Guatemala, Round 2
We successfully made our way back into guatemala, meaning we are no longer driving the roads of mexico (illegally).The border crossing wasn’t exactly what we might call smooth or fast, but we did get across nonetheless... Despite what we’d been told, canceling our expired vehicle permit actually was no problem and things on the mexican side of the border went smoothly enough. Getting into Guatemala however took a bit more time- like 3 hours more. Passports with stamps no problem, but as soon as we leave the mexican office and head across to the guatemalan side the “helpers” come out in swarms. We had read about these guys, knew that we didn’t need their help and also knew that they would be rather forceful; but nothing could have prepared us for the mob-scene that began.
At least a dozen guys followed us every step of the way forcing themselves into the bus, in front of us and chatting at us as though the more annoying they were the higher the probability we might decide to use their services. The logic didn’t stick. As we struggle to find legal parking they are swarming around the bus like hornets around a nest, shouting at us and all telling us different directions so that they can be the more helpful (and more worthy of a few quetzales). When Jen hops out to pay the parking attendant she has an entourage of at least 10 on the way back and forth. These guys are ruthless.
As it turns out, we arrived at lunchtime. Meaning that all aduana (customs) officials were on break and we were told that they would be back somewhere in between 30 and 90 minutes. We also learned that the office we first stopped into with ADUANA written above the door is in fact a company willing to talk to the aduana for you, not the actual aduana. Nice. Something didn’t feel quite right when this guy listened to our story and then had to run up the street with my passport and our original docs in hand, so i chased him down and we eventually got our docs back and waited on lunch to wrap-up on our own.
After the officials return, we stand in line to watch the painful process of “helpers” being allowed to cut in the front of line as often as they want while mere mortals wait our turn. Apparently a lot of money has changed hands here and these guy have no limit on the number of favors of shortcuts they can cash in during the day. Once we finally make it to the front of line we still have to leave the line and wait again several times as copies are required after every stamp. We would love to think ahead enough to have these copies in hand, but each copy is worthless without the stamp you just received minutes before and the next stamp cant occur without the previous copy and the cycle continues. Apparently the copy shop across the street has relatives on the inside...
Eventually we make it through, but also learn that thanks to our mechanic difficulties in mexico much of our available time in the C4 countries (guatemala, el salvador, nicaragua, honduras)has already been used. We applied for and got a month extension, but still have to be out of the C4 within a few months and cant return without being gone for at least 3 months...looks like we need to work on our long-range plan...
Once across the border we finally take a deep breath and start looking around us. It’s as though the dry arid landscape that was oaxaca and chiapas has immediately been replaced by green jungle and dense forests. The heat however, that came with us.
We drive a few hours and decide to turn into a town to look for lodging. No real central square or church here and we arent sure if its simply this town, or our mexican tricks dont apply here. We find the only place with internet hoping to secure a better option than the street but as soon as we get inside the guatemala equivalent of KFC the city power grid goes down. We instead head back to the bus and settle in along side the street vendors for the night.