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Belize in JanuaryAuthor: Paul (More Trip Reviews by Paul)
Date of Trip: January 2008
We have some conversations with the other guests in the dining area / playroom but not before Dallas has a few minutes on the adult sized swing hanging from the roof timbers.
Breakfast is fairly quick and then we pack up and head south. The tank is topped up at the corner and we are on our way.
Highway 307 is the only route we will be on in Mexico. It runs from Cancun to Chetumal, right on the border with Belize. It is a four lane divided thoroughfare for about one hundred kilometres, then narrows to two. It is a good highway. Signs are plentiful as are gas stations. Pay attention to the warnings for the upcoming "topes". If you hit these bumps at any speed you will be in danger of doing serious damage to the car, tires or both.
This is the "Mayan Riviera" and the destination for tourists by the busload. Look to the left or seaward and the luxury resort fronts line the road. These are not run of the mill Holiday Inns or Best Westerns. These are the ultimate in pampering and luxury. Entrances have security twenty four seven, admittance is by reservation only. Across the road to the right is where the locals live in wood shacks with tin roofs.
This is jungle country; both sides of the road are green and lush with birds flying about.
Next stop is Tulum Pueblo, which is right on the highway. We are looking for naptha or white gas for the camp stove, which we know is not available in Belize. Last trip we had to use diesel fuel which I blame for messing up the stove. There is none in Tulum either.
Tulum is still the backpacker's haven. Young and old people from all over the world flock here for its laid back atmosphere and broad white sand beaches. Beach bums and dropouts of society are commonplace.
Lunch is at some restaurant fronting the main street, and then we are on the road again.
Now is when the driving gets interesting. Highway 307 in this area is straight as an arrow and just about as narrow as one also. There are no shoulders, a couple inches of grass and the trees sprout straight up, sometimes touching over the faded center line.
The majority of tourist traffic is now behind us and we share the road with all sorts of vehicles; a Mexican farmer taking his crop of oranges to market, lumbering along at half the speed limit in a grossly overloaded, worn out pick up with bald tires and spewing smoke from the exhaust. Or maybe a transport rig pulling two large trailers. They even have signs on the back warning overtaking drivers of what to expect. These are fun to pass; they seem like they are a mile long and wander over the center line frequently. But most vehicles are just like ours, small cars with a couple of people going someplace or another. We stand out though because we only push to about 10KPH over the limit; we don't relish the idea of spending time in a Mexican jail.
Plans must be afoot for this road; shoulders are being cleared by gangs of men with machetes and in a few spots gravel has been placed in a semblance of a future extra lane. But we like it best when it is just the old, narrow road with the vegetation canopy.
The kilometres fly by and the road changes back to four lanes as we approach Chetumal, just across the border from Belize. Last trip this was a major construction zone and we were lost a few times but now all is complete with the access to the border well marked.
Now we know the ropes. Where to stop for the tiny kiosk to get our Mexican tourist card stamped (and take our money), where to purchase insurance for Belize (take some more money!), where to get the vehicle fumigated (more money again!) so none of those pesky Mexican parasites will infect Belizean farms. Then the ritual of the stamps. Passport stamp. Rental vehicle stamp. Extended stay with vehicle stamp. Vehicle insurance stamp. I'm not really sure what use they will be, they are so blurred and the signatures so incomprehensible I don't know if anyone could read them. Anyways we make it through without mishap. Just one more checkpoint a couple kilometres down the road by the local constabulary to check for a valid driver's licence and the town of Corazol is just ahead.
Dallas has our guidebooks out checking for hotels and cabanas and she directs me to one that will fit our budget. It is right downtown with on street parking so we head for the next on the list, Hotel Maya. We take it. It is old but clean and $40USD.
This is only a transition stop so not all the luggage is brought out, just what we will need for tomorrow. We freshen up in the shower and go looking for someplace to eat. Our choice is a no name restaurant just off the main street. Supper and beer for the two of us is $18BZ. This is one of those gritty places, don't pay attention to the washrooms and don't think of what the kitchen looks like. But it is good food and lots of it.
The tank is filled at a local Texaco station for $80BZ. Gas is expensive here.
Back at the hotel we sit on the patio and drink Belikin beer while I update my journal and Dallas does a quick watercolour of some trees in the front yard. It is a good night but we retire early.
Saturday January 19
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