20 de Julio
El Remate a Palenque: 6 hs
Nuestro viaje iba a terminar en Guatemala, o en el sur de México, pero nos apuramos un par de veces para enganchar las visitas de los abus en Costa Rica y Guatemala y ahora tenemos un poco más de tiempo para cruzar USA. T empieza la escuela (preescolar) el 8 o 9 de Septiembre asique tenemos unos días más para llegar a Boston. E sigue insistiendo en alargar el viaje un año más pero por ahora no logra que L cambie de opinión. Aunque hay muchos lugares donde las cosas no están muy bien en México (violencia relacionada con los narcos), también hay muchos lugares lindos y tranquilos. Tampoco estuvimos nunca en el Sur de USA asique allá vamos!
Cruzamos a México desde Guatemala por el Ceibo, un cruce fronterizo nuevo cerca de Tikal y cerca de Tenosique en México. Nos habían dicho que en esta frontera no había aduanas, entonces nos dijeron de parar en el aeropuerto de Flores. Al llegar al aeropuerto, nos dijeron que no podían hacer nada, pero nos aseguraron que ya sí había aduanas en la frontera. Todo el recorrido fue tranquilo, y la ruta muy buena. Justo antes de llegar, unos militares guatemaltecos nos pararon para pedir documentos y por supuesto no sabían que inventar para que le diéramos plata. Primero que no teníamos el permiso del auto correcto, que necesitábamos dos permisos (dos stickers), que tenía que llamar al supervisor, y que éste iba a tardar como una hora en venir… revisaron todo el auto. Como vieron que no nos inmutábamos, finalmente dijeron que nos fuéramos. La frontera estaba a unos metros, los trámites fueron fáciles pero lentos. Tardamos como 2 horas en hacer todos los trámites. En casi dos horas más estábamos en Palenque.
All the way to Boston
Guatemala-México border crossing
Our trip was supposed to end in Guatemala, but we sped up twice so that we could fit schedules with visits by the Abus in Costa Rica and Guatemala. So we ended with about a month and a half of ‘extra’ time since we need to be back in Boston by the first week of September for T to start school (K). That is if MET can’t convince L to extend the trip by one full year. So far no luck but if you have any ideas on how this can be done let us know.
Without having done any planning we’ve decided we’ll drive all the way back to Boston. It’ll probably be many long stretches to drive but we’ve heard great things about Mexico (other than drug-related violence) and we’ve never been to the southeast US. North America here we go!
While the Abus took a flight back to Guatemala City and then Buenos Aires, we crossed into Mexico through the Naranjo-El Ceibo crossing. El Ceibo is northwest from Tikal and far away from everything and until very recently had immigration but no customs office. We called the tourist information number in Guatemala expecting to receive no help. Within minutes we were connected to a northern Petén representative who confirmed that there was no customs office and suggested we do the exit paperwork at the Las Flores airport. At the airport the customs lady would not do anything for us so we called the tourism office again and after a bit more research they confirmed that a temporary customs office had opened about a month ago at El Ceibo.
We drove for a few hours through farmland that didn’t seem to be in use until we got to a military checkpoint about a mile before the border. The north region of Petén is still under state of siege after an apparently drug-related crime that occurred earlier this year. Still, the only military that stopped us were before crossing the river on the way to El Remate at Sayaxché and now. Four soldiers searched through our car and at one point all except one left. The one that remained asked a bit too many questions and requested permits we didn’t have. We didn’t want to believe it but here was a military officer trying to squeeze money out of us. He began telling E their platoon was trained for special operations, to skydive, as snipers and other cool stuff, probably hoping to scare us. We showed him our tourist travel permit for the car but he wanted a second one. He also said we had the wrong type of permit and told us that if we drove to the border we would be charged 2000 or 3000 Quetzales (~US$300-400). Then it started getting funny. He showed us E’s drivers license and pointed at the MA (Massachusetts) and said we could not drive our vehicle with an MA class license. Then it got better. It turned out we would have to wait ‘a few minutes’ for someone so he called and asked ‘how many minutes until you come?’, then changed his face to one of disbelief and said ‘over an hour???’ and informed us of the terrible news. We were almost laughing. This guy had no training at all in extortion. We played along for a while until he let us go.
At the border the immigration official was the polar opposite of the soldier we had just met. After turning on the generator to run the computers he told me a bit about his life. He was surprised and disgusted about the soldier and pointed out that he had never asked anyone crossing the border for money, even though he didn’t have much money himself. When he could he would buy things for people that couldn’t (at the moment he was paying for an expensive battery for something an old woman needed), he was trying to resolve a conflict with teachers that had been on strike for two weeks, he planted and harvested corn and beans, he run several kilometers at dawn every day, and he quoted repeatedly from Hermann Hesse. He was happy between nowhere and nowhere and had next to nothing material. I felt very small next to this man.
The Mexican side of the border had a brand new, oversized (at least for the amount of traffic this border had at the moment) building. We had to dump the fruits we were carrying, leave a US$400 deposit for the car to be returned when we leave Mexico and pay $49 for the car permit, $3 for fumigation and some more so that we could enter. After about two hours at the border we continued to Palenque, our first stop in Mexico.