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Published: June 22nd 2015
Distance driven today: 165 miles / 266 km
Cumulative distance driven: 6,292 miles / 10,126 km
Today’s trip: San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico to Huehuetenango, Guatemala
Border crossings: 1
In the morning we left San Cristóbal, in Chiapas Mexico, and both of us felt that we could have easily spent at least three more days exploring the city, eating our way through various restaurants, coffee places, and generally walking around the pedestrian streets. However, it was time to move on south, and so we started riding towards the Guatemalan border. We drove through a multitude of indigenous villages, and descended close to 1,500m/5,000ft over the next hour. As the temperature rose significantly, we had to make several hydration and clothing “easing” stops.
Just before 2pm we reached the Guatemalan border, in a rather small and seemingly chaotic city. First we had to pay a fee to get the motorcycle sprayed with some sort of pesticide. This was to make sure that we were not bringing in any pesky Mexican bugs, diseases and other annoyances to Guatemala. The border officer in charge of the whole spaying business, made sure that he sprayed an
abundant amount of the spray everywhere, and especially on the tires. Go figure!
After that, we presented all of our documents, including the title and licensing papers for the monocycle. The police officer in charge of immigration spent a ridiculous amount of time verifying that the VIN (that’s the unique vehicle identification number engraved on the frame by the manufacturer) actually matched the one on the vehicle title. When I curiously asked why he was doing that, the police officer replied that, the Guatemalan government wants to make absolutely sure that I do not intend to illegally import a vehicle and then sell it to somebody else in the country. To guarantee that won’t happen, the VIN will be checked by a police officer when I leave the country, and he sternly told me that, the numbers better match, or otherwise… Just moments earlier, the officer had asked me where I had come from, and I had replied that I had driven all the way from Alaska and that I ws headed for Argentina. What are the chances that I rode over 6,000 miles just to smuggle a motorcycle into Guatemala and illegally sell it? Surely there must be
easier ways to illegally make some money in a country where the average GPD per capita is a bit over $3,000? To put that into perspective, that’s as much as two of the rims and tires on the motorcycle are worth!!!
When the immigration police officer couldn’t find my Mexican exit stamp in my passport, things got complicated. Had I really just exited Mexico illegally, he wondered. And by the way he asked, where was the Mexican entry
stamp? I calmly explained that, when entering Mexico from Arizona, I wasn’t stopped at all, and even though I volunteered to show my passport, the Mexican immigration officer at the Arizona border crossing, would have any of it. The Guatemalan immigration office reluctantly accepted my explanation, but what about the Mexican exit
stamp, he asked again? What exit stamp I asked? The exit stamp that the Mexican immigration police gave you at the Mexican side of the border, just before you came to this Guatemalan border post? There was no border control on the Mexican side I told him, and surely no Mexican police stopped us as we were leaving the country. But, but, the Guatemalan immigration officer exclaimed
“you forgot to exit Mexico”. Without exiting Mexico officially, you can’t enter Guatemala, because you may have been in Mexico illegally! You must drive back to Mexico about 3 miles, find the border station, and ask to leave the country and then return here!!
At this stage Zoe intervened and explained that, we had no idea where the Mexican border station was. We simply did not see a border barrier, no police officer, no other vehicles or people being inspected, why we have no idea where to find this mysterious Mexican border station. Oh, and by the way, we have kinda already left Mexico, or we would not be standing here by the Guatemalan immigration police office, would we now? Finally, the Guatemalan immigration police officer decided that he actually didn’t care about his Mexican colleagues, and that as long as we paid yet more fees for all kinds for our immigration forms, the temporary Guatemalan licensing documents, and for other paperwork, he actually didn’t care whether we returned to Mexico to formally exit the country.
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