Leaving Bacalar early, we briefly checked out the fort in town before putting kms behind us on the way to Belize. Customs and border formalities out of the way, we entered our first Central American country. Upon entering Belize from Mexico you’re lulled into a false sense of cleanliness, as the roadside appears to be spotless…that is until you reach the first town of Corozal. Continuing down the highway (actually more like a back country road), you’re soon slapped in the face and reminded that you’re not in Kansas anymore, as copious amounts of every kind of litter is strewn along the road like confetti after a wedding. Central America has a huge litter problem, and it’s something that would continue to disgust us as we went further south. But back to Belize.
There’s only one major road south from Mexico into Belize, so we couldn’t possibly get lost right? With this in mind we weren’t too worried about the roadwork’s which required you to take a diversion off the highway. However, after the initial diversion sign, they then fail to direct you back to the highway, and with the GPS lacking any idea of where we or the highway was, we were left to our own devises to wander the backstreets, closely tailed by another out of towner in an American registered 4WD. We can only assume they thought we knew where we were going, and we seemed to confuse them when we pulled over to let them pass. Approaching a left or right situation, we watched them turn right, before we turned left, and then watched them pull a U-turn to follow us.
Eventually making our way back to the elusive highway, we cruised through the flat green landscape of northern Belize. The North American ‘moose crossing’ signs had now been swapped for ‘tapir crossing’ signs, though being shy creatures we weren’t hopeful of seeing one. Stopping briefly at a highway-side store, like a corner store in some outback town, we picked up a couple of Belikin’s, the national and only beer of Belize, to celebrate. Belikin comes in two varieties, lager and stout. The stout is tastier and has a higher alcohol content, but to be honest they both going give you a killer hangover.
Matt had been trying to find a local Belize craft brewery, but it turns out somebody must have their fingers in some pies, as Belikin have a total monopoly of the market, even controlling the soft drink market. A guy we met told us he’d driven through Belize with some mates a few years ago and had been given a box of 1lt Coca Cola and Fanta bottles. When their car was searched upon entering Belize customs were outraged and demanded to know what they were trying to do, didn’t they know it was illegal to bring this into Belize?? Um no, who knows that, seriously?? Imagine having to call your parents to tell them you’d been arrested for smuggling coke into Belize.
A couple of hours from the border we arrived at Orange Walk, where we’d read we could park the van at Victors Inn for the night. Driving into town the road turned from paved highway to white dirt and clay, which with the recent rainstorm soon covered the van. Having only a basic map of Belize at the bottom of our National Geographic Mexico map, we found our way to town to hunt out some internet for more thorough directions. Turns out this isn’t so easy to come by. The first place we chose had a huge billboard out the front advertising free Wi-Fi, so we stopped in there. Opting for a bowl of fries and a couple of beers, we cursed not asking if the Wi-Fi worked before ordering. It didn’t – they’d dug up the pavement outside to do roadworks. We were therefore stuck drinking our beers watching Van Helsing, one of Hugh Jackman’s worst, awfully dubbed in Spanish, while a local Mennonite guy (a bit like the Amish) in his traditional dress of shirt, bracers and straw hat, enjoying a beer with a local guy dressed in his best gangster gear.
Finishing our beers we headed down the road and pulled up out the front of D*Victoria Hotel to ask reception if they had Wi-Fi we could briefly use. Turns out the hotel is attached to a casino (strange place for a casino) and we were cordially invited in to take a seat at the bar and use the awesome Wi-Fi, not a single Hugh Jackman movie in sight! Finally working out how to get to Victors we departed and headed back out of town down another dirt road, finally finding what we’d been looking for. Pulling into Victor’s we were greeted by the owner, Sonia, who was more than happy to have us stay. With power and the use of a bathroom we paid BLZ$25 per night (a little on the expensive side, but that’s Belize for you, as we were soon to find out!), and BLZ$5 per night to park when we headed to Caye Caulker the next day. We also quickly learnt that our Spanish was pretty much useless in there here parts.
Asking Sonia, in Spanish, if she spoke Spanish she responded in plain English ‘I can, but I don’t’. There goes our last few weeks of building up the knowledge in Mexico, as nobody we spoke to wanted to speak Spanish here. There’s loads of little quirks about Belize, including having the Queen on their money, that remind you this was still a British colony until fairly recently, only gaining full independence in 1981 (so it’s as old as Sarah!). With an early start in mind we passed the night with a couple of games of shithead before getting a peaceful nights sleep….until 1am when the local rooster decided to crow it’s arse off right outside the van, followed by another spat at 2am and 3am, before our alarm finally went off at a punishing 5am. That thing’s lucky it’s wasn’t on our breakfast plate the next morning.
For more photos of Belize and the rest of our trip check out Flickr.