Welcome to MEXICO!
The day started out fine… The border crossing was quite easy in Lukeville/Sonoyta. In the picture above, we drove behind that BMW for about a minute before there were flashing blue lights behind us…. thank goodness it wasn’t for us: Jeep:1 Beemer:0! Lesson #1 : Don’t speed in Mexico.
We didn’t have any pesos yet to pay the 295p per person, so they, very nicely, converted into USD and ripped us off a little. I neglected to get current exchange rates, but I thought they were at least 12:1, however we paid $55 USD for our 180 day visas, and it really should have been $48. Not a big deal, they made $7 off the stupid Americans. The paperwork at the border, and talking to the customs guy about the dogs (he just took pictures of the dogs and a copy of the health certificate and Mike’s license) took about an hour. We found a place to change money a little ways into Sonoyta, and then headed south on highway 2 towards Caborca. We had originally planned to head to Puerto Penasco, to see what the hype is all about, and to get some cell service, but we had to head south first to get our vehicle paperwork. FYI for anyone crossing in Sonoyta: There is no vehicle processing there. You need to drive about 2.5 hours south, past Caborca, to the Banjercito just over the hill past town. Had we known that, we would have planned our trip a little differently.
After stopping three times to ask for directions to this place, we finally found it. Then, after circling the building twice (because we can’t get anything right the first time) and a whopping 15 minutes there, we paid our vehicle deposit and import fees, and were on our way. We headed back north, and west towards the coast. We made a quick pit stop in Caborca, for some roadside burritos (DELCIOUS). For about $4 total we both got 3 tortillas each, 2 stuffed with meat and potatoes, one stuffed with refried beans, and some salsa (literally the only really good thing that happened that day). The gentleman at the truck also said, that no, there is no Telcel store in Caborca. Damnit. So we still have to go to Puerto Penasco. If I didn’t mention this before, my family was a bit freaked out about our trip, and not making contact on the first day didn’t seem like the best idea (I really didn’t need a heart attack or panic attack on my conscience). Our phones were already shut off, and unless we found WIFI, we had no way to contact anyone. I thought Puerto Penasco would be our best bet to get our prepaid SIMs for the phones and our MIFI device. On our Mexican road atlas, highway 37 looks like it connects the coast from El Desemboque north to Puerto Penasco, it does not indicate, however, that there is about 10-15 miles of the road still incomplete. That was our first introduction to Mexican dirt highways. It wasn’t so bad, and we could continue at 30-40 MPH even on the dirt portions, it was just a little rough and dirty (that’s what she said – tee hee).
Two police/military check points later, we finally made it to Rocky Point. If you’re wondering – no issues with the police or military. They were curious about the Jeep and the military guys checked the back bag and peeked around in the Jeep. Nothing untoward has happened as of yet.
Beer first (because it was already 2 pm and we were supposed to be setting up camp by now), then we found the Telcel store. First, no one understood what I needed. I tried to say I needed prepaid SIM card for my phone and the WIFI device, all they did was pull out the chips and be like, here are your chips….. no I need NEW chips and I need to put data and minutes on them… ok back on line again, I got a girl who spoke a little English. She was able to get me a SIM card for the WIFI (I gave up temporarily on the phones) and set up the service that took about 2 hours. We left, went to use it, and it wasn’t working. Great, so back to Telcel. They get it working after about ½ an hour (they needed to install some software), but guess what, Mexico is a GSM data network so we only get 2G speeds with our Huawei MIFI. OK so we asked how much is a Telcel MIFI? Its about $28 US. We bought it, and they tried to set it up. Another 2 hours later its 7 pm and they were closing and couldn’t get it to work. Of course we didn’t understand this because our random MIFI from China works, why not theirs? 5 hours wasted, no dinner, and add the language barrier to the mix, and it was not pleasant. They wanted to keep the laptop and MIFI overnight, but we didn’t want to leave it for no reason and decided to just come back in the morning (not before asking for full refunds, which they couldn’t give because their cash office already closed). Then, we were both hungry and cranky and cold and it has started to rain on and off, and its dark and we have nowhere to stay for the night, and still haven’t contacted anyone (did I mention everything was going wrong?). My head was pounding and I just wanted to go to an RV park, and stay where it was secure, since Puerto Penasco didn’t seem like all that great of a place (in other words – don’t go here unless you want to stay in the little resorts with your restaurants and beaches and never leave… it wasn’t that cool and seemed very negative – bad vibes all around).
