Don’t Stop, Belize-ing!
Unfortunately, when trying to come up with a unique title for this blog, this was all I could come up with. Oh, Journey, what have you done to me? (PS- I know you are all singing this song in your head now- catchy, ain’t it??)
After paying our import tax for the second time at the Mexican importation office…… wait what? Yeah, we did that. Apparently, when we got our tourist visas when we first crossed into Mexico, we paid an import tax of 295 pesos each (about $23 US). Then, when we left, we were charged again because we did not have our receipts to show we already paid it- doh! We did not figure this out until we were already in Belize, so there was no turning back. Oh well, $46 lost means less beer money that month 🙁
After checking out of Mexico, it was time to enter our third country of the trip! We crossed the bridge into Belize, ready to conquer our second border. We drove up to the fumigation building and paid the guy to “fumigate” our tires. We’re pretty sure they just sprayed water on the truck 😉
After fumigation, it was time for immigration and customs. When walking into the building, we were greeted by an English speaking, dread lock toting Caribbean dude who welcomed us to Belize. We got our passports stamped, got the import permit for the truck and were on our way to “declaring” Brady. We were directed into a separate room to fill out the BAHA paperwork where we were informed that we were needed to submit an application 7-10 days ahead of time. Well we didn’t, so we asked what we could do. The man told us that it was technically considered a federal crime to cross the border with an unapproved animal so we would be charged a fee of $25 US dollars to expedite the process. No biggie, except now we were up to $71 in lost beer money for the month- what ever will we do??
After getting all of the necessary documentation and insurance for the truck, we were on our way! Sarteneja was our first planned stop. We wanted to check out the northeastern coast of Belize and we heard rumors of hand cranked ferries. Bonus!!
The road to Sarteneja proved to be less than perfect, but Truck was up for the challenge. A family headed to the village offered to show us the way, which proved to be an excellent decision! Flying through their dust cloud wake we weaved side to side avoiding the lawnmower sized potholes while trying to keep their taillights in sight.
After talking with Ed, one of the owners, about the traditional boat making in Sarteneja we went on a hunt to find these magnificent pieces of art. Unfortunately we were there on a day that all of the boat makers had off. Sarteneja is a sleepy, tranquil town with aquamarine water and a whole lot of nothing going on. We spent a couple of nights, relaxing and reading among the fruit and mahogany trees before heading south.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is popular for bird watching and their abundance of cashew trees. We were there in the very beginning of their high season so weren’t able to see a huge variety of birds however we were able to walk around their trails and see egrets and huge cashew trees!
We camped in an old cow field that night. Right before going to bed, Nate went to shut the gate to the field. As he was walking, he noticed thousands of dew drops flickering in his headlamp light in the grass. Thinking it was a little weird because it was a dry, warm day, he got a little closer to the dew drops. Once he got close, he realized they were actually very large, brown spiders!! Thousands of them!! After forcing me against my will to see the dew drop spiders, we decided to seal ourselves in the truck for the night where we continued to have nightmares of spiders crawling all over us!
The next morning, we drove from Crooked Tree to Hopkins. Hopkins is a little town right on the water with beautiful beaches! Our friends, theDangerz, were already there and our other friends Mat and Isabel were on there way! Just in time for New Year’s Eve!
To get to Hopkins, we took the Coastal Highway. At this point in our travels throughout Belize, we had spent more time on dirt roads than paved roads so it didn’t come as a surprise that this road was not paved. When we pulled up to the police checkpoint, we could either go left on the Coastal Highway or go straight to stay on the Western Highway. Nate rolled down the window and greeted the man with “Hello, how are you?” to which the police officer responds “I wanna buy dis truck!” We threw our heads back in laughter and proceeded to ask him if the best way to get to Hopkins was to go left. “Ya, mon! It’s a little rough, but dat’s the way you wanna go. Wit dis truck, no problem!” It ended up being 38 miles of the most remote road we had been on since Baja, complete with potholes the size of the truck and bridges we weren’t sure would hold the truck’s weight. It also had some of the most fantastic jungle views we had seen in Belize.
TheDangerz were able to make a deal with the owner of a restaurant who let us camp in his parking lot and use his internet as long as we bought a few drinks each night. Perfect! The restaurant was having a New Year’s Eve bash that night, complete with a DJ! We came up with a brilliant plan to set up a “tailgate bar” at the truck for the night. We would bounce back and forth from the bar to the truck all night long- it was a blast! We ended up attracting a few locals as well, what can we say, we know how to party!
We decided to spend our last couple of days in Belize with Mat and Isabel, taking the night tour of the Belize Zoo, going cave tubing and even visiting the Belize Central Prison gift shop! Yeah that’s right, they have a gift shop! As Lonely Planet puts it: “Only in a country as laid back as Belize could a fully functioning prison also be considered a tourist attraction.” “All funds earned by gift shop sales directly assist in the rehabilitation of Belize’s criminal element (who might otherwise wind up robbing you on your next visit to Belize.)” Why wouldn’t we want to stop there?!
When driving throughout Belize we couldn’t help but notice the vast amounts of beautiful, undeveloped land. The wetlands are overgrown with brilliantly colored plants and flowers, jungles stretched farther than the eye could see and the beaches with water the color you think could only exist in movies. Belize also has some of the most joyful and friendliest people we have come across on our trip. They wear vibrant colored clothing, sing and dance in the most rhythmic and catchy ways and prepare the best home cooked comfort foods we have had on the road thus far.
So, hold on to that feeling, Belize. You’re doing something right!
Here’s a video for all you journey fans out there: You know you love it!