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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
We drive into Belize, 26,600km down really having no idea what to expect…