We had a pretty eventful night and morning at our free camp. Just before we went to bed, I’d wondered out loud to Dan what the moon would look like rising over the sea so late at night. Would it still be coloured since the sun was well past setting? I must have some sort of super power because I stirred and woke up just as the moon peaked the horizon. It was about a third full and a dark red colour as it rose over the ocean and we could see it straight through the windscreen. I woke Dan so he could see and we watched for a minute before falling back to sleep. Later in the night (or early morning), Dan left bed and sat outside drinking a couple of beers and smoking some more weed since he was having trouble sleeping. I was scared shitless when I woke up and heard someone at the door, only to find it was Dan. It was ridiculous how loud the side doors had become. They creaked loud enough to make the dogs about five shacks down start barking. Whoops.
When we woke up properly, my timing was perfect again. When I got out of the car to pee, I looked to the horizon and saw the sun just peaking over the water. Again I alerted Dan so he could see. I went back to bed and we snoozed a while longer, but it soon became too hot. We had a bit of cold yoghurt as an early morning snack and as a bonus it cooled us down a bit. We admired the sunset a while before the sky turned its normal blue and the sun was a bright yellow colour. Not wanting to hang around for fear of getting caught for camping, we moved on, saying goodbye to our umbrella that had served us so well since we picked it up in Santo Tomas hoping someone would make use of it. Dan also left the remains of the weed inside the shack for someone else to enjoy. He didn’t want to carry it in the car in case of a military checkpoint, a smart move.
I stayed in bed while Dan drove us out of camp, Cleo enjoying front seat priveleges. We had planned to drive into the small town nearby, but there was a gate stopping us so we were soon on the highway. I was almost nodding off when Dan said there was a military checkpoint ahead. Completely naked, Dan slowed down a bit to give me some time to put some clothes on and get into the front seat. It was all a bit of a rush and my hair looked 100% like early morning. Having a checkpoint so close to Alfonsina made us think that the guy that gave us the weed had called ahead and warned the military so we were expecting a thorough inspection, but we didn’t even have to get out of the car this time, the man in uniform just asked us a few questions then let us go.
We drove down the next road we saw that we thought lead to the water, needing to take another dip, but we were faced with yet another organised camp that looked like it was going to cost money. Instead of driving in, Dan turned and drove along the fence. When that ended in a dead end, we just decided to park it and have a bit more sleep, even though it was really getting too hot. We both crawled into the back and attempted to snooze.
I don’t normally write about this sort of thing, but it’s necessary to understand what happened next. We were having sex and hadn’t been going long when I felt an itch behind my right knee. I thought maybe Dan had pinched my skin, but the itch turned into an intense sting. I shouted out “Ow! Ow! Ow!” and Dan got off me, saw the bee that was in my skin and flicked it away. He got it in a beanie and threw it out of the car while I stood up and continued yelling because it kept bloody stinging! The stinger was still in my skin so I bent over and Dan scrambled to get it out. With gentle fingers he pulled the tiny stinger out and thankfully the stinging started to abate. I feel like it would have been a funny thing to watch, two naked people scrambling around yelling and screaming thanks to a tiny little bee. Since we’d opened the doors, we found even more beers around where we parked so we quickly put some clothes on and drove away. This day just wasn’t starting out properly!
Back on the road, we kept looking for another beach access and found one when we saw a few abandoned houses that had crumbled to barely more than foundations. The old homes were on top of the cliffs right by the sea so their occupants would have had a brilliant view. After I explored the foundations a bit, we scrambled on the small rocks down to water. We were already sweating and it wasn’t 8am yet. Since we had the place to ourselves, we skinny dipped into the water and floated around with the black and yellow striped fishies that were amongst us.
When Cleo came down with us, it was the first time we were able to encourage her into the water and swim into Dan’s arms. She’s a fast learner having only begun her training a couple of weeks ago. She was only interested in one swim, but the fact that she’d done it on her own made both of us feel like proud parents.
Cooled off, we walked back up to the car, showered and ate cereal for breakfast. Since we had nowhere to be in a hurry and we had such a nice view, we also played a round of cards, me sitting in the passenger seat with the cards on my lap while Dan stood outside working on his tan. Feeling like we’d finally started the day right, we hit the road again with me driving since Dan had done so much yesterday.
