The Yucatan Express Trip
Got tired of waiting around for someone from this list to take the ferry trip so the hubby and I loaded up the 1988 Toyota pickup and called the ferry and got our Mexican car insurance, our Mexican leaf permit number and a whole bunch of duplicate copies and on the 31st of January we headed for Tampa. Arrived in Tampa and fueled up the truck. (Took only one cooler filled with some canned goods, a VCR, spare tire and necessary automobile parts that included spare belts, etc. one duffel bag and two small carry on's for the ship part of the voyage). Supposedly by arriving via ship we are allowed to have $300.00 worth of goods for travel in and around Mexico. Don't know if it was true or not but the Mexicans have really cut down on what you are allowed to haul thru the country.
The ferry people were pretty well organized. Here are the facts and figures. Had 201 passengers, 33 private vehicles, four motorcycles and 7 semi trailers loaded onto the ferry. My guess would be that over half of the group (which included lots of older people) were Canadians. Evidently Progresso Mexico has a large group of Canadians that come down as tourists. Doing a little research we found another two couples that were headed for Belize.
The ferry was really okay. Nothing that fancy, they are forcing you to buy the meal ticket plan. Seems that a lot of people are cheap and were smuggling food into their rooms. (Sure squashed my hopes of being cheap and smuggling food into the room.) Total cost for car, my husband and myself with the meal ticket and a private room with all the taxes and port charges was $608.50 US. Only additional cost was the Mexican Insurance which was about $40.00 US for a four day policy.
We probably had the best seas ever had on the Gulf of Mexico but by Saturday evening I had about had it with being at sea. Retired to my cabin to pray that land would soon be reached. One of the Belizeans couple was also ill and not feeling very well. Will say that I was the only person up at 5:am every morning walking on the decks for my exercise. At about 6:am the smokers of the world arrived outside to smoke away. Lucky that smoking was banned inside the ship.
To be honest even with some nice people traveling with us I got bored. If you don't drink and gamble, have a queasy stomach and like to walk, being on a ship is not my idea of fun.
Arrived in Progresso at the dock at 9:am. People for the day disembarked first, followed by people with no vehicles and then the parties with vehicles. By 11:00 am we were off the ship. Our plan was to head to Chitchen-itza and view the park, get a hotel room and spend the night and head out early the next morning. Hooked up with another couple driving to the Sittee and made arrangements with them to follow us. On going thru Progresso we were looking for what everyone told us were four banks but neither of us spotted them. So onward to the ruins. Good roads and excellent signage by the Mexicans. On the way I spotted an ATM machine and the other couple had not brought a ATM card but I had mine. Well the hopes were dashed when my card would not work in the machine. So off to the ruins. First problem 10 pesos to park but neither of us have any Mexican money. After talking with the parking attendant he instructed us to pull over and park in a special area. With my limited spanish I was able to discern that we could exchange money and pay later. So then we spot a police officer approaching us about parking in this area. Gave him our little story about no dinero and he had us park in another spot.
On Sundays admittance to the park is free and there were lots of tourists. Lucky for me the other lady loved the ruins and her and I went off and left the husbands talking to each other and viewed the place. After that we backtracked to the Pyramid hotel and got rooms for the night. (41.00 US) Discount if you did not use a credit card.
The crowd at the hotel consisted of us four and about five other cars. Nobody at this hotel. Did have 22 cats, four dogs, and some ducks. The other couple was concerned about not having a guard for the parking lot the husband went down and talked with the manager and he said someone is always at the front desk and this is a small town. Okay with us. In the meantime the other couple says to us "You do know that you don't have any brakelights on your truck?" Husband hangs upside down in the truck for about 45 minutes looking under the dash board with me standing behind the vehicle replying "no, still no brakelights."
Both us and the other couple had food in our coolers so we sat outside our rooms and ate our little food. Off to bed with the plan to be on the road early.
