Belize Backroads and Zoo

belize jaguar

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Entry to Belize

Belize is an interesting country. So interesting that it pulled me back for my third visit. This English speaking country on the Caribbean coast is quickly becoming a haven for nature loving tourists and seekers of a relaxed place to live or retire. It is easy to see the attraction. Loads of remote rainforest, caves and the second largest barrier reef in the world. The words tropical and paradise can easily be used to describe this country. Take a visit and find out why.

The entry into Belize from Mexico is simple and only requires filling out a couple of forms. I was a little bit too honest when I filled out my paperwork. I stated that I would be in the country for only about a week, which at the time was the original plan. My honesty meant I was granted only 10 days on my visa. Later I regretted the short time frame I had been given to explore the country.

Just after the Mexican border there were a series of backroads that just had to be explored. My love of backroads and dislike of busy highways were specially important in Belize. Firstly, the main roads in Belize are narrow and in all my travels the bus drivers here are among the most inconsiderate and speedy drivers on the planet. The busy highways conspired to make it an unpleasant place to be on a bicycle.

belize mexico border
The Belize border with Mexico

Belize Backroads

Shortly after crossing the border we turned off onto a milky white coloured road. There was little traffic on this road. It meandered along farmland and sugar cane fields. Occasionally a gated mansion told of the wealth in the area.

The rivers in Belize are crossed by a network of bridges or ferries. It was not long before we encountered the unique hand cranked ferry. This ferry was attached to cables that stretched across the jungle river. The operators were a couple of cheerful dudes who allowed me to have a go at cranking the ferry. That’s right, crank the ferry. It was operated by hand. Like riding a bicycle with my arms. An enterprising local set up an ice cream shop on the ferry. I was sold a couple of ice creams.

On the other side it looked a little like thunderhead clouds building in the afternoon sky. If they were heading our way then it would be a wet night. This dry season had bought above average levels of rain.

Stealth Camping

My favourite place to look for a stealthy campsite are the numerous gravel pits left behind from the road builders. They are usually next to the road and more often than not they provide a hidden place to camp. Today was no exception. I expected a troop of monkeys to pass by in the trees above or a lone Jaguar to pass by the tent at night. It was a small patch or rainforest among the farms.

Tailwinds to Crooked Tree

The morning bought a strong tailwind and easy riding through sugar cane fields. But it was time to head onto the busy main road. Just off the main highway is a place called Crooked Tree. It is a small community surrounded by a crocodile infested lake. It is reputed to be a great place for birdwatching. Being close to the road it was our destination for the afternoon. We camped at a small family owned campground along with two Overlanders. They were from Europe and shipped their vehicles to North America with the intention of driving all the way to Argentina. A similar journey to my own but at a much faster pace.

Rain and very high water levels dispersed the birdlife at Crooked Tree so any thoughts of seeing prolific birdlife were out of the question this year. We relaxed and took a short cycle trip around the community but the weather curtailed any plans to explore. Although it was the middle of the dry season it was an extraordinarily wet season.

belize hand crank ferry
The hand crank ferry in Belize

Belize Zoo

I’m normally not a fan of zoos. My preference is to seek out the most amazing places on the planet and visit animals in the wild. In years past I have crossed the Sahara desert, walked with the mountain Gorillas of Rwanda, witnessed the migration of the wildebeest and many more. Why would I want to visit a zoo to see such caged animals. Belize Zoo was different.

In central Belize there is a zoo unlike any other. Rescued animals are rehabilitated in a jungle environment. The cages that hold the animals are so close to the walking trails that if I wanted to, I could feed my hand to one of the many Jaguars or Pumas that are there.

The visit to the zoo had me thinking about spending more time in Belize. Maybe try and track down a wild Jaguar in the rainforest. I had a hankering to explore the more remote lands in the south of the country. A home to large numbers of Jaguar and other animals of the wild. But my short stay visa left me with only one option. To leave the country and explore the mountains of Guatemala.

With reluctance we set off into Guatemala to take on the imposing mountains that have humbled even the strongest of bicycle tourers.

belize jaguar
A playful Jaguar
belize zoo puma
A restful Puma

Next : The Guatemala Highlands

Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking Pages might like:
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Where to buy all the best gear for Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking:
REI | Moosejaw |Amazon | | 
Campsaver | Competitive Cyclist | Patagonia | | MEC Canada -Bicycle Touring Gear |

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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