Saturday morning, we pulled out of Akumal and headed south towards Chetumal, which is the closest city to the Mexico/Belize border crossing. We stopped for the day in this little town called Bacalar which is the municipal seat and largest city in Bacalar Municipality in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and is about 40 kilometers north of Chetumal. It’s a cute little town and one I’d recommend coming to visit before going to the Playa del Carmen area. The road here was almost just as boring as the roads around the Playa del Carmen area but once we got here to Bacalar we found a cute little hostel that we are camping in for the night for 95 pesos per person.
As we drove into town we were both kinda of surprised to see a couple, walking across the street. He was tall, white, and wearing denim overalls, flannel shirt, and a straw hat with a brim. The woman was wearing a white mesh bonnet, full modest blouse and full pleated skirt. And they didn’t even look that hot. As we watched them go by we saw another woman sitting in a horse drawn wagon in front of a store and the couple got into a second horse drawn wagon and rode away. It was a strange site to see considering where we are and upon some research I found out that there is a local Mennonite community very near here. Also discovered that Bacalar is another pueblo magico town.
Saturday night we rode into Chetumal the closest city to the border of Belice. Apparently in Mexico, Belize is spelled Belice. The turn off for the border crossing is about 5km before Chetumal so we just noted where it was and drove on past. Our goal was to hit a gym tonight but we arrived too late and the gym was closed. Gyms here in Mexico tend to close early on Saturdays and then don’t reopen until Monday. Personally I am kinda glad as my abs are sore from the workout Friday in Playa del Carmen but don’t tell Milton. We ended up getting some ceviche to eat for dinner and then walking along the boardwalk.
Sunday morning we woke up early after a semi restful night camping. Broke down out tent and had the bikes all packed up and ready to roll by 8am. As we rode we both finally noticed that the sky towards the south looked dark and then the raindrops started. We decided that we’d find a hotel to stay at and cross over into Belize the next day so we continued on into Chetumal for breakfast. By the time the weather seemed to clear up. After breakfast we headed off to make copies of some paperwork and as we were riding we rode past a group of bike riders standing on out front of a house so we flipped around and talked with them for a few minutes. They were on there way to a ride that was a benefit for local children. They gave us some cool t-shirts (thanks guys) and we continued on but they did tell us that the weather would probably be fine for us to cross today.
We had heard such horror stories about long border crossing lines that the idea of standing in the rain was not appealing but neither was standing in lines in the hot sun either but as we arrived at the border there were no lines at all. The night before I had done a internet search on the Mexico/Belize border crossing and got lots of different info so I finally ended up downloading a ebook I found called Central American Border Crossing Guide by rtwPaul. It was a huge help but some things had changed since he wrote this and I think for the better as it was relatively smooth. As we pulled up to the building the man told us to pull around to park then return with our papers. We tried to explain at that time that we did not have my tourist visa but it got confusing so we just did was he asked and parked in between two big white buildings.
When we came back to his little kiosk sized building, which was thankfully air conditioned room, he first took my passport and then asked for my tourist visa receipt. Again we explained we didn’t have it and that it was stolen when our bikes were stolen. We kind of went back and forth for a few minutes trying to get him to understand and then he told us we just needed to pay it again which cost us 25 USD, no biggie and I happily paid it. Milton gave him his paperwork, he processed it and we were on our way to deal with the bikes which was in the building just across the street to the right of where we had parked.
When we entered this building we finally saw a line of people, but luckily this was not our line. The line we needed had one couple at the window so we were next in line. When it became our turn, we explained that we were living the country and needed our temporary import paperwork processed but that also we didn’t have any for my bike. She asked us to bring our bikes around and park in front so she could process the bikes. We also showed her the official paperwork were received from the Ministrio of Publico in Penjamo and the newspaper articles. Again she asked us to bring the bikes around. After we brought them around, she looked at the sticker on the windshield, matched th VIN number, took some photos, scanned the sticker, and peeled it off. Next came my bike and she repeated the process. We went back in, I filled out a short form as to why I didn’t have my paperwork and she said our money would be refunded to our bank account. YIPPEE!!!!
As we left the building we met a young couple traveling by car down to Panama (I think) we chatted with them for awhile. They were from Australia, or at least he was. Our Motodawgs sticker made the cut to be put on their car.
We got back on our bikes, and continued on over a bridge and pulled over to the first white official looking building that we saw but it was empty so we continued on until we came to a roundabout and saw more official looking buildings off to the right so we headed there where we were told to park and go in to get to present our documents to enter the country. We were also told that we had to go see the agriculture department, which had a office inside, to bring Jackie into the country.
