A little early and nervous we woke up because today we would be going to Mexico. Border crossings are always a little stressful and we never really look forward to them and this was the first border that would take us to the Spanish-speaking part of this trip.
Arriving at the border, we passed a barrier and were welcomed in large letters in the Mexican tricolor. A good-humored Mexican checked our chassis number and car papers and then asked us to drive on into the town and return on foot for all the formalities. But that was easier said than done. The narrow streets of Tecate that began immediately after the border fence were full of large holes and cars. Finding a parking spot here seemed next to impossible. We drove around and finallly found a spot along the main street where someone just happened to be driving away. The border formalities eventually went very easily. However, the problems arose after we returned to the car where two policemen on motorcycles were waiting for us.
It soon became clear to us, that we should not have parked here. After a polite greeting we were supposed to follow the officers but stopped after only a few blocks, where a third officer joined us. He managed to tell us in reasonable English that we had to come with them to the police station where the car was to be left. The fine had to be paid at the Palacio Municipal and we had one hour to do so. If we didn’t, the car would be impounded. Or, alternatively we could pay the fine right here – and the money would quietly disappear into “uncle cop’s” pocket. He didn’t mention the latter, by the way. We played poker and told him we wanted to handle it the official way. After this, the officer disappeared from the scene briefly and, after a brief consultation with his supervisor he returned with the announcement that if we promised not to park along a yellow line again, we could continue. We stepped on our gas pedal and left Tecate as quickly as possible. A police officer is not always your best friend in Mexico and we will probably experience situations like this more often. What a great start!
The border area between the US and Mexico is not the safest area to stop, so we drove in one stretch to the coastal town of Ensenada. The heavy traffic took some getting used to for us. While struggling through the congested center of Ensenada, we still noticed the relaxed driving style of the average Mexican. No one is in a hurry or honks and they gave us the right of way where necessary. We had to be patient, that’s all. Finally, we arrived at our first overnight spot in Mexico only after dark.
The next morning we only saw how nice we had actually parked. We had a great view of the Pacific and the sun was shining. We were parked at campsite “Campo 5”, but it was actually just a clay lot behind the owner’s house. Everything was pretty run down, the house had no windows or doors, the outside toilet wasn’t really usable and the shower was past its prime as well. It was clear to see that the people here were not overly well off.
We had actually chosen another place before, but we had not been able to find it last night in the dark. Now in the daylight we saw “El Mirador” lying only 500 meters away. Since it was possible to walk from there to the actual sight of this place “La Bufadora”, we decided to change the place. The house and the yard had great similarity with the previous place. Here, too, the toilet did not work and instead we had to scoop water from the barrel with a plastic container. Anyway, the view compensated for everything and to our surprise there was even internet reception from somewhere. We liked our office with a view very much and not much later several dolphins swam by.
After lunch we started our descent to La Bufadora. What struck us right away on our first two days in Mexico was the vast amount of trash everywhere. People’s properties, the roadsides, everything was littered. People probably can’t afford garbage collection and they burn their garbage. Everything that is blown away or simply not combustible is left lying around. Glass and plastic bottles everywhere, whole toilet bowls lay on the slope and everywhere you could see small burned areas.
La Bufadora is a blowhole that “spews” water fountains up to 30 meters high from a cave on the cliffs. It is the second largest blowhole in the world, with the largest one being the “Kiama Blowhole” in Australia. It is really a special phenomenon and was very impressive to watch. We enjoyed the natural spectacle for a while and then walked through the small store alley, where the usual souvenirs, pina coladas and other hawked. The rest of the afternoon we spent comfortably at the car and so our first real day in Mexico ended relaxed.
On day 2, 200 kilometers of road awaited us until we reached our destination, the Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro de Martir. Half of it was on Highway 1, on which we made relatively relaxed and fast progress. The road was in good condition and there was little traffic overall. We also passed through our first military checkpoint, but only the vehicles of the opposite direction were checked. After 120 kilometers we turned left and slowly but steadily wound our way up the winding road into the mountains. There were hardly any other cars on the road in this lonely area. But the mountains were beautiful to look at. Around 1 p.m. we had reached the entrance of the national park and were immediately welcomed by a soldier and directed to the reception.
We had planned an overnight stay here and were looking for a place on the huge camping area. However, that was easier said than done. This was not due to the amount of occupied places, far and wide no one was to be seen, but due to snow and ice. Already on the road there were icy spots and all camping areas were completely buried under the snow. We eventually maneuvered our way through the snow to a campsite and headed out for a first hike. Condors could be seen in this area and there are also supposed to be many other wild animals such as coyotes and deer. However, just as hard as finding a campsite was finding the hiking trail in the snow. Once we found the beginning, the trail was well signposted and we enjoyed the peace and quiet and the chirping of the birds in the sunshine.
Suddenly we saw a coyote about 50 meters away, followed immediately by a second. They kept a good eye on us and passed us at a safe distance. They clearly were on their way to the campsite. On our way back to the car, we suddenly heard loud howling from several coyotes, perhaps arguing with each other. It was an eerie sound and we hoped not to bump into the middle of the melee. The pack had to be in close proximity. We reached the safety of the car and warmed up with some tea. It would certainly be a cold night.
Being awakened by silence is a wonderful experience. True, the ice was on the windows and the plus on the thermometer had disappeared. Still, it wasn’t too bad. Our current pitch was at almost 2600 meters, which must have been one of the highest overnight stays, but somehow the cold in Mexico feels warmer. During our breakfast, groups of Mexican locals suddenly walked by and started a picnic next to our car. It was Saturday and, despite the cold, snow and remote location, apparently a popular destination to spend the weekend. We waved cheerfully and made off.
The weather was fantastic and before starting the 80 kilometers back to sea level we trudged for an hour or two through the snow in search of “Torre de Piedra”, the stone tower. It was not entirely clear to us how far we actually had to walk to the Torre. While there were a number of signs showing the direction, the length of the trail was indicated nowhere. We followed the tracks of coyotes until suddenly, out of nowhere a yellow staircase and an observation tower, built over rocks, appeared. This hike was rewarded with wonderful views in all directions. In the distance we thought we could even discern the Pacific Ocean, but it could also be the low hanging clouds. Ocean or not, it had all been worth it to visit Sierra San Pedro Martir park.