Monday, March 16, 2009

Mexico!!

December 16th

San Diego to Mexico! Easy - 15 miles down I-805 and cross the border at Tijuana; this seems to be the popular route taken by other cyclists.
However it's madness.
Tijuna is a city of 1.5 million and this is the busiest border crossing in the world. It's a major freight route and I've seen the pictures of lanes and lanes of backed up traffic, plus the ride through the city is a nightmare.
We definitely need an alternative.

I-94 is a little used scenic highway heading East out of San Diego....



We travel inland 40 miles to the alternate crossing point at Tecate. This is a small border town that does nothing except supply the whole of Mexico with beer. 60,000 people live there and 59,995 of them work in the eponymously named Tecate factory. The other 5 people man the border crossing.

The ride is a joy along twistys up into the rocky hills...



Lunch stop...



And cresting the last hill in America; finally a first glimpse of Mexico...



Strange after so long, we are finally within sight of the country where this tour was supposed to start (before the slight Canadian and American diversions).

But first a border crossing and they are never what you expect. We need to close our US visa before leaving, but where to go? Unfortunately and unsuspectingly we cross a line and have already left the country before we can sort out the bureaucratic niceties, a point made clear by serious looking border guards wielding serious looking guns. We find a small office behind another building where Mexicans heading North are queuing and an officer takes our visas from us assuring us there is nothing else needed to be done. Slightly worrying as we were told we needed to officially close the visa within it's 90 day limit. Oh well....

Entering Mexico is similarly perplexing. In order to be allowed in to the country one must pay for a visa application. In order to pay the visa application one must visit a Mexican Bank. In Mexico.... So having entered Mexico to go to the bank, we return to the border to be allowed to enter Mexico.


Once we're officially allowed in and we visit the bank once more to get some Pesos.

Been looking forward to this bit - the budget was getting a little tight in the states. We hit a burrito stand and suddenly discover we can afford to eat like hogs again. I already like this country!!

We take stock....
Totally different here - full of life, and loud! There´s music, traffic and people everywhere in a chaotic boiling maelstrom of activity. Maybe it´s the contrast with the USA´s quiet and calm, you suddenly realise just how tranquil and ordered the States were.

And there are children here... The absence of something is often hard to recognise, and It´s only now that you suddenly realise how few children you see outdoors in the US. I know most people are safely ensconced in their cars so you do see fewer people generally, but kids are everywhere here and it´s a stark contrast. And a noisy one too!

We never really planned to tour the US and a bit of Canada - Mexico was always the destination. Starting further North was just a way for Sue to get some miles in before the greater challenges south of the border. When we began looking at flights, extreme cheapness meant we started a couple of thousand miles further North than planned - in Vancouver. And yet we're so glad we did. Apart from the stunning scenery - that's obvious from the photos, what's been such a surprise has been the hospitality and approachability of the people.

In Britain, strangers are regarded as just that - strange, something to be wary of and generally avoided. In North America, strangers seem to be regarded as... just people you've not spoken to yet. That's good. Mostly.
There are times when the old British reticence kicks in and you would rather just be left alone, but in the vast majority of cases it's been great.

And the hospitality has been amazing too, from being bought breakfast by hunters in Washington, to Bill and Tracy adopting us in Portland and providing a list of people down the coast who offered us accommodation... to any number of shop keepers who added little extras for the trip, to just countless little niceties.... I'll definitely be back for a coast to coast trip. it's been a great..... so far.

Chapter 2!! Mexico....