I must admit, this is one nerve-racking day. I’m afraid of things going wrong, not having the right paperwork, not having data on my phone, not being strong enough to endure this lifestyle, you know, all those little mundane things you get used to go out the window once you cross the border. Or do they?…
Left McAllen at around 8:00 AM and went in search of some breakfast. I ended up stopping at McDonalds and getting a fully loaded pancakes, sausage, and egg meal with coffee, not bad!
And so, with a full belly and a smile on my face I headed for Mexico. I was expecting your usual movie style border crossing, lined up with cars as far as you can see, angry customs officials, cocaine loaded trucks being dismantled, etc. When I got there I thought I had taken a wrong turn as all I saw was a brand new building that looked empty and some checkpoint areas with no attendants. There were no cars going in either direction, and the only people I saw were 3 custodians sitting on the curb.
I ended up going past immigration and didn’t even realize it until I started seeing posters in Spanish and the Welcome to Mexico sign! – I then made a U-turn and went back to the almost empty building to process my paperwork.
This seems to be a very new place, and they’ve streamlined the process to make it painless. The process for me was as follow: You walk into the main area and there is three desk sections, on your right you’ll see an immigration official who will check out your passport/ documentation and ask you some basic questions about your visit like reason and time, you then go to the desk on the left where they ask you for 1 copy of your vehicle registration, 1 of your license, and 1 of your passport. (If you don’t have copies they will point you towards an adjacent office where they will make free ones for you). With copies in hand the officer stamps you passport, takes your copies and asks for an additional copy of the stamped passport. Then you head to the middle desk which is Banjercito (national bank) where you pay all your immigration fees, including TVIP deposit which will be reimbursed when and if you leave within the allotted time, this is based on the year of your vehicle so they will check your registration and tell you the right amount. They will then give you a sticker (TVIP) which you must carry at all times. Other than that you will need insurance to drive in Mexico which I got online.
Sorry for the vague info on this crossing but I was so nervous that I didn’t keep records of what I did… I will try to do a better job on the rest L
Inland I went, heading towards a town called Linares which is a few miles south of Monterrey. The plan is to first get away from Reynosa and the surround areas which seem to be a little hostile at the moment with both cartel and bandido activity (based on advice from locals, and immigration official). I will then head south towards San Luis de Potosi and Zacatecas, then want to hit Las Pozas in Xilitla.
First thing was to take some money out as I only had dollars on me, unfortunately I did not find any ATMs at Oxxos in Pemex gas stations as others had said. I did find a pair of Pepsi delivery bikes which caught my eye, the guys usually load up with 1 or 2 dozen Pepsi bottles and bring them to local businesses, although they did confess to bringing Coca-Cola every now and then!
I stopped at a small unmarked town in search of an ATM or bank, when I saw a biker on a big Harley gassing up. I pulled in and started chatting with him about bike clubs in Mexico and how kind and helpful they are. He offered a place in Zacatecas and also Puebla, we exchanged contacts and off we went – great guy. Eventually I found a small bank and was able to take some money out, then I took the libre which runs parallel to the cuota (toll road) all the way to ruta 35, then went up some small mountains until I got to town. Terrain here is very different from what I’ve seen throughout the US, it is fairly arid with sparse vegetation and doesn’t look suitable for farming. There is tons of oil wells and this seems to be the only booming business in the area. Even as I climbed up a few meters, vegetation staid this way until I reached the Reynosa area where I started seeing more green and less sand/dirt. Temperature is perfect in the upper 60s low 70s (F) and so far I don’t see any rain up ahead.
I checked into a shanty hotel and asked for discount, the receptionist said “I have a room that is being repaired if you want it for $300 MEX ($15 USD) …. DONE. Shower works but has a whole on the floor, toilet works but has no seat and flushes at 1 sec/hour, but other than that, it’s all part of the adventure 🙂 Oh and parking is included after 9pm across the street with security guards, but I still took all bags off as precaution.
After checking in I went in search of food and found a perfect local restaurant that offered tacos and tortas. I went with an order of Al Pastor – cubes of seasoned pork with pineapple – and a coke. They come with salsas and veggies on the side, plus some extra tortillas, yum!
After a delicious feast I went for a walk around the town square which offers free wifi. The buildings in the square are colorful and well kept, all from colonial times it seems. There is a couple of museums and a nice modern library. Eventually I stopped for a cup of coffee at a local shop where they also offer delicious fruit smoothies and juices. The place is owned by a retired professor of sociology who studied and lived in Europe for many years and has now come back to his home town to teach seminars and run his shop, he’s 75 years old and is as energetic as a teenager.
I sat there for a while watching time pass, letting the adventure sink in. I’m starting to think differently, not sure how to describe it yet but I feel different, happy, content.
Before heading back to the hotel I picked up a pair of sandals, a personal pizza, and a SIM card for my phone as my sister offered to load up data and minutes for me. Thanks sis!
Lesson Learned – Don’t believe everything they say about a place until you get there, except if many of the surrounding locals tell you otherwise. I ask gas station attendants, traffic officers, and bankers for advice on local roads, places to visit and where to stay away, if more than 3 or 4 have the same opinion I ask a 5th to confirm just in case. On that note, when you go into a store or restaurant talk to people, ask about their business, their town, how they got there – people love to share their story, and will share valuable information for your future travels.
Daily Stats – 275 Km (170 mi)
Food: $273 (McDonalds Bfast, Taco Lunch, Coffee and candy, Pizza slice and soda, tip)
Sim Card: $150
Total: $839 MEX ($41.95 USD)