A Scary Night In Guatemala
I wanted to throw up right then and there. All I could think of was how far we had come to get to the point we were at. We explain to the man that the bank gave us a notarized paper stating it was okay and he kept coming back saying that that did not matter. This was his countries rules and there was nothing he could do about it. He kept telling us to wait as he walked back into the same building he had before.
Trying not to panic, I think of trying to solve the problem. We could pay off the truck, but still would take it a good week or two to get the title. We thought about just staying in Mexico for that time length but remembered we had a flight to catch in Costa Rica on Dec 15 to go back to Texas to get the kids and dogs so we could all fly back together. So that wasn't an option. My mind raced like it never had before.
I tried to take in the moment and watched the family who lived directly next to where we were sitting in our truck, make breakfast. The young girl seemed like she was in her early teens. While the mother concentrated on the eggs, she was helping by cutting up the vegetables and fruit. With no care in the world for that one moment, I took in that their entire house was outside. There were a few walls and a roof but the entire house was open. No TV's, no A/C, just the basic necessities that at family would need and that was so nice to see. No one was yelling, nor looking at their phones or ipads, they were in the kitchen cooking, spending time together. Goats that were roaming freely were passing our truck walking back and forth from the borders. For that second, I wished I could have been one of those goats.
I quickly lose my trance and notice the man walking back to us. Still, no passports in hand, which means something must still be wrong. He practically puts his head into the car and tells us that if we are willing and want to pass through, he would be able to help us but it would cost us $200.00 USD. At this point, we had been at the border for almost 3 hours and all we wanted to do was cross it. We paid him the money, he runs inside and not five minutes later he comes back out with all the paperwork and our passports. A good sign. We thank him and he sends us off to another spot where we have to wait. We show them our stamped papers for us and the truck.
A person dressed in what looked like world ending gear walks up to us and directs us to roll up our windows. We do just as we were told and sit. He grabbed his pump sprayer and walks to our truck. I looked out the windows and side mirrors to see if I could see what it was he was doing. He was spraying our tires down with some type of chemical. He sprayed all around the bottom half of the truck. I believe it was for any bugs we may have picked up or come across. Once he was finished, we got our okay and quickly get the heck outta there. As we drive across the Mexico/Guatemala border, we see boats taking things to and from right under the bridge we were passing. I still do not know what it was and or if it was legal or not. I've personally never seen anything in the waters at the Texas/Mexico border. So that was surprising to see.
As we got into Guatemala my eyes and ears were pierced on everything moving my head side to side looking up and down the streets with my nose outside of the car smelling the air. The first thing we noticed were the number of motorbikes that lined the streets. This street was even more jam packed than what we had witnessed back in Oaxaca. And that is pretty hard to imagine. Kids were riding on the tops of trucks, not just in the back, but literally on the top, above the driver, on the outside of the vehicle. We noticed a lot of kids who would regularly be in school at those hours during the day, were not. There were a lot of kids who were helping their parents work selling things or cooking meals right on the streets with cars swooping by.
The roads back in Mexico were amazing, most seemed to be brand new. Here, however was a different story. We would come to 'speed bumps' where it seemed as if they were trying to fix the road, yet as we would pass slowly, we soon realized they were not working on the roads, they were just standing in these areas where the cars had to slow down in order to try to get some money from passersby. We, of course didn't want any problems, so we would give them a few coins so we could go on. There had to be about 10 of those stops we passed along our route. One thing that was sad to see at these stops or slow downs, was women and children making the drinking sign with their hand to their mouth asking for water. I did not see it, but my husband said he saw a man taking a dump right in the middle of the median. We quickly learned it was a very poor country. Although it is poor, the views were out of this world.
While driving down the highway and sitting in traffic, we were able to spot five volcanos within view. It was the neatest thing to witness with my own eyes. Not long after that, we were stopped by Guatemalan police, I'm sure the Texas plates had a lot to do with it. We just looked at each other and hoped the man at the border who we had paid, gave us the right paperwork and didn't do anything to cause us trouble. Although we were in the country we fought so hard to be in, we also wanted to get out.
