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Jun 22, 2012

Jaguar Paw; getting there is half the challenge

The Belize Caves Branch Cave is a must visit on a tourist’s to do list.  The Nohoch Che’en Reserve has attracted tourists from around the world for cave tubing and exploring; and it is there that tourists also go for zip lining. And while annually thousands travel to Caves Branch, in recent times the experience hasn’t been at one hundred percent, primarily because of the road used to access the tour site. For the past year it started to deteriorate and in the last six months some parts have become almost impassable. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was called by tour operators to take a ride on the gutted road. Here’s her report.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

For the past year the condition of the road to Belize’s Caves Branch, also known as the ‘Jaguar Paw or Franks Eddy’ road is one much travelled and also deteriorating. At one spot, it is now unsafe for vehicles to cross over, because of a deep ridge in the road from a collapsed culvert. The increase in rains has worsened the conditions; as potholes filled with water and broken pavement create craters along the way.  Vehicles traverse the road as if in a maze, dodging the deep ruts and ridges.

 

Vitalino Reyes, Tour Operator

“Some of them will be like three feet deep and some sections will be like six feet wide so you really have to know where you want to go. That will be the sections where you can see that some of them will be wide and because of the heavy raining they will be filled of water and eroding a lot. For a day it is more than a hundred vehicles passing through here, especially on Tuesday and Wednesday when we have cruise ships; there will be trucks, there will be small vans, cars and lot of vehicles passing through so there will be a lot of people who travel a lot through this road here. Only big vehicles can pass through because small vehicles or low vehicles are not able to pass easy, they have to slow down and go very careful otherwise they will damage some of the vehicle there.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And it’s getting worse as the rain continues?”

 

Vitalino Reyes

“Yes, it is getting worse. One of the culverts has washed away and nobody has come to fix it or they don’t care about it.”

 

The Caves Branch is the number one tubing tour attraction in Belize. It brings in millions of dollars for the country. On an average cruise ship day, it is estimated that some eleven buses with forty-eight passenger capacity use the road. Local tour operators say the road condition is not good for business.

 

David Andrews, Tour Guide

David Andrews

“Well, I would say this is like, I have never been to hell but like hell, it’s terrible and I have been on this road for two years and been going through this. Lotta maintenance on the cars, lotta shocks and tyres get tear up on the road here. So the road in terrible condition and I even get on the road to complain and nothing being done to better off this road for our tourism. This site is like number one for cave tubing with the cruise ship and this is the condition of the road that we have to deal with. Lotta my guests complain that this is the worse road they ever see and right now I am with some guests and it is just terrible road. I was told that they collected, NICH collected over thirty million dollars a year with revenue from tourists and this is the road that we have to deal with everyday. It’s a shame from the country for tourists to come in the country and see something like this that is known for cave tubing, number one site.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Now, you think it will hamper business for the tour operators?”

 

David Andrews, Tour Guide

“Pretty much, it’s like with time schedule for us coming off the island at seven thirty coming on a tour out here and have to get back for the last flight at five thirty and it is very rush and if the road was in better condition we could spend more time at the tour with the tourists. So it’s bad for business.”

 

David Martinez

David Martinez, Tour/Bus Guide

“Main complain, the road; the deterioration of the road. It’s very bad. The tour that we offer here as tour guides is the number one tour in Belize and every in the week, the cruise ship comes and if it’s not from the cruise ship it is from the private tours and as they look at the road, the first thing they complain about is the road.”

 

Mark Cal

Mark Cal, Tour Operator

“We see our colleagues sometimes they are broken down on the road and it’s not because of their vehicles; they get punctured because of the big holes and we look bad with our visitors and we can’t get out on the road because there are potholes everywhere. They need to do something with this road.”

 

Edward Requeña

Edward Requeña, Tour/Bus Guide

“The problem with this street is that it takes us almost half an hour to come out of the cave out to the junction. Sometimes the tenders leave early so to do a tour or to conduct a tour at the cave, we have to minimize or to give them less tour in the cave.”

 

Tourist #1

“It was great; we had a lot of fun.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“I know you guys have one complaint; tell me a little about it?”

 

Tourist #1

“Yeah, the road coming here was really bad; very bumpy and seemed a little dangerous and we can only imagine when it is raining and if people will even be able to get down here.”

 

Tourist #2

“Can’t even imagine what it does to the shacks of the vehicles how they have to replace them all the time and yuh know it will cost a lot of money.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“As tourists, would you guys mind paying a little higher fee but for better roads?”

 

Tourist #1

“Yeah sure. Definitely because it makes it safer for everyone, yeah.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Now, going back, would you still recommend Belize?”

 

Tourist #1

“Definitely. Of course, we had a blast and loved it ever since we got here.”

 

Tourist #3

“There it was fantastic but getting there was a little bit crazy. The roads are worn down and a lot of potholes and luckily we had a four by four. Getting there was a little bit hairy but once we got there was a lot of fun.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Do you think the conditions of the road will impact your reviews of the experience?”

 

Tourist #3

“Well, you know I could see that if you are somebody coming on your own with your own car and didn’t have this type of car and weren’t the adventurous type; I wouldn’t recommend it and for somebody with poor back conditions and like that, it could make it less desirable so I think a better road would definitely enhance the experience.”

 

Tom Greenwood

Tour Operator, Tom Greenwood says that while the conditions are bad, he hopes that the road will be upgraded soon:

 

Tom Greenwood, Tour Operator

“I’m hoping that this will be repaired very quickly; however the road does need a lot of repair but one of the things I would like to point out is that this road through the efforts of NICH was paved completely but then some large, very heavy aggregate trucks began to use this road and within a matter of six months, the road was completely smashed and now it’s horrible. Operators keep tearing their tires and how long is it going to be until there is an accident?  We have brought this to the attention of NICH over the past couple of months. I know that these are stringent times and I had a chat with the CEO of Ministry of Works and in fact he was very receptive and explained the moves being made within the circumstances.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

It must be noted that whilst our news team was out doing their report, personnel from NICH were also on the road doing inspections.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “Jaguar Paw; getting there is half the challenge”

  1. Storm says:

    It seems that people who operate heavy trucks and equipment that damages the pavement should pay their fair share to repair the damage they caused for the rest of us.

  2. Eye in the Sky says:

    Welcome to the “jewel”

    WHAT A JOKE !!!!!!!!

  3. MadDOG says:

    ive been there it is hell road, and right there Belize makes Money on Tourist..why cant Government fix that road like the road to placencia…. dude .. all these million dalla project is worthless .. who pockets these money should be to blame

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