26.10.16. Comitan de Dominguez, Mexico to Huehuetenango, Guatemala
We’ve crossed the border into Guatemala! It was an eventful day, as a lot of them turn out to be…..
We left early, with a two hour ride to the border. We were apprehensive about what to expect, we had to ensure that we cancelled our Mexican Vehicle Import permit (and get our refund), get both the passports exit stamped, have the tyres ‘fumigated’ on the bike (??), and go through the whole process in reverse when entering Guatemala.
We made excellent time, the road 190 was brilliant after yesterday, no Topes, only one or two potholes and we were approaching the border by a little after 10 am. All good, or so we thought.. As we looked ahead we thought there was an accident, as the road was covered in people. We pulled into the service station for a quick break, and a guy approached Paul holding out his hand to shake, whilst telling us there was a blockade across the road which may last 2-3 hours. Oh no! We rapidly looked at our map the Sat Nav and Google Maps to see if there was another route round, and Paul asked a couple of men who came to talk to us- but no, if there were other roads, they were really bad (and when a Mexican tells you that you believe him!). So we settled in to wait, after moving into the shade.
Time passed, and more and more vehicles came, there were numerous ‘Chicken’ buses coming along letting out streams of passengers who were walking through the blockade and then taking a different ‘Chicken’ bus from the other side, dragging their back packs and suitcases. We also saw quite a few small motorbikes being pushed through one way or the other, but they were getting through tiny gaps.
The blockade was a group of local farmers who were protesting to the local government for better treatment, a nice local guy explained to us. He was waiting to get through, then only had 20 km to drive on the other side of the block. Although a few people told us it was a big problem, everyone remained very peaceful and calm, just waiting patiently. This despite the fact that the rumour now going around was that it would be cleared at 5pm. We were worried by this, as we do not want to ride in the dark, had the border crossings still to make, and our hotel was at least an hour away.
Eventually, about 2 ½ hours later, a lady came to see if we wanted to buy any of her home made ice lollies, sadly we are trying to avoid anything homemade, or not made from a place that looks really clean, to try and avoid food poisoning, so we said no. luckily, she didn’t mind and went on to tell us that we could push our moto through the blockade, even with the ‘little car’ on the side, she was very sincere.
We thought we’d try this, and were amazed as the farmers allowed Paul to push the bike around them, and then all we had to do was wait patiently for our turn, before all the cars the other side of the blockade moved aside to allow us through. It seemed we could easily have one that at the beginning, but we both wanted to respect the blockade, and weren’t sure at that point how peaceful the whole thing was. We’ll know if it happens again.
We couldn’t believe it! We were through, and 5 km down the road was a very empty Mexican exit border who quickly processed all the paperwork we needed.
After another short ride, we came to the extremely busy little place of La Mesilla, and rode through what seemed like the middle of the market, before arriving at some cones. One side of the cones were the Mexicans, making sure we had all our stamps, and the other…..that was amazing! Suddenly we were surrounded by people trying to sell us Guatemalan Quetzals, another man was asking me something else, which turned out to be get out of the sidecar as I need to spray your tyres-- so I did quickly! He sprayed them, then went off with Paul’s passport and the payment for the service (we’re still not quite sure what that’s for). Next was passport stamping, which was extremely quick, then Paul arranged the vehicle importation. This took a bit longer, so I had a good time just to stand and be astounded by my surroundings. What a colourful, bright place, teeming with life, and the people have smiles as wide as their entire faces. I was lucky enough to see a lot of these as they saw the bike, it drew a huge amount of attention, with quite a few wanting to touch it, lean on it, or use it as a resting place!
Once this excitement was over, we were on our way. As our Sat Nav does not work in any of these countries we are back to old fashioned maps, so we checked our route, then headed off into the extremely interesting Guatemalan traffic on the Pan American Highway. All I have to say about that is, that the Topes are now called Tumbules, and that there were banners across the road about introducing Driving Licences into the country.
Our hotel tonight is lovely, and the people are super friendly.