They checked our paperwork and we were cleared to go. We ended up getting stopped twice while in that country. And the second time was just as good as the first, they checked us and let us go. I was surprised to see a few American chains while in Guatemala .. Pizza Hut, Burger King, McDonalds, Seven-11, Shell and Texaco. We passed fields of sugarcane that were being cut down by workers with machetes. We saw locals selling shrimp that were as big as my arm (yes, my arm) on the side of the roads. Ladies walked down the streets, balancing buckets that were full, on their heads. It was an interesting, beautiful country filled with nice people. Like we had done the entire trip, as well as trips previously before, we had booked a hotel through Expedia.
It was already 7:00 PM and I didn't really know much about Guatemala, so I was more than ready to reach our destination, both of us were. Because we had so much luggage on the back of the truck, it made the front of the truck sit higher than usual. It really was no concern until nighttime. That was when we got flashed like no tomorrow, for oncoming vehicles thinking we had on our birghts, although we only had the normal night time lights on. We knew we were close, however, on those roads a few miles would take twenty minutes due to the speed bumps. What made it crazy, was no signs before they appeared and no street lights to show them. At one point I thought our camper was going to come flying over the front of the truck because of not seeing them. That seemed to be the longest hour of my life.
Knowing we are within a few miles (30 minutes or less) of our hotel, we keep each others spirits up, reminding ourselves of how close we are to be done for the night. We turn off where the maps tell us to. And here we were, just like that, off the beaten path on dirt backroads in Guatemala at night. We drive a little further in and make the turns towards our destination. Just a few hundred feet away from our arrival, we spot a sign for our hotel. The sign was pointing in a completely different direction than our maps. We continue to follow our maps and assume the sign had been turned. We hardly see any lights down the road it says to take. I thought to myself, "how can it be out here?" We booked the most expensive hotel in that area with an ocean view.
A good number of the hotels we have stayed at have been off of dirt roads, so we continue on not really thinking much of anything being wrong, other than the fact that we were driving at night. Not one minute later, our maps were stating "you have reached your destination." However, we were still on the same back road with no lights. My first thought was 'we've been dooped'. We put on our overhead lights and are able to see a white gate that stood about 15 feet tall. As we park parallel to the gate, the motion lights come on. We sat waiting expecting for someone to greet us or open the gate. Nothing. We call the number on our Expedia receipt .. and still nothing.
Me and my naïve mind wanted to believe they were busy and just hadn't gotten a chance to get to the gate, although my gut instinct initially knew something wasn't right. Being more than ready to be done for the night, my husband decides he will go to them, if they won't come to us. He walked to the white gate and knocked. No answer. He yells 'hello' and so do I while hanging outside of the truck. At this point, I didn't know what was going to happen next or even have an inkling on what we should do. He decided to push the gate open and noticed only a four-wheeler sitting in the parking lot. Strange, as we were supposedly the last room available via ocean view. He comes back to the car to let me know he is going inside to see if he can find someone. I rolled up the windows and locked the doors.
My mind was on overload. Not only that, I felt sorry for my husband. I got to sit and take in all the views each day, while he had to watch other vehicles and the road. I knew if I was done, he was definitely done. We were both ready to lay our head down and go to sleep. Little did I know that he was inside of this hotel screaming and hollering for someone, anyone. He was gone for a good 10 minutes, which seemed liked 30. As he was gone, I see a motorcycle's lights coming towards our truck. I silently freaked out knowing there wasn't much I could do at this point. For a slight second, I thought maybe it was someone to let us into the hotel. Lucky for me, they turned off on the road that was just before us. He made his way back to the truck.
