Posted on November 14, 2013
After waiting a day in Chetumal for the Banjercito to open, Monday morning came and the rain clouds cleared to reveal the humid boiling sun. We packed the gear, counted our remaining pesos, and fueled up at the last Pemex of the trip.
Chetumal ended up being closer to Belize than we thought, and it took us less than ten minutes to get to the border crossing (we might have been able to cross on Friday, but after all the paperwork I think we may have gotten stuck in limbo). With all the issues we had in La Paz we knew we had all the needed paperwork, but were still ready for some bureaucracy.
First stop was to turn in our FMM cards and get stamps out of Mexico (check). Next off to the Banjercito to get our deposits back and release the bikes from Mexico, we went to the wrong Banjercito first but found our way eventually (check). Next we had to get the bikes fumigated (what?!) and get insurance for Belize.
The office where you get your fumigation certificate is also where you can purchase insurance. However, by the time we got there we were running low on money and Alex had to make a run to an ATM while I hung out with the attendant. It was during this time that a heavy rain moved in, and I discovered that the first language of Belize is English. Once Alex got back, we got the insurance slips and were informed we didn’t need to be fumigated because of the rain (sweet!).
After this it was off to immigration at the Belize border to get the bikes and us into the country. It took some time (the officers were in no hurry to fill the paperwork out to get us processed), but there were no hiccups in getting it done. Once all the stamps had been pushed, I walked over to join Alex in Belize, only to have a middle-aged man approach us.
As we left the immigration office we were all smiles walking back to the bikes. As we packed our documents back into the bikes, I saw another bike pass by and head towards the border, but he was soon directed (as we had been) to the immigration parking lot. This is when we met, Thiago Berto who is driving from Alaska to Brazil (or maybe all the way to Argentina, he hasn’t decided). He flew from LA to Fairbanks, Alaska and found this motorcycle (which was driven years ago from Brazil to Alaska and then left by another Brazilian, which it why it has Brazilian plates) that he is now riding down the continent.
We exchanged stories, he questioned us about the process of getting across the border, we asked him where he was going. There is a respect that fellow travelers have for each other, and that camaraderie is only magnified when they are also motorcyclists. Bikers like Thiago make us feel less bad-ass as he was riding in just a light jacket, regular pants, boots and his stuff heaped on the back of the bike, but to each his own (I seem to fall a lot so my choice of gear seems fitting).
We wished him luck, readied our papers and made our way for the border crossing. The guard asked me if I was hot in my gear and I replied it was hot, but protective. He responded that that is true, but that falls don’t happened that often. My response? More often than you would think. And with that I was waved on.
We ran into Hector one more time after we crossed, he gave us some final directions (though there is only one real road in Belize) shook our hands and we were off.
About an hour down the road we hit the worst rain of the trip. It wasn’t just raining, it was pouring enough to work its was into our helmets and for me felt like pinpricks as the droplets hit my jacket. Knowing now that Belize is only 174 miles long, would have helped in that situation of knowing how far Belize City was, but we drove on, not worried about the gear getting wet because we knew we would have time to let it dry.
For a while, each time we broke through the black clouds and towards the blue sky the road would veer off back into the heart of the darkness. However, we finally blew past the storm and made our way to Belize City. It took a little while to find a place (Alex gets all the credit for finding the Palm Inn), but when we did and it was amazing. It had parking in the back behind high walls and under an overhang so we were out of the rain.
I will skip the details of Belize city (we were only really there a day and a half), but needless to say it isn’t the best city. It is mainly used as a stopping point for cruise ships and people heading to the Cayes (think of keys, but no bridges) and it shows. There aren’t many restaurants, and there is a hustle to the city that clearly denotes that a main portion of its income is derived from tourists.
Alex and I were happy to plan our escape to Caye Caulker the next day. We spent some time at the Belize Museum and walking around the city, but really we were just biding our time and the moment was coming to escape!
Posted on November 10, 2013
It’s been one month since we left Oakley California heading towards I-5, and then quickly turned around 6 miles down the road because I forgot my wallet and Nathaniel forgot his malaria medication.
Today we find ourselves hanging out in a hotel we don’t remember the name of in Chetumal Mexico watching the rain drip till monday morning when we can cross the border to Belize.
When you drive a motor vehicle as deep into Mexico as we have from the United States your are required to leave a sizable deposit with the army bank Banjercito to pay for its temporary importation.
Once you leave Mexico the money is refunded to you in either cash or on your credit card (depending on how you first paid) and like the US most banks are not open on Sunday. We could technically leave Mexico today but it would mean giving up our $400 deposits.
Unfortunately, Chetumal is not a city I am enjoying very much. It’s the largest Mexican city to the northern Belize border and it doesn’t have a true Centro that we’ve seen with an adorable plaza and strolling families.
Chetumal is the seat of government for Quintana Roo (Our 18th state we’ve passed through) but the blocks near the water are an endless series of shoe stores, auto parts stores and Mini Supers – rinse and repeat.
This city it was almost completely destroyed in the 40’s and 50’s by three major Hurricanes. When they rebuilt they rebuilt for the next big one and I think it stripped the city of its charm.
Because of the time we killed in La Paz getting paperwork done we had to blow through a large portion of Mexico that we originally had plans for. So, we are both looking forward to getting to Belize, slowing things down a little bit and absorbing the places we see. -Alex
It is sometimes mind boggling that we have been on this trip for a month and have been primarily in one country the whole time. I never fully appreciated how expansive Mexico is till driving across it, and looking at the distance reading on my speedometer.
What some may not realize is that Alex and I have now already traveled further in Mexico then we are going to travel to get through all of Central America. And thus, the reason for slowing down a bit to really absorb the places we travel through.
As we get ready to exit the country that has been our home for the last month, I look back on our time here.
Most of the concerns about this trip were over safety, with many remarking that Mexico is not a safe country to be in (Alex’s Mexican family were shocked we hadn’t had any issues with police on our ride).
Knocking on wood now, we haven’t had any issues with police, drug cartels, or petty theft and I have found the Mexican people to be overwhelmingly warm and hospitable. At a random intersection outside of Tuxtepec, a man on the side of the road saw we looked confused and told us how to get to the main city. All of the people we have asked for directions have been more then willing to help these two intrepid motorcyclists.
Many construction works and pedestrians by have waved or flashed peace signs as we have ridden by. Questions of safety ring true for any country (we did purposely ride through Baja to avoid certain parts of Northern Mexico, as much as for the beautiful scenery) as there are many areas of San Francisco I wouldn’t want to walk through after midnight, common sense goes a long way in any travel situation, even when that travel is to a local store for milk at night.Outside of safety concerns, what has struck me most about Mexico (and something I have mentioned to Alex several times) is the natural beauty of this country. Mexico is beautiful! I have seen California, Arizona, Scotland in its countrysides and experienced high deserts, forest capped mountains, and tropical beaches in its scenery, to mention a few. Mexico has a diverse topography I never knew existed (I pictured it as mostly desert and cacti) that makes road tripping a visual delight.
All I can recommend is getting away from the tourist traps along the coasts and diving into the rich landscape, culture, and amazing food that Mexico has to offer.
I am looking forward to Belize, and finally getting to the third country of the trip, but it is bittersweet to leave Mexico as it was the proving ground. We have spent a lot of time and sweat in this country and I look forward to returning someday.
For now, we look toward the ocean and a whole new country to explore! -Nathaniel