Monday, November 29, 2010

Into Mexico

Didn't get a very early start and the time we had driven the 30 odd miles down the 5 to the Mexican boarder it was 1100 and in the mayhem of everything change some Dollars into Pesos. We must be very grateful to Dom who copied us into an email of how to cross the boarder, which was very helpful as it was possible to drive straight into Mexico without having to do any of the paperwork and without Dom's email I'm sure that is what we would have done. The first thing that has to be done is to hand a piece of paper that the US customs stapled into your passport on entry back to them so they know you have left the country. As you don't pass through US customs on your way out I walked back to the US side and stuck my head through a door. Before I had finished asking for help the lady said “don't come in my booth” no problem but the demand was repeated twice more in ascending pitch while I was retracing my steps backwards. She came outside of 'her booth' and she said she would process the papers and smiled a benevolent 'do you know they are all murders in Mexico' smile. Before you drive off you have to get your passport stamped in a booth on your right as you enter. Once the forms are filed in you are sent to the bank to pay 262 pesos each for the privilege. Returning to the original booth, where the man was still on the phone to what sounded like his girlfriend, you hand over your payment receipt and he gets going on stamping. They use carbon paper which I hadn't seen for a while. Having done all that I felt justified in looking a bit smug. Next stop was for insurance but was told that you didn't need insurance for a motorbike in Mexico but he would willingly charge me $50 for a piece of paper. I thank him for his honesty and refused his offer of walking me 2 blocks to the vehicle importation office of $5. Driving the 2 blocks, which included a roundabout where everybody had right of way, we parked in a secure, walled and barbed parking lot. People pointed me in the right direction and having filled out vehicle information, had to go and get everything photocopied although there was a photocopier just behind the clerk who was doing the paper work. Copies in hand and lighter of a dollar I returned to the clerk who quickly photocopied parts that I hadn't done on his photocopier behind him, and with lots of stamping and more carbon paper relieved our credit card of 442.58 pesos in exchange for a temporary importation licence for Nancy lasting 6 months. We were then able to get lost in Tijuana legally, which we did trying to find the MX-1 going south into Baja. Stopped for some borritoes and a coffee on the way out as it was now nearly 1400.
We had to pay 2 tolls on our way to Ensenada of 27 pesos each but the road was good and we started to make progress. The road after Ensanada went down to single carriageway and just after Unapan we hit roadworks. Although the rain had stopped the precipitation over the last couple of days had left a 5 mile stretch of road inches deep in very thick, sticky mud. Cars and lorries got through it the best they could, driving on whatever side of the road that offer the best passage. Trying to navigate in the tracks of the car in front we slid and slipped all over the place. There was a real chance that I would drop the bike as the tyres were doing some very funny things, and the thought of being covered in mud from head to toe wasn't a pleasant one. Jill meanwhile had resorted to her protestant background and found some solace in prayer, which I'm sure is what got us through unscathed.
11 kms down the road we came to a motel, and I must say none too soon as it was just starting to get dark. As Jill was sorting out the room I got talking to a bunch of Americans who were on their way back from the Baja 1000 in a truck and trailer carrying 6 Honda dirt bikes They had all finished which is a feat in itself. Hope they enjoyed the mud up the road in the dark!
We ate in the restaurant and sleep soundly in the room that we left covered in mud from our boots the following morning. Daniel, the owner, had told us to leave the hot tap running for a few minute in the shower 'as the hot water has a long way to come'. I asked if it would be very hot when it came as I wanted to know if we should add cold water to it. He looked at me in a bemused, head tilted slightly to the side way, and said 'I don't think so'. I forgot we were no longer in the states and the chances of getting any hot water were slim, but as it turned out after about 5 minutes warm water did flow, slowly.
We were on the road by 1000, having made coffee and breakfasted in the room. The road is generally pretty good, but as you enter towns; beware. Sometimes they have rumble strips that then lead to a huge sleeping policeman (topes) but sometimes there is no warming and rarely are they marked in any way. The first Jill knows about it is the anchors get thrown on hard and a loud 'shit' through her intercom giving her just enough warning to brace herself before being thrown into the air and head butting my helmet. If you are following another vehicle they either know it's there and slow down, letting you follow suit, or they get thrown into the air again giving you warning. Through the towns there is the road, which is paved, and to either side a large area of earth before you get to any buildings. Sometimes there is a 6” drop from the paved road onto the earth, so you have to pick your exit carefully. At Colonia Vinente Guerrero we stopped for gas, which is about the same price as in the states, and asked for an ATM machine. We were directed off the main road, passed flimsy wooded structures to a wall with a door in it. It worked better than some in the states as it gave us both money and our card back, whereas in the states it quite often only gave us our card back without any money. As the ATM gave us 500 pesos notes, we then had to find a bank that would change them into smaller denominations, and at Lazaro Cardenas just outside San Quintin we found a HBSC. While Jill stood in the very long queue, I talked to a man who had been deported from the states although he had spent all his life there from the age of 2. Seemed very unfair; but as his story unfolded he told me that he had spent 13 months in prison for drunk driving, had 2 wives who were after him for alimony and, although his papers were not in order, he decided not to fight it and moved back to work repairing washing machines with his cousin who seemed to be every second person that walked by.
A fist full of small notes in hand we headed off towards El Rosario, the last town on the road to have a petrol station for 210 miles, passed mile after mile of green house owned by an American company called Los Pinos who export all that they grow, to where we stopped early for the night at La Cabana motel, a very pleasant place with wifi, clean rooms and good showers for $35. We wandered round the town looking into the various stores for provisions. In the states you can get everything in many different brands, but here you have to get what they have, and that will be very dusty, not necessarily from age but from the sand and earth that is everywhere. We have found this simplicity both refreshing and a challenge. Even though we have been on the fringes of the American life, camping and cooking for ourselves most of the time, we have become attached to that way of life and it ain't like that down here in Baja, even though it is still very influenced by the US.


  1. So you are in Mexico safe and sound! Have to say bad weather follows you two around!!

  2. Not today Gwenny the sun shines (bit windy)and we are on the beach yipeeeee!! x

  3. Good luck and take care in Mexico. Loved reading the reflection on Canada and the U.S,very interesting,also loving the new look blog very arty.xx

  4. Hola! Julie, como esta usted? Soy muy bien. Good to hear from you. Glad you like the new look. You wouldn't believe how long it took to agree on! Been revising madly the Spanish. Am quite enjoying having a go. And people seem to understand me which is even better! Hope all is well with you. Have you gone back to Spanish lessons? love from Jill