Sunday, March 11, 2012

airport trip - Belize roads!

A good friend of ours has really been struggling with debilitating health problems for a couple of years.  His wife was finally able to arrange for his care, his appointments in the US and got him ticketed to Florida.  They had planned to take a taxi in, but I decided to drive them instead.  It costs about half as much, now that we have butane in the truck and I could be there for Diane.  She's so worried that she's making herself sick.  Anyway, we drove into Ladyville to the airport and saw David safely onto the plane.  She'd arranged for wheelchair assistance and they were extremely helpful.  He's now safely in the hospital, getting lots of attention and tests.  We're all praying he can finally get some relief.

I haven't checked the mileage, but it's about 90 miles from Bullet Tree to the airport.  It's a two hour drive.  In the US, that would be not more than a trip to town, but here it's a serious thing.  If you haven't driven in Belize before, you are in for a real surprise.  First, the roads are TERRIBLE.  We all complain that the government wastes so much money, it seems mostly on graft, but nothing on the roads.  There's always talk, talk, talk, but they don't do anything.  It's embarrassing to pick up visitors and have their first impression be Ladyville.  It's definitely a third world country.  We always go north out of the airport and take the Burrell Boom cutoff, rather than going thru Belize City, which takes us past the scenic view of the Hattyville Prison, Ick!  The cutoff road is not pretty, but the road is one of the best.  At the end is a round-about (what a stupid idea) and then we head west on the Western Highway.  At first, the road seems fairly decent.  Two lanes, but driveable.  Thank goodness because the scenery here is depressing.  It's savanna and nothing productive will grow there.  I understand folks have tried to raise lots of different things here, but failed.  I keep stressing to visitors that this isn't the Belize that we know and love.  Just "shut your eyes and wait until we get to Cayo District.  (I have to add the "district" because locals refer to the San Ignacio/Santa Elena towns as "Cayo.")  Once you go past the zoo at milepost 26 (or so) the scenery slowly starts to change.  You start slowly climbing and you see bits of jungle.

On this part of the trip until you pass Belmopan, there are only two villages, Hattyville and St. Matthews.  These would go unnoticed, except that every village has at least one speed bump and/or passenger crossing bump.  These may, or may not be marked.  If you don't slow down to about 15mph, these can be real shock busters.

Belmopan is a couple of miles off the road and not worth taking the side trip.  You cross the bridge over Roaring Creek and then the fun begins.  You would think that since this is the only road east and west and the main road to Guatemala, as well as the way that most inland tourists travel, that this would be the best highway.  FORGET IT!  You travel through at least eight villages, with accompanying sleeping policemen (speed bumps) and the road deteriorates.  Rather than repair, they dump dirt in the holes, which down here is marl, which the rain rapidly washes away.  Sometimes they'll throw a little blacktop patch in the holes, which then becomse a bump.  There aren't lines painted, which makes sense because the edges of the road are broken and they don't put gravel on the sides, so you can flip your car if you drift to the side as the drop can be several inches.  I imagine that Prince Harry was impressed by our lovely roads during his recent visit.  I wish the politicians would quit bribing folks for their vote and spend the money on roads, but I don't see them changing in the near future. 

The additional hazards make the trip very scarey.  We left from Cayo very early so that we would miss the schoolchildren on the road.  They're so sweet, trudging to school in their uniforms with their backpacks, but they're all over the road.  Folks here treat the road like a pathway.  The bicyclists are even worse.  No reflectors, they wear dark clothes and wander all over.  If you should hit someone, not only would you be devastated, but as a gringo, driving, it's your fault.  You pay forever.

The second huge hazard is the Belize drivers.  As David said, it's a blessing that Belize drivers have x-ray vision, because they always pass at a hill or around a corner.  It must be true because, even on these hideous roads, they drive 70 - 80mph.  I just drive my drive, putting along at 60mph as they fly past.

We usually stop at Cheers restaurant to take a break after all this.  Then to Amigo's next door where they raise fantastic hydroponic lettuce.  I usually have to buy some for at least 6 other folks.  Then we toddle home.  After this trip, Diane and I were whipped.  It had been raining for a couple of days, so, of course, I had to worry about the trip up our lovely road.  As it turned out, it was a little dicey, but I made it just fine.  What a  blessing to be back on our little hill, with Art and Bailey and to just relax.

I love Belize, but her roads are not her proudest accomplishment.  We love Belize, warts and all, but sometimes the roads can seem like a pretty bit wart.  Especially when Guatemala and Mexico have decent highways.

1 comment:

sbo said...

I realize those are forsbobet doggies but I would be hard pressed not to eat one ;)