The 2nd most dangerous place in Mexico
Trip Start Mar 26, 2009
58Trip End Jul 18, 2011
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Where I stayed
Hotel La Fayette
In about 30Min's we where there at the last stop at the end of the line at their very owns an Isidro. From looking around the surroundings were already beginning to change. Gone was all the nicer than nice look of San Diego and what we were left with was a much more run down looking part of town that had a few bars with Spanish names, a McDonald's and a bureau de change. There were also a few people offering to change money on the street but we had been advised against as to the less than favorable rates. Also after following all of the advise that had been given to use we had emptied our wallet of cards and money and had them all strapped to us in various undergarment sashes and belts. (ahhh the joy of hindsight of writing this a bit behind of were i really am makes some things that i put now a little ridiculous but for the benefit of this blog i am trying to go back as to how i felt in that particular time) Not wanting to draw too much attention from some of the what seemed unsavory characters hanging around outside of the bars and such. We heading into the McDonald's to use the toilet as a mask to get some money out to change to pesos.As would become a popular theme the toilets were inaccessible without paying for them and as i told Elena this at the restaurant table as we only had high bills and i we would have to break a 50 to get a dollar this Philippine guy leaned over from the next table of where he sat with his Mexican wife and offered me a dollar to use
Going over the overpass you have a clear view of both lanes that mark the border. On the right hand side are the cars going into Mexico which seems to be a pretty flowing systems in effect to that the cars just slow down barley even stopping as some kind of id is flashed and then they are waved through to be let loose on the other side. The border to get into the states however was a very different story with back to back traffic taking up all four of the lanes and running on for literally miles. As the patrol guys marched from one car to the next guiding people into booths to have the cars stripped down or to be lead into an office for the usual interrogation
As we drew closer to the actual border from leaving the bridge a Mexican guy with a big cowboy hat and even bigger tash, struck up a conversation with us. Asking us where we from and if we had been to Mexico before. I think that this was the first time that i had heard a real strong Mexican accent from a person when speaking Spanish. It was for me almost impossible to understand as up until that moment i was only really used to the way Spanish is spoken in Spain, well mostly the castillan way anyway as down south it can get a bit testing as well but this was completely different. The words go on for ever and almost comes across as a song as it looses all the harshness of the way that it is spoken in Madrid, were a ci, ce combination becomes an English sounding th and sometimes even a d takes on the same trait with some people calling Madrid, MA - DRITH or gracias, GRA - THI - AS, in sharp sounds all really the same length as each other
Maaaaaaaaadriiiiiiiidwith the last d almost not audible and graaaaaaseeeeaaaassss one long song of a word. I liked how it sounded as it was much softer albeit harder to follow but it was easy on the ears. Finally we were at the border and breaking away from the flow of people and the friendly Mexican guy we entered into an office to get a stamp out of the states. The behind the counter was again dressed in a boiler suit but lucky without a menacing balaclava, told us that there was no need to get nor a stamp out or in as they would do it tomorrow at the airport.We looked at each other a little surprised, more so than not because with the strictness of the states you would have though that being stamped out would be essential (but thinking about it now the same thing happened a few years ago when we drove from new york to Toronto we never got stamped out either... i dont think they care who leaves it just the ones who want to get in have to endure the ritual interrogation) but we were told no and to just cross over.
The literal border was a wire fence with a couple of guards sitting on each side. Now this is the first time that i have ever crossed a border on foot but it seemed very basic as to what i was expecting. The crossing went like this, i presented myself to the guard who was sat down with another woman who was eating a burrito. A very friendly guy who asked me to press the large button that was next to him that was hooked up to a traffic light kind of sign with two colours being red and green. Red was the colour for me which meant that i had to lay my bag on the table to be inspected. Now we are getting down to business i thought
Like two little sheep we went over the border with our heads full of Drug lords just awaiting around the courner ready to ponce on us as we were gringos, well almost and must be exploited. On the contrary as we walked on to Mexican soil we were welcomed in by the mariachi band (that looked uncannily like the ones in Madrid that are always trying to escape the law when they pull up mid number) with a series of taxi drivers each one looking as stereotypical as the next. With large mustaches and a variety of hats they bustled round asking us if we needed a taxi into the centre. We asked the guy with the biggest cookie duster how much it would be and the words had hardly left his mouth of his price of $5before Elena was trying to get him down to $3, clearly getting in the bartering mood from the offset. He said that $5 was the standard but he would however throw in the music for free. You cant argue with that so we climbed aboard.
