The border into Mexico was quiet, while the traffic going the other way was backed up for miles. The Mexican border staff were all really nice and helped us get a special import permit for the van, which they adorably call a casa rodante: a “rolling house”. Edd had a six-month visa allowance for the USA, and we got out with five days to spare. And like that we’re in Mexico baby!
Even after a six year hiatus of being in Mexico, we are quickly getting reacquainted with the long list of the country’s quirks and charms.
For example, most roads in the cities suck. They’re full of potholes and ruts and speedbumps. However, sharing the road isn’t bad. Most drivers are cautious because of the road conditions, and many Mexicans don’t have car insurance. That means we aren’t the slowest vehicle on the road anymore! We’re rolling along with the average José (Edd’s joke).
Nevertheless, after checking in at an RV park in Ensenada, we went to AXA and purchased car insurance. It cost us less money to insure the car for one year than for one month, so that’s what we got. We celebrated with a couple of beers.
The next day we went to Telcel to get SIM cards. It was easy with our passports and very few pesos. Once again, people were really patient with us. We treated ourselves with fresh seafood and shrimp tacos!
Over the next few days we continued to eat fish tacos at the small street food carts. No exaggeration, it’s the best food we’ve had on our journey so far.
Ensenada is a stop on a cruise line which pops into the port about 4 days a week. The locals referred to these days as “boat days”, when tourists are in and out of the town like a swarm of hornets. On Saturday, we saw them drinking in a handful of big expensive Cancún-inspired chain bars. But few young gringos made it into Hussong’s, right around the corner, which was banging mid-afternoon.
We were lucky to be in town as annual wine festivities were going on. We made our way to the 28th annual block party of Bodega Santo Tomás, a winery in existence since 1882. It is called the Verbena and it was free, though they do encourage you to buy their wine, and the local food vendors post pairing suggestions.
There were several stages with back-to-back entertainment. We saw a mariachi band, choir students, belly dancing and even Flamenco. The events went on until 1am. The music was great.
The next day we grocery shopped and remembered other Mexican particularities. We’d forgotten that the supermarkets actually make delicious pastries. It’s so cute; you take a big metal tray and tongs and go around picking up treats and then take them to be priced. We were also reminded that sometimes you buy bread or cheese or apples and find that they have a bizarre chemical taste. We have never figured it out but try to avoid stuff that’s been wrapped for too long in plastic!
We drove down the coast to Camalu where an unfinished hotel allows you to camp. The cliff walls next to the sea reminded Edd of his home in Dorset.
But of course, I can’t get seem to get away from Moctezuma’s revenge, however, and it found me one morning in Camalu. Edd, on the other hand, has a gut flora that resists even the most ruthless bacteria. We eat the same foods but it’s me in and out of the toilet all day.
When we first came here in 2010 I had stomach problem (turns out from making drip coffee with tap water) and I took an Immodium given to me by another traveler. That basically put a plug in my intestines for three days. Big mistake. Better out than in as they say! You have to bide your time by the loo. Add that to the list of compromises you make when coming to Mexico.
The next couple of days we took it easy next to hotel Cielito Lindo, where apparently John Wayne and other old Hollywood celebs used to holiday. Now it embraces a small community of locals and northern expats. The beach had soft dunes, sand dollars and a sea lion. He and Edd tried to get to know each other!
We are glad to be back in Mexico. Little bits are coming back to us, but there’s so much we don’t know about this huge country. Hopefully we won’t meet any “bad hombres”. Just more nice people and curious sea lions.