Well we were sad to leave Mexico but we love what we’ve seen of Guatemala so far. Very lush, with high volcanoes and lots of smiling faces. We even had avocado margaritas today. Whaaaat?
We heard many stories about terrible border crossings in Central America. Dave and I chose the crossing from Mexico into Guatemala at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, two hours south of San Cristobal De Las Casas, a gorgeous historical city but very chilly. Our crossing agenda seemed a little daunting as we had to ensure we didn’t miss the Banjercito office at immigration, which we needed to process the refund of the $400 U.S. bond on each bike for their temporary import. So $800 U.S. needed to be refunded to Dave’s credit card but if we missed the office, we wouldn’t be able to cross back in after leaving the country, which seemed to be some kind of imaginary line on the road.
After cancelling the vehicle permit on the Mexico side, we needed to go to immigration for an exit stamp in our passports. There would then be a 4 km no-man’s land stretch of road between Mexico and Guatemala, were we would again need to re-import the bikes temporarily into the country of Guatemala, pay a fee and go through immigration, all while dealing with hoards of money-changers, pesky ‘helpers’ and the inevitable long waits at border crossings.
Or so we thought. The whole process maybe took an hour and a half and was somewhat pleasant even, with all the officials even smiling and helping and laughing at our Spanish while attempting their own English translations. The only part that seemed somewhat chaotic was the actual crossing (a yellow and black traffic arm on a string, drawn up only after several shouts from the crowd just ‘hanging out’ at the border.). Our bikes had to be fumigated and despite several attempts asking them not to as our bags were exposed, our seats, etc, we had to give in and get off the bikes while they sprayed the ‘wheels only.’ But of the course the cloud of toxins floated all over the place. What was disconcerting was the lack of masks worn by the sprayer guy and the locals standing around selling snacks, hacking away.
After the fumigation (on our lungs), we rode about 10 feet to the immigration office, where we walked right in. An older man who slurred terribly walked us through the process. He seemed more like a random guy who had nothing better to do than ‘work’ at the crossing, while the actual official guys watched TV or stayed in their offices. In any case he got us into the country for about $10 each. Then it was over to the vehicle import window right next door, where we crossed by a huge line-up. The window we needed however was completely wide open. We went about the process, then I took both our papers and walked about three steps to the office where I was to pay. This was the doorway out of which snaked the huge line-up of locals. I was told to go to the front of the line, where the guard rapped on the closed office door, said something in Spanish and I was told to pass through. Inside were three locals with papers and tired expressions, getting their own official papers of some sort. I heard the guard tell them to move aside for the señorita and I got ushered to the window in seconds. I looked apologetically at the locals, who’d waited it seemed hours to get this far then a foreigner comes in and gets the front of the line.
I whipped out my credit card. The cashier shook her figure no. I didn’t have enough Quetzals, so had to forgo my front-of-the-line standing and walk about 1/2 km to a bank in my biker suit in about 25 Celsius, with 125 CC motorcycles and these small little taxis that look like bugs, zooming around me and the other people walking the street. I got the money, then walked back and again, was ushered right to the front of the line.
All in all, it was the fact we didn’t have cash to pay for our permits (about $40 U.S.) that took the longest. The rest was cake.
We are in Antigua right now after spending two nights in Guatemala City having oil changes done on our bikes. Dave also needed a new chain and sprockets. We used the BMW dealer in Guatemala City and sadly cannot recommend this dealer. They were a bit of a shit show, telling me I needed new brakes but then installing the new brakes on Dave’s bike. And that’s just one example. Dave and I were both frustrated that the BMW brand’s quality service does not extend here. Hopefully we find it does in other countries as we will likely need repairs and servicing many times on the trip!
More photos here.
A word on our Inreach devices: While riding into Guatemala City, Dave and I got separated when he veered off last minute for a merge off the very busy, very congested road we were travelling on into the city. I was two lanes over and couldn’t make the turn without cutting off a bunch of traffic and well basically being run down. We had just enough time for him to say “uhoh” on our Sena communication devices, which only give a mile range at the best of times, and for me to say, “I’m pulling over right here and won’t move.” But I wasn’t sure if he heard. When I got stopped I pulled out my Inreach and sent him a message saying I was waiting off to the right more or less where he last saw me. The device would give GPS coordinates and since Dave had the GPS, it made more sense for him to find me than for me to navigate to him. Just another great use for our Inreach devices on our trip around the world travelling by motorcycles. Dave found me within about 20 mins and we carried on with no stress.