It seems like I enjoy traveling to Mexico, ‘tis true. I have traveled to Mexico for each of the past three months, and I do enjoy the adventure. Each time was for different reasons and it is always a challenge as well as learning experience.
This trip was to turn in the sticker for the camper that we used to live in while we traveled to Belize and set up our home. Based on my experience now, I would recommend that even if you get a 10 year tourism sticker for your vehicle/RV for Mexico, unless you keep track of all your paperwork REALLY well, just turn in your permit when you leave Mexico. The hassle to get the permit turned in if you are missing anything is not worth the money.
I originally planned on just taking one friend, Julio, along to Mexico so that he could translate for me. My Spanish is ok for everyday, “I need this”, “I am going…”, “Please hand me…”, you get the idea; only simple conversations but I can get by when I need to. Then I mentioned the trip to a couple of other friends of Julio’s that I am also friends with; a mechanic and his sidekick, and Julio’s brother; they all wanted to go, they had never been to Mexico.
Thursday morning we were to meet at The Farm where Julio works. I had picked up the trailer and left Tinkerbell attached to it on Wednesday after getting plates and insurance for the camper so that we could leave early. Marge and I got to the farm at 7am. We waited until 7:45 for the guys to get back from 7 Miles but they were not there so we decided to go look for them (maybe their car broke down on the way to get everyone together – who knows). As we pulled into town, there they all were, just heading back out to the farm in Raul’s pickup. Julio had left a note stuck on a machete in the ground near the driveway telling us to pick them up 7 Miles but the proverbial “dog ate the note” (it really did happen this time – it was a mess) trick foiled that plan.
Well, we got back, packed up in the camper, and off we went. What a grand outing, going to Mexico and staying overnight somewhere outside of Cayo District.
First stop, Roaring Creek to get tacos for breakfast. It was about 9:30am. From this gringo’s perspective, a bit early for tacos especially since I all ready had breakfast but they were “free”, out for an “aventura” without the wives.
We made it to the Mexico border after going through about 6 checkpoints here in Belize. I was quite appalled at the way we were treated by the police and military at a couple of the checkpoints. When Marge and I travel, they kind of look at us, smile, and wave us through. However, it seems that a white male driving our 1991 F250 pulling a 1976 camper with 4 Hispansic men in the front apparently makes the officials really up tight. The rudest of the checkpoints was just north of Ladyville on the Northern Highway. We presented all of our passports and the vehicle titles as instructed and the cop wanted my “permit to pull this trailer with this truck”. I explained politely that I had the required paperwork which consisted of the titles and insurance policies for each of the vehicles. Round and round we went, they insisting that I had to have another permit. I finally had to get a bit firm and told them that I just gotten all the paperwork I needed the day before and that if they had a problem, they need to learn the laws and talk to the Ministry of Works about the required paperwork to haul trailers. They finally looked and saw that I really had just gotten the paperwork for the trailer the day before so they let us go. I was not about to bribe them to let us proceed, we live here in Belize and should not have to pay to go through checkpoints.
We got to the Belize/Mexico border at around 2pm Belize time. We figured we had plenty of time to get the permit turned in, bring the trailer right back into Belize, then go over to Chetumal for a little sightseeing, shopping, and dinner; then return to Belize, pick up the trailer and stay at one of Julio’s friend’s house here in the north. However, when we got to the Mexican side they asked for a piece of paper that I did not have. Since we didn’t have it, we had to drive the camper into Chetumal to get someone to create some sort of document so that we could turn in the permit. What we then found out, Mexico is one out ahead of Belize so it was a little after 4pm when finally got in Chetumal and the permit office at the border closes at 5pm.
So, into Chetumal we went in search of the official that could create our document. The guys from 7 Miles were looking at everything in wonder as we drove around asking directions. We finally found the building and luckily there were 5 of us since there was hardly any parking near the building. Alex went with me to get the document (hopefully) while the other 3 stayed with the truck in case it had to be moved. We had to get some more directions to the proper office, waited for the official to finish with someone else, and then explained what we were looking for. The gentleman was very helpful, had a secretary type of the document for us, we paid about $10US for the document, and out we went to see if the truck was still where we left it – luckily, it was.
At this point it was just before 5pm so there was not time to get back to the border to turn in the permit. I jokingly said to the guys that we now had to go to the US/Mexico border to get some paperwork there so we had to start heading north. Alex helped me start this prank with the others and off we set, just going north by keeping the sun to our left side of the truck. What the other guys didn’t know at the time was I knew of a campground where we stayed on our way down in Jan, 2007, and I stayed in August when I was helping Marjie & Chuck drive down, that was in Calderitas, just north of Chetumal. I finally found a familiar road, took a right and headed straight towards the ocean. At this point, the other guys had figured that we were not going to the States and something was up.
I found the campground with no problems and as we pulled in the gates they just stared at the place: nice green lawn, beautiful palapa restaurant, big, clean pool to swim, and the ocean was at the far side of the grounds. I asked if we could park near the ocean and we put the trailer as close to the water as we possibly could – what a view. The guys absolutely loved the place.
They walked around and started taking pictures since they found my camera in the truck console.
