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Dave and Jan's travels, day 197:

2nd December
Our first day in Guatemala. We left San Cristobal, bright and early at 10.30am (well, it's not sensible to attempt a major international border crossing on an empty stomach). Then, we drove off toward the border. We had already heard about the activities of the Zapatistas in the area. Now, I approve of left wing activists, and I can even put up with a certain amount of direct action: but I'd rather not be an active participant, thankyou very much. Then we passed about a zillion soldiers, got waved through a couple of roadblocks and finally came around a corner to see a bunch of people holding a rope across the road. Well, taking our cue from the pickup truck in front, we kept going and the highwaymen dropped the rope just in time to avoid rope burns. This happened three times...

Much later, we became concerned that we might have missed the road, so we stopped to ask directions. It turns out that the person we chose to ask was actually waiting for the bus to the border, so she got a ride and we got a guide. Principia explained to us that the rope people are actually collecting cash for their next village fiesta. So that's alright then. She was also kind enough to point out the eminently overlookable passport control and customs control. We then moved on under our own steam to the border proper, where we found (actually they found us) both the second customs and the fumigators. These people get you out of the car, pump the car full of smoke and leave it to stew for a short while. Then there's Guatemalan passport control, Guatemalan customs. And then there's the people who give the car a visa: we got ninety days and the car only got thirty days, but then I've always said that that car is a shady customer. The pictures at the right show the massive transformation as we crossed the border.

Guatemala is immediately a beautiful country of mountains and greenery. It's also visibly poorer than Mexico: not only are the buildings tattier, but the road in the mountains has literally got large pieces missing. Huehuetenango is our first overnight stop, and it's an odd place: it's like a small Mexican town, only with no streetlights, no nice architecture (at all) and a lot more banks.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Mexico-Guatemala border

Cow motorists...

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