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Old 11-12-2012, 07:00 PM   #76
PDX Alamo
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Great ride report! Enjoy Guatemala, don't miss Tikal and especially Semuc Champey!!! Make sure you do the caving while your there it's bad ass stuff. The Wikipedia article is weak sauce , better in person. "Unicorn blood and baby seal tears" lol
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semuc_Champey
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Old 11-12-2012, 07:11 PM   #77
Ulyses OP
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Guatemala

Just made it into Guatemala today after a six hour ordeal at the border. I'll post more later, but make damn sure that you get your passport stamped at the border in Mexico, and not when you get a 1,000 miles into the country. It will save you a huge headache. And about 150 pesos.
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Old 11-12-2012, 08:01 PM   #78
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Just wanted to wish you a happy Veterans Day! I know, it's a day late...

Semper Fi!
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figures...my stud was rusty I played with my nuts a little and it cranked right over
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Old 11-15-2012, 06:51 AM   #79
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Just wanted to wish you a happy Veterans Day! I know, it's a day late...

Semper Fi!
Thanks man! You too!
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Old 11-15-2012, 06:56 AM   #80
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Adios Mexico, Beinvenidos Guatemala, Part One

I'm going to pull this straight from my blog as it's a long story and pretty damn funny and I don't feel like writing something new to talk about it. And be forewarned, it's mostly writing with few pictures. They tend to frown on picture taking at borders for some reason....

The night before our fateful border crossing into Guatemala, we made a pact to wake up at six and be on the road by seven. We wanted to get an early start because we had heard horror storries of the border crossings from previous travelers. However, our ambitions were a little stronger than our resolve, and we ended up sleeping a little late. When we realized that it was already past seven and we hadn't even packed up the bikes yet, we decided just to take it easy and go get a good breakfast.

The bike staged in front of our rooms.
In my infinite wisdom, I also decided that this would be a good day to start taking Doxy. Doxycyclene (or doxy as it's commonly referred to) is an anti-malarial medication and general antibiotic. It's generally prescribed to travellers heading to the tropics or to people who have been bitten by a tick. I had a large supply on hand, so I decided I would share it with Justin as well. We both popped our little pill and headed off for breakfast. We ordered breakfast and started sipping our coffee, which they love to dose with chickory and cinnamon for some reason. Unfortunately, the cooks were on latin time and breakfast was a little slow coming. After a few minutes, I started feeling a little sick.

"Damn!", I thought to myself, "We should have ate something before we took those pills!" About that time, Justin said he needed to head to his room as he had forgotten his wallet or something. I didn't really hear him as I was a little busy turning green and wondering where the exit was. A few minutes later, the waitress brought out our food. I took about two bites, decided it wasn't going to stay down and sprinted for the door.

As I was out in the alleyway emptying my stomach on the cobblestones, I heard Justin re-enter the resteraunt and try and re-assure the waitress that I was okay. His broken spanish amounted to: "My friend.....okay....bad medicine..." Or something like that.

After I finished, I walked back in and felt immensly better. Justin and the waitress were both laughing. And then Justin fessed up that he had gone back to his room to puke as well, so I didn't feel so bad.

The lovely ride to the border, complete with distant volcanos.
After that magnificent start to the day, we packed up and headed for the border which was about five minutes away. As we approached the acutal checkpoint, about half a dozen screaming Mexicans jumped into the street in front of us, angrily ordering us to stop. I ignored the first two or three but finally stopped when one jumped right in front of my bike.

"Where are papers?!" he shouted in broken english.

"Huh?" I said, "Who the hell are you?"

"Do you have copies?" he said.

"What are you talking about?" I said, then I realized that this was just some dude trying to make a buck. I could see the actual Mexican toll gate about 100 yards in front of me, with actual uniformed officials and guards.

"Justin, lets go!" I shouted, and we fired up and blasted for the gate with the beleguared Mexicans sprinting after us.