We drove around for a minute, and I saw an archway leading towards the beach down at the end of a dirt road to our left. I said to drive down it, and maybe those are the RV parks that are supposed to be over here. Earlier we drove around in between Telcel visits and couldn’t find these elusive parks. Thankfully, I was right, and the first gate we pulled up to had an attendant who spoke fluent English (first time not struggling with my Spanglish so far). It was dry “camping” (a dirt lot with no hookups), and cost $10. It had clean bathrooms and hot showers, so I said go for it. We set up along the ocean, and opened up the tent. We had a nice dinner of $4 Doritos and warm-ish beer. Then it was time for bed, and up we went. Then the rain started, and the wind. It got so windy Mike was afraid the rain fly was going to rip off. The noise was insane, so, at about 3 am, I got out in my rain coat, and held the ladder, while Mike drove closer to the building and the few other RVs parked in a row along a wall. That blocked a good amount of wind, but it was still loud. Oh yeah, and then there was another damn train. Shitty sleep after a shitty day, then we got hot showers and were off to Telcel to see if they can fix our issue. We dropped it off and decided to come back after the three hours they said it would take. We tried getting directions to a Movistar place to get phone SIMs, but the directions were so fast and while I got most of it, apparently I missed something important. We drove around through the flooded streets, and gave up on finding a Moviestar (I saw like 3 and they were all closed), and started to search for WIFI instead. Found a bar at about 10:30, bought 2 beers and was able to use their WIFI, on only one phone, for about 10 minutes, and then it crapped out. At least no one died from 36 hours of no contact from us.
We went back to Telcel, after the appointed 3 hours, to discover their MIFI still wasn’t working. Apparently Windows 7 is an issue (or that’s what I gathered). We got our refund on their MIFI device, and are now stuck with 2G speeds on our Huawei. It works well enough for one device using Whats App to contact our families, but loading websites takes forever, google maps doesn’t work, and there is no Instagram or Facebook (Mike is going through withdrawl). We left Puerto Penasco at about 1pm that day and decided to start over. Our 24 hours in Puerto Penasco no longer exist.
We headed south to El Desemboque, a small fishing village along the Sea of Cortez. It rained most of the day, and the same 10-15 miles of dirt road is now a mud road, and we had to drive 10-15 mph down it, while getting doused by passing trucks who apparently already have no suspension left.
The Jeep. Mudding on Highway 37 South. This was a nice portion.
In El Desemboque, we decided to stay in a hotel for the night. There is one in town overlooking the water. It was clean, but nothing to write home about. There were hot showers and clean sheets, for $33 USD or 400 pesos (after a short negotiation – she wanted $44, and probably knew we didn’t want to camp in the rain) we had ocean views and somewhere dry to sleep). I set up a little camp kitchen on our night table and we heated up chili and had some Cup O Noodle soups for dinner.
Kitchen, complete with beer and can of chili – missing the cup-o-noodles
While it was a little dreary in the rain, the sea was still a beautiful blue, and we got to watch a pod of probably 100 or so dolphins swim by in the shallow water. I so wanted to swim, but it was about 55 degrees out and still raining. In the morning, the rain had finally stopped and we were treated to a beautiful sunrise.
Sunrise in El Desemboque (there are two on the map… this is the northern one)
This was the start of the first good day on the trip. Time to head south to Bahia de Kino. That’s where the real fun starts. I will post more by the end of the week before moving on. Until then: “Though we travel the world to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or find it not” – R.W. Emerson.