A Shady Place…The Guatemala/Belize Border: Drinking Beers at Champon
I’d been there before. A place called Champon, a sort of no man’s land after you cross the border from Belize and before the border entry of Guatemala. Shady? Very. Interesting? Always. The reason to visit this place? Here it is…
Driving out of San Ignacio town at dusk along the river towards the Guatemalan border is beyond beautiful. Entrances to resorts, a few small villages, kids splashing in the wide green river, the hand ferry to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and about 15 minutes later, you arrive in the last Belizean town. Benque Viejo.
Benque is a good sized town and as you head out, the jungled landscape has been totally cleared and is seriously illuminated with huge flood lights, chain link fence, giant warehouses, and a good amount of razor wire. Standard border I guess.
Passports and ID cards are needed for immigration. Park your car on the Belize side and proceed through.
This picture is horribly fuzzy but there is a new large duty free shop for non-Belizeans. No time for that. It was almost 7pm and the border closes at 9pm. I DEFINITELY do not want to spend the night in Champon.
There are three bars clinging to the side of the hill as you pass through. These are not nice places…dim lighting, concrete floors, plastic lawn furniture, a bathroom that I deemed unusable (and I have a high toilet tolerance) and well…the reason people make this journey…non-Belizean beer. Coronas, Budweisers, Sol, lots of Guatemalan stuff, even contraband Pepsis. The excitement! The danger!
And oh so cheap…
8 Guatemalan quetzals? That’s one US dollar.
Here is the dusty display at the first bar.
Now…if you are reading this post from anywhere other than Belize, this is not a big deal. But, legally, we can’t get either of these brands here. So…it’s kinda exciting. Especially to those who have always lived in Belize.
Here is a look at the seating area in the bar.
What you can sort of make out behind the patrons, is the huge plastic tented area where the semi-trucks drive in to get sprayed with pesticides as they move through to Guatemala. The air is sweet with the smell of the chemicals. I am really selling you on this place…but wait just a second before you pack your bags…
Here is your view from your seat.
And there it is…an evening in Champon.
Is this a destination to put on your Belize travel list? Definitely not. But is it a fun…feeling a bit adventurous and slightly dangerous…got nothing better to do…hang with the locals kind of experience? Most certainly.
A note: Amongst my friends that joined me were three Belizean police and ex-police officers. When I wanted to look at the other two bars in Champon (right next door), one insisted on escorting me. Would not take no for an answer. The right company is very important.
I would NEVER recommend going alone.