Our First ‘NO’ Of The Trip in Guatemala
From the restaurant to Oaxaca was no more than about two hours. We didn't realize we were so close and got there mid afternoon. We were used to driving all day and some into the night, so we knew it was going to be nice to be able to get out and enjoy some time outside of the truck. When we came over the mountains, colorful houses filled the mountain sides for a far as I could see. I have never been to Greece, but for some reason, it kept reminding me of the photos I have seen from there. The houses looked as if they had just been painted. They shined brightly as the sun beamed on them like a spot light.
Oaxaca had to be one of the biggest (and prettiest) towns we stayed in while in Mexico. Once we got into town, there were cars and motorcycles everywhere. I mean everywhere. Sitting at the stop lights, I remember how close the cars were sitting next to us. With each light we would come to, I would watch out the side view mirror, as cars would try and get as close as possible (on all sides) so they too, could make it to the next light. We could not have been more than a few inches apart from the cars that surrounded our truck as we waited for the lights to turn green. While we parked waiting at almost every light, we had a handful of kids run up to our truck. They would have an old water bottle with a small hole punched in the cap. The bottle was filled with some type of soap liquid, I'm guessing, and they would spray the windshield of the truck.
Before you can tell them no, it was already too late. They knew how the game worked. I couldn't blame them, it was what they were used to. One little boy was so small, he had to climb onto the side step and onto the tire to reach the windshield. They would squirt it all over, sometimes even getting inside the car, wipe a few swipes and throw their hand open asking for something in return for the job they had just done. Each time, we say thank you, pay them a few pesos and keep on going. We embrace the town and what they were used to, as we were only tourists coming through. We find our hotel (Casa Carmen) for the night, unpack what we need and head into the town on foot.
My eyes grew bigger and bigger with each street we passed. So many people, so many shops. But I liked the positive feel that it gave off. They had miles of restaurants, locals on the street corners selling roasted crickets, honey, fruits, vegetables, and almost anything you can think of from little girls' purses to Christmas lights to universal remote controls for your TV. It was much more interesting than just walking into a chain store like Wal-Mart. Inside a big warehouse, meat was being cooked, then hung on hooks to be sold.
So many things were being cooked at one time, as we walk in, we are greeted with clouds of thick smoke. Everything smelled so yummy. I didn't know what half of the items were, but that only made it more interesting. There were huge dolls on sticks dressed in costumes that people were holding in the middle of the crowded streets while people danced to the instruments being played. We stood to the side and watched for as long as it lasted. I could only assume it was a celebration of some sort. We saw a restaurant that was sitting on the side of the town center, next to all of the action. Men played xylophones, ladies sang in mircrophones while they played small hand instruments. It was a great night to be out in Oaxaca.
While we waited for our drinks and food to come, a little boy (who could have been no older than 5) walks up to our table and shows us packs of cigarettes and asks us if we would like to buy any. I was just about in tears. Although it is reality, it is still sad to see. Not long after, a boy a little older (maybe 7) asked us if we wanted our shoes shined. I have an 8 year old son and 10 year old daughter and I could not imagine seeing them in those kids shoes. We tell them no and I couldn't help but stare as they would go from table to table up and down the entire square. We take in all we can before we call it a night and head back to the hotel, knowing we had more driving to do in the morning.
No matter what day it was, or what town we were in, the days always seemed to fly by so fast. The next morning, we take a look at our route and head towards Tapachula, Mexico. The roads that we had to take to get there were unimaginable. I have never in my life been car sick, until this day. The roads were so windy, we made it 118 miles in 3 hours. I don't remember going any faster than about 35 MPH that entire road - Mex190. The roads sat on top of the steep mountains which had no shoulders. At this point I remember telling myself that this was not fun anymore. My hands stayed sweaty the entire road. We had nowhere to stop, so here I was hanging out the window, trying to keep my eyes closed so I could not see that straight drop down, puking my guts out. Although me and the truck were covered, I felt better. I grabbed some wipies we had brought with us and gave myself a wipie bath. Not long after, we were done with that road.
The thought would pop up in my head about that young man we had met at the gas station/restaurant. Did he take this road by bicycle? Believe it or not, he had to have to make it to the town we just came from (Oaxaca). After 3 hours of what seems like pure hell, we were able to find a station so we could go to the restroom, get gas etc. We quickly learned that using the restroom for free was a thing of the past. Five pesos each is what it cost us that day. No big deal, we pay the money and continue on our way. Making our way almost through all of Mexico, we spot haruka birds, big iguanas and green parrots. We love seeing the wildlife in their natural environments. Making our way closer to the Guatemala border, I was so giddy, knowing we were about to experience a country we have never stepped foot in before. We both had a sense of pride as we accomplished driving the entire country of Mexico in three days and everything seemed to have been almost perfect.
One thing I remember us talking about was how great the roads were. We stayed in Tapachula for the night, as it was very close to where we would cross over the border the following morning. As we come to the border, we are told where to park our vehicle so we can run inside to get the papers we needed.
The line to get to and from Mexico from Guatemala was pretty impressive. We were not residents, so we had another line that we waited in, not quite as long. We walk up to the counter, and show our passports and truck paperwork. A lady then asked us to follow her to our truck. She looked it over and made sure all the VIN and names matched and proceeded us to the next line. We drive up and through some border control towards a group of men.
An older man comes to our truck and asks us if we speak Spanish, we say no, and he says that's no problem and that he would be able to help us get our things we need in order to cross into Guatemala. He seemed trustworthy and we asked for his help. The Border Attendant asked us to pull up behind a vehicle that was also waiting after we handed him our information for us and the vehicle. So we did just as we were asked. I fling by door open and call my kids back at home thrilled that we were almost in Guatemala. We waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed like forever and a day since we had been sitting there. I played on my phone and did a lot of people watching, trying to pass the time.
The man appeared from out of the building he originally walked in and walked right up to our window that was rolled down. The look on his face looked like someone just told him his dog died. I was a little nervous about what he was about to say to us and wondered why he had the look he did. I knew we were doing everything right, we had done our research for weeks. The words that rolled off of his tongue made my head spin. "I'm so sorry, but without the actual vehicle title, you cannot pass through Guatemala." I have never felt so sick about something in my entire life.
Interesting travel, but where do you feel more security in central america?