So this past week we took off for a very impromptu and much needed getaway and ended up taking the whole family, big kids and all, and driving the 11 hours to San Diego. Love that city! Love the zoo, love the beach, love the posh restaurant places, love the neighborhoods, love the park, love it all.
We've now visited several times, but never have we tried the Tijuana thing. So this time, with the heavy prodding of our Spanish speaking son, we thought we'd give it a go. We proceeded to research things where it was confirmed that going to this border town can be quite risky. All the stuff we read mentioned crime, and shady characters, cabbies that rip you off, muggings that are common, and on and on and on. We wondered, why are are doing this again?
Then we learned that the experience of getting BACK can be quite the thing. I thought it was simply a matter of walking through a gate (or driving as the case may be) and proving you are a legal US citizen with a nice passport flash. I guess hundreds of other people are doing the same thing at the same time, which causes quite the bottleneck.
Anyway, we decided to drive down there and just see how it looked. We stressed first about making sure we got off the freeway before it was too late (my husband absolutely under no circumstances wanted our car to make a crossing!) and once we managed that, we tried to find "the big parking place" that we'd read about. The one where it was so easy to just park, pay and walk across! We saw no such thing. After several maneuverings and back and forths with our huge Suburban and a bit of dicey moment where we had to make a U turn in massive traffic or we WOULD be crossing over in our car like it or not, we finally parked in a Mexican-run, trashy looking spot for ten dollars.
Our next thought was to just walk and see what it... "the border"... looked like! So we walked across a big bridge over the freeway where we could look over at all the people in cars trying to come back. Wow! It was insane!
|I don't know if you cans see the craziness through the grid.|
My vision of the border crossing was a well marked path with lots of people, tourists and Mexicans alike, walking on over to Mexico. Well, the path was marked, sort of, and took us through back alleyways, and up and around buildings and... not a tourist in sight. Only street-wise Mexicans, looking at us like, what the heck?
At one point, we saw the big sign MEXICO, and we stopped and had a pow wow in a graffiti decorated alley alcove. Should we really do this? Our 13 year old said NO WAY. She had no desire to be snatched from us, as we had read about. My thoughts were... we've been to Mexico many many times already, why will this be any different? My son and husband thought, we are here now, so why not? We were actually okay with the idea of Tijuana itself, but were a bit nervous about The Line to get back. Some one had told us though, that you could buy a spot on a van that would get you back "so much faster," and so after much debate and hand-wringing, we decided to go for it.
(First we checked our passports just to be sure of the dates, and guess we what learned.... a couple of ours expire in just a week! What???)
|About to cross!|
Off to the side we saw The Line and it was LONG... but never fear, we had plans to hire the vans!
|One of the many pharmacies... if you can call them that!|
The idea was to find the main tourist street and walk up and down it, maybe buy a taco and just people watch. We got to a plaza of sorts and there were absolutely no other people about! All the little Mexican kids were constantly coming up to us begging us to buy their candy and bracelets All the guys were begging us to eat at their restaurant. We walked on, but then we noticed the big rain cloud headed our way, so instead of continuing on to the original tourist street destination, we stopped and bought our taco and guacamole from the nice, very well groomed Mexican in a cowboy hat.
|Sitting there waiting for food. Do you see another soul besides us?|
He really was nice actually, but there was NOBODY else there! And every SINGLE kid in that plaza came up to us AGAIN while we sat there to sell us candy and bracelets! We bought one and told every other one afterwards, sorry!
The guacamole was awesome by the way.
But since we still had to face The Line, and that storm cloud was coming ever closer, we decided our little Tijuana moment was over, after maybe barely an hour there.
Getting closer, we could see that The Line was long, really really long. We started hearing it was at least a three hour wait. Are you KIDDING me? And then we found the lady who confirmed that there were indeed vans that we could pay ($5 a person) to hop on and it would ONLY be a half hour to get across. Oh, boy we were all for that.
(Video of walking past the line, complete with kid entertainment, and past all the buses to "our" bus!)
So we followed her, bypassing the whole line, walking down yet another alleyway, past bus after bus after bus until we arrived at the one she deemed was ours, whereupon after more discussion (remember both my son and husband are quite fluent) we finally learned that we get on the bus and wait for it to move. And we would be lucky if it moved at all. So my husband paid the money and we got on, only to find out that there were absolutely no more seats. So, we stood there and waited.
And stood and waited and waited and waited. We started talking to the other people. A couple of them had been there now for 40 minutes and the bus had not moved at all.
I was dumbfounded. What blatant lying by those people! What happened to the half hour crossing? I was beginning to wonder if we would get back over at all!
And then my family started saying... so Mom, what are we going to do next? I was like... um... let's just see if we get BACK first! Then we think of the next step! Sheesh!
So, it turned out that we stood there for an hour and a half, with the bus/van thing moving a few feet every 20 or so minutes. I guess there were maybe ten buses ahead of us, and each one unloads and all those people have to file into the building to show their passports, and then back out again. I guess it takes time. I guess. And hopefully it actually turned out better and faster than The Line, but I was wondering the whole time.
(At least in line you could move now and then. Stand totally still for 1 1/2 hours is hard on the feet!)
There was a moment where the bus was actually straddling the very borderline, I should have taken a picture, but you know, I was so not in the mood at the time.
Anyway, finally, FINALLY it was our turn to file through. They questioned us, what were were doing in Mexico? What are we bringing back? What did we buy? Did we have anything to declare? And my 17 year old son was lucky enough to get wand searched. And also, you have to go through one by one, which means my very nervous 13 year old daughter was left to face them alone! And I was trying to wait for her on the other side, but they were like "uh, mam, keep moving!" and I was like, "but she's just a little girl!" Luckily, they didn't question her much and she was done and caught up to us quickly.
And just like that, we were across! Back to California Whew! And it was pouring rain by that time so we ran to our car and were on our way!
Well, it was an adventure anyway, and like I said, paranoid or not, we are always up for one! Still, I have to wonder if the taco and delicious guacamole, and the begging kids were worth it.
In the end, I guess so!
Now tell me, is this the sort of travel experiences you have? I want to know! And, have you ever been across the border like this? What was it like?