We arrived at the gate and were met by the actual Mexican officials who asked us for our papers and checked the VIN numbers on our motorcycles before waving us on. There was a Mexican Marine on guard ("Marina" en espanol) who I struck up a conversation with while we were waiting. We swapped storries for a minute and when I told him that I was a Marine and had just gotten back from Afghanistan he shook my hand and called me brother! It was awesome!

After the VIN check, we were directed to the Mexican Immigration office just beyond the checkpoint. As we crossed the checkpoint, we entered into what is sort of a "no-mans-land" between the Mexican and Guatemalan checkpoints, almost like a kind of gigantic duty free zone with it's own stores and hotels and population. I'm not quite sure what jurisdiction or law this place fell under. It was about 500 meters long and was replete with money changers, vendors, and shady characters. We started refering to it as "international waters" and wondered where we had to go to see a monkey knife fight or engage in high stakes betting on American College Football. So many neferious activities, so little time.


Our bikes parked just inside international waters. The guards kept telling me I couldn't take pictures, so I held the camera at my waist and snapped a few when they weren't looking.
In any event, we went to the Mexican Immagration office and parked our bikes. I stood guard while Justin went in to get his passport stamped out of Mexico. I sat there and waited for about an hour, fending off little kids who wanted to finger my gear, and telling the money changers to get lost. After a while I got frusterated and asked one of the guards to watch my bike. I walked into Immagration and found Justin having a heated conversation with a Mexican Official. Apparently, when we had had our passports stamped in La Paz almost a month ago, the customs official had given us the wrong stamp. He had stamped our passports with an "exit" stamp instead of an "entrance" stamp, meaning that we had techically left Mexico on October 27th and then magically appeared at the Mexican-Guatemalan border on November 11.

We argued with the guy for a while, telling him it wasn't our fault, we had no idea what the stamps looked like or where even supposed to mean, and that there wasn't anything we could do. He argued back telling us that there wasn't anything he could do, as we weren't even technically in Mexico anymore because we had obviously left on the 27th and why couldn't we just go to the Guatemalan side and leave him alone?

Okay, we'll play your silly little game.

We got back on the bikes and fired up, blasting through the crowds for the Guatemalan side. We didn't even bother with helmets as it was a short distance; Justin was smoking a cigarrette angrily while I laughed at the absurdity of the situation. As we entered the center of international waters, we were swarmed once again with a large group of swarthy latinos yelling at us to stop. We ignored them this time, but the persistant bastards chased us for nearly 200 yards until we stopped at the Guatemalan Immagration office. We were immediatly inundated with about 20 yelling men and boys, directing us to go with them, offering to watch our bikes for a small fee, or telling us that we were in the wrong place. Many of them even had little homemade ID cards and looked semi official.

Note the running men on the right side of the picture and behind Justin's bike. They were literally running after us trying to help us. I was laughing so hard when I was taking these pictures over my shoulder that I almost crashed into one of them.

Fortunately, we had been warned about these little "Helpers" who try and help you navigate the murky waters of Latin American border crossings. Justin ran interference by laughing at them and handing out stickers to little kids while I went to the office with several sweaty latinos at my elbows trying to tell me where to go.

These two gentlemen stood at my elbow as I played dumb with the Guatemalan Offical and kept trying to tell me what to do. Persistant little devils they were.
I thrust my passport into the little window and stared at the Guatemalan official dumbly, trying to put on my best "stupid gringo" face. He looked at me, then looked at my passport, then looked at the lone mexican exit stamp on the last page.

"Where is the Mexican entrance stamp?" He asked me in Spanish.

"No hablo espanol." I replied smilling.

"You're missing a stamp, you can't come through here until you get the stamp from the Mexican side." He said.

"No hablo espanol." I said again, giving him the biggest stupid grin I could manage.

"Furthermore, the date is all wrong. How did you leave Mexico on October 27th and then magically appear here a few weeks later?" he said.

I looked at him quizzically, smiled even broader until it hurt, then, with my best obnoxious american accent said: "No hablo espanol. Hablas ingles?"