During the next hour or so, we were on a paved road that went over and into a number of vados (fords) which in one case resulted in the Cabana getting air. There is never any warning of these types of road features, just like the unwarranted and random speed bumps so I hit the first one at speed and after we dipped to the bottom of the wash and came back over the rise, our bums left our seats and everything within the car lifted just a little bit. I’m sure Cleo would have jumped out the window if she could have, she was bloody terrified!
I slowed it down the rest of the way and we enjoyed views of the ocean all the way along highway 5. We stopped at a roadside convenience store to buy some cold beers and a cold Coca Cola in an attempt to cool us down. It wasn’t too effective but it was better than nothing. When we approached San Felipe we stopped at a convenience store where Dan bought a few packs of flavoured cigarettes. These cigarettes, in melon and strawberry flavour, aren’t available in the States because they don’t want to encourage kids, who would like the sweet flavours, to smoke. Dan was in all sorts of hysteria smoking these weird things as I drove into San Felipe for a look.
The beachfront part of the town was like a miniature version of La Paz, though slightly more touristy. We were getting into day trip territory now where Americans could come down from southern California and Arizona for the day or a weekend, so there were a fair few Mexicans slinging goods on the street. While I had a shit in the cup inside the hot van after I parked on the main street, Dan and Cleo meandered down to the beach for another cool off in the water. When I found them, I was surprised to see them sitting under the shade of a canopy sitting at some chairs and tables. Dan explained that a man had approached him asking for payment but he’d explained they would only stay for a few minutes and so paid for the privilege with a cigarette.
I got into the water, enjoying the cool down. Back in the shade, I figured out that this would be our last time at the beach in Baja since it was only the road to America from here on out. We also figured it was possible we’d be back in Phoenix that night since there was nothing more to see between San Felipe and the border crossing at Yuma. Not wanting to leave Baja without a proper send off, we both agreed that cocktails and fish tacos were in order.
I’d liked the look of the beachfront bar we’d parked in front of so that’s where we head. They had dozens of fans going into the bar so it was much cooler than anywhere else. We set ourselves up at a table right at the front so we could people watch and were shortly joined by a waiter who spoke a fair bit of English. We got started with a pair of Pina Coladas and then ordered our usual fish tacos. The drinks were brilliant and the fish tacos yummy per usual.
We were regularly asked by street vendors if we were interested in any goods but they were easily abated with a quick “No, gracias.” After enjoying the food, we had ourselves another round, me getting a strawberry margarita and Dan a long island ice tea. My margarita was stunning, everything was frozen and refreshing and I was well on my way to being drunk. I went out to the car to get the map and we confirmed it was possible that we’d be back in America that night and so we made sure to enjoy our last day in Baja.
After I came back from the bathroom, I found Dan talking to a guy at the bar so I joined them. Greg was a retired guy down in San Felipe looking for property with his sweetie (his word for his girlfriend). He was a lovely guy with a great sense of humour and fun to talk to. Dan and him exchanged cigarettes and we all sipped on beers while chatting about all things Baja, mainland Maxico and travels in general. He ended our hangout when he had to go and collect his sweetie from her manicure. That was our queue to get on the road, after paying our 509 Peso ($25) bill. We would definitely miss the prices of Baja.
We had one last dip in the ocean, playing with Cleo on the sandbar that had formed in the low tide. A quick rinse under the bottle later and we were off. Dan drove us through some of the most barren land we’d seen so far with nothing but flat lands surrounding us. Music continued to keep us entertained but the road was so straight amongst the flat that we eventually resorted to playing cards as we drove. It was a little awkward, especially when we came across a military checkpoint and, in slowing down, I was holding cards all over the place to make sure we didn’t lose them off the dash. Another easy checkpoint, we carried on and finished the game. One game was enough since card management was getting a bit hard and Dan’s concentration was suffering a little.
I took over driving after we stopped just after leaving highway 5. We crossed briefly over into the state of Sonora (yay, we hit three Mexican states!) before approaching the border crossing in a town called San Luis Rio Colorado. It was about 6:30pm so we’d been driving a good few hours to get here and we were excited to get back to Dan’s place in Phoenix where we could enjoy some air conditioning.
