So traveling thru Customs has been an experience. I’m quite behind in my blog entries so I can say in retrospect that my first real encounter of going from one country to another by land , especially if the country I was leaving was not my own, was a warning that is was not going to be smooth. Laughable many times, yes. Smooth, never.
I got to the border crossing at Tapachula, Mexico going into Ciudad Hidalgo, Guatemala on a very hot day. By the time I got to the actual area where Mexico ends, but before Guatemala begins (Yep, every country in Central America has about 1 km of nomad’s land, where you are not in any country. They do this to be able to charge you to leave one country and then to enter the next county. More on that in a minute….) I was sorely mad I had not brought water with me.
Leaving Mexico I met a really good looking college guy. Very well built and tall. He offered to walk with me across the bridge and help me with my backpack. He was on his way to Nicaragua for a month. According to the internet and to locals this particular border crossing can be very busy unless one goes in the middle of the week first thing in the morning. Which is exactly what I did.
As we walked we laughed about how dumb it would be to jump in the Rio Suchiate to get to the other side as we both had read about people doing to sneak into the countries.
Then we noticed that it was weird how we didn’t have to really go thru any kinda customs at the Mexican border. Seemed strange to us both. Well, it is because we should have. Apparently there was a little booth that we were just suppose to “know” to go into. We figured out that, of course, this is a scam to make more money. Because you have to go back across said bridge to get your passport stamped that you have left Mexico or greatly risk that when you leave Guatemala they will hold you for not having officially ever left Mexico. The scam part being that all these old guys are just waiting outside to take you back in these cute little bicycle things.
I have no idea how they ride these things. It is hotter than a frying pan and they ride with two or three passenger, plus their luggage, sitting in the front. They are very sketchy about how much they are going to charge you. Saying one price, but charging double to bring you back even though they had told you the price for coming and going. Still all in all very much worth the ride just kinda shady way to go about it. So we went back and got our passports stamped to leave Mexico (the guy at Customs in Guatemala let us leave our luggage in the room so that was good). There was no exit fee to leave Mexico. Nor was there one to enter Guatemala.
After getting through both border crossings we decided to take another “pedal taxi” and split the cost to the bus terminal.
Now, I want to stress, I could not make this next part up even if I tried. As I mentioned this was a young, tall, well-built, 20 something year old. college student riding along with me. So he was quite embarrassed and I was astonished when a one-armed man of about 65 grabbed my luggage to convince us to ride in his pedal-taxi instead of the other 30 taxis waiting for passengers. He rode us to the bus terminal several miles away like the pro he must be. Dodging some of the hugest livestock I have ever seen. At one point a gigantic domestic pig ran along side us to what I can only assume was a bit of exercise.
Sadly, I have no pictures of this ride except in my mind. Which I get a chuckle out of every time I think about it.
Now I was going to go as far as Guatemala City. I had made arrangements to stay with a Couch Surfing host by the name of Vladimir and his family. He has a very basic understanding of English, but told me over and over again in our emails to make sure I got to Guatemala City way before dark. How hard could that be with it only being a 119 miles away. Well apparently in a bus that stops whenever and where ever someone throws up their hand it can take forever. I am told the trip is normally about 6 hours. My trip was just under 8. There were the aforementioned on and off riders, but also lots of immigration check points. These were very scary for me at first due to the heavily armed ~~ with Uzis and assault rifles mind you~~ guards. But after awhile, even as scared of guns as I have been my entire adult life, I got very used to it. Then I didn’t even seem to notice.
Next blog entry…..another Bucket List item checked off and my time in Guatemala City with such a lovely family for hosts.