I could see the frusteration building in his eyes. He looked at me, looked at my passport, then grabbed his stamp and slapped the rubber down next to the Mexican one.

"Welcome to Guatemala. That will be 10 Quetzales."

"Gracias!" I said, and tossed some rumpled Quetzales through his little peep hole.

I walked back to the bikes and Justin who was still fending off helpers. He had a huge collection of little boys around him and he was handing out stickers to them. One of the kids took the proffered sticker and promptly applied it to my luggage. I laughed and grabbed a large handlebar mustache sticker and started pressing it on one of the more obnoxious men, who also happened to be the only one without a mustache.

"Here, this will look good on your face!" I told him in broken Spanish.

At that, all of the other Helpers started laughing and I started joking with them while Justin went to try his luck at customs. One by one, as they realized that we were just ignoring them, the Helpers started drifting away, and I was left with a gaggle of little boys who kept telling me in english that they would watch my bike for 10 quetzales.

Justin flashes gang signs and hands out stickers to the ninos
.
As I was playing with the kids, I began to hear Justin's frusterated voice rising as he talked to the Guatemalan inside the office. Keeping an eye on the bikes, I walked over to see what was the matter. The Guatemalan official, who realized that he probably shouldn't have stamped my passport, was now refusing to stamp Justin's passport. When I started talking to him in my broken Spanish, he got even more fusterated, realizing that I had probably tottaly understood him earlier.

Eventually, it broke down into a shouting match between us and a short, bald, sweaty Guatemalan who decided that today he would do his job, at least with one of two Americans. We eventually gave up and walked away frusterated. He thought we were going to try and sneak past him somehow and came out of his little hole to angrily watch us and ensure that we didn't try and sneak into his country without papers.

We walked back to the bikes frusterated. I was okay, but Justin was stuck. A man without a country, he had left Mexico over three weeks ago if his passport was to be believed, and was now stuck in international waters, unable to return to Mexico and unable to continue on to Guatemala.

At this point I turned to Justin and said, "Well, have a fun time! Call me when you get through!" and took off running.

Just kidding. But now we were really up the creek without a paddle. I had managed to sneak across the border by playing stupid, but Justin was legitimatly stuck in some sort of twilight zone immagration limbo like Tom Hanks in the movie Terminal. What ever were we to do?
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Old 11-15-2012, 07:30 AM   #81
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Welcome to Latin America. I made the mistake of arriving at the Honduras border late in the day, tired and hungry. Unfortunately, against my better instincts, I allowed a helped to negotiate for me, and I think I got ripped off for $80. Your tactics may not do much for the gringoes following, but the "helpers" and the corrupt officials are giving the Latin American border crossings a bad name, and certainly do not reflect the kindness of the people within the countries. Ride Safely...
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Old 11-15-2012, 07:37 AM   #82
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But now we were really up the creek without a paddle. I had managed to sneak across the border by playing stupid, but Justin was legitimatly stuck in some sort of twilight zone immagration limbo like Tom Hanks in the movie Terminal. What ever were we to do?


Wow, talk about going from bad to worse...! Wishing Justin the best of luck negotiating the international waters.
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Old 11-15-2012, 08:13 AM   #83
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Old 11-15-2012, 04:04 PM   #84
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Come on!!! Don't leave us hangin!
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figures...my stud was rusty I played with my nuts a little and it cranked right over
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Old 11-16-2012, 01:48 PM   #85
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Awesome report! They are persistent fckers aren't they!!,

Keep them coming.
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:34 PM   #86
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Awesome report! They are persistent fckers aren't they!!,

Keep them coming.
They defiently give a new meaning to the word persistant. It's horrible!
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:37 PM   #87
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Adios Mexico, Beinvenidos Guatemala, Part Two

So there we were, stuck in international waters, men with no country. Actually, it was just Justin without a country; my little act had gotten me my Guatemala entrance stamp.


