A in front of the largest flag either of us has even seen (in Ensenada)
I've been pretty bad about taking photos and keeping in contact, but we are in Mexico! If you'd like to see where we are daily (since I will clearly not be updating that often), we bought a SPOT device and you can track our GPS progress here. I will post about our pre-July adventures soon, but here is an update since July 1st.
Tonight we are staying in a beach town called Mazatlan, it is a nice change after spending the last five nights in the desert. A long summary is below (very very long), but here are some quick things:
1. Our AC broke in the desert, we spent ~2 days driving with no AC in 110 degree desert weather.
2. Mexican roads range from excellent to horrible. Some are large toll roads, some are highways that just turn to dirt roads for patches without any warning. Sometimes there are cows on major highways.
3. Mexican tolls are expensive, we probably so far have spent ~$70 in tolls so far.
4. They love speed bumps here and if you do not slow down to a stop, you will damage the underside of you car.
5. WIFI is available most places in Mexico, but is generally very slow.
6. We have finally made it to warm pacific water!
7. A is much better at Spanish than I thought, I am trying to learn now (using both duolingo.com and lessons downloaded off the internet in the car)
8. We are generally having a good time, but need to work on planning things out better.
9. Neither of us have gotten sick from drinking the water or eating sketcy salsas (well that is mostly me eating those)
A lot about our trip so far: I will post pictures when I get them off my camera. A and I left SF a day late (July 2nd) and headed South to Gilroy to store our stuff, there were some problems with the storage company honoring our online paid rental, so we got a late start down to LA to meet up with T and M. We made it as far as Bakersfield the first night and stayed in a truckstop style Econolodge there (we can just tell ourselves we were preparing for Mexico...). The next day we made it down to LA and went to the Griffith Observatory with T, it was mostly foggy (or shall I say smoggy) over LA so it was hard to see much, but pretty none-the-less. We decided to stay for the next day in LA since it was July 4th. T took us down to Palm Springs where they have a crazy spinning tram car that takes you up ~8k feet to the top of the mountain. We went on a nice hike there. In the evening we went to Malibu to see the fireworks, which happened from multiple sides.
July 5th we woke up early and headed for the border. We had not really made any plans about which way we were going, so after purchasing Mexican insurance we headed down through Tijuana. It was a strange experience, you go through what looks like a toll booth and get a green or red light. Red I assume means search your car, but we got green so we may never know. Then there is nothing, no passport check, nothing. We later found out that this is because they want you to pay to get your passport stamped (which we ended up doing down in the town of Esensada where we stayed the night). We drove down the Baja peninsula the first night, since we figured it'd be nice to stay on the beach. Everything is in English and you can pay tolls in dollars. In Mexico there are lots of toll roads (you can choose the toll road or the free road, but the free roads are much slower and in much worse condition). We ended up staying at an older hotel in Ensenada. Ensenada is both a harbor town and a surfers area. You can see boats come in and a little further down there is public beach. When we were there it was pretty overcast and the water was still fairly cold. We had our fill of fish tacos. It's a bit difficult eating tacos with the toppings (which we are afraid contain water and will make us sick), I have been probably taking too many liberties with things like this, but am okay so far!
The next day we headed over toward mainland Mexico (not sure if that's the right term?). It's hard to judge distances and how far you can go, roads vary a lot in quality so it makes judging distances very difficult. We have been told it's not safe to drive at night in Mexico (above things like robberies people walk on the roads here at night to church, there are animals, unknown potholes, etc). We decided to aim for Mexicali (a board town) the second night. We made it in plenty of time and found a hotel fairly close to the boarder/downtown (although there didn't really appear to be downtown Mexicali). We walked in the ridiculous heat to a place that was said to brew their own beer. It was loud and they were playing wonderful music videos from Earth Wind Fire (seriously, go watch some). They were out of most beers and the brown ale we had was only okay. Mexicali is a city where there was a huge influx of chinese immigrants, we decided to eat some Chinese food in celebration. It was awful. We did pick a place randomly, so I am sure there could be some good Chinese food, but this was definitely not it.
The next morning we headed to Caborca (which we picked based on distance alone). This was probably the worst day of driving we had, the road along the boarder was being worked on and every few kilometers we would have to drive on a dirt road. About 3 hours into the day, our air conditioning died. It was over 110 and we had to keep the windows closed since we were in the only part of mexico without gas stations. When we finally made it to Caborca there was not much there, so we stayed at a fairly sketchy hotel with stray dogs eating out of the trash. The highlight of the city was probably the steak dinner we had (Sanora is known for its steak). Since it was a Saturday and no mechanics work on Sunday, we decided to go onto the next largest city Hermosillo with the idea we'd have a better chance of finding a Honda dealership (we are driving in a 2000 Honda Civic).
The drive to Hermosillo was uneventful, just hot and sweaty. We got to Hermosillo at around 2 and decided to stay in a nicer hotel with a pool since it was so hot out. Hermosillo actually has some museums and an interesting history, but it was Sunday so everything closed ~4. The next day we went to get the car fixed. The honda dealership said the could do it, but it would cost ~1200 dollars US. When we said that was too much, he told us he had a friend that could do it cheaper and drove us over to another mechanic. After spending ALL day at the repair shop, we had a mostly working AC and decided to stay in Hermosillo another night. Went and had some awesome tacos.
To make up for lost time, the next day we drove around 700km (when I say we I really mean A, I haven't actually driven the car yet). Mexican toll roads while much better than their free counterparts (we mostly suspect) are very expensive, we probably paid ~30 dollars (US) in tolls. We made it to Culiacan, drove around the city and finally ended up staying at a strange place on the outskirts of town. The city looked pretty nice, large green areas, museums, river, etc. When later reading on wikipedia it turns out it is the most dangerous city in Mexico. Who would have thought? We decided to head down to the beach at Mazatlan the next day instead of exploring Culiacan.
We made it to Mazatlan ~2 and checked into the Bellamar. This clearly used to be a nice hotel, but now it is very run down. It does have the quality of being really cheap and right on the water. We headed into the ocean and it was actually warm, unlike in Ensenada. I was not aware that the Pacific actually got warm enough to enjoy. Although hot here, it's much nicer than the desert. There is green and areas to walk. We walked around the harbor to a seafood restaurant on the water. Mazatlan turns out to be a resort town for Mexicans. People are all over the boardwalk selling coconuts and trinkets. The sunset over the water was beautiful. We are heading to Guadalajara tomorrow.
That's it for today, will try to update more regularly and not inundate with so much boring driving info.