The Wild Weld West

During my travels through Belize I have been amazed many times about the ingenuity and creativity of the people.

Last week I had to make a quick trip to the ‘smallest capital in the world’ Belmopan. I can’t recall how many times I’ve driven the Hummingbird Highway, but I am always in awe of the beauty of this trip.

Driving through the hills and valleys while seeing at least ‘50 shades of green’ is absolutely beautiful. However if you completely focus on the natural beauty, you might miss one of the ‘sleeping policemen’ as we call the speed bumps here in Belize. These speed bumps seem to magically appear on sections where you don’t expect them and do a number on your vehicle, nerves, and back.

I managed to rip off a big part of my exhaust and my truck sounded like a fighter jet instead of a lowly road vehicle. So after picking up the broken parts I decided if I drive slowly I should be able to make it back to Hopkins.

However after about a mile I saw a small homemade sign advertising muffler and radiator repairs. I steered off the main road and drove into a small village, which you wouldn’t have expected to be there if you didn’t get off the main road. After asking a few times we found the ‘welding shop’ that had been advertised on the sign.

Two guys, that I found out later were brothers, moved some plastic chairs, a table, 4 dogs, 2 cats, and a bunch of chickens out of the way and asked me to drive my car into their workshop, which doubled as their house. Then borrowing my jack they lifted my car a bit and disappeared underneath it.

One of the brothers spoke a little Spanglish, and made it clear to me it would be ‘no problema’ to get it fixed. He pulled out 2 plastic chairs for us, so we could relax while the spectacle unfolded. One thing I hadn’t spotted up to this point was any welding equipment, and was curious as to how they were going to fix my truck. I did notice a bunch of old and heavily used electricity cables spilling out of a cardboard box, and now one of the brothers was moving a plastic ‘baby bath’ that was currently in use as the drinking bowl for the animals in their yard.

Out of some pieces of 2×4 wood and some pole clamps they made electrodes and placed them into the baby bath which was being filled with water, while about a pound of kitchen salt was being added to the liquid. There was an electricity pole directly next to the ‘work shop’ and now I was noticing that the wires were clamped on directly to the main line, before the breaker box. I asked the guys if they were sure it was safe and of course it was ‘no problema’ they did this all the time.

The 2 brothers disappeared under my truck and soon the humming and buzzing sounds, affiliated with welding came, from under the car. The water in the baby bath started boiling and no doubt the dogs knew by now to stay away from drinking from their bowl whenever it was turned into a welding machine. After about 10 minutes the guys appeared from under my truck and gave me the international ‘all clear sign’ a big smile and 2 thumbs up.

I crawled under my vehicle and was stunned to see a perfect welding job.

They charged me so little, that I felt guilty and paid them double the price, since I felt they had been risking their lives to get me back on the road. I drove off with a big smile and 2 thumbs up, truly amazed how innovative people can get in finding a way to make a living.