Border wars

Now, where were we?

First, a track. This is a big one. Belmopan through the border, to Ni’tun, to Antigua
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Back at Belmopan I changed brake cables, did a bleed. No center stand, so Lucinda got tied to a post and her bars tied while I worked.

Which all took two hours, about an hour and a half more than it would take someone who had done it a bunch of times. And off we went, through beautiful Belize, which I mentioned before is horsey. This tree, btw, is the rain tree because it drips for hours after the rain stops

The trees in Belize are monumental

So off we went to San Ignacio, which is on a pretty river. It’s almost record-setting hot here so for miles people are trying to cool off in it

A river crossing in town

The border is interesting. You see that little white building centre-right? That’s where you get your photocopies of everything made.

So after going through Belize Immigration, clearing our Belizean permit, going through Guatemalan immigration, getting copies made, we then hit a solid wall at Gautemalan customs.

So here’s the story.

My re-entry in Mexico a few weeks ago was partly to see the Yucatan and Belize but critically I had to clear my Guatemalan permit by April 14, which I did. Applying for a new permit at Melchor de Mencos a couple of weeks later, last Saturday, to re-enter (yup, I know, a lot of entries and re-entries) I was told that I couldn’t re-enter until July 14. What?!

None of my friends knew this (they don’t expire a three month permit first) and I’d read ADV and HUBB exhaustively about Central American borders, and had heard nothing about a three month wait between bike permits. I couldn’t believe it. Screwed. So I asked for a transit permit straight through to El Salvador and they said no way. After the supervisor grilled me about what I had been doing in Guatemala, where I lived there, who I knew, what my plans were, he decided that I was planning to stay and I had no intention to go through to El Salvador in a few weeks. Let’s just say he was a jerk, typical of the problems you run into.

So I rode back to San Ignacio, about 20 miles back and checked into a hotel to plan my next move. I had 12 days to clear my Belizean permit and be somewhere else other than Guatemala. I made a reservation on the boat from Belize City to Puerto Cortes in Honduras. My back-up plan. Easy and time to burn.

But it’s not what I wanted to do. Firstly, I loved Guatemala and wanted to see Tikal, Semuc Champay, monkees, and had made a promise to someone that had to be cleared.

So I called Julio and Taz. Julio knew someone who knew someone (really) who could help me pay a *fine* and get a transit visa at least. Then there was another option – import the bike. Complex, time consuming and perhaps expensive, we all looked at that.

Julio’s friend’s friend handled the *fine*. Taz rode up to assist with the import, if it came to that.

I can’t tell you how difficult it was getting a 72 hour permit, which effectively, because of the time it was issued, was a two riding day permit.

I think they both said at different times “hey, that’s why they call this adventure riding” and I took solice in the knowledge that there have been worse stories in the recent past down here, including to ‘Chefonbike’ from BC who got refused in Costa Rica about 2 weeks ago. They said his ICBC document wasn’t an ownership document. And ‘shmula1’ who had his bike impounded for 24 days because his NY title looked bogus, but wasn’t.

Anyway, by the time it was dark it got done. Taz, Lucinda and I raced off into a huge lightning storm to Ni’tun, about 2 hours away, on mixed dirt and pavement.  The storm was huge, the road awash and the dirt sections ‘sketchy’ as Taz put it. But imagine how big a push this was for Taz who, who had ridden very fast for six hours to get to me before hand. Wow.

Ni’tun was a magical place and served the best food of any small lodge I’ve stayed at in Guatemala. We were there for 10 hours only – lots of food and a little sleep.
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In the background we were still working the problem. We found out that Lucinda’s blue-book value was way less than I had imagined and did the maths on importing her so I could complete Guatemala. Julio knew how to do this and had a friend in Guatemala City who had done a few bikes for him previously. But we had 24 hours to do it before Lucinda became illegal again.

The following morning we pulled a 545km day, which on these roads is big. At midpoint we stopped to eat at Rio Dulce in incredible heat. Taz reckoned 105F.

To make another long story short, Taz and I raced off yesterday back to Guatemala City to see Julio’s friend in Aduana (customs). We had four separate rides, maybe four hours, of hair-raising fast lane-splitting (about 60% of the time) in the chaotic GC traffic. If we failed, or something went wrong, I had to skip to El Salvador by midnight last night. Interesting.

And we got it almost done. One more thing I have to do and there’s no more Central American border crossing hassles, as most of the countries honour my new Guatemalan plates, when I get them. In the interim I’m legal again as they process the plates.

It’s difficult to easily accept how hard Julio and Taz pulled to help make all this happen. But they are, after all, ADV riders, and have been through hell and back themselves. Two more years of this I’ll be one too and ready in BC as they and others come through.

And Lorena, thank you.

A monster moth, 6 inches across

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