Page 14: - No Return Ticket - Just a Ride Report /w Pics - From the beginning
Tehuatepec - Guatamala:
Ok, our stay in Tehuatepec was plesent but now we are ready for Guatamala. The more we venture south the more basic things are looking, the housing, the transporation, the stores. It’s a feeling hitting both Heidi and I, we are getting further away from the Mexico we know and love.
Another military check point. We are waved over for an interragation. The official asked where we are going, where we are from and what all this stuff is we have. I always say just the next town we are shooting for so as not to confuse things with my limited Spanish. I do always enjoy saying where we are from though “Estados Unidos, Estado de Wisconsin” (United Stated, the state of Wisconsin) This has always brought a nice response. Next we point to each case and pack while saying “ropa, sacos de domir, herramientas, libros, mapas, agua” (clothes, sleeping bags, tools, books, maps, water) We have never been asked to show our passports while in Mexico, not even once. And, we only had one vary minimal inspection of our stuff. I really think by speaking Spanish and only Spanish, no matter how bad we speak helps get us respect and a swift interragation.
We took off early today and didn’t take time to eat breakfast. At this check point there were several food stands and small convenient stores. We pull over for some juice and snacks.
It was fun watching the local traffic go by.
We stop in a small town for some breakfast; coffee, scrambled eggs, ham, cheese and of course, tortillas.
Our plan was to cross the border at an out of the way spot about 40 miles north of the main crossing but because of our timing we decided to just do our best at the busy main crossing on highway 200. The plan is to stage ourselves at the border Saturday night after un-declaring the bike from Mexican customs, then cross the border into Guatemala super early Sunday morning. Sounds like a good plan to us……
We are getting close to the Guatemalan border, about ten miles away. A guy on the side of the road with an official looking badge hanging around his neck is aggressively waving at us to stop. I wanted to just blow by him but Heidi was jabbing me to stop. Oh well, I thought it couldn’t hurt. He asks to see our Mexican import papers for the motorcycle. He was in plain cloths and I thought this was not right but he was nice and spoke some English. I tell him we first need to un-declare our motorcycle from Mexico. He gives us directions to the customs building where we need to go, it’s about a block away. I was glad we talked with him because I’m not sure I would have recognized the customs building, it is on the other side of the street and is mainly for traffic coming into Mexico, not out. Heidi gives him a $1.80 tip for the help, well worth it. He proceeded to tell us about a motorcycle immigration pass we can get at the border that will take care of all the Central American countries all in one step and of course he was willing to help us through the whole transaction process to obtain it. I knew this was all BS and was only a technique of screwing us out of a lot of money. We politely said “No queremos ayuda, gracias” (We don’t want help, thank you) He smiled and said “good bye” We stuck it into gear while a couple of his younger trainees tried to flag us over. I slowly rode right at them, they had to jump out of the way. I said silently to myself “Nice try”
A block and a half later we cut in front of a line of cars a half mile long traveling the other direction. They were all preparing to clear Mexican customs for their vehicle. This is my fifth time un-declaring my vehicle from Mexican customs. It all went smooth and we were back in the saddle in less then ten minutes. You can almost see the long line of traffic at the far right side of the photo.
The guy we talked to who helped us locate the Mexican customs office said our plan to stay here tonight and cross the border early tomorrow morning was a bad idea. He said Sunday is the worst day for people crossing into Guatemala and it would take a long time, crap. It was still early, before noon, so Heidi and I decided to just take the hit crossing the border at the worst time of day and do it today, Right Now. Guatemala, here we come.....
Of course, I had all these plans on preparing for the border crossing in our hotel tonight, so instead we found a nice shaded quiet place and proceeded to prepare. Before we started this ride I looked up all the currency exchange rates for all the countries we plan to visit and stored them on the computer. I know what the peso to dollar rate is. I look up what the dollar to Guatemalan quetzal rate is. We count how many pesos we have and are willing to dump, about a hundred dollars worth. I do a calculation in my head for the peso to quetzal conversion. I then calculate the amount of pesos we have and how many quetzals that equals, subtract a reasonable amount for the money changer fee and come up with an acceptable amount of quetzal I should receive back. If you don’t do this ahead of time you will be setting yourself up to get short changed. These change guys are skilled at recognizing uncertainty in people.
OK, we are set. I have the pesos stashed and ready to exchange, we have all the paper work along with all the possible copies. I have a small tip ready for a helper to show us where to go. All the other money is hidden and out of view. There is nothing else we can do to be ready. Let’s GO…………….