We got back on the bikes and rode back to the Mexican side where we went through the whole ordeal again. I sat on the curb and watched the bikes and played with the little kids while Justin went back in to try and convince the Mexicans to just give him a stamp so that we could get out of their hair. After about another hour of waiting, I went over and started looking for someone that spoke English. Sure enough, after a little bit we found one guy who seemed pretty fluent.

This little guy was really, really interested the games I was playing on my phone.

We explained the situation to him and he got this "this is very serious" look on his face and started telling us about how this was a big problem. He was asking us why we didnt get receipts for our stamps when we were in La Paz, and why we hadn't noticed that the official had given us the wrong stamp. We tried explaining to him that this wasn't our fault, we had no idea what a Mexican entrance stamp was supposed to even look like and didn't even really know what the whole border crossing process was supposed to be as no one had even tried to stop us at the border in Tijuana or anywhere else for that matter for the first 1,000 miles that we rode in Mexico.


We went back and forth like this for a while until he finally told us that we would have to go back into the town we had stayed in the night before and talk to the Immigration office there to take care of this. We weren't having it, so we told him that we wanted to talk to his boss. He hemmed and hawed for a little while, then disappeared back into the office to find el jefe. We sat around for another hour or so until they all reached a consensus. They called Justin in to the office and told him that they would make some calls and try and work something out so they could stamp his passport.


So we waited another hour while they phoned La Paz, and phoned the Immigration office, and phoned the Mexican president, just to see if they could just stamp this lonely little gringo's passport.


Justin waits for the wheels of Mexican bureaucracy to finish turning.


Finally, they told Justin that he would have to pay a fine for not getting the correct stamps in his passport and then they would give him the stamp that he needed and we could leave. At this point I don't think he really cared whether or not this was legit or some sort of corrupt scam; so he forked over a wad of pesos and we got back on the bikes and headed for the Guatemalan side again.....where we were immediately accosted by many of the same Helpers that we had ignored before.


This little guy wanted to watch my bike for money. I'll told him no, but offered to let him ride it. He was really scared, but I convinced himto get on so I could take a picure.


Fortunately, things were running smoothly now, and Justin got his stamp in quick order and we were on to the next step: fumigation. Ten yards from the Guatemalan immigration office was a dude with a pressure washer and a respirator spraying the nether regions of vehicles with a thick white, noxious smelling liquid before they crossed the border. After having the undersides of our bikes sprayed down, we then rode another 10 yards forward where we paid another guy about 10 quetzales for the fumigation that they had just performed. Ironically, there was a homeless man nearby who was washing the fumigation off of every vehicle that came by and charging a few quetzales. And the chemical was just running back down the gutter and then out into a small nearby stream. Go green peace!

High-tech fummigation process.



Next step was a second immigration office where they wanted copies of every single document that I had on my person: passport, passport visa page, drivers license, bike title (front and back), bike registration, proof of Mexican registration, etc., etc. I already had most of these, but I wasn't prepared for the back of the title or the passport visa page, so I had to run back into international waters and pay a Helper to make copies for me. Then I came back handed in my copies and was directed to a small bank were I had to pay for a temporary registration for Guatemala.


Standing in line waiting for the bank, I struck up a conversation with the bank guard and started asking him questions about his shotgun. Throughout all of this, one pesky little Helper had stood by my elbow, talking in my ear in broken Spanglish, and otherwise getting in the way and making a nuisance of himself. I told him that I didn't have any money for him and I wasn't going to pay him anything, but he continued to stick by me like glue. After a while, the bank guard and I became fast friends and he let me cut in line to take care of my work.


With my temporary Guatemalan registration in hand, I walked back to the immigration office one more time, and was then forced to go make more copies of receipts and other documents that they had given me. Finally, I came back, handed in my last copies and was given a little sticker to attach to my windshield which proved my registration had been completed. And that was it.


Justin finished up a few minutes after me; we mounted up, and prepared to ride into Guatemala. The little helper who had been standing by me this entire time finally piped up about money as I was putting my helmet on.


"Give me 30 quetzales!" He said.


I started laughing at him. "Why?" I said. "I told you to get lost like three separate times."


