I crossed over into Baja through a border town whose name changes depending on what side of the border you’re on; in the U.S.A. it’s Calexico, south of the border it’s Mexicali. Either way, it’s what I imagine your typical border town is like; auto parts store and mini marts abound, and on the U.S. side multiple insurance companies dot the road leading to the crossing, a reminder that a policy is required lest you kill some poor sap.
Crossing the border couldn’t have been easier, the Mexican migración officers just wave you on by and then there you are, in Mexico. Immediately you’re greeted by rows and rows of farmacias on either side of the street (clearly for the medical vacationing gringo, and probably with gringo prices to boot), with the occasional drug addict (or maybe just a drunk) sat down on a street curb as taxi fleets consisting of what appears to be 1998 Mitsubishi Galants flit by, ever honking their horns in an attempt to pick up pedestrians.
I however, have other plans; in my prior research I found that, while you don’t need a tourist visa to hang out in Baja, you do need one should you cross to the mainland, and it’s a bit of a hassle to get one in La Paz (where the ferry departs from) so one may as well get one here, in Mexicali. I drive around the block a few times looking for some sort of “Migración” sign but, nada, and eventually stop at what appears to be a government building to ask where I can get my TVIP. Sadly, my naiveté has already gotten the better of me, as the four government employees have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. Eventually I get out of them that I need to head to the airport, which is about 20 miles away.
Of course, once I get to the airport, I quickly realize I have misunderstood these hombres; what I meant to understand was that the bureaucratic office I need was on the way to the airport, so I turn back around and head back towards Mexicali. There’s another border crossing east of the city, with scores of eighteen wheelers waiting to enter into the U.S. I ride past them, find the correct office, and begin the process of getting a tourist visa, which goes something like this:
- Go to a small building for vehicle importations, and learn that you need a tourist visa.
- Go to another building that handles tourist visas, and get your passport stamped, and a bill.
- Go back to the first building and pay for your visa.
- Return to the tourist visa office, and retrieve your passport.
- Go back to the first building that issues temporary vehicle importation passes, pay a refundable $400 deposit and receive your papers, and you’re on your way!
- Marvel at the efficiency of the Mexican bureaucracy, and ponder how many more steps there will be the further south you go.
This happened as well:
“Is Philip ******* ******* your name?”, the female officer asked me.
“Oh that won’t do”, she said, smiling, ” you are in Mexico now, you need a Mexican name.”
“No like Felipe, or Feliverte”, she giggled.
“Ahh si, Felipe. Wait, Feliverte? I never heard of that name before. Why is that funny?”
“It’s just funny”
I still have no idea why.
Anyway, paperwork was in order, and it was time to mosey down to San Felipe, a desert town on the Sea of Cortez. Not sure what to expect, I took the MEX 5 south, a two hour journey through increasingly rural areas. The roads are well-paved, if not boringly straight. There were some sights, though I didn’t manage to get as many pictures as I wanted as I was still struggling with all my camera gear.
Eventually I wearily pulled into San Felipe, and scouted for hotels. With names like El Capitan and El Cortez, I settled on a particularly Mexican joint named Caribe Hotel, that had a courtyard where I could secure my motorcycle.
I sadly did not spend a lot of time in San Felipe, and in hindsight I should have spent a day exploring. You ride into town through the main road, with small grocery stores and mechanic shops lining the streets until you reach the Malecon (boardwalk), and the Sea of Cortez. On the Malecon are the majority of restaurants, and when I say majority I mean maybe ten to fifteen; so far I’ve had to reevaluate what I believe “a lot” or “large city” mean with regards to my worldview.
Anyway, here’s a typical room you’ll get for 500 pesos.
I crashed pretty hard, had some huevos rancheros the next morning, and headed towards Puertocitos.