Sunday, December 21, 2014

Crossing the Border into Mexico

*It's a 2-fer kinda day since we're taking advantage of finding internet wherever we can, BUT, in our urgency to get over the border and ride a fair distance before dark, we neglected to take ANY photos. Sorry guys!*

Since we were camping somewhat illegally and the park opened at 6, we were up at 4:45am and on the road by 5:15am. We had a delightful coffee stop outside of San Diego and chatted with a bunch of lovely people. We were immediately disappointed that we were hardly going to have a chance to see this city that seemed to be full of happy, friendly and outgoing people. But such is life. We’ve come to accept the fact that you simply cannot “see it all” and it’s good to have reasons to return to places.

We had arranged to meet Mike at a Walmart near the border. Mike, the extremely packed up new-to-overlanding-overlander who had attended our presentation at Adventure Designs, had asked us if he could ride with us for a while and possibly pick up some knowledge from us along the way, as he had just recently begun his RTW ride. We agreed and explained to him that he was welcome to ride with us for a few days and we’d be happy to share whatever experience we could, but that naturally, as much as we’re flexible (because you have to be when traveling this way) we’re also pretty set in our ways in other ways. He was happy to go along, and so we agreed to ride together for a bit.

We did a quick ride through of San Diego and headed to Walmart.

At Walmart, we found out that Mike wouldn’t be able to join us to cross the border as he was having problems with one of his bike modifications, so we went on alone.

We gassed up. Exchanged some dollars for pesos (and yes, the sign that promised “No commission” was a LIE). And headed to the border.

Roel remembered to stop next to the highway and run across 4 lanes of traffic to hand his I94 form back to US immigration (it’s pretty ridiculous in my opinion that there is no formal parking area or signage like “Stop here for US immigration”) and then we came to the border.
The border guards just looked at us and waved us through. No passport checking. No bike paperwork checking. No directions for anything of that nature.

And then we were in Mexico.

We had become so used to hearing everyone talk about their trips to Baja, it had almost become like an extension of California in our minds. The reality looked like anything but.

Immediately upon crossing the border, the level of poverty was striking. The highway was in relatively good condition, but there were people living in cardboard shags along the highway for the first few kilometers. The road ran along the wall that separated Mexico from the USA. The ease with which we crossed the border must be a dream for many thousands on this side of the border. We seldom realize how fortunate we really are. We continued on, intent to get some distance between us and the border, and I was so focused on reading the road signs that I’m pretty sure we missed the customs/immigration office along the highway. Not that it was well-signed, or anything, but still.

We continued on until Ensenada and decided to stop there for the evening. The information center told us that the customs/immigration office in Ensenada would open the following morning, as would Telcel (for my Mexican sim card), and that we could find a campground on the beach for $5 about 20 minutes farther South.

On the way to the campground, we found a Walmart, AutoZone, Office Depot and several other US brand shops. We also found ourselves to have slight headaches, likely due to all of the pollution we were breathing in heavy traffic that was comprised of older cars that would definitely not pass US emissions inspections.

We found one of the two campgrounds mentioned, and were quoted $30 for a rocky spot on the water and cold showers. Haggling only brought us down to $20. And the guy seemed rather unfriendly.
We went to the other campground mentioned, Mona Lisa Beach, and again, were quoted $25. I tried to bargain (in Spanish), but the nice attendant told me that she didn’t own the place and so it wasn’t up to her. Ensenada is a port town and is still quite close to the border, so with the sun setting and needing to tell Mike where to meet us, we decided to eat the cost and at least feel “safe” for the evening.

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