Tuesday, 8 October 2013

239 The nightmare entering Mexico

Monday 7th October 2013
Miles Today 237  Total  24,210

From today, the world is metric so all distances are now in Kilometers.

We awoke early today with the alarm at 6:30. We do not often see this time of day but we wanted to get through customs and away from the the Mexican border as the area around the border is not safe. Oddly enough, Allan was parked outside. He had got up even earlier than us as Vikki had an early shift. He had come to see if we needed any help in moving out. He is a treasure but we were fine and we said our final goodbyes.

We fitted in breakfast and finally got on our way a bit late. We got to US customs at around 8:30 and tried to get some proof of Wallace leaving US soil. We failed miserably and were told to do so we we would have to employ a broker to do the paperwork for us. 
Needless to say we put 2 fingers up to that and just rode across the border. Oddly enough there is no customs or passport control for people exiting the US. How they know we did not overstay our visa I will never know.
The bridge between the USA and Mexico

Anyway, we got to the Mexican side and after paying £14 each for a visa and £280 import duty (which we will get back on exit) we were then left with the problem of insurance. We got a quote from a guy for $280 Which I thought was steep for 30 days having had a quote in the US for only $49. I got my debit card out only to be told that they wanted cash. We did not have that much and the nearest ATM was at the airport so we thought we would get cash in the town of Reynosa which surrounds the border post. There is 13 Mexican Pesos in a Dollar so we needed about 4000 Pesos. We drove to a nearby mall and once there I took our file with all our documents into the mall to look for an insurance agent and to get the needed cash. I could not find a broker but I found the ATM's, 4 in all and the most I could withdraw was 500 pesos (About $38). Using the machines was such a pain in the butt that I placed my documents on top of one of the ATM machines. When I came back to Karen and Wallace, I was so fed up that we decided to get the insurance in Monterrey, some 230km further into Mexico. We set off, finally glad to be getting away from the dangerous border zone.
The very straight and boring road to Monerrey

After about 30km we came upon a 'Fiscal Inspection' customs post. We were pulled to one side in order to produce our documents and once off the bike we opened the pannier to find that I had left all our important documents on top of the ATM machine at the border.

The customs officer was not overly impressed but let us turn around to go back for them. So back to the border and I went back into the mall and the documents were gone. I tried the adjacent supermarket security and the mall security to no avail. I was despondent and did not know what to do and as I walked away I say a guy showing our police (get out of jail !) photo on page 1 of the file to a woman. He was the florist, also adjacent to the ATM. I walked over pointed at the picture then at my ugly mug, said "Gracias" and gratefully took the file from him. I was giddy with relief.

I walked outside and Karen was equally relieved. Now we had to obtain insurance before setting off again and going back through the customs post 30km along the road. We tried the money change shop at the mall (for some reason they sell insurance but sadly not for bikes). We then rode around for a while looking for a broker and came upon a Federal Police station. I went in and asked if they could help and they eventually with the assistance of a shapely female solicitor, gave me the address of a broker. 

We programmed the sat nav and 10 minutes later we found the place only to discover that it was siesta and we had to wait until 3pm. It was 2:30 so we got some cold drinks and sat in the searing sun for half an hour. When the lady broker arrived back she sadly informed us that she does not do bike insurance. She did however show us where the AXA insurance company worked, a few blocks away. 

We drove to AXA to find it's siesta finished at 4pm. Fortunately there was another brokers office next door that had just opened. A very nice gentleman in there made several phone calls to get us insurance. Again, it was sadly in vain. No one wants to insure bikes.

Se were in a serious pickle. The only place that would sell insurance would not take cards. We did not have enough cash to buy any and if we left the border town we would have our documents checked 30km down the road.

We decided the only thing we could do was to try some more ATM's to see if we could get some more cash. We then drove past a petrol station that had a HSBC sign outside. Karen saw it and excitedly shouted at me to stop as my bank is HSBC. I stopped, put my card in and thought, "What the hell" and pressed the button for 2000pesos. It worked. I tried again and got another 100 out. Karen then had a go and got a further 200 out. Yippeeeeeee

We drove back the 20 kms to the border and after about 30 minutes we had a piece of paper to prove we had insurance. The time was now 5pm and the traffic was building up seriously and we still had to 'get out of Dodge'. We finally left Reynosa city limit at 5:15 with a sigh of relief. The town we had hoped to dash through early in the morning had kept us prisoner all day.
At 5pm the traffic was very scary and the trucks seem to do whatever they want.

We got back to the customs post and the same officer inspected our import documents and did not ask for the insurance.. Doh !
As the sun set if gave the grass an eerie red glow.

The foliage was some that we had never seen.

By the time we arrived at Monterrey, it was dark and we went in search of respite in a hotel. We found a Holiday Inn on the sat nav and despite being a bit expensive we were glad to get in and get off the bike.
Monterrey is bounded by mountains so tomorrows ride should be more interesting.

Once in we went for a buffet dinner at a nearby steakhouse and after paying the grand sum of £6 each we sat down to an all you can eat buffet that was unbelievable in terms of quality and taste.  We had paid on entry and after sitting down we asked about getting some beer. They asked if we wanted 4 bottles or 8. We were a bit confused but eventually consumed 8 (they were small ones). When we got up to leave, I asked for the bill for the beer. The reply was the Spanish equivalent of, 'No need sir, it is part of the buffet fee'.

Bloody hell, a full meal and belly full of beer for £6 ($9). I could get to like this place.  It was a pleasant end to what was a very fraught day which included an extra 140km just for my senile stupidity.
Behind every great man is a woman raising her eyebrows!

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