Like the Star Ship Enterprise sticking it into warp drive trying to pierce a black hole.
----> Detailed border crossing described below, ------> HANG ON! <-------
Several miles before the border crossing there is a fork in the road, a guy yells out in English “The main border crossing is closed today. You need to go to the other.” I ignore the guy, not believing him. Heidi yells out “He’s trying to help us!” I say “No way! He’s trying to extract money from us" I continue down the road we were on while about a dozen of his buddies are waving and pointing at us to go the other way. I can feel Heidi twitching behind me so I pull over to discuss the situation with her. Before we know it the same guy rides up on the back of his buddy’s motorcycle telling us “The main border crossing is not open today, it’s Saturday. Follow me 25 minutes to this other crossing and I will guide you” I see this as a RED flag. Yeah right, 25 minutes to the other crossing……This Is A Set Up. We may be able to cross there but how much $ will he demand for guiding us 20 some miles to this crossing where I could get to all by myself. And besides, I don’t believe him that the main crossing is closed. Heidi still thinks I’m nuts but I tell her “Hey, the border is only a few miles from here, we can always turn back and go to the other crossing if this one is really closed”
OK, we are getting real close to the border now. Wave after wave of a dozen guys or more with official looking shirts and badges in their hand or around their neck are aggressively waving us over, demanding us to pull over. Oh Yeah, Game On! I’m one aggressive SOB but I have learned to control it over the years. Knowing that and preparing for this ride and others I have constantly reminded myself that when IT’S TIME to pull the trigger and get mean and ugly, I will have no problem doing it, again. Anyway, these dudes demanding us to stop and pull over knew I wasn’t going to stop as soon as they realized I’m increasing my speed as they attempt to step in front of us and stop us. Poor Heidi, she is yelling out “They are only trying to help us!” I say “No F-ing way, they are only trying to extract money from us!” Wave after wave after wave, we blast through. (I am liken this way too much)
Finally we get to the border and have to stop. (Photo below) The guy over Heidi’s left shoulder asks nicely if we want to exchange any money. I look him straight in the eyes and tell him how many pesos we have and say “cuanto quetzales?” (how many quetzales?) He punches out on his calculator and shows me a figure about ten quetzales more than what I was willing to accept. I say “Si!” I count out the pesos in front of him and about a dozen other dudes who were chasing behind. He puts his hand out for the pesos. I put my hand out for the quetzales. He smiles and hands me the quetzales, I count them out, then hand him the pesos. We both smile while about a dozen dudes with official looking shirts and badges are hammering on us to be our helper. At this point it was true mayhem but Heidi and I knew what was going on and we knew what to do. Heidi and I simultaneously pick out one pleasant young kid and say “ solo usted ayuda!” (only you help) and proceeded to tell the dozen or so others that we don’t want any other help, Luis is our helper. We used our best Spanish and were able to get our point across. After, some guy hands Luis one of those official looking badges with a passport type photo on it and a fancy stamp. The face in the photo was of an older bald guy and it didn’t look anything like Luis or the guy who handed it to him.
Luis helps guide me to move our bike in front of about twenty vehicles. Squeeze left, squeeze right. Several other people are helping at this point. In front of the Guatemalan immigration office I park the bike and have Heidi watch it while I go in and have my passport stamped to enter Guatemala. I come back out and tell Heidi exactly where to go and what to do to get her passport stamped. She returns in about ten minutes with a smile. All the time Luis wanted to take our passports and money to help us. We had to constantly tell him that we are doing it ourselves and he just needs to tell us where to go. Luis’s insistence to hand him our papers and money went on and on and on and on. Next I hand Heidi all the original papers, all the copies, the passports and my drivers license. Heidi and Luis march off to the quagmire of buildings, people and vehicles. I am blown away at the confidence Heidi exhibited during this process. There is no doubt, she is in charge. People continue to help me move the bike further up passed several more cars and trucks. All this time I have about ten kids hanging all over me and the bike while they were touching anything and everything. Our helmets were the only vulnerable item, being just clipped on the back of the backpack. When one kid started asking me how much I would sell him the helmet for, I jumped off the bike and pulled a security cable through the helmets and locked them to the bike.
