San Cristobal de las Casas to Huehuetenango,Thursday, 1 November 2012, Day 121

No mans land between Mexico and Guatemala Gorgeous!

Today I was in two minds as whether or not to cross the border into Guatemala today. It was about 180km away so I was not sure how long this would take to get there and I did not want to turn up to late not knowing how long the process will take and arriving in a new country late in the day. To ensure I was ready for both options in the morning I went on the Internet to do some research on the border crossing this entailed me perching on a corner of a balcony, as this was the only place I could get a signal. So after this I have a vague idea on what the process is the next thing I wanted to do was get some Guatemalan Quetzals, as I do like being hassled by the money changers at the border and I seen a place last night that was selling Quetzals in town the exchange rate not to fantastic but probably better than what I would be getting at the border so I loaded the bike went the exchange place and then as usual got lost trying to get out of town which you would think be nigh on impossible with a GPS but I am not sure how good the coverage is of Garmin is in Mexico it always seems to be a bit off. Whilst trying to find the right road out of town spotted an OXXO (Mexican 7/11) so decided to have breakfast there before hitting the road. So it was quite late when I left San Cristobal so had already had my mind set on the fact that I would be spending another night in Mexico. Nice road not to hot when I was in the mountains and before I knew it I was at the crossroads to the town I had planned to stay for my last night in Mexico.

So I filled up with petrol and asked how far to the border and it was just down the road. It was 3pm so I thought sod it lets go for it and get this border crossing out of the way and it turned out to be a lot easier than what I was expecting.

  • First on the Mexican side find the banjacito office to get my deposit back for my bike as I was leaving the country. Very easy guy took my forms did some paper work and came out checked my VIN number and I was good to go (Note to self double check credit card to see if they put the monies back)
  • So the bike is officially out of Mexican but I am not so next stop immigration to get me officially stamped out of Mexico also no problem adios Mexico
  • Ola Guatemala, short drive through no mans land which is so gorgeous that I have to stop and take a photo probably not the wisest thing to do stopping and taking photos at a border crossing but it really was spectacular scenery that needed capturing
  • I rolled up to the Guatemalan side and was directed to the immigration and in out within minutes no queue no hassle I am officially in Guatemala and have been given 90 days. It seems I am the only one crossing the border today so the nice chap comes out with me and points me to where I need to go to get the bike temporally imported which is 20 meters further down the road
  • So move my bike from immigration to import place and park my bike in front of the kiosk a couple of money changers ask me quite politely if I would like to change any money and I politely declined and they did not bother me again
  • Young lad at kiosk spoke some English so he asked me for
    • Passport
    • Driving Licence
    • Registration Papers for the bike
    • Exit papers for Mexico

As he needed to make copies, I told him I had copies he could have but he insisted that he made his own (nice little money spinner) so easier to let him just do this. So he did all the admin and filled in the forms, which took a while. Trying to find the Netherlands on his list on his computer was the 1st stumbling block but we found it eventually. When forms completed he showed me them to check them to see if all info correct. This is when I noticed that he had the Netherlands for the bike, which was correct, but he had me down as a Dutch person which was wrong but an easy mistake to make as how many English blokes turn up at the border on a Dutch registered bike with a Dutch driving licence. So this set of paper work went in the bin and we changed it the UK, which also took some finding this on his computer. This time paperwork correct and complete so I sign all 3 copies and so does he and then he makes up the invoice and gives me all my paperwork. The cost was 60 Quetzals for the copies, which was not really necessary as I already had copies but hey it’s only 6 EUR so I can live with that and 100 Quetzals for Import Costs. This I challenge as I read this morning it should only be 40 Quetzals but he tells me this is last year price so I joke about that is huge inflation but I accept the charge as the chap has been pleasant to deal with and I have a fully itemised officially looking invoice that is signed and stamped and 16 EUR seems a reasonable price to me.

  • So directed to the cashiers kiosk, which is next door to pay the fee. Walk into the door expecting it to open but it was locked and needed to be open by an armed guard from the inside ouch! Paid the cash having another go at getting a discount or the 40 Quetzal rate in there but the cashier spoke no English
  • Back outside to the import kiosk there were a couple of other people there now and the young chap was dealing with them. So waited for a while it getting hot about 30+ degrees so starting to sweat a bit. I was expecting him to deal with the other folks in the queue first but he called me in front of them and we finished of the paperwork and I had my temporary import sticker.
  • Showed this to another guard/official for his records and I was in Guatemala and it was just after 4pm so this whole exercise only took about a hour so quite efficient.
  • So thanked the young lad and other official sorted my paperwork out and drove into Guatemala
  • So no hassle with folks trying to offer there services, no hassle from the money lenders, officials I dealt very pleasant and courteous, no fumigation needed and no fumigation fee very efficient all things consider and only 160 Quetzals so considering all the horror stories I had heard and read about on the Internet I am wondering if I am just lucky or if folks really do have the experiences I read about!

Border Crossing

So should I find a place for the night or move away from the border. It was stunning scenery and I had itchy feet and was feeling good about how easy the border crossing had been so I hit the road. I was heading for a town, which was about 80km away called Huehuetenango, and if I saw something nice I would stop before then and in theory it all should be doable before it got dark.

For about 5km I had not hit any speed humps and was just starting to celebrate as I was lulled into thinking that they do not have them in Guatemala but nope bugger they do have them here as well.

As I moved into Guatemala my GPS started loosing detail as the maps I had loaded where only for North America and Mexico and my South America was buried in one of my bags so I went back to old fashion map reading and looking at the signs. Two problems here was the map I had I had borrowed of my mate John in Houston who had borrowed it of a Dutch college of his and this was in the 90’s so it was very old and two there are little to no road signs in Guatemala.

  

So doodling along enjoying the road and the scenery bit concerned as it was getting dark and I had not seen any places to stay since I left the border I had no idea if I was even on the right road or how far Huehuetenango was away. I finally saw the sign for the turn off Huehuetenango and before I knew it I was in the outskirts when I saw a fair and or fiesta and just after that a hotel with secure parking so pulled in there for the night. Hotel run by a couple of young Guatemalan lads so I have some fun with them checking in and also later trying to get the Internet to work (seems to be common issue).

I headed back to the fair/fiesta a small affair but it was nice wandering around there and I went the Guatemalan equivalent of KFC for my tea. One thing that struck me as strange why they had the fiesta right in front of the cemetery but later I found 1st November was day of the dead celebration so location made more sense to me now.

So another great productive day easy border crossing nice biking roads (except for them damned speed humps) fantastic scenery, a couple of days ago was feeling a bit down and lonely and needed to do something about this. So the plan is tomorrow to go to Antigua and sign up for Spanish lessons at a language school pretty sure that will involve lots of talking 🙂 and at the end of next week I will be craving for the solitude and wanting to be on my own and bitching about that in this blog 🙂

 

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