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#210197 - 12/06/03 03:05 AM Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
MissLena Offline
previous chapter...
back to the beginning...

The Two Gringas Mexico leg is done, and that thread is getting to be so very long, that I'm beginning the Belize leg with a fresh one. —Lena

________________________________________

Two Gringas Drive in Belize

Day 8, Part 2 — Thursday afternoon 23 October 2003 — Belize

"Double your paper, double your fun!"

Well, even tho' we have got *to* Belize, we are not yet actually *in* Belize, and so the story must continue...

Mile 4169 - Santa Elena, Corozal District, Belize

During our loop through the Free Zone and subsequent exit and turn toward Customs and Immigration, we have missed a crucial sign: it says "STOP — Compulsory Quarantine!"

Not that we would necessarily have actually stopped for this sign, as there are no buildings or uniforms of any significance anywhere near the sign — just a couple dusty little shacks among the abandoned vehicles and rubbish and various dusty layabouts to match.

We pause for the first uniform we find, but he just waves vaguely in the direction we're heading anyway, which is toward the obvious customs checkpoint. Which is, of course, exactly not what we're supposed to do.

Now, they've actually got some very nice people here on the Belize side of the border, who wear a (yellow, was it?) tee shirt which has stenciled upon it something like "Customs Assistance", and these nice folks smile genuine smiles and are there for no other purpose than to round up lost souls such as ourselves and put us back on the path of the righteous. Free of charge.

One such angel gets to us just before the scowling uniform at the checkpoint can, and we are given a (to our lunch-less, sun-scorched, addled minds) complex series of procedures to negotiate and are then packed back off to the aforementioned "Compulsory Quarantine!"

This time we do see the sign, after a U-turn, and "STOP!" next to it and wait for something to happen.

Then a dusty, shambling little creature appears from the shade cast by one of the shacks — I am somehow reminded of a sunbaked, Creole version of Gollum — and behind him he is dragging what appears to be an ordinary home-use tank sprayer.

He eagerly explains the process, the fee, the tip he should get in addition to the fee, and then — for some reason — drops his can and ushers me off toward another little shack which turns out to represent one of the three Belizean insurance companies — presumably the one which also gives him a tip to which he is entitled.

And at some point during this show, we are joined by another dusty creature who has shambled across the street, this one young and lanky, who the first creature sternly informs me is "...a liar and a cheat — don't give him anything!" while simultaneously the lanky unit is in my other ear explaining about how he forms the vital link in the process. The stereoscopic effect is highly disorienting.

Denise sits-guard in the car as I am hustled off to the insurance hovel by my entourage, where I buy a month's worth for I forget how little ($30 Bz, maybe?).

Meantime, back at the car, Gollum has done whatever it is he does, and as I return to the vehicle I am presented with a bill for (I think it was) $7 Bz.

As I am pulling out a few US dollars to ransom the Bomber, and dancing back-and-forth in a half-circle to keep Lanky behind me and away from my money, Gollum ushers in the next member of the cast — a very business-like Hispanic fellow with a bulging money belt.

"Dis-a-man give you real good price pesos, U.S. dollar too!"

I am beginning to feel like a nice fat hunk of The Other White Meat, trapped between the back end of my car and the feeding frenzy. I could take any one of these piranha, but I am nearly helpless against the press of numbers. My only hope is to throw chum and get out of the water as quickly as possible.

I give the cambiodor my pesos and he rips me off for about 5%. I know better than to give up any US dollars and, had I been thinking clearly, I would've held onto the pesos too, since I'll be driving down again in January!

I pay the "Compulsory Quarantine!" bill with a $10 Bz note, which Gollum pockets (without regard to subtraction) in exchange for a small stamped paper. Moneybag, meantime, has vanished without a trace.

As I try to make a break for the driver's side, I am headed off by Lanky, regarding whom Gollum seems to have had a change of heart, and now feels deserves a tip for his contribution to the enterprise. I lose a couple more dollars as I dive for the sanctuary of the Bomber's cockpit. In the left-side mirror I see Gollum taking his cut from Lanky.

I start the car — and the A/C.

"What'd he do?"

"Not much, he sprayed some stuff around the wheels, that was about it."

"Was he spraying the undercarriage and all?"

"Nope — just a little squirt on each wheel."

"Well I hope he didn't get any on the paint."

"Not much chance of that..."

. . .