We approached the border crossing and found cars entering Mexico, but couldn’t see any entering America. I couldn’t see a way in and neither could Dan. When we drove past a few Mexican military men, I asked, “USA?” and they directed me forward. Still not seeing any entrance, I did the block and came back around to where I’d been before. The military guards I’d just talked to had moved and met me closer to the border crossing and used hand signals to explain which way to go. I still didn’t really understand, but drove on forwards. Eventually we understood that we had to drive in from a different direction to get behind a yellow barrier that would take us through to the American entry.
Finally with our directions sorted, Dan chose the right lane and so I drove up to one of only two booths and handed our passports over to the man. When he asked what we’d been doing, Dan answered and Mr. Officer immediately started talking over him saying, “She’s the driver. Let her answer.” Ok, so we’re already friends. I explained everything that Dan had been saying and he turned his nose up at my B2 visa, saying that I wasn’t allowed to enter because I could only stay in the country for six months out of every twelve. I told him that this wasn’t the case but before he let me get too far into my explanation, he kept our passports and told us to park the car in one of the bays in front for vehicle inspection.
In case you couldn’t tell, there is a huge rant coming on so get comfortable if you’re on for a read or skip on.
We parked the car and Mr. Officer came up to the window asking us to exit the vehicle and open all the doors. He said they’d be inspecting the car for food that was not allowed and of course any sort of illegal material. He then told us to follow him inside to the immigration office. For some reason, by this time there were a few officers hanging around, keen to get in on the action maybe? Dan wasn’t happy about the car being inspected without us being around. He was used to Mexican standards where people were likely to steal stuff during the inspection. After a bit of back and forth with the officers who talked down to us, I grabbed shirts for the both of us (I’d been in my bikini top), everything of value went into my bag and the three of us (Cleo too), walked into the immigration office.
This makes me sick with rage. Every time I have entered the US whether it be through an airport, across land or by sea, it has been nothing less than a shit show. Coming in from Mexico really takes the cake. The building was thankfully air conditioned, probably the only good thing about this whole experience. Inside, after sitting for about ten minutes on a bench and Dan having to ask multiple times to use the bathroom, Mr. Colunga, another immigration office sitting at the desk called me up to talk to him. Here is yet another officer who doesn’t understand the terms of the B2 visa. When I explain I’ve been travelling America and left to go on holiday in Mexico he explains that he can’t extend my visa because in order to get another six months, I have to go back to my home country. Bullshit I think, but in technical terms I speak. I explained that the terms of the visa state that if I leave America for “a reasonable amount of time” I will be able to re-enter with another six months. There is no definition available for “reasonable amount of time”. I explained that plan to leave at the end of September but he’s having none of it. He then tells me that if I want an extension to the visa, I need to visit an immigration office in America. This is something that he couldn’t help me with because they are only a border crossing and not an immigration office. I then play worst case situation and tell him that even if what he was saying is true, which it is not, he should at least grant me a three week extension to the current 8th of July exit date since I have been out of America for three weeks. He doesn’t buy that either, but after a bit more explanation, he tells me to sit down and walks off.
When he comes back, it’s obvious that he’s just talked to someone who knows more than him, not that he admits this. He called me to the desk again and I approach. He asked me for an exit ticket to prove I plan to leave at the end of September. He also wanted to see a recent bank statement. I told him I hadn’t booked my ticket yet and that I couldn’t get internet inside the immigration building so couldn’t show him a bank statement. When I asked if they possibly had any Wifi so that I could book a ticket and show him the evidence he wanted, he shook his head. He kept insisting that I should provide printouts of these things, but I managed to talk him down to accepting the evidence shown on my laptop screen because there was no way I was going to go out and find a printer. In the end, I said to him, “I am going to re-enter Mexico, get internet, book a plane ticket for the 28th September and get a recent bank statement. When I come back with these things, you will let me in. Correct?” He nodded his head.
