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Third day in Mexico

   May 19

Third day in Mexico

Arriaga is about 280 km from the Guatemala border. I started the day late planning to cross to Guatemala, but not drive to El Salvador like originally planned. Road from Arriaga to the border is good and nice (with exception of RV’s)

I had to cancel my temporary car importation bond before the actual border crossing. Their office is right on the highway about 80 KM before the border. If you plan to use the CD Hidalgo or Talisman border crossings then the office is exactly at 283 km post in a little village under the pedestrian overpass. Just pull to the side of the road, park, lock the car and walk across the highway. The official sits in the clearly marked building and will come up to the car to check it out and remove the import permit sticker. This costs you nothing, is very simple and you do not need any help even if you don’t know how to speak any language.

A official looking little guy with batch around his neck waved my down in one of the police checkpoints much earlier than 283 km. He explained me that I need to go and cancel my car import bond here. I said the office is later down the road, but he wanted to see my documents anyway. Alright, convinced that it is down the road he asked if he can ride with me to the other office. Alright, ride then. While driving he told me that he can get me to Guatemala in no time and all the payment for the whole Central America until Panama is collected in Guatemala. This correlated with my prior knowledge about Central American Border Crossing Agreement from 2006, but I was unable to find any detailed information on the Internet. He also told me that today the Talisman crossing is very busy and we better got to CD Hidalgo instead.

We reached km 283, I did what I knew to do before. It was simple and needed no assistance, but he wanted to show me to the CD Hidalgo. Alright, I did not have it in my trip-tick, so fine. I had no contract to pay him anything and I told him that explicitly. I’ll give him ride for free if he directs me to CD Hidalgo, that’s all.

Very soon after the Mexico customs office there is big sign to “Guatemala” right on the InterAmericana. Some miles later on the road to Guatemala the road forks with signs pointing to Talisman or CD Hidalgo. With a guide I did not pay much attention to all the little roads we drove toward CD Hidalgo. Lastly ended up on roads between endless banana plantations. Total about 50 km. I have never seen so many of them. The roads were narrow and without any road signs. They would be hard to navigate without a guide.
50 km Banana Plantations

50 km Banana Plantations

Finally reached the CD Hidalgo. First thing that caught my eye were the three wheel bicycles locals use for their transportation, taxis etc. I have see them in South Asian countries, but never anywhere else. The kids just got off the school and the older siblings or parents were picking up younger ones with three wheelers. The street was filled with them. Martin (that is what he said his name was) asked me to turn again onto a street with no sign whatsoever. If anyone plans to cross at CD Hidalgo, you need to ask locals for direction because there are no signs.

I filled the tank for MXP in the very last Pemex station right before the border crossing because the gasoline is significantly more expensive in all following countries and I had lots of pesos to spend anyway.

We reached the border crossing. Again, without any signs anywhere until you actually reach the place through a narrow passage you would never guess leads to another country. It was not busy at all differently from what I had read from all the travel stories detailing the situation.
By now Martin had made himself credible
  • Central American Visa Agreement
  • CD Hidalgo crossing was not busy
  • I agreed to use his service if he gets me to Guatemala in one hour. The fee we agreed upon was 200 MXP (about $16.00)
    Getting out of Mexico was smooth, fast and Guatemalan entry was in sight.
    Guatemala Border Entry In Sight

    Guatemala Border Entry In Sight

    Mexico in prospective
    Throughout the trip I did not see any massive “for sale” anywhere. On the contrary there are fewer than usually in US. People seem to be working and earning. New buildings are going up everywhere you look. Not in massive numbers, but construction is healthy. Mexico is building new roads, expanding and improving existing ones. The road construction goes on and they seem to have money for it. This is a nuisance for drivers, but not a sign of trouble in economy. It so appears that the economic downturn have not affected them nearly us much as us if at all. At least in the regions I passed.

    Most of the cars in Mexico are American made. Few Toyota’s (mostly small trucks) and Honda’s, but lot more Nissan’s. Out of European cars only Volkswagen has noticeable presence and there are almost no Korean cars on the roads of Mexico. You’ll find cars of all ages. Surprisingly many very new, but some from 70-ties and 80-ties as well. The “Taller mehanico” must do good job keeping the oldies running and mostly looking much better than you’d find in our ghettos. Of course you’d find some that are literally holding together with shoestrings and duct-tape.

    On the roads I saw many wrecked cars towed and transported South from US. I don’t know what  their destination is, but I saw the same after entering into Guatemala, so Mexico may be mostly transit for junked cars. It is a long and arduous drive to tow something like that for thousands of miles. Must be good business that makes this worth it.

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