Subject: Belize Newsletter
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1999
It was a happy Stani that crossed the border into Belize in April 1998. What a delight - an English
speaking country! Little did she know.
Our 1st concern in Belize was would we get across the border with all
the fruit & veg we'd stocked in our bags? We had heard that it was expensive in Belize & consequently bought everything in
sight that was edible before leaving Mexico. We guiltily looked at the big signs
announcing that all fruit & veg would be confiscated. To our surprise -
pasta, rice & toilet paper were also excluded. Toilet roll - exactly what
insect were they expecting to be hiding in our stocks of Andrex that would
cause environmental devastation to their crops?
More to the point - what was this evil insect doing to our bums? As we
completed our forms we watched every single person in the queue ahead of us
hand in their bags which were thoroughly checked. Stani was mentally adding up how much we'd spent (ie how much money we'd wasted) whilst Richard was practising his
innocent look wondering how he could persuade the officials that our bags (that
looked ready to explode) were full of clothes & nothing else. To our shock
they took one look at our bags & waved us through. We were delighted! They
probably realized that a search through our bags would take hours & maybe
couldn't face working overtime (those of you that
have seen us fully loaded will appreciate what we mean).
The 1st ordeal was
over - the next shortly to follow. As we wheeled our bikes through customs we
were immediately pounced upon by a gang of moneychangers. One soon demonstrated
his supremacy, shouldered the others out of the way, & started harassing
us. We politely requested he give us a few minutes to organize ourselves but he
kept following us around. After a few minutes of polite pleading to be left
alone Stani lost her rag & told him to go away
& stop harassing us. What a pleasure - to be able to fully express your
thoughts after 6 months of struggling in Spanish. Our moneychanger got quite
indignant & started shouting abuses & warning us we were in HIS country
Stani was not to be abashed & retorted
straight back that 'HIS COUNTRY' was a mere ex colony of BRITAIN & it
was still 'HER' Queen's
portrait that hung in HIS COUNTRY'S offices & was printed on 'HIS COUNTRY'S' money. This seemed to do the trick & he
stomped off in a sulk.
This was our 1st
experience of the nylon shirted, pot bellied, heavily moustached money changer
border culture (having missed out on our entry into Mexico - we took a relatively quiet crossing) but
we were going to get accustomed to it by the time we got through Central America.
We cycled on
through the heat & flatness of Northern Belize. Banana & plantain trees abounded - no different from Mexico, but the houses were of a different style,
wooden & colonial. We delighted in the different architecture for a while
but our enthusiasm wore off after a few days of no change.
Our 1st town was
Corozol. Our intention on arrival was to get much needed funds from the bank,
rid ourselves of our excess loads at the post office & try the Belizean
beer. We struck out on options 1 & 2 - the bank was closed (the ATM for
account holders only) & subsequently didn’t have enough for the post
office. But the beer option was still viable so we headed for the beach. But on
route we were accosted by another cyclist who attempted to herd us to a hotel.
Beer we insisted but he was persistent. We tried to fob him off with the normal
mantra we (thought) we had perfected - no money, have to camp etc. He then
changed his track & told us about a cabin in the woods, making it sound
heaven on earth. We explained the no money bit, camping emphasised again but he
made it sound like a freebie invitation & our curiosity was aroused so we
headed out of town with him.
After the paved
roads had been left behind, we headed down a dried mud track through the forest
& finally came to.... more trees! Our host pointed out a few identifying
marks & turned off to a small single-track where we were forced to
frequently dismount to force our bikes over the roots & felled trees. But
then we came to the cabin & indeed it was a part of 'some' small paradise. He showed us around, told
us to avail ourselves of the coffee, water, mosquito coils etc & then asked
for $10 (US $5). We looked at each other both thinking ‘sure I like it but that's 3 1/3 beers!' (Also I could see Richard eyeing the marijuana plants being
cultivated around the back!) Then he dropped the price to $5. Our thoughts
still gravitated to the beers but we were also considering the fact that it was
getting late & maybe we wouldn't be able to camp on the beach - someone
had told us it was illegal earlier - so
we capulated. As he didn't have change we agreed to go to the hotel
the following day & drop the $5 off. He departed & we enjoyed the
isolated evening - no cocks, cars, dogs kids etc - true bliss.
At 6:30 the next morning we were having a lie in,
when we heard a noise outside. Richard
jumped out of bed - stark naked & grabbed the machete. Our host walked in without
a knock or invitation & demanded his $5. We sleepily explained that we
still didn't have change but would deliver the money
when we went into town as arranged. No No - this wasn't good enough, he had to have it NOW! So Richard dressed & cycled into town with him to
change some money. What had happened to make our host suddenly so distrustful
never emerged. Maybe it was the simple fact that we just never understood what
he was saying in the 1st place. Despite everyone speaking English the Caribbean
accent is very difficult to understand.
o |O o