For the second time in one day, I could not believe my ears. "There was no one inside the entire hotel . I walked all the way to the beach and could hear the waves and yelled and not a single person was seen. I even knocked on a door that I thought maybe someone was in, and nothing." My mouth dropped. One last attempt, we remember the sign that we saw with the name of the hotel that we thought was turned and we head in that direction thinking maybe it was there where the sign had pointed. We ran into a dead end and a neighbors house. My brave husband got out of the truck and walked up to the neighbors front gate. They happened to be sitting outside so he was able to ask about the hotel just a few feet away. Not knowing much Spanish, he mentions the hotel name and asks 'abierto'? The local Guatemalan man replied with "no, cerado." Which we knew meant "closed". I did not know how that was even a possibility. We had never been in that situation before.
I quickly try to come to a conclusion of what to do next. What other choice did we have, other than go back in the direction we came and book another hotel? So we did just that. About an hour and all those hidden speed bumps later, we made it to Hotel Turicentro Martital which had armed security in the parking lot, so we knew our things were safe without having to unload it all. After using the Spanish-English translator we are able to check in and get our room keys. Cold showers didn't scare me and I knew the room had to have a bed, so I was beyond excited to finally be at a stopping point for the night. We parked our truck and noticed the hotel had a restaurant. We quickly threw our things down and tried to make it before it closed. Smiling from ear to ear, the both of us, we sit down to order.
First thing first, was getting on the phone with Expedia and ask why would they would offer a hotel on their site that is closed? We demanded our money back, no matter how long it took to refund. The lady on the opposite end of the phone had the nerve to ask, if we had tried to check in early , because they didn't have check-in until 3pm. Lady, this just happened like an hour ago and the current time was almost 9pm. She then proceeds to ask if we had waited long enough for someone to come out and help us. Trying not to holler, as we were sitting at a table at the hotel restaurant, my husband asks to speak with a manager or anyone that is able to help. After an hour of being placed on hold, the same lady comes back to the phone to let us know that she can offer us our money back. We then tell the lady that we use Expedia all the time and would appreciate next time we book, if the correct information can be displayed. And that they might want to consider taking that particular hotel off of their list. I then get on social media, being as they would not answer their phone, and send them a private message. Still to this day, I have not heard one word back from them, although I did get refunded through Expedia.
If ever in Guatemala, be aware of the Isla Parmala Hotel. If ever booking through Expedia, I would recommend to call and verify the hotel before booking. We slept so hard that night. We had been through so much emotionally that day, we had been ran ragged. The room we had gotten had two twin beds, and we both slept together in one. When one would turn over, the other would too, or else fall off the bed. We didn't care as long as we were together.
The next morning, we do the same routine as the days before. Get dressed, brush teeth, tossed hair in a bun, grabbed any waters that the hotel had left us for the road, loaded the truck and we were off for our day of driving and sight seeing. We knew it was another day of border crossing, which normally meant wrecked nerves. But we also knew that confidence was key and we were not going to take no for an answer, should we get told what we did at the last border crossing. We came upon a line of 18-wheelers, which meant we were close to the border. We knew we would get a 'runner' to help us being as we did not speak any Spanish and we didn't want that to hurt us at all. A 'runner' is a person (or number of people) that take your paperwork for your vehicle and your passports. They stand in the lines for you, and go through the entire process without you having to step foot out of your vehicle.
Before and after the process, they will also, run you to the other border while they are on foot directing traffic so you can squeeze though following behind them. Most of the time, they will have someone waiting for you to complete your paperwork once on the other side of the border. Of course, they do all of this for a fee. It can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars on up. Depending on time length and what the person looks like they would be able to pay. They will always judge a book by its cover. So, if you are wanting to save a few hundred and decide to use a runner, dress poorly. The thing that hurt us, was our 2017 Texas truck. Thinking that this transaction should not take very long, we pull up to the spot requested and wait. He quickly comes out and we think 'well, sheesh. That was much easier than the last border.'
Little did we know he only came out to inform us that the paperwork that had been processed back at the Mexico/Guatemalan border was wrong and they were trying to correct it so we could continue on into El Salvador, like we had planned. We sat at the border, looking into El Salvador, people rushed by on their bikes and mopeds. Thinking to ourselves, we are so close, yet so far away.