So you hear about all the drug cartel violence in Mexico on the news, in documentaries, and in movies. For years now the traditional spring break sites like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas have been shunned for safer locales. We didn’t know what to expect. It had been years since we walked across the border. However, we wanted to stock up on Dave’s antibiotics for our journey and our health insurance ended with Dave’s job.
The drive from Big Bear to the Mexican border took over 3 hours, requiring us to invest an entire day to the adventure. Our transaction would last about 15 minutes, then we could head back to the US. Las farmacias are a short walk from the immigration building and we only passed a handful of solicitor stands. After scoring Dave’s booty, we needed to walk a little further to the veterinario for Gizmo’s medication. On that short walk, we passed a few more stands and a few restaurants. One persistent hocker got a promise from me that we would return for cervezas. Apparently Mexico is not the place to get pet medications. The Cerenia (anti-nausia medicine) was $170US and expired by a year and a half. We passed.
But we did return to the restaurant and ordered a michelada, since I had been hearing about them and Dave and I had never tried one. We were served one margarita glass rimmed with salt and half filled with Clamato and two bottles of Pacifico. We poured in as much beer as the glass would hold and sipped. It tasted like tomato soup. Drinking down the mixture and adding more beer did nothing to lessen the tomato flavor or improve the drink. I think it needed a twist of lime and a splash of Tapatio or another hot sauce. We also ordered nachos and received a plate of chips with some Velveeta, tomatoes, and onions on it. The guacamole was ok but very mild and the salsa was flavorless, so I asked for some hot sauce. He brought out some habanero salsa that was a vast improvement. We also had chicken tacos that were okay. Honestly, the meal was better than expected, but my expectations were very low. I recommend going to Rosarito or Ensanada for better food. We finished eating and asked for our bill. To my utter and complete horror, the waiter picked up the bowl of habanero salsa and set it in front of another lady that had come in after us. Dave and I exchanged glances and he said, “We’re not in SoCal anymore.”
Unable to stall the inevitable any longer, we walked back to the line to cross the border. We heard that it was a minimum of a three hour wait and were dreading it. I thought the beer would grant me more patience, but I didn’t think about the restroom issue it might present. As we started heading for the back of the line, a man and a woman passed us. He turned and asked if we wanted to take a shuttle across the border. A shuttle? Really? We had never heard of this. Dave asked how much it would cost and he quoted us $10 each. Being stupid Americans that are desperate to get back home, we completely forgot to haggle and followed the guy on what I was sure was a scam.
We passed all the people waiting, went in front of the line and listened as our Savior? kidnapper? argued with la policia about the shuttle. The man stepped out of sight, then suddenly we were welcomed to board the fifth shuttle in line. We blindly followed the man, stood on the side of the road, and paid the man his finder’s fee. We only stood there wondering if we were really going to be allowed aboard for a few minutes before we were told to board. We found two open seats in the back and sat with our hearts in our throats. We had no idea where it would take us, if it was an illegal operation, if it would turn and take us deep into Mexico, the crazy scenarios running through my head knew no limits.
Soon we were boarded by a guitar playing, scratchy singing lone mariachi, whom all the Mexican people aboard tipped. Then came a lady selling drinks, a man selling books, another lady selling drinks and snacks… and the man next to us bought something from each one. Half an hour passed and we were still sitting on the bus. A European couple got up and left the bus as though they were tired of waiting and decided to walk. It wasn’t looking good for us. However, after having words with the driver, they climbed back aboard and returned to their seats. Suddenly, the bus in front of us moved! Here we go. Where? We didn’t know, but it was happening. The bus moved 10 feet, then parked again. The driver told us all to get off the bus. We followed our fellow passengers, ducking under an overhang and sliding in between two rails that formed a walkway. We hurried forward, passed the front of the line again, and walked right into the immigration building into a line with only our other passengers ahead of us (and we were only 11 on the bus). We handed the officer our passports and said no we don’t have any plants, alcohol, etc. She said thank you, handed our passports back, I ran my purse through a metal detector, and we were back on American ground.
We still don’t understand the bus thing, but it likely saved us more than 2 1/2 hours of standing in the blazing sun! Now, I don’t condone following strange people making promises, but for us it actually worked out this time. Another Rowland adventure survived!