Bienvendio a Mexico

November 11th, 2017

It's early Saturday afternoon as we drive on Interstate 5 towards Tijuana. Much later than originally planned. The plan provided a sufficiently large time buffer for delays or other inconsistencies. In the rear view mirror we see the last exit that would bring us back to San Diego, passing us. One last sharp right turn and we are standing in one of the many lanes before the border between the USA and Mexico. We are waiting for a green signal to move forward to the Mexican border guard. As soon as the light turns green, he is waving us out for a search. After a brief inspection of the interior, we are allowed to continue our journey a few minutes later and are stuck in the total traffic chaos of Tijuana. Without an obligatory tourist visa! In the hustle and bustle we missed the immigration office (Note: the building is right next to the border barriers and is easily overlooked). A short wave of panic breaks out. Fu**, what next? Out of Mexico back to the USA again and immigrate tomorrow morning? Or you can park your car and walk back to the USA the next day to get there? Over the bridge that you know all too well from US films. Or thirdly, try to find a way back to the border to the well guarded immigration office? Since we have already booked accommodation in Ensenada and it is traffic jammed on the highway in front of the border to the USA far back, we decide for the latter (Note: as soon as it gets dark in Mexico, tourists should not be on the roads anymore). This means that for the first time we try to get as close to the border as possible and find a "safe" parking place.

Anyone who has ever travelled by car in Tijuana knows what a challenge we are talking about here. Left, right, front and rear push the vehicles. There are more cars than space in the roundabout. Traffic guidance is an adventure par excellence for us. It seems to be impossible. Someone is still driving us into the side rather than coming to the urgently needed papers today. It is no coincidence that outside the border walls we come across a security guard who is presumably returning from his break. With more than just broken Spanish and a large portion of gestures we try to communicate our concern to him. He gives us a sign that we should park at the side of a large entrance gate with massive metal poles and security personnel behind them. We are a bit irritated and not sure if he really understood our problem. However, we follow him with the necessary papers.

He leads us directly into the border zone, through all barriers and security doors, alongside heavily armed officers. Again and again he gives us a sign to stay as close to him as possible. We managed to get into the' Immigration' building and can still apply for the tourist visa. However, we could no longer import the vehicle officially, as the official mentioned above became noticeably more nervous. In the evening we leave Tijuana at a snail's pace and drive towards Ensenada. The sun is fading away and all the stories about the 'federales' are pushing our minds. Cops that stop you for no reason and want a tip. No, thank you! We'll hit the accelerator. Arriving in Ensenada, an elderly gentleman with a straw hat and a tight muzzle opens the door at the hostel. Hablo inglés?, I ask. No! Bienvenido a México.