Benque Viejo del Carmen
After you drive past the Xunantunich ferry, the village of Succotz creeps over the hill and becomes Benque Viejo del Carmen, the last town in Belize (the border is about one mile farther).
Benque Viejo has been greatly influenced by the Spanish, both from its historical past when Spain ruled Guatemala and later when Spanish-speaking chicleros and loggers worked the forest. At one time, Benque Viejo (“Old Bank”; riverside logging camps were referred to as “banks”) was a logging camp. This was the gathering place for chicle workers, and logs were floated down the river from here for shipment to England.
Benque is a quiet village between the road and river, with a peaceful atmosphere and a handful of shops and Chinese restaurants. Foreign doctors who donate free medical assistance visit the Good Shepherd Clinic in Benque Viejo every year.
Look for the left-hand turn in the middle of Benque Viejo, at the top of the hill. This is the Hydro Road and it leads south to a few unique attractions and accommodations, all well off the beaten path. The Hydro Road is equipped with mile markers on small white posts.
A couple miles in, a right turn leads to the border village of Arenal, where a few milpero (corn farmer) families scrape a life from the soils of the Mopan River Valley. The road continues south for 11 miles, where it dead-ends at the Mollejon Dam.
Getting to Benque Viejo del Carmen
The most efficient way to travel to the border from San Ignacio is by colectivo taxis, which run in a constant and steady flow roughly 6 a.m.–7 p.m.; the ride should cost approximately US$2, but you take the chance of sharing your cab with as many people as your driver can fit. By private taxi, expect to pay about US$10 per cab for the same trip.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition