26th June to 27th June
Would you Adam and Eve it, I’ve only gone and made it to Mexico!!!! Two years to the day that I arrived in Alaska with Ed, I crossed the border solo in to Mexico. Most definitely later than planned (we were supposed to have finished the trip 6 months ago!) and not quite as we planned when we first set off from England together, but I have to be honest and say that I wouldn’t want it any other way. Our relationship is better than it’s ever been, having been fully tested and put through it’s paces the last two years, and I now feel fully equipped both mentally and mechanically to tackle Central and South America on my own. Although if I’m completely honest, I didn’t quite manage the first day on my own. I had to be rescued by Dan and Ed four miles down the road as my front sprocket came off and my chain snapped!
I couldn’t believe it, but I had to laugh. After dropping my bike off the ramp as they tried to load it, they took me back to Dan’s where Ed kindly gave me some parts off of his bike. I think he could tell that I was nearly at breaking point; although it was amusing, I so desperately wanted to get to Mexico, and if I hadn’t been able to leave that day I think I would have started crying and taken up drinking again! I guess I’d been in North America so long that going south of the border seemed like an impossible dream, and if I hadn’t left then it felt like it was never going to happen.
Two hours after I’d initially set off I was back on the road again, headed for the town of Bonita 160 miles away, where I’d arranged to stay in a tent on airbnb. It was unbearably hot when I’d set off, but as darkness fell so did the temperature, and I actually started to shiver as I rode the last 10 miles or so to the country estate where I was staying. There I was greeted by my wonderful host Shaylene, who immediately invited me in to have dinner with her and her partner and friend. The last thing I expected was to be offered dinner, especially one that consisted of delicious tender steak! It was incredibly appreciated, especially as it was now 9.30pm and I hadn’t eaten properly since lunch. We chatted for a while about her life and how things had culminated to me sitting in her dining room, before I retreated to the tent for the night. I was already looking forward to crossing in the morning, but when I looked on my phone and discovered that the border was only 17 miles away, excitement hit me, along with a dash of nerves and anticipation. This was it, the time had come, but first… sleep.
I wanted an early start, and the parrots and cockerels were more than happy to assist me in getting one! Shaylene came to see me off, and we chatted some more about life, my trip, and her plans for the future. She was such a wonderful and sweet lady, and had I not been so keen to cross the border I would have loved to have stayed longer and got to know her more. After seeing all the trinkets on my bike she wanted to add to my collection, and kindly gave me a bracelet to take with me. It really is the people that make a journey, and it’s so important to take the time to talk. Paths cross that wouldn’t normally cross, and I think it’s so important to embrace these chance meetings. You never know what you and the other person might take away from a meeting or conversation. It could be thought provoking, negative or positive, a nugget of wisdom, or just a laugh and a smile, but whatever it is your journey is more often than not richer for it. I’ve always thought that my life since embarking on this adventure is like one big puzzle, and as I meet different people and have different experiences, I get another piece to put in, constantly adding to the bigger picture. It’s a constantly expanding puzzle, and only when I come to the end of my days will that last piece be put in, and the puzzle completed.
After fuelling up and getting some pesos just in case (I was told they accepted dollars but I was happier having some pesos in my pocket), I made my way to the border. I rode straight down the line, and stopped to ask a security guard where the US customs was. He pointed me in the direction that I’d been going, and I was soon waved over to be searched. When I say searched the guy had a half hearted look in my top box and pannier, while the friendly lady chatted to me about my trip. Before I knew it they were sending me off over the border with no record of me leaving the US or entering Mexico! Hang on a minute! I told them in broken Spanish that I needed to get to the US immigration first to be stamped out, so they let me sneak down the wrong way of the one way system and pointed me to a building on the left, where I pulled up and found myself at Mexican Immigration! I went in anyway and explained that I needed to be stamped out of the US first, and the rather grumpy lady pointed over the road and thrust my passport back at me. So over the road I went, through a barrier, weaving in and out of the traffic that was going from Mexico in to the US. Despite it being baking hot I had to laugh, I was riding around in circles!! I told this to the official at the US border, dripping with sweat, who found it equally amusing. I have to say that it was so refreshing to be talking to a US border guard that had a sense of humour and was human, a far cry from our experience leaving Alaska. I explained my predicament and he and both of his colleagues told me that ‘It should be ok’, which wasn’t quite the solid confirmation that I wanted to hear, but having had enough of riding around in the heat I gave up and went back round again to the Mexican immigration building. Thankfully the grumpy lady had gone, and a friendly chap sorted out my visa for me. After filling out a form and handing over $25, I had six months in the country and was free to roam!
Riding over the border and in to Mexico was like riding in to another world! It went from clean, tidy and organised, to chaotic, dirty, dusty and smelly. I needed to find the Banjercito to get my bike permit, but after following directions I couldn’t find it. I checked on TomTom and found one 9km’s away, and assuming that I could get it at any Banjercito I decided to ride there instead. I joined the chaos that is the traffic in a border town, and suddenly found myself saying ‘I’m going to die!!’ It was chaos to me, having never experienced anything quite like it before, and I found it quite overwhelming. That was until I was stopped in traffic and a couple of small delivery motorcycles whizzed past me, filtering in between the lanes of traffic and cutting in front of people. The problem wasn’t the traffic, the problem was I was doing it all wrong! I followed suit, and quickly discovered that it was a free for all on a motorcycle. You can filter, weave and cut in front of people and no-one cares, it’s brilliant! From then on I revelled in it, which is strange for me as I normally hate any form of city riding and riding in traffic. I found riding in that Mexican border town less stressful than riding in London. Go figure.
After battling my way across the city and finding the Banjercito hidden in a building, I was quickly told that I had to ride all the way back from where I’d come from and do it there! Typical. Still they gave me the address, it was good practice for city riding, and it was an entertaining ride, mainly due to everything being so new to me. I’ve never been anywhere like Mexico, and this had been my first proper border crossing (US/Canada doesn’t really count!) Food and drink stalls were everywhere, and people wandered up and down the lanes of traffic, selling everything from cold drinks and ice-creams to stuffed toys and giant laminated maps. I did consider buying one for comedy purposes, but decided against it, thinking that it would probably produce quite a lot of drag.
So 9km’s back to where I’d come from and I finally found the Banjercito I needed, literally a few hundred feet from where I’d stopped after crossing the border. I had a chuckle to myself and went inside, where after a bit of confusion and a suitable amount of Spanglish, I obtained a permit for my bike. $59.60US plus a $200US deposit which I get back when I leave. And with that I was legal! I had a visa for me, a permit for my bike, a smile on my face and a bucket load of excitement and enthusiasm. Next stop… Ensenada!