The photo on the far right shows the Honda & Land Rover's & roads in Mexico. Wish Belize's were so good!
I have to make a couple of points first.
1. We’re caravanning with a wonderful friend, Roy Pascascio, his son Marlon and nephew, Champ. Roy is driving a Land Rover which he’s taking down for a customer and Champ is driving a little Honda CRV, which Roy bo’t at the request of a lady in Corozal. We’re following the pack in our Toyota Tundra pickup, loaded to the gunnels with good “stuff” which we felt we couldn’t leave behind.
2. I also want to remind myself about how tired we are at this point. We left Oregon three weeks ago, delivered a few items to Roy in LA, to be shipped in the container along with all our other stuff for our new house. We all tho’t that the container would ship within the next week, but not to be. We ended up wandering around Arizona, waiting for the container to be packed so that Roy could leave. We had now been gone from Oregon for nearly three weeks.
The point to this is that we’re starting out really tired and trying not to be discouraged.
At Roy’s request, we sent him the title to our pickup ahead of time. It was hard to trust it to the mail, but in the long run it saved us time. Roy sent it ahead to his broker, so it was cleared by the time we arrived. I think they’re checking for clear titles, etc.
We met Roy Saturday morning in Pharr, TX, at the American ?? Brokers. Roy has used them for years. Actually, we arrived on Friday evening and had them inspect our pickup and go thru and inventory our entire load. I had already done it, but they must check everything themselves, and the biggy is that it must be in Spanish and of course, I don’t speak or write it. Our load is a real mess of foodstuff, kitchen items, clothing, dog paraphernalia, a couple of wooden chairs, tools, oil for the car and ? So glad that we got that done before Roy got there, as it took quite a while to accomplish and then repack. Something else I forgot to mention is that the whole west is suffering from a record breaking heat wave. It was 111 in Laredo on Friday and nearly that hot in Pharr.
On Friday morning we met Roy and the boys and completed the pedimento listing all our good stuff, the paperwork, for all three vehicles and headed for the border. We had to wait a short while there for the title for the Land Rover that Roy was transporting to catch up with us. We then headed for the crossing at McAllen, Tx. There you wait and head for the terminal in a group. Here you have to wait in line to apply for your Mexican VISA, fill out the papers and wait in line again for it to be issued, buy your Mexican insurance and here we also changed US dollars into Pesos. We changed $500US into 6500 pesos. I will say right now that that was a lucky guess. We probably paid about $5oo pesos in tolls and the rest in motels and food. It took us the better part of three days to cross Mexico.
Warning – At one of the most expensive toll booths, the toll was 140pesos. We gave him a 500. They will return your change with the receipt wrapped around the bills. We drove on as there was a string of cars behind and we didn’t want to lose our caravan. WRONG! Always count your change before leaving. We were only given 260 change. He shorted us 100. He was chatty, but of course in Spanish, smiling all the time, actually laughing at us.
Warning #2 – At the fuel pumps, be sure that they roll the starting $$s to zero. That’s the good thing about a locking cap. You can get out and ask them to roll it back before you open the cap. Otherwise they might jamb the nozzle in and start pumping and you’re total will be yours plus what was already on the meter. Of course it’s not everyone, but I did have to tell one fellow to start with zero and he just grinned like “it was worth a try”.
In this part of Mexico, the roads are really quite good. They’re nicely paved and have lines in the middle and the fog line on the right. We were really impressed, especially with the wide shoulders. The difficult part is the driving habits. They drive fast and pass anywhere and everywhere. We found out why the wide shoulders. They come up behind you, signal to pass (maybe) and then just start moving around you. You’re supposed to pull over to the far right and let them go. It’s frightening when a semi or bus is heading towards you. It seems to work, but they pass on hills, curves, anywhere. You just hope that there isn’t also a car passing coming towards you.
