It was a dark and starry night as I drove beck from Mazatlan. Now how could that be???? The cardinal rule for tourists is to NEVER DRIVE AT NIGHT. The second rule is to never break the cardinal rule .What was I doing in unfamiliar territory on the wrong side of dusk. Let’s begin a few days earlier.
Saturday afternoon, November 12th, we were visited by Pat and Jeanette Boyd, a couple from Vancouver who would be traveling with us toward Mazatlan. They are an amiable couple and we were very pleased to meet them. We arranged a place to meet on the way to the border and that was that.
Sunday November 13th, we met at the appointed spot and headed south. The first, very minor problem occurred when I followed Pat down the car lane of US customs. I opened the window and the first thing I heard was “Houston, we have a problem”. It was then apparent that I would not be able to continue in the car lane, however, they opened up a small slot into the truck lane and I was able to pass through. The US customs people wanted to know how much money we carried and if we had any guns or ammunition. We were soon on our way.
At Mexican customs, Pat turned up a random red light which meant he had to stop to be searched. WE got no such light but were asked to pull aside anyway. Now, it was pitch black and the Mexican Federale was dress in black, head to toe, was armed, and wore a balaclava, one of those knit things that covered everything but the eyes. I thought a Ninja something was attacking. He came around to the door with a woman agent and she asked to come inside to check. Of course our dogs went nuts. Strangers to play with. The man asked if they were Labradors and when we said yes he seemed pleased. The inspection over, we continued on to the Immigration station.
The immigration/tourist permit is almost comical. First we went to one building to get our travel permits, then we had to go to the Banjercito (??) to pay for them. Then we had to go back to the permit building to get the papers for our car and motorhome permits. After that, we had to stop on the way to have some photocopies done. Then back to the Banjercito again to actually get the “import” papers for the Jeep and Motorhome. They also took $300.00 deposit on the Jeep so that if we leave the Jeep in Mexico, we lose the $300.00. OK, we knew that in advance so it was no problem. Next stop was to fill-up with fuel. I mentioned to Pat on Saturday that I would want to fill up within the first 100 miles of Mexico as the fuel is over $1.00 per gallon cheaper down there. Pat didn’t know that and he decided to enter Mexico with little fuel also.
WE were making very good time and after quite a while we stopped to water the dogs and change drivers. This is how it always goes. I drive miles and miles of highways, then Helen takes over and gets to drive through a big city rife with construction. The Boyds were unaware of the road work in Hermosillio, but their Tom Tom GPS took them through. I was very impressed because my Garmin GPS ended as we crossed the border. I could see the icon of my vehicle close in on a black void. I had no map, no speed, nothing! Soon, even the icon went away.
We were still making very good time and actually made it to our destination of Navajoa fairly early in the day. Pat and Jeanette stayed at the Best Western Hotel in Navajoa while we parked in the back of a Pemex truck stop about 2 miles north. They were going to come back for us at 7:00 AM. All was well for a while as we walked the dogs and made ready for the night. Trucks kept pulling in all night and soon we had a cattle truck on each side of us. Cattle trucks transport live cattle from one place to another and they do NOT stop to “walk” the cattle from time to time. Therefore, the stench is beyond belief!!!!! We were enclosed and there was not too much stink that we had to endure. I actually got to sleep and a short while later I got up to find the cattle trucks gone.
Still, trucks were coming in all night and when morning came we were boxed in. I had no choice but to disconnect the Jeep and move it away, then back the motorhome around to reconnect the Jeep. AS we pulled around the station Pat and Jeanette were waiting for us. Oh, how could I forget. It rained all night Sunday night and I mean it poured.
Our trip continued to be uneventful as we drove further south on route 15 D. Soon we were getting to where Helen and I would cut off, so we hailed the Boyds and stopped to say good bye. They were a great couple and we hope to cross paths again. They headed down 15D when we got off at about kilometer marker 84. The route to Celestino Resort is a dirt road that was graded only a few days ago, but, of course, that was before the rain. We were not happy about the muddy road and large puddles, but it wasn’t until we got right in front of the hamlet Rosendo Nieblas (Rosy Fog). This area of road was sloped very heavily to the right and the surface contained some clay that made it slippery to the extreme. The whole motorhome just slid to the right and bounced into the embankment. A little damage to the front right corner and much damage to the right rear corner. I was afraid that it would take out the heat pump / air conditioner, but it was spared. It did rip off part of the lower rear cap.
Here is Jesus. He is just one on many adults and children who were available to help push the motorhome.
There was nothing we could do. I checked with my road service for help. Last week a checked for the second time and they assured me that I was covered. They even told me how to call from Mexico. So I called, and they told me sorry, but no coverage. One of the guys staying at Celestino knows a guy who knows a guy, but he wouldn’t come because the possibility of doing more damage was too great. The locals finally got a farmer with his rusty old tractor. Connected to the trailer hitch, we had Helen driving in reverse as the tractor pulled us out of the mud and down the street to a secondary road where we have been camped since Monday afternoon.
Of course we are the celebrities in this hamlet of 116 people. All the kids have been coming around and we find them to be most delightful and polite. The man who owns the house behind us works for Celestino and is a real gentleman. He and his son washed all the clay off the motorhome and would not take any money. I needed to call the insurance company, but have no phone that works here. I was running on adrenalin and little else.
And that’s what got me to Mazatlan, but the fun isn’t over yet. AS I was leaving Helen asked me to take some money, as in pesos. I refused, knowing that I was heading for Wal-Mart to buy a phone for me and beer for our new friend Teo. Recklessly, at dusk, I headed for Mazatlan on RT. 15D, the toll road, the toll road that doesn’t take US or Canadian money. I was able to get by using my credit card. Next stop was a Pemex station ti fill up with gas. No problem! I pull up and tell the attendant to fill it up. It comes to 505 pesos and I hand him my Master card. He shows me a sign that says NO CREDIT CARDS. No problem, he can take dollars. How much is 505 pesos…..just about $44.00. Great, except I only have $31.00 in my wallet. They have an ATM at the station but that was broken. He finally let me go, taking the $31.00 and my wrist watch, giving me directions to another ATM. I returned with the money and got my watch.
In Wal-Mart, I had no problem getting some cuervesa (beer) for my friend. Getting a phone was something else. I was dealing with people who spoke no English and they we dealing with a person who only knew how to ask where there was a bathroom. Sometime later on I left with a phone that they claimed was ready to use, only it was blocked. I eventually got it programmed in English and found that it was “Blocked” until you press the * key long enough to work. This keeps the phone from actgivating in a purse or pocket.
Heading back up highway 15 with pesos for the toll everything is good until I pass through the tool booth where a group of Federales stop me. One asks me in plain English if the car is mine and I tell him yes. He says prove it! I showed him my drivers license, but that was not enough. I pointed to the importation sticker on the windshield and he asks where the rest of the form is. I couldn’t find it. Finally I got the registration out of the glove compartment and the registration and my license agreed so he let me go.
Next I have to find an exit around km 74. these are not ramps like in the states, these are dirt trails that wander off the highway and SOMETIMES wind around to a bridge. My luck was getting better as I found the right path on the first try and was soon back with Helen and the three dogs. Phew!!!!
Now it's Tuesday 11/22/11. The past three days have been hectic around these parts as the natives celebrate "Revolution Day". Three days of parades and running amok. I REALLY hope to have internet capability later today, REALLY. It's just that "manana" doesn't really mean "tomorrow", it refers to some time off in the future.