Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ron & Phil

This past week Ron and his son Phil came to visit from Michigan. Most of our guests are tourists looking to explore the Maya Ruins, learn about the Maya culture, ride horses through the jungles and Pine Ridge, explore caves, learn some about the flora and fauna in the area, and visit the picturesque rivers and waterfalls. Ron and Phil were on a different mission though; theirs was to search for a vacation/retirement location with the opportunity for Phil to keep working since he is too young to retire at this point.

They found us online and decided that since just a few years ago we had accomplished what they were looking to do, we would be a good resource for information about moving to Belize. In our emails back and forth we learned a little about what they were looking for and agreed to help them gather more information about our area.

Their plane landed at the international airport and they decided to cross the country the least expensive way possible.

They took a cab from the airport for US$25 (standard fare) to the middle of Belize City (approximately ½ hour) where they caught a local bus for US$3.50 each to San Ignacio (approximately 3 hours). They then found a cab that would bring them to our farm (approximately 45 minutes) for US$25, exactly what we charge for the trip as well. Since we don’t have phone service at our farm we recommend that if you need a ride from San Ignacio and are not certain of your arrival time in town, it is best to just take a cab or you can email us and wait for us to come pick you up, in which case you need to wait in town until we get your email and then drive in to pick you up.

Upon arrival and during the first part of their journey across the country, Ron and Phil were not very impressed with Belize. The international airport is located in Ladyville, north of Belize City.

The ride south from the airport to the bus terminal takes you through some of the city’s commercial districts, run-down neighborhoods, and through the middle of some busy shopping areas. The sights are in stark contrast to the scenic jungle or peaceful beach pictures that are typically used for advertising Belize as an eco-friendly, tranquil vacation spot.

After starting out of Belize City on the bus, they were quickly out of the city limits and into what is known as the low-lying pine savanna.

This area reminds me of parts of southern Florida, very flat, buggy and marshy during the rainy season and scrubby grassy areas during the dry season. To me, the first 20 miles or so on the Western Highway is pretty sparse and unimpressive.

Once you get to around mile 25 though, there are more pines, some small hills, and you can see the sleeping giant that lays guard to the foothills of the Cockscomb Mountains. After passing through Belmopan though, Ron and Phil started to see what others see in the beauty of the country because they started to climb slowly into the rolling hills and lush jungle vegetation. After catching their cab in San Ignacio and starting up the Pine Ridge Road, they were immediately taken with the surrounding jungle but were not anticipating the road being in such poor condition. Their cab driver had a Ford Escort, which by definition (Escorts have not been manufactured since 2002) is not a very new vehicle, and with very little ground clearance, the trip was very slow and bumpy – this is why we drive a small 4x4 truck which sits up higher and if guests are looking to rent a vehicle, we recommend a 4x4.

Based on their first impressions of Belize, they opted not to contact a real estate agent to go around looking at property. However, they did go down the road to take a quick look at one piece of property just to get an idea of what the prices and house conditions were. After looking, they had a better concept of what the real costs of property are here.

Some things to keep in mind about purchasing property here:
1. Determine who legally owns the land and also what the ownership status is, either titled or leased. While you can purchase leased land, the process to get a title can be very lengthy (as we have heard from others and seen others experience, usually over one year).
2. Look at other similar land in the area. Land and property prices vary drastically and you should do research to find out if you are getting a fair deal.
3. Examine the buildings, and the conditions of the buildings. Unmaintained structures tend to deteriorate quickly in the conditions here.
4. Evaluate the available utilities. Are you able to get on the grid for water, electric, and get cell phone reception? If not, what do you need to spend to get these services or what do you need to do to provide them for yourself?
5. Determine what you need to do to keep your property safe if you leave for any length of time, especially if you plan to spend part of the year here and part of the year somewhere else.
6. Plan on what you would like to bring to Belize and then work with the import duties to see if transporting goods to Belize is better than purchasing like goods when you get here. Import duties are high, but the quality of goods found here is questionable, brand names are copied onto goods (our “Whirlpool” stove we bought here is really not a Whirlpool, it just has the brand name on it) and appliances are expensive here.
7. And you need to remember, this is not your home country. If you don’t like the people, climate, government, infrastructure, etc., you need to work with what is all ready here instead of trying to change everything to what you may be familiar with from your home country.

Ron and Phil decided to go to Ka’ax Tun on their second day with us to learn a bit about the jungle and some Maya history as well as experience some of the small caves and rock formations found here in Belize. On their third day they went up to the Caracol archeological site in the Pine Ridge to see the Maya structures and stopped at Rio Frio Cave and Rio On Pools on the way back.

Since they were flying out the next day, they had Selmo, their guide for the day take them back into San Ignacio for the evening so that they could catch a cab to the airport first thing in the morning.

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