South of San Pedro – Chronicles of Life in a New Land
Today I pedaled my pretty pink beach cruiser out for a spin around the island. The first thing I learned is that cobblestone streets make for a bumpy ride. But if everyone else can do it, so can I… my butt will survive.
I left my apartment at the Grand Baymen Gardens at around two in the afternoon, hoping to avoid a little of the heat. The resort is situated quite conveniently at the southern edge of town, so—not really knowing where I was going—I turned right. Since I haven’t set up any cell service yet, I take comfort in one of my favorite traveling apps: maps.me. This thing is a godsend to those of us who have no sense of direction. It allows you to download the coordinates of an entire country, and then it shows your location and generates directions whether you have WiFi, cell service, or nothing at all.
Anyway, I didn’t use it just yet… I like to get a little lost as a means of learning my way around. As it turns out, however, the gorgeous little island of Ambergris Caye is extremely easy to navigate (there’s only one road running in the direction I was headed).
As I followed the street south, buildings and motorists became sparse and the road quickly turned to sand. I made one pit stop to buy some fresh watermelon at a roadside stand and continued on. I passed beautiful homes along the beach, a couple tasty looking restaurants, and even a few ocean-side parks. I stopped at one to sit on a swing and snack on my fresh fruit while watching a few fishermen catch dinner along the shore. This got me dreaming about seafood. I made a note to explore more food options the next day.
Back on the bike I went. The scenery changed often. For a tiny island, there certainly is a lot of biodiversity. One moment I’m whizzing past lush green palm trees and bright white sand, and the next I’m gliding through mangrove swamps or a bit of bushland. Iguanas, lizards, and birds of all kinds can be seen and heard. Every person I passed smiled and said hello. This is one of my absolute favorite things about small town life—kindness everywhere.
Getting a little sweaty, but never one to give up until I reach my goals, I finally relented to consult my maps app and see how far I was from the end of the island. Half a mile. In this same moment I realized that there was a marine reserve right up ahead. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve. I remember reading that this protected space has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses not only a Mayan ruin and countless flora and fauna, but extends out into the Caribbean toward the Belize Barrier Reef to include some spectacular scuba diving sites.
Pulling into the parking lot, I chose a palm tree and locked up my bike, just in time to see that the reserve closed at 4 PM. I didn’t make it in time. It seemed clear, however, that the marine reserve was a trip that required an inordinate amount of mosquito repellent, something I was not clever enough to pack. So it appears that this is an adventure for another day.