Three days of driving and two nights in hotels. I think I ate a bag of cheetos, a little thing of cookies and drank three Dr. Peppers for the whole trip! Well that and about two gallons of water a day between me and Kova...
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Firstly I drove to Central Coastal Mexico this last week in a Mini Cooper S packed to the gills with a 9 cubic foot cargo bag strapped to the roof. Every hotel I stopped at, in insane heat, I unloaded and reloaded that damn roof bag.
In Arizona at the border, I woke before dawn, loaded up the cargo bag and the dog, and headed to the crossing. I was stopped and asked where I was headed, and then flagged right through! No search, nothing! My first taste of driving in Mexico involved a short run down the 15 before I realized, in my haste, that I had forgotten to fill the tank...
My first fill up happened ten minutes into a country where ALL the gas stations are run by the government. Doh! I was nervous which the attendant -this lovely doughy woman with more gold teeth than real teeth- must have sensed, because she decided to chat with me for fifteen minutes asking me about my trip and my dog. All of this was done in Spanish and mime. Hilarity!
After escaping her kindly grasp, I B-lined it South. Not sure if I had even crossed the border, yet. No security, no one looking at all of my papers.
After about a half hour, I hit the 21k secondary border check. I pulled into an empty parking lot that serviced several ramshackle buildings. There was the visa check-in building, the car permit building, a couple of money changers, a copier company and that's about it.
I didn't notice these at first, because I was watching a car getting emptied and backpacks literally getting upended by some extremely committed Federales. They had a truck with a machine gun mounted in the bed. I was already sweating bullets from the heat... I left Kova in the car with the windows down and ran in to begin the gauntlet of paperwork. They had me running back and forth between all of the buildings for a fair hour, making copies, buying this and that, and getting everything signed and stamped.
By the time I was done and ready to go through the scary checkpoint. The officers were gone! I drove right through, unmolested!
After this, there are several hours of Mexican landscape, which was so much more beautiful than I imagined. The desert was lush with faded cerulean greens and pastel sea foam colors. Trees and scrub brush were everywhere! It was way more verdant than I expected. Hawks circled on the updrafts over the highway. Lizards darted across the tarmac, and I full on murdered millions of lovely butterflies.
There were beautiful yellow ones, and these incredible chartreuse neon numbers flitting about. Pretty little orange winged ones coupling over the highway in twos and threes...
None were safe from my windshield. It was butterfly holocaust.
Every time I stopped... at lights in towns, or for another fill up on fuel, or to pay at a toll booth (There are DOZENS down here) I was attacked by enterprising young men with water bottles and squeegees. Each time, they were cleaning a window that looked like multicolored peanut butter brittle.
They say the last thing to go through the bugs mind when it hits the windshield is it's butt... I think it might actually be my face burned into the genetic memory of an entire genus that I smeared all over my British Racing Green paint job.
After a couple of hours, I hit my first real check point. I was told to pull over and the men searching my car ignored all of my stuff. They didn't even ask me to open anything. They just commenced to open up my A/C vents and look for kilos of cocaine or a sandwich baggy filled with pistols or whatever it is they are looking for.
The patrol immediately fell in love with Kova! They asked to walk her around and took her from car to car harassing drivers with her special brand of violent love. They acted like she was a working dog, and it was a good bit of fun. I pulled out my phone and asked to take a photo and suddenly all joy was gone. Super seriously they demanded I not take photos. Kova got them back by squatting in their shade tent and peeing on the ground. They sent us on our merry way when they discovered I wasn't secreting any midget assassins in the tailpipe.
After that, it was just quiet driving through the desert, trying to transfer miles to kilometers and back, in my head. Math is definitely not my strong suit, to put it mildly.
After a number of hours, and a few tollbooths... Some, literally no more than 10 miles apart, we arrived in Hermosillo. Here, I planned to spend the night, to hide from the night time attention of a majestically corrupt police force. Unfortunately, I got there at like 3PM. So Kova and I walked around our chunk of the city until it got too hot to bear. I found a TelCel and bought a Mexican sim card for my phone. So now I have a local phone number... and no one to call. HA! I have no idea how to add minutes, or set it up with a data plan. I figure after I finally learn Spanish, I'll know what the hell is being chittered at me when I make a call, and sort all that out.
