Our last few days in the states were spent outside San Diego, running errands and taking care of some last minute preparations. Zach made a lot of improvements on the van, including installing some LEDs for indoor lighting (check back for updates to the car section coming soon). Michael and Marlena generously offered their home for our use as a base during this time. Zach met Michael through Expedition Portal – a forum for overlanders – and he was instrumental in the building of the electrical system in our rig. I know they exchanged a few lengthy e-mails so it was great to get to meet him and his wife in person. With great company to fill our evenings and a comfy bed to rest our heads at night, our last few days in the states went flawlessly. We are grateful that Mike and Marlena took a chance on some strangers and welcomed us into their home.
We haven’t said this enough on our blog, though we’ve felt it sincerely, but this trip wouldn’t be what it is without the people we’ve met along the way. So many people, many of them strangers, have gone out of their way to see us or help us as we pass through town. Whether through the offer of skills, tools or company, we are continuously amazed by the kindness and generosity that’s been extended our way. We are so incredibly grateful for this. Thank you!
We finally crossed the border last Tuesday, only about a week behind the tentative date we agreed on six months ago. Our original plan was to cross in Tijuana but after some debate we made the decision to cross in Tecate, 25 miles east of Tijuana. Call it last minute jitters or perhaps just good sense, but Tecate, described as a “much more relaxed border crossing” by our reference books, was far more appealing on the actual day of. The crossing itself was an interesting experience. It is nothing like driving across the border into Canada, which always consists of a barrage of intimidating questions about your intentions and background. We simply just drove across. No one stopped us. No one wanted to look in the van or ask why we wanted to come into Mexico and where we were headed. One minute we were in the states, perfectly coddled in our comfort zone, and the next we are foreigners in a distant land. The language barrier was immediately apparent. We drove right past migracion, our intended first stop where we’d get our tourist cards. We weren’t in the country for more than one minute when I realized I’d have to use my limited Spanish to ask the locals for some directions. I must admit, it took a little while to build up the courage. Once we found migracion, it didn’t take long to get our tourist cards and we were soon on our way (for travelers planning to take a similar route, contrary to what the Church and Church book says, Tecate no longer has a banjercito – it closed a year or so ago, according to a border official. If you cross here, you can get your vehicle paperwork in La Paz).
Happy to be done with our first scary border crossing, we continued on to Ensenada and celebrated with a much deserved Tecate. After walking around the city for a bit, we headed to the coast to find our camp site on Punta Banda. We have been in Mexico a little over a week now and are loving every minute. Some of that initial intimidation has worn off and we are becoming increasingly comfortable practicing our Spanish with the locals. People are very friendly and the fish tacos are to die for.