I’m sitting in Antigua Guatemala waiting for a delivery looking at the clock ticking and having my CA-4 Visa and Guatemala TIP slowly run out. I’m hoping my delivery will arrive on time so I can hit the road and extend the visa in another of the CA-4 countries. It’s that in Guatemala City they will keep your passport for a week, someone told me even up to two weeks. That is basically not a problem regarding the visa. Even though I do not like to leave my passport somewhere you will get a document saying your visa is being renewed. However, to extend the TIP for my motorcycle I need to have a valid visa. Until the time I would get my passport back with a new visa the TIP would have expired and I would have to pay a fine and probably even get some documents from a lawyer to have it extended too.

A stop at Lago Atitlan
A stop at Lago Atitlan

Several people recommended to me to do a borderrun to get my visa extended quickly. Since Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua are what makes the CA-4 the only options are Costa Rica, Belize and Mexico (or flying out of the country works too). Mexico is obviously the best choice being in Antigua.

Julio, an Austrian-Italian who has been living for a long time in Guatemala and whom we met through the advrider forums suggested to take a ride to the highlands in the western part of the country from where the border at La Mesilla is quite close. Shawn who actually wanted to head back into Mexico now also wanted to extend his visa and TIP since his KTM was making trouble again and Guatemala City was the closest to find some KTM specialists.

So I headed out to the west with Julio and Shawn first to stay at Unicornio Azul in the mountains above Huehuetenango. A beautiful area and a lesser known side of Guatemala.

Then the actual borderrun was up. Julio heads back to Antigua and me and Shawn to La Mesilla. It is a fun ride but parts of the road are endlessly filled with Tumulos (speedbumps) in every little village we pass. Closing in on La Mesilla there is a queue of cars way before even down in the village or at the border. Of course being on motorcycles we try to pass the cars but are first held back by some people. It turns out the jam is not because of the border but there is supposed to be some horse parade which is being prepared.

We finally make it down to La Mesilla and we first head to Guatemala immigration. My approach is being honest about what I want and approach the officials with a friendly smile. They tell us it is not a problem to get a new visa stamp but we need to get an entry and exit stamp from Mexico. The Mexican border here is about 4 Km away so we want to head down with the motorcycles. But we’re being held back by the SAT guys (SAT is the department who takes care of vehicle permits) and they tell us we need to have our TIP cancelled before we leave. Ok, not a problem just make sure you only have it cancelled temporarily, “Salida Temporal” it’s called. Because if you cancel your TIP you can’t come back to Guatemala with your vehicle for 90 days!

Salida Temporal is done, now they are closing the barrier gate at the crossing. Because of the upcoming parade they say. While standing around watching what’s happening a guy from the SAT is obviously excited about our motorcycles and our trips. Walter turns out to be the local chef of the SAT so we, or rather I because I speak spanish, chat a while with him. Certainly not a bad thing to be on good terms with the SAT chef around here!

Sunrise view from Unicornio Azul with Volcan de Fuego smoking
Sunrise view from Unicornio Azul with Volcan de Fuego smoking

We cross the barriers on foot, leave our bikes behind at the border (so much for temporarily cancelling our TIPs) and grab a taxi to the mexican border, 50Q for a return ride seems ok to us and we just want to get things done. At the mexican border I tell the official what I need and he says no problem but we need to pay 30$ tax. I remember paying around 60$ when I entered Mexico in Baja but that was with all the documents and so on, here we just got an entry and exit stamp so the dollars might have been a nice pocket money for the official.

Equipped with the mexican stamps we head back to Guatemala immigration. It’s only a matter of minutes and we have an all new 90-day CA-4 visa stamp in our passports without having to pay anything here.

Next up is to reactivate the TIPs. We go the SAT office just next to immigracion and the guys are all sitting around outside talking. I tell them what I need and again the answer is no problem just that we have to wait for them to finish lunch. I do not want to risk anything so I silently agree to their terms and we wait. When they have finally finished eating I ask them if it is possible not just to reactivate our TIPs but also to extend them for another 90 days. And so they did and at no cost again! Before I was told by several people the TIP cannot be extended on the border but we just proved otherwise. Maybe it helped to have a good long chat with Walter, I don’t know. Too bad I did not take the bet that Julio offered on this one! :)

Visa and TIP Extension at La Mesilla

  1.  Get an exit stamp at Guatemala immigration office
  2. If you take your own vehicle to the mexican border you have to get a "Salida Temporal" from SAT (temporarily cancel your TIP)
  3. You can also leave your vehicle at the border and grab a taxi to the mexican side
  4. At the mexican immigration get an exit and entry stamp (it cost me 30$ here)
  5. Go back to Guatemala immigration and get a new visa stamp
  6. Reactivate your TIP at SAT. Ask them nicely to extend the TIP for your. They did it for us at no cost.

Finally having all the papers, stamps and signatures it’s time to head back. But the SAT guys tell us we have to wait for the horse parade to pass by, just 2 hours or so. I do not really want to wait so I tell them we’ll head up the street a bit to find a restaurant to wait. Rolling up the road a bit we are waved through by some helpers of the parade. So we do what others do with their scooters, we head up straight against the parade and everytime a bunch of horses pass we stop at the side of the road. The performance they did with the horses was actually quite interesting. But it did take us an hour or two to get through the very long and slow parade. The heat and that Shawn’s KTM was easily overheating didn’t help to get through faster.

Horse Parade in La Mesilla
Horse Parade in La Mesilla

By the time we got through it is way to late to make it back to Antigua on that day, so we just hit the road to see how far we come. In the end we only make it to Huehuetenango and we decide to crash in a hotel there for the night. I tell Shawn that I do not want to ride the CA1, the main highway since I have seen that by now. I want to pass north of it on a secondary road. Even though Shawns KTM is prone to overheat he agrees to join in. I’ll set up my gps to get us to the road and it leads us right through the heavy traffic in the small streets of Huehue. I am trying to lanesplit my way past the cars so we don’t have to stop that much and trying to keep Shawns KTM cool. But apparently I am a bit more agressive when it comes to lanesplitting and passing traffic in a city than Shawn is. I take a turn thinking Shawn is right behind me, but where is he? I stop after the turn and wait and wait and wait… no Shawn. Maybe his bike overheated again so I take another turn around the block to see if I can find him. But he’s gone. And he does not have a sim card so there is no way to get in touch with him. Well, nothing I can do about it and so I decide to head out.

The ride on the secondary road is really great. The road is in very good condition for the most part and quite twisty as well. The scenery is beautiful and there are a lot of the traditional housings along the road which you don’t see that much around the touristy areas. Google maps even leads me through some remote dirtroads and there is a steep and stony incline I have to make it through, so I even get a bit of technical offroading, before I am back in Antigua.

I arrive in Antigua in the late afternoon. In the evening I head out to grab some lunch and when I return to the hotel at 8pm I ask some guys if they need help unloading a KTM from a pickup truck. Shawn made it back too but he oviously did not get to enjoy the ride. But that is his story to tell…

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