5/28/2008 06:53:00 pm

Belize For Lunch

Posted by Unknown |

Today we decided to leave Guatemala. Just down the road (about 2 hours) from Flores (where we’re staying) is Belize. So, being from a country where it’s not all that easy to visit other countries, we thought "Why not have a day trip to Belize?"

Of course Belize isn’t high on everyone’s agenda for international travel (though, neither is Guatemala). It’s a British Colony bordering Mexico and Guatemala, of around 250,000 people. It’s got quite a lot of land for quite a small country. How they manage to run a country with that many people is a rather baffling thought, but they do and they haven’t been invaded by Guatemala or Mexico yet, so good on them.

Getting to Belize was rather easy, all we had to do was drive out of Flores turn left, turn right, then drive till you hit the border. The drive was rather pleasant, not many cars on the road, mostly just mangy dogs and stray potholes. The road got worse the closer we got to Belize, giving you the impression that perhaps the Guatemalan Government feels that Belize is the neighbour who you don’t invite to the neighbourhood barbeque, and you never go over to borrow sugar, they’re just too, strange. After all they speak English, they’re the foreigners on the Central American block.

Once we made it to the border it was a mess of cars and trucks and people, all lining up to get across a bridge which could only fit two cars side-by-side at a squeeze, an international highway at it’s most spectacular.

But we made it across the bridge eventually, after first paying some tax to a random lady with a toll booth (a random toll booth operator perhaps) and were directed by more of Guatemala’s helpful, selfless entrepreneurs about where to park, where to got to immigration, and where to change money (with them). The border was full of people selling stuff, asking for stuff, guarding stuff, sitting on stuff, shouting at stuff, parking stuff, queuing stuff. It’s all happening at the border. Even while we were lining up in immigration to get our passports done, we had a woman begging us for just $1.

We got our passports stamped with only a little bit of fuss (Jo loosing about a month off her visa), we headed over to the car people who informed Jo that because the car wasn’t in her name she wouldn’t be allowed to drive it out of the country. Eventually, however the guy said she could take it if the people in Belize said she could take it. So we all trotted off to find Belize and ask them if they’d let us take Jo’s car across the border.

In the arrivals hall in Belize it was calm, quiet, clean, and beggar free. They stamped our passports and wrote everything in a book. They didn’t have computers, which I thought was very quaint and 1960s. Before they let us through though they asked us where we were going, but no one could remember. We hadn’t really thought too hard about the whole thing. Dad tried “Georgetown?” But the man said “Georgetown is a very long way away”. Dad tried “Georgeville?” “Yes, that is closer.” When Jo was asked by the customs man where she was going all she could think to say was “Belize?”

Unfortunately the man wouldn’t let Jo take the car into Beleze, so Mum and I left the Arrivals Hall to go to Belize while Dad and Jo went back into No-Man’s-Land to move the car.

Eventually they made it out having found one of Guatemala’s many helpful men there ready to watch the car for them.

On the other side of the border things were much more calm. For a start people speak English there. Not that English is an inherently calming language, but it calms me.

Also, there were no people crowding around you, there weren't a hundred people all trying to give you a service. We did get asked if we needed a taxi, we said “No”, that was all. It’s interesting what a difference a fence makes.

Eventually Jo and Dad arrived and Mum and I welcomed them to the country like seasoned Belizians. Jo was rather flustered after all the kurffufal, I think sorting out her car hadn’t been all that easy. But Dad and Jo had made it, it was time for us to take on Belize, a country we knew very little about, and I wouldn’t have been able to place on a map just over a week ago.

We got ourselves a friendly Taxi driver, who was happy to drive us to the nearest town for the going rate (which was written on an official sign at the border so we didn’t get ripped off). We arrived at the car and found another person in it. He had his wife in the car, and he was very “Sorry”. This didn’t really bother us, the four of us just squeezed into the back seat. The driver then proceeded to drive his wife home before taking us into town.

On our way what I noticed about Belize is that everyone seems more calm. People seem to drive safer. The landscape looks pretty much the same, but the people are darker and there were a lot less police and a lot less guns.

In town we went to a local cafe/bar/restaurant thing and Jo didn’t have to do a word of translation. It was wonderful. While we were waiting for our food the power cut, and didn’t come on again for the rest of our time in the country. However the food was good, if a little luke-warm.

The rest of the time we spent in town, the girls shopping and Dad and I wandering around looking at the local bridges.

Belize Bridge.jpg

Dad on a Belizian Bridge

At three o’clock our taxi driver came back to get us, and take us back to the border. We went back through customs and discovered, while it was free to get into Belize, it was US$15 to get out. Bah! This was turning into an expensive day. But they let us through. Dad only once managed to incur the wrath of the customs officers once by taking a photo in the departure hall. They said “Hey no photos!” which I thought was getting off lightly as in the US they probably would have just shot him. (I jest, they didn’t shoot us once while we were in the US)

Belize Immigration.jpg

The illegal photo

We entered back into Guatemala, back into the chaos. Immediately we were set upon by people wanting us to change money with them and to give us a taxi. We made our way back through the Guatemalan customs, found our car, then drove home.

As we arrived back in Flores, the island town, we managed to sustain a flat tire. I got to get out with Dad and do a bit of tire changing, which I’m sure was a good bonding moment.

Jo and Dad have now gone to find a pinchazo to fix the tire, while Mum and I get to loaf around reading and blogging.

All up, I’d say it’s been a pretty good day. It’s not often you get to go to another country for lunch, and I got another four stamps in my passport. Totally worth it! Maybe one day when I get old and I just want to write books, I’ll move to Belize and get a little hut on the ocean, write smart books and drink from coconuts all day. It’ll be wonderful!