You better Belize it; we are in Belize!

We knew there was a strict process in crossing into Belize, we just didn’t expect it to be so exhausting…
After clearing the Mexican side of the border, where we surrendered our vehicle permit, we got to the Belizean side. I’m pretty sure it’s much hotter and more humid there, although just a few meters away…

First thing we had to do was buy liability insurance for Belize (this is one of three Central American countries that requires local liability insurance on top of whatever other insurance you get for your vehicle). After that we had to get our truck’s wheels fumigated against.. who knows what we brought with us from Mexico, eh?
Then the whole process with the visa started…
Israeli citizens (as well as Swiss and Japanese, mind you) need a visa for Belize, and it’s 50 US-dollars, which is quite a bit! While the Australian dude who started the process with us was done in about 5 minutes, we were taken from the main hall of passport control into the back offices, where we passed a detentation room for men and one for women, and waited for the officer to see if we could get the visa. At least there was air-conditioning in the offices area!
After the officer checked our passports and decided we qualify, he began filling out the forms and receipts MANUALLY and with real vintage copy-paper. We left 100 US-dollars, and returned to the main hall, where we were explained of the dangers of any influenza symptoms. We also saw another officer regarding the car – he checked that we got insurance and were fumigated, and sent us on our way.
So we got into the car and drove to the next check-point, where we were told that the car has to be emptied completely and everything must be inspected in the hall we just came from (why didn’t anybody tell us about this when we were there????). So we returned, and got everything out of the car. We have a lot of stuff in the car.. Seriously, a lot. We brought almost everything back to the hall with the help of a porter and a small cart, and there was an officer who didn’t even look at the stuff! We just took it in and right back out the other side and into the car again..

But after all this and just two hours later, we were in Belize.

We could feel the different vibes already in the border crossing process; this country is different than Mexico, for sure.
First of all – they speak English. This English doesn’t sound quite like the one we’re used to, but it’s English. And many of the people are black, or at least darker, although many other have Mexican/Mayan characteristics. And everybody’s singing or laughing… what a strange place…

The first town we drove into, Corozal, is one of the bigger towns in Belize. It looks like a little village..
As we headed for our destination, we started putting things together.

Belize is a tiny little country of about 200,000 people. The main spoken languages are English, Creole and Spanish, and the people are a mix between blacks that were brought from Africa as slaves (Garifuna) and local Mayans, as well as Mestizos who escaped the War of the Castes in Mexico in the 19th century.

Being such a small little country, there aren’t too many roads. There are four main highways, that are nothing more than two lanes of paved road. They are poetically called – the Northern Highway, the Southern Highway, the Western Highway and the Hummingbird Highway (which rightfully deserves a unique name as it is a beautiful road to travel). I mention they are paved because besides these four “highways”, all other roads are unpaved; just loose gravel or dirt-road.
Road signs are difficult to spot and are not always clearly informative. You’d suppose that with only four highways there wouldn’t be too much room for error, but when the roads are indistinguishable and crappy, it’s sometimes hard to tell..

Any city/town/settlement we’ve passed through seemed no more than a tiny village, with a few wooden houses, usually on stilts, maybe a little improvised store and restaurant, and lots of people riding bicycles. Much to our surprise, the bigger cities are just the same, only slightly (very slightly) bigger…

The people here in Belize are so nice and helpful. Anyone we stopped asking for directions were full of smiles and happy to assist.

So after crossing into Belize, we drove to Orange Walk, which we thought would be a city but was a slightly overgrown village. We spent the first afternoon and night there, trying to understand where it is that we were now at.
As we were walking through town, looking for a place to eat and marveling at the small-village-feel (well, it actually is a small village), we met a strange but nice guy. He approached us as we were walking down the street, offering vegetarian pizza, “right there in the red car”. You have a restaurant in the car? No, he just sells the stuff out of the car. His wife cooks vegetarian, organic food (pizza without cheese..), and he tries to convince the good people of Belize that they don’t need to eat so much meat (but, to his own admission, with little success). We bought a little bottle of lemon juice from him after he learned we were from Israel, as he excitingly explained that our meeting was not incidental. He told Itai that when he only just saw him heading his way, looking like a prophet of some kind, he knew we were meant to meet. He even invited us to his farm, where we could join him and his wife for a (vegeterian) meal, and we could all pray together.
Although he was nice (but strange), we ended up eating at a tiny little place, serving typical Creole “rice and beans” and chicken, which were very home-made and nice.
Walking around the town we heard Spanish (there are many people from Mexico who came here in the 19th century, during the War of the Castes) and English-Creole, and the people are varied-looking, in all shades of beautiful dark-brown. The only characters that really stuck out were a few weird looking white dudes; we saw them a few times in  Orange Walk – tall and skinny, wearing denim and plad shirts with suspenders and a funny-looking straw hat. We’re still not sure who and what they are, but we’re working on finding out..

One thing is sure – Belize is definitely hotter and more humid than Mexico. But it looks like an interesting and warm place, and I think we’ll like…

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