This is it, the line is stopped. I put the kickstand down. While I’m waiting to see what happens next, a few kids show up offering to shine my boots. Heidi and I both lived in the Dominican Republic for a couple of years and knew a gentleman who would help young orphan and street kids build and stock a shoeshine kit so they could learn how to make a living working. Heidi and I constantly would have our boots, running shoes or sandals shined by these kids whenever we saw them, thinking that this is the best money we have ever spent. Anyway, I still had several ten peso coins in my pocket and I could think of no better way to spend them than to give a couple of kids a job. “OK, usted esta bota. usted esta bota” (You, this boot. You, this boot) I paid them each for two boots but to me that’s better than charity, they worked for it and did a heck of a job on the boots.
Heidi comes back and says it will be another thirty minutes until we can move forward. I hand her a few ten peso coins. She is right on it……
I Love This Woman……………
OK, from here on I needed to do everything else myself because the bike is in my name. Heidi stands guard with the bike while I wait in the main customs building with Luis. It was hotter then hell, I was literally dripping sweet. I didn’t want to take my leather jacket off because that’s where I secure my papers. There are two or three others strong arming Luis, trying to take over his job. The others would attempt to muscle their way in front of the teller window trying to take over. Luis would stand behind with a sad look on his face, then I would point to him and say “usted mi ayuda amigo, solo” (you are my helper friend, only you) This would always bring back a smile to his face. But at the same time Luis was always trying to get me to give him all my papers, passport, motorcycle title and $300 quetzales (39 dollars), saying it’s Saturday, it costs more for Saturday. This went on and on and on and on. I just kept smiling and saying “No, I’m doing all the paperwork and handling all the money” (I’m sure I killed the Spanish I used but he and the others knew what I was saying) Finally after about an hour, I’m up. A guy who has been ghosting Luis the whole time tries again to muscle his way to the teller window, yelling out something to the official “Moto, moto” (Motorcycle, motorcycle) I see my paperwork spitting out of the printer then go shoulder to shoulder with the guy. He backs off immediately while the official behind the counter hands me the paperwork and points to the amount and says “Cuarenta quetzales, pague al banco y regresa aqui, todo” (40 quetzales, pay the bank and return here, that’s it) Yeah, I knew it. Our little helper Luis was trying to rip me off for forty bucks. He wanted the papers and money so bad I knew it was a rip off. He kept saying it will be much faster if he took the papers and money and ran to the bank. I kept saying “I’m in no hurry, I want to experience the whole process myself” That’s when we lost most of the others trying to muscle Luis.
I had twelve bucks I was ready to give Luis for a tip but after I confirmed he was trying to steal forty bucks from me, I only gave him seven bucks. I made sure he knew why his tip was what it was. He still tried hard to extract more money from me and Heidi. That was it, I blasted hard right back at him. Heidi got kind of freaked from my aggressiveness but I assured her I just wanted him to know why. Luis and I shake hands, knocked knuckles and parted with a big smile. Heidi was shaking and felt kind of ill after my yelling episode with Luis.
It costs less then $11 to get two people and one motorcycle into Guatemala. That’s it…….
This was a stressful experience but with succeeding and overcoming any challenge or hard struggle comes a feeling of euphoria that can not be matched.
Riding into Guatemala and climbing up into the mountains I starting getting this overpowering feeling of love for Heidi I have never felt before. I was so impressed with how she handled herself alone with all the corrupt helpers, I was beside myself. I’m like almost shedding tears behind my face shield, I had to stop and kiss her. Next we gaze into each others eyes and say “We Are In GUATEMALA” Hand slap, knuckle knock with added sprinkles.
Guatemala is so beautiful it is impossible to describe. We ride off the beaten path and up into the mountains. This is without a doubt the worst paved road I have ever ridden on. The sky is looking black ahead in the mountains. We are going to hit rain for sure. Climbing up and up we ride way longer then we wanted to before pulling over to suit up in our rain gear, there were just no flat spots to stop. Before stopping we were averaging less then 20 MPH. When we stopped I almost asked a family if they would put us up for the night. After asking someone how far to the next town, we get our rain gear on and proceed to go up into the steep mountains, fog and rain. Luckily the road conditions improved considerably. A short time later the rain stopped and the roads cleared. We tool into a bustling Guatemalan city and get lost on a super bumpy one way road. I had to back track against one way traffic a bit to get out of town. We made it and several minutes later hit a smaller town with a small “Auto Hotel” (Sexo motel) it was clean and had secure parking. We Are Set, And, We Are In Guatemala! I run across the street and chatted with some locals while I wait for two plates of carne asada (grilled beef) with cream, black beans, plantains and tortillas, to go………
We hope you enjoyed our ‘No holding back’ description of crossing into Guatemala on a motorcycle on a Saturday afternoon through the main and busiest crossing.
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