Day 8 (Tuesday, July 25)
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Good - we crossed the border in less than an hour at a cost of Q35
for the vehicle, Q18 for fumigation, and Q10 for "services." (the exchange
rate is $1 = Q7 or so, at least according to the horde of money changers
with huge wads of bills. We actually checked with the bank as well, so
we were pretty confident).
The Bad - Finally finding a bank that would change travelers checks, I cashed in $300 worth. Only problem is, afterwe're all set to go (and I've signed the checks), they tell me they have no dollars and will only give me pesos (at a low exchenge rate!!). Kind of a lousy deal, especially since this was on the morning that we were getting ready to leave Mexico!!
The Ugly - We got stuck by the side of the road due to road construction. The entire highway is shut down as one lane at a time took turns following a grader down the new dirt on the road. Ho hum. This happened twice, once for 20 minutes, once for 10 (although in a hot truck going nowhere, it sure semed longer!!)
But once we got out of the border area, the highway through Guatemala was pretty good. I was starting to get really paranoid about this stage in the trip. We were so close to Honduras I could taste it, and of course this is where something would go wrong: blown up engine, banditos, stuff stolen from the back of the truck. My goal at this point was to hightail it as quickly as possible to San Pedro Sula. This kind of cut back on our sightseeing, but I was in the 'better safe than sorry' mode.
We were able to get all the way across the country to Guatemala City by the evening - right into rush hour traffic. We had to get through the city to the Carreta Atlantico, the eastern highway that would take us to one of the Honduran border crossings. Unfortunately, there was no bypass, and we didn't have a map, so we relied heavily on point and grunt direction asking. If you're ever passing through Guatemala, go into the city, take the Perifico turnoff, turn right (where we originally turned left), and follow that road around - all the way around the city, and it should eventually turn into the correct highway. Of course, nothing was marked, all the roads split, and it was rush hour, so it took us over 2 hours to navigate the city.
We were on our way out of town when I saw an autohotel - the kind of place you pull your car right into the room with you!! We decided to take the room because the price was right - Q50, until we figured out that that was the price for 4 hours! The señora was going to charge us Q121, but when we promised to be out by 6am, we got her down to Q60. We ate dinner at another roadside shack (we had been mesmerized by the bright lights of a McDonald's, but it was too far away to reach on foot and we didn't feel like pulling the truck out.