Upon entering they had a tourism desk right inside the door and then just beyond that they had two kiosks each with two desks behind glass partitions. In between the two was a walkway that opened up to large room with an open desk where people declared what they were bringing into the country.
We got into line to show our passport and we were each given a short form to fill out asking all the basic information, who we are, where we were coming from, nationality, where we were going, and our mode of travel. I fill mine out and got back in line where the border agent, who was black, wanted to know where we were going. I had written down traveling south thru to Guatemala but he wanted a specific place we would be staying in Belize. He told us he needed an address to put in his computer so we went back to the tourist desk and quickly found a hostel and wrote that down even through we had no intention really of staying there. It worked and another border agent, also black, processed our passports, stamped them, and we continued to the next area, agriculture department. Milton made a comment to her that he hadn’t seen so many black people in one place since we left the states and she laughed and said that Belize is the only country in Central America that has a large population Creoles. This large population is predominantly from the European settles who came to the area back in the 18th and 19th century and brought slaves here to work.
At the Department of Agriculture, the worker asked us if we had filled out the application to bring the dog into the country and we told him that this was the first that we had heard about it and asked him where we could get the forms. He said the forms could only be gotten online and then after they were reviewed by another agriculture department in another city (Belize City possibly) they were forwarded to him. He said we could not do it right there and that the process usually took 3-4 years. Oh shit, we asked him now what that we were already there. At first he didn’t really give us an answer so I was beginning to think there was no solution and we’d have to go back to Mexico but then he said we since we were already there we could pay a fine for not having the proper paperwork and upon inspection of our papers for Jackie Dawg and a brief physical inspection we could bring her in the country. When we ask him how much he said 110 belizean or 55 USD. which we happily paid and after about 20 minutes of him doing paperwork and me bringing Jackie in for inspection (or a minute she was sweating the rectal exam but they bypassed that, she got lucky) they signed off on her and gave us paperwork to show if we happened to be stopped. On to the next step, customs to declare our bikes.
Our next step was customs to declare our bikes. At this department, they reviewed our passports, bike titles, filled out some paperwork, had us read some rules, gave us some paperwork, and then came out to the bikes and searched through a couple bags then signed off us off and sent us to get the bikes sprayed. After the lady left us we did had a younger man who came over to say we needed to pay a 15 USD per bike and at first we weren’t sure if he was scamming us as he approached us at the bikes rather than inside and no one else mentioned this fee to us but he was wearing an official uniform and it was only a total of 30 USD so we paid it.
When we arrived to get out bikes sprayed we had one car in front of us but they were just finishing up. We went inside this small building, paid the small fee, and took Jackie off the bike so she wouldn’t get sprayed also and the whole process took less than 10 minutes. From there we only had one more step which was to get insurance. This took a little longer, probably about 20 minutes, and then we headed south into Belize.
Once in Belize, we noticed a definite change in scenery. Many of the houses were built of wood and up on sticks. The houses in Mexico are mostly cement or adobe. There was lots of grass around the houses and the majority of it was well maintained. In Mexico there was lots of dirt and cement. There was very little garbage on the roadways and it was mainly only in the first 10 minutes of entering Belize. Garbage was common to see on the roadways in Mexico.
We entered the little coastal town of Corozal where we had lunch. At once we noticed that people were speaking in English primarily and they definitely had a caribbean influence to the speech. It was refreshing to hear. The restaurant we stopped at was right across from the water and the water was this amazing green color. People were riding beach style bikes up and down, the pace seemed much slower, and people just didn’t seem in a hurry. It was a nice change and a change was definitely something we both needed especially after the long straight stretch of road with nothing to see coming thru the Yucatan.
After Corozal, it was early afternoon, but we decided to head further south and search for a place to stay. After looking at the map and talking to a local we decided to shoot for the town of Orange Walk where we are now. It took us about 45 minutes to get here , the ride was beautiful as we rode through sugarcane fields beautiful little towns with large green lawns and little wooden houses up on stilts. We were riding away from the coast and many of the houses were still being built up on the stilts so don’t think it is for flooding but can’t think why else they would be doing this.
Found a little hotel in Orange Walk where we have decided to stay for a couple of days before we head further south. This little town is cute and has a very sleepy feel to it. Our hotel is clean and nice and they had absolutely no problems with us having Jackie. We’ve planned to take a boat ride to some local ruins and will take lots of photos to share. Although we loved Mexico, it’s nice to be a little further along now and officially into Central America.