Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Somewhere in Latin America
36. Belize? Was that you? Oh, hey there Guatemala!
I’m in Chetumal, a border town at the very southern edge of the Yucatan. I’m up early in the morning as I want to make a jump into Belize today. Not planning on staying very long in Belize, just transiting to Guatemala. I’m sure Belize has lots of great stuff, but I’m hankering for the Guat’ and a land of cheaper, well...everything. I pulled into a parking lot where a street vender was slinging fast breakfast. I picked up some stuff that I hadn’t had before, some sort of taco like thing though and left the lot via jumping the curb to get onto the road out of town. A few minutes later and the border is close now, 300 yards and I’ll be in a whole new country. Wait, is my front end getting speed wobble at 30 mph? That’s not possible. Yep, flat tire. Damn must have got a pinch-flat when I hopped that curb back in town. I can literally see the border ahead of me. Oh well, off she comes.
I pulled out the tube and follow the ooze of green Slime back to the source. Man this slime shit makes a mess, probably works great for punctures, not so much for pinch-flats.
Hole patched, snack consumed. Cool, let’s try this border thing again.
For anyone wanting up to date logistics on this border crossing here’s the deets:
1. Get your passport stamped at immigration (little hut to the right before you cross)
2. Cross the border, remember what your mother taught you and say “gracias” to the lovely border attendant
3. Ride 200 meters past the Mex border, veer to the right and avoid the duty free zone on the left where all the Mexicans go to shop.
4. Get your bike fumigated, don’t breath the shit in, pay the kind man $4.50(?) $6.50(?) can’t remember but whatever it is it’s cheap so don’t trip.
5. Take the road to the right after the fumigation stop and it will double back in a big loop towards where you just crossed again. This will seem weird and it’s because it is. You need to do it though to cancel the TVIP for the bike (UNLESS you have shit tons of money and don’t care if you ever get your deposit back OR unless you’ll be coming back to Mexico before your TVIP is expired in which case skip this step and just roll on through pretending like you have shit tons of money)
6. Cancel your TVIP in the big building where there are three temporary metal buildings. The ladies will check your VIN, shoot them a wink if appropriate, again remember your mothers manners and say “gracias”
7. Drive back the way you came to the TVIP place and now hook a right at the fumigation spot to the Belize border.
8. Stop before the crossing at immigration on the left, switch your brain back to english and start saying “please, thank you” as everyone here speaks english in Belize. Get your stamps, tell them how long you’ll be in Belize, give them the info on your bike.
9. Leave immigration and cross the border, tell them you have no drugs, weapons, or small children to sell.
10. Hook a left after crossing into Belize as if you want to return to Mexico but stop before the border crossing gates, here you can change money. Hop off your bike, whistle to the guys sitting on the other side of the border and let them haggle for who will give you the best price for Belize dollars.
11. Get what you want and then turn back around and go to the big white building at the ‘T’ intersection, here you will buy insurance. In Belize you ‘need’ insurance. The building to go to is the exhorbitantly large one that has been built with all the money that has been earned peddling expensive insurance to travelers. Walk in and give them more money to put more white on their already very white walls. They offered me 3 days of insurance for $20, 2 days was $29 (don’t ask me why), 20 bones for three days sounds good, but considering a year of insurance costs a local $60 they definitely have a racket going. Risk it if you want, I never had a problem and no-one asked me for it.
12. Walk out the door and now go do whatever the fuck you want, you’re in Belize, go have fun.
I found a dirt road and followed it south for a few miles.
It lead me to a paved road heading south east, I followed it for a while.
I found some clouds, they looked promisingly ominous.
They brought what I expected they would, lots of rain. The weather here is warm though so not too bad. After about 2 hours I rolled into a restaurant for some food. These place seemed pretty random as there weren’t any other restaurants where I had come from but hey, I’ll take it.
