Adventures in Brobdignag – the Mexico / Guatemala border
From everything I’d read as research before the trip the biggest challenges around logistics were going to be with the Central American border crossings.
I arrived at the border between Mexico and Guatemala after a nice 40 mile ride early in the morning. Leaving Mexico involved paying the departure tax of £15.00, getting the passport stamped,
trying to find out where to get the bike’s import cancelled and refunded (‘no, that happens in X – 45 miles back up the road’), I wasn’t going to put another 100 miles on that day, so it looks like I
might have made a larger than expected contribution to the Mexican economy; paying the 20p to use the road between the two countries then dealing with the Guatemalan side.
I was there for 4 hours. A flavour of some of the discussions:
- ‘No, I am not an Indian Citizen – the page of my passport that you have copied is a visa not the main page’
- ‘No, the bike is not Spanish - it was manufactured in Spain, but is registered in the UK’
- ‘Here, this little picture of a motorcycle on my licence shows that I am qualified to ride it’
- ‘Yes, this is the only document we have in the UK that shows ownership of the bike’
- ‘Yes, I will come with you to the local lawyer who will produce a notarised document (for $35) that states that I am who I say I am and so is the bike; but why?’
- ‘OK, I will go with you to the bank to pay the import tax, get the 4 copies of the papers stamped, then signed by me before returning to the border post’
- ‘Please feel free to half-heartedly spray some disinfectant of the bike for 'fumigation' purposes - it costs how much?’
- 'Sure, I will take a rickshaw to go the 200 yards to the bank - how much?'
- ‘I thought you worked for the government; why are you asking me for money. I will need a receipt for that’
There are, I think, two options as to how you respond to all this.
Rail against the ineptitude, corruption and feel duped and ripped off as a foreigner travelling solo.
Or, if you’re going into a country where:
- The average earnings are just over $2700, equivalent to about £5.00 per day – if you have a job of course.
- 75% of people live below the poverty line, with 58% being in ‘severe poverty’.
- 60% of people are aged 24 or under and fewer than 6% of people will see their 65th birthday
- There is less than 1 doctor per 1000 people compared to almost 3 in the UK.
You could feel glad that you've got an opportunity, however small, to redistribute some of your first world wealth and that's probably no bad thing.