Yesterday we had to visit several US banks to exchange our dollars for pesos before leaving the States. At 9am they had already run out. The banks said that this has been happening for the past couple weeks. Odd.
We set out to cross the border. The bridges are closed because they are submerged under floodwater.
There was just one bridge open and it is being operated as a single lane with just 20 cars at a time. I do not know how many hundreds of cars travel back and forth each day but we sat in 6 lanes of traffic (just one direction) for an hour waiting to get across -a distance of 200 feet.
Whew! We crossed. Now to get through the paperwork part of immigration and car permit. Fortunately there is a sign that says turn left for car permits. As soon as we take the turn a guy shows us an id and tells us the office for immigration has moved and he will be happy to show us the way. Mikee says “no thanks” and we continue to follow the signs which lead to a road completely submerged. Rats. The police send us winding through a neighborhood that is the slums of town. People are all over the place and watching what will happen to the waters. The GPS, of course, is barking out orders “left here, right here” but the GPS can’t tell the streets are flooded. While stuck in traffic a TV news crew is walking by and Mikee gets some directions from the reporter. She does not speak much English and is very concerned that we understand her directions. To go from 0 to 60 mph full throttle for necessary usage of Spanish is not “facile” (easy). We met another nice young woman who was very helpful and knew the new location. She drew out the directions. Mikee was willing to give her $20 to ride with us and show us the way. She needed to stay by her home and be sure it was safe. We told her we will pray for her safety. Even while undergoing a crisis, the people we dealt with were very polite and helpful.
All this confusion took about 90 minutes before we reached the correct office to get our papers processed. We had directions downloaded and the signs were pretty easy to follow and we had GPS but who could have foreseen this flood? (the last time this happened was 1998)
The temporary office was hot and humid …but clean. Very clean. The floors are mopped continuously and people are friendly when you say “hola”. (just a hint- always carry your own toilet paper whenever you find a “bano”) 😉
As we leave this area Mikee checks with a Supervisor for the best way out. He tells us there is not a way out. He was referring to crossing back into the US. We were one of the last cars to cross before all the bridges were closed. Since we were asking in reference to getting on the highway out of Nuevo Laredo, we were all set. And our maps, GPS, and directions from this nice man all matched up.
Finally, we are on our way. The plan was to reach the halfway destination of Matehuela by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. (about a 7 hour drive from the border) Well, it was nearly 2pm when we left the immigration office at Nuevo Laredo and began the Mexico part of our journey in the middle of a tropical storm/hurricane that is quickly flooding the border towns and washing out roads. We drove by a road crew in the middle of POURING rain patching up the main highway. And I mean pouring!!! The kind of rain that has you using your windshield wipers on the highest speed and they cannot keep up. Lightning too. A thunder bold exploded right next to us. It was LOUD. Our car shook. It was raining so hard that they waved us through a final immigration check point and another point where we were supposed to pay a toll. I guess they figure that if we are willing to drive in this rain then we can’t be too dangerous. This rain lasted hours into our trip. The road winds up and through the mountains outside Monterrey. We learned to stay away from the shoulders -they were steep and some were washing away. This all was kind of stressful and tiring and we have NO INTENTIONS of driving after dark. We had to reassessh n our stopping place for the night and ended up finding a great spot in the city of Saltillo.
Even in all this rain the mountains are striking. They are not gentle rounded hills but dramatic, jagged masses of land with sharp peaks and deep crevasses.
We are stayed in a Comfort Inn & Suites and it is BRAND NEW! The room was deliciously clean and had a wonderful shower. The staff is super helpful. Our stay included sodas and beer at cocktail hour (7-8pm) and free hot breakfast. (real food -spanish food, and yogurt, cereal, pastries, juice, coffee) It ended up being about $60 for the night. The only negative is that we could not figure out how to connect to their Wi-Fi. They worked on it with Mikee for at least an hour. They even sent over their computer guy to try and figure it out. And we really needed Wi-Fi last night to let you all know that we are SAFE!
The kids are doing great. Right now they are putting on a play with all their toys in the back of the van. Lots of giggling going on.
The roads are decent and in good condition for traveling. There are also Pemex stations every couple miles with gas, bathrooms, snacks. It’s funny to see horses, donkeys, cows or goats grazing on the grass in the median of this major highway. In one area there were cactus as big as trees.
I was looking forward to catching up on my reading and napping while Mikee drove but my copilot skills have been greatly needed. Especially as we wind our way through detours and try to navigate the road signs posted in Spanish and try to see through the rain.
My recommendation for anyone wanting to come to see Lake Chapala is… FLY!!!
The GPS tells us we should arrive in Ajijic around 6 tonight. The good thing about the rain is that we won’t get bothered by any unscrupulous characters along the way. We are making good time and all look forward to getting into the place that will be our “home” for the next couple weeks.