After I left San Diego I had only a short ride to the Mexican border. It was the first time that I crossed the border with motorcycle, I could only hope that all my documentation is ok and I’ll find all the offices I needed. The crossing itself was actually much easier that I thought, but later I understood that some travelers getting confused and making simple mistakes that cause a lot of trouble later.
The most common mistake is just to keep driving without stopping at the Mexican border. Tijuana crossing is the most active border in the world and till Ensenada is a special zone that doesn’t even requires visa, that’s why Mexican police many times doesn’t even stopping cars. But if you travel south of the 72 hours zone (south of Ensenada) you need to register you entry and get a visa. This is a very simple procedure and you just need to ask where to turn to the immigration office, it’s right near security check and all you need is a valid passport and pay the fee of $24 to get a visa for 6 month. It’s possible to register the bike there too, but I decided to do it later before taking the ferry from La Paz. Mostly because I didn’t know how long the ride to Ensenada will take and didn’t want to be late to my couchsurfing host. Another important thing is not to exchange money at the border, as almost in any other place in the world the rate is terrible.
Shortly after that I continued my way south through Tijuana and because I was looking for toll free road I immediately got lost in the city and eventually gave up and decided to pay the toll because it was much easier to find it. I will expend in a later post what I think about the toll system here, but as for now I have one word to describe it – annoying.
The ride was smooth and beautiful going along the beautiful pacific shore. I was warned about too things, army checkpoint and police. The first army checkpoint is near the entrance to Ensenada and it’s harmless, all you need to do as to answer simple questions. They are looking for drugs and guns and don’t bother simple travelers, it actually feels much safer when you see those guys everywhere. Police is another thing and I heard many stories about how they can pull you over with no reason and ask for money. Luckily for me it never happened.
When I arrived to the city I went directly to my host’s house. But it wasn’t easy to find the street and even when I did it, I couldn’t find the house. I was very confused. I started to ask locals but they couldn’t help me, even pizza delivery guy tried to help me and drove with me back and forth on the street but eventually gave up. I went to buy a cell phone to call her but the line was occupied, like her phone was turned off. I started to get very frustrated from the situation. That’s not how I imagined my first day in Mexico.
I realized that I needed to eat and think about alternatives, I was never good in making decisions or even thinking clearly when I’m hungry. So without thinking too much I went to the closest taco place with most people that I saw, I think it’s the best way to find good food in the place that you don’t know. And this system didn’t disappoint me in this case too, beef tacos at the corner where delicious and I already started to feel better.
My next stop was some coffee shop with internet, unfortunately it was Starbucks. I send her a message, double-checked that the phone number was correct, and tried to call again without luck. I even looked for cheap hostels, but everything was booked or too expansive. The last option was just to ask people on the street about some place to sleep. I went to that street again and started to talk with people again, first asking about my host and after that about place to sleep. Surprisingly few people suggested me to go the beach and open a tent here, they said it’s pretty safe but I need to ask a police officer just to be sure. 10 minutes later I found myself in a situation that I couldn’t imagine to happen in the states – I was asking a cop where is the best place to camp. The answer was very simple that I understood even with my poor Spanish: “This beach is not good because people are driving sometimes at night, but the next one is great for camping”. That’s it, that’s how my accommodation problem was solved. And when I saw another tent open on the beach I felt much safer to sleep there.
Falling asleep with the sound of the ocean and Mexican music played by bands the couples on the malecon I finally realized – I’m in Mexico! I already started to like it.