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Into Belize

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We move south and stop for lunch in the town of Chetumal, the last major town before crossing into Belize. We find an amazing spot right on the ocean for lunch, complete with green grass and picnic tables. The highlight comes when Kate decides to try the concrete slide that goes directly into the shallow ocean. The surface is very slippery giving her no chance at all to slow herself down and the one meter drop at the end really is her downfall. Her legs are simply not moving fast enough and she faceplates into about a foot of water with a sandy bottom. I’m happy when she comes up laughing and we both don’t stop for quite a while. We checkout the Mayan Cultural Museum in town, which is as good as any I’ve been to in the world.

lunch_in_chetumal

Lunch in Chetumal

Moving south we come across the border much sooner than I had thought. A very official looking guy in a shirt and tie directs me to pull over and informs me I must purchase car insurance before entering Belize, as it’s required by law. I get a bit flustered and hand over my registration and drivers licence only to watch him walk away with them. I really don’t understand much of what just happened and wish I asked more questions before handing over my paperwork. Of course they are both only copies, but in the next ten minutes my mind goes through all the sinister things he could be doing with my paperwork – like transfering ownership or any one of two hundred other things.

With this going on, we have to line up to get a stamp in our passports from Mexican customs. The extremely scruffy guy sitting in the little shack makes Kate pay 100 pesos (less than $10 USD) and wants me to pay 262 pesos (around $20 USD). When I had over 500 pesos, he throws it on an enormous stack of bills and simply gives me 250 in change – not even the right amount for the price he quoted me. We have no idea why we had to pay this money and receive no receipt. As we sit for a few more minutes we notice it’s only the tourists stopping to pay – everyone else is just going across. I think we got scammed. Scratch that, I’m certain we got scammed.

waiting

Waiting for my paperwork to return...

Finally the insurance man comes back and has some paperwork he wants me to sign. After sitting and thinking for a while I’ve finally got my head on straight and spend a long time reading everything even though he is urging me the entire time to sign as quickly as possible. Before I sign I ask about the price and he spits out a really high number in pesos, even though the price is clearly written on the insurance policy in Belize dollars. We argue for quite a while about the exchange rate before he decides to cut the price in half. When I react badly to that, he says “How much do you want to pay?”. I was already suspicious of this guy before, now it’s gone too far. I don’t like that he has paperwork with my name, license number and the VIN number of my Jeep and so right infront of him I tear up the policy into to tiny little pieces. The guy flips out and says he’s going to make customs arrest me, so I ignore him and drive on.

border_corssing

Leaving Mexico

He runs along next to us as we leave Mexico and enter one of those funny places that’s kind of in neither country. I decide I should sort everything out and so stop at the insurance place this guy apparently works for. The lady there is very friendly and I try extra hard to be polite and speak calmly and slowly as as few minutes earlier I was shaking with anger/fear/I don’t exactly know. After we ask the guy not to speak about twenty times I realize the lady is selling perfectly legit insurance policies and this guy is a kind of broker. He had run across and bought a policy in my name for 200 pesos and then ran back to me and tried to charge me 400 pesos. The nice lady is pretty shocked when I tell her I shredded the paperwork and has to call her supervisor. Everything works out OK – she takes the shredded paperwork, gives the man back his 200 pesos and we pretend it never happened.
Her supervisor also told her not to sell me another policy :)

We drive on and have to stop for ‘fumigation’ of the Jeep – this is another scam I’m told will happen at all the borders, but it is kind of official and I do get a receipt for my 80 pesos ($USD 6). We park the Jeep and walk into Belize customs, where we both get stamps no problems and I move onto customs to fill in some paperwork for the Jeep. It takes a while, but we have no problems and I have one of those special stamps that says I can’t leave the country without the Jeep.
We are finally in Belize and stop to buy insurance, this time from a very legit place that charges the correct price 😉

Easy, huh?

We drive into Belize, 26,600km down really having no idea what to expect…

-Dan

18 Responses

  1. Dave G says:

    Hey Dan… great story… I must say you have a lot more guts than I do… maybe the time on the road sets the pace for how to handle such buffoonery… peace!

