1 Year on 2 Wheels

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by CanuckCharlie, Aug 29, 2017.

  1. sraff

    sraff Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Detroit Michigan USA
    Damn you're moving right along. I took 2 months riding south from Detroit and didn't make it past Xilitla. But then again, I'm a fat old man in no hurry to get anywhere. :-)
    Enjoy the ride
    #61
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  2. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    I thought I had plenty of time but it always feels like I'm behind schedule. Travel slow is the way to go! :)
    #62
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  3. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Day 20 - 3295 Miles - San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

    Joe and I rode together for a few days from Oaxaca to San Cristóbal de las Casas. We took the more adventurous route of MEX 175 south down to the Pacific coast. It was full of tight narrow twisties the whole way as we climbed to over 9000 feet through cloud forest.

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    There were a lot of collapsed road sections on this route from the recent earthquake and we passed through a few landslides along the way. A pickup was stuck in some spongy mud on a washed out stretch so we powered him through with some North American muscle. We certainly got lucky as this would be a turn-around point had we came through a few days earlier.

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    Temperature and humidity were on the rise as we got closer to the Pacific coast so we scrapped the beach camping idea and splurged on a hotel with a pool in Huatulco. I woke up early the next morning in a vibrating bed and found out there was another 4.9 scale earthquake in the area. In fact, there have been several earthquakes between Oaxaca and Chiapas throughout the day! I caused another earthquake by dumping my bike in front of a small crowd. The upside is that there is no shortage of help picking it up. A broken turn signal was fixed promptly with some duct tape.

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    Chikitas like my moto :D

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    We made it to San Cristóbal de las Casas two and half days later even though it’s less than 500 miles from Oaxaca. It’s just challenging trying to cover distance when there are lots of elevation and climate change. San Cristóbal de las Casas is a small town in the highlands of Chiapas and it’s considered the cultural capital of the state. The whole city is made up of colonial style architecture surrounded by narrow cobblestone streets. We went out to explore the city in the rain since we arrived early in the day for a change.

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    It rains like clockwork everyday in the afternoon so the streets are designed liked drainage troughs. The curbs are higher than car door opening in some streets.

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    The night scene is equally enchanting.

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    We had a 3 course dinner with a drink for about $5 USD…early retirement anyone?

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    The next day Joe and I visited a couple of indigenous towns near San Cristóbal de las Casas. The first one en route is Zinacantán which means ‘Land of Bats’. The indigenous Tzotzil Maya people speak their own native language and wears traditional purple shawl that resembles bat wings. We toured a couple of churches in town both of which suffered some damage from the recent earthquake.

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    Gringo alert! Joe takes a photo with the locals and gets his wallet cleaned out. :p

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    Iglesia de San Lorenzo

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    We spent the next hour trying out traditional outfit, learning how they were made and sampled local food and drinks.

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    Iglesia de San Sebastián on the way into San Juan Chamula

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    This photo almost got me in BIG trouble! There was some sort of ritual being performed upon entering the village and I quickly whipped out my camera. An indigenous man wearing traditional outfit in a distance spotted me and approached fiercely demanding my camera. I knew I would never see my camera again if I handed it over to him so I apologize profusely while holding tightly onto it. There was a lot of yelling and I had no idea what to do other than avoiding eye contact with the man whose face was covered in scars. Finally another English speaking tourist shouted “Delete the picture!” and I did so after which he left me alone. I was aware of the ‘No photo inside the church’ and ‘No pointing the camera directly at people’ rule (supposedly it captures their souls) but this takes it to a whole new level.

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    This was the first time I felt threatened on this trip so I kept both of my hands in my pockets after the incident. The indigenous Chamula community is known to be independent and takes the law into their own hands that even the Mexican government stayed out. It is an autonomous region where Mexican police or military are not allowed to enter. The mayor and a few others were shot in the public square last year when a protest turned violent and there were rumors of children being sacrificed when outsiders lectured them about Christianity. Had the one Neanderthal turned into a savage mob, I’d be completely SOL and there’s nothing the outside world could do about it.

