First Border Crossing

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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What I did
Border crossing

Flag of Guatemala  ,
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spread across 3 seats I felt more comfortable than ever in a bus to date yet for some reason I still could not sleep. Could it have something to do with the endless bumpy, gravel road? Perhaps it's the scorching sun burning down on my cheek? Or more likely it's what we were driving towards... our first border crossing in Central America. 

Border crossings always puts one on high alert. There's always that risk that you are refused entry, and in this instance, the added risk of that happening in the middle of nowhere!
 
Thanks to a flat tyre (our second in a week - see entry for Semuc Champey), we ended up running about 45 mins late. A few concerned eyebrows were raised when the ultra-smooth, undersized spare was unveiled and fitted. Er, I guess we wouldn't normally take notice of the tyres' condition, and these guys do this everyday, right? Still we all heaved a sigh of relief when we stopped in the next village to have the original tyre repaired.

At least we could get some breakfast even if we didn't know exactly what the heck the little granny and granddaughter were cooking up roadside. It was some kind of deep-fried pastry containing mystery meat and veg. A Guatemalan samoosa? We passed on the weak, milky tea scooped with a ladle from a huge plastic cooler.

Before long we reached a sign that read: "Bienvenidos" (Welcome). This was not a welcome to Mexico though, but a welcome to the small border town of Bethel, our last stop in Guatemala. The co-driver went ahead on a bike to ensure our boat didn't leave without us, being late and all. Meanwhile all the travellers were ushered out of the bus to queue for their turn to have their passport stamped for the exit. It was all rather uneventful. 

The border office looked more like a house than an official building with little girls charging for use of the outhouses. On the 10 metre walk from the bus to the office (and back again!) we were hounded by 4 touts offering to offload our Guatemalan Quetzals for Mexican pesos, undoubtedly at an unfavourable rate. We figured we'd wait till we cross over. 

By "cross over" I mean the border which is in fact a river. All 10 of us, plus 2 local boys who steered and anchored, plus all our luggage were piled onto a narrow wooden boat that seemed able to capsize all too easily. So 5 sat on either side (and didn't dare move!), and half the luggage was stowed at either end. Thirty minutes down the river we were finally in Mexico, greeted by 4 straight-faced Mexicanos with folded arms and cowboy hats, just staring at us gringos.
 
We glanced back to bid a fond, yet temporary, farewell to Guatemala. Like Arnie "we'll be back" when we head south to explore the rest of Latin America. We'll probably head down the Pacific coast to avoid backtracking to the same towns. But for now we need to get ourselves to Palenque and start the hunt for tequila and delicious Mexican street food!!

Dashboard stats:Average daily spend in Guatemala - 13.40  / person / day - a third of our U.S. spend!
Backgammon score -  224 (Mario) to 201 (Dee)  
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