October 18th 2011
The ride east from San Cristobal was nice. It had rained some the day before, but the sun slowly came out and it warmed up. I was on the Pan American Highway, which enters Guatemala at a small town called La Messilla. Several other travelers I knew had just entered at the larger border crossing near Tapachula, and had been nice enough to email me specific directions for getting through, so I was tempted to ride a little further and cross there. But in the end my stubborn “I can do this” streak won out.
The border was…simple. There were no hordes of helpers, looking to make my crossing easier exchange for money (US, of course). The people at the counters were friendly, laughing as we struggled with my weak Spanish and their weaker English. The customs people were all outside drinking sodas when I got to them, and one had to go back behind the counter while the others shook their heads over my little motorbike.
I didn’t take any pictures, more because of personal nervousness than any protest from the local officials. I even got a good exchange rate on my remaining Pesos.
Once through the border I relaxed, and began to see the new country I was in.
Very green and lush, and mountains everywhere.
Guatemala had a feel of poverty that I didn’t really sense in Mexico, even though I had seen it there too. The roads were in worse shape, the buildings seemed to all need repair or at least paint, and every house had a garden growing.
Of course, the lush green landscape meant rain, and the mountains meant avalanches and mudslides. I knew I was arriving just at the end of the rainy season, and had been warned by my friends parts of Guatemala were in bad shape. I mostly shrugged it off, since I had to go there regardless.
I reached Huehuetenango, which was my stop for the first night in Guatemala, just as it started to rain.
Of course, I am from the Midwest, was already in my waterproof riding stuff, and generally shrugged it off. I did notice all the other motorcycles had taken shelter, but decided that was probably because they, like most Guatemalan riders I had seen, were helmet-less and wearing t-shirts. In fact, I figured it meant the rain would soon stop.
I rode around town, looking for a hotel with parking for the bike, without much luck. Despite all the signs reading “Hotel” asking locals where a hotel was only got blank looks. And it was raining harder. Finally I gave up and pulled off to the side of the road.
Note the little waterfalls off the roof.
It rained for about 45 minutes more. The street had about 1 inch of water on it when it was done, but as the rain lessened the water ran off. I spent some more time looking for a hotel, and finally found one, the Victoria, which didn’t exactly have secure parking, but let me put the bike in the lobby. My riding gear was soaked, even though I was still dry underneath. I hung it all up around my room, found out Mike and Nastaja were in Xela, just to the south, and that the road I wanted to take east was closed. They were having similar issues, and had enrolled in a Spanish Language course.
I spent an extra day in Huehue, trying to find a way around the closed roads, but in the end gave up and decided to head south towards Xela, which was still on the Pan-American. That road was expected to re-open in a few days and I could head east again.