Driving From Guatemala to Honduras
This was one of the more interesting border crossings, and I don’t mean because there were jugglers or fire-eaters.
Our book told us that the border crossing at Agua Caliente was the “big” crossing, and open 24 hours. So we left Panajachel and drove like hell for Guatemala City, and for the border beyond.
Driving through Guat city the last time was a big problem. The city is big, dirty, dangerous, and there’s just no reason to spend any more time there than absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a city map on our Central America map. But Mike’s wife Adele hand drew us a surprisingly accurate map (see pics). Adele is the wonderful woman from South Africa that invited us for Christmas Eve lunch.
With Guatemala City out of the way, we pushed on, and just as the sun went down, made it to a checkpoint about 30 km from the border of Honduras. They harassed us a little, looked over our papers, and generally stood around. I imagine they were waiting for us to bribe them, or trying to figure out what kind of Gringo tax was appropriate. Finally we cleared out with the captain, and gave him and the men a Playboy as a nice gesture for not shaking us down too bad, and cruised on down the road.
No more than a few miles later a carload of cops pull in behind us. No emergency lights, just following us. Kyle waved them on, trying to get them to go around. They wouldn’t, and a sneaking suspicion that something wasn’t right began to creep in.
At the next wide spot in the road with a snack stand and a street light we whipped off the road – so quickly that the police passed us. They also pulled off the road, and began backing up toward us.
I jumped out of the truck, ambled up to the snack stand, and started speaking with the woman. She’d seen the evasive maneuver, and looked a little nervous.
By the time I’d bought some snacky-stuff and tried to get a read on the situation, we had the police with Kyle at our truck, two with AK-47s, the captain, and the fourth at the police truck.
The Captain explained that there’d been an assault the week before, and that he wanted to give us an escort to the border.
We politely refused and told him that the whole situation made us nervous. He strongly wanted to, and we again strongly, politely told him that we didn’t need it. The whole “escort from behind” didn’t sit well with us, and it really didn’t sit well that the captain had left the checkpoint with most of his men.
Finally he agreed to turn the car around, and as they left, we turned to face the snack stand. To our amazement, several dozen people had materialized to watch the situation.
Asking the nervous snack stand lady again if the cops were “sucio” (dirty), she looked away and evaded. Finally a man with wearing no shirt and military dog tags piped up that there was no problem, don’t worry, etc. That didn’t assuage our concerns much either.
So we jumped in the truck and booked it. Finally we found a bus, and followed him to the border.
Each time the bus would stop we’d pull off the road as well and wait for them. After a few stops, he came out (gun on hip) to find out what in the world we were doing. When we told him we wanted an escort because the sucio policia, he smiled and chuckled, saying “no problema amigos” and our caravan moved on again.
We arrived at the border around 10pm, and checked out of Guatemala. The Honduran border is a few miles down the road. Guess what? Customs closes at 7pm, meaning we couldn’t clear our truck until the next morning.
Luckily we’d stocked up on Gallo and ice.
At the border, there are “guides” (guias) that are there to help you through the paperwork process. They aren’t cheap, and you don’t need them, but they will run around and make the photocopies you need and what not. They’re also pushy, and masquerade as officials. Just be forewarned, if you’re looking to do it yourself, and you can. We’d retained a guide before we really understood what he was and that caused some problems later.
So instead of getting to Honduras that night, we partied with our guide and then slept in the truck until 6am, when the jerk-ass woke us up. Apparently he was going home soon and wanted some money for his troubles – which were mostly him telling us that we couldn’t do the paperwork until the morning.
Customs opened at 8, and the process was over by, oh, 11am. No one was happy, and Kyle nearly jumped over the counter on at least one exchange.
Lesson learned – arrive with time, and double check the book.
That day we made it to La Ceiba, found the ferry, found a hotel on the main road, the Emperador, and set up there. ($18/double with AC, TV) We drug ourselves out to get some food at the Expatriate’s Bar.
While waiting, Kyle remarked, “I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep or the allergy medicine, but that looks just like Lucy!” I replied, “No kidding, that does look like Lucy!”
Lucy: “Oh my god, you guys!!! We knew we’d see y’all here!”
Turns out our friends from Placencia had been working there for a few weeks after spending time in Utila diving. We caught up, got some rest, and prepared for Utila the next day.