Belize and the Runaway Camera
Belize and the Runaway Camera
The Mexican / Belize border at Chetumal is a chilled out affair and we are soon breathing in the first dirt of a Belizean trail. The rain has hardened the clay surface, pot holes set in stone eager to test the solidity of teeth in our jaws.
Only kilometres from Mexico but it feels markedly different. The relaxed caribbean vibe in stark contrast to the industrious bustle of Mexican life; the Belizeans already matching their neighbours friendliness and layering on a thick cultural twist.
The road breaks into two and we choose a path designated ‘Ferry’, seemingly by a schoolkid with a magic marker. It’s not long before the promised vessel appears in the distance.
We blink quietly through the windscreen in anticlimax. The river crossing and associated ferry would make easy pickings for a small bridge. The river water is a beautiful mix of turquoise and blue, in contrast the ferry is a collection of scrap metal and wooden planks held together under the threat of decommission. A steel cable running from one shore to the other, wrapped around a drum at the wheelhouse. A massive, overly oiled chain geared low to drag the ferry to and fro.
Claire puts her back into the Hand Crank Ferry – near Sartejena,?Belize.
The five minute crossing is limited to three vehicles, due to one large flatbed truck taking up the space of a further two; its long trailer providing no respite from the sun; sitting low beside the hand crank machinery as we chat to the ferry operators. They are hot, and likely tired. The monotonous crank handles being unwisely situated in a place without any shade.
One operator has his face hidden by a sweatshirt, thrown loosely over his head and face. The hair and beard of which are a nod to Snoop Dogg. The other is older, and apparently wiser. He offers us a ‘go’ on the hand crank. Claire takes him up on the offer, wherein it becomes obvious he has no intention of returning. I take some pictures of the unlikely duo moving the ferry slowly across the river, before Snoop Dogg looks hopefully at me. Needing both hands to crank I place my camera on the dusty flatbed truck trailer and start to turn the crank with Claire. The weird situation of new experience, however small, adding another memory to the bank.
We bump onto the destination shoreline, the ferry boards losing a few more splinters to the clay earth as they touch down. We jump into the truck and fire it up. The flatbed in front has already pulled away.
Winding down the window we hand the operators two cokes and a couple of chocolate bars form the truck fridge. There has to be fuel in the equation somewhere. If the ferry is hand crank, the operators need sugar.
No cruise ship – near Copper Bank, Belize
Sherpa is begging for us to pull over and air down his tires. We peel off to the right, avoiding the milky puddles that have already given the truck an adventurous paint scheme. It’s hot and no less humid than the last few days.
Claire runs around collecting valve dust caps and I use the ARB Deflator to dump air. The Fat and blocky Yokohama tire walls spreading themselves over the ground like a fast food fanatic on a chair at Maccy D’s.
We drop to 50psi because although it takes a short while to air down, airing back up is a real chore. The unknown road a gamble, we stick on 50 knowing we can always dump more if things get tedious.
Ten minutes pass and the tires are done. We change suspension settings too, throwing them straight down to ‘Soft’ to better soak up the trail. We give each other the ‘ready to roll’ look and jump into the truck, still upbeat about our ferry interactions.
Then it hits me.
Chasing Trailers – near Copper Bank, Belize
I start screaming fuck and banging the steering wheel.
“.. Claire, where’s the fucking camera? Fuck! Check the glovebox …. fuck, fuck! ..”
It’s useless. I know what I have done. Any search requiring a miraculous relocation of our $1,000 camera from on top of the flatbed truck trailer to our glove box, to be in any way successful. By now I am livid with myself. Clear decision making is taking a back seat to time difference as I plant my right foot and hope to make up some time on the long departed truck.
My brain is doing the usual equations. ‘Hope’ weighing up chances of finding the camera by the side of the road. ‘Despair’ knowing that the chance of catching a truck, that had already overtaken us at speed on the way to the ferry, was almost nil.
The trails are not exactly plentiful but we hit a decision point. Left to Copper Bank, our actual destination. Or right, to other towns.
Left is the way we want to go, and also a direction the truck would have to stop at. The end of the road forcing him into our sights.
Right towards Progresso is the more likely option. But it’s not a trap either, he could go anywhere and he’s already well ahead.
I gamble. Choosing right. An option requiring speed. The truck skimming over the clay bumps with ease, likely the way it should be driven on trail but the addition of a camper usually forcing us toward caution.
More fucks are aired, harmony for the additional steering wheel bangs. We run through the options, desperately scanning the roadside. If we catch the truck the camera would need to still be on the trailer edge, a tall ask given the bumpy road surface and our previous knowledge of the driver’s speed.
Dean, a surprised trucker – near Copper Bank, Belize
Come to Papa
I pull the truck to a stop, questioning whether we made the right decision. Deciding we were now too far down the wrong decision to turn back anyway I hit the go pedal. Two minutes later we see dust blossoming in the distance. Claire is sure it’s the flatbed truck. I am not, but desperate for her to be right.
As we pull closer I see it is the same trailer and the camera is still there, bumping up and down as the truck hits the gaping clay pot holes. I start flashing our lights, hammering the horn. But the truck refuses to slow, probably fearing for his life. A maniac in a beefed up expedition truck erratically trying to force him to stop.
We reach the cab and we wave, he waves back. We’re signing for him to pull over. He caves and brings his truck to a standstill, a cloud of following dust settling over us as we stop. He winds down the window and immediately suffers two deranged English people, high on adrenaline, excitedly recounting the story.
We take some snaps. His name is Dean, we correctly guessed he was heading to Progresso. How we caught him I will never know.
We turn Sherpa around, pointing his hot snout towards a beer and oceanside camp spot at Copper Bank. Just another day on the road.
During the planning of our trip, we have been fortunate to meet people who have shown a great deal of enthusiasm about the expedition and have supported us through products/services or gone out of their way to help in some way. They played a part in helping make This Big Road Trip a reality, are passionate about what they do and passionate about doing it well. If you're in the market for their product or services then we can highly recommend them.
Fab trip. Have been on that ferry and the other one further along in Belize, a few times. Glad you got your camera back. Late hubby also took over re cranking the wheel. Enjoy the rest of your travels! Cheers from Kelowna
Thanks Connie. Yes, they seem very keen to hand over that task to people that like the novelty of turning the crank 🙂
Great story. Enjoy your travels!
Thanks Barbara. We will!