12.7.08 Out of Belize to Guatemala

Tikal Travel Blog

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Spelunking at Herman's Cave, at Blue Hole National Park, Belize

12.7.08    Out of Belize to Guatemala


Successful day!  We awoke early and tipped the security guy on our way out.  While we weren’t fond of Ian Andersen’s, we do want them to like RV’ers.  We headed a mile north on the Hummingbird Highway to the magnificent Herman Cave.  It was spelunking in the most scary way.  We were all alone with flashlights in a dark cave with bats, dripping water, running river (you can tube through this cave), and total darkness when we turned off our lights.

Spelunking at Herman's Cave, at Blue Hole National Park, Belize- looking down at the opening
  We picked and climbed along a rope they have set up until we were far enough in it that we knew we couldn’t find our way back without lights.  Sometimes the rope had a break in it for 10 yards or so as it crossed uneven rock or water, so we made a dash back for the reassuring light from the entryway.  A thrilling adventure indeed!


Also great were the hikes to the cave through the jungle.  The lowland trail there (1/4 mile) and the highland trail back (1/2 mile) were beautiful, but we kept a sharp lookout for snakes and jaguars.  No one else was around and it was spooky.  Then it started raining.  This jungle is already humid and lush.  By the time we returned to the RV, we were sticky and hot.


A run for the Blue Hole!  We drove the mile back down the Hummingbird Highway and jumped into it with gusto!  How delightfully refreshing!  We swam alone in this tropical wilderness with palms and vines over the aquamarine water of just the right temperature.

Spelunking at Herman's Cave, at Blue Hole National Park, Belize (Bugs!)


On to San Ignacio and Inglewood Campground, which really took much less time then we expected.  I guess 30 miles doesn’t take that long.  Greg at Inglewood Campground was very nice and I enjoyed talking with him.  While there, our British friends drove up.  They decided to camp there for the night, but we were already emptying our tanks and filling with water for $5 U.S. to head on.  It was only 12:30 and they did not have wi-fi available at the campground.  The campground, by the way, was quite pretty and well-maintained.  They obviously take great pride in it and I would have loved to just relax there, but we’re on schedule to meet up with Ned in Nicaragua.


So we drove 6 miles to the border (we’re still using the priceless notes from our Paa-Mul friends) and guess what?  No problemo!  Jazy and I worked as a team.

Highland Trail at Herman's Cave, at Blue Hole National Park, Belize
  We are super-organized.  We check and double-check everything:  Entry stamp dates, Vehicle VIN numbers, location of passports, title, registration.  We are a well-oiled machine. 


Our best maneuver today at Customs was changing $100 U.S. for 700 Quetzels at the Belize side because then we could use it for all the little fees needed to get into Guatemala:  38 for fumigation, 40 for vehicle, 40 for the immigration person.  We put the sticker for the RV on ourselves.  There was no RV inspection, no request for Ned’s Approval for Minor, no agriculture seizures, and no paperwork check so far in Guatemala.  We never had to wait in line, no problems parking, no mean people.  It was great! 


Customs Details: (Skip down to the ********* if you don’t want to read the boring details).

Cooling off again at the Blue Hole NP


It took about 1 hour to check out of Belize, most of which was for the Vehicle guy to type in our details about the RV.  Here’s how it worked.  When we drove up to the buildings, we ignored the people trying to wave us through and parked.  It is far easier to park and walk around to find out what I need than to drive the motorhome past the border and try to figure out how to return.


We went in the Belize building and had to:

  1. Pay $35 BZ for each of us except Lia (Exit fee- U.S. $ okay)
  2. Get our passports stamped out at the desk behind the Exit Fee lady (Immigration)
  3. Then we went through a door in the wall to the other room to check out our vehicle (Customs)  He stamped over our permit in my passport).
    Into Guatemala
  4. Then we bought our Quetzels from the guy waiting for us in the parking lot (7 to 1 exchange and he had an official tag and was very nice). 


Then we drove to Guatemala about 25 yards up.  We stopped to talk to the Belize guy at the border and he made sure we checked out okay.  Then they raised the gate and wished us well.


Guatemala Border:


  1. We rolled up the windows and closed the vents then drove through the fine-midst car wash.
    Into Guatemala
      Well, it was really a fumigator that did a poor job cleaning Ciao.
  2. We parked on the left where the Parking Lot guy told us to go. 
  3. Went in a big building with one side open-air.  There was a sign for Entrada Immigration, so we went to her line.  She stamped our passport and gave us 90 days in country.
  4. Then we went to the Customs man directly to our left (same counter) for our Vehicle permit.  He made his own copies of my title, registration, driver’s license, and passport.
  5. After he typed up the VIN, the license plate number (placa), and number of cylinders, he printed receipts, which we double-checked and then I signed.
  6. Then we took the receipt to the Bank window where he pointed nearby, and paid 40 Q.
    Beautiful lake sunset near Tikal, Guatemala
  7. We returned to Customs man with our receipt and he gave us our sticker and told us 40 days for the vehicle.  When we return from Panama, he will give us another month then.
  8. Then we went back outside, put our sticker in the upper right passenger side of the windshield, loaded back in and drove through the Gate Guy into Guatemala by 2:30 pm.
  9. Immediately crossed a one lane Toll Bridge where we paid we think 40 Q and were on our way!


