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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Brian & Deya met in Vancouver Canada. After a few years together we were married and made choices. One was not to have children the other was not to take life for granted. The rest is yet to come.

November 10, 2010

The Border into Mexico

The Truth about the border and our entry into Mexico is that it was a pleasure, a great ride and a good experience. The other truth is that there was a great deal of stress from all the doomsayers and armchair news anchors.  If anyone felt stress or anxiety while reading that last post, thank you for joining our journey because as rewarding as it is there are other darker moments that need passing.

We left Bisbee and headed for the Mexican border across from Douglas in Agua Prieta, Sonora. As we approached the border Richard went first. The goal was to approach the border then park and go inside whether they let you through or not. You must get your visa and passport stamped and you must get your vehicle sticker and document before proceeding.

Sure enough Richard set off the big red alarm, meaning an inspection. The young lady flagged us all in since we were together. This was funny because she was along trying to search four motorbikes, check passports, etc. She barely got Richard’s pannier open, with the rest of us hovering like flies trying to show our documents, when the other two lanes started setting off big red alarms. A mild kind of chaos ensued and you could see that the young lady was immediately overwhelmed. Poor thing, waved us on without ever looking at Tony’s or my passport or giving any of us a real inspection.

That was fine, we still had to go inside and figure out the visas and such. What I immediately noticed though was some shady characters hanging around the office. These guys want to help you park, tell you where you should park and likely want some compensation for it. The trouble here is that they ask you to park where you shouldn’t, there is no security even though it’s closer to the office and the office parking has its own government security officer watching your stuff just around the corner.

Richard knew this so waved off the vultures and led us around the corner to the office parking, the vultures following. Richard’s Spanish is pretty good so he chatted up the birds and talked to the security guy and we were ready to go inside. The process was going to take us about an hour and a quarter for the four of us. Here is how it worked.

To admit your person, get a visa, you must have:
1) Valid Passport
*when you approach you should say, “I would like an entry visa, please” – “Me gustaria obtener una visa, por favor”
2) Payment fee Visa (second line up) called FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple)

To admit your vehicle, get a sticker, you must have:
1) Valid Passport plus one copy
2) Driver’s License plus one copy (we used our International Driver’s License)
3) Ownership title of the vehicle plus one copy
4) Payment fee (made at the bank line up -Banejercito- must be an international credit card, otherwise you must pay a large deposit)
5) Visa plus one copy (obtained in the first line up)

There are separate line ups for this process in which you first get your visa documents, then go to the bank line -Banejercito- to pay for the document, while you’re there you get and pay for your vehicle permit. You then go back to the visa line up, you have had to go stand in the photocopy line up to get a copy of your visa first, show proof of payment and get your documents stamped. Now, from a production viewpoint there is a lot of low hanging fruit here and this long process could be completed by one person instead of three in about 10-15 minutes. So don’t be surprised or upset when you feel like it’s inefficient because it just is.

It’s possible that you may be escorted outside so an agent can place the vehicle’s sticker on your windshield, in this case they trusted us to do that our selves. Don’t forget this important step: there will be check points that will stop you and check. Outside we returned to fully intact vehicles, got on and rode away. The folks inside the border office were professional and polite and though it took some time it was a reasonable experience. In general I only had a mild tingle from the ‘Spidy’ senses outside and was happy to be under power and on the road again.

On the way out of the city there was a large police presence and the policia tend to stick together in groups, I don’t blame them. We made it out unmolested, paying attention to the hidden stop signs and unsure of the speed limits, we were assured that the local policia were not chomping at the bit to nail us.

On route towards the Copper Canyon we came to the fair sized town of Nuevo Casas Grandes. It was an ugly town but the place we stayed was nice. The next day we stopped in Buenaventura for water and a bite to eat prior heading onto Creel, this is where we were approached by a well dressed fellow with a good command of English. He proceeded to tell us about how the hoodlums just outside of town are just lying in wait for tourists, because of that the tourists have stopped coming and he has lost his job. He urged extreme caution, 30 minutes later he would come back with his wife to tell Deya that we would certainly be raped, robbed and murdered and pleaded with us to leave Mexico as soon as possible.

This didn’t make anyone feel well, as far as I could tell Deya and Tony were worried, Richard may have been concerned about what we wanted to do and I was just severely pissed off. It is like when the news media asks some random person on the street what they think about an important topic and present it as though this person is somehow an expert, currently involved or somehow has extra knowledge not just an opinion. I hate that and refuse to be afraid, cautious yes, afraid no. What would we do if we can’t go forward, go back! Surely we would have been killed at the border or worse if we listened to every terrified person who hasn’t left their house. The town we were in was not likeable enough to spend the rest of our lives, I hate that. And so, I have a quote that I’m not sure who owns it but it fits my feeling, “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees."
After some discussion we headed out and onto our next stop. It turned out to be awesome, the route was beautiful and the drivers polite. We had a nice ride into town and stayed in a place Richard knew well. We had a bit of stress since entering Mexico, it would seem that budget wise it is more expensive here than in the southern USA. In the first 5 days we would be at 50% of our lodging budget. Deya and I would have to develop a plan to mitigate this. Some of the problem is the security issue and not feeling comfortable enough to tent.

In Creel, at the head of the Copper Canyon, we already had lodging picked out. The town is interesting, touristy and the place we would stay is very comfortable. We would leave our spare tyres and some kit for the evening as we headed into the Copper Canyon, due to the technical difficulty of the road and return to it on the way out. We would be backtracking but the scenery and route is totally different depending on which way you go. Permeating the states of Sonora and Chihuahua was a general feeling of tension, likely because of the news and the drug war. It is similar to the feeling people had in Vancouver after the Surrey six killing. Everyone has their opinion, no one is happy to live in conditions of possible violence and no control seems to be on the horizon.

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