We made it through Mexico with no major problems. No run-ins with the cartel or banditos. No police bribery or break-ins. The biggest problems we faced were where to go and what to eat. Mexico is such a diverse country and even after almost three months, I feel like we barely scratched the surface.
We were all excited to be going to a new country and entering Guatemala. We had heard lots of cautions about crossing the border, but it all went really smoothly. First, we had to get our car fumigated. The fumes tickled our throats a bit, but other than that, the routine is starting to feel familiar.
1. Change left over currency.
2. Get passport stamped etc.
3. Organize the temporary vehicle permit.
No one tried to charge us for anything they shouldn’t and no one tried to force their help on us for a fee. The Friday markets at the border town, La Mesilla, seem to deter a lot of people from crossing the border at this time. Works for us! There were barely any lines and the van is small enough to weave through busy, narrow streets.
There are a lot less organized campgrounds in Guatemala, which is both a good, and a bad thing. It’s not as easy to find a place to stay, but is forces us to practice our Spanish. Our first night turned out great. For 50 Quetzals, about $7, we were able to park on the lawn at a nice little secluded hotel.
We made our way, as quickly as the van would allow, towards Antigua. We passed through mountain range, after mountain range and had to pull over a few times so Oscar could cool down.
When we got to Antigua, this lady was waiting for us!! We have been so lucky to have friends come and visit us along the way.
The free camping at the tourist police compound in Antigua sounds like it used to be an awesome option for overland travellers and backpackers alike. However, they’ve had some recent problems with partying and drugs, and apparently lots of the troublemakers drive combi vans. We had to laugh, Oscar is usually making us friends. We tried to convince the police that we were legit, but they were having none of it. They also asked us our ages. Their current stance is families only, and the older you are the better. So, the girls booked into a hotel, and Mark and I slept incognito on the streets.
We spent the next morning in Antigua drinking coffee, catching up with Margot, and wandering the streets. It is a really cute little city.
In the afternoon we booked a tour to hike up the Pacaya Volcano. This was our first hiking tour and it ended up being pretty entertaining. I’d read on trip advisor (my first mistake), that “it’s harder than childbirth”. Ummmm, I truly hope this is the case, but I think this might be one of the bigger overexaggerations on the internet. The tourist organizations and even magazines are still promoting the volcano’s glory days. I was really hoping to see red glowing lava, but all that’s left is volcanic rock and warm smoking holes. Still, it was a beautiful setting for photos.