Trip Start Jun 21, 2008
Trip End Sep 03, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hotel Villa Real Plaza

Flag of Guatemala  ,
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

OK so we're finally ready to hit the road! How exciting...AND we're going to a new country! Again, I feel sad to leave Mexico, we've had such a great time here and by know we know how things are working.  I felt a little nervous about going into Guatemala and doing the boarder crossing. We had heard from other travelers that it should be a pretty easy crossing but still.
We set the alarm, not that we really had to because there is a fiesta (Fiesta de San Carmen) in town and the churches shoot off huge exploding rockets EVERY morning at 7am, and continue throughout the day. We got up and packed all of our stuff and were making good time but then Jess went out to the bike and it didn't start. The battery was dead! After a bit of a struggle and meeting a fellow Mexican MacGyver we got the bike started but we lost a few hours of travel time. It might not sound like a big deal but with the afternoon storms here it's makes a huge difference if you get away early.
But finally on the road I felt so happy and excited. It is so much fun to ride (even on the back) on a motorcycle, you see so much and things are happening all the time. The ride was beautiful and the closer the border we got, the more stunning the landscape. The villages looked a little poorer but the mountains surrounding them were amazing.
The border crossing was a bit overwhelming, Jess did a great job and got everything done fast, he'll fill you in on the details.
Jess here, and after sitting for a week the battery on the bike had drained low...I think it has to do with a relay activated air-horn that I mounted on the bike before the trip...I think the relay is slowly draining the battery...anyhow, let's fix it! 
We couldn't find jumper cables anywhere, but there was an old VW Beetle on the with the help of a 10 year-old boy who was the son of the caretaker, I removed the VW battery and swapped it for the one in the ended up being weaker than the bike's battery!
Ok, time for Plan B...I convince the 10-year old, Manual, that he should wake up another guest who has a car...he obliged and now we have the donor car...but still no jumper cables.  The owner of the donor car turns to Manual and asks him if he has any cables, wires, or anything at all...he says yes and comes back with 110 volt cord that he cut off from a lamp!  So now we're going to put 700 cold cranking amps through that thing!  Hell Mexico!!!  But I'm putting my helmet on for this one!
Just then, a lady walked in with jumper cables...our Plan B was foiled by a belated but much improved Plan A!  I really wanted the Lamps Plus jumper cables to work, but we jumped the bike the proper cables and got our butts on the road.
After about an hour and half, we're at the Guatemala border....wait what happened to the Mexican border crossing??....oh yeah, I forgot, there isn't one!  Literally you go through a military checkpoint a few miles from the border, where they check northbound traffic for documentation, but if you're headed south, you just drive right out of the country!
Arriving at the Guatemalan border crossing, I realize that it's a dude with his finger on a sawed off pump shotgun that just lifts up a board to let cars pass!  Holy cow!...time to smile and not piss anyone off!   Then out of the corner of my eye,  a dude with pump sprayer comes up and fumigates the Mad Cow Crusher (the bike) as well as our own lower extremities!  This place is crazy!
Another undercover cop with a .357 on his belt came up to me and pointed me in the right direction for immigration and customs...the people ended up being extremely helpful and after 30 minutes and 8 bucks we had our immigration visas, the temporary import documentation for the bike, and we're on the road again!!! a new country!!!  I love it!!
OK, Malin again, now we're in Guatemala!!!! WOW,  I felt as we just entered Middle Earth... but instead of hobbits walking around there were these beautiful indigenous women in their colorful trajes walking by the side of the road carrying their crafts in bundles on their head!  The landscape took our breaths away and I almost forgot to watch the road (I am a good backseat driver...) because of all the beauty surrounding us. We started climbing the mountains and soon we were pretty high up and it became cold and yes...the very much anticipated afternoon thunder storm. Everything in front of us turned black and we just had to drive right into it. By now Jess is a great "rain rider" but it still turns my stomach because you can't see a thing in front of you and today for example we didn't realize that the road we were on turned into a one-way and all of a sudden we're hitting oncoming traffic! Needless to say it was a second of horror but then we figured out what was going on and found the right course.
Overall my first impressions of Guatemala are great! It looks like people are a little poorer here, things are definitely dirtier, and older. Traffic is CRAZY everywhere!
Xela (formally known as Quetzaltenango)...our first destination in Guatemala! We checked in to the first hotel we saw because again we were wet and hungry. The hotel is on the zocalo which turned out to be the best location in town and everything worth seeing was within a couple of blocks! The first night it was still raining so we ran across the street to this packed cool, cozy bar which served beer and pizza. Perfect opportunity to discover the Guatemalan seriously though, this bar was awesome. There were mostly young Guatemalans and I felt we got a glimpse of what  it might be like if we lived there...believe it or not this is the first bar we've been to on this whole trip!!  The music was Spanish/Mexican/Guatemalan pop/rock and the food was excellent.  We consulted or travel guide and it turned out this bar is the oldest bar in Xela and was established in 1934.
On our way home we checked out the zocalo at night time and ran into a religious parade of some sort. I don't know exactly which saint they were honoring but I will try to upload a video so you can see for yourselves. It was  pretty cool!!
The next day we spent sight seeing and walked around town and went to the Museo de Historia Natural...which turned out to be horrifying! I don't want to describe the whole thing because it was crazy but it involved a room full of stuffed animals that had not been preserved correctly so the stench was out of this world and there were class jars with every dead animal/brain/insects/human babies, anything you can think of....
Hey Jess here...I thought the Museo de Historia Natural was hell on wheels!!  It felt like Marilyn Manson had invited us over to his house to check out his armature taxidermy collection!  Malin is right, the smell was horrible...these things have been rotting for decades...I kept joking around asking Malin if she wanted an ice cream cone to chew on while we perused the exhibit!!  My belly ached from laughter after this afternoon!
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johnnyblackpint on

!Tengo Hambre!
Did the 'Museum of Horror' have a snack bar?

lisamckinley on

Border crossing
Wow, my great grandfather said when he came to the US from Mexico, he had to pay a nickel and take a shower. You paid eight bucks and got fumigated! I am looking forward to learning more about Guatemala, so keep sharing the tidbits and the pictures.

The museum sounded pretty rough...we macabre-types enjoy that kind of thing, though. Remember, John and I spent a glorious afternoon at the Royal Surgical Museum in Edinburgh! It didn't smell TOO bad, but it still made me nauseous!

Keep the battery charged, or buy some cables!

braden on

Viva Guatamala!
The adventure seems to get just better and better with each of your postings! The unstopables just go with the flow! The vistas are magnifico and the corn is getting taller than the people. In photo #9, Jess appears to be holding his nose while in the immigration line. Did the Museo fragrance permeate clear to the border? The music of the parade band sounds quite cheerful and festive. Keep it on a comin' kids, and we pray for your safe return.

I love you!

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