Right. We still weren’t allowed to leave yet, we had to sit on the bench until someone told us that the inspection on our car was done. Dan was pissed off at this because it was a pointless inspection if we were going to turn around and go back into Mexico. After getting told to sit down and wait by Mr. Colunga, he talked to another officer who called to his colleagues outside and then told us we could go outside and collect the car. Once outside, we were told by the inspection specialist that we weren’t able to bring eggs, uncooked chicken, bacon or our avocado into the country. We were just trying to get out as fast as possible but he insisted on giving us a piece of paper with a list of allowed items before letting us go. Even then, we were held up more still when another officer came over to see what was going on. He told us that someone should have walked us out of the building to which we didn’t have an answer to, we were told we could leave. He then wanted to look at the passports and asked why we were having trouble. When I explained, he said that there shouldn’t have been a problem and, looking at my 8th July exit stamp, he concluded that I must not have explained myself properly to the immigration officer at Denver airport. He told me that all I had to do was explain my travel plans and I’d be given what I wanted. I wanted to tell him to tell that to the stupid woman at Denver airport, but I just continually nodded and said “Yes” because I wanted to get out of there.
We did a u-turn, driving back around to re-enter Mexico. I explained the situation to them and the lady did a quick inspection of the car. She told us we weren’t allowed to bring the jerry can of fuel in but when Dan gave her an exasperated look, she allowed it just this once because she understood we were coming in just to go straight back out. I drove a few blocks and parked it on the side of the road. Instead of finding Wifi somewhere, I decided to just use my phone. I sat on the fridge, plugged my laptop in and charged my phone so I could get through everything. Dan was in a rage, hating the way immigration officers treat people, being on power trips and making people’s lives difficult just because they could. He didn’t want me to book an air ticket, he just wanted to try and drive straight back through the border because we’d be likely to get a different person and therefore a different result. Since I had to book a ticket to Malaysia anyway, I was happier to do that, give them what they wanted and not have to go through this bullshit a third time.
It took me about half an hour to get what I needed. In that time, a Mexican immigration officer came up to the car demanding to see our passports. Dan was outside pacing so he dealt with him, incredulous that we were being even further harassed. This guy understood our frustration though. As soon as Dan started going off his rocker with him, they ended up talking about pitbulls instead of immigration. When my computer died of heat, just as I was about to press “book” on the airline’s website, I opened the fridge (which was turned off due to the heat but was still cooler than outside), put the laptop in it and continued my booking. Another man came up to Dan asking about something or other and since he spoke a lot of English, dan was able to shoot his mouth off at him too. He offered us help with Wifi but we didn’t need it, but it was still a nice offer.
Once I was done, we talked about cooking up some dinner so we didn’t have to waste some food, but I wasn’t hungry because of the heat and also the stress. When I walked outside the car I had a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt to cool me down and took a bit of a walk. I was so sick with frustration. Dan ended up bartering a deal with the small shop across the road to trade our food for a bottle of cold water and some ice cream. Not a bad trade really considering we’d be wasting the food otherwise. That sorted, we drove back to the border for a second attempt.
Back at the booth was an officer who had seen us before. I showed him my bank statement and flight and he seemed satisfied. He handed back our passports and sent us on our way.
When I asked if he’d stamped my passport, he gave me a confused look. “Didn’t they stamp it inside?” “No,” I said. “Park your vehicle ahead and go back inside.” Bloody hell. A new officer told Dan and Cleo to sit outside on a bench behind a chicken wire fence. When Dan put a cigarette in his mouth, the officer told him not to light it. This officer escorted me inside and as soon as our backs were turned to Dan, he lit up in defiance. My passport was never surrendered to me, the officer had to walk behind the desk and hand it to his colleague, as if scared I was going to do what with it? After waiting on the bench with a Mexican family, I spoke to the guy that had told me outside I hadn’t explained myself properly. He seemed nice at least, asking me my history, which I diligently gave. He didn’t need to see the air ticket or the bank statement, but I had to show my statement to him when he couldn’t understand me spelling out my address. Without telling me he had approved my re-entry, he stapled an entry page into my passport. I asked how long he’d given me, explaining that it would be nice to have an exit date a few days after my scheduled flight, just in case of delays. “You’ve got until December18th.”
RIGHT. So I went from “We can’t let you back in because you’d be overstaying” to “Sure, you can stay another six months which is more than what you need”. Have I mentioned this shits me up the wall?
