Day 41: Bye Bye Beautiful Belize

Benque Viejo del Carmen Travel Blog

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Next stop: Guatemala! Now Guatemala seems to have one major disadvantage: the country has the reputation of not being particularly safe. For the past few weeks we’d been hearing so many stories about robberies, hold-ups, raping and murder. Of course this always sounds a lot worse than it actually is, and these reports need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless it is a country where you’d better be on your guard. And for two Australian girls in their early twenties I could imagine things being slightly less hospitable. Especially two girls who don’t speak a word of Spanish. Since all of us were travelling in the same direction we decided to travel to Flores together with the five of us.

First we had to take a taxi to the border, which in true Latin American fashion had to be crossed on foot. The border was another great bit of showing off. At the Belizean side was a brand new luxury customs building seemingly entirely made out of marble (charging a ridiculous 15 dollars piss-off fee) while on the Guatemalan side the customs building was a tiny decrepit concrete shack.

This illustrated the relationship between Guatemala and Belize really well. Some 150 years ago Belize was given to the UK, in exchange for a road between Guatemala City and Belize City. Well, that road never came (ok, it eventually did, but wasn’t constructed by the British), but Belize was never returned to Guatemala either - worse still, the country became independent!
Obviously Guatemala didn’t approve, so they decided to take the country back by force. This happened around the time when the UK had just warmed up from the Falkland war, so in no time the Guatemalan army was defeated, borders fortified, Belize part of the Commonwealth and the British army had a nice jungle training camp.
But Guatemala still claims this country, and still doesn’t acknowledge the borders, although both countries keep relatively quiet these days and simply mind their own business. However, that doesn’t deter Belize from showing off a bit to prove that they are much better off without Guatemala.

My final thoughts about Belize? I must say that Belize had been the biggest surprise of this trip (so far). Such incredibly nice people, a great relaxed atmosphere, just fantastic! And what a difference with Mexico!
The only downers were the weather, only 2 sunny days in a week, and the cost, as it is a very expensive country to travel in. But for the rest it is perfect. A splendid location for a two week vacation, with so much to offer: Sun, sea, beach, caves, nature, wildlife, ancient ruins, all is here, and everything in less than three hours travel time from each other!

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