A Travellerspoint blog

Busted by the Federales

sunny 28 °C

Crossing the border into Mexico can feel like entering into the heart of darkness, if you believe half of what you read. Driving was Stephen’s idea, and I was nervous but not afraid to take it on.

When we approached the border at Nogales, it was just after 6:30 am, still dark, very cold and we were all alone. Literally – there were no other cars and nobody at the booth. We slowly drove through and obediently waited at the “Alto” sign for a few minutes until we noticed other cars and trucks driving by us, so we followed.

“Bienvenidos a Mexico” – not such a welcome sign, since we hadn’t been cleared through for tourist visas and car papers, and now we were feeling like illegal aliens. No worries – we were soon waved over for a trunk inspection and directions to drive a further 20 km. down the road. We sailed through all of the paperwork in about 15 minutes, and then launched out onto the infamous Mexican highways.

An hour or so later, we were relaxed and feeling like this would all work out. We stuck to the toll roads, which for the most part were divided, uncrowded and well-patrolled. The well-patrolled part didn’t work out so well for me on the second day –I was pulled over for speeding. The irony of this is delicious, as I a) am quite a cautious driver, b) was well aware of the need to stay clear of the police and c) had JUST been passed by a meteoric line of Mexican drivers when my infraction occurred. The fact that I was driving 130 in a 110 zone seemed beside the point, considering I was eating the dust of my fellow travelers.

“Oh heck,” I think I said, as the handsome young Federale approached the car. I had one very bad moment, envisioning everything from an exorbitant “fine” to jail time. “Buenos dias”, he said. After determining I did not speak Spanish, he asked me in English where I was from, and if I knew how fast I was going. I asked him to please not give me a ticket, and promised I would drive at the limit. He then said “Can-a-dah” to his partner, who shrugged. He looked back at my terrified face, gave me a smile, and waved me on. Unbelievable! Stephen thinks I got away with it because I reminded him of his grandmother.

So… our takeway from driving in Mexico? Roads are fine – good signage, and plenty of advance notice for exits. Speed limits are tricky – there is quite a range (all of them ignored) and driving on the right lane is advisable (to avoid the police). There is quite a range with drivers too – homicidal passes are still common, but so is courtesy and consideration. Defensive driving is a must in Mexico. I’ve learned a Mexican driving trick when wanting to pass on a two-way road. The car in front of you pulls over to straddle the shoulder, and when the coast is clear, you drive down the middle, right in between the two lanes of traffic. It works. The one road trick you really want to avoid is hitting a Mexican – no small feat when they are doing construction, riding their bikes, waving food at you and running across highways.

Where our veggies come from in winter

Another feature of driving in Mexico are the posses of young Squeegee kids – lying in wait at gas stations, toll booths and intersections. They surround your car, one kid frantically washing your windshield, with another yelling for money. After our third windshield wash, we lost it, and began yelling “NO GRACIAS” like demented gringos. After we had a chance to talk it over, we realized the few pesos we might hand out to these very poor kids is just part of the cost of travelling here.

Toll roads are great if you need to make time– they bypass all the small towns, but they are also expensive - we spent over $100 just getting down here. We’ll do a mix on subsequent travel –unlikely we will do very many long drives again, and it is much more interesting to get off the freeways.

Toll road to Tepic

The other rule we broke on the way down was never to drive at night. We would loved to have obeyed that one, but got caught after spending 2 hair-raising hours from Tepic on a switchback road to the coast, and then forgetting about the time zone change. Planning on arriving in Sayulita around 5:30 or 6:00, we rolled in at 8 pm, utterly exhausted. We had driven 4,685 km. in 6 days and 5 nights.

Sun setting on the road 2 hours from Sayulita

We headed out for a quick beer and taco, and shared a table with a young Dutch man who had studied in Guadalajara 10 years ago, and was back for a holiday. We spent an hour talking about the joys and trials of travel. He had been all over the world, including Uganda, so our stories seemed tame by comparison.

Our car is parked for the duration, we are unpacked and settled into our lovely home for the next five weeks. We had a long stroll on the beach this morning – this afternoon we’ll head out for a swim. Nothing to do now but look forward to seeing the kids in less than a week.

Surfer taking advantage of early winter waves

Lifeguard drinking on the job (Sayulita's Baywatch)

FANTASTIC Americano at Panino's - our first visit this year

view from our rooftop living room

Posted by millerburr 17:27 Archived in Mexico

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I'm stunned that you are in Sayulita already!! I didn't think that could be possible. Crazy Canucks. Way to go getting a free pass with the driving infraction Ginny. I think that's a good luck sign. Enjoy your beach time... You look acclimatized already. I will be in Melaque from the 18th onward.
See you there!

by Jennifer

I can envision Stephen in that hammock and a pitcher of margaritas on the table....moved within arm's reach of course!!!! Relax and Enjoy! love the pix!!

by Ian & Karen

Ah brings back such fond memories from 2008. Ginnie, while Stephen has the fizzled look of a grandfather, you do not look at all like a grannie. Great blog, thanks. Dave

by dave

We are enjoying your travels. We must remember to travel with a grandmother to fend off the Federales.
Enjoy the next 5 weeks. Zumba continues and it still hurts, even without you.
Steve and Alison

by Steve Struthers

Nice road work, you two. Now relax and enjoy!

by Margy

Pretty adventurous trip down there. Time for some relaxation. Stephen, the picture of the surfer looks like you...I'm going with that.

by Ron Davis

Well done, enjoy the next 5 weeks. Love the updates.

by Annie

Ginny, you don't look like a grandmother! Your travels are more exciting than an espionage novel! Enjoy your well earned retirement.

by Bey

You guys made fantastic time, well done, Derrill always knew apparently that you had a lead foot! Now you can kick back, Ginny you look a little tired my friend, the prescription for this is a minimum of 2 naps a day, a roll in the hay and a pitcher of Margarita or Mojitos.

by Laurence and Derrill

Done. Done. Pacificos.

by millerburr

Cool .... I hope your trip is as special as those who came before

Most a super time with moments that will make you scratch your head.

by Robby

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