My first-time traveling to Belize (or anywhere) I took what used to be the cheaper route through Mexico. Direct bus tickets were sold out from Mexico to Belize, so I chose to take the detour through Corozal (not recommended). This detour took me far from my destination in Belize City and put me on a 3 hour Chicken (school) Bus ride the next morning. The Chicken Bus is somewhat like DC Metrobus; crowded with standing room only, except it takes an average of 3 hours to get from one place to another. Another difference between the busses is that the Chicken Bus allows vendors to board and sell home cooked meals, snacks, and fresh juices at different bus stops. The home cooked service is amazing! Bathrooms at the terminal are available for $.50Bz. Everything is cash only. A debit card means nothing to the Chicken Bus. I was lucky to have a little Belizean cash, which afforded me a package of 3 superior (hot) tamales, fresh orange juice, and bottled water. Orange Walk Terminal was the last stop before Belize City. They have a great smelling barbecue at that terminal. I mean, wow! Fresh and juicy! Unfortunately, I was interrupted during my attempt to make a barbecue purchase through the bus window by military officers who boarded the bus with semi-automatic weapons. Everyone froze like mannequins for two full seconds. It was not a good look. Not at all.
Being the only American traveling abroad for the first time, I didn’t budge and listened intently to our instructions, “Everyone off of the bus, now! We are searching this bus! Everyone off!” I was ready to get off but, just like the DC X2 bus, it was so crowded that I couldn't move until others in front moved first. The military kept shouting at us in English and Spanish. No one wanted to leave the bus because we didn't want the Orange Walk passengers to get on and take our seats. We still had a good hour left to reach our destination. How would we save our seats? Passengers were pissed, not moving and repeatedly sucked their teeth. They treated the military officers like they were toy cops. Everyone moved very slowly to deboard the bus and complained. I kept an eye on the military weapons. Passengers finally started to put items down in their seats to save them. I had a big decision to make, how would I save my seat? I didn't want to leave my bag with my passport and money in it. The only other thing I had to save my seat where my newly purchased ass kickin’ tamales. It was a nasty corporate decision to make, but I took my bag… and left the tamales…
We herded together at the tiny front door of the bus only to get caught in a 5 minute flooding torrential downpour. When officials allowed us back on the bus, a fight broke out between a mother with a child in tow and an old lady pushing to get back on the bus first. Unlike the DC X2, we waited for the fight to finish in the rain and then resumed pushing through the tiny bus doors. I found my seat and my tamales safe and sound. My seatmate kindly watched over my things for me. The military disappeared just as mysteriously as they had appeared. The conductor (bus driver) turned the radio back on to the Greatest Hits of the 80’s (as they all do here), the rain stopped, the sun shined brightly. We were off to Belize City and not a beat was missed. I happily munched on my tamales with my face out of the window like a dog and took breaks from snaking to snap some photos along the way.
During our trip, I noticed that the conductor’s face never seemed to change emotion. When angry people yelled at him to stop the bus, “Righ' tear!” he would just stop the bus showing no emotion at all. When his buddies were up front cracking jokes, he would look over at them with a neutral stare. When a very voluptuous woman sat right next to him while driving, he looked her up and down like she was a broom handle leaning up against the wall. Then it happened, an Eminem song started playing on the old school car radio latched to the driver's sun visor. Just as my stomach turned upon hearing that noise (because I don't like Eminem's music), I saw the conductor's face twist and cringe in the rearview mirror. He stopped the bus, picked up a jump drive filled with Latino dance music and popped it on the radio (the radio turned out to be not so old school). Once again, we were off - destination: Belize City.