Arriving in Tijuana the houses and surroundings start to spread out a little leaving the crowded housing of the border and opening up into quite industrial buildings.The highway that we followed had on the other side the backed up traffic waiting to get into the states at a complete standstill with some people having abandonded their vehicles just stood standing talking between them selves not really having much else to do
We had the day to kill so we left our things in the apartment, including my camera as i had been warned about that it could be stolen if on view and decided to go out and explore or first taste of Mexico. We walked down the high street finding it almost impossible to avoid being offered all sorts of wares and took a left of the main drag that led us down a very dusty road that confirmed we were now definitely not in the states, to a museum of Mexico that the guide booked raved about. The maps in the guide book are great for a basic idea of where things are but not that detailed so inevitable we ended up asking for directions. A Woman in a furniture store that we passed on the way that we were on the right track and that also there was a large outdoor market on the way down that was worth a visit. We took her advise and headed down, now as i have tried to explain prior the contrast of the states and Mexico or better said San Diego and Tijuana is brutal. To say that they are only separated by 45 mins they could not be more different in every way imaginable. First of all the roads and houses look tatty and worn down and everything is a little bit rough around the edges and not finely scrubbed to perfections like we had over the border
We were just about to go to bed and Elena went on to the net to check her mail and read the lastest news. "que fuerte" was the words that came from her as the mainstory that el pais was going with was a recent outbreak of a super flu in Mexico city that had left numerous dead and was worsening to cause almost an epidemic. Clearly rattled by the news as we were about to the fly to the epicenter of this outbreak we headed downstairs to reception to try and get some more news from the woman working the desk. Her name was Paloma and once again she was as nice as you could wish for in that kind of situation, geinually unconcerned for our situation. She gave us all off the info that she knew and also promised to call her friend who worked in Mexico city as a nurse to give us some more information in the morning. She seemed reasonable calm over the situation and told us not to worry to much as these things are generally blown out of proportion and also she had an undertone of cynicism regards her trust for the government and that things like this had happened before generally trying to deflect attention to things that are happening elsewhere. A favourite topic that we heard was the case of "chupacabras" that had gripped mexico in the 90Ęs of another deadly disease that also was on the verge of an epidimic but later fizzled away into nothing. With that there was nothing more left to do but not to pay it too much attention as the flight was few hours away and also we had planned to meet friends there so unless they didn't let us on the flight then it was to plan was to stick to the plan whatever...
Tijuana is an interesting place that serves more of a cheap alternative to the states then rather a little trip over into Mexico. The streets packed full of bars and nightclubs could clearly not exist without a steady supply of tourists from across the border. With the world crisis and recent bad press clearly things have slowed down and the town is feeling the impact with restaurant closed and bars struggling desperately to get custom. The locals of Tijuana seemed not that interested in the bright lights and loud music of the bars as i dont think irecall seeing even one of them in there paying $1 in the dentist chair nor climb onto tables to give an impromptu pole dance as was clearly show in some of the photos outside the bars in better days by girls who looked far from Mexican. What also was lacking was this presence of danger that people has spoken of, with these random muggings and girls being attacked. It seems that without the party crowd drinking themselves into oblivion lurching out into the roads drunk on the local delights what you are left with is a lot of empty bars with a lot of empty streets that feed them. So makes you wonder just who are the dangerous ones.
And They say Mexico city is even worse...