Up early for me. Husband says no walking in the dark in Mexico. I twiddle my thumbs and pet the dogs waiting for the sun to come up. On the road at dawn, no brakelights and heading for Valladolid to catch #295 heading for Chetumal. Well you think that four gringos looking for #295 could find that road. Guess again. After we drive thru the city of about 65,000. people we pull over and have a discussion. I being the chief map reader declare that we have missed the turnoff. The other couple think that it is still up ahead. Send the two husbands that know no spanish off to ask directions. They do return and say yup we missed the turn off and some gentlemen says follow him and he will show us the road. So we back track thru town and he points us down the the one road in the town square that has no signs. (Guy must be a good direction giver- he came complete with a piece of chalk and he chalked out on the road surface for us the turns that we needed to make.) We continue on.
Leaving Mexico and entering Belize
The highway #295 is a lonely road, not much traffic and naturally no shoulders to access if you have any problem. Had a police checkpoint at the crossing into Quintana Roo and we were just waved thru. From Limones to Chetumal they are working on the road. Not sure but looks like they are attempting to four lane. The original plan was to spend the second night on the road in Chetumal and then cross over into Belize on Tuesday, thus avoiding the Monday morning jam. However the brake light problem put the halt to that idea and we decided to cross that morning instead.
Exiting Mexico was a breeze, turned in our sticker and had our passports stamped and onto Belize.
First of all this was the very first morning that Customs and Immigration have moved.
Of course the question would be how would anyone know this fact. We stopped at the old building and lo and behold it looked empty. Checked my watch and it is 11:30 am. Could it be that all of the people are on an early lunch. Wander back out to the truck and here comes an official. Informs us that customs and immigration are in new buildings and that we will have to travel about a quarter of a mile down the road. But first you must go and get the vehicle sprayed. Sprayed for what we ask? For bugs. Right. Cost $8.50 Belize. Do receive an official looking receipt. Its onto Customs.
Now as we are headed to the new building I keep telling my husband lets have some patience when we get there. So we veer off and down an embankment and there it is the HUGE, NEW rock filled parking lot surrounded by a chain link fence and in the midst is a nice new building. Looks like there are only about four people in front of us. Husband goes in and gets a valuator and he comes out immediately and does the truck. Wow we really are impressed. Last time thru it took 3 hours before the guy even looked at the truck. Next we request that Kuylan (sp) get our work. No problem. Kid jumps on a bike and pedals past a guard shack and then we sit and wait. We wait, we wait, we wait, we wait, we wait (well you get the idea). Then lunch comes around and everything seems to come to a standstill. The cashier wanders off, then some of the valuators, then its just us, one official and the rest of the people that have arrived after us. At about 1 pm they all start wandering back from I assume somewhere up on the hill where the HUGE NEW immigration building is. Our young kid finally returns with the paperwork and it ends up thrown on a desk.
Reports that this is the first day and only Kuylan has electricity and is the only one doing paperwork. Now the problem is our workers are back but it looks like lunch is just arriving. By now the regular importers are back standing outside and looking thru a glass as the cashier/receptionist types one pinkie at a time everyone's information into the computer. In the meantime I ask about insurance. Told its back in the little green house when you cross in. Say well no one was there when we came past. Hmmm maybe they aren't there today. Then I ask after we are done here do we have to go to immigration and get stamped in. Tell us that their is a lady at the guard shack that was supposed to stamp us in when we entered the compound. Well she wasn't there when we came thru. Back out to find her and get our passports stamped. Finally after the 8 or so people after us get on there way, we are still standing there. Where's our paperwork we ask? Duh. What paperwork? So I get to stand at the window and stare at the gal as she looks around. Finally found it, got it entered, we pay, go to leave and the guard at the exit tells us we can't leave because the valuator has not signed our forms. Back up to go find the guy and have him sign off. 2:38 pm we leave and we are on the road.