  2. Shawn Q says:

    Dan – been following along the whole way. Hope all is well man.

    Peace

  3. Brian12566 says:

    Dan, glad you always have your bs phaser set to kill.

  4. Dan

    You are a brave guy! I imagined all sorts of eventualities and prepared for them but they never materialized, and here is you in the thick of it.

    I`m happy for you that everything turned out ok and that it did not turn you off or away from Belize. Truckin it through that country is a real hair raising adventure. Even more so when I did it back in 1976.
    I will be interested in what happens next on your escapade.

    • Dan says:

      Hey Gem – There is always something exciting going on, that’s for sure!
      I always figured border crossings would be a big part of this trip, so I need to work on keeping a level head, not getting flustered and working things through.
      I’m looking forward to what happens next as well :)

  5. Mandy says:

    Eeek!!! That sounds crazy, but what is a day if you are not chased down by border control??

  6. RJPugh says:

    Greetings! This is a fascinating chronicle, and I’ll certainly be following your progress. I hope you eventually reach the Island of Fire as planned.

    I would like to recommend a book for your reading list, though you may have already read it:

    “Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes,” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

    After stumbling across your web site, I was reminded of this book… which I read over two decades ago. I remember thinking at the time how it would be neat to make a trip like that – or like your’s – but it never happened.

    Safe and prosperous travel,

    -R (in North-Central Virginia)

    • Dan says:

      Hey RJ, happy to have you on board!
      Thanks for the book suggestions, I have not heard of it before and it’s now on my list.
      It’s never too late to go for a good road trip..

      • RJPugh says:

        I’m thinking of taking some “railroad adventures” in the future, perhaps when my daughter is old enough to enjoy the trip. Convincing my wife shouldn’t be difficult. :)

        Those train travels are the closest I expect to get to an adventure like your’s, though it’s a different kind of experience.

        Do you ever plan to publish a book about your travels? It worked for Peter Jenkins.

        So, where will you go once you reach Ushuaia?

        -R

        • Dan says:

          Hey RJ,
          I’ve often thought about a railway journey as well. Maybe for my next adventure :) Go for it! I’d love to hear about any trip you take.
          I always figured my blog is the equivalent of a book, but lately I have been thinking more and more about it. Maybe in the future, when I have a lot to write about :)
          What will I do when I reach Tierra Del Fuego? I have no idea. I’ll worry about that when it happens 😉

  7. Sean says:

    Hey Dan,

    Back in one of your earlier posts, you mentioned you got a Mexico and Guatemala road atlas for $18. Do you know the title and where did you purchase it?

    My brother and I are doing a trip kinda similar to yours, except we’re only doing San Diego to Panama (sticking to the Pacific coast as much as possible since our goal is mostly surf). We’re trying to put together a decent map set for as little $ as possible, and buying a map for each country is going to be kind of expensive. Any suggestions?

    You have a very “easy to read”/”keep the reader wanting more” writing style. I hope you consider writing a book. Thanks for making my work day a little easier to cope with.

    Sean

    • Dan says:

      Hey Sean,
      Thanks for the kind words man, it makes me smile :)
      You guys are going to have an absolute blast on your trip, you will find endless stunning breaks, with nobody in sight.

      I remember for sure I bought the road atlas at a gas station in Mexico (they are all called Pemex), though I don’t remember the brand, etc.
      It’s a big book, even a little bigger than a magazine and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was made by Pemex themselves (though that’s just a guess)
      I didn’t see one on the Baja, I bought mine as soon as I hit the mainland in Mazatlan.

      All the best, let me know if there is anything I can do to help :)

      -Dan

  8. Dale says:

    Great adventure Dan! I have a question about your drivers license. You indicated you handed “the handler” a copy. Is this a paper copy from a copy machine or did you have official copies of your drivers license made?

    • Dan says:

      I made color photocopies front and back and had them laminated before I left North America. I had tons of them, though I don’t remember ever having to leave one behind. I highly recommend doing the same.
      I don’t think it’s possible to get an “official” copy of your license.

      -Dan

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