Cycling days 67-70: Entering Guatemala
Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
120Trip End Jan 19, 2012
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We leave El Hostalito in San Cristobal de las Casas at 9:30am. There is a bit of hill climbing to get out of the city. We are enjoying the morning riding until Yannick witnesses a dog getting run over by a car. Luckily Shirley didn't see it happen or she would have been way more traumatized than Yannick was.
We continue riding and try to think about other things such as how beautiful the scenery is, how nice the temperature is, and about our border crossing into Guatemala tomorrow! The road is mostly flat with a good amount of downhill, so we cover over 100km today. We’re about 80km from the border and if all goes well, this will be our last night in Mexico!
Day 68 (2/23/11): 98km
We get up early and start riding at 7:30am – we want to make sure to have plenty of time for today’s border crossing just in case we run into problems along the way.
The road climbs and drops steeply throughout the day, passing next to clusters of houses that seem like villages, but don’t have road signs indicating their names. At times we pass by small tiendas selling snacks and junk food, but the heat is making us crave fresh fruit, which doesn’t seem to be readily available this early in the morning. At midday, we finally pass a substantial city (Huehuetepec) and stop inside the grocery store to resupply our food bags. Yannick goes inside and takes a long time getting his bearings – a new country, new currency, and different products makes this round of grocery shopping complicated. He walks around the store and picks up what we need, but doesn’t really like the prices. We heard/read Guatemala is supposed to be cheaper than Mexico, but we aren’t feeling it. Filling our fuel bottle at the gas station also cost a lot more than we expected. Along the road, there are guys selling gasoline in gallon jugs at a cheaper price than at proper gas stations – Yannick is curous about how they are able to do this and one guy tells him that they go to Mexico and buy the gas because it’s cheaper there. Hmm…cheaper in Mexico…so we aren’t doing our math wrong and aren’t that crazy for thinking we’re still spending about the same amount of money since crossing the border. We speculate the price breaks are probably for lodging, public transportation, and restaurants…things we haven’t yet taken advantage of.
Although prices haven’t really changed, other things have. Drivers are more aggressive here and give us much less room as they pass at full speed. And most of the time their honk isn’t a, “hello, good going guys!” but rather, “I’m coming and you better get out of my way!” We also see more signs partially written in English, more American brands/companies than in Mexico and the people in Guatemala throw out whatever English they know at us as we ride by. Some phrases are, “Goodbye,” “Hey, what’s up!” “Keep going,” and “Good morning.” We also hear the very popular word “Gringo!!!” yelled out at us. Usually, it’s a couple little kids excitedly shouting “gringo” and waving at us, so it doesn’t bother us much, but when an adult says it in a condescending way, it’s a little hard to shrug off sometimes. Those moments are easily overshadowed by heartwarming encounters with other people though. For instance, today a man came down from his house and waved us down to give us three oranges. It meant a lot to us because we could tell he really didn’t have much, but still went out of his way to give something to us. As we stood there talking to him for a little while, we could immediately tell he had a good soul – he is a happy person with an easy smile. Moments like that re-energize us and give us something nice to think about as we suffer up steep hills in sweltering heat. We make it to 2,600m in elevation by the end of the day, setting up our tent behind some trees, next to an abandoned house. Not the quietest spot, but it’s the best thing we’ve seen all afternoon.
We wake up early and as we pack up, a 62 year-old man with a machete comes by our camp on his way to chop firewood along the hillsides. We talk to him for about 15 minutes and as he is about to leave, he asks for a “regalo.” We don’t understand what he’s asking, so we look it up in the dictionary. Hmm, he’s asking for a gift. We find this a little strange that he’s being so forward and asking if we have a gift for him, but figure we’ve been chatting for a while, so we reach into our bags and give him some cookies and chips.
We hop on our bicycles and ride down the road an easy 31km to San Cristobal Totonicapan. When we get to the city, we search for Jesse’s place (from CouchSurfing). As we wait for him at the Municipal, we start talking to the local reporters. When Jesse arrives, they all decide it would be nice to do an interview with us to help promote tourism to San Cris, talk about our trip, and ask questions about MedShare. Afterwards, we walk with Jesse to his place to drop off the bicycles and gear, meet Mega (another CouchSurfer), then take a walk to one of the waterfalls nearby to pick up trash and collect plastic bottles for one of the projects he’s working on.
In the evening, as we hang out at Jesse’s place, we find out another couple of touring cyclists are in town. We go chat with Florent and Aurelie for a couple of hours and find out they have roughly the same itinerary as us – bicycle South to Ushuaia with the intent of making it to Peru and Bolivia in time for the climbing season along the way. So, we might see them again somewhere down the road!
We head back to Jesse’s place where Stuart, Nick, Amanda are all hanging out and preparing for tomorrow’s hike up Tajumulco, the highest peak in Central America.