Juarez, Never Again
Trip Start Mar 29, 2006
26Trip End May 12, 2006
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Hello folks. I have a moment here and frankly needed a break from the sun (I can hear your violins playing), so I thought this might be a great time to update this entry at least.
We reluctantly left Santa Fe by around 8am and headed south with the intention of hopefully making it to El Paso, Texas. Lunch was enjoyed at Truth or Consequences, Colorado. We actually had the kids playing in a T&C play school playground with the local kids, of all ages, while I made sandwiches
We then got back on the road again and were making great time. When we reached El Paso it was only about 4pm but we were all hot and tired and thought weīd be much better off just finding a hotel, relaxing, getting our border documents in order and then getting up early in the morning for the border crossing into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
So Rob and I thought that surely there would be hotels near the border crossing and therefore headed that direction. (Now for those of you who donīt know El Paso and Juarez, they are both border cities divided by the Rio Grande - which looks more like a sewer canal than a river) According to the īlooksīof our map of El Paso, we thought we had several blocks before the border crossing once we got off the freeway. No such luck. We took the turnoff/overpass for Juarez and found ourselves immediately in the line up for the border crossing and we couldnīt find a way out. Eeeeeks! It was also rush hour and there were wall to wall cars jammed like sardines cooking together in the smog and smothering heat.
A bit of panic set in on Rob and myself while the kids cheered "Ya! Weīre going to Mexico". We madly made sure that we had all our documents in order, which they were, and then we frantically and literally started jamming bananas, oranges and apples down our throats and into the kids faces. Gosh forbid, that we should have to throw any of our FREE fruit out from all our complimentary continental breakfEsts! We then proceeded easily across the border all feeling absolutely stuffed and of course nobody asked or cared that we might of had fruit (originally from Mexico)in our vehicle
We then had to park our īBurbī and walk into the immigration office to have our tourist visasī and passports checked and stamped. We were a bit surprised that the Customs Officer didnīt speak a word of english. Youīd think theyīd know a bit seeings that they deal with english speaking gringos all day. Anyway after a playing a bit of charades with the officer, we were off, until the next border control stop 30 km away.
This is when a bit of hell set in. As I had said, in MY opinion, (most) Mexican drivers are absolutely nuts!!! Anything goes. We were in the middle of an absolute mad scramble. Nobody uses their signal lights, they just turn where they want, when they want and it doesnīt matter what or who is in their way. I AM NOT EXAGGERATING! There is also no compliance with traffic signals, signs or laws. There are also cops everywhere with lights on constantly, I donīt envy them.
We couldnīt get out of this city of nearly 3 million fast enough. It also made us wonder what the heck were we getting ourselves into. Of course the kids in the back couldnīt have been happier or more excited to finally be in Mexico. Rob drove very well, I directed and found that my wee bit of Spanish was a life saver with reading signs, and we both kept our eyes on the road and all the chaos happening around us. It certainly is no wonder now why our Mexican vehicle insurance was so expensive.
One thing I should say is that is was also a blast to our cultural senses. Although there were many American stores, like the Home Depot, we were definitely in Mexico with all of itīs delightful colors, smells, bikes, dogs and goings on! At one traffic light, two boys with painted clown faces, lit three large torches on fire right in front of us. One boy got up on the other boys shoulders and started juggling the torches for the duration of the light. When the light turned green they went from vehicle to vehicle looking for pesos amongst the moving vehicles. Interesting.
About a good hour later we were at the 2nd border crossing where Rob had to again go into the customs office (no english again) and got our vehicle sticker and verification after playing another game of charades. We jumped back into our vehicle, answered a few more questions in broken Spanish and English and we were then on our way. Phew!!!
Once we were out of the city, our anxiety levels dropped way down. Thank goodness. Not far down the road we had to stop and pay about $14 for the toll highway. The toll highways are just like our QE2 highway........very nice. We also were stopped, not far down the road, at a military check stop where Rob promptly said īNo hablo espaņolīand that was enough for the officer to just wave us on. Phew.
We pulled into the town of Villa Ahumada. Actually it was quite a neat looking place of, Iīd guess, about the size of Sundre, with probably a hundred food vendors lined on their main street. By this time we were all exhausted and it was dark outside. Weīd been told not to drive in the dark in Mexico and we headed that advice. Fortunately we found a motel that looked alright (in Mexican standards) and it looked quiet. Again, thank goodness I knew a bit of Spanish and we were able to negotiate a room with a nice gentleman. He asked if weīd like a room with water and a tv and I said sure. We paid $350 pesos for the room and he then walked us to it. It was fine only because we were too tired to care..........and honestly it was probably the best room we could have hoped for. There was no tv in the room, but at this point, who cared.
We got the kids settled in and all our important stuff brought in. There was a knock on the door and here was the same gentleman carrying the large tv, with rabbit ears, from his own office that heīd been watching, into our room. It was a funny site! The kids settled down to watch The Simpsons in Spanish before eating some pizza and then going to bed.
Everyone was tucked in around 10pm..........thank goodness that day was behind us, or was it. At about midnight the whole friggin town decided it was time to party. The kids slept through the noise but Rob and I couldnīt believe the incredible noise outside, near our door and on the street. It was FIESTA time in Ahumada! and the fiesta went on all night.
Anyhow, in the morning all was fine and we were off again for another full day of adventure............