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    The church of San Juan Chamula looks like any typical church in Latin America but is otherworldly on the inside. There are no pews and the floor is covered with pine needles. Hundreds of flicking candles lined up along the walls and floors and I can feel the intense heat and wax fumes coming off them. The church is filled with people praying on the floor while putting up more candles. We were told chicken sacrifice in the church is a regular occurrence however I did not witness any. Photos are strictly forbidden inside the church so I stole this one off the internet to feed your curiosity. The guide told us an Italian couple was fined $1500 USD for a violation!

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    Loud firecrackers were going off constantly in the town square as passerby locals gazed at us with hostility. Two Israeli girls on our tour were harassed by a native while laugh and dancing in front of the church. A few others on the same tour also felt distraught and yearned to return to civilization. While I cannot highly recommend visiting Chamula, it definitely added an unique experience to my trip.
    #63
  4. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    That dirt section of MEX-175 looks amazing!
    #64
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  5. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Ageing Enthusiast

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    It's a small world, nice to read to the same bit of the trip from both of you in each of your RR's.

    From experience, there will be lots of earthquakes (aftershocks) following the main one as the fault line tension adjusts. When we had the big one just south of us here last November (7.1) we were feeling aftershocks for days, then weeks and for some months after the big one. Just had a 5.1 earlier this week, some ten months later.

    Loving the pics and your write up. Cheers...
    #65
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  6. sraff

    sraff Been here awhile

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    Stop putting quarters in the machine at the end of the bed and claiming it's an earthquake. :-) Looks like you're having a great time
    #66
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  7. vhntr1

    vhntr1 Adventurer

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    Keep it coming be safe!!!!
    #67
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  8. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

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    Nice, good thing the Goat Man incident didn't escalate into a herd of 'em..
    #68
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  9. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Day 23 - 3426 Miles - Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

    I had a great time hanging out with Joe for the last few days. Despite our different age and background we shared a lot of similar traits got along well. We parted ways after San Cristóbal as Joe is headed for the Guatemala border and I’m on my way to Palenque to check out another Mayan ruin. Charlie’s solo adventure take 2…

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    I heard about protester road blockades along route 199 which is the only direct road connecting San Cristóbal to Palenque. Supposedly it’s some political protest but it’s nothing more than highway robbery as they hold up traffic for hours at a time and demand money from passing by cars. I encountered 2 road blockades along the way. The first one had plenty of warning as every oncoming vehicle was flashing me followed by multiple ‘Topes’ made of mud. There were no hard stops just hundreds of men along both side of the road staring at me, some wearing balaclavas and holding machetes. I rolled through slowly waving and nodding, hope playing the dumb tourist card will get me a free pass and somehow I made it through ‘toll’ free. Unfortunately not long after I hit another blockade and this one already had miles of traffic built up. I patiently waited with other drivers hanging out on the street not knowing when we will be allowed to pass. Of course the big Beemer attracted a crowd and somehow a conversion went on for 20 minutes even though neither of us understood each other. Finally a couple of people signaled me to go through while skipping the long line of cars and once again I’m on my merry way.

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    This is why you shouldn’t ride or drive at night in Mexico. They simply place a marker right in front of missing road sections and in some cases just paint a line over the new edge. I wonder how much weight it can support before the remaining section collapses.

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    I also encountered 4 ‘extortion strings’ today which is basically a couple guys holding up a rope across the road, stopping traffic and demanding money. I have read about this prior to the trip and the trick is to follow closely behind the vehicle in front of you so it doesn’t give them enough time to raise the rope. I was entirely on my own during one of those occurrences and didn’t even notice the rope. Since I was still going at a decent speed they dropped the rope at the very last second. I think these guys can sense fear and only prey on the weak.

    131 miles in 6 hours…what a day! The last 20 miles was like a minefield, a couple of potholes almost knocked the breakfast out of me. Luckily I found a nice biker hotel (Casa Lakyum) near the Palenque ruins with covered motorcycle parking. The owners ride a KTM 990 & 1290 Adventure and upgraded my room for free! :D

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    I took a colectivo (shared van taxi/shuttle) the next day back south to check out a couple of waterfalls. The van was stuffed with young and hip European backpackers. I sat next to a couple of guys from Switzerland named Ben and Lucas and hung out for the day. The first stop was Cascada de Misol-Há which was about half an hour south of Palenque.

