Overland Travel Days

Dear Asher,

You have become a total pro at overland travel days. Since the start of our trip, we have had fifteen overland travel days averaging about four to five hours on the bus each time. Overland travel days begin the night before with a thorough pre-pack so the next morning, we simply wake up, eat our oatmeal and walk out the door. By the time we find a bus, you are about an hour away from your morning nap. You have learned to sleep soundly on the buses despite the commotion, the blaring Latin music and the continuous stopping. The past two days brought our travel day total to seventeen and afforded us a view of the whole of Belize.

It was a short walk downhill to the bus terminal and within thirty seconds, the chicken bus bound for Belize City was screeching up to the curb. You have another new tooth poking through and the full moon was high so it was difficult for you to fall asleep, but once you did, you stayed asleep for nearly two hours. There were only a few vehicles on the road that morning so the drive east across Belize was pleasant without the distractions from traffic. We passed dozens of tiny, brightly colored wood cabins on stilts and noticed that almost nothing had changed since we crossed Belize five years previous.

We lucked out again because just as we were pulling into the Belize City terminal, the bus bound for Orange Walk was pulling out. We opened the emergency door on the back of the bus and threw all of our gear in. After a big nap, you were ready to run around and spent some of the northbound trip to Orange Walk walking up and down the aisles. We could not get seats together and Grumpy had to sit on our luggage at the back, so you walked to each of us grabbing onto the locals as you passed by them. When you tuckered yourself out, you slept again for the final hour of the trip.

Orange Walk looked like a ghost town when we arrived as each roadside shop had their garage door pulled closed. We already knew it is never a good idea to travel on a Sunday but this desolation was not a result of religious devotion. We realized the entire town shut down because of a scheduled power outage. This meant that only the establishments run by the industrious Chinese remained open. Lance, a tourist aide that works on commission, was waiting with his information binder as we gathered our belongings from the back of the bus. Wow, could Lance ever talk. We were all exhausted after five hours of chicken buses and now, at 1pm, the sun was blasting down on us with no mercy. Lance just kept up his pitch while buckets of sweat poured from our brows. He finally accepted that we were not going to pay $80US for a room and offered to show us a useless map of the town since the spot where we were standing was not even on it. We managed to find Aikhito Hotel which had a five bed dorm room and we had to laugh when the hike to the room started with an enormous staircase. If Granny and Grumpy are going home with anything this trip, it will be a bit more fitness. Lee, the manager of the hotel, who was equally as talkative as Lance, gave us his whole life story before handing over the key and being the friendly, albeit exhausted, Canadians we are, we listened to every word.

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Famished, we dropped the packs in the room, locked the door behind us, then made our way to the only restaurant open to order massive helpings of chow mein, chop suey and fried rice. Deee-lish! When we settled into our room, we realized that Grumpy chose the food bag to sit on while riding the bus. Craving chocolate, Granny had packed a can of cocoa powder, now mangled with an imprint of Grumpy’s over-stuffed back pocket wallet. All of our food now comes with a hint of chocolate. While your mom cleaned up the mess, we climbed up and down the huge flight of stairs as this is your new favorite skill to practice. As we laid in the bunks with bellies full of Chinese food, we laughed about the backpacker life with all of the ups and down, interesting people, varied accommodations, last minute meals, and those wild and unexpected overland travel days.

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