1. Ride in the bed of pickup trucks without getting ticketed. You see this all the time. People pile in the back and usually look like they’re enjoying the wind whipping their hair. Betty would kill me if she knew this… but I’ve done it, too. Yesterday I rode a mile uphill in the back of these German/Costa Rican guys’ Chevrolet, and when I trudged away from the jungle in a downpour, they let me hop in back again.* DON’T TELL BETTY.
2. Take a colectivo taxi. No matter what make or model a car is, if the license plate is green, it is a taxi. You flag the car down on the highway and squeeze in with any other passengers. You can go maybe six miles for $4 BZ unless you’re a tourist, in which case you get charged a little extra. But, really, if you haggle over 50 cents US, you are an a-hole.
3. Hop on a refurbished school bus and head from one end of the country to the other for $10 BZ. (That’s five bucks US.) Unfortunately, the bus stops every ten feet to let people on or off. I am exaggerating, but only a little. On the way from Belmopan to San Ignacio, one lady refused to deboard the bus with a group of people. She insisted that the driver take her approximately 20 feet down the road, which he did. This level of service means that it takes forever to get where you’re going.
4. Use a golf cart as your primary mode of transportation. On carless Caye Caulker, this is the fastest way to move. I guess people must do this in Florida and other warm places with old people, but it’s not the main way to get around.
* I couldn’t help but remember the story I overheard a local tell the other day. Background: Spanish Lookout is a Mennonite colony not too far from San Ignacio. It’s mostly known for farming, construction and what-have-you. Nothing too crazy, or so you’d think. Anyway, this guy** starts talking about how some Mennonites are helping traffic drugs up to Mexico; there was a big bust in which the fuzz found cocaine in coconuts. Last year some deal must have gone wrong and a Mennonite was found shot in the back of the head. Anyway, the drug trade is lucrative (duh) and so you’ve got a few people living l-a-r-g-e in buggy country.
While climbing Xunantunich, I’d run into the ride-giving guys. They were nice enough but something about the way they were quiet gave me an odd feeling. They were talking in a language that sounded vaguely German, but it wasn’t German. Dutch? No. I asked and they told me it was a dialect of German called Plautdietsch. Oh, and they’re from Spanish Lookout.
So while going downhill in the back of a new, slick, decked-out, expensive pickup, I thought, “This is one of the nicest trucks I’ve seen in the whole country. I bet it cost a lot.” Then I did the math. Let’s say that the truck cost (conservatively) $20,000 US. Double that for the 100% (!) Belizean duty fee and we’re at $40,000 US. That is about 18 times the yearly income of the average Belizean.
As we reached the river — my hop-out point — I thought, “Golly, I hope I’m not hitching a ride with Mennonite drug smugglers.” Maybe they were Mennonite oil barons?
**He just walked into the computer cafe as I was typing this up. Small world.