Subject:       Belize Newsletter

Date:            Mon, 11 Jan 1999


It was a happy Stani that crossed the border into Belize in April 1998. What a delight - an English speaking country!  Little did she know. Our 1st concern in Belize was would we get across the border with all the fruit & veg we'd stocked in our bags?  We had heard that it was expensive in Belize & consequently bought everything in sight that was edible before leaving Mexico. We guiltily looked at the big signs announcing that all fruit & veg would be confiscated. To our surprise - pasta, rice & toilet paper were also excluded. Toilet roll - exactly what insect were they expecting to be hiding in our stocks of Andrex that would cause environmental devastation to their crops?  More to the point - what was this evil insect doing to our bums? As we completed our forms we watched every single person in the queue ahead of us hand in their bags which were thoroughly checked. Stani was mentally adding up how much we'd spent (ie how much money we'd wasted) whilst Richard was practising his innocent look wondering how he could persuade the officials that our bags (that looked ready to explode) were full of clothes & nothing else. To our shock they took one look at our bags & waved us through. We were delighted! They probably realized that a search through our bags would take hours & maybe couldn't face working overtime (those of you that have seen us fully loaded will appreciate what we mean).


The 1st ordeal was over - the next shortly to follow. As we wheeled our bikes through customs we were immediately pounced upon by a gang of moneychangers. One soon demonstrated his supremacy, shouldered the others out of the way, & started harassing us. We politely requested he give us a few minutes to organize ourselves but he kept following us around. After a few minutes of polite pleading to be left alone Stani lost her rag & told him to go away & stop harassing us. What a pleasure - to be able to fully express your thoughts after 6 months of struggling in Spanish. Our moneychanger got quite indignant & started shouting abuses & warning us we were in HIS country now.


Stani was not to be abashed & retorted straight back  that 'HIS COUNTRY' was a mere ex colony of BRITAIN & it was  still 'HER' Queen's  portrait that hung in HIS COUNTRY'S offices & was  printed on 'HIS COUNTRY'S' money. This seemed to do the trick & he stomped off in a sulk.


This was our 1st experience of the nylon shirted, pot bellied, heavily moustached money changer border culture (having missed out on our entry into Mexico - we took a relatively quiet crossing) but we were going to get accustomed to it by the time we got through Central America.


We cycled on through the heat & flatness of Northern Belize. Banana & plantain trees abounded - no different from Mexico, but the houses were of a different style, wooden & colonial. We delighted in the different architecture for a while but our enthusiasm wore off after a few days of no change.


Our 1st town was Corozol. Our intention on arrival was to get much needed funds from the bank, rid ourselves of our excess loads at the post office & try the Belizean beer. We struck out on options 1 & 2 - the bank was closed (the ATM for account holders only) & subsequently didn’t have enough for the post office. But the beer option was still viable so we headed for the beach. But on route we were accosted by another cyclist who attempted to herd us to a hotel. Beer we insisted but he was persistent. We tried to fob him off with the normal mantra we (thought) we had perfected - no money, have to camp etc. He then changed his track & told us about a cabin in the woods, making it sound heaven on earth. We explained the no money bit, camping emphasised again but he made it sound like a freebie invitation & our curiosity was aroused so we headed out of town with him.


After the paved roads had been left behind, we headed down a dried mud track through the forest & finally came to.... more trees! Our host pointed out a few identifying marks & turned off to a small single-track where we were forced to frequently dismount to force our bikes over the roots & felled trees. But then we came to the cabin & indeed it was a part of 'some' small paradise. He showed us around, told us to avail ourselves of the coffee, water, mosquito coils etc & then asked for $10 (US $5). We looked at each other both thinking ‘sure I like it but that's 3 1/3 beers!' (Also I could see Richard eyeing the marijuana plants being cultivated around the back!) Then he dropped the price to $5. Our thoughts still gravitated to the beers but we were also considering the fact that it was getting late & maybe we wouldn't be able to camp on the beach - someone had  told us it was illegal earlier - so we capulated. As he didn't have change we agreed to go to the hotel the following day & drop the $5 off. He departed & we enjoyed the isolated evening - no cocks, cars, dogs kids etc - true bliss.


At 6:30 the next morning we were having a lie in, when we heard a noise outside. Richard jumped out of bed - stark naked & grabbed the machete. Our host walked in without a knock or invitation & demanded his $5. We sleepily explained that we still didn't have change but would deliver the money when we went into town as arranged. No No - this wasn't good enough, he had to have it NOW! So Richard dressed & cycled into town with him to change some money. What had happened to make our host suddenly so distrustful never emerged. Maybe it was the simple fact that we just never understood what he was saying in the 1st place. Despite everyone speaking English the Caribbean accent is very difficult to understand.



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  Stani     &      Richard