the short answer is: don't get too cute. I made this same trip in '08 with no trouble because I was a tourist and looked like a tourist. this time my truck had a cap on it, the air shocks were at the max, truck was sagging, and every nook and cranny was stuffed with all manner of crap that I felt I could not leave behind. Mexican customs guys were understanding, but this was too obvious -- much more stuff than a normal 'tourist' would need, so my options were 1) unload, prepare a manifest, and pay 16% on anything over the top, e.g., all the farkles, extra tools, 36" LCD TV, second computer, gifts for friends. (They have a list of what is 'normal' and it is on line). Food and alcohol are verboten. And there were a couple of items which I was not going to let them poke into under any circumstances. Option 2 was to proceed as a 'transmigrante' or in transit, i.e., hire a customs broker (maybe $500 and a day or two to process) and I could take anything I wanted but they would check at the other end to make sure I took out everything I took in. But then I would have to deal with Guatemalan customs who would take note of my status as other-than-tourist adn also focus on the truck. Two complicated and surely invasive alternatives.
I did this to myself. Most civil servants -- with the possible exception of TSA -- are reasonable people. But when you insult their intelligence you should expect to get the 'treatment' they reserve for relieving the stress, boredom, and frustration of their often miserable lives. Probably like fiddling with your taxes -- many people do it and get away with cutting a corner or two. But if you over-reach you send up red flags that can result in an audit that can suddenly take on a life and purpose of its own and lead to places you do not want to revisit.
So, in the span of five minutes both my fiancee and a kindly Mexican customs agent said essentially the same thing: "maybe this is a sign that you were not meant to travel through Mexico today" I had ignored plenty of signs over the previous few weeks of my preparation and as I stood there in front of migracion in Matamoros I decided to heed this one. Did a 180 and 48 hrs later was back in Virginia.
But the day before yesterday, after I had stashed most of my stuff, I flew down to Guatemala without incident. I had a carry-on, a backpack, and two huge boxes which I knew would attract the attention of Guatemalan customs. My story was that I planned some extensive motorcycling (true) and needed my own specialized equipment (also true). The fact that my gear (except for the Givi crashbars still bubble-wrapped at the bottom of the box) was obviously used was enough to sell my tale. A three-minute, cursory inspection and I was gone.
So, I am here, maybe a little wiser (maybe not -- probably more an expensive experience noted than a 'lesson learned'). It is 70 and sunny and in 10 minutes I am going for a little shake down and tomorrow am headed to Antigua with mi novia on the back to kick off this phase of my life.
Last edited by shadowman; 11-17-2012 at 01:38 PM.