Though Belize is a favorite destination for vacationers wishing to relax on the country’s gorgeous beaches, it also offers treats for the adventuresome: over 600 Mayan ruins and vast spaces of protected, wild jungle to explore. In an article for GoNomad.com, photographer and freelance writer Matthew Kadey relates his experiences cycling through Belize, exploring the countryside and making a side trip over the boarder to Guatemala to visit the pyramid at Tikal.
Enjoy the excerpt below:
Caracol is Belize’s most extraordinary archaeological site but to get there we must tackle the 50-mile, frequently undulating dilapidated Chiquilbul road that heads due south through some of the country’s densest forest.
The road’s mood is influenced by the harshness of the rainy season. However, watching tourists being bounced around in those trucks, I’m happy to be on two wheels instead of four.
Several rest breaks are used to gorge on tropical goodies in the way of bananas, oranges and papayas supplied by our cook, Jason. His laid-back, “no problem man” style makes him the poster boy for the Belizean chill-out lifestyle. My type-A personality is having a hard time adjusting to the casual ‘Belize-time.’
There’s a curious flora transition that occurs along this rutted dirt road. At one moment, I’m riding through a vast pine forest – that unfortunately has a long way to go in its recovery from a devastating southern pine beetle infestation – and then the next, I’m in awe of the sights and sounds of the surrounding jungle canopy within Chiquilbul National Park where Caracol is so eloquently snuggled.
There are few signs of human presence in the uninterrupted green. The rough terrain combined with the first-rate scenery leaves me oscillating between elation and exhaustion.
Thanks to the generosity of the tourism board, we are able to arrange a camping spot at Caracol, a privilege not usually bestowed upon curious tourists. This little reward meant that at ride’s end we’re off to the top of the Caana Mayan pyramid to take in the sunset and the smashing view of the surrounding verdant jungle and mountain ridges.