Sunday, May 15, 2011

5/6/11 - Border Crossing B.S.: Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Rio Dulce, Guatemala. 300 miles, 12 hours.

Get up and check out the town square and find an internet cafe before I saddle up and leave Tegucigalpa. The city is so big and sprawling, unmarked by signs, and filled with so many one-way streets that it takes me an hour just to find the right road to the highway north. I finally do and a few hours later I am rolling through San Pedro Sula, the second biggest city in Honduras and just as crappy as the first biggest city. Its an hour north to the Caribbean coast, and the ride starts getting really nice. Lots of low rising mountains, tons of green, trees, pastures, cows, etc. My last view of the Caribbean Sea appears to my left and I enjoy the moment. I parallel the water for a while before the road turns inland and I am at the northernmost border crossing between Honduras and Guatemala.

It's late afternoon and the border is pretty much empty. Im the only one getting anything done there. I go to the migration office and the guy looks at my passport and little receipt and says I dont have the right receipt. I get pretty annoyed. Why dont they properly stamp passports down here again? He tells me to calm down and makes a call and says its ok, stapling my receipt into my passport. Whatever. A couple of women approach me to try to get me to change money. I don't, which ends up biting me in the ass later. I sign my bike out at customs in a few minutes and I am out of Honduras less than 36 hours after I arrived, which I am totally cool with. I enter Guatemala and drive 10 kms to the immigration post. Im stamped in quickly. I head further down the road to customs. Here is where the trouble really starts. They dont have the proper paperwork to process me properly for some reason, so instead of heading south to Rio Dulce, Im headed north to the port town of Puerto Barrios to the customs office there. An hour later through heavy traffic and darkness, Im at the office. They start processing my paperwork. Then they say I need to pay the bank, but the bank is closed. The girl suggests I stay the night. I let her know that there is no way Ill be spending the night here for this, and ask what my options are. They say the town adjacent has a bank that is open, and I can do it there. So now Im headed to the third town to take care of this. The bank is closed. Back to the customs office, pretty pissed off now. She says she can process my paperwork for me and take the paperwork to the bank in the morning for a small fee. Fine. Its 25 bucks. It was 8 bucks the last time I came here. The overall price has gone up through for customs, so she is really only charging me a few bucks more. I dont care, I want to get out of here. Its finally done. I leave and head out 90 minutes away to Rio Dulce, arriving at 10 at Hotel Backpackers, the hostel I was at last year which is affiliated with Casa Guatemala, the orphanage I am here to deliver the photographs to.

The first thing I notice is that it is pretty dead here, which I actually dont mind that much. The staff looks new here also, I dont see many familiar faces. The girl at the front desk says she will take my US dollars, but I am getting a crappy exchange rate. Pretty annoying, I should have changed money at the border. Fuck it though, I pay her and get a private room for 12 bucks. Everything around seems to be closed so I go to the hostel restaurant, where the waitress says they accept dollars. I wait 35 minutes for a bad club sandwich and a smoothie, and the bill is 9 bucks, which is way overpriced for down here, but whatever. I reach my limit though, when I give her a 20 and she brings me back change in Guatemalan Quetzals, at the crappy exchange rate I had earlier at the front desk. This seems pretty fucked up to me, and I have had enough today. I explain to her how and why this is fucked up but she is not doing anything about it. I can understand paying a bad rate for my food and taking the hit there, but having my change brought to me in this way is ridiculous. I think it is pretty lame that people who come here to try to work with the place and the kids at the orphanage are taken advantage of in this way, when I need a bit of help and am at their mercy. I get tired of the whole thing after a while and chalk it up to a shitty day and take my change. I justify having paid 12 bucks for a club sandwich in Guatemala (the same price as my room, for perspective) with the fact that supposedly the money spent here goes to support the orphanage. Im still pretty soured on the place by now though, and instead of waking up early to go to the orphanage to deliver the pictures (you can only get there by a boat which leaves in the morning), I'll drop off the pics at the front desk and hightail it out of there in the morning. Aside from my frustrating experiences today, I am just really looking forwards to coming home from Latin America, so I am pretty much focused in forward moving mode. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

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