Arrived at the Guatemalan boarder. Concrete building similar to the Belizian boarder. They processed us, then we had to drive through this huge car wash that cleansed our undercarriage. Get out, pay for it. Then drove a little down the road to get our visas and vehicle importation. A little more chaotic here. A big tour bus of backpackers had arrived the same time us us, so there were people everywhere wondering around. We got in line – pretty long at this point because of the backpackers, plus all the regular local traffic. The “office” was outside under this huge metal domed overhang. It was interesting to watch the people as we waited. Began to see a difference in the locals. Many of them were much shorter and stockier. Faces were smaller and angular, with more pronounced noses. Jeans was the clothing item of choice. It seemed everyone was wearing jeans, jean shorts, skirts or jean jackets. There was this funny white man that came by. He had a big long white beard, galoshes, an opened black umbrella, and a black bucked holding all his paperwork. We figured a bucked was way more practical than a purse or breiefcase. Not only could you carry your documents, buy you could wash yourself, your clothes, your car, carry your groceries, feed your cow, etc. So multi-purpose! (We’ll have to keep that in mind for our next trip. Maybe we can even market it. Call it, Overland Bucket. Sell it on the shopping cart). Then there was a young man, who was probably barely 20 years old, holding a rifle. Dressed like he worked for some government agency. Despite the long line to pay our fee, when any of us was ready to pay, he came and got our paperwork and money and moved us to the front of the line. We guessed it was to expedite us spending money in their country.Â
The boarder town was pretty primitive. We really felt we were in a third world country. The road was dirt and full of potholes, trash, and lots of animals, from dogs, to horses, to pigs. Then when we made it to the highway, it wasn’t much better. Extremely beat up, huge potholes, concrete mixed with dirt, random topes. We were amazed that THAT was the main highway to and from Belize.
Headed out to Isla Flores to meet Cyril, an Overland Journal subscriber, who would be our guide through the jungle. Â Once we found Cyril, we traveled a few miles down the road to a large modern shopping center and mall – it even had a Pizza Hut -Â to reconvene with our team. The clear difference between our malls and theirs, is that there was a discotec, complete with DJ in the mall. It was funny – and very loud. All gathered to eat at the Chinese restaurant. It was very nicely decorated – really pretty upscale for a chinese restaurant. It was very ornate with gold and crystal chandeliers, and huge paintings – the odd part is that the pictures were of European Gentry. All white people. So the visual agreement was a bit off – European gentry in a Guatemalan Chinese restaurant. It was interesting trying to decipher the chinese menu in Spanish. Another thing at the mall that was different from our malls, is that the security was walking around with shotguns and bandoleers. So, a tip when traveling in Guatemala: you don’t want to commit a crime at the mall or in the mall parking lot.Â