Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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We were considering crossing the border over to Mexico and the options and timescales that were available to us. There appears to be a bit of a problem there at the moment, of which a lot of folk don't seem to know much about.
The day kicked off with a walk over to the docks to sniff out a few options. The huge bertha of a woman at the information office was a gold mine of facts and figures and gave us the low down on pretty much everything, including the current situation in Tijuana. Apparently they and all the other tourist information centres in the vicinity had been brought up to speed earlier this morning, and so she gave us the here-and-now low down on 'Me-hi-co today'.
According to Bertha, the government has temporarily seized all firearms from the police, which in turn has prompted the local drug lords to take random pot-shots at them in and around the city streets. She explained that if we really wanted to cross the border we should just be 'sensible' and not venture too far. We made a mental note.
The waterfront in San Diego is dominated by the USS Midway, a huge aircraft carrier that's seen more time and action than Sticky Vicky. It's a menacing monstrosity of an attraction, and as Andris was keen and I was happy to, we paid the $15 entrance fee and hopped aboard. It was another audio tour thingy, only this one lasted a good three and half hours, time we hadn't really got if we wanted to make it across the border. We rushed through nonetheless, paying little attention.
As things like this go it wasn't all bad, the craft itself very impressive of course, it was all just very, American - very kind of, up itself. We were out of there just before 2pm, and made a swift dash back to the hostel to rid ourselves of valuables before catching 'the trolley' that would deliver us down to the border.
In hindsight it was a good idea not to stay overnight in Tijuana, and an even better idea not to drink too many of the complimentary tequilas that were scattered about so freely.
The border consists of a high steel fence lined with wisps of barbed wire. This spans right across the main highway which is controlled and patrolled by manned booths and guards with guns. Us Tijuana-goers on foot had to walk the long way round, up and over the highway and down the other side, amongst hordes of others with the same idea. At the bottom you walk through a tall system of turnstiles and bingo... you're a Mexican.
On the other side we negotiated a taxi fare into the 'Avenida Revolución' and ventured in. The streets radiated potential (or rather imminent) chaos within minutes. As the driver swung in kerbside we jumped out, accosted immediately by a chubby little brown face who tried to pull us into a dark club, one hand on my arm the other gesturing the slender curves of some complimentary hottie he'd got lined up 'just for us'. He was told no, and we began the stroll along the strip. I barely had time to say a word to Andris before we were being sold some cheap shitty silver which had started to find its way around my neck, and a battered old sombrero, apparently hand crafted by one of the rare indigenous descendants of some lost tribe, thus costing $35. Thirty five dollars?! Tit. We pressed on.
Between intervals of maybe ten to fifteen seconds the luring and beckoning was full-on, with shouts and strange gestures into all sorts of shabby entrances - a crazy environment for a place just a few k's away from it's flipside. We took temporary shelter at a table on a first floor balcony overlooking the Avenida Revolución. The price was agreed up front and included a generous cuatro cervezas coronas, muchos nachos con salsa caliente y dos tequilas - that'll do just fine, gracias. We repeated the order once and watched Tijuana life go by, monitored the whole time by a guy down on the opposite side of the street who strolled back and forth looking up at us intermittently. He was our 'get us back to the border no problema' guy who was apparently on standby. He got the occasional acknowledging nod.
As we went in with nothing but a passport and fifty bucks, I had no camera and so no pics, though Andris did take in a cheapo disposable and got a few funny shots, including one of the scenic background to our Tijuana table in the afternoon sun (a corner night-club building which had either been burnt out from the inside or bombed in from the outside.) All very pleasant.
We made it back across the border about an hour after sunset, following an entertaining bout of negotiations by Andris over two tiny little head-nodding turtles for less than a dollar. The border was rammed on arrival, flooded by people wanting in. Even the highway was miserably overloaded. Engines were turned off, doors were open and people were walking around in the masses. One guy was running about trying to sell a single blanket to anyone and everyone, including us. Chaos, but all in all we were immensely glad of the experience.
(Tijuana photo's to follow..)