Mexican border crossing

Trip Start Dec 22, 2006
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Trip End Feb 10, 2008


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Flag of Mexico  ,
Thursday, January 18, 2007

Well today was the day. The day we crossed the border into Mexico. We did a lot of reading up on what we would need to do and what sort of paperwork would be required and we were still nervous. In every book we read, they talked about how important it was to get our Visitor Travel Cards before entering Mexico and then making sure to get them validated at the border by the Mexican "Migracion". In anticipation of this, we drove towards the border and took the "Last USA exit" in order to hit the duty free and get our Travel Cards. Well duty free was not a problem, however it was there that we were informed to get our travel cards on the other side of the border....what?! This went against everything we had read, but that was the only answer anyone would give us, so off to the border we went. We had also read that once we get to the border there will be a traffic signal to watch out for. If the light is green, you simply drive on and if the light is red, you must stop and an official will inspect your vehicle. Well traffic was just flying through the border gateway; we call it "gateway" as there were absolutely no booths, no stop signs, no traffic signals, and definitely nothing to indicate we would at any point need to stop the vehicle. Only after looking at the photos later, did we realize that there were in fact traffic signals....we were just too wound up and trying to find the Migracion office, to even take note of them. We were nearly all the way through the "border" and getting more wound up by the second, when all of a sudden we miraculously spotted the Migracion office. If you look at the photo, you will see several tall white poles on the right, and immediately after those there is a small strip mall of shops....the Migracion office is the first small office in the strip. And when I say small, each office is literally five feet by five feet small with an equally matching small sign measuring 12 inches long by 3 inches high. They sure like to make it easy!Well today was the day. The day we crossed the border into Mexico. We did a lot of reading up on what we would need to do and what sort of paperwork would be required and we were still nervous. In every book we read, they talked about how important it was to get our Visitor Travel Cards before entering Mexico and then making sure to get them validated at the border by the Mexican "Migracion". In anticipation of this, we drove towards the border and took the "Last USA exit" in order to hit the duty free and get our Travel Cards. Well duty free was not a problem, however it was there that we were informed to get our travel cards on the other side of the border....what?! This went against everything we had read, but that was the only answer anyone would give us, so off to the border we went. We had also read that once we get to the border there will be a traffic signal to watch out for. If the light is green, you simply drive on and if the light is red, you must stop and an official will inspect your vehicle. Well traffic was just flying through the border gateway; we call it "gateway" as there were absolutely no booths, no stop signs, no traffic signals, and definitely nothing to indicate we would at any point need to stop the vehicle. Only after looking at the photos later, did we realize that there were in fact traffic signals....we were just too wound up and trying to find the Migracion office, to even take note of them. We were nearly all the way through the "border" and getting more wound up by the second, when all of a sudden we miraculously spotted the Migracion office. If you look at the photo, you will see several tall white poles on the right, and immediately after those there is a small strip mall of shops....the Migracion office is the first small office in the strip. And when I say small, each office is literally five feet by five feet small with an equally matching small sign measuring 12 inches long by 3 inches high. They sure like to make it easy!  


Finally inside the Migracion office, we were able to relax. We continued to relax for 10 minutes while we waited for someone....anyone....to show up. When finally he did, we were instructed to fill out a form the size of a cash register receipt. Once that was done, we were told to go "five windows down" to the bank, pay for the tourist card (237 pesos / $23 USD each) and return to the Migracion office. A tad leery of leaving the Migracion office, for fear there will be no-one there upon our return, we decide we have no other option but to go. The banker was extremely friendly, which we figure was because he was taking money from tourists. He stamped our cards and sent us back to the Migracion office. Thankfully the Migracion officer was still there...shovelling tacos into his mouth. He took a copy of our cards and bid us farewell. Back in our van, we attempted to join the rest of the cars that were whipping past us towards Tijuana, but were stopped by an armed border officer where the following conversation took place:

Officer: Anything to declare?
Mike: No (not certain what requires declaring when entering Mexico - no book told us anything about that)
Officer: Why you in declaration?
Mike: Just left Migracion for our tourist cards.
Officer: Hmmm (He walks to the rear of the van and back. Presumably to check our license plate.)
Officer: Where you coming?
Mike: Canada.
Officer: Where you go?
Mike: Baja? La Paz?
Officer: Go push button.

At that point the officer walked away and left us to figure out that we needed to drive ahead one meter to the left where there was a four foot high traffic signal (on red). Once there we had to push a button until the signal turned green and then we could re-enter the highway from a complete stop in the parking lot. Let's recap....cars are whipping past us....we drive 'Nilla....and 0 to 60 is not her forte.

Whew! Through the border. It was a tad to easy and we both felt like something should have been harder. Soon enough we figured out what that something was. Maneuvering through Tijuana. We headed downtown as it was still early in the day and were greeted by fast motorists who really had no regard for others, pedestrians that crossed the road at will, and streets that had no rhyme or reason to them. We managed to cruise up and down the main road (Av Revolucion) and attempted to take shots of the town without actually getting out of the vehicle. The strip was filled with topless bars, discotheques, and souvenir shops. The funniest thing we saw were white donkeys with black stripes painted on them to make them appear like zebras. Does that make any sense to anyone out there? Apparently they are a huge attraction and tourists pay $5 USD to sit in the wagon behind the donkey and hold a sign that reads "Sitting on my ass". Being on a budget, we did not want to fork over that amount of money (it's one night of camping after all) so we tried our best to take a picture without the proprietor noticing. I think we got a few good ones!

