Thursday, March 10, 2005

Trip to Mexico--Day 2, Tucson to San Carlos, Sonora

It's about an hour from Tucson to Nogales, where we crossed the border. Not too much to say about the drive except that the spring was arriving. Flowering trees were blooming and a few trees even had some young leaves on them. This is at nearly the same time that this began in Seattle. There is something wrong with the climate.

I was very excited to cross the border. There's something thrilling about crossing the border into a new country for me. Even if it's pretty much the same on the other side, such as between Canada and the United States, it gets me going. That said, crossing into Mexico was the most anticlimactic border crossing I've ever done. You simply drive across. No one checks your ID. No one checks your car. You can go into the line to declare goods if you so choose, but no one will stop you and make you. One second we were in the US. The next we crossed a speedbump and there we were--Mexico. Despite the proximity and easy border crossing, at least from the US into Mexico, things are pretty different on the other side. The houses look different, the poverty is significantly higher, and there is a different smell, different sounds, and a different feel. Also the food becomes tastier.

About 2o miles into Mexico is the real immigration stop. It's hear that you get your tourist cards, get your car cleared if you are driving, etc. It was also here that I encountered my first Americans on the trip. The best rule of thumb I have discovered while traveling is that the farther away you can get from other Americans, the better off you are. What a pain in the ass we are. Loud, obnoxious, impatient, boisterous, pushy, and a lot of other negative adjectives. Unfortunately we are more prevalent in Mexico than VD in the hookers of Juarez. And we probably cause more discomfort too. In the line for the tourist cards are these 2 older guys. Almost certainly Republicans. Rich, tanned, and assholes. All they do is bitch about how every time they come to their second homes in Mexico the rules for getting in have changed, and the lines are so long, and the immigration workers don't speak English, blah blah blah. This in a line that was probably 30 minutes long at most. But I'm sure they are happy to force those damned greasy Mexers to wait for hours at the border, have their assholes searched for drugs, or be forced to hike for 50 miles across the desert to get into the US. After all, we have to keep those welfare mothers out.

Once we got away from the stupid Americans and through the immigration procedures, it really felt like we were in Mexico. This was the real thing. A feeling of freedom and excitement washed over me. And these feelings were exacerbated by the fact that it was lunch time. And you know what that means? TACO STAND!!! Man, I love food stands. The food is so tasty. Even as a vegetarian, the carne asada grilling had a mouthwatering smell. There we were sitting in the Mexican sun, munching on delicious tacos and enchiladas, smelling the wonderful grilling meat, drinking a Coke, and being damned glad that someone in the world, health and safety standards don't exist so that we can eat this tasty tasty food. Plus this place served these really big and thick grilled green onions with the meal. This was the only time I was served these in Mexico and I am damned glad to have had the opportunity. I am not usually given to eating straight onions, but I would munch into another of these in a heartbeat.

We continued driving south. The Sonoran Desert continued presenting its beauty to us. Saguaros were everywhere. Soon, other types of cactus appeared as well, including the lovely Organ Pipe Cactus where the stems come out of the bottom and shoot up like a pipe organ. A cactus heaven the Sonoran Desert is. We bypassed the Sonoran capital of Hermosillo and headed south to the Gulf of California, or Sea of Cortez as it is sometimes known. After several hours we reached the beachside town of San Carlos.

San Carlos is a complex place for me. Americans were everywhere. Lots of rich Anglos have built second homes down there on the cheap. A beautiful place for homes I don't doubt. But there is something wrong with being in Mexico and having the billboards be in English. I felt like I wasn't in Mexico at all. San Carlos itself is an old fishing town that has been transformed by tourism over the last decade or two. It is a growing beachside destination. We planned on camping that night on the beach. We found a spot near a bunch of other people. It was OK but it wasn't what we had hoped for. Then this windsurfer guy comes over to us. He tells us that this place kind of sucks because there are too many people and they are too noisy. He tells us about this nearly abandoned beach about 5 miles down the beach past a tiny fishing village and over some pretty rough dirt roads. We are very thankful. The man deserves a beer because it was a wonderful place. It was not exactly abandoned as a van of Mexicans came out to walk around at one point and some guys put a boat in there in the morning but it was good enough.

The beach was perfect. A nice sandy area. A little rocky toward the water. And tidepools right off the beach. An island about 100 feet out or so was covered in Saguaros. Saguaros were scattered around the mountains coming out of the sea. The sun was setting and it was a sight. The stars were millions in number without the light of the town blocking them. The full moon eventually came over the mountains and lit the night for us. I went out to the tidepools with a headlamp and I find an incredible variety of creatures for being about 2 feet from the shore. Baby octopus were in the rocks. 1 came out but you could see the tentacles of the rest. Rays, which I had never seen before, were attracted to the light and came up to the rocks. Small crabs ran around the tidepools. Sea stars with a dozen or more arms were scattered around as were sea urchins and a few anenmoes. Even some fish came around. One was yellow and brown striped and maybe 4 or 5 inches long and a little red fish came up too. I couldn't have imagined that I would see this much so close to the shore. The only tidepools I had been to before were in Oregon and those are great but there's not a tremendous variety on them. So this was an eyeopener. I should also mention that my wife proved to be an amazing beachcomber as we kept finding specimen-quality shells. I always thought that the fancy looking shells people buy in stores were polished to look that way but in fact they just come out of the ocean like that. Carrie found about 3 perfect shells that she could have sold and lots of other cool fragments.

After a few beers, some good talk, and more looking for sea creatures we hit the hay and ended an amazing first day in Mexico.