I thought this day might be interesting as an example of some thoughts and feelings experienced during a day of cycle touring.
This morning I left a hostel where I had been staying for several days. I didn’t miss it, but when leaving somewhere I usually do think about what I might not have done there that I might have liked to do. Also, I am usually slightly anxious about leaving something. I check several times that I haven’t left anything.
I went to the post office to send a letter and post card. The pretty stamps made me happy, as did completing a task. Then I had breakfast at “Amor y Cafe”. They lived up to their name with some heart shaped ice cubes made of coffee. I liked that, but was not totally relaxed because I didn’t want to miss the boat back to the mainland.
The sea is beautiful around there - mostly green, not blue - and I enjoyed the ride back. I had a lunch sandwich and spoke a little to the guy at my table in the ferry terminal. I had decided earlier that I would try and hitchhike to Belmopan. I had already cycled this road, and where I was could be considered a side trip, so this would not compromise a claim of having cycled all the way south, and I didn’t want to cycle this road again. It was not too bad, but I had seen it before and it was not very interesting. I thought hitching a lift would be easy because people in Belize are generally friendly, and I think interested in the cyclist they see. More than one person I have met has said they saw me cycling at some point. It is a small country with few roads.
Anyway, my expectation of it being easy was exceeded - the man asked me if I wanted to stay at his place in Belmopan before I asked anything. I mentioned hitchhiking and he offered a lift, which I accepted. So I didn’t even mount the bike before I got a lift, and it was to nearly exactly where I wanted to go.
When we got going I was really happy. I enjoyed moving so fast, effortlessly. I felt the universe was looking after me today, in providing exactly what I asked for. I laughed to myself at the drivers singing to the radio.
I had offered him some money when he filled up petrol in Belize City. Around here, at least in most other Central American countries, I believe pure hitchhiking is not common. People generally expect to be paid what it would cost in a bus. Busses here are really cheap, so I was thinking of offering a couple of dollars. He said when we arrived I could give him something depending on my means.
We arrived and he asked for money. I offered Quetzales, which I didn’t need, and thought he would because he travelled to Guatemala often. He said he didn’t want them, and wanted trustworthy currencies. He must have seen my emergency 100 EUR not in my wallet, because he then asked for Euros. I offered three dollars, and he said he wanted 20. 20 would pay for a bus journey to Guatemala, about four times the distance we just did. This didn’t seem like the deal I was expecting. In the end I gave him ten, which I think is about double what the bus would have cost. He then walked away without saying anything.
I cycled off, but had a bad feeling now. I couldn’t quite work out why to start with. Initially I kept checking and rechecking I hadn’t lost anything - things that might have fallen off in his car, or been taken my his friend when we were at the shop near the house we stopped at. I finally convinced myself I had everything, but still had a bad feeling. After further thinking, I worked out that the source of this feeling was seeing that man again. I knew if I did it would be a bad thing. Either me returning because I had lost something, which I had now ruled out, or him coming down the road to rob me. I remembered that the first thing he asked in the cafe was how much did my bike cost. That is always an unpleasant question. Then he had seen I had a lot of money, and was demanding it. He know where I was going. Maybe he would get back in the car later, maybe at dusk with his mate, and come for my bike and money.
Then I started to have other thoughts, like what if I had been drugged. I didn’t think he really had a good opportunity to do this - it is a pretty unlikely thing. I was being a bit paranoid now, but that is the point of this story, to show how some emotions can occur and probably be rather too strong. I was thinking about this because I had heard stories about the use of a drug on travellers that makes them like zombies. They will then do what they are told by the attacker, such as taking all the money out their bank account and giving it to them. Someone I met in Oaxaca said this happened to him, and the internet claims it is true also. I was feeling a bit funny too. Maybe I was drugged - by myself with an unaccustomed amount of caffeine this morning.
At one point I remembered an idea a fellow traveller was talking about - teleportation. If you had a teleporter, would you use it when travelling? I felt that if I had it, I would right now jump to Edinburgh and not come back till the morning, or maybe 24hours later to preserve a sort of continuity of my journey.
Later, once I had examined and realised the source of the emotion - seeing the man again, I could work out a logical solution to the problem. I was concerned about being attacked on the road at dusk, so I only needed to find a really good hidden campsite well before it got dark. Around here, that should not be too hard. I suddenly felt much better.
Now I started to realise where I was. I became present. I noticed the beauty of the forest I was cycling through. It was quite unlike the Selva Lacandon - it was more open and pretty. I noticed the different coloured flowers. Then I noticed the air. I really started to feel the air - a thick, significant substance through which I moved, and I thought about how it came from the trees. I considered how the air and the trees and everything are linked.
Not too much later, I saw a potentially good camp site. I stopped by the road for a while to consider my location and possible distance for tomorrow, and decide whether to stop here. I did.
I went into an orange grove. It looks like a really good campsite, because the trees provide excellent cover from the road. Also, between the trees is relatively flat ground where I could push the bike easily, and even cycle on a track initially, so I got off the road fast and was not seen.
I was still not relaxed though, because I had various things to do before it gets dark. Ideally I want to be in the hammock before dark, to avoid the mosquitoes, and so that I can see to avoid snakes and spiders. There are some very poisonous snakes all around Central America. So I cooked, brushed my teeth, made tea and put up the hammock. Tonight I was pleased with myself because I got everything squared away. The only things not packed in their place on the bike now are my hammock, computer, which I’m using in the hammock now, and clothes and shoes which I will put on in the morning.
I’m relatively relaxed in the hammock now, but somewhat alert to vehicle noise. A vehicle playing music sounded like it stopped near here for a while. I became concerned that it was a farmer going to come done the track I did earlier, or maybe someone had seen the light of my computer screen (quite unlikely} so I closed the computer and listened for a while. Then it moved on.
There we have a day of cycle touring. From a fairly neutral start, to something approaching joy at a car ride, to fear and paranoia and wanting to magically be somewhere else caused by a slight suspicion, to presence and joy in nature, to relative, but wary calm in a campsite.
I think a lot of this would be easier if I had a friend with me. It would allow a second opinion on the analysis of situations - did that guy seem dodgy to you too? It would probably also reduce fear - having some backup in case of a fight. I’m coming around to the idea of cycling with someone else. Maybe if I decide to do so, the universe will provide.
I'm River MacLeod, a nomadic hacker.