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.