After Cozumel, we spent one night in Tulum. It was a place that I had on my list before we even left the States. The city of Tulum is inland but the ruins and the more widely visited area is laid out along a coastal highway. There isn’t a sense of a main square, but rather a long shaded road scattered with shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. With ocean views and soft, white sand we are certain that when beach time in life becomes a little more limited, we will be back. Our last stop in Mexico was a small city near Chetumal. Eric had some routine work to do on the truck and I needed to catch up on the blog. We ran into the Swiss couple we had camped next to two other times, after meeting back in San Cristobal, in Chiapas. It was great to see the familiar blue and white Westy as we pulled in. We also met a great group of Italians travelling in a giant Greyhound bus, and they were kind enough to share some tequila and give us a tour of their home. The inside was a beautiful, Ikea clad living space, which they had laid out similar to a European train; a walkway on one side and sleeping quarters and bathroom on the other. There are pros and cons of course with the size, quality and mechanical capabilities of all cars used for long term travel, but we love getting to see other people’s versions of home on the road.
Oddly enough, we crossed over the border into Belize on May 7th, exactly two months after crossing the border into Mexico on March 7th. This border was only our second one, and ended up being a bit confusing. We almost missed the office for the “check out” of Mexico and had to write a ridiculous handwritten note to the banjecito, that the card we had originally put our vehicle deposit on was lost and we needed a different Visa refunded. (While at the time we thought we were screwed and out of $200, we saw the refund one week later! Props to the system for actually working!) After officially leaving Mexico there was a surprisingly long stretch of road where you aren’t sure whether you were already in Belize and missed customs or what. Pulling up to the Belize border minutes later we realized we had just been in a strange border limbo. We got our mandatory car fumigation, passports stamped, and paid fees, whether official or not, and went on our way.
After getting through the border we quickly realized that our map function on the phone was incredibly less detailed than it had been in Mexico. And by less detailed, I mean the road we were supposed to take did not exist on the map. Eric used the terrible map I had given up on and mostly his directional sense to find the unmapped dirt road with the faded sign which pointed us down the right path. It took approximately 3 hours on a dirt road and 2 hand crank ferries to get us to our destination. Sarteneja is a sleepy, little fishing village located in the Northern tip of Belize. The residents primarily speak Spanish and are known for building wooden fishing boats. We had heard that the campground in the area, run by a Swiss woman, Natalie, was a great place for a night or two of camping and also a safe place to leave the car and ferry over to the cayes.
Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are two of the more widely known and popular cayes, or keys, of Belize. Eric and I took an incredibly bumpy ferry ride over to San Pedro, a little town located on Ambergris Caye. North of San Pedro is where the large resorts and huge homes on the beach are located. But in the town of San Pedro, you can indeed find a place to buy the largest lobster burrito ever, El Salvadorian pupusas, and chicken empanadas, all for under $5. Caye Caulker is a smaller island and without cars allowed, it makes for a much more laid back feel. The place was definitely filled with a younger vibe. Many people hung out at The Split, the place where Hurricane Hattie permanently separated the caye into two parts and a bar and restaurant has been built. It was a fun place to spend a long day on the dock and enjoy the company of other travelers. After two rather lazy days we returned to San Pedro and caught a boat back to Sarteneja to find Pedro safe and sound where we left him. When we made it back to the campground we were lucky enough to run into another couple, travelling under the guise of The Flightless Kiwis, who are on a similar, yet longer journey. Eric and Emma had been in contact back and forth and it was a treat to finally meet up and talk about experiences on the road!
Our next stop is mainland Belize, the small town of San Ignacio!