22 February, 2013

Springin' the Car in Belize

Some of you readers may remember that there is not a road that goes to our place here just north of the mouth of the Monkey River; the road ends at the river.  But we still need a car if we want to shop at villages other than Independence or Placencia, which we can reach by boat.  And we also need a car to travel in Belize.  The following account was written by Dennis.  He spent today getting our car, which we had shipped from Alabama by boat, from the Port of Big Creek Customs:

Got up around 6 AM, sun already peeping up in the southeast.

Had coffee and a quick breakfast.  While trying to organize what I had to do today, and muttering about it, I realized I needed to relook at an email sent by the Customs Broker, Orlando Carillo.  He instructed me to pay Mr. Dellon Coc BZ$125 for his efforts on getting the importation and duty figured on the car.  So I had to find the email quickly since Richard had pulled up to the dock.

On the way to the village of Mango Creek.
Left for Mango Creek around 8 with Richard and Joy.

Nelson's Taxi picked us up at the dock.

Went to the Bank.  Only had a few people in line ahead of me. I was able to turn in the online account access form and also pay the Customs duty for the boat relatively easily.  Also took out funds to pay the workers for concrete work performed Mon - Wed.

Went to MnM Hardware.  Picked up another 12 tubes of caulk, 2 canisters of butane, and another 5 gallon gasoline container.  Filled up containers with 30 gallons of diesel fuel for the generator and 27 gallons of gasoline for the boat motor and construction generator. (BZ$646).

Nelson the taxi driver dropped me off at the Immigration Dept in Big Creek, 2 to 3 miles from MnM.

Went into Immigration to get my Visa renewed for another month, about 3 parties in line ahead of me including an annoying American tourist.  I hope we all do  not come off like this individual did.  It only took about 10 minutes to get the passport stamped for another month, US$25. 
Passing by the Port of Big Creek.  This is a deep water port at which lots of big ships stop for deliveries and pickups.  You can see the channel markers to the left and right.  We have shipped things down on container ships and this is where the bulk of our household goods will come in to Belize.  Also at Big Creek is the Immigration Office where we have to get our passports stamped monthly.  Mayo Mountains are in the background.
Walked over to The Port Authority Office at Banana Enterprises, the group that operates the Port of Big Creek. Richard asked me to see Mr. Lambey there to get his Boat Master's License renewed.  We started talking, he knew the name of our boat, Houdini.  So I told him that it was one of the original Hokey-Pokey water taxi boats, and how it got its name:  one night the boat escaped from its locks and chains and was found submerged 30 miles south off Hunting Caye, minus the motor.  It was then named Houdini.  And as Mr. Lambey remarked, "now you seem me, now you don't".  I was able to get Richard's license renewed for 3 years.

The Hokey Pokey Water Taxi Dock, original home of our boat, Houdini.
Then I walked next door to the Customs Office to turn in the paid receipt and get instructions on what to do next.  He stamped the forms, printed a couple more forms and divided them into two piles:  he said this pile you can put away because you will not need it for anything further, handing them to me.  He then gave me the pile with 2 forms in it and instructions to go upstairs to get a delivery form that needed additional stamps.

I walked upstairs, it really is a great looking painted concrete building, and went in.  I noticed Mr. Dellon Coc there, and said I needed to give him some money for Mr. Carillo.  All three of the individuals in the office ultimately were involved in getting the final paperwork organized.  One was printing out the forms, one was finding the keys, and Mr. Coc was getting receipts and change.  In addition to the fee for Mr. Carillo, there was a transportation fee from the US for MCW Shipping (US$1545) which I knew about; and since the car had sat there longer than it should, since the check I deposited in January had not cleared in a timely manner, also a storage fee (BZ$44).  But everything was taken care of in about 10 to 12 minutes, and I was sent back downstairs.

There I the receipts were examined, copies taken, s=tamps and signatures applied, and I was given clear instructions to go over to the security checkpoint and wait for the customs officer to come and verify the VIN and examine the contents of the car.  I had put a number of boxes in there for transport from the US.

I went to the Checkpoint, put on my safety vest and hardhat (they have strict regulations about these being on you since they operate very heavy equipment and they want to see where you are!).  One of the security people said go ahead and open it up since it was gong to be hot inside.  He admired the car since it had no body damage.  The windshield had cracked from a stone falling from an overhead in Jackson, MS in the way down.  But this was in very good shape for a car in Belize.  We talked about mileage and shot the breeze.  Then the Customs Officer showed up.  He verified the VIN and then wanted to see what was in some of the boxes. We opened a few for visual inspection, no contraband present.  I gave him a list of the contents of the car and an estimated price for each item.  We did some calculations, and we agreed that BZ$400 was justified, which was about the same off-the-cuff estimate I had from one of the Customs Officers earlier. He said he would take the funds back to the Customs Office and have the receipts ready when I got back there, and he did.

