Mexico, Part 1: We made it and it's AWESOME.

Mexico Border to La Fonda

In a previous post I mentioned that state borders in the US felt like simultaneous start and finish lines. The Mexican border was an enormous departure from this motif - we were wide eyed and wired on the caffeine of a foreign land as we drove the last few miles down the I-5 towards the Mexican border. We were doing it! We were at last and at least making it to one foreign country. We were winning. We won! It was great!

The Mexican border was no problem, even though we got called into secondary for an x-ray search of Little Foot. He's too tall and too unusual not to search. Chels grabbed LouLou in her critter carrier and we piled out as Little Foot was scanned by a massive, moving arch. The scan was quick, and we were on our way. The Mexican border guards were professional but also super congenial. After we passed our x-ray inspection, they stopped lanes of traffic so we could scurry across the freeway to the mass transit immigration office. It saved us a lot of time having to track down another immigration office, and we had our passports and our prepaid tourist cards stamped for the duration of our trip.

PRO TIP: Prepay your tourist card at www.inm.gob.mx for three reasons: its cheaper online, its easier online, and its one less stop on your border crossing. If you purchase it in person after you cross the border, you'll have to obtain the form and fill it out at the immigration office, then go to a bank to pay the fee (small, but annoying to make another stop), and then return to the immigration office with a bank receipt, at which point your tourist card and your passport can be stamped for entry. The only reason not to do this would be if you are traveling by land, exclusively staying in the state of Baja California, and staying for less than 7 days. In that case, the form is free and the imigartion office is a one-stop-shop.

We left the border in the dust and rocketed towards a campsite we had lined up for our first evening. We had decided to keep our dreams simple and find a campsite outside Tijuana, in the hopes that even if the border crossing was long and arduous, or if we got lost or held up somewhere with paperwork, we could still make it to a safe destination. We made it to the K58 campground in the sleepy town of La Fonda with daylight to spare. We parked Little Foot, and headed out to explore the town.

 Streets lined with beautiful vegetation.

Streets lined with beautiful vegetation.

 We found Poco Cielo, a small restraurant and hotel, right next to our campground. Very cool.

We found Poco Cielo, a small restraurant and hotel, right next to our campground. Very cool.

 The view from our site at K58. It s a cool surf spot, apparently. The other two parties camped there for the night were a converted school bus and homegrown diesel Sprinter conversion. Our kind of people!

The view from our site at K58. It s a cool surf spot, apparently. The other two parties camped there for the night were a converted school bus and homegrown diesel Sprinter conversion. Our kind of people!

 Loulou and Chels enjoying our first Mexican sunset! The pacific just won't quit when it comes to sunsets.

Loulou and Chels enjoying our first Mexican sunset! The pacific just won't quit when it comes to sunsets.

 Our first morning! Just as beautiful.

Our first morning! Just as beautiful.

 Our first breakfast at a little place in La Mision, Baja California. We had no language skills, but we managed to order  very  well.

Our first breakfast at a little place in La Mision, Baja California. We had no language skills, but we managed to order very well.

Rancho San Carlos

After our first night on the beach, we headed inland through Ensenada to find somewhere to camp. Chels did some great offline research and pointed us towards a little hot springs. We had no idea what to expect, but some nice Jehovah's Witnesses chatted with us about our travels at a gas station and told us that if we didn't expect much, we would love it. OK! We can do that!

The road in was 10 kilometers of mild dirt road with some shallow water crossings, one or two deeper water crossings, and a lot of harsh granite. Little Foot was up to his axles at some points, but it was no big deal as I had just repaired and replaced three axle boots. Hopefully he's water tight!

The hot springs were fantastic, and nearly entirely deserted. Right when we thought we would be the only folks there for the night, two parties rolled in. One was a gentleman in a two wheel drive Astro van who needed my assistance the next morning due to a tire puncture/leak. The other party was two vehicles, a 1961 Land Rover 2A truck piloted by our new friends Mauricio and Abby, and a Mitsubishi Delica van, all kitted out for travel, driven by our new friends (and unwilling mentors?) Pablo and Anna. Mauricio and Abby are locals of Ensenada, the nearest city to Rancho San Carlos, and Pablo and Anna are their long time friends, and even longer time travelers, having been on the road for over 16 years!

You can find and follow Mauricio and Abby here:
@Ensedada - Instagram

You can find and follow Pablo and Anna here:
Viajeros4x4x4.com
@Viajeros4x4x4 - Instagram

 The other water crossings were deeper! I swear!

The other water crossings were deeper! I swear!

 The nearly deserted Rancho San Carlos. Come at the wrong time, though, and all the pools will be packed, we were told. 

The nearly deserted Rancho San Carlos. Come at the wrong time, though, and all the pools will be packed, we were told. 

 Mauricio's FANTASTIC Land Rover. What a beauty. Birds of feather flock together.

Mauricio's FANTASTIC Land Rover. What a beauty. Birds of feather flock together.

 Little Foot had friends. The property was inhabited with geese, cats, dogs, pigs, swans, etc.

Little Foot had friends. The property was inhabited with geese, cats, dogs, pigs, swans, etc.

 Testing the new tire inflator as LouLou supervizes.

Testing the new tire inflator as LouLou supervizes.

 Enjoying the hot springs pools.

Enjoying the hot springs pools.

 Enjoying (maybe?) a mud bath followed by a rinse folowed by more hot springs pools.

Enjoying (maybe?) a mud bath followed by a rinse folowed by more hot springs pools.

A Few Nights in Ensenada

Mauricio and Abby extended an invitation for us to park at their property by the ocean for a few days. A few days turned into a week or so as we waited for Christmas, which we planned to spend in the Valle de Guadalupe. While staying at Mauricio's property we had the chance to learn many, MANY things from Pablo and Anna, the full time adventurers. At their suggestion we added another set of locks to Little Foot, ditched some gear we didn't need, and generally improved our rig.

With Mauricio's assistance we visited Hugo the helpful mechanic and borrowed some tools to readjust Little Foot's breaks. I needed to pull every wheel off our rig to access the break adjustment caps, and to retighten them I needed a bigger torque wrench than the one I packed. In addition to providing tools, Hugo also double checked my adjustments, so as to insure that the job was done right the first time.

All in all, it was a huge blessing to meet these wonderful people. 

 Enjoying the beach house's fantastic patio.

Enjoying the beach house's fantastic patio.

 A Pacific ocean sunset.

A Pacific ocean sunset.

 Wrenching on little Foot with the help of Hugo's tools and expertise.

Wrenching on little Foot with the help of Hugo's tools and expertise.

 Hugo didn't charge us, but we did take an oppertunity to buy him ice cream.

Hugo didn't charge us, but we did take an oppertunity to buy him ice cream.

 Lou made fast friends with Vini.

Lou made fast friends with Vini.

 Pablo helping me rivet our license plate onto its mount.

Pablo helping me rivet our license plate onto its mount.

 Tacos at El Flamazo!

Tacos at El Flamazo!

 Tacos at Asadero La Chispa!

Tacos at Asadero La Chispa!