On Valentines Day we said our Goodbyes to Mexico and crossed the bridge into Belize where we secured 1 weeks insurance for the bike and went for a tour around the duty free shopping zone before arriving at Belize immigration.
Belize (formerly British Honduras) has a population of approximately 230,000 people and gained independance from England in 1981, it has only just been recognised as an independant country by the Guatemalan Government.
Jules in Orange Walk - Belize
We were pleasantly surprised to find the immigration and customs halls almost empty. Immigration was a simple affair receiving a 30 day visitors stamp from the Officer who was busy talking to his girl friend on his mobile phone.
We explained we needed to temporarily import our motorcycle, he looked at us dumbfounded, even though we were carrying helmets and jackets, then sent us directly behind him to the Customs desk, which also was empty of people.
We presented our documents to the lovely English speaking officer who perused them with the proffesionalism expected of border officials. She raised concern that our papers looked like copies and would need authorisation from her superior to confirm the authenticity of ownership. We headed outside to the booth where her supervisor was checking cars entering Belize.
He looked over our papers carefully and explained to us that Belize does not accept copies of documents for the temporary import of vehicles. We explained that they were originals from Australia. He again scruitinised the paperwork, explaining that part of the problem with our papers was they do not have any holograms or watermarks in the actual paper as the North American documents have. We held our breath for what seemed an age wondering what we would do if they refused entry. Eventually he accepted them and we headed back into the Customs hall for our final paperwork and a check over of the bike.
Once all was completed we were on our way, sighing a sigh of releif of passing the first border in nearly six months. Though both of us have passed through many land borders, in the past, it still seems nerve wracking.
Road in Belize
We wound our way through lush green rain forrest, sugar cane fields and small towns. It was quite a strange feeling to see signs in English again.
The biggest surprise was how many Chinese immigrants there are in Belize. Every town, no matter how small, has several Chinese restaurants, grocery stores and hotels run by Chinese people.
As we both love a good Chinese feed, it was wonderful as we had read that the traditional national dish for Belize is Rice'n'Beans... YEEE HAAA!!
Restaurant Jian - They made fresh wantons for Julie!
Our first night found us in Orange Walk, the second city in the country, with an economy driven by agricultural with a several large Mennonite colonies near by. We were greeted by a loud and festive political rally. Elections are being held on the 1st of May and the UDP party was marching in the streets to the sounds of drums and trumpets. It was all very colorful and our vote will be going to Ms Netty as she had the best posters in the town!
Political rally - Orange Walk
We found treats like Heinz Baked Beans, Tomato Soup (with no MSG) and best of all Cadbury's Chocolate in all the supermarkets, things we have not been able to buy since leaving Australia.
Belize City has a reputation of high crime and corruption and being stopped at a police security check point just 15 kms from the centre made us somewhat apprehensive, fortunately it was just a licence and insurance check for all vehicles. In the rain we ride over large sections of broken tarmac and incomplete roadworks, no sooner we hit the suburbs and we are in downtown where we begin the standard procedure of hotel shopping.
On the Esplanade several reasonable looking hotels are located and Jules investigates while Grant stays with Miss Piggy apreciating the beautiful harbour view. He notices a Garifuna man (decendents of African Slaves and black Caribs) complete with dreadlocks and a Rasta hat checking him and the bike out. Occasionally he is joined by others. Grant becomes a little nervous as the Esplanade is devoid of traffic, people and the city's reputation does nothing to quell any fears. He continues to watch Grant and the bike from across the road and then moves rapidly closer and says with a fabulous sing song Island accent 'Hey, dats a nice cycle ya got dere Mann'. Grant almost falls off the bike in surprise at hearing an accent he though never existed. The man goes on to ask 'So, I notice ya got Canada, Alaska, Mexico and Australia on ya cycle dere, which is it mann?' Grant and the man continue to chat about where we had been, motorcycles and life in Belize.
Eventually we located a motel about 2kms out of town with a reasonable price tag and settled in for a few days.
House in Belize City
Belize city has many wooden clad homes on stilts reminiscent of Cairns and surrounds. It is divided by Haulover Creek and the narrow bridge that joins the two halves becomes a bottle neck for traffic. It is a bustling town with a distinct Island feel. We found the people to be warm and friendly, the children posess excellent manners and the city in general a delight to visit. So much for reputation!
Riding inland to Belmopan (the Capital City - population 8,130 approx) and then back to the coast to Dangriga we pass through huge orange plantations. The air is sweet with the smell of blossom and freshly picked oranges and the road is a joy with many single lane bridges and stunning tropical scenery.
Road to Dangriga
Dangriga (meaning Sweet Waters in Garifuna) is a coastal town and a launch pad for people visiting the nearby reef and cayes. The weather was very hot and we were unable to secure any reasonable accommodation.
After taking some lunch and resting on the beach admiring the Caribean Sea we headed back inland towards San Ignacio (Cayo) and the Guatemalan Border.
Resting at Dangriga
San Ignacio is filled with tourists visiting nearby archealogical sites both in Belize and Guatemala, it is a lively and friendly town ideal for a stop just before entering Guatemala.
Loading the bike for Guatemala
Whilst our time in Belize was short, we enjoyed it very much. It is a great place to visit if you have the time and money. There are so many wild life and nature sanctuaries to fill your days. Basically the whole country is a great big national park.
BORDER CROSSING - EXIT BELIZE
A very simple but somewhat expensive affair. You need to pay Immigration a Departure Tax of $30.00BZE and a National Parks tax of $7.50BZE each. You then can get your passport stamped and hand in your vehicle permit at Customs. Try and change Belize dollars into Quetzals before arriving in Guatemala as Guatemala will only change US dollars.
You cannot take fruit or vegies into Guatemala
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