Whenever I read the “Pedal by Pedal” reports featured in the sports pages of Amandala, I have to smile.
I smile because the reports always take me back to my favorite childhood memories when we would jump on our little dirt bikes and ride up and down these hills of western Belize on adventure.
Back in those days Cayo was sweet and innocent. You could ride or hike through a farm without worrying about being shot at by greedy landowners. Land was mostly open, and owners were more forgiving than now. In fact, if I had told the guys back then that one day people from all over the world would want a slice of Cayo and some would quarrel over it, they would have laughed and said, “Cho?! These little dirt roads and back-a-bush trails?
You crazy, bwai!”
Welcome to 2019, my sweet and innocent children of yesteryear.
On weekends or long holidays when school was out, our riding adventures were the best! They would take us through green hills to villages such as Cristo Rey, Bullet Tree Falls, Santa Familia and Esperanza. Many times we rode as far as Succotz and Benque. And I remember at least once we made it to the border with Guatemala.
We were not spoiled children, but today I know we were privileged because only on few occasions did my parents rail up with me for riding all day. Same for the other guys. I never heard anyone getting whipped for riding too much. Neither did our parents force us to say exactly where we had been. Never did they suspect that sometimes we had pedaled all the way to Spanish Lookout, San Antonio, Unitedville or beyond. Sometimes we rode great distances only to have a look at girls washing clothes on the riverside.
Many of these journeys were made under tortuous road conditions. The main highway to Benque was probably the most grueling. It was not paved like today; but just a long stretch of dusty road with stones so large they could easily overturn a small bike. Whenever a vehicle passed, a cloud of dust would rise from the road and blanket us in white. I remember that many Benque taxi drivers and passengers would look out their cars and laugh as they whizzed by at maximum speed so as to throw up the biggest amount of dust on us. But even through the thick dust and blazing hot sun, we pushed forward on our journeys.
Those happy adventures cannot be recreated or purchased from a shop shelf with any amount of money. They were unique bicycle journeys we will all treasure for the rest of our lives. Today, I wish more children would get out on the open road and start creating their own happy memories.
Sadly, none of us ever became professional riders. The opportunity for training and sponsorship never existed back then. If opportunities had existed, I am sure a few of us would have risen up to be national champions; or at least great competitors.
Nevertheless, we are proud whenever our Cayo boys top the national races. In recent years the Vasquez brothers (Ron and Shane) and the Choto cycling family have given us moments to cheer.
Belizean cycling cannot be allowed to fail. Despite the disappointments, we have to move forward with continued commitment, enforcement of the rules and transparent methods of conducting our activities. Public sporting funds and resources must be injected equally in our most promising riders countrywide. When we start doing those things, we will be creating world- class cyclists everyone can be proud of. Hopefully, it happens sooner than later.
In the meantime, thanks for the enjoyable reports, “Chief”. Continue pacing for justice, Kaya. Blaze on, “Black Rocket”! And look out as our Western boys sprint to victory from these Champion Hills of Cayo!