Next chore was to unhook the trailer and drive around town to see some sights and find a place for dinner. What a pretty city. We drove around as the sun set and the lights were coming on along the waterfront. We had no idea where we were heading or what streets went where but we had fun exploring. I was trying to find Sam’s Club (I had been told there was one somewhere downtown) and we finally rounded a bend and there it was. I was concentrating on the one way streets going around a statue in the middle of a square, not realizing that the statue was a very famous depiction of some Christian religious significance; everyone else was staring at the statue (stupid Gringo, don’t you know what is important when you see it?).
The size of Sam’s Club was unbelievable for these guys. I had to explain that in fact, this Sam’s Club was about ¼ the size of the WalMarts and Sam’s Clubs in the US. Inside, they just walked around looking at all the STUFF for sale. They were in awe of all the merchandise. At one point, while we were in the middle of the store, Angel turned and asked me if I thought there was a freezer in San Ignacio, Belize the size of the one in the store. My response, “I don’t think there is a STORE as big as this freezer in San Ignacio!”
I bought some strawberries and grapes (since I miss them from the US) and we went out to walk around the statue that was on the other side of the parking lot from Sam’s. We took pictures in front of it and sat and enjoyed the evening under the stars in the square for about ½ hour, then we were off in search of dinner down the road. After dinner we stopped at another square where there was music playing from a boom box and young kids were practicing dancing on an open stage under the spotlights.
We returned to the campground and laid out under the stars just listening to the ocean waves lapping against the breakwalls and looking at the constellations. Everyone fell asleep but me so I got up, went into the trailer to sleep on a bed (yes, at this point, I find I really need a bed for my back to sleep for the night). In the morning I found that 2 other guys had come into the camper in the middle of the night to sleep in beds, 1 guy was still sleeping at the edge of the breakwall, and one guy was sleeping in the back seat of the truck (tough trick since THAT seat is so skinny).
I sat at the edge of the water watching the sky get brighter and brighter and others slowly woke up, stretched, and drifted over to watch the sunrise as well. It was spectacular; the colors, cloud formations, early birds flying by, and the quiet lapping of the sea against the breakwall. The east got brighter and brighter and all of a sudden the sun started rising on the horizon. I have seen the sunrise many times and it never ceases to amaze me that once the sun breaks over the horizon, it rises very quickly until you can see the entire star.
We ate the strawberries, grapes, and the food that I brought from home, hard boiled eggs, oranges, and grapefruits off our trees. We cleaned everything up, took showers (I had the only towel though so the last guy got to use a fairly wet towel to dry off), hooked up the truck and trailer, paid for the night (250 pesos – about $20US for all of us, I think there was a discount since they recognize me from my 2 other stays), and set off at around 7:30am to see some of the stores in the business district of Chetumal.
I remembered a mall with a McDonalds and Burger King from driving through on previous occasions so that was our “goal”, to find the mall. We had to ask for directions a number of times, had fun driving around and around the circles (called Glorietas in Chetumal) until we finally saw the golden arches in the distance. We cut through some side streets, parked the rig way out in the lot, divided up our pesos so we could do some shopping and started wandering around.
The guys had never seen so many stores with so much stuff before. They were amazed. Alex brought the camera along to take pictures of everything. I explained to them that this mall was actually quite small compared to US malls. They loved the high ceilings, smooth tiled floors, clear windows for just browsing, all the SHOE stores (oh, yeah, TONS of women’s shoes).
We found some large message chairs setup in the middle of the mall so we had to try them out, just 5 pesos for 3 minutes. Julio tried it first. He almost jumped out when the machine started moving up and down his spine! We got all but Angel to try it for a little bit, they were laughing and joking the whole time about using it and couldn’t imagine why someone would buy one let alone spend so much money on just a chair.
We found a store similar to WalMart; it had groceries, clothes, electronics, hardware, linens, etc. There was even a restaurant so we had a “real” breakfast. After wandering around the stores for a couple of hours we decided to hit the road and head back to the border to try our luck at crossing again. In the parking lot before we set off, we gathered up all our pesos to change back to $BLZ and we found that no one bought anything since they could get everything cheaper in Guatemala.
Back at the border, we turned in the sticker along with the letter explaining that I had misplaced my other paper which the woman was happy to accept. She came out to take a picture of the serial number on the trailer for the records which is SOP for them. We searched and searched for about 20 minutes for the serial number and couldn’t find it. She kept saying that she had to have a picture of the serial number so we kept looking. Finally, she decided that we had been through enough (and I think she kind of felt sorry for us since we couldn’t find it on such an old trailer) so she gave us our receipt for turning in our sticker and we set off to cross back into Belize.
We had an uneventful trip back home from Corozal and were so happy to be back in our own neck of the woods. When we reached our last turn to go up into the jungle, we were very happy that The Ministry of Works has been working hard on the Georgeville Road to smooth it out a bit.
For everyone, it was a great trip. They are all talking about when we are going to get together for a road trip to the US. Who knows? I’m up for it, these guys would love the experience and I love to travel. For now though, back to our lives in the jungle without all the hustle and bustle of the cities and where we can enjoy nature.