Monday Morning we drove into Mexico which began the first in a series of unfortunate travel
occurrences. At the border we were well aware that we needed tourist cards to enter the interior
of Mexico as well as a vehicle pass. So to begin with we actually had the following exchange
with a border guard: Me (rolling window down): Can you tell me where I can get tourist cards for the interior?
Guard: Son, do you have any idea where you are?
Me (desired reply): Taco Bell?
Me (actual reply): Yes, that's why I want a tourist permit.
Guard: This is the Mexican border.
This was followed by a lovely morning in the Mexican border town of Agua Prieta.
The process for obtaining the required documents was something like this:
1. Wait in line for vehicle permit. Reach front of line, be re-directed
to get tourist permits first.
2. Produce US Passport, get friendly old customs agent with 1942-style manual typewriter
to type out official looking form one painstaking letter at a time.
3. Pay $1 US for his time.
4. Go to bank to pay for tourist cards. Naturally, they would not tell us where the bank
was, but for $1 US they sent someone to direct us.
5. Pay $1 banking fee + tourist card fee and get receipts.
6. Return receipts to friendly old customs agent and get tourist cards.
7. Wait in line for vehicle permit. Fill out forms, pay $1 US processing fee.
8. Get sent to another copy room to obtain copies where a friendly customs agent will
gladly make copies for you for a $1 US fee.
9. Return to vehicle line with copies, receive permit, pay (gasp) $4 US fee.
After all this you might wonder why we wanted to go to Mexico... so did we.
Anyway, we finally were free to enter the country proper, which we did by fleeing the
disorganized ugly sprawl of Agua Prieta as soon as possible. Mexico Highway 2 runs just
south of the border through the states of Sonora and Chihuahua. The boundary between the
states is also the continental divide in the Sierra Madre mountain range. When you cross
into Chihuahua you are immediately accosted by a slew of warning signs about how
dangerous the road is, and how many people have driven off it to their untimely deaths in
the last few months. Just for added effect they leave all the mangled wreckage lying
around in the canyons.
Now we don't claim to be excellent Spanish speakers, in fact we're barely adequate.
However we do know that we shouldn't take a job translating government documents into
Spanish like some 'English-speaking' folks in Mexico. This is text taken directly from
our hard-earned car permit: (All text and punctuation faithfully reproduced as is)
TEMPORARY IMPORT OF VEHICLES
PROMISE OF RETURNING THE VEHICLE
According to that settled down in the articulate 139, fraction IV of fiscal character of
External Trade 3.18.9, I Declare under of saying the truth that I carrier out the
temporary import; likewise which commit to return to the foreigner in the authorized
term, I declare that I won't make infractions or crimes related with the undue use of
the same one during my stay in Mexico.
Likewise, I am informed of those who rot to drive my vehicle in national territory.
Mexican residents abroad: It is allowed that the spouse, the ascendancies or descending
of the importer, provided they are abroad residents; when it is driven by some different
person from those authorized, invariably it will travel the propietor of the vehicle on
board (I Articulate 106, Fraction II, I incise and of the Tariff Law).
For the foreigners: Rot to be driven in national territory by a foreighner that has
Tourist's migratory qualities, Visitor, Local and Distinguished Visitors, Students and
Inmigrant financiers, Non Inmigrants with the characteristics of Ministers of Cult or
religious associate or of Correspondent and Transmigrants. (I articulate 106,
fraction IV, incise to) of the Tariff Law, the RUles of Fiscal character of Trade
External 3.18.11 and 3.24.14.
I am informed that it is forbidden:
1.- to sell the vehicle (I Articulate 105 of the Tariff Law)
2.- the vehicle can't be used like load transport or it stops managerial activities.
3.- to exceed the term that has been granted by the Authority to return the vehicle to
4.- to declare data or to use false documents to care a vehicle temporarily.
5.- that the vehicle is driven in national territory, for a different person to those
authorized in terms of the tariff legislation.
Likewise, I manifest that in the mentioned behaviors, I will be subject to the lost of
the vehicle, to the economic sanctions or inclusive crive could be configured sanctioned
with prison pain.
NOT TO RETURN THE VEHICLE, IMPIES NOT TO BE ABLE TO CARRY OUT FUTURE IMPORTS OF VEHICLES.
Name and signs of the importer
Descending into Chihuahua is a vast plain where the city of Janos lies and one reaches the
first actual road leading off in some other direction for hundreds of kilometers. Driving
across the plain we were watching a thunderstorm to our south when suddenly it decided to
spawn a tornado. It was far enough off that we could actually watch it roam about the
plain and after it dissipated another one took its place almost immediately. This
continued for almost half an hour and at one time there may have been three or four at
once. The upper picture was supposed to be one of them, though taken through a car window
at 110 KPH it ended up just being a picture of a storm and some desert. The lower one is
a contrast-enhanced close-up which still takes a little imagination. Shortly after this
picture was taken we were stopped for a 'random' drug search which involved standing on
the side of the road while a Mexican soldier with an automatic weapon opens all the doors
on your car, closes all the doors on the car, and then lets you go. We don't know what
sort of drug they expect to find that way but they're more than welcome to do it as long
as they have automatic weapons.
We were in Mexico to visit the Paquime indian ruins at Casas Grandes which look like this.
Really they are quite stunning, but first, to our ultimate dismay we stopped for lunch.
The clock in the car read 2:30 in the afternoon. We stopped in the new town nearby
appropriately named Nuevo Casas Grandes. Here we found an absolutely excellent taco stand
where for practically no real money you can eat your fill of carne asada tacos and a
variety of toppings. Really that has to be the essence of Mexico right there. This was
the highlight of our day in Mexico in fact.
Another picture of the Paquime site. Really quite awesome looking isn't it? The indians
who lived here had clever T-shaped doors which prevented attackers from entering with a
weapon. How? We don't know, this is as close as we got (with zoom lens) because the site
was closed when we arrived. We chalked this up the whimsical nature of the caretakers and
headed back disgruntled and disappointed. But on closer inspection, somewhere in the
middle of the desert we realized the error of our ways -- it was actually our fault. Yes,
Arizona is in Mountain Standard Time - all year long. Which means that in July, when most
of the country is in Daylight Time, Arizona effectively shifts into Pacific Time. Crossing
into Mexico put us back into true Mountain Daylight Time. But then in a freak of
cartography we crossed into Central Daylight time in Chihuahua thus losing two hours (and
the chance to visit the ruins). Alas. Well, tune in to some future trip story where
we visit Casas Grandes while it is open.