So, as I was getting ready to  drive the car out, I was told by the Security officer that I also had to pay the Quarantine Fee (!).  So I went up to the next building and waited about 5 minutes and paid BZ$10 for the quarantine inspection.  Then I drove over to the Customs Office, presented the remaining paperwork, and was given a receipt for the customs duty for the contents of the car. I asked if I had to get Belizean insurance before I drove the car off site.  The Officer said that there were insurance agents in the Mango Creek and Independence areas, so I needed to get it before I left the area today. As I was leaving I thanked him for giving me clear easy to follow instructions and making it so easy to do. I don't think they hear that very often. 
The dock at Mango Creek has the Hokey Pokey  water taxi that goes across the lagoon to the Village of Placencia.  Placencia is more of tourist destination than Mango Creek or its inland neighbor Independence.  We usually tie our boat up here and shop in Indy for groceries, hardware, and fuel for the generator and boat.  We generally engage the taxi services of Nelson to get from Mango Creek to Indy and haul our big fuel cans.  We also get our butane tanks refilled here.
It was 11:39.  Belize closes down from Noon to 1:30 for lunch.  So, I had to gas the vehicle up at MnM's pumps ($BZ98).  Nelson the taxi driver showed up, having helped Richard and Joy off and I paid him for carrying us all around.  He was really taken with the car as well, a 2001 Subaru Outback station wagon!

I told him I needed to get insurance on the car, now 11:45, and he led me down to the Insurance Company of Belize Office (thanks again, Nelson).  I noticed the sign on the door said hours 9:00 to 11:45, but I went in anyway.  The agent, Mrs. Leslie was just getting ready for lunchtime, and her two children were inside.  Anyway she came out and I said I was probably too late and could come back after 1:30.  Since we had previously discussed insurance with her, she filled out the forms in about 5 minutes, instructed me on how to put the decals in the window and I was out of there in 7 minutes (BZ$356).
This Maya woman cooks corn or flour tortillas to order. 
She pats them out by hand and places them on the very hot comal to toast.  Then her partner spreads them with a thin layer each of chicken, beans, grated cheese, and pepper sauce.  The best I have eaten, ever.  One 8inch burrito for $1US. Lukee's Restaurant and store are in the background

Now it was time for food shopping and something to eat. I try to vary which stores Io go to first for the bulk of the shopping, and then fill in at other stores for the items I could not find. Went to Ming’s' Superstore first this time.  Found about 90% of the items in the shopping list and a Pinot Grigio wine from a decent vintner for Wilma!  It is surprising what you can find sometimes.

Then I went to Hilda's produce stand across the park and loaded up on veggies.  I told her that my Wife insists that I stop there first to get produce. She was happy with that. She also said I had a very pretty car!  She had a fair number of staples and some very young okra which will get fried up with cornmeal coating.  Then it was on to another Chinese grocer for a few remaining items and to another produce vendor for a few things that Hilda did not have.

Then I started to crash, so I went over to the Lu-Lee restaurant and had a "shrimp burger"  or two butterflied shrimp, lettuce tomato and a side of french fries (that I passed on).  I also called Wilma from there, stepping outside to evade the Reggae music temporarily.  A guy sitting outside asked if I owned the car.  I nodded yes, told Wilma the car had been sprung, but she knew already since Richard and Joy had returned without me.  After I went back inside the guy who had queried me came in and introduced himself, Doobie.  He had lifted the car off the boat and drove it over to where he parked it. He said it was a "sweet ride". How this car is perceived in Belize is very different than in the US.

After eating, I decided it was time to head out to Monkey River.  It was very odd driving, the muscles I use in my lower legs for accelerating, breaking and shifting gears have not been used in that way for the last 10 weeks!  As I was turning onto the Monkey River Road, the lyrics from Neil Young's song that he wrote about his first car "Long may you Run" popped into my mind:

"Long may you run,
long may you run.
Although these changes have come.
With your chrome heart shining
in the sun.
Long may you run."

Seems we have a sweet-riding 12 year old car that is in great shape, transported from the hostile environment of the upper mid-west to live out the remainder of its life in the tropics, much like this author!  And I just managed to miss the first pot hole in the road!!!  Need to keep my mind on my driving and not on Neil's lyrics.

The Monkey River Road is pretty notorious for bad pot holes, ruts and a rough ride.  So I managed about 20 to 25 mph, slowing for pot holes etc.  I made it down to Monkey River around 2 PM, and saw Lloydie Williams who signaled for Richard to come over from the other side of the river to get the contents of the vehicle.

I parked the car on Horace Coleman's land temporarily, and gave Horace a loaf of whole wheat bread, which he often requests us to pick up for him. Horace is getting on in years and we pick up items he needs.  Craig Pearlman was also there, so Lloydie, Craig, and I unloaded the car 4 large boxes of construction tools, about 70 to 80 pounds each; a blender that Wilma had requested to be able to make guava juice; an Olympic weight bar; a triceps bar; 155 pounds of weights, and a small dumbbell with 85 pounds of weights on it (for arm and back exercises).  I'll describe the other exercise equipment later on once it is set up).

I dropped the car off at Martha Scott's for safe keeping.  It is parked by her cabana, and her dogs will consider it part of their territory and raise a ruckus if someone comes over to disturb it.

Richard packed the boat, and then Lloydie, Richard and I went back to the cabana and unloaded it on the dock.

And that was it for today's adventure in Paradise.
Posted by Picasa


  1. That was quite an adventure. At least all the officials were within easy reach. Here it would have been different departments in different parts of the country.

    1. We view it as an accomplishment to have retrieved our car in Belize! It will make life easier and was very much worth the effort - especially since most of it was Dennis' effort. ;-)


Blog Readers -- your comments are invited. I would love to hear from you.