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    It was very misty behind the waterfall. Thanks for the waterproof camera Mom!

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    We paid 10 extra Pesos to enter the grotto cave at the end and it was well worth it.

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    The cave ceiling was covered with bats.

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    An hour of nauseating van ride later we arrived at Agua Azul which is more like Agua Verde today.

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    This waterfall consists of many cataracts and normally appears blue due to the high mineral content hence its name. The water was refreshingly cold so we jumped in to cool off.

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    The happy Swiss: Lucas (left) and Ben (right)

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    We hiked up the trail afterwards and it was one water fall after another.

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    View from the top

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    It was quite a stunning place and I left in awe.

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    I got back late and the hotel restaurant was closed. Another guest graciously offered me his leftovers and I gladly accepted. Power went out right after so I gorged down mystery food while gazing at the stars. Ah…the life of a moto hobo :lol3

    I got up early the next day to visit the Palenque ruin which is another Mayan city that flourished during the 7th century. It’s situated in the jungle and the ambient noise alone upon entering is overwhelming. Hundreds if not thousands of different sounds from insects, birds and even howler monkeys surrounded me making it a surreal experience.

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    Pick and choose the temples that you want to climb because the heat and humidity will wear you out quickly. I finished my whole hydration bladder within a couple of hours and was drenched in sweat. I was huffing and puffing at the top of each temple but going down is actually the harder part due to the steep and slick steps. There were countless number of vendors selling souvenirs on the premise but not a single one sold beverages. Who knew bottled water could be the next million-peso idea here?

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    Adiós amigos…next update will be from Belize :-)
    #69
  10. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Great photos! Looking forward to vicariously checking out Belize.
    #70
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  11. NOTAGAIN

    NOTAGAIN Been here awhile

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    Eastern WA
    Awesome, really enjoying your ride report!
    #71
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  12. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Unicorn hunting

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    I see it's only 500km to Chetumal, less than I would have guessed. (There are some lovely Maya sites along that road - Balamku, Calakmul, Becan, Chicanna, etc). Your pics of Teotihuacan and Palenque are great.
    #72
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  13. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Thanks! Unfortunately I had to pass up on all of the ruins on my way to Chetumal due to timing. It's also important for me to find a balance between natural wonders, cityscapes and archaeological sites.
    #73
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  14. TanukiPDX

    TanukiPDX Been here awhile

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    Brilliant and subscribed
    #74
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  15. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Striking a balance between seeing all that there is to see in a country or along the route and actually covering territory on the bike is always difficult. I go into it knowing that time is my most precious commodity and always limited, so there is no way I’ll be able to see it all. I tend to live in the moment and enjoy all of the details of the trip. Feeling the changes in temperature while riding, border crossings, enjoying all the scenery, no matter how unspectacular it might be, chatting with locals at fuel and food stops, relishing the solitude of a solo ride or meeting other riders. All of the seemingly insignificant details add up to an incredible experience. That being said, it seems you have been doing a good job of finding that balance.
    #75
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  16. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Very well said! I feel the same way after almost a month on the road and barely covered half of the places I starred in my Google maps.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #76
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  17. Guri

    Guri Adventurer

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    Good luck on your trip!
    #77
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  18. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Day 28 - 3831 Miles - Belize City, Belize

    I left Palenque early in the morning to tackle another 300 mile day before crossing into Belize. It was one of those simple no-turn days. Route 186 passes through the state of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche and Quintana Roo. The only excitement was dodging endless of potholes. There are a few more ruins along the way but I have to find a balance between natural wonders, cityscapes and archaeological sites. I also skipped the state of Yucatán since I already visited Chichen Itza, Tulum and the surround area on a trip to Cancún a few years back. Despite how much time you think I may have, I always felt like I’m behind schedule.

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    Mother Nature decided to give my bike and I a much needed bath but you can sit in the dry and enjoy this rainbow instead.

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    I passed by a cool above ground cemetery so I took a short stroll.

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    Courtyard parking for this VIP :p

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    Rio Hondo that borders Mexico and Belize

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    There’s nothing in the town of Subteniente López so I went to bed on an empty stomach.

