Crossing the border to Guatemala at Ciudad Hidalgo
Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
163Trip End May 10, 2011
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We exited the city through the east side of Tapachula passing a nice neighborhood with gated communities and well groomed gardens. Something we haven't seen a lot of in the past 6 months. This part of the city is much more upscale than the older north side of town where we came in the day before. We dropped into the riverbed then had to make the long climb back up and then up somemore. 10 km out of Tapachula, we turned south onto a newish looking highway that took us on a nice long low grade downhill for 30 km, all the way to the border crossing of Ciudad Hidalgo where sign-posted directions zigzagged us through town past Bodega Aurrera grocery store to the gate for the border crossing.
It was 10 am and it felt good to finally arrive in Guatemala. Tecun Uman was teeming with colorful tricycle taxis. We got some quetzales from an ATM on the main street then stopped for lunch at the small zocalo. Restaurant 'Las Vegas" caught our eye but offered a disappointing meal and much more expensive than a similar meal in Mexico.
We decided to take the bus instead of arduous 2300 meter climb to Quetzaltenango. Quetzaltenango is commonly known by its indigenous name, Xelaj˙, or more commonly, Xela (shey-la). It is the second largest city in Guatemala.
We would not have wanted to ride our bikes on that road. Not only was it extremely steep, but narrow and in bad shape. The traffic is heavy as well and bus drivers, especially ours, drive like suicidal maniacs. Michelle let out several uncontrollable screams when the driver passed slower traffic into oncoming traffic that was barreling down on us. Dave said to be quite because screaming will only encourage the driver to drive more recklessly. We figured the trade off of 4.5 hours of risking our lives on the bus compared favorably to the days it would have taken us to climb here on our bicycles. The bus was full of colorful clad indigenous people whom are alway fun to observe.
It is a nice change to be here in Guatemala, especially high in the mountains where the scenery is breathtaking. We passed some neat towns which we would have loved to explore. Stands of nothing but fruit often appeared along the road. And in the higher up villages, root vegetables, huge bunches of the most beautiful carrots, beets, potatoes, radishes ever seen. They use traditional indigenous agricultural practices in many of the high mountain areas.
We're at 2333 meters (7,655 ft) above sea level here in Xela and sleep under thick blankets. It's Sooooo nice to be cool again. Our hotel is quite nice: plentiful hot water, fireplace & iffy wifi. And they let us store our bikes in an empty room downstairs for no extra charge for and gave us the key.