Since I am going to enter a new country today, and since I still had lots of Mexican Pesos left, I decided to change my money at the bank before heading to the border. I arrived at the bank at 7.30am, waited for half hour, only to be informed that the bank didn’t do any currency exchange. I was asked to go to another bank. Same story there, and again I was asked to go to the HQ bank which the officer said definitely can change Pesos to Quetzal (Guatemalan currency). I had to wait 45 minutes for the HQ bank to open and frustratingly, they can only change Pesos to USD, and for a much cheaper rate. As I had wasted lots of time, I changed my remaining Pesos to USD, get back to the hotel and head straight to the border. Surprisingly the road was reasonably good, unlike my experience yesterday. The view was beautiful too. However, 15kms from the border, there was construction going on and I had to ride on gravel.
Exiting Mexico at the Ciudad Cuauhtemoc border took a while. I went to the aduana (customs) to cancel my temporary permit. The officer demanded to see the VIN number, so I had to take down my GIVI waterproof bag. Then, I get my US$400 deposit back and later I get my passport exit stamp. The officer asked to see the receipt of my tourist card, which I got upon entering Mexico via the Tijuana border. Luckily I still keep the receipt or else I will have to pay US$23 again. Once done, I rode 50m ahead and entered Guatemala. Unlike in Mexico, it was chaotic at the Guatemala border town, La Mesilla. However, no tout came to me as I have read in the internet. There was quite a line at immigration and I had to wait a while before the officer stamped my passport. Then I went to the customs at the next building to get my temporary vehicle permit done. Luckily the officer didn’t ask to see the VIN number. I had to pay Q160 (RM80) to bring GD into Guatemala.
As I had a long way to go, I hurriedly left the border. The roads in Guatemala are very narrow and winding along the mountain. There were certain parts where the roads were really bad. Speed bumps here were worse than in Mexico, and a lot too. Military presence was everywhere. I never get the chance to speed at all. To make matters worse, the locals driving attitude was terrible. It started to rain soon after. There’s one time that I almost collided with a van from the opposite direction, which was trying to overtake another vehicle and couldn’t care less that he had taken my lane fully. I had to slam the brake and missed the van just by few inches only. Damn!! The road was so bad that the glue, which I had put on my broken GPS holder, broke again. However, the view was very nice and green.
It was very cold as I climbed higher to Lake Atitlan. I was getting worried as it was getting late and I haven’t reached Panajacel, my targeted destination for today. Fortunately the road improved after San Cristobal. I turned right to Panajacel and the road narrowed and started to climb up and down with very steep hairpin bends. I arrived just before the sun went down, feeling so exhausted. I took the opportunity to rest for few days here and viewed the famous volcanic lake.
After resting few days at Panajacel, I continued my journey to a small border town, Los Esclavos. However, it was not an easy ride today as not long after I left Panajacel, it started to rain. I stopped by the roadside to put on my Givi rain coat which I hadn’t use since in Canada. Thick fog surrounded me and the wind was so strong. I could only ride at 25kph as I couldn’t see the road. It was only after I had descended the mountains that the fog cleared. Reaching Guatemala City, I accidentally took the wrong road 4 times and had to turn back. My GPS didn’t have a junction view feature, so it was very confusing whenever I reached a fly-over as I’m not sure whether to go up the flyover or to take the ground road. There were lots of cars here and the drivers drove like maniacs. It was a great relief after I managed to find the correct Pan-Am Highway again and successfully crossed this capital city of Guatemala. At 3pm, I finally reached Los Esclavos, a very small town 50kms from the border, which was surrounded by beautiful mountains. Perhaps I’m the first Malaysian who ever spent a night here.