Hola! Como estas? Me llamo Alejandro. Dos Cervesas por favor.
Easy. Mexico – slammed!
It was a bit of a culture shock crossing the border from San Diego, which was quite refreshing as we hadn’t had one on this whole trip up until then. Tijuana welcomed us with open arms and an open rubbish tip with a bunch of homeless people picking through the detritus. This was swiftly followed by people honking their horns at us for driving slowly (not our fault – Gina’s) and me telling G to take the wrong turn, which resulted in low-level shouting and awkward inner city U-turns. Things smoothed over quickly and we were suddenly in desert country, the sun hounding us like the eye of Sauron and the hills treating Gina’s engine like she’d cheated on them. The tailbacks were embarrassing and far less forgiving than north of the border. At one point a Mexican man leant out his car and made a number of gestures that did not seem to say – “Welcome to my country, I’m so happy you can share the road with us at such a pleasant pace.” We chugged into Encinada and bought a beer.
From there though, we’ve become increasingly more settled and Baja California is now proving to be a genuine highlight of our voyage. First off, so far (and I emphasise ‘so far’) Mexico is not dangerous. We encountered several Americans who gave advice to us like,”if I wiz y’all I’d skip Mexico altogether, unless you got a death wish or summin.’ ” I always made a point of asking if any of them had ever been, which was met with a resolute “no sir!” Clearly. For instance –
A couple of days through the desert we took a random dirt road left and found the tiny hamlet of San Bruno. The word ‘Hotel’ was painted on a bit of wood by the road, we pulled in to what appeared to be the set of The Alamo. Upon entering the reception we were greeted with waves of classical music from a beaten up CD player and an old bloke called Alberto painting an 8 foot canvass of the Virgin Mary. “Welcome to my home, you are welcome to stay” he proclaimed in perfect English. He charged the three of us 300 pesos (£15) to stay and pointed us to the beach on the nearby doorstep. On the beach, Karen got talking to a fisherman who’d just caught a few nets worth of clams. He gave us four free of charge and wished us a good evening (or buenos noches or something similar). Alberto then observed as G and I tried to work out how to open the bloody things. Our solution involved a screw driver, a pair of pliers, a bottle opener and a large stone. Clams eaten, washed down with local beer, it was fully appreciated that we were in a nice country populated by largely nice people. Just like every country then.
Since that point we’ve been camping on beaches and working our way south. The Baja peninsula is 1250 km long, with basically a single road that either hugs coast line or tracks inland and avoids cacti the size of oak trees. On every beach we’ve met some amazing people, including an Aussie couple who have cycled from Alaska (thanks for top trumping us guys), an English couple who’ve been driving around the Americas for years in a truck so big I’m sure it’s actually Optimus Prime and a whole bunch of zany Americans who realised, unlike the vast majority of their compatriots, that Mexico is actually rather lovely. This includes a couple who decided to park their van inappropriately close to our tent, like so close they almost ran it over. Come bed time, the guy (let’s call him Bob) snored so loudly it reverberated through the metal of their vehicle and shook our tent like a maraca. I swear he shook their van so violently with his nasal activity they were several feet to the left come sunrise. To rub salt into the wound, they woke us all up at 6am to wish us a good morning. No guys, it’s not a good morning. It was even a worse night. Please go park in the sea.
Next up – La Paz! Snorkeling with whale sharks hopefully! Catching a ferry to the mainland! Tequila!
Quick mileage update – Gina broke the 7000 mile barrier the other day. She’s like the sunflower seed you got at primary school that you did nothing with and when you actually checked, it was 8 feet tall. Unstoppable!