Well…it’s been a week ago (yesterday) since I’ve blogged (although I wrote a nifty piece from Granada, Nicaragua, which I couldn’t get to upload)…and do I have news!
We left Costa Rica a week ago, and have had a pretty nice road trip thus far. We had a bit of a whoopdee at the Costa Rican border, seems we were “missing” a paper (que’lle crap)….which took a hundred dollar+ bribe to fix. Short letter to follow to Costa Rica Immigration, I have the name of the asshat who jacked us. I’m convinced 95% of the border cops in Latin America are corrupt.
Before I go on my rant…let me say that my take on Nicaragua changed drastically after seeing the country during the rainy season…it transformed from a drab, dusty, awful place to a beautiful paradise. On the advice of our friend, we stopped in the colonial town of Granada. It was fabulous. Unfortunately, we were once again bitten by the “festival bug”….we had a room in a lovely hotel for one night, but after that…no room to be had at the inn, nor anywhere else in town….some sort of “Eco Festival” was happening. So, we just didi’d and went to Honduras (I’ll write more later about that). If you’re dying for a preview, check out COPAN.
We had a bit of an adventure in Guatemala (sarcasm on full throttle)….First, we got lost, and found a nice postman who had a much better map than we did. He directed us to go the direct route, through the mountains, rather than around. At about 4,500 feet, and on dirt roads, we only got more lost once (but we did find a great camp ground) we managed to finally (2 hours later) find the road we were looking for. It was actually pretty fun, but would have been alot more fun if I had been driving…but I digress. I LOVE MY XTERRA.
As I’ve mentioned before, there is not a great way to “get there from here” in some of these mountainous countries. On our first pass, we drove through Guatemala City….NOT NICE! So we decided that was something to be avoided at all costs…which we did, by driving G-7, which was, as we were told, “terra for the first hour…paved after that”.
Well….”dirt” was about 5,000 feet, mountain roads, and the recent storms were apparent, with rockfalls and dirtfalls and washed out roads everywhere. The scenery was awesomely beautiful…but it was a scary trip in the right seat. Iguana Man deserves a Purple Heart for surviving my screaming. I promise to post some pics and video (when I figure out how to do that)….you’ll not believe it at all. I still can’t.
Okay, back to my original point. GOVERNMENTAL INCOMPETENCE IS EVERYWHERE!
When we tried to leave Guatemala on Wednesday, we were told that our car was not in their “systema” as having ever left Guatemala. Never mind we had our paperwork with the exit stamp from Agua Caliente (Hot Water…I should have known!!!). Further evidence of our car being out of the country would be like….entry Visa into Honduras (in my passport….I wrote about this earlier with the sisterly solidarity of the female immigration officer insisting the car be on my passport), Nicaragua papers, Costa Rican papers….and reverse the trip….CR, Nico, Honduras.
Iguana Man tells me there is a basic bureaucrat mindset (I think he’s correct, BTW)….a simple “yes or no” answer from a paper pusher has drastic consequences. I was furious (!!!), but Iguana Man’s experience prevailed (thankfully)….and he didn’t go ballistic as I’d have done…and the Aduana (cop) let us leave the border with our car.
You see, in Latin America, they use “Napoleonic Law”….which means, mas o menos (more or less)….lock ’em up now, and sort it out later.
SOOOO….even though, we had transmigrated Guatemala the first time, correctly, and had all of the appropriate stamps, paperwork, etc…..some moron didn’t enter us into their computer system. And the poor little government drone knew that, but didn’t have the authority to fix it…all he could do was say “NO….can’t leave”….and we found the one honest guy in the country. Actually, he was very nice, as I said about the Napoleonic laws here, he could have impounded our car and been done with it…and sorry, American Tourist…you must pay 50% of the Blue Book value of your car to get it back…if you can find it?
SOOOO….we turned around, and went back to HueHue (I know, great name!!!). We checked into a nice hotel I saw on the way out of town (after we’d earlier spent a night in a cute little hotel downtown, $12, but the water wasn’t turned on due to “issues”…LOL, it was just a fine place, more later).
We called the American Embassy, got some advice (note to travellers, Embassy staff aren’t ALL morons, but most of them are). We were referred to a tax guy, rather than an abrogado (shyster). He was such a nice man, as was the fellow at the hotel who helped translate, a man who is married to a Nebraskan, but is properly waiting out his two years to get his green card, God Bless legal immigrants!!!).
After two days of trying to get the paperwork fixed, our “fixer” suggested another way out….ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION!
So, this morning, we hotfooted across the Guatemal/Mexico border, down a back dirt road, where there were numerous trucks and cars coming and going. Needless to say, I was scared out of my wits.
We got into Mexico…and with the good sense of our “tax advisor”….we were about 3 KM from a town with customs…where we presented our paperwork, and became legal once again.
So….I suppose the moral of the story is never panic, never be rude (the Guatemalan customs guy was just as captured by his “systema” as we were). NEVER BE RUDE. If it had been me, talking to the customs guy, I’m sure he’d have impounded the car, because I’d have gone ballistic at the stupidity. But the Iguana Man finessed the situation, and we are now in Mexico (did I mention it feels like coming home? Because it does…the US media deserves to be shot over their coverage of Mexico…alas, I digress again).
Actually, it was kind of fun (and lots of scary) running the border. But, when all is said and done, I feel like I just shot a huge bird at bureaucrats everywhere. We’ll never be allowed to bring another car into Guatemala (like I care)….although I have to think their “systema” sucks so badly that it doesn’t matter one iota. I have to give them a hat tip for trying to rip me off for $10 grand….but so solly, estupidos!
After all is said and done, I have to think, SCREW THE SYSTEMA is the right tack to take….sometimes it’s a little more scary than not, and sometimes, it just is what it is. It’s been a pretty fine life lesson. Do you hear me, Obama…and you stupid democrat Critters?
~ Blonde Gator