My thoughts at this point are many. First of all the building and the parking lot are nice, but there are two immediate problems that I see. First of all one little bench to have all of us sit on. It only seats about four to five people and then the restrooms are all marked staff only. All the men were pissing in the parking lot. Next what on earth is wrong with having some of the employees keep working while the others go to lunch? About four or five valuators and one typist/cashier to handle all the input. Also no change. Now how can you not have change at a place that you are taking money all day long. Four hours to clear one truck.
Onto Orangewalk where a flat tire and it's repair slow us down and we decide to spend the night at a friends house in Ladyville rather than drive on down to the house. Stop in Corozal to find an insurance agent to write us a thirty day policy. Good thing we did because their is a roadblock sit up on the Northern Highway at the Burrell Boom cut-off.
Looking at my notes a correction. It only took three hours to clear customs. Just seemed like four hours. LOL
Had a wonderful week in Belize. Our village is being pretty quiet on the election front. Having some road repair done around maybe in hopes of some votes and one of the Belizeans was kind enough to loan me some of the PUP campaign literature to read. Same old stuff and rehashing of accomplishments. Did get my hands on a copy of the Citrus Industry Report for the year 2001-2002. Had financial report and everything included. Interesting reading. After about two days of radio talk on Love FM we switched to tapes. I did get to see some of the television interview with Francis Gegg and the Elrington boys. Made it down to PG, all but ten miles of the road is done. Things are tight in our village, seems that since the road paving project has moved further south that the mechanics are having some troubles. Paved road means fewer tire repairs and car problems, less work. Still doing banana and so far shrimp is our salvation. Did see a payapa crop in the works just south of Corozal and the cane farmers were hauling to the sugar factory.
Got to see our building with the roof on and the contractor did a nice job. Also got our water service in and we were waiting on electricity. Went and paid a deposit of $200.00 for the new account and and additional $200.00 to buy the wire to run from a transformer two poles down from the building. Naturally we would have like our very own transformer on a pole outside the building but first their were no poles, second they did not have a transformer and third we were afraid to ask what the cost to us was going to be. So we went with what they had available at the time. Did pick up insurance on the building at this time and that is probably going to be a disagreement. We wanted just enought coverage to pay in case the roof comes off in another hurricane, our figuring being the rest of the building will stand. Guess that the underwriter will make the decision for us.
The only big problem was leaving on American Airlines. When we left they said that one way tickets out of Belize were going for $193.50. When I talked to my friend about getting tickets was told that the price was now about $300.00 one way. I called American and got their song and dance about price going up. The early am flight on Tuesday had about 50 people going back to Miami. They tried to use the theory that I had not bought my ticket 7 days in advance. Ended up getting a price of about $235.00.
For all the people planning on taking the ferry. Biggest problem is that every vehicle has to have its own driver. The driver drives the vehicle on and off the boat themselves. Next time I would have gone with the cheaper rooms just because the common bathrooms and showers were regular sized. Don't know if anyone knows this guy but there was a guy from San Pedro trying to get a Yukon SUV off and about a 25foot trailer filled with satellite dishes. He had declared himself a tourist on his application instead of intransit. Did not have a customs broker and last I saw of him the Mexican authorities were not going to let him off the boat. (Apparently he knew that this was going to be a problem but thought that he would give it his best shoot anyway and see what happened) At customs you get to push a traffic light button and if you get a green you proceed, if a red you unload the vehicle. We got a green light so away we went. So it is not like you can load the vehicle and get away without getting a broker if you are planning on taking alot of stuff into Belize. One of the other Belizean couples had a small truck and two engines and transmissions in the back. He said that he had to pay around $279.00 US for his paperwork on the stuff in the truck. He was behind us so I don't know if he had additional problems or not. So please keep in mind that we went as tourist with only declaring a camera and VCR, one cooler with small food supply and besides our truck repair items two small suitcases. We thought that we might have a problem because my husband has thirty five stamps into Belize in his passport and I have twenty eight. But nothing was said to us. Being a landlubber just happy that the ferry ride was only 36 hours.
Click here to return to the main articles page.