Guatemala to Belize

Dear Asher,

Though we had to say goodbye to the wisdom of this beautiful town, there is still more to learn on the open road. Packing was a breeze and the oatmeal smooth so we were on the side of the road with thumbs out by 7:30am. The collectivo ride to the Belizean border was crammed full and I had to spend some of it standing hunched over with the small of my back touching the ceiling. The air was crisp, making a pleasant drive past miles and miles of jungle, carved out to make room for cattle. We planned our budget so well that we paid our driver with our final Quetzal.

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In all of our backpacking adventures we have crossed nine borders by foot and aside from the odd “foreigner fee” scams easily diverted, we have not had any real hiccups. Until today. When we crossed the border from Honduras to Guatemala we went through the motions as usual. But when looking back, we realized we made a crucial error. The customs counter for entry into Guatemala was really high so we could not see what was being done to our passports on the other side. After a short time, they simply slid the passports back to us, we looked at our photos to make sure we had the right ones, showed them to the gun yielding border guard, then went on our way. We assumed they gave us a Guatemala entry stamp and we assumed wrong. Now wanting to exit Guatemala, there was no proof of date for entry except the exit date on the Honduras stamp. A slick scam if we ever saw one. After much discussion with “the boss,” we whittled our fee down to $40US and we know the only reason we were not paying more was because “the boss” kept looking at our cute little boy.

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We carefully watched the ink hit our passports when crossing into Belize, then crammed four rolling suitcases, three large 70L backpacks, four adults and a baby into a tiny taxi. To avoid the taxi maul at border crossings, the Belize government has made fixed prices for taxis who take turns driving passengers to San Ignacio. Our driver recommended J & R’s Guesthouse and we were happy to find a nice room for all four of us in a hostel with a kitchen for under $30US. Granny was not feeling the best so we made a pit stop at a clinic so Granny could get some antibiotics and the friendly Cuban trained doctor gave Granny an entire physical. Saturday is market day in San Ignacio and we all enjoyed strolling around looking at the colorful produce, crafts and people.

San Ignacio has not changed a lot since we were here five years previous so it was easy to find Erva’s restaurant. One day on our last trip in Belize, we noticed that Erva, the owner of the best Belizean restaurant in San Ignacio, was extremely busy preparing catered meals for a large NGO group residing in town. We offered to help her in the kitchen, mostly doing dishes and dicing vegetables, and in return, she gave us a free meal and one free night in their guesthouse. They even invited us over to their home for a BBQ. We really enjoyed our time with Landy and Erva and were happy to see they were still providing tasty meals to travelers. We ordered her famous footlong burritos and Grumpy tried the lamb curry special of the day. The food was great and Asher, you loved the salad with starfruit and cilantro the best.

We returned to our room to catch up on sleep, skype calls, emails and writing, then spent the evening strolling through town, chatting with a retired Canadian couple who are cycling from Bolivia to Montreal and eating some delicious homemade sweet potato and cabbage soup, your favorite. The five of us were in one room with three beds and seven pieces of luggage, so cozy was an understatement. Grumpy didn’t snore and you slept like a champ as always, so everyone managed to get a good night sleep, ready to hit the open road again in the morning.

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