After almost three weeks in Guatemala I can write a bit about how I got here.
Upon leaving San Cristobal de las Casas where I have entered year 2016 (I actually slept over midnight, but subsequently woke up in to a bright and sunny morning) I spent a rainy day on the road, something that did not happen to me in a while. In the evening I was rewarded with a hot shower at the fire station in Comitan where I was also offered a roof over my head.
The more I was getting closer to Guatemala, the more a sense of unease was growing in me. I could hardly describe it as fear, more some sort of anxiety. It’s not that I’m not used to go from one country to another, it’s just that in Mexico I have spent three and a half months and in this time I somehow managed to “domesticate myself” there. By this I mean I go used to functioning in this Spanish speaking country. I knew what kind of an offer I can expect in a small, village store, which cigarettes are the cheapest, above all I knew where to get drinkable water without going bankrupt. Tap water is not drinkable and bottled water costs 0,8 EUR for a litre and a half. And since, if I would have been buying bottled water, considering the prices and the amount I consume, I would have gone bankrupt, in Mexico I have used so called “purificadoras”. These are water purification plants where they fill (and sell) 20-litre tanks. Since a 20-litre tank is at least clumsy (to put it mildly) to have it on your bicycle not to mention that it weighs 20 kg, I have opted for a bit different approach. Once locating a purificadora (which can be found in the smallest of towns) I had asked an employee I they can fill up my water bottles and a nice 6-litre water bag. In most cases the guys (and girls) did it for free for which I am grateful to them.
What I want to say is, Mexico I knew, Guatemala was that big unknown that laid ahead. And the more I was getting closer to Guatemala, the more I became aware of this fact. And at the same time it was this discovering of the unknown that was luring me forward even if it meant crossing into Guatemala.
Last night in Mexcio I spent camping near a gas station. The morning was sunny and was just calling to get on the bike and go. So I mounted Lou and I went being more and more attracted to the unknown. Last town in Mexico was Ciudad Cuauhtemoc (one of many with this name in Mexico). For the last time I paid a visit to a purificadora to stock up on water (after all ahead of me is the unknown) before almost cycling past by an immigration check point. For those of you who haven’t crossed a border in these parts of the world, let me explain. The logic, that says that there will be a gate at the border which will stop you and at the same time inform you that it is time to behave nice and to get a so important stamp in your passport, does not work here. Border post is a building by the side of the road and you should know that it’s there (well in all honesty, it did had a word “immigration” written, for those illiterate amongst us) and that you should stop and pay them a visit. Not over thrilled or busy officer looks at my passport, stamps it and that’s it. I have officially left Mexico even thou there’s another 4 km of going uphill to the actual border. Along the way I pass a huge dumpsite. Must be a way of handling your garbage. You just simply toss it to your neighbour.
There is a small town just before the border. A whole rainbow spectrum of colours appears accompanied by a cacophony of sounds and smells. To the left and right of me there are stands and little shops sell all imaginable goods. From cheap plastic toys, to hats and clothes with some food to be found in between. The bustle and hustle is penetrated by tuk-tuks making their way through adding their immodest contribution to the chaos. To top it all up, occasionally there is a car or two. The people are simply everywhere. Some of them buying, others selling, some of us just passing through. What the rest of them is doing I don’t know. These kind of border towns always give me the creep. The fact is they are a safe haven for all sorts of characters.
While making my way through all this I notice by the side of the road a big iron sliding gate. At other hours of the day the serve as a barrier (who would have thought) to close the border. So in front of me should be Guatemala. This suspicion of mine is confirmed by the sign above the road saying “Benvenidos a Guatemala!” Now again I have to locate a small house that would have “Immigration” (or “Immigracion” since here they also speak Spanish). It is located behind a row of minibuses, somewhat hidden you might say. Not really big, more like a newsstand. Somewhere by the side of it I park Lou and I enter. A counter and three desks behind it with an officer at each one. There is about 10 of us waiting at the counter. One of the officers reluctantly gets up from behind his desk and takes our passports. A while later I see him browsing feverously through one of them. This one must be mine. For all of you out there reading this and not owning a passport that states Republic of Slovenia or some other exotic little country, let me just say that for us, owning such a document, a confused border officer browsing through your little book and at the same time tries to figure it out if this is not perhaps a gym membership card, is not such an uncommon sight. Anyhow, after he has gone through my passport once, he goes again and while going through it for the third time, sweat drops start to emerge on his forehead from all the effort. After the third attempt he gives up and walks to another officer. Now two (out of three) are jointly browsing my passport. The other officer is a bit more resourceful and after the second browse starts to look around for the owner (that’s me) of this strange little book. When he sees me, he gets up from behind his desk and approaches me. Then he asks me when did I get into Guatemala. Now it’s my turn to be surprised. The exoticness of my little book is not a problem at all. Somewhat confused I reply that I just left Mexico and would like to enter Guatemala now. After we locate that all important Mexican exit stamp, the officer returns to the first colleague and passes me over back to him for further “processing”. It seems the first guy still did not manage to recover from the stress so just in case he goes through my passport twice before he stamps another stamp in it. There you go, I officially entered Guatemala.
This side of the border is just like the Mexican side. Chaotic and full of hustle. Oh, and yes, they of course speak Spanish here as well. I find myself a nice little, relatively quiet spot to regroup and have a snack. Afterwards as fast as I can away from the border. Did I mention that I do not like border towns?!
The road takes me pass by many villages and isolated houses. Also here, the people by the roadside greet me. I would even dare to say that more often than in Mexico. People on this side are no different. Border is just a virtual line that only administratively divides one are from the other. We people are the same all over the World. In good and in bad!
The nights catches up with me at a coffee and honey warehouse of the local coop. This must be a promise land!
The night guard, Martin agrees to host me for the night. But I’m not allowed to wander alone in the warehouse. For their own good since this way they managed to perserve the stock untouched.
With a Smile on my face, until next time!