Before dawn on my second day in Mexico, I loaded up the bloody cargo bag, and Kova and we were off. Feeling more confident, I drove harder, and even with one quick checkpoint stop and interview, we rocked through Culiacan and on down to Mazatlan. I killed a million more butterflies before my arrival, but I'd grown so dead to their haunting massacre that I began to name the corpses that studded my windshield.
War... War never changes.
Well, actually it did. I was being paced by a beautiful little bird with a yellow breast and dark wings about one hundred miles out of Mazatlan. I named him Morley. He must not have liked his new name because he immediately banked in front of the Mini. There was a small thud and his carcass tumbled behind us. Clarice (my car) has tasted blood. I don't think she can go back, now.
On the upside, Morley took the buggy left overs of Charlie, Tuber, Humding, and Gus with him. They will be missed.
I arrived in Mazatlan around 5PM. Hot was an understatement.
My entourage hadn't arrived, so I was at the Marina, alone, caked in sweat, and unable to get down to my boat. After some fast talking and some help from another cruiser, I got a keycard, and even a golf cart to help unload my car which is a solid half mile from the boat. This doesn't sound bad, until you remember that it's 100 degrees Fahrenheit but feels like 165. It took two trips with the golf cart, and maybe a dozen trips from the dock entrance to the boat.
This is where shit gets serious. My boat had not been aired out. It was locked up tight. So it was another 25 degrees of heat inside. By the time it got dark I had everything on the boat, but no electricity, no fans, and definitely no A/C. I slept on the floor of the Saloon with Kova beside me. We both wheezed all night, and maybe split an hour of sleep between us! I kept soaking a shirt and putting it over her. I tried to put us outside in the aft cockpit, but the no-see-ums and mosquitos were out in force. I've lost a couple of pints of blood to the blighters already. SO itchy.
The second day proved to be equally hot, but I had a discussion with the guy that had been taking care of my boat while I was gone. He told me to just slow down. You can only do a little a day down here. Take your time, try to relax, etc. After an afternoon in this heat, I completely understand siestas.
I ran some errands, got wi-fi passwords, tried to find an A/C unit, and got to know some of the local staff, and live-aboard folks out here. It was an informative day. I will have to write a whole update on some of the amazing characters I've already encountered.
Due to some scheduling mishaps, I didn't get the A/C or electricity sorted out, so Kova and I spent another night in boiling hell.
I now have some pretty serious heat rashes going on, but she's in good condition, so I've been a good puppy mummy so far.
Yesterday, all my hustling paid off with an electrical chord for shore power, and a couple donated fans and another that I picked up at the local... get this... Walmart. Hahaha
So after a day of good food, and learning and chatting, and planning for the coming week, I went back to a boat bristling with fans! I laid in bed with coolish air fluttering over my poor abused skin and laughed with joy at finally getting to the good live aboard life. I had finally gotten a shower, real food, and a breeze.
That's when the thunder clapped.
Lightning scorched across the sky, flashing between full daylight and night making me imagine some manner of demonic paparazzi. And the thunder grumbled like Nick Nolte crossing a floor littered with Lego.
The rain started to pelt. I think we maybe got six inches in five hours. I ran all over the boat inside and out, in my boxers, getting smashed by awesomely cool rain. Hatches battened down, and back in my cool bed, I smiled the smug smile of the man that got a shower that day.
That's when I heard the dripping!
After an hour of hunting around the boat with a flashlight and a bunch of buckets, I found six fairly serious leaks. Not to worry, leaks and boats go together like beans and rice. The bilge was only getting a trickle, not even enough to activate the bilge pump. Still, nothing more annoying than finding a bunch of leaks on your boat. Gonna be several days of work to close all that up.
Anyway... I got a good six hours of sleep last night, and woke up feeling like a king. I have a fridge, an ice maker, and fans! Kova and I went for a walk, and I'm here at a bistro writing this. It's hotter than satan's anus, and the bug bites are bleeding from my scratching. My dog is chewing on ice, and the wind chimes are tinkling.
I have dozens of hours to put in on the boat before I feel like I might risk a shake down sail... but I'm here.
Blue sky, yellow sun, strange new people, new stories being gathered.