La Mesia, Guatemala (*not my photo)
The google translate (I haven't made it to past tense yet in my spanish lessons) translation of "how did you get through mexico?"
This is what the Guatemalan border guy asked us when we told him we had driven from San Francisco. Going from Mexico to Guatemala was fairly simple, it took about an hour and costs ~20 dollars. A few days ago we found out we actually had our car in Mexico illegally. When you cross over into Mexico you are supposed to get a temporary import permit, which we failed to do. When reading about his online, we couldn't find anyone else who had done this trip and not gotten this permit. According to the Mexican government, if you don't have it you can be either fined, incarcerated or have your car permanently impounded. It looked like the only safe option was to get a 3-5 day exemption from the government and drive back to the boarder of the US. Since we were all the way in Oaxaca, this was not going to happen. After reading about it, we decided to just go to the boarder as soon as possible and try our luck (and feign ignorance). We read a lot of stuff online and picked La Mesia as our boarder crossing, it is supposed to be the easiest and least trafficked.
When we reached the boarder town it was of course a jumble of car, people, animals, etc. A describes this process as "trampling through the border" We drove through some traffic cones and past some government-y offices and then there was a sign that said welcome to Guatemala. It looks like again, we accidentally skipped some steps to leaving Mexico (you are supposed to cancel your vehicle permit and get a certificate saying so as well as have Mexican authorities check all your paperwork). All would be okay as long as we got our Guatemalan passport stamp and vehicle permit. After waiting for the vehicle counter guys to finish breakfast, he started checking our paperwork. He asked for the proof of cancelling the Mexican permit, once we convinced him we didn't have it, he seemed not to care and filled the rest of the stuff out. An hour later we were driving through Guatemala, with plenty of time to make it to lake Atitlan (where we are staying for two nights).
Lago Atitlan on the drive into Panajachel
In other news:
1. I drove today for the first time! Not so bad. I did this only after convincing A that he could not eat his Chile Relleno and river of beans while driving.
2. Panajachel, the town we are staying in, has more tourists than we've seen this entire trip. Including a high school basketball team that came here without even learning to say hello in spanish.
3. Chiapas (the state in Mexico) is absolutely beautiful and I wish we could have spent more time there (we were racing to the border with our illegal car).
4. We ate Pizza for the first time today, after failing to find our intended burger place. A described the pizza as "bowling alley" quality.
5. Topes in Guatemala are called "tumulos"
6. Guatemalans think Americans are going to steal their babies. I better stop smiling at all the cute babies here.