We pulled out of the driveway in Poway, CA at 5:00 am and headed south to the main Tijuana Border. We arrived there within an hour and spent only 3 minutes in the vehicle inspection. The woman checking the car seemed more confused about the actual vehicle than worried and barely opened any cabinets. Getting our temporary visas for a stay of 180 days max. was very simple and we only waited about 5 minutes for the bank to open to pay. The man then informed us that we needed to wait an hour and fifteen minutes for the banjercito to open. This is the office where we would obtain our vehicle permit. We waited, not so patiently, for the office to open. Eric talked with the woman at the counter and she was confused about what type of vehicle it was. We provided her the registration, title and insurance and she just couldn’t find it. She didn’t speak any English and was trying to explain to us why she couldn’t find the car in the system but we couldn’t break the language barrier. She told us that we needed to go to Otay which is the other Tijuana border crossing and she wrote down the intersection of two streets on a piece of paper and said go. At this point we were pretty confused and worried about finding this office, but so incredibly thankful that our map was still working. Eric’s brother gifted us an international phone which works wonders with the map function through T-Mobile’s data. A few U-turns and 20 minutes later we found the office in what looked like an alley way three blocks from the actual Otay border crossing. Vehicle permit, check.
Since we wanted to reach our friends in Mazatlán by Monday we planned to take the toll roads south. They are a little spendy when driving a long ways but worth it to get there quickly, avoid speed bumps, topes, and the constant under construction condition of the local roads. The road passed through Tecate and Mexicali and then we veered south to hit our first stop, Puerto Peñasco. The place was pretty full of snowbirds from Arizona but it was a good place to ease our way into camping in Mexico. We arrived around 4 pm and sat on the beach for a while with Pacificos, watching the ocean and let it sink in that we need to accept this life, as hard as it is... That night we biked to get tacos for dinner, eggs and bananas for the morning.
The next day we drove inland a little bit to continue on the toll roads. There were scatterings of small villages and colonias along the way and not much else. Eric has been the one to use his Spanish on a more regular basis and we are getting used to the basics of the exchange of money and things like getting gas and highway driving rules, or lack thereof. We are holding to the rule of no driving at night and are trying to be very proactive about having some sort of plan of where we will be staying. Eric and I definitely do not wish to be at established campgrounds the entire trek but for these first few days we have been happy to have an exact destination. We camped in San Carlos, just north of Guaymus our second evening. We talked with the owners of the stand where we ate that night about their local view of the danger of the state of Sinaloa since we were driving to Mazatlán the following day. They explained that there is danger in the area but if you are travelling during the day and staying out of the city of Culiacan especially, that you would not see anything to be concerned about. We were a little extra cautious the next day when stopping and getting gas and taking breaks, but all the people we ran into were very friendly and helpful. Once we got closer to the Culiacan area the amount of farming was unbelievable. We had never seen fields of tomatoes or vines or greenhouses that stretched such a massive expanse of land. That evening we made it to Mazatlán just as it was getting dark and had great luck with directions again to meet our friends. We will be in Mazatlan, specifically staying in their home on Isla de la Piedra, for at least a week.
Driving the past couple days in Mexico was better than expected. Eric has learned to follow the natural flow of traffic, even if that means driving on the wrong side of the road. Usually this means a huge dip or pothole is just ahead. I only stalled the car once in the toll plaza. We are terrible at taking the time to stop and take photographs, so we need to improve on that or else we won't remember anything. The military checkpoints were so simple and the men are more amused with the car and interested in practicing their English than worrying about a thorough check. Overall, gas has been expensive but we are hoping to decrease these long drives. We are looking into a little language immersion course or local options for bettering our Spanish and figuring out details of the ferry to La Paz. Next post will be our time in Mazatlán, which has been amazing thus far!