We got to Chetumal and we did a round tour to see the city. Beautiful city, very nice, clean and civilized, and it looks like even economically they are doing better than many other Mexican cities. We stopped in front of a hotel to see what the prices for a room were, and we almost decided to stay there, when a guy asked us if we had a pen. We lent him the pen, and chatting about what’s nice to see in the area, he recommended us to go to Laguna Milagros, at Gringo Dave’s, about 20 km from Chetumal. Turned out he was one of the owners of the place. He also gave us a lot of tips as to what to see in our way South. We told him we will think about it and make a decision. As soon as he left, a police guy on a motorcycle showed up. We were stopped in a bus station. We were like “Oh, no, not a fine! Darn!” I jump right up and I tell him “We were just about to leave; we just stopped to make a decision as to where to go now”. And he goes “To go for good? I hope not. I hope you liked it here and you’ll be back” (the whole conversation was in Spanish, of course). And then he goes “What are you looking for, hotel, restaurants, interest points? I can give you directions.” Now this was another cool policeman we met in our trip. He did not even mention a fine; he just told us that we should not be stopped there, in case the bus comes. He was all friendly and smiley. I don’t want to talk too early, but so far the police in Mexico was totally different from what we expected. I don’t know if we’ve just been lucky, or as Dave and Al, the owners of Gringo Dave told us, it’s because of the re-elections that just took place last Sunday, and they were playing safe, but we found them very nice and friendly so far.
Vasile and I decided to go and see what that lagoon was all about, thinking that if we didn’t like it, we could always come back to the hotel.
We got to Laguna Milagros, we found Gringo Dave’s place and guess what: it was more than we expected. A beautiful green place with lots of palm trees by the green water lagoon.
The owners were very friendly. They came and greeted us and showed us the place where we could pitch our tent, where we could swim in the perfectly clear and still water, and they told us we can use the kayaks for free! They also gave us access to wi-fi, so we can do our research about the Belizean border. What more can one desire?
We went for a kayak tour on the lake right away. It was so nice and quiet!
The next day they made a great breakfast for us: Mexican eggs, coffee, and orange juice. Then Vasile went to Chatumal to find batteries for our Spot unit and a new light bulb for his bike, as his died. Found bulb, no batteries. It's almost impossible to find AAA lithium here, and that's the only kind of batteries we can use in our Spot device without ruining it.
The next day we had a great breakfast and we headed to the border. We were 10 minutes away, so we got there quite early. The first stop at the border, we presented the passports and the tourist cards that we were supposed to have cancelled now and we had an argument with the border officer there, since he was asking us to pay about $25 USD each as exit fees. We have read about how at this border many times they are asking for this fee, even though it is not a legit fee. When we told him that we know there is no exit fee required, he showed us a paper in Spanish where apparently is said that we have to pay that fee. But surprise, I read Spanish, and that paper was talking about the Tourist card that you have to buy when you enter the country if you plan to stay for more than 7 days. *When I told him that I read Spanish and I understand what that is he backed off. So we didn't pay any exit fee. Then we went to the Banjercito office, that is very conveniently located right there, before the customs. We cancelled out temporary import permit for the bikes and then we exited Mexico. On the Belizean side we stopped to get insurance for the bikes, since it is mandatory here. *When we got there, a guy came, who we thought it was an official, and took our licence plates, and explained to us that after getting the insurance we have to*go to have our bikes fumigated, which apparently is a requirement in order to cross the border. We have read about this online as well. So we bought insurance for a week (15 USD per bike, liability only). When we came out, the guy who took our licence plates was waiting for us and he was asking us for money, since he said he paid for the fumigation of our bikes already, and he was showing us the receipt of 5 USD. Turned out he was just a fixer. We read online that the fumigation was only 1.5 USD, so we did not trust the guy, especially that we did not ask him to do anything for us, and he did not tell us he would do this for us. When we got to the fumigation place, they told us they are out of power, so they cannot fumigate the bikes, but that we do need the receipt in order to cross the border (funny, no?).They had on their desk the receipt that we turned down from that guy, so apparently they work together. So now we had no option but to pay for it and keep going. Then we went to immigration and customs, which was *very easy and quite fast. The temporary import permit for the vehicles did not cost us anything here. And then we crossed the border!! The whole thing (exiting Mexico and entering Belize) took us about an hour. And it was nice to see, especially for Vasile, that on the Belize side they speak English.
So overall we had an incredible experience in Mexico, more than we expected. Most people were very nice and friendly, the police was not as bad as described to us by most people; so far nothing was stolen from us, but we have to admit we never left our bikes with luggage on them unattended, except in a couple of situations where we felt extremely safe. The traffic was alright-ish: better in some, crazier in other cities. The roads were pretty good overall, we cannot complain. There were very few roads that had lots of potholes or some highways that had sections of gravel in the middle of the highway with no warning signs. But most of the times the roads were good.
When you travel through Mexico that are a few common sense rules that you have to abide by: to be very aware all the time of everything around you, do not travel at night (ok, we did that a couple of times, when we didn’t have much of a choice), stay away from busy areas, do not show signs of affluence and mind your own business, and you’ll be safe. And believe me, Mexico it’s so worth visiting, there is so much to see and explore!