Once we were done cruising the strip we headed back to the highway. Unfortunately a man on a bicycle whistled at us and motioned that we were headed the wrong way on a one-way street. He also motioned for us to take the first right we came across....which happened to be the size of a small back alley and was lined on either side with cars. To boot, there were people mulling around, children playing and dogs running around barking. Poor Michael was driving (as he has been this entire trip) and was literally sweating up a storm driving down this road. No-one would move out of the way. Women with babies on their hips were standing inches from the drivers side while we were narrowly escaping hitting cars with our mirror on the other side. It was pure bedlam. It was almost as if people had never seen a beast like ours before (what with the Alberta / bull horns logo on the front) and were frozen in awe. We made it through the alley to another one-way leading towards the highway. We drove toward the highway singing songs of success only to be faced with "Exit Only" signs. Foiled Again! Deciding not to "just go with it and use our spidey-senses" anymore, we took a couple of minutes to read our map. The map took us to the highway alright, but first we had to circumnavigate the entire city to get there. Not a bad detour as our first point of interest was a house on fire. Not funny, we suppose, but we couldn't help but think that Belfor's services could really be used at this time (for those that don't know, Belfor is the restoration firm that Geraldine used to work for...pre-retirement). Thinking we had seen the last of the fire as we drove by it, we were surprised to still be able to see the smoke clouds as we reached the other side of town....and still no rescue vehicles in sight.

We cruised highway #1 (Mexico's Transpeninsular highway) towards Ensenada, a thriving cruise ship port, beach community and of course tourist trap. We found Campo Playa just outside of the downtown core and spent the night there. It was a tad pricier than we would have liked, but the location was convenient and the site offered hot showers. Before retiring for the night, we walked along the main drag which offered shops with trendy clothes, bars that played top forty music (in English) and again, tons of souvenir shops. Our main mission was to find tonic water...gin isn't the same without tonic. We headed out of the "touristy" area to find a grocery store. On our walk we discovered a unique thing called a "diagonal crosswalk". It literally gives the pedestrians their own time to cross the road, regardless of which direction you are going. The lights for all four sides of the intersection turn red and a light for the pedestrians turns green. This then allows the pedestrians to walk straight across from all four corners or to walk diagonally inside the two yellow painted lines that cross through the middle of the intersection. Tres kool! Further along our walk we found another unique intersection...it had the same shoe store (Los Hermanos) on three of the four corners. Who needs that many shoes??? You'll be happy to know that after all that walking, we did manage to find our 'Shasta' tonic water at a place called Waldo's...we now know where Waldo is.

Further along the strip we happened across a sign for Fish Tacos. Definitely intrigued, we stopped to read the sign better. Of course we were immediately accosted by the owner of the joint "Sublime" to come in and try the fish tacos, and best margaritas in town. Thinking that we would by two tacos for $1USD, we headed inside to try this new treat. Once inside, the owner somehow managed to swindle us into buying $6USD margaritas...and no fish tacos. We're still reeling from this one, but I guess it goes to show that we are still tourists and subject to the promise of "the best" at "the best" prices. It didn't help that we were thirsty going into the establishment, but seriously, all we wanted was to try the fish tacos. We try not to spend money foolishly, but every now and again we suck at it.

Tonic in hand, we headed back to Campo Playa. We headed, and we headed, and we headed some more. It wasn't long before we thought we were off-course. Realizing that our "spidey-senses" had failed us again, we asked some locals to interpret our map. This proved somewhat difficult as the map had no street names whatsoever. Thankfully the name "Campo Playa" rang a bell and we were told to walk back one block. We actually circled our campsite and nope, we did not look like idiots at all. Safely back to 'Nilla, we called it an early night....after a gin and tonic of course. 


Check out our photo album....
http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLandingSignin.jsp?Uc=16xvaj2z.8zaeuukf&Uy=-xzzvvz&Upost_signin=Slideshow.jsp%3Fmode%3Dfromshare&Ux=0&UV=840004610210_799721310207
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Comments

5440
5440 on

you so crazy
I busted my hot nuts laughing at your border story. I could just picture you, Cheech Moran, with your beard yelling; Hey Bendecos out of the way. How does it feel to travel in a turtle. Glad it worked out OK. By the way paying $6 for a drink & having that be the worst rip off of the day...all in a days work. Could have been worse. I've own, i mean have seen videos of what donkeys can do to the fairer sex, even the ones that look like zebras-priceless

s-mack

5440
5440 on

Jesus has left Tijuana
Oh my God, Jesus doesn't live in TJ, looks like the red guy does. Was there any nice part of the city? or did i see that...crazy stuff. Maybe some day the Tijuanaites can save some money, move to a sleeply little town in the south with beaches & warm weather....oh yeah, i guess weather isn't everything.
Where are you going next? Give me a heads up

sm

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