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    I was planning to cross into Belize the next day but didn’t sleep well due to some crawlies on the bed (they didn’t bite but still annoying) and it rained all morning the next day so I relocated to Chetumal to spend my last day in Mexico. Normally I wouldn’t stay in border towns because they are crime ridden but this coastal city is a perfect place to relax and catch up on some rest. I enjoyed a nice walk along the colorful oceanfront while taking in the salty sea breeze. There were very little traffic on both the streets and sidewalks.

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    I crossed into Belize the next morning without any drama. Border officers on both sides were professional and courteous. The whole process took less than an hour but I stuck around and chatted up with a border guard on the Belize side who took an interest in my trip. He returned the favor by exchanging some of my Mexican Pesos to Belize Dollars out his own wallet.

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    Exiting Mexico

    · Cancel the Vehicle Import Permit at the Banjercito and get my $400 USD deposit back

    · Cancel the Tourist Visa and get an exit stamp in my passport

    Entering Belize

    · Ride through no man’s land over Rio Hondo and the first stop is to fumigate the bike for $2.50 USD or 50 Pesos

    · Ride further down to Belize Customs and fill out an entry card

    · Get myself stamped in as well as a vehicle transit stamp to Guatemala in my passport

    · Pay $15 USD or 300 Pesos Foreign Vehicle Border Processing Fee at inspection booth

    · Purchase Belize insurance for the bike (29 Belize Dollars for a week) after leaving Customs

    Belize was formerly known as the British Honduras before it gained independence in 1981. The first impression is that it’s very different from other Latin America countries. People’s faces are different, the architectural style is different and the whole country sends out a Caribbean vibe. English is the official language but a few ‘Gracias’ still slips out of me every now and then. The main road on the way to Belize City is bounded by sugarcane fields for the most part and strangely there are no painted line on any of the roads.

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    I had a quick lunch of Belizean jerked chicken with steamed rice and beans and went out wandering the streets of Belize City.

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    Carnival cruise ships come in 3 times a week to feed the tourism industry. I still remember being dropped off at Port of Belize 8 years ago on a grad trip.

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    Belizeans are not shy and reserved like Mexicans. Passerby people like to shout out greetings and pose for pictures. Take that Chamula!

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    The Creole style houses reminded me of New Orleans.

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    Yarborough Cemetery divides the streets. It’s the first cemetery in the British Honduras. There were a few coffins missing from the above ground graves.

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    Apparently there are a large number of Chinese migrants in Belize. It seemed that every store, restaurant and grocery are Chinese owned based on the names. Shops are like prison cells, ask for what you want and make the transaction between the bars.

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    I ended up in the neighborhoods on south side of Belize City which is a lot more rundown and poverty stricken yet it gave me a warm and fuzzy reminder of my hometown Detroit.

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    Belize is a much poorer country than Mexico but somehow everything is way more expensive. Hotels were 2-3 times the price of Mexico so I stayed at an Airbnb. The host Guillermo was very knowledgeable of the local history and I had a great time chatting with him.

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    I took a water taxi to Caye Caulker the next day which is the lesser touristy of the two islands nearby. It’s a small limestone coral island about 20 miles off the coast of Belize City and about 50 minutes by boat.

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    The whole island is only 5 miles long and can be walked from end to end in about 20 minutes. The only modes of transport are golf carts and bicycles as there are no cars on the island and the roads are basically sand paths. Life goes by at a much slower pace here.

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    There is a narrow waterway known as the Split that divides the island in the north-south direction. It was partially created by Hurricane Hattie and partially man-made.

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    There are lots of tiny restaurants and hotels on the island but they can be a bit pricey. I found the cheapest lunch spot (1 table only!) and spent almost a whole afternoon on the beach.

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    That’s it for my coverage on Belize. Next stop: Guatemala

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    #78
  19. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Chicago physically, Colombia en mi mente.
    Belize looks pretty chill and definitely worth the slightly off-course detour for riders heading to or from Central America. Seems like you’re grabbing some good R&R there, too.

    It’s interesting that Belize clears motos for entry into Guatemala. That should save you a little time at the border.

    Enjoy!
    #79
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  20. hvilla

    hvilla Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2008
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    Aztec, NM, USA
    Thanks so much for taking us along...looking forward to more!! :clap :clap :lurk

    Be safe!!
    #80
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