Thursday, December 28, 2006

28 December 2006 - First day in Mexico

We drove into Mexico with plenty of expectations of what it would be like. Only 20 miles south of the Peets we sat drinking coffee earlier in the morning we entered Mexico (without having to stop for anyone) and most of those ideas proved wrong. I thought that being so close to San Diego -- to the US border -- at least the first part of Mexico would be more American than it was. Perhaps more american, in reality, translates to more crappy. But things around it were instantly Mexican. The cinderblock constructions of half completed buildings, the roadway with fast moving trucks and woman with grubby children running across it.

But initially, or at least for the first hour or so, we were isolated in our car and its sealed windows. Tijuana passed by on the left, the multiple walls and fences of the border to the right. Our first contact with anyone was the toll collectors as we took the 1D motor way south to Ensenada. We paid for the tolls in US dollars.


At Ensenada we swung hard right and pulled up down the road from Immigration office to get our tourist card for travel south. It turns out that either every piece of information we had about what we needed to do for our card was wrong, or there was a good local scam going here. We had to pay a fine ($5 each, but not Kelly) for not getting our card at the border, and pay another $5 each for the forms needed to pay our fine! In addition we had to pay for our cards ($25 each). The worst part was the 2 hours it took to get the forms, pay our fine at the bank (of course the fine needed to be paid in cash) and get the authorities to stamp it. And there were only about 5 others trying to do the same thing.

We drove around Ensenada looking for a bank for a while until finally finding some place to park. The scene was pretty crazy. Out of the car we walked down the street to find a restaurant but soon entered the touristy zone (you could tell: it was labeled with a sign, it was full of bars with thumping music, and people started to beg or try to sell us necklaces) so we beat a retreat to what looked like a nice enough little restaurant a few blocks back.

We ordered and Patty and Kelly headed to the bathroom. I sipped my bottle of coke. Then suddenly I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. A rat, a big fury one, came flying by and headed towards the back of the restaurant. Right then Patty and Kelly came out of the bathroom and stepped into its path. It stopped. They stopped. Patty considered whether she was going to have to kick it. Kelly looked it straight in the eye then leapt up into Patty's arms. The rat spotted an opening and headed left (with the restaurant staff in hot pursuit), Patty and Kelly headed right.


We drove south, no longer with a toll road, and the progress slowed. One town after another brought the speed limit down and suspension busting speed bumps made sure you kept to them. It seemed we'd never get anywhere.

With the sun setting low we decided we'd had enough for the day so decided to find some place to stay. It happened to be San Vincente. The hotel owner was really nice and had three little girls. We checked into a pretty bare room which seemed to not have hot water, but was basically clean and cheap. We walked across to the local park. The frontage roads to the highway were dirt filled with activity, children, stray dogs, pickup trucks coming and going.

We picked up some yogurt at a market, Kelly ate a hotdog from a roadside stand, and I had one of the best tacos I've ever had a taco sta

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