"20 quetzales!" He said.


I was really laughing now. "You didn't even do anything. You stood next to me for about an hour and told me things in Spanish that I didn't even understand or listen to. I'll give you five quetzales just because I feel sorry for you." And with that I pushed a crumpled five quetzal note into his hand.


He got a really indignant look on his face, and thrust the five quetzals note back at me. "Give me 20 quetzales!"


I just ignored him and fired up my bike and started rolling forwards.


"All right, all right! I'll take the five quetzales!" He said, lurching after me.


I stopped gave him the note, and then we left.


By this time it was after 2PM. We had been at the border for nearly six hours. We were both really frustrated and really tired, but more than a little happy to have finally made it into Guatemala. We stopped after about five miles and had our first Guatemalan meal: fried chicken and French fries slathered in mayonnaise. Delicious!

I think that this was very authentic Guatemalan fare.

We now had about fifty miles to ride to make it to the town of Xela (pronounced Shayla) where we would be spending the night. We figured that it would take about an hour, maybe two tops to make it there.


What we hadn't counted on was that the road would climb from sea level to almost 10,000 feet during that distance. We also hadn't counted on the fact that Guatemalan roads would be even more confusing and scary than Mexican ones, would have 20 times the number of potholes and semi domesticated animals in them, and would also be filled with thousands of gigantic, brightly colored school busses belching black diesel smoke in our faces. Ohh, and we really hadn't counted on the fact that we would be riding straight into a fog bank that would prevent us from seeing more than twenty feet in front of us at times. Or the fact that the recent earthquake had reduced sections of the road to rubble. Or the fact that the temperature would drop from about 90 degrees at the start of our ride to 60 degrees at the end. All in all, it turned into a hair raising adventure in and of itself.

The fog became extremely thick. This picture doesn't even show how bad it was in some spots. It was very unnerving to be riding along at five miles per hour and then suddenly have a huge school bus come lurching out of the fog and into your lane!

After about three and a half hours of white knuckle riding up and down a crazy mountain road, we finally arrived in Xela and began hunting for the Hostel that some previous riders had told us about. They had even been so kind as to provide us with GPS coordinates for the Hostel. What they didn't tell us was that they had pulled the GPS coordinates off of google maps and that they were over a kilometer off and in the bad part of town. So we spent another hour riding around Xela after dark, through seedy neighborhoods and markets, asking everyone we met for direction until we finally found the Hostel and crashed.



This was a section of road in one of the towns that we passed through that had been destroyed by the earthquake.


So, in summary, the day went like this: wake up early, puke all over the ground, get stuck in the border zone for six hours, bribe a Mexican official, fend off a bunch of crazy locals, nearly lose our lives riding an insane road into the mountains, get lost in a Guatemalan city at night, and finally find where you are supposed to stay.
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Old 11-16-2012, 04:14 PM   #88
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loving the story...
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:17 PM   #89
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Great Stuff

Hey, Ulyses,

I guess it goes something like this: The USMC made you into a man, and your Trans-American bike ride is making you a wiser (more patient??) man.

Loving the report. Stay safe.

BTW--it is raining cats, dogs, and geoducks in the PNW. Even 10,000' @ 60F is better than this.

PD
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Old 11-16-2012, 07:29 PM   #90
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Hey, Ulyses,

I guess it goes something like this: The USMC made you into a man, and your Trans-American bike ride is making you a wiser (more patient??) man.

Loving the report. Stay safe.

BTW--it is raining cats, dogs, and geoducks in the PNW. Even 10,000' @ 60F is better than this.

PD
Haha! Wiser and more patient? I think not! I can't stand getting passed by people. And I'll go into the dirt or pass in the blind to get around cars. Patience is not a virtue I have mastered yet. And as for wiser, well I almost got killed two days ago, and it had nothing to do with motorcycels. I'll write about it soon, but I'm still hunting the guy responsible.

And I'm thanking god I'm not in the PNW. I haven't even been rained on yet! Everyone should move down here!
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