The other weekend, on a surf trip with some friends, I drove into Mexico. While I have been out of the country, I had never crossed the border by car before and I knew this would be an experience to remember.
My friend and I packed up our surfboards, food, and bags for two nights at a house in Primo Tapia, about 58K from the border. We met up in Los Angeles with the others in our group and traveled down to San Diego where we regrouped to cross the border together.
I was surprised by how close the border was to San Diego. Within a few short minutes we read a sign that stated “Last exit for USA.” This was it. We were crossing. We quickly turned our phones’ roaming data and voice off and put them on airplane mode. No out of the US charges for us!
We crossed under the Mexico sign and through some lanes and were immediately ushered into a little pull off to have our car checked. They asked if we had anything we wanted to tell them about and we said no, a little unsure of what would happen next. We were then asked to pop the trunk, which thinking about it now was quite comical considering we had 2 surfboards on our roof which prevented the trunk from opening more than 3 inches. Not much they could see looking in there. The lady gave it a brief try, said we were clear, and sent us on our way.
Our leader truck friends had gotten stopped to be checked as well and while we waited our other friends that had been waved through pulled over to join us. There was a little confusion in Spanish between the border attendants and their car, but eventually everyone was checked and cleared. Once everyone was good to go we all pulled out behind the truck and we were on our way.
A sharp turn to the right over a bridge and everything was completely different than where we had come from. We had made it, but it looked like we had driven straight into a very rundown city. With the border wall to our right we continued driving, taking a few more turns and watching the city change to small towns that seemed less rundown. You could still see shacks along the country mountainside but they were much more spread out and just looking to the other side of the toll road there were upscale buildings completely finished that made it feel more safe. However, often, right next to those beautifully magnificent expensive buildings were partially finished abandoned ones. It just looked like Mexico ran out of money trying to build them and didn’t care to find more.
The view of the ocean was amazing and we followed it all the way south to our exit. We joked about how keeping it on the right was the only way we would know we were going the correct way since we only had a little map which was not very descriptive. We pulled off an exit and it put us into a little town. Things got a little crazy driving thru town as it seems like Mexicans don’t really follow the same rules of the road as we do. They would back out into the street without looking and stop in the middle of the road for no reason, but we eventually made it to our little gated community safely.
We showed our ID, drove in and found our house. Within minutes we were unpacked, suited up, and down at the water’s edge for our first touch of the Mexican ocean and our first Mexican surf session!