I spent a couple of days in Xela taking classes and exploring the city. When the weekend rolled around it was time to take a ride over to the border and get my paperwork straightened out. Since I crossed the border via river at a place with no aduana, the bike wasn't actually legal in the country (although I didn't have any trouble). It was also a good excuse to do some riding and loop through the western part of the country, which I haven't seen before.
I rode west and slightly north out of town towards Ostuncalco. The city gave way to valleys with farmland occupying the steep, sandy hillsides. It's hard to believe that anything grows on that terrain, where the soil looks dry, dusty and inhospitable. After passing through Ostuncalco I cut south (and west) through Colomba and headed for a border crossing at Tecum Uman where I though there was an aduana (I was wrong). The road through the mountains reminded me of why I was here. Curvy, narrow and sometimes steep, it was a pleasure to ride, especially being surrounded by coffee plants most of the way through the highlands. I dropped significant elevation on the way south, and by the time I came out on the main east-west highway (CA2) I was hot and sweaty as I've gotten used to wearing long-johns while in Xela.
Heading out of town.
Don't turn too wide, it just drops right off...
I reached the border at Tecum Uman only to discover that there was in fact no aduana there despite what I read on the internet (or perhaps there was but I couldn't find it and the nice trucker who gave me directions sent me up the road to the next crossing). Since I was making a loop out of this ride anyway, it wasn't out of my way to head north to Talisman, where an aduana was guaranteed. The climate in this part of the country is very different from the mountains around Xela. Hot and humid, this was much more like what I was expecting during my visit to Central America. Before long I was at the border and inundated with the sights, sounds and smells of a typical border crossing (read: not very pleasant).
Since all I had to do was check the bike in, it didn't take long to wade through the paperwork once I managed to explain what was happening. The border agent didn't seem bothered by the fact that I've been in the country for several days without proper paperwork for the bike. He did seem pleased to hear that I've had no problems due to that fact. A swell guy all in all who only made me run around the minimum four or five times to get all the photocopies and signatures I needed to be legal. About an hour and a half later, with my new Guatemala sticker on the windshield along side the much larger Mexico one (I didn't check the bike out of Mexico and kept the sticker for the way home), I took off once again to head back to Xela via a different road.
This beauty will someday become the elixir of life...
The route back took me more or less straight east via the GUA1 through San Marcos (not the La Laguna one) back to Ostuncalco. It was a twisty, curvy, narrow mountain road with some very nice views of the valleys below. About a third of the way back I encountered my first police checkpoint in Guatemala, where they were stopping everyone (not that there were many people on the road). Lucky me! I pulled out my very fresh paperwork and handed it over. After a brief, friendly chat and a cursory inspection of my documents, I got a smile and a handshake and was on my way. As I was pulling away, I saw the police running to pick up the orange cones and speed away in the opposite direction. Something serious must have happened to the west. The rest of the ride back was uneventful. I'm sure glad I got that paperwork taken care of before I hit the checkpoint.
San Marcos (?)
Snake hands! (cultural significance? no se)