*********   We stopped for gas at the Texaco at the top of the hill (could pay with Visa).  A group of Italians were enthralled with our motorhome and wandered around it.  We tried to communicate, but realized we don’t speak much Italian! 


Everywhere we go, people seem surprised to see us (some look shocked) and wave back, smiles spreading contagiously across their faces.  We’ve had a little difficulty with the Spanish and cannot figure out why.  Jazy said she was certain some things were correct, but they didn’t seem to understand at all.  We’ll have to determine what’s going on- we’re missing something.


So we waved and smiled our way through the eastern side of Guatemala on the only road (which is 20 miles of difficult gravel roads).  Most people wave and smile the huge, beautiful smiles that light up their faces with bright white teeth.  Little kids wave when they see us coming.  Even an army truck, full of about 50 men standing in the back and piling out the cab doors waved as they drove by- funny!  Police officers are motorcycles wave.  We aren’t going to know what to do when we go home and people aren’t thrilled to see us! 


We knew we were tempting fate by leaving Inglewood in San Ignacio, Belize so late, but we really wanted to try to get to Tikal before dark.  Well, we didn’t quite make it before dark.  The roads were really slow.  One time there was a ginormous hole across the entire road that we didn’t see until right upon it.  I slammed on brakes and Ciao slid into it, but we’d slowed enough to stop the damage and no harm was done.  Wow!  A cow could have fallen in there.  I also have learned by now that the bottom of hills are danger zones, because that is where water washes the road out.  That’s also where it is most fun to fly down the hill, but I was glad I’d slowed for another hidden rut another time.  So it was slow going.


Finally, we made it to Tikal. It was now dark and raining.  We’d climbed a few hills in the rain.  There were kids and families, horses, bikes, soccer players, people socializing- all were out on the road, walking to church or having a meal.  It is so delightful to see everyone socializing!  We’d slowly weave in and out of them.  Very few actual vehicles on the road.


So we finally arrive at the Tikal entrance around 5:30 pm.  Orange cones are up, gate is down.  Aside:  I recognize the scene of the Mayan arch and the Canopy Jungle Tours from Bill & Annette’s 78-Day Caravan tour to Panama last year.  This is exactly where their 2006 Diesel Pusher engine died and they spent several weeks enjoying the people and the area while awaiting an engine repair.  So much time, in fact, that a BBQ was thrown in their honor and gifts exchanged when they finally left!  Bill also redid their website for them with his satellite internet on the motorhome.  (He’d helped me when deciding how to handle internet for this trip- we went to the same college too!).  Anyway, it was really wild to see the actual scene in person.


So I parked there and decided to walk up to the cones. Surely the place was guarded.  And yes indeed- everyone was hanging out just around the Mayan arch.  Jazy helped me translate and they let us in the gate to go the 10 miles into the park to the RV field.  When we arrived at the GPS coordinates from our golden notes, we just stopped in the road until someone came up to greet us (just takes seconds usually- I have learned to do this and no traffic tonight).  They were very nice.  Then Jazy moved some cones, scouted out the field, and we pulled right in. 


Again, as usual, we are alone.  But the park is guarded and we were visited by the watchman, whom we paid.  He said we didn’t need to pay for Lia (I don’t know why it matters how many people when we never get out of the RV and there are no services), so it was 75 Q and I gave him 100 ($14) (para tu, no cambio).  Everyone was happy.


So after a thrilling dinner of ramen noodles, green beans and peaches from cans, and Vienna sausages, we read up on Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and will enjoy it in the morning.


We were really happy that we were so comfortable with the whole process today!  We were neither intimidated nor scared.  We still stumbled on our Spanish (some of us more than others), but we’re doing pretty well!  We feel really comfortable with the people, the general jumble of activity, the topes, language- all of which makes the experience a thousand times easier than when we first went into Mexico nearly a month ago. 


It took me a solid two weeks in Mexico to breathe out.  I was so stressed from the culture shock that it was difficult to enjoy that time. But once things are experienced, the fear of the unknown is released.  Now it is exciting, but much more enjoyable.  So I’d encourage others going south of the border to allow time to get comfortable, even when at first it is really difficult (and you’re tempted to make a bolt back to the familiar).



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Spelunking at Herman's Cave, at B…
Spelunking at Hermans Cave, at Bl…
Spelunking at Herman's Cave, at B…
Spelunking at Hermans Cave, at Bl…
Spelunking at Herman's Cave, at B…
Highland Trail at Hermans Cave, a…
Highland Trail at Herman's Cave, …
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Cooling off again at the Blue Hol…
Into Guatemala
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Into Guatemala
Beautiful lake sunset near Tikal, …
Beautiful lake sunset near Tikal,…
photo by: Biedjee