We arrived at the Guatemalan border to find out that we should have gone to the customs 40 minutes back in Talachupa to process the cancellation of the Mexican registration/import permit. Apparently, if you don’t cancel this permit before leaving the country and don’t came back into the country before it expires, you will be charged $500.00, plus a fine if you try to enter into the Mexico again with a vehicle. We tried to see if we could sort this out by email or phone but were told that no, each car had to go back to La Garita or else potentially be charged $500.00. The RGE guys contacted the British embassy to see how negative the ramifications would be if we didn’t go back. They said it would mostly likely be ok and that they would call the custom for us from the British embassy.
We barely went a few meters out of the border queue and ended up mobbed by a crowd and unable to move. The police were quick to respond, and they guarded us guns in hand and offered to escort us all the way to our destination at Guatemala City. We had a long delay at that juncture as we worked on sorting out the temporary importation status of the vehicles. Apparently, we had gone to a different place to cross the border than where we had originally planned to cross which is partly why things didn’t go as smoothly.
With a throng of people around us, we waited around and made conversations with the locals. All the tropical rain had washed off my shoe polish so I got the best shoeshine of my life from a little boy who worked on my shoes as if I was the president. For one dollar, my combat boots were as shiny as any General’s. A lady gave Cynthia a Rombego (a local fruit) to try for free as we didn’t have any cash, and later a girl approached us and gave us a whole bag of the spiny red fruits. On the inside they look like a large peeled grape and turned out to be succulent and delicious. We shared some with the kids and the police, and the girl invited us to her mother’s store and they gave us a picture to remember our time there and gave Cynthia a keychain. Once again, we have been impressed by the kindness of people to complete strangers.
Finally around 6 p.m, the border ordeal was over, and we started out on the road to Guatemala City. The road was lined by palm trees, banana plants, and many other lush plants. We passed grazing cows, chickens, muddy rivers, and many people walking along the road or riding in bike-cart taxis. After a gas station stop to fuel up for the bike, it was a bit surreal to see how the police with their guns stopped traffic for us to merge back onto our route for no apparent reason other than they could! By now it was dark. Almost immediately we started to encounter potholes of a size and frequency that made me feel like I was trapped in a video game. Trying to avoid them and radio back to the SRZero was quite a feat and took all my concentration. It was pouring as well, naturally. The hours of riding in the rain didn’t help. When we arrived to Guatemala City around 4 a.m., I was more sick, hypothermic, tired and ready for the bed.
Our stay in Guatemala didn’t turn out to be what I envisioned. I wanted to stay at least a month in Guatemala since this country is in the grip of a protracted food insecurity crisis, and the current situation of food insecurity is worsening what is already one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world (affecting 43% of children below five years of age). We highlighted a malnutrition clinic in Guatemala a few post back. While it was our wish to visit this clinic personally, we were disappointed that my illness prevented us from being able to visit there or other clinics. Needless to say, this is a country with tremendous needs.
I also had a few contacts and a motorcycle club I wanted to visit while there which we had to skip as well. We stayed in Guatemala for 2 days and I honestly don’t remember a minute of it. I was down with high fever and the next thing I remember is getting back on the bike heading fast for El Salvador.