“Stop the pump!”, Siri exclaims while pulling our flimsy wallet open. We only have 150 Quetzales and the gas pump reads 180. We ask the two older ladies working at this somewhat legitimate gas station if they take credit card. “No, solo efectivo”.
What a diverse drive!
This morning, we left our beloved Central American pearl, Playa El Tunco (and Hotel Mopelia)…
The borders are becoming more Central American! Compared to how we knew them from our past trip in 2007, they are fairly straight forward. However, when you realize the past entrance stamp was the completely wrong date and you therefore lack the appropriate exit stamp, it starts getting complicated…
Whether the El Salvadorian border officials believed me when I said it must be the Guatemalan border patrol’s fault and not mine, I don’t know. After a long while of me sweating my t-shirt to a drip with worry and heat, they came over and said it’s okey as long as I leave the CA-4 countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) within 90 days of the original entrance stamp (the wrong one, saying I entered Guatemala Sept 7.) A-OK with me!
After some more waiting for the car papers…
…and then some more waiting…
…we were finally in El Salvador!
The heat is blazing, the palm trees are swaying in the breeze, the smiles are wide and the sun is hanging high on the blue sky. We have found ourselves a beautiful spot and will be staying for a week before we venture over another border.
Honey is back in action!
Kyler and the boss of the mechanic shop went to Guatemala City yesterday to get parts and the work was finished today. The tie rod was way too expensive at the Volkswagen dealer so they ended up getting a Mazda tie rod. The threading was a bit off in size so it was re-threaded at a mechanic work shop. It took an entire day, but all for a fraction of the cost of the original VW part. The relationship between time and money is not as we know it. We now have a new tie rod, new break pads and new oil.
We drove off the mechanic’s ground and found ourselves the best and safest campground in Central America – in the Antigua police force’s back yard. We are parked amongst ruins and some of the world’s coolest road trippers.
There’s a family with two kids from Quebec traveling all over North-, Central- and South America in a year. There’s a guy from the island of Jersey in the English Channel who’s been on the road for 18 months via Finland, Russia, South East Asia, US, Canada and back down. All with his beloved Land Rover from home. There is a hard core converted truck shipped over from Switzerland. Very inspiring, very cool. I feel so lucky to be part of this different and very exclusive gang.
Not many things happen as they are planned. After a massive hit with a pot hole early this afternoon, Honey’s tie rod got completely killed. We came to an abrupt stop in the countryside. Several people came about to help us and we got towed to Antigua. Not a bad place to be while Honey gets fixed.
I guess it is part of the game, but DAMN that was a hard hit!!
We left Huehuetenango with the intention of crossing or getting close to the border of El Salvador today. We drove down to highway 2. We drove quite a ways until it was full STOP! “The bridge is out!” – Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies.
As we turned around, we saw some heavy clouds brewing up in the distance. It did not take long until it was a full blown thunderstorm. It rained so hard we feared it could take the road out. We seeked shelter and called it a day.
We have asked around for advice about our route to El Salvador now that highway 2 is not an option. There is a detour, but as foreigners we have been advised to get the police to come with us for protection.. This option takes as much time as going back to highway 1, so that is what we will be doing. A change of plan, but what can you do? That’s traveling!
“If you like Pina Coladas
And getting caught in the rain”
The Mexican/Guatemalan border is more of a drive-through market than a border crossing. You need to find your own way between the necessary buildings and hope you did not forget to have something done on the way. Nobody will tell you where to go.
We started out on the Mexican side, where we got our passports stamped as exiting Mexico. Then, we went to another office to have the temporary car importation permit cancelled. This was all pretty easy and did not cost us anything. The border patrol men were watching tv and wanted us out of the way quickly.
4 km separates the Mexican and Guatemalan customs, we therefore drove on in no-man’s land until the market/border sprung into action. The first stop was a fumigation station for the van. It is supposed to kill bugs or something on your vehicle before entering Guatemala. This cost us Q40 = $5. It’s supposedly cheaper for smaller vehicles. Next stop was to get our tourism stamp. We had to wait a little while for no apparent reason, but that is just the way it is! We paid Q10 per person as a tourism fee. We did not receive a receipt, so I am not sure where/who this fee goes to.
If we did not have a vehicle we would now be good to go. Since we do have a vehicle, we had to stop by the vehicle importation office which is right next door to the passport office. There was nobody in the vehicle office, so we had to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally they show up and started processing our case. They need the original title of the vehicle, the passport of the owner and drivers license. What seems to not be such a complicated process end up taking a long time. I really do not understand how it can take this long! They take the copies that are necessary so you do not have to worry about that. The import fee is Q160 and must be paid at the nearby bank. They wait while you go and do this. In the end you get a sticker on your windshield and you are suddenly good to go! Yay! It is by no means the most complicated border crossing we have been to, but keep calm and have lots of patience as this process in our case took two hours.
By the time we got through the border and were on Guatemalan roads it was later then we would have liked. We made it to Huehuetenango for the night, but did not have much extra time for unexpected events, such as a landslide taking out the road, making this the main highway:
Tips for the border crossing:
– Have a meal before you reach the border. Being hungry does not help anybody’s patience.
– Exchange money before you reach the border. You will need Quetzals. The money exchangers at the border are just waiting to rip you off. It saves you hassle (and probably money) to take care of this somewhere else.