At the border to Belize is the real wait. We were actually importing a 2000 Toyota Tundra, which is an 8 cylinder pickup. It’s too old for acceptance into the QRP program, so we knew we had to pay duty. Ich! We stayed the night in Chetumal and headed for the border at about 10am. We tho’t we’d go earlier, but waited for Roy. Glad we did, but it made a long day. We didn’t actually leave the border until 8pm. I talked to another friend who crossed the day before and they made it thru much faster than we did. It was a hot day and there’s no place to wait.
I can’t imagine doing this without Roy. He led us directly to the place where you relinquish your Mexican VISA and show your pedimento. We were stopped at different places for insurance or bug spraying, but Roy motioned us past. The duty in Belize is to be paid in Belize $$s so Roy found his money changer, who gave us 2.07/1. Customs discounts your US dollars.
At the final customs terminal we gave Roy our paperwork for entry and then waited. We were then told that we needed to go to BAHA to get approval to bring Bailey in. We had already applied and been approved, so didn’t expect a problem. What a laugh. Luckily I had asked to have a copy of the permit emailed to me so I’d know what it looked like. When we got up the stairs to BAHA, they didn’t have us on their list. I showed him the vet inspection papers and the permit copy. He had to contact the Belize City office and they had to fax the permit. What a hoot, we were charged $5 for the fax! Everyone seems to move slowly and treat you as tho’ you’re trying to smuggle something in. They’re actually fairly nice, but suspicious. He asked a couple of questions about the dog and then wanted to inspect him. By this time our wonderfully patient, quiet dog was really hot and frustrated by all this mess. The fellow checked his neck and back and then wanted to check his ears. Bailey let him know that he’d about had enough of this silliness. When a 111# dog turns and gives you the stink eye, you think twice. Luckily, Akita’s have upright ears and the inspector could tell they were clear, so WE PASSED.
We then had to go thru immigration to get our passports stamped. This was in the same building and it was actually something to break up the wait. Our car was inspected just after lunch. We had been thru some really rough construction in Mexico during a heavy rain. It was a terrible pain at the time because the mud that was thrown up was heavy and didn’t wash off easily. This actually proved a plus at customs. The worse your vehicle looks, the better. On one of Roy’s vehicles, they even translated a line in the mud as a break in the windshield. Then the long wait began. They had to inspect our load. Customs closes at 4:30pm and the inspector finally got around to us just about that time. Roy had told him that we’d been accepted into the QRP program, but I told him that we wouldn’t officially be in the program until we go to Belize City to pay and get our paperwork. Several other fellows who had also been there all day, had to leave their vehicles and spend the night in town and come back the next day. Roy kept coming back to check with us and then head back to customs. I’m not sure why or how, but we finally got out of customs at nearly 8pm. We had to pay duty on the truck, which was more than we’d wished, but much less than it could have been. We weren’t sure it would be worth it to bring in the truck. Roy told us over and over that it’s not smart to buy a vehicle in Belize. We actually saw lots of car haulers and “vehicles in tow” on their way in. Most were in pretty bad shape, but guess they fix them up for sale here or in other Central American countries.
We couldn’t believe that we were finally, officially in Belize. The first stop we needed to make was to buy Belize auto insurance. We bo’t insurance for five days until we could get to our agent in SI. Then we crashed at a very nice place in Corozal called Hok’ ol K ‘in.
I have to say that we made the trip ok, but we wouldn’t have done it without Roy. First, we don’t speak any Spanish and the Mexicans make absolutely no effort to speak English. On the surface they’re not particularly friendly, but are usually lovely when you try to be understood and are friendly. Also, Roy has been a trucker for years and knows ways around the cities. We would have definitely been lost. He and the boys were great to be around and gave us great comfort.
Actually, the trip went great. We’re really proud of ourselves for tackling it. I know that it would be easy for younger folks, but we started this extremely tired. By the time we got to our new home we’d traveled about 5200 miles.
We’re now at home (sort of) in Bullet Tree. We’re actually camping in our little guest house while they’re working on our house. Right now it’s frame and roof, but it’s looking beautiful to us.