We creep forward a hundred yards or so and debate our next move. We compile and average our mis-remembered misinformation and somehow end up parked in the correct lot next to the correct building.

The instructions were to empty the vehicle and carry all our "luggage" into the Customs and Immigration building for inspection. We look mournfully upon the press of boxes, bags, carry-alls, rubbish, dirty laundry, tools, emergency kit, etc. It's at least 100 yards to the door. There is just no way...

We lock the car and amble off toward Customs empty-handed, in the hopes of pleading or paying for someone to come out to the car for the luggage inspection.

And we're halfway to the door when Denise has a stroke of pure genius — the chick has learned a lot during our short passage through Mexico.

"Hey — we have luggage!"

"Yeah, in spades. So?"

"No, I mean we have luggage, you know, my carry-all, your red gym bag..."

Comprehension passes over my face like sunrise.

"The guy said 'take all your *luggage* into Customs'!"

"Right. And we do, in fact, have several pieces of luggage!"

We jog back to the car and each grab a couple pieces of "luggage." The woman's a genius, plain and simple.

We enter a vast concrete hall which is populated by only a few migrant souls such as ourselves, and a roughly equal number of uniforms and badges. I shudder to think how much time the process would require if a significant number of folks ever wanted into Belize.

We have been worn down. The Mexican uniforms, Belizean uniforms, and all the in-betweeners have nearly broken us. We are in no condition to discuss our purposes in Belize or the importation of the vehicle. We agree on a scenario as we approach the Immigration desk and drop our luggage. Wordlessly, we produce our passports.

"What are you going to do in Belize?"

I am momentarily stumped.

"Visit?"

"Where are you staying?"

"Placencia."

"Where?"

"Uh, a hotel?"

"How long?"

"Uh, a week or two?"

"You've been in Belize before."

A statement; the visas in the passports are obvious.

"Yes, we come a couple times each year."

"And you are bringing your own vehicle?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

Again, I am momentarily stumped.

"Uh, so we can see more of the country?"

"Then what?"

"What?"

"Then what will you do with the vehicle?"

"Uh, drive home?"

Evidently the concept "road-trip" has yet to reach this far south; the uniform seems highly suspicious of our intent. The standard Belizean tourist visa is for one month. She gives us ten days. We are too weak to object — or even to notice, actually — not until much later anyway...

We advance slightly to the Customs function (at least they don't insist on putting them in distant buildings like the Mexicans do). Denise is instructed to take both our luggage and exit the rear of the building to wait outside with the other passengers. There is utterly no interest as to what might be in the bags, but—

"You may not come back through! You wait out there for the vehicle!"

Denise trundles off under her double load like a whipped mule. I am escorted back in the other direction by a badge with a clipboard. This is the part I'm dreading...

"Open the vehicle."

Duh. I open both doors.

"And the boot."

And the only thing I'm really worried about is the enormous aluminum cube of the long-range tank which occupies 80% of the trunk. It appears, however, to have become invisible.

"What's this?"

The badge jabs her pen at a fair-sized box jammed in on one side of the tank. It's a top-of-the-line inkjet printer requested by a friend. In the original box.

"Accessory for my laptop."

The pen jabs, "What's this?"

"Emergency road kit."

It's a complete toolset for a mechanic friend. The badge moves to the passenger compartment. She looks in the large plastic bag which crowns the heap in the back seat and discovers ripe, week-old dirty laundry (how'd that get there?).

"What's in there?"

A brown box sticking out from the base of the heap which contains office supplies unavailable in Belize.

"My books."

"And this?"

"My coffee maker."

"New?"

"Oh no, very used! I have to have my coffee in the morning, you know! Would you like to look?" I am anxious to prove the verity of my one truthful statement.

"No."

The badge completes her cursory inspection. I doubt very much that she has bought into any of this. It's just not worth her effort to pursue in the heat of the afternoon.

"Would you like me to open the hood?"

"No."

The clipboard is heading back toward the building. Once again, I am momentarily stumped, but a perfunctory gesture causes me to hastily close up the car and follow my mistress back to receive paper.

I am instructed to return to my vehicle and pass through the checkpoint to pick up my passenger and luggage. At the checkpoint I dispense my paper to the uniform, who inspects is at such great length that I begin to wonder if he has seen this kind of thing before. Eventually my paper is returned and I am waved through. I am still not sure what function the checkpoint fulfills.

