November 24, 2009 GMT
Border Duplicity

Due to a message I received from my shipping agent, we had to suddenly get a move on and dash for the border out of Mexico. This involved two days of hard riding through mountains and across the hot plains, being blown sideways by the katabatic winds and having a chance encounter with Jorge, a Colobian bike traveller on a Suzuki V-Strom., we fitted in time for a social chat over cold drinks in a shady cafe. Not so the Scottish GS rider who just rode staright past us with merely a wave of his hand, I was ashamed to admit that it was a British registered biker who had displayed such unsocial behaviour.

We were lucky, though we cut it fine in the border crossing itself, arriving at 3.45pm to discover that customs were going to close at 4.00pm. This meant I had no time to lose as i set off to find my way to the correct office and present my documents to be stamped out. Having checked things through they asked for a photocopy of my passport and directed me to the nearest photocopy machine at "la tienda amarilla sobre la colina" - the yellow shop on top of the hill. I rushed off up the hill sweating in the heat and humidity, knowing I had very little time. As they photocopied my passport, those present in the shop joined in with a chorus of "Hurry up", it seems that everyone knows (except us) that the border shuts at 4.00pm as I raced back down the hill clutching the precious copy, I was in luck and the customs officer was prepraed to be a bit flexible.

Having doublechecked the documents, he handed back the infamous $400 which I promptly handed over to Savas and we rode onto the Guatemalan side of the border crossing.

The initial stage was the fumigating of the bike by a guy with a backpack sprayer, which I think contained only water but they said it was compulsory and we would not be allowed to enter without this procedure taking place, and naturally we had to pay for the privelege. Immigration were fine, and although on this journey I may have thought at some borders that I looked dodgy using two passports, that was nothing compared to Savas, yes, he has two passports but his are actually stapled together which looks very suspicious. They didn't blink as they stamped him through, they also required a "payment", I could see this was purely and simply a bit of corruption because when I asked about a receipt it was not forthcoming, however as we still had to get the bike through customs, now was not the time to stand up to border bribery and for once I kept quiet.

Over to Customs, where Savas went in as the bike's legal owner, I should explain here that the bike is American registered and the Yanks have a strange system where there are two documents connected with each vehicle, the title and the registration document. When a vehicle is sold onto a new owner, only the title is handed in to have the name changed whilst there and then a new registration document is issued in the new owner's name, the previous owner also keeps hold of his or her registration document. Have I lost you yet??

The odd thing being that it is possible to cross borders with just the registration document, the title is not needed. Our method of getting the bike put into Savas's name was for him to present at Guatemalan Customs with his registration document, whilst we had crossed Mexico with my reg document. This seemed to go well until Customs demanded to see the permission we had obtained for clearing Mexican customs.

Damn, this was obviously all in my name, and could mess up the whole plan of me taking Savas's bike through Mexico for him. Savas played dumb about the documents they requested but they were insistent, so as he got out the Mexican permission, I discreetly slipped on my decoy wedding ring as everyone knows in Latin America a wife is not allowed her own property, it must also be the property of her husband and so we readied ourselves to try and argue along those lines. Savas looked a bit concerned at me trying to pass myself off as his wife, I think he has someone quite different in mind as a potential spouse.

Meanwhile I was also formulating Plan B in my head, because if we failed to get Gullu put in Savas's name here we would have to cross Guatemala together and make a dash for the next country - lawless El Salvador, and pretend to lose our documents on the border between the two sets of customs offices. I reckoned we could reach that border in two days, still allowing me enough time to get back up to LA.

By the way any members of the Aduana Guatemalteco (Guatemalan Customs) who may be reading this blog please ignore all referneces to switching documents etc.

A nail-biting 20 minutes later and we were relieved to see that they had ignored the fact that Gullu was in my name for Mexico and had put everything into Savas's name. What a relief as I was starting to think I might have to trail along with him all the way through the banana republics of Central America.

We set off for the nearest bar and drank cold Gallo beers to celebrate our successful (if a little illegal) arrival in Guatemala.

Posted by tiffanycoates at November 24, 2009 09:55 PM GMT

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