Which way to Mexico?
After dropping the kids at the airport we find ourselves a campground where we stay for 4 nights. The sites are minuscule but the internet works well and the spa is hot. We’re happy.
We’ve been living with a minor problem with our engine for some time but I think now, before we venture in unknown (to us) territory, should be the time we address that issue.
Plus, we’re still unsure which route we should take back into Mexico as we understand parts of the country could be unsafe because of protests following the kidnapping (and possible muder) of 43 students a couple of months ago…
So I get busy trying to find where air could be entering the fuel delivery system on the truck while France contatcs her brother Michel who is very familiar with Mexico to ask for his advice.
I soon realize trying to find a quiet spot to work on your vehicle is not that easy when you’re in a populated area in California. Once again Jim saves the day. He was born and raised right in the area where we are camping.He contacts a good friend of his who graciously offers us to use his yard.
Thanks mucho Mike and Charmaine, and thanks once again to you Jim.
Upon thorough inspection, I soon find a loose fitting and a loose hose on the fuel return line. Tightening it all up is done within an hour or so and that allows time to do an oil change! Let’s keep our fingers crossed that I nailed the issue at first try and that we are done with it. It may be a little while before we know for sure as this is an intermittent problem.
Over the course of our 4 day stay, France, through her brother and a number of different other sources, gathers informations on how safe/unsafe Mexico really is. It appears there pretty much could be protests happenning anywhere (and not just in the state of Guerrero where the kidnappings occured), but that they normally are peaceful. Of course, I’m sure the one protest where the students were kidnapped was meant to be peaceful as well…
A decision is made to hit mainland Mexico entering through Mexicali, heading east and then south on hwy 2, the western most highway. We will try to stick to bigger highways as the smaller roads tend to be the scene of road blocks and such.
Mexicali once again.
This is our third time crossing in and out of Mexico at Mexicali border station within two weeks. This time it will be slightly different though as, unlike the last 2 times we entered Mexico, we will be doing so “legally” and actually getting a tourist card and vehicle import permit…
As we come closer to the border I have to decide if my vehicle is an RV or a car. In a momentary lapse of reason, I choose RV.
The customs officials literaly prey on us. We have instantly become they’re entertainment of the day.
The young men is polite and almost friendly but he wants to see everything. Somebody who is politically correct would say he does his job professionally, I say he’s curious as he’s never seen such a vehicle.
Customs: “What’s here? What’s there? What year is the car? How much did it cost?, Where did you get it?, How long have you had it? Where is it coming from?, What’s in there? What’s up here?, What kind of fuel mileage does it get? How can I move to Canada?…”
M: “S’cuze me?”
Customs: “How can I move to Canada?”
M: “I think probably the best way is to marry a Canadian girl.”
Customs: “Naaaah. I have wife already.”
M: “Yeah but we have better wives in Canada!”
Customs: “Ha ha! OK go ahead, have a nice trip!”
Now the fun part begins. I ask where I should go to get our tourist cards.
Customs; “Aqui, a la izquierda”.
M: “Sure…” Izquierda meaning left, I slooooowly pull out of the gate, which of course is the last one on the right, and cut across all 4 lanes to park in front of a building on which I recongnize the Migracion emblem.
No problemo, we have insurance this time.
Another young men greets us outside and explains, in good English, that we are at the right place. Once inside, two other officials get busy typing and filling our temporary visa forms. Before we can get our cards stamped, we need to go pay for them at the local Bacomer bank. Which is 3 short blocs down the street.
Leaving passeports and ID behind, we walk the sidewalk to the bank. About no more than a hundred yards into Mexico, we come across our first student protest…
Dozens of students in their twenties, all dressed in black, some wearing a scarf to hide their face, are scanning incomprehensible (to us) slogans in and out of microphones. They don’t really look like they could be a threat to us (or any body else) but still, we jump off the sidewalk and press on to the bank.
The street could be a typical mexican street, extremely loud, full of bright signs, cars honking, vendors yelling. There are numerous taco stands and an incalculable amount of shops selling everything and anything you can think of. And the smell… God, that smell… There must be something wrong with the sewer sytem…
We navigate through that maze, feeling like strangers from another planet, uneasy.
As we make it across the street, some Mexican guy walks to us and asks, in English, if we need help and what we are looking for. Guess we look like someone who’s looking for something…
Unsure of what he is after, we keep walking as we tell him we’re looking for the Bancomer.
Mexican: “Come with me, follow me, I will take you there. It’s not far. It’s just down here.”
We keep walking the sidewalk, looking for the bank and more or less following him by accident. As we get to the bank, the man opens the door for us and explains where the ATM and the cashiers are. Once inside, I turn around to face him, being 200% convinced he would have his hand out waiting for some pesos, only to see him, already back on the street, walking away…
The cashier takes our money and stamps our receipts but informs us we can only get pesos from the ATM. Which doesn’t take our credit card… Fortunately, it does accept a debit card and we can get the dinero.
The walk back to the migracion office is similar in action to the walk to the bank only we already feel quite a bit more confident. Funny how knowing where you’re going makes you feel a lot more at ease.
Out of migracion with stamped tourist cards and passeports in hand, we head for the nearest Banjercito to get a temporary import permit for No4. Of course, there’s no chances it would be like next door or something. Nope. We have to drive 10 kms to the next border station where it is located.
There are exactly 10,000 stops signs and stop lights on that 10 kms stretch of street… I counted them.
Approaching the other border crossing, I realize I will need to take the very last U-turn before we hit the US gatehouse to get to the row of buildings where I think the Banjercito is located. I do not want to miss that last turn and go back into the US right now. No sir.
After being succesful at that U-turn, I miss the next right hand side turn into the parking lot and end up facing having to go aound the block again. But then I stop and ask a security guard there where exactly is the Banjercitos. I have no clue what is reply is consisted of but I kind of understand he didn’t quite understand me either… It doesn’t really take all that long before we finally get our point across but it’s funny how being stopped on a no-stopping zone, in Mexico, right at the border crossing gets on your nerves really fast.
Next thing we know, the security guard leaves his booth behind and walks back to the row of buildings where I had missed the turn, waving me to U-turn again and follow him, which I do.
In the building, no one speaks any English but I can catch that this guys is saying that they will not have or do what he thinks we want before…Two months!
Guy in office: [in spanish] “Sorry, maybe in January or February…”
M: “That can’t be right. This can’t be the place we’re looking for.”
We walk back out and finally find the place at the end of the building. Fifthy dollars and a $200 deposit later, we walk back out with a brand shiny new permit for old No4.
The real Adventure has begun. We’ve been in Mexico two hours.
To be continued…