It’s not over yet. The officer placed my newly stamped passport under the cashier’s window and said the cashier would be with me in a minute so I could pay the $6 I-94 application fee. I had my $6 in cash ready but I waited at that window for more than half an hour. Meanwhile, Dan came in to use the bathroom, finding me almost foaming at the mouth I was so mad. There were at least five assholes sitting around doing nothing while I was waiting to give six measly dollars to someone. I ended up going back to the officer, holding up my money saying I just wanted to pay and he told me to wait. When Dan shouted through the bars to one of the officers sitting on his arse, he explained that the cashier officer was attending to other duties and would be with us as soon as possible. Not able to stand still anymore, I got my laptop out and started writing this rant, typing furiously. When finally the cashier officer appeared, I shoved the $6 under the window where my passport was being held hostage. I didn’t say a word to him I was so mad. It took him a minute to punch something into a touch screen, open the till, then print a receipt. All the while, I kept typing. He passed me my passport and receipt and I made to leave. Before I could, Mr. Cashier tried talking to me through the inch-thick glass. I had no idea what he was on about, I couldn’t hear a thing and I told him so, putting my ear down to the slot but not getting anywhere. He handed me a leaflet that I’d already read through the window that explained I could pay this fee online before crossing the border to save time. Fuck off, you could have a better system.
Outside, with exactly what I needed, finally we were free to go but there was still some drama to be had. As Dan was putting Cleo’s water bowl back in the car, he was almost stepping on a tiny little bird. I grabbed him to stop his foot from crushing the tiny thing and Dan picked him up. He looked like a baby because he didn’t have full coordination of his limbs. We had no idea where he’d come from but assumed he must have flown into the door and hit the ground. Not seeing a mother bird around, we took him with us. I held him in my hands as we drove away.
When we were far enough away from the border, we stopped on the side of the road and Dan fashioned a bird cage out of a cereal box so he could survive the drive into America. Since he was a border hopper, he received the name Hopper. After feeding him some water out of a bottle cap, I put him comfortably up on the dash and there he stayed for the rest of the drive. I just hoped he’d survive the intense heat.
We suffered a shock driving on American roads again. It was all so familiar and so strange at the same time. The contrast between two countries that are so close together is hard to believe. We stopped for petrol as we left the outskirts of Yuma, happy to see a price we were more used to. Dan got himself a cold beer since our stocks had run out and continued driving. It was strange to be driving at night when we’d avoided it the whole time we were in Baja and the road was straight and boring. Within an hour, Dan was passing out at the wheel so I took over.
He sat with me upfront for a total of five minutes before he crept into the back and conked out on the bed letting Cleo join me up front. I got on the phone to Dad to keep me company on the drive and we had a great catch up. I tried Mum after that and a few of my friends but had no luck, so it was just me and Cleo for the last hour or so.
When midnight came, I couldn’t ignore my hunger anymore and went in search for food. I got off the highway a couple of times finding plenty of closed fast food joints but when I saw a 24 hour sign I had success. We were only half an hour from home so I dipped in to Carls Jr. and got myself a dirty burger meal which I ate on the road. I’d asked the groggy Dan if he wanted anything, but he was fine in his slumber. When I came out from Carls Jr. I found he’d thrown the back doors open to get some ventilation. I closed him back in and we were on our way again.
Cleo was so tired by the time we approached Paradise Valley that she was barely moving around on the front seat per her usual routine, she just sat looking out the windscreen. She knew when we were close to home, getting a little more animated. I pulled into the driveway and there was my beautiful Astro, waiting loyally for me to return. It was past 1am and I’d already planned what I had to grab to take inside. Cleo was out like a shot to relieve herself and I was loaded up with the essentials and Hopper. He was still bouncing around in the box so he’d survived the drive at least.
Dan had thrown the back doors open while I was getting organised, he didn’t know he was home. It took a bit of convincing to get him out of the car but eventually he followed me through the back gate and the back door which Dan’s Mum had left open for us. We crept in like ghosts, not wanting to wake the parents, and Dan was straight in bed. I followed after I’d set Hopper up in the shower with a plate of water and a French fry from my dirty dinner. We were exhausted and melted into the soft bed, enjoying the feel of cold air blowing onto our skin.