Calling it hot was an understatement— a drop of water dripped from the end of my side braid onto the floor, my canvas riding jacket so wet with sweat it was almost impossible to take it off. My bike was finally packed— two trips upstairs to the dorm room, a trip to the front desk to drop off the keys and get my deposit back, said my goodbyes to the girls I had befriended at the lake house, and went to hop on the bike and head toward Belize.
My back tire was flat. I was ready to go, drowning in my own sweat all geared up and only 12 miles to the border, and my tire was flat.
Flat tire (tire abajo) in Bacalar, Mexico
“Let me tell you something,” an attractive Mexican man said softly, pulling up a chair and sitting down at my table.
Please do, I thought to myself. I was sitting in a small cafe on Isla Mujeres, the rain pounding the ground outside. I had spent only two days on the island, but what a wonderful two days they were. Even though it poured almost the entire time, it was nice to see all the spots I had visited with my sister years earlier— the same restaurants and cafes, the same boardwalk and ferry and snorkeling spot. I tore around the island, rounding curves that opened up to vistas of crashing waves on rocks, small restaurants and concrete houses perched on the cliff in the distance.
I had gone to the ferry earlier that morning at 9 AM all packed, but there weren’t enough cars so they told me to come back later. After getting soaked in the rainstorm riding to the ferry, and soaked again leaving, I was now having second breakfast and cinnamon coffee at Mango Cafe while I waited, watching the storm through the open windows.
“Two months ago, a guy with a big BMW parked at his hotel had to run for the ferry when he woke up and it was gone. Do you have a chain?” he asked, looking at me earnestly with big, dark eyes.
I swallowed, “Yeah, yeah I’ve got a great Kryptonite chain. It’s hardened steel. I didn’t lock up my bike last night either, it was in an enclosed parking lot. Wow. Good to know though.”
“Yes,” he said, looking at me seriously, “It’s always good to be safe.”
We chatted for another twenty minutes about motorcycles, and when he left, he waved outside the open shuttered window as he threw a leg over his Kawasaki. “It’s not as nice as yours,” he smiled charming, which made me wish I were staying just one more day. My motorcycle insurance was only good through the June 24th in Mexico, and I only had until 3 PM a few days later to cross into Belize.
I will spray myself with ‘OFF’ until my entire body is toxic and I make myself sick, I thought to myself. Out of spite I waved the can of bug repellant and sprayed one of the mosquitoes flying nearby with the spray. “Fuckers,” I whispered.
I had just arrived in Bacalar in front of my hostel for the night, Yak Lake House, and I wasn’t even sure if they’d have space available. It was turning out to be a stressful week. I had only one night in Tulum the night before, staying at one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed with an amazing group of people. After a great communal dinner, and communal breakfast the next morning, I was sad to have to leave and make for my last stop before Belize— Bacalar. Not only had Tulum been amazing, it was the first dry spot I had visited in awhile— it only rained once. It had been pouring all week, and I tried to dry my soggy boots by hanging them off the back of my motorcycle to dry in the wind.
Yak Lake House turned out to feel more like an fancy hostel than it did a hostel. The big modern building opened up to a view of the lake, enormous glass windows overlooking a deck running the length of the building, and multiple docks that ran out into the clear blue water and white sand. A breeze ran through the hostel and open-air kitchen and reception, which was set into the floor underneath a metal staircase.
I spent the day and evening hanging out with two cool girls, grabbing lunch and dinner out in the town, and talking about our travels on the road. I met my first fellow motorcyclist, a Canadian, who was horrible and made patronizing comments like “Since your bike is a 250 and blends in with all the other bikes here I’m sure, while my bike, since it’s an 800, really stands out.” I not so delicately exited the conversation to down several mojitos and go swimming in the lake where I was serenaded by a man practicing the saxophone on the next dock over. Surrounded by dogs playing on the deck and a cool breeze off the water, it was a beautiful day.
The next morning and I found my tire flat. “Maybe someone cut it,” one of the girls from the hostel said. I briefly entertained the idea of the Canadian guy cutting one of my tires, only because he was unpleasant, but really I must have ridden over something yesterday on the way and it had slowly deflated overnight. Sigh.
The unfortunate thing about having tubed tires, is that unless I had wanted to carry a jack and breaker bars with me (which I might do a little farther south), I had to make a trip to the local bike mechanic to fix the flat.
I unpacked everything from the bike, pumped the tire up to a ridiculously low PSI, and rode into town as a slowly as possible following the exact directions of the receptionist at the hostel, doubting there would be a motorcycle repair shot in that exact spot. Most of the time directions given to me were wrong, either the street number or number of blocks, the nature of the business, or even the direction of the place itself. A market might be on the complete opposite side of town, or even closed. I was positively gleeful when I rounded the corner and saw a line of motorcycles parked in front of a small shop. I sat on the ground and chatted with one of the mechanics while he jacked up my bike via the frame in front of the rear tire, pried the tire loose from the wheel, and patched the tube inside. It was only 70 pesos, and in no time I was back at the hostel re-loading the bike, and on my way to the border.
Crooked Tree, Belize
That night, I set up camp at a small lodge called Crooked Tree Lodge in the Orange Tree area, Belize. There was no one else at the lodge, and I set up in front of a small pond with floating ducks that I later realized were wooden. Tucked into the trees, the pond in front and the lake in the distance, I spent the evening listening to the birds and the insects, reading my book. I woke up to this spectacular sunrise over the lake.
Another week, another country, more people and stories and experiences on the road.