BC to Belize:
My Ultimate Road Trip

By Mark Corbettbelize-is-better_725

This time I surprised even myself.

With adventure on my mind and a little extra change in my pocket, I put it all on the line to go on my latest incredible journey. My home, a thriving freelance career in Nanaimo, and most of my worldly possessions, were all on the chopping block in order to appease my particular brand of restlessness.

My Motivation

The truth is I just couldn't sit still any longer. In the white-collar world of public relations, where desks and their computer overlords rule the kingdom, once again I felt inclined to get off my duff and go see the world.

During the last 10 years I've traveled through 18 countries. Over the last two years I've traveled for 11 months. In the fall of 2006 I trekked through 11 European countries in 11 weeks. But this trip would prove to be the most adventurous of all.

When I realized I was succumbing to the travel bug again, I put my condo in the harbour up for sale, became a raving minimalist, wrapped up my contracts and packed whatever I had left into a closet sized storage unit. Cocooned in a big woolen blanket, I set out on Boxing Day in my '92 Jeep YJ soft top to drive down to Central America. Yes, drive. It would prove to be an adrenaline-induced, 10-day, 8,000-kilometre trek from the snow capped slopes of Silver Star Ski Resort where I spent Christmas with my family to the sun drenched coconut trees of San Ignacio, Belize. It was a journey that could have been dubbed International Rally Driving 101.  belize-boy-carson_725

Road Trip of a Lifetime

Enticed to drive to Belize with a group of Vancouver Island do-gooders to help promote a new eco-community and school called Better in Belize, I shared much of that amazing journey with seven other people and three more vehicles: a Landcruiser, Forerunner and 32-foot motor home. But it would take two days of driving solo to meet up with them first.

The Jeep and I held our own through southern BC, Washington and Oregon that first day and into the frigid night for a total mileage count of about 1,200 kms. I even crossed the 45th parallel in the dark, the exact equal distance between the North Pole and the equator.

The next day's ambitious highway itinerary took me through the scenic, low-lying mountain parks of Oregon into the craggy and desolate Nevada landscape, past row upon row of stark military tents in the many outposts along the highway, past an endless parade of red, jagged rock formations, all the way to the king of the desert, Las Vegas.

That two-day leg of the trip cost the Jeep nearly 2,500 kilometres of searing hot, 130 km per hour engine wear and a couple of gallons of used up motor oil. My own wear and tear included numb fingers from white-knuckling the wheel for more hours than I could count and strained eyes from squinting at passing headlights at night through the glare of my archaic windshield.

It was in the heart of that madness known as the Las Vegas strip that I hooked up with the first installment of my new transcontinental posse. There were now six of us.

At this point the prevailing attitude was to put on as many miles as possible, drive as late into the night as you could handle, don't dilly-dally, don't crash, and make sure to have some good stories to tell at the end of each day.

From Nevada we sailed on through New Mexico (where I had to use cat like reflects to dodge a flying barbecue hurtling at us at 125 kilometres an hour from the back of a pickup truck), across the hot, rugged plains of Arizona and into Texas, home of the 80 mile an hour speed limit, the road kill capital of America.

By San Antonio, our caravan had grown to eight adventurous people in four sturdy vehicles. Together, we were about to embark on the infamous driving conditions of Mexico, where the faint of heart have no sane reason to get behind the wheel. Where the more formal rules of the road are tossed out like a discarded cigarette butt out the window. Where cars older than 15 years are not eligible for insurance, yet they're everywhere you turn, dodge and weave.

The pace slowed down considerably through Mexico. We stopped driving after dark to avoid the pitfalls of poor lighting and plenty of pedestrians, and the roads were just not as conducive to high speeds as the ones in the States.

By New Year's Eve we were well into Mexico. As I pulled the Jeep into a gas station in Tampico at the end of the day, I got a phone call that would rock my world. It was my Dad calling to deliver the tragic news that my brother Tim had suffered a major stroke while skiing. They didn't know if he would make it. I would spend the next 24 hours praying, weeping and praying some more that he would pull through. He didn't. I was so thankful to have my friends by my side to help me cope. At 9 pm on New Year's Day my brother Timothy James Corbett passed away at the age of 44. He is sadly missed, but his legacy of helping his family come closer together after his sudden passing has been an incredible gift to us. Love you Bro.

Mom urged me to keep going on my trip, as Tim would have wanted it that way. And I didn't know it until later, but one of his favourite shows was The Amazing Race. Because this trip was really my own personal amazing race, I dedicated my journey to him.

On January 4, 2008, through the mist of grieving, my spirits were lifted when we finally arrived in Belize. It had been such a profound experience just getting there, I was now wondering what kinds of remarkable things would unfold now that we had finally arrived at our destination. I would not be disappointed.belize-iguana_725belize-jaguar_725

You Better Belize It!

As much as I love Europe, my ideal trip tends to lean towards nature and wildlife. I'm a photographer of 20 plus years now, and while I love the people, culture and architecture of Europe, nothing inspires me more than seeing a wild animal in the wild. I've been fortunate enough to witness many of North America's coolest creatures up close, but it's been the wild places of Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and of course anything to do with the world's oceans, that seem to really capture my imagination. And there I was camera in hand. I was now in the midst of one of the most prolific and biodiverse countries on the planet.

For the next seven months Belize would be my home. From the moment I arrived I fell in love with the country's natural treasures. This was the land of jaguars, howler monkeys, crocodiles, tapirs, countless exotic birds, more than 700 kinds of trees and a landscape covered by rolling hills and sweeping farmland as well as lush river valleys and rugged mountain ridges covered in sub-tropical jungle and pine forests.

Belize is also home to the world's second largest barrier reef and was also the centre of the Mayan culture complete with extraordinary archeological ruins from thousands of years ago. As a laid back and beautiful eco-tourism destination, it just doesn't get much better than Belize.

In so many ways the country formerly known as British Honduras is all about its unique blend of people. It's a cultural menagerie like no other. Hispanic Mestizos, black Kriols, indigenous Mayans, and the coastal Garifuna people live side by side with German Mennonite farmers, Lebanese, East-Indian, Chinese and ex-pat Europeans and North Americans.

Everyone seems to bring something really unique and positive to the table, and the various cultures mix amazingly well. In the end, there are only about 300,000 people in Belize, so it tends to be pretty neighbourly. After being there for seven months I really felt like one of the neighbours. Ya mon!

There is so much to write about Belize, but sharing my photography is my favourite way to express myself in this stunningly gorgeous and mind-boggling planet we live on. I hope you enjoy them.

On a final note, my wish is that everyone ventures out on a journey as often as possible. Whether overseas or some tucked away little escape here on the island, I believe getting out there is good for the soul, keeps us feeling and looking young, we learn, we grow, and without a doubt we can create extraordinary memories. belize-xunantunich_725