It’s weird speaking to people in english, but everyone here in Belize greets you in kriole or English. I asked the lady what was the most typical Belizian dish they had, she said sweet-stew chicken and rice. I said great. The chicken was sweet and wet, but nothing wildly mind blowing, the rice was actually better than the chicken and was pretty full of flavor-flave and seasoning. All in all a good filling meal.
Finished my food and went outside to find a place to stay for the night. Is that a flat tire?
Yep, sure looks like it. Welp, guess it’s time to swap out my rear tire for the replacement I’ve been carrying since San Diego. 8 months ago my old boss (a fellow motorcyclist) came to my desk and said “Hey, I was behind you yesterday after work and noticed your rear tire is pretty squared off. You thinking about changing that soon?” I said “nah man, she’s got more life in her still”. An additional 6k+ miles later and you’ve done good tire, you’ve done real good. You may rest now. I went back into the restaurant and purchased a delicious treat to commemorate the death of this fine tire.
The lady inside said it’s called a “butter tart”. It has, well...butter...and some raisins and honey...then probably a ton more butter...but HOLY SHIT IT IS DELICIOUS!
After settling down from the butter tart I started changing the tire in their parking lot and chatting with the guys that take care of the grounds around the restaurant (it’s an expat place with cabanas to rent and a small farm too). The guys were chill and both from Honduras. They said I could pull my bike into their barn and work on it their out of the rain.
They asked me where I was staying and I said not sure but somewhere near here hopefully, just need a spot to camp. He flipped his phone out and made a call. Afterwards he said his buddy lived nearby and I could camp there, they just don’t have a shower for me. “Look at me, does it look like I care about bathing?” Thanks for the hook-up Juan.
I followed his directions and met his friend Marvin at a bar down the road. He was the manager and he lived out back behind the bar. I set up shop behind his place, even had a covered spot, sweet, thanks Marvin.
I wouldn’t say that I threw on a ‘clean’ shirt but rather a ‘cleaner’ shirt and went to the bar for a cold beer. They have Belikin here as the local beer. It’s a mayan labeled beer and goes down smooth, slightly darker than corona but has much more flaves. Don’t think you are a drunk though when you keep finding the bottom of the bottle sooner than normal, the bottles they come in look like a normal bottle but the glass is much thicker so less liquid. Cheeky trick but well played Belikin. With not much else in terms of social gathering spots being in the immediate vicinity the crowed at the bar is eclectic. There are several floral patterned button-up shirts which identifies them as ‘expats’ to me, a handful of locals, an Asian man drunk-napping on the bar, and several people I presume to be living in the area temporarily but aren’t from around here. A mildly inebriated local man gestures for me to come over to his side of the bar where an empty chair awaits me next to the sleeping asian man who probably hasn’t supplied him with enough conversation. I come over and we chat for a bit in a mix of kriole, spanish, and english about the merits of Christopher Columbus and whether he was a good man for ‘finding’ the americas. Odd conversation to start with, but I believe they have downed a few beers already as his buddy is currently transitioning between struggling to find the correct end of his half burnt cigarette to suck on and being passed out asleep on the counter. We concluded Columbus was the first white guy to bump into the land ‘technically’ but we disagreed about the specific merits of the resulting aftermath. I started chatting with the girl next to me instead and this proved to be a much more cognisant conversation. Jane was here from the states studying monkey populations. She’d been here for several years off-and-on in between spending summers leading month long National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) trips into-the-wild style around the world. Rad shit for sure. I was beat so I hit the hay but they ended up going out to the capital city of Belmopan (20 mins away), if I had known they were going there it would have been rad to hit the streets with them and see what’s up in the capital. If you snooze you lose right? When I woke up it looked like they had a good time out.
That night it rained harder than I had ever experienced rain before. The noise was absolutely nuts, someone could have violently strangled several large sows to death right next to my tent and I wouldn’t have been able to hear a thing. I packed up my shit the best I could but everything was pretty wet and wasn’t gonna be getting any dryer anytime soon.
