Entering Belize on Good Friday in the Holy Week, proved to be more difficult than we had anticipated. Luckily we were able to get all the way from Tulum to Orange Walk Town in one day.
It turned out that the buses which normally leaves from Chetumal in Mexico to Orange Walk Town in Belize, were not in operation on Good Friday. Having just arrived Chetumal from Tulum, we had to take a taxi to the border (150 pesos) then cross the border on foot. Checking out of Mexico went more smooth than we expected. I did not have any entry stamp or tourist card for Mexico, because my passport was stolen during an armed robbery outside of Mexico City. I showed them the police report, and luckily they waived the 40 USD fee for loosing the tourist card. We were, however, charged 295 pesos each in tourist tax. This tax we didn't expect at all. It was just sheer luck that we had enough pesos left to pay this big amount. Later we found out that there is an ongoing discussion about this fee/tax in the Lonely Planet forum. The tax is supposed to be included in the flight ticket, so if they charge it also on the border exit, then they charge it twice. We also read that the Mexican border officials are not allowed to handle money. Probably this is just a big scam and most likely, the money ends up in the private pocket of the border officials. We didn't even get any receipt for this payment.
Checking into Belize was easy and fast. But there was no buses to catch from the border due to Good Friday. Luckily there was a private taxi outside, which offered to drive us to the nearest town in Belize for a reasonable amount. The taxi driver dropped us off at the bus terminal in Corozal. The sleepy guardian in the terminal, was not entirely sure if any buses would show up soon, because it was Good Friday. After 20 minutes we had great luck, a bus was heading for Orange Walk.
After a funny 1-2 hours bus ride with loud music from the nineties, we arrived in Orange Walk Town. A lady at the terminal said it would take at least one hour to walk to the nearest hotel, but we proved her wrong, we walked to Akihiti Hotel in 5 minutes. We heard Belize would be expensive, but 45 Belize dollars for a twinbed room wasn't too bad. This Taiwanese-run hotel is very basic though, but it was perfect for us.
We immediately signed up for the trip to the Maya ruins of Lamanai the next day. We paid a steep 95 Belize dollars each, but that included the boat trip (50+ km each way), a lunch, a guide and entrance to the site. Unlike other Maya ruins, Lamanai is fairly quiet (few tourists). Lamanai has some very impressive pyramids hidden in the dense jungle. I immediately loved this place. The speedboat trip was also very fun. We saw crocodiles in the river, monkeys and a few other animals.
Belize is so different from Mexico and the rest of Central America. The biggest difference is the language and the large percentage of Afro-descendants. For me it was a pleasure to be in a country where they actually speak English and not Spanish-only. I enjoyed it, even if it only was for a couple of days.
Next up is Guatemala and the Maya ruins of Tikal.
PS! Some of you might wonder why I didn't go to the highest point in Belize? That's a really simple answer. Because it would take 8 days of arduous hiking in a virgin jungle to reach Doyle's Delight (1124m), and maybe costing more than 1000 USD. Doyle's Delight sounds for sure like Doyle's Nightmare. Many thanks to my German friend Olli, who warned me against this hill. I might return sometime in the future when the jungle is cleared (????) and there is a logging road all the way to the summit :-)