- 13 November 2001
- Four Points Hotel
- 424 KM
- 226626 KM
Just like last night, I slept sporadically, as I am worried over border crossing. We’ve read and been warned that the Mexico/US border is on highest alert since 9-11, and we should expect a minimum five-hour wait. We have certainly faced longer crossings, so, perhaps, the recent anxiety is due to my imminent normal life in the US!
On our drive to the Mexican border, known as Nogales, the name of the nearest city, we were stopped a couple of times on the toll road at military and police checkpoints, where young male, uniformed officers routinely asked us our destination and the contents of our trailer. Once we reached Mexico’s first border area, I asked about immigration and customs. Two officials advised us to proceed to the next border post. Once there, we found no office to have our exit marks stamped on our passports, nor did we see anywhere to turn in our temporary car permits. Finally, two poorly kept Mexican officials told us to return to the small office 21 kilometers back, and there we could do the proceedings to leave the country! Both men, one in his 50s and missing several teeth, and the other, younger and wearing dirty civilian clothes, showed outright glee in our having missed the proper office for the required, but mindless paperwork.
Wanting to confirm the guidance of the Mexican officials, I headed to the US side of the border, where an officer explained we could enter the US without an exit stamp from Mexico, but we should turn in the car permit, as not abiding to our 30-day agreement might influence our future visits to that country. So, we returned 21 kilometers and found a small office, with no sign marking its function, and did the necessary paperwork for our cars’ departure to the US.
To be stamped out of Mexico, we had to drive into Nogales and find “any Mexican bank” to pay for our tourist cards, which immigration presented when we entered the country. Immigration officials are no longer entrusted to accept cash, so tourists are burdened to seek out a bank to pay the Mexican Immigration Department before leaving the country. Immigration, why not collect the money upon arrival! Then, upon return to the final Mexican border point, the immigration office was locked and unmanned at 4:20 p.m., even though this is a 24-hour border. We could not turn in the ridiculous tourist cards! We’ll send in the cards from the US and hope they reach Mexican immigration! Pure madness. Several times in Mexico, both Jim and I questioned how the country could be as prosperous as it is, given the inefficiency we experienced.
Remarkably, the US crossing was a breeze. We waited about five minutes, inching forward as cars, and people in them, passed through initial examination, before showing our passports to a young officer, who directed us to “secondary”, since the Army officers at the secondary inspection were excited and intrigued by our car! We explained our last 35 months and they didn’t search a thing. The male and female officers even allowed us to take photographs, which, I feel certain is not allowed.
Jubilant, I finally stood on US soil for the first time since 28 December 1998, the date we headed to Iceland. The most exciting, challenging and educational part of my life has just taken place, and I am not keen for my growth and exploration to cease, but, nevertheless, I am pleased as punch to be home again. Jim, who is a genuine nomad, does not share in my excitement. Maybe he will just keep traveling around and around the world….