BelizePosted by Malin Sat, March 19, 2011 20:42:29
Our timing for Belize was good, we got there in time for the orange harvest. Driving the Hummingbird Highway we drove through orange orchard after orange orchard and trucks were driving fully loaded with oranges to the factories where they made orange juice. In one of these orchards the German, Swiss and Norwegian caravan saw a white Swiss Land Rover Defender, the drivers were out taking photos of the orange trees. The caravan stopped and we had a nice chat with Jolanda and Marco (www.lavidapura.ch). They are also on their way to Argentina. Since they were also heading to the Cayo district this day they joined our caravan.
In the Cayo district we drove past several Mennonites farms and horse and carriages transporting people and their harvest. It was a slight difference between their transportation and our Patrol. We took off from the Chiquibul Road and on to an even smaller dirt road towards Barton Creek Outpost were we planned to spend a couple of nights. Lotti was having a tough time on the rough road, but she did well when she was going slow.
Short before the Outpost we had to cross a river, and even this was no problem for Lotti.
The four overland vehicles put up camp at the parking area at Barton Creek Outpost surrounded by orange trees. Our host told us to pick as many as we wanted and use their mechanic press to make our own fresh orange juice.
It is the best orange juice we had so far on this trip…
From Barton Creek we had an early start and did a full day of sightseeing to the Maya ruins at Caracol with several stops along the way. Lotti was left behind and Isabelle and Franc got a lift with the other vehicles. Previously there had been some problems with robberies along the road to Caracol so now tourist could drive behind a ranger car in a convoy from Douglas de Silva to Caracol. The convoy was leaving at 09.30. We showed up a bit too early so we had just enough time to make a detour to Rio Frio Cave.
It was an amazing and huge cave with a small river flowing through it and along the river was even a small beach. Standing in the middle of the cave, you could look out at the entrance on each side of the mountain. Then it was time to join the ranger caravan. Arriving in Caracol we were discussing if there was actually a need to be escorted by the rangers since they were driving at a speed that none of the tourist cars could, or at least not would, keep up with. After a while they were gone and we saw them again at the archeological site. On the way back all the organized tour groups left before the rangers, and we decided to do the same.
At Caracols peak between 650 – 700 AD it is assumed that 150,000 people lived in the city and so far 36,000 structures have been marked. Today tourists can visit some of the main structures, but compared to the size of the city it is not so much we were able to see as most of the city is still covered in jungle.
Caana – Sky Palace is the tallest building in Caracol with 42 meters and it is still the highest building in Belize….
On the way back we stopped to cool down in the Río On Pools witch was an excellent end to a great day.
Then it was time to say goodbye to our friends again. Lotti, Vally and the Land Rover was all heading to Guatemala within a few days and we were on our way to Cancun to meet some family that was coming over from Norway for a warm winter holiday.
BelizePosted by Malin Sat, March 19, 2011 20:11:18
Leaving Guatemala the immigration women told us that we had to pay a departure fee of 20 Q each (2.5 USD). We told the women behind the counter that we paid 10 Q each for the tourist card when we entered the country, but then she just replayed that that was at a different border crossing and now we had to pay for this crossing. To be honest we did not really know all about the different fees we have to pay at the different crossings, we have just read reports from other travellers. From what we have read we paid the right amount crossing into Guatemala, but we have never read anything about departure fee. After discussing back and forth with the immigration women for a while we decided to pay her so we could actually leave Guatemala. After giving her the money and she put it away we asked for the recite?? She just looked at us as if we were stupid and she asked us why we needed it. So after another discussion she finally wrote us one witch is probably not a very official one and probably not worth the paper it is written on. I guess the money went straight into her pocket or maybe the immigration officers share the money they charge the tourists in the end of the day…
The immigration woman told us that at the Melchor de Mencos border crossing going into Guatemala you do not have to pay for the tourist cards. We will see what she tells us when we will cross into Guatemala again in the few week’s time. Other travellers have told us that they did not have to pay anything for the tourist cards, others again had been charged 20 Q per person, but when they pretended that it was 20 Q for two people and paid just that it was ok too…. Maybe we have to practice our Spanish and see if the official Guatemalan pages say anything about the fees we have to pay when we enter and leave their country. It is not that it is a lot of money it is just annoying that officials use their posission to enrich themselves.
Aduana (costums) in Guatemala was no problem, and our vehicle permit was multiple entries for 90 days. The costumes officer wrote on some papers, took our original permit that he would keep in a folder until our return and we got a new piece of paper.
The border crossing into Belize was no problem and the car was stamped into Espen’s passport. A few hundred meters after the border was a small house where we had to buy liability insurance for Belize witch is mandatory. The insurance you buy is per week and we paid 23 USD for two weeks.
After more than three months in Mexico and Guatemala it was kind of strange to cross the border into Belize and read signs in English and having no problem understanding the locals when they talk to us. As soon as you cross the border you can see that you are in another country because of the differences in the building style, the colorful houses, and the people. Belize has the largest ethnic diversity that I have ever seen in one country. The largest ethnical group is creoles, descendants of African slaves and British pirates, one third of the population is mestizos, 10 % is Mayan people, and then there is the Garífuna and other small ethnic groups from Europe, North American and China.
Our old travel companions in Valley and Lotti had met up again on Yucatan and when we got to Belize we found them in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. It was great to see them again and the first evening was spent updating each other on what the different parties had been up to since we travelled in different directions 6 weeks earlier. Cockscomb is sometimes also referred to as the Jaguar Reserve, but I will still call it Cockscomb since we did not see any Jaguars.
Then it was time to say hallo to the Caribbean for Espen and me. There is no better place to get the Caribbean feeling than in the Garífuna fishing village Hopkins. The village stretches for a mile or two along the coast and has 1800 inhabitants. We camped on the beach for BZ$ 10 (US$ 5) for the two of us. It was great to be on the beach again. Last time Espen and I camped on a beach was at Maruata Beach in mid December.
Saturday evening we spoiled our self to a four course dinner at Chef Rob´s Gourmet Café. The food was incredible and the fish tasted even better with a cold white wine to accompany it.
Before leaving Hopkins we stopped by the local bakery to buy some fresh bread and muffins.
A bit further south along the coast from Hopkins is Placencia that lies at the southern tip of a long narrow, sandy peninsula. Placencia did not have the same feeling as Hopkins even if it is nice. There were more big houses and Americans or other foreigners owning properties here. It was enough of small cozy resorts and hotels, but nowhere to camp. After asking around in Placencia “city” center and finding nothing we drove further and further out and found Seakunga. The friendly owner said it was ok to camp in their parking lot and we got a place that was just our style. It did not take us long to find the beach, bringing our books and having one relaxing afternoon in the hammocks.
Then the cold beer in the bar was calling out to us. The bar was up some stairs and had sand floor. The owner told us that it was no point fighting the sand on the floor all the time, it was better to make the floor into an extension of the beach…
After some relaxing days on the beach it was time to see some more of the Belize and next stop was the Cayo district in the west.