As we exited a roundabout just outside of Orange Walk, we rolled down a slow slant, around a left bend to see in the distance a line up of cars and police. Accident, we assumed, until we saw that the police were lined up on either side of the road, asking for licenses and papers. No worries, we had passed the border checkpoint and we had everything in line ... right? “Good afternoon” Steve said politely. “License and insurance” the officer replied with a dead cold stare. Steve grabbed the folder where we had everything organized and handed it over. As the officer panned through it, he stopped, and looked up as he handed back the folder and our heart sank as he said “There is no insurance. Where is your insurance?” We frantically looked through the papers, being sure that we had all the necessary documents, I mean, the border guards had checked, and let us go after all. Well, in hindsight, we should have checked ourselves and this little “cop stop” may have been set up solely to get us.
In a whirlwind few minutes, Steve was being held in the back of the police car, and I was told to drive into Orange Walk to get a days insurance, however, they most certainly knew that being a Saturday afternoon, nowhere would be open, and they could isolate Steve for a bribe. Sure enough, nothing was open, and sure enough, when I arrived back to the road block, Steve was walking towards the car putting his wallet discreetly into his front pocket. “Ok, you guys are good to go” said the officer. “Well, we are driving to San Ignacio, will there be other road blocks?” we wondered, as we still had roughly 4+ hours of driving ahead of us. “Not sure. That’s your problem” he said as he turned away and headed back to his police pickup truck. Great! It took roughly 30 minutes for driving without insurance in Belize to be “a more serious crime than drunk driving” to “Ok you guys are good to go drive across the country without insurance” Interesting what a few bucks can do here in Central America.
Regardless of where we were planning on spending the night, San Ignacio or otherwise, we needed to drive some distance to get to any sort of civilization. We could have backtracked to Orange Walk but we decided to trek on. If we thought the issue with the car, back in Mexico, was a bit of stress, we were now feeling what real anxiety felt like. Every flicker or light in the distance, whether bicycle, car, flashlight, caused us to yell “cop!” and slow down. Luckily, we made it along the main “highway” that cuts across the country, without any issue. A small hiccup when we came to the main roundabout in the center of the country with 3 outgoing options. One would be to Belmopan, the other to Belize City, and the other, towards the Guatemala Border, where we wanted to go. Again, NONE of them signed! We had to ask a couple guys sitting at a bus stop where to go, and they pointed us in the right direction.
Getting closer, and closer to San Ignacio, I started to dream of having a shower, brushing my teeth, and getting horizontal in any sort of bed. We crawled over another crest of a hill, in the outback of Belize, and saw the worst thing we could imagine. The red and blue of police lights. We were at a position where we could not stop, or turn around, as it would just bring a lot of unwanted attention. We would have to wing it. As we pulled up, both of us and Winston, absolutely exhausted, we handed over the same folder we had given the cops outside of Orange Walk, and said nothing. The officer looked at the info and said the dreaded words we were hoping not to hear.
“Where is your insurance?”
Not again. The stress started to show as we explained that we had been given all the info at the border, and if it was not there, he can take that up with the border guards. I think at the end of his shift, and feeling our frustration he asked where we were headed. We told him, truthfully, just down the road to San Ignacio. With an enormous feeling of relief, he handed back the folder and leaned into the window to say “Alright. Go to San Ignacio. Stay there until Monday, and get Belizean insurance before you head on.” We nodded, thankfully, rolled up the window, and drove very, very slowly away from the road block with our eyes glued on the rear view mirrors.
To say that the first day was filled with excitement, would be an understatement and also misleading. This is certainly not the type of excitement we were looking forward to, but as time goes on, experiences become stories, and if we had just driven straight through to San Ignacio, without issue, I would have nothing to write about! I had a shower, brushed my teeth, and got onto my bed, as I had been fantasising and it lived up to my expectations in every way. I have never been so comfortable in my life, however, with the excessive aggravation from today’s events, I did not sleep a wink. If this is day 1, what else do we have in store?!