Ah yes, the roads in Belize. Forget the four-wheel drive. In my subdued estimation a simple tank will do. What’s that? You don’t know anything about driving a tank? Never mind. Between braving Belize’s “parody on roads” and “driving a tank,” the latter I’ll guarantee is the easier of the two. Furthermore, all that you learned about driving in the States the roads in Belize will scrupulously undo.
No fan of U.S. interstates and the auto mania that makes the country a hostage to erratic gas prices, ghastly malls, and blighted sprawl, I actually found Belize’s roads, well, amusing… that is, after my “hazing” in a Jeep that swerved, jerked, jarred, and jumped through a maze of crater-size potholes, very nearly exiting me from the vehicle.
Still, I found something agreeable about Belize’s down-to-earth roads. They really befit a country with so much untouched natural beauty; leastwise, that is the way it was when I lived there ten years ago. Granted, the highways – two lane affairs – you’ll find paved. Let me tell you, though, that there are only three “highways” in the country.
You’ll be happy to learn, then, that most of your driving will be performed in acrobatic fashion on an assemblage of roads surfaced in a choice of gravel, rocks and dirt, the last quickly turning to mud and not infrequently, quicksand after a good “gully washer.” Need I mention these “pleasures” increase proportionally the deeper one ventures into the terrain?
Seriously, if you are the good-natured sort I believe you to be, you will eventually come to see and enjoy Belize’s “parody on roads.” The scenes in this “play” start on the unassuming Western Highway, or perhaps the gentle rise and fall of the scenic Hummingbird Highway (by far the country’s best thoroughfare), then quickly jump to the typical beleaguered back road that appears manifestly like a slice of Swiss Cheese sporting an assortment of potholes, washouts, chasms and craters.
Take it slow (which on these roads is really the only way to go), keep a firm grip on the wheel, definitely secure the seatbelt and the challenges I have reflected on here will be no match to your offensive driving. Just mind the highway speed bumps, those sneaky sentinels guarding the border of each little hamlet – and the “blasted” one slyly waiting in the middle of town that’ll bounce you feet off the seat because you weren’t suspecting it or forgot about it.
You can’t outsmart these indecorous “speed-bouncers,” you know, because no yellow lines signal their stakeouts. To make matters worse, the height of these humps elude uniformity. Some are low and easily ascended while most are crude, high obstructions. Learning comes quickest when caught off guard, sending the heads of the occupants in the vehicle into orbit, followed by an abrupt halt on the roof of the car.
In case you didn’t know it, Belize was once British Honduras. However, the taint of driving on the wrong side of the road Belize did not inherit from its colonial days.
You will also want to be aware of the highway check points, a fixture outside San Ignacio and intermittently in other parts of the country. Smile at the officer, who will be courteous in the extreme while checking your license. Most likely, his courtesy is meant to distract you from his cohort eyeing the backseat, trunk and the undercarriage of your machine. Fret not. Certainly you do not fit their profile of suspected bandits, which are not unheard of in the land.
The other “joys” of motoring in Belize I will leave for you to discover. Of course, if you learned to drive on a disheveled road between two southern towns like I did, you are already prepared and can stick with the four-wheel drive in lieu of the tank.
(Bump sign on a dirt road in Belize, pictured.)