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Biking Abroad

We just got back from a soul-energizing trip abroad. You know how it is, you haven’t been away for a while and you finally just do it and as soon as you get that passport stamped you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

We spent 2 weeks bussing it in a loop from Cancun (skipped it) down the peninsula, through Northern Belize and the Cayes, then out Western Belize into Guatemala, explored Tikal (Indiana Jones style!) then ducked out Guate into Chiapas, and back to Cancun via Palenque and Merida (viva Mexico)!

Why there? Because it’s nearly the cheapest flight out of the country and I’ve been meaning to see Tikal since I missed my chance 15 years ago while traveling in western Guatemala.

I won’t bore you with a lot of stories of jungle choked ruins, boat rides up crocodile infested rivers, snorkeling with sharks and sting rays or showering under pristine waterfalls. What I do want to mention is the incredible number of bicycles we saw, particularly three wheeled cargo bikes like this one:

One of hundreds of cargo bikes we saw.

One of hundreds of cargo bikes we saw.

These things were everywhere and carrying everything, from chicken cages, to crates of oranges to mobile food stands:

We saw the same model, same setup everywhere we went. It’s single speed and the entire front cargo area pivots on the front wheels.

We even saw them on the side of the road seemingly in the middle of nowhere.


Of course we saw lots of regular bikes too. Everywhere you looked there were people pedaling complacently, on their way to work in the fields or home from the office. Kids, farmers, whole families sometimes; father riding, mother sitting sidesaddle on the rear rack and baby on her lap. They were as common as the stray dogs one sees everywhere.

In the whole two weeks I only once saw a brand I recognized. Of course with this many bicycles, there were also lots of bike shops. In larger cities they seemed to cluster in certain sections of town, there’d be 5 bike shops within a block. In smaller villages it was likely to be a shed, open on three sides, with one guy hammering on a wheel and another reading the paper by flashlight while a customer waited for his sole means of transport to be beaten back into service.

And speaking of flashlights, bringing your own can really come in handy when wanting to do a little biking at night. In places like the car-free Caye islands in Belize see photo of Todd riding the sand), riding at night is a blast but it helps to have your own small LED flashlight. If you’re looking for one for a future trip, check out this great article on the best  LED Flashlights of 2019.

I was very encouraged to see so many people riding their bicycles for the short distances they travel to carry out their daily tasks and I hope they continue to do so until the next time I’m able to go back and visit.

Oregon Tours

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