Saturday, September 3, 2011

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto...

I was driving home up the Georgeville Road the other day, chatting with Juana, a woman I picked up with her groceries in Georgeville, and who we frequently give rides to so she can get in and out of the bus-free Georgeville/Chiquibul/Mountain Pine Ridge Road. We saw a guy pushing a bicycle up the hill near the dump, and I asked if we should pick him up. Juana shrugged and said, “See if he needs a ride,” so I slowed down next to him and asked if he wanted to put his bike in the back of the truck and catch a ride. He looked a little puzzled, and said he was only going to the Barton Creek Outpost, and it wasn’t that much further, right? Juana and I looked at each other and in unison said, “You’ve got another four miles on this road, and then another three or four miles from the turnoff.” The guy looked a little surprised, and said that people had told him it was only five miles up the Georgeville Road. Juana and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and told him to put his bike in the back of the truck and hop in. He did.

Juana and I continued our chatting until Mile 3, where I dropped Juana and her groceries. We give her rides often enough that when I checked to make sure she had everything she’d put in the back seat, she told me not to worry about it and that if she forgot anything, I could just give it to her next time I saw her. As she got out, she gestured with her head for the guy in the back of the truck to get in the passenger seat she had just vacated. He looked a bit puzzled, and she barked, “We’re at Mile 3. You have a way to go. Get in!” He did.

He and I told each other our names, and he explained that he was from Germany, and on his gap year adventure before he started university. He had flown into Cancun with his bike, and was planning on biking through Central America and into South America, and seeing how far he could get in six to nine months. He had made it from Cancun to San Ignacio in five days, but then his bike broke down and he was probably going to have to order parts from the US, so he was looking for an inexpensive place to stay and had found the Barton Creek Outpost. Since it was “just” five miles up the Georgeville Road, it sounded ideal. I told him that it was a little further than that, but that I could get him at least part of the way there.

You have to understand that the Georgeville Road is in abysmal condition right now. You can’t drive more than about 10mph on it, or parts of your vehicle will start to fall off. Our truck just spent a week at the dealer having the bed welded on, since it was very loud and about to detach. People who live in 7 Miles and only have cars, not trucks, are not able to get their vehicles out to the Western Highway. It’s bad enough that I had to double check with this guy that he was pushing his bike because it was broken, not because the road was so bad that he couldn’t ride. It’s bad.

We chatted as we bounced up the road, and finally reached the Barton Creek turnoff at Mile 5. At this point, I told him that I would drive him as far as the creek, but if the creek was too high from rains in the Mountain Pine Ridge, he was going to have to do the last little bit on his own. He gave me a funny look, but shrugged and agreed. As we drove through Barton Creek, we saw a number of Mennonites, all dressed in their traditional clothing and going about their business. Joe asked if this was normal for Belize, and I shrugged and said that Belize is a pretty free thinking country, and if people want to come here, do their own thing, and live like it’s the 1800’s, that’s their choice. He lapsed into silence and looked at the scenery.

The three miles or so to the creek took a while on the unpaved, one-lane road. When we got to the creek, I stopped and took a look. Despite the rain I’d encountered on the Western Highway on my way home, the creek wasn’t too high, so I told Joe to hang on and I’d take him to the Outpost. As the tires splashed into the creek, he gave me a somewhat panicked look. “What?” I said. “You didn’t think we really had to drive through a creek?” “Um, no, I didn’t really understand what you were talking about,” he said. “I guess this isn’t really what the normal tourists see?” I chuckled. “No,” I said, “we’re just a little off the beaten path.”

As we continued down the track between the creek and the Outpost, he was looking decidedly more nervous. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I’m really not abducting you and taking you into the deep dark jungle for nefarious purposes.” He gave me a look like he didn’t quite believe me, but at about that time the sign for the Barton Creek Outpost came into view. “See?” I said. “We’re there.”

We pulled in, and Logan, Jim and Jacqueline’s son, greeted us. I told him that I’d brought a camper to them, and asked if his parents were home. They were. Jim took Joe to check him in and give him the Barton Creek Outpost orientation, and Jackie and I took off to catch up on everything since the last time we’d seen each other – which was quite a lot, since we’re both somewhat reclusive. We talked a blue streak for an hour or so, and then, having finished my cup of tea, I needed to get home and Jackie needed to get on with her day. We left Joe reading in the hammock in the camping cabana, with the bike chained underneath, and “good luck” wishes all around.

1 comment:

sandy a said...

yeah yeah, you and your nefarious purposes...just kidding! That guy was a pretty interesting passenger! I wish he kept a english..i would have liked to hear about his adventures!