July 3, 2016
Our entry into Belize and the day that followed was a mixed bag. It certainly made an impression. The border crossing was seamless and the odds were in our favor as we were the only people at the immigration office.
No search of the vehicle, small interview for Gracie, about 65 USD in fees then onto the insurance office. Belizean liability only insurance was 30 USD for thirty days. The customs agents were friendly, good-natured and professional.
The entire border process took less than an hour – for three sets of us, five people, 3 cars and 2 dogs in tow. The most difficult part of the process was transitioning our brains from muddled Spanish to ENGLH.
After customs, we headed into the border town of Corazol – a small, seaside town with a distinct Caribbean feel. We had seen a total of 8 black people during our entire 6 months in Mexico. This is not the case for Belize. Belize is delightfully diverse. Corazol has a population full of Whitey McWhitersons, Asians, Dark and medium-toned Belizeans and Mexicans. We immediately noticed and met a great number of expats living in Corazol, all of whom were a little sketchy about answering the standard “where are you from?” question, making me think they may be taking advantage of Belize’s status as a non-extradition country.
To celebrate a successful border crossing, our first stop was Scotty’s Crocodile Cove Bar. Again, SO weird that everyone speaks English here. Alcohol, in particular, is far more expensive in Belize than in Mexico. We spent more on lunch and 2 drinks at Scotty’s than we did for full dinners with several drinks in Mexico. Every single person we passed had a smile and wave for us offering information about the town and surrounding islands. It was a good start.
After drinks, we headed over to our campsite, a free spot, directly on the water, called Rainbow Park. Normally, Karin and I try not to wild camp and not in exposed areas. We are adventurous but, also, being two girls living in a rooftop tent, try not to take major chances with our safety at night. This time, we made an exception because we are traveling with @hereuntilthere and @cornwall2capehorn – safety in numbers. The three of us set up camp but spread out to give each other some space – probably 20 feet between each vehicle (this is relevant to what happened next).
We set up camp and the night started off pretty normally – sitting around with some drinks, enjoying the ocean air. In such a small town with three large expedition vehicles such as ours, attracts a lot of attention. A few cars pulled in to check us out and ask what we were doing but we all went to sleep feeling pretty good about our first day.
Around 230 in the morning, that feeling faded away. Abruptly. The sounds of Mr. Worldwide, Pit Bull, and every remix ever done of Pit Bull came streaming into our tent. It was disorienting and infuriating. Our campsite DJ’s were clearly trying to wake us and everyone else up. About an hour later, two trucks pulled into our camping area and circled around all of the vehicles a few times, shining their lights on our rigs. They sat in their vehicles staring for awhile then one of the men got out of his truck and started walking towards our rig.
Gracie, earning her keep once again, started wildly growling and barking, alerting us that something was awry. Pete (of Here Until There) came out of their camper and made his presence known.
We popped up into the tent window and the man, who was clearly up to something, stopped in his tracks. He stammered for something to say and managed a weak, “Is everything okay? I was just checking on…” and his words trailed off as he backed away from our vehicle and got back into his truck. It put everyone on edge but we managed to go back to sleep for a few hours.
At 630 am, another car pulled into our area and circled around all of the vehicles. Benjy was already awake and piddling around his Defender. The man pulled up next to Benjy, saw him, and backed out of the spot. He pulled more centrally between all of our rigs and got out, looked around and got back in. This went on for a few more minutes.
We thought maybe he planned on going for a swim and was just checking out our rigs but his actual intentions came to light when he pulled up next to us. He pulled as close to our car as he could. He saw us looking at him in the window, waved at us and proceeded to masturbate as obviously as he could. It took me a minute to realize what he was doing. He was pretty happy with himself when I had noticed. I closed the tent windows and he drove off.
I’m certainly not judging the country of Belize based upon these two random incidents (especially after such an awesome day 2) but its difficult, given the 4-hour time period in which both of these things happened in an exceptionally small town, the ratio of bad things happening to time and population is jaw dropping.
The real irony is that we had so much fear about Mexico and a gazillion warnings from people all the way through – friends and family repeatedly sent us messages telling us to “get out of Mexico! Get to Belize – its safer!” We were in Mexico for 6 months and did not have one single bad thing actually happen to us. In fact, I believe that if, in Mexico, anyone had done these kinds of things, local men would have dealt with them, harshly.
In Belize, on day one, in three hours time, in a wide open, public park of a teeny town, where children were playing the night before, two pretty major and relatively frightening things happened. We aren’t alarmists but I would be lying if I said I felt totally safe here. For the first time on this trip, I wish our website and facebook page wasn’t so boldly written on our vehicle. I’m also beyond grateful that we are currently traveling with other people, people I completely trust to look out for us as we look out for them, too. Pete didn’t hesitate to hop right out of his camper at 330 in the morning to get our backs and his wife, Natasha wasn’t far behind. Overlanders really might be the best people on earth.
Our second day in Belize was FAR better. We left Corazol, took a hand cranked ferry and have landed in the gorgeous town of Sartajena. More about that, with amazing photos, later tonight. Right now, we are off to swim in some of the bluest water I've ever seen.
(photo credit to Benjy Davenport for the immigration gate photo and to Here Until There for the toast photo - the rest are ours)