Crossing into Mexico

The night before crossing from the US into Mexico at Tecate we camped about 15 miles from the border in Arizona so that we could get into Baja California first thing in the morning to sort out paperwork and get to our first destination which was Ensenada. Little did we know the crossing would take us less than 1/2 hour at the most. Most people seem to cross at the major crossings such as Tijuana or Juarez but this crossing is much more low key and a favoured crossing by the seasoned RV’ers. I found myself pretty nervous about crossing which seems to be the case recently, I was equally nervous crossing from Canada into US. I suspect it’s because we have our worldly possessions in the trailer and if we cannot cross for any reason then our travel plans and preparation would need a serious re-think as spending the winter in the trailer in the US or Canada is not on the agenda at all. So after re-reading the sections in the guidebooks about red tape a dozen times, we finally find ourselves at the border at 10am on Sat 17th Nov and we are first in the queue. The guidebooks cover border crossing in quite a detailed way which is very informative but tends to make you a little nervous. Many americans pay to join an RV Caravan group as they are nervous about driving solo across the border and around Mexico but it seems the fear factor is at play here.

Arriving at the border itself there is the scary spin the wheel traffic light which changes colour for each tourist that arrives in the queue ‘green’ means go through and don’t worry we won’t search you and ‘red’ means we’re going to search you. We get green but still fully expect a search. Instead we are pleasantly greeted by two border guards who tell us to drive down the street into the town and around the corner to park up. We park in the street behind the immigration office in an area called customs checking. Already this seems fairly relaxed as I have never been allowed over a border without someone at least having a quick peek at my passport.

As soon as you cross the border from the US which is mostly arid burnt out desert, a couple of one horse towns with railroad and agricultural museums plus an Indian reservation which has both casino and health care facilities but no real town to speak of you, you immediately hit a colorful, messy little town called Tecate home of a famous Mexican beer . It sounds corny but you feel like you are in a different country. I am used to flying to countries or passing through countries that have a similar feel as in Europe but to drive 100 yards from one country to another and to instantly have that feeling is a pleasant and welcome surprise. The streets were full of little shops, shacks, houses, rubbish, dogs, people and the smells of cooking and at this point no-one had yet even stamped our passport!

So we amble down the street and back around the corner into the the passport control office where there is a retired Canada couple filling out their forms and stand like well behaved children in the corner of the room. The room is quite small and has a large wooden desk with a large Mexican immigration man on a cell phone which in his giant paws looked like a child’s play phone. After a few minutes of us standing there awkwardly wanting to be like well behaved little patient children happy for him to talk as long as he wanted, he finished his call and then looked and us, smiled and said, “I am sorry about that”.

OK – that early floored me as an apology was the last words I had expected out of a immigration officials mouth. He then proceeded to hand us our forms, offer us a seat. I stated to him that we had a trailer thinking that this was relevant in terms of him needing to have a look at this 24ft beast stuffed with all our treasures which we were taking over the border from the US into Mexico. To which he replied, “So – what are you saying”.

Stumped again I just looked at him puzzled. There was an awkward few seconds where I was kicking myself knowing that the rules when crossing border is not to provide information voluntarily but to wait until you are asked something as otherwise the babbling arouses suspicion in the immigration officers mind. To my relief, Christopher stepped in and said, “ We were just wondering if we parked it in the right place just out the back?”

“Oh” He said, “Yes, that’s fine just take a seat”.

So, we sat down and filled out our forms and to help us in this process he gently held the passports open for us next to the forms so that we could get the details copied over without straining to hold the passport, pen and form. Now for any of you that have traveled into a country like, mmm what would be a good example…ah yes, the US of A can you imagine a similar scenario? Having crossed the US border at many different cities by truck/trailer once and at airports at least 60 times I can inform you that the chances of you having that kind of friendly border crossing are a million to 1. So we are now proud owners of a 6 month tourist visa for Mexico.

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