Finally, I pull up beside Denise and our luggage.

Denise, who has been forced to stand with the various other passengers, out in the blistering afternoon sun, no seating, no shade or water provided whatsoever — for about an hour. Had it been pouring down rain (as it did that morning), they and their baggage would have been in an alternate predicament. But—

"You may not come back through!"

Denise had tested the rule once, and been so rebuffed. Evidently I arrived just in the nick of time, as she was in the process of heading back in to resume the debate in a somewhat different tone. Lord knows what they would've gotten us for then...

We reload the Bomber. Denise recovers under the influence of sweet liquids and A/C as we pick up speed, heading southward into Belize.

Soon there are cheers, pantomime champagne toasts and hi-fives all around — we made it, we actually made it!



But, alas, the celebration is just ever so slightly premature...

. . .

Clic here to see all Day 8 pix...

Text and accompanying photographs are copyright 2003 Galena Alyson Canada.

___________________________________________
MissLena is Galena Alyson Canada
Her email is themisslena α gmail σ com
Her personal blog is at galenaalysoncanada.blogspot.com
The new Two Gringas blogsite is TheTwoGringas.blogspot.com


Edited by MissLena (03/12/08 04:56 AM)

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#210198 - 12/16/03 07:04 PM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
indygal Offline
Miss Lena, Sorry for the delay, was out of town.
Thank you, for the last installment. Hope you are enjoying your stay in Belize. Can we beg another chapter? Indygal
_________________________
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

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#210199 - 12/17/03 06:00 AM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
Cooper1 Offline
Oh my goddess, Miss Lena, remind me never to attempt to drive into Belize from Mexico!

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#210200 - 12/17/03 01:08 PM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
dbdoberman Offline
MORE! MORE! MORE! Thanks Miss Lena!

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#210201 - 12/17/03 06:20 PM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
MissLena Offline
> Oh my goddess, Miss Lena, remind me never to attempt to drive into Belize from Mexico!

OK, now hang on here jussaminnit... My intent is *not* to dissuade folks from driving in Mexico or Belize or from one to the other.

Remember folks, this is storytelling; that doesn't mean anything here is untrue (it's all true and more-or-less as-it-happened), but it does mean that seven minutes spent dealing with a corrupt official makes more story than seven hours of uneventful, scenic road.

There is a disproportionate representation of "interesting" stuff vs. "nice" stuff here -- not much story in watching a sunset from your hammock, but give me a petty official with a bad goma...!

Our trip went quite well -- so well that we're doing it again at the end of January. There are many, many folks who make the trip repeated times and like it (someone out there want to comment on this?).

My only caveat would be your own attitude. You can check that using the following simple quiz:

Q: I look at a flight delay as...
(a) a chance to meet fellow travelers.
(b) don't bug me with your silly questions, my book is just getting good...
(c) an opportunity to ream the counter attendant a new one.

If you answered (a) or (b) don't worry, you're good to go. If you answered (c) you'll probably end up in jail: stay home. ;-)

'Lena

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#210202 - 12/17/03 06:37 PM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
MissLena Offline
> Can we beg another chapter?
. . .
> MORE! MORE! MORE! Thanks Miss Lena!

Yeah, OK, OK, hang on, I'm workin' onnit... ;-)

'L

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#210203 - 12/18/03 04:21 PM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
indygal Offline
Miss Lena, You are just too much fun. smile cool laugh
_________________________
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

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#210204 - 12/20/03 12:37 AM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
Laguna Punta Offline
On to Peru!!!! eek
_________________________
Gone fishing!!

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#210205 - 12/21/03 04:02 AM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
indygal Offline
Oh, Bill don't send Miss Lena off to Peru, she is working on another chapter. If she gets on the road again she won't have time to entertain us. Besides I was hoping to meet her. She is so funny - I'll bet she is fun too.

Miss Lena where on earth are you these days? Or rather where in Belize are you?
_________________________
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

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#210206 - 12/21/03 07:20 PM Re: Two Gringas Drive *in* Belize
MissLena Offline
Oh, I don't know, I've always been curious about Peru...

Don't worry, I'm actually just finishing up the next episode this morning.

As to where I am, actually I just got back to Seattle for Xmas, and I'll be spending January getting things squared away here and the next vehicle prepped for the drive back down, currently scheduled to start Friday 30 January 2004...

Yep, we're nutz.

'Lena

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