I was able to see Marvin’s pad and the bar in daylight better now. Thanks again for letting me crash man.
I stopped back into the same restaurant from the night before to buy another one of the butter tarts before I left. Since I was there I figured I’d get breakfast and catch up on the ‘american news’ they had laying around.
I jumped back on the road and headed west for the border to Guatemala. I stopped off for a hot minute in the capital city Belmopan just to see it. They had a market so the road was packed.
I strolled around some more just to get a quick feel for the place.
My 24 hour conclusion is that Belize is very intriguing, and I can’t put a finger on this place at all. The people seem nice, the place seems interesting, but with so little time I can’t find a main-vein to get a good pulse reading for any of it. It seems all very weird, with anything happening anywhere, at any time, and with no order to it whatsoever. It’s not chaotic, in fact quite the opposite, like a chaos on horse tranquilizers. It leaves me with more questions than answers and wanting to learn more about this confusing place, but alas, I’m just in transit to Guatemala so I’m left to wonder.
Back on the road I headed for the border. There is never really any ‘rural’ areas with no people, just a general spattering of homes throughout. As I’ve learned so far in Latin America the unfortunate pattern of a large divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” is continued here in Belize. Houses range from the more typical older and rundown places to the newer and obviously wealthier places.
Coming into the border town of San Ignacio and I was lead to a washed out bridge. With how much it has been raining the last few days along with how hard it rained last night I’m not surprised.
I was surprised though when a local told me that yesterday the water had been much higher. Looking at the cable for this power pole you can see where the water line reached by how high up the debris is caked on to it.
Looking back up the hill the guy said that yesterday his red truck in the background of this photo would have been under water.
I found another bridge that was much taller and after that it was smooth sailing, is that sun I see in the distance?
When I got to the border it ended up taking about an hour and a half in total. There was some basic fuckery but nothing out of the ordinary or annoying, just a lot of overworked staff dealing with tired and stressed people. I have all day though and everyone was nice and helpful.
Hey Guatemala nice to meet you, I like your roads.
I see you also have moo-cows here.
And finally some muddy roads! I haven’t had a good dirt road in quite a while. Convenient I put a fresh new rear tire on yesterday.
Still a fair amount of tarmac though. I met this old guy in the road for a minute. He was from New Orleans originally, his Creole was heavy but it seemed like he had been wandering for many years. Maybe a few loose screws but a nice guy. Asked me if Mexico was far away, I said not too far relatively as I was just there yesterday, he said cool and started walking.
The place I headed to is called Flores and is a little island in a lagoon outside of a larger town. When I say little I mean real little.
Near the center of it is a hostel called Los Amigos. The whole island has a cool chilled out feel to it, the hostel is the same.
Walking around the island doesn’t take long. No more than 15 minutes. If you walk uphill from anywhere you eventually get to the centro where, as always, a small park and place for gathering exists.
Likewise, walk downhill from anywhere on the island and all roads lead to the water. Most alley’s do too.
The architecture is old and interesting, as are the streets. I don’t know these people.
The waterfront is pretty and a nice place to walk.
Here you can find typical food for this region and it’s reeeaaallll cheap too. Perfect.
Deserts here are popular apparently.
I tried some fried bananas with fried beans in the center, banana bread, some vanilla milk drank, and something with chicken and a mystery sauce in it. All was tasty, but the banana bread was excellent. The cost was 20Q which is about $2.50, the prices are getting better. Tomorrow I will try the other stuff I didn’t today.
I sat, ate, and chatted for a bit as the sun went down. This is a nice place to come and kick back. Feels like you are on a little island to yourself but everyone isn’t snotty and highbrow like what happens in other places I’ve been when there is a small cool island with limited space. I hear there are ruins nearby, maybe tomorrow I’ll check some out.
SeanPNW screwed with this post 12-14-2013 at 06:20 AM