really care for spiders at all. All those legs really creep me out. I can look at them for only a few seconds before I freak myself out and you can forget having them crawl on me. And wouldn’t you know it? In one of the beds was a small spider. About the size of one of those gold stars the teachers used to give out in class. I asked Darren to get it. As he starts to try to kill it, I tell him ‘No! I mean get something and take him outside.’ Darren looks at me with pride and says ‘Good girl!’. Two personal triumphs in one day! I was on a roll!
We made our way down to dinner but were early so we all sat around and talked. Michael Vick and company had already left. Robert, Jeff, Mary, and Darren began to talk politics. I quickly moved away. I did NOT come on vacation to talk politics with ANYONE. Wim and Chantal sat with me and we talked about the impact of the cruise ship industry on Belize, especially the Carnival pier. Dinner consisted of a Tomato Soup that was outstanding, coleslaw, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and a tri-colored Kahlua cake for dessert. Once again dinner was delicious. The only issue I had with the dinners was that I expected more local type dishes. I love to sample foods from different places and was looking forward to sampling it in Belize but that wasn’t going to happen at Black Rock. Darren, Robert, Jeff, and Mary continued their political conversation over dinner. I sat at the end of the table with Wim and Chantal and we continued our conversation on Belize and Belgium (where Wim and Chantal are from). I was really enjoying my conversations with Wim and Chantal who were proving to be the ideal hosts. During our conversation, I mentioned that we were doing the ATM cave with Patrick Warrior tomorrow. Wim’s face immediately lit up and he had nothing but high praises for Patrick. He told me ‘Patrick will make sure you have the time of your life. He is the best!’. Jeff thought they were doing the Tikal one day tour on Tuesday, the day we were planning to leave Black Rock for Tikal. I asked Chantal if we could catch a ride to Tikal with the other group on Tuesday but she said they were going on Wednesday, not Tuesday but she could call a friend of hers, Roberto, and he could pick us up and take us to the border where we could catch a colectivo. Chantal was a wealth of information on how and what we needed to do to get to Tikal. She gave me step by step instructions from leaving Black Rock to watching out for the spider monkeys that will sometimes pee on you. After dinner Robert, Jeff, and Mary said they were glad we were in the cabana far away from everyone since we were on our Anniversary trip. We assured them that after that bike ride there would be NO hanky panky for us. Afterwards they headed in for the night. Darren and I had a drink with Wim and Chantal and then headed in ourselves. We had a big day tomorrow.
We headed down the spooky path to our cabana, got ready for bed, and Darren popped in the DVD that Wim had let him borrow. Being without a TV was just too much for him. He had to see something and since he could watch DVDs on his laptop, he did. I think Wim gave him Braveheart and Windtalkers. I, on the other hand, was fast asleep.
All in all, the total mileage for the bike ride was 16 miles round trip. Darren hadn’t been on a bike in close to 15 years. I hadn’t been on a bike in about 11 years. Neither of us had ever done anything this challenging before. Was the bike ride the best idea we’ve ever had? Certainly not! Was it stupid? Probably so. Would we do it again? HELL NO!!!! Were we proud of ourselves for completing the challenge? You betcha
Note: No worries at Black Rock if you need to charge your batteries, camera, laptop, etc. There aren’t any outlets in the cabanas but there is a power strip in the Dining area where you can charge whatever you need to. Link To All Pictures From Day 2
Coming soon: Sunday, October 31st – Day 3: Personal Challenge