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--------My Trip to Mexico

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I went to Mexico in 1981 with a guy that I had met in Vancouver from Brittany, France named Michel Rouiller. We had no intention of going that far. Actually, we only wanted to go to Victoria in Canada. Once there, our favorite slogan was: "Hey! we are so close to such and such place let’s go there". As a result we got further and further away from our original destination point which was British Columbia. Michel and I hitchhiked almost the whole Pacific Northwest Coast, which includes the states of Washington, Oregon and California.

We had a few ways of getting around, sometimes we would take the bus, hitchhiking in a huge city like Los Angeles would have been a logistic nightmare and dangerous.

We went to San Isidro near San Diego and we walked across the border into Mexico. Later on, we took the train to Puerto Vallarta for our long journey. It was cheap.

If I recall we took the train in Mexicali by the border of the United States. We made our way all the way to Tepic the closest town to Puerto Vallarta where the train stops. On our way we went through Hermosillo, Guaymas, Culiacan, Mazatlan, Tuxpan, Tepic.

Oriente de TepicIn the train anything goes; woman nursed their children and people carried all sorts of good (including chickens). Everytime we stopped ,people came by the windows to sell food, especially Tamales (a sort of taco) rapped in corn leaves. In Tepic, I tasted mangos for the first time . Back then it wasn’t a fruit that was readily available in Canada.

We finally arrived in Tepic after along trip, around 1500 kms or more. In Puerto Vallarta (in the state of Jalisco) we found a place called Hotel Central near the spectacular church, Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, on the Plaza Mayor, spanish for Main Square. The owner did not seem to want to rent us a room because we looked unkept. We spent all those days in the train without a shower. (The train did not smell like a rose garden either). He thought we would leave without paying..., which we did. (When I came to pay nobody was around, it was probably siesta time and I called and nobody answered. I still need to pay him , something I still regret .)

Puerto Vallarta -  Through My  Camera LensesWe enjoyed spending time by the beach and walking on the main promenade. Nearby on the beach we could see the Caballito de Mar a statue of the Sea Horse, the emblem of the town. There were often spectacular sunsets. One of the beaches there was called “El Sol” which means the sun. There were also some luxurious resorts by the beach such as Hotel Defin, Tropicana and the stunning Fiesta Americana Hotel. I was a bit envious when I was watching people in those enormous swimming pools. I could not believe that people could afford to stay in those places. One of my indulgences was eating the roasted fish which was common on the beach and it was barbecued on wood.

Puerto Vallarta, MexicoWe then traveled around Puerto Vallarta and visited the “Gringo Gulch”, the Cuale River residential section. We also enjoyed visiting the houses of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on opposite sides of the street joined together by a bridge.

I also remember going to a restaurant and seeing a monkey jump from tree to tree. He was tied down. It was my first monkey sighting ever in a semi-wild environment. It was fun to watch.

At night we really enjoyed going to restaurants under palm-shacks, and listening to Mexican music. It seems everybody can sing in that country.

One day my friend Michel disappeared. The police had come to arrest him since he had been cashing his travel checks and had declared them stolen at the same time. In fact he was illegally double dipping. I was also left to pay the hotel bill by myself. This was the last time I had heard from Michel.

Puerto Vallarta -  Through My  Camera LensesI could not take out any money from the bank with my credit cards. Consequently, I missed the boat to Cabos on the Baja Peninsula. I had nowhere to sleep so I found an empty field and slept there covered in a blanket that I had bought. Today it gives me chills thinking about snakes and scorpions that could have crawled over me in the middle of the night. Back then it did not cross my mind.

In order to survive, I had to find a job. I met two guys under a tree and I asked them what they were doing and they told me in Spanish that they were waiting to work.

Not long after, a truck stopped and they hired us on the spot to unload steel cables. It was boiling hot outside, temperature was at least 100 Fahrenheit. I started to unload those cables and it did not take very long before my hands were covered in blood. They did not give me any working gloves. I did not dare to stop or they would have thought I was a wimp. I endured the torture for an hour and half and was able to buy myself a pork stew with some change left.

The next day we got another job helping unload merchandise from a van. The driver spent his time drinking Tequila. We were riding in the back of the cab where all the merchandise was. We were pushed from right to left constantly through the narrow roads. At the time we found it funny and didn’t care if the driver was drunk or not. It seemed we were on a ride at Disney world, unbelievable.

Ferry to Lapaz Cabo San LucasNext day, I moved in with the three guys I had met. They lived in a shack above Puerto Vallarta in the slums. Those guys were quite poor and they were constantly sniffing glue. I slept on the hard dirt floor.For supper we usually went to the port and asked tourists for their unwanted daily fishing catches. On one occasion, we got a fish and we cooked it in a paint can that was salvaged from a junk pile by the road. Of course we used lime juice... the meal was very tasty, believe it or not.

In order to get water we used the hose coming from the hills. Each house had a connector and when we wanted water we just split the hose and got the water that was needed. When we were done we put the hose back together so people below us could get also their share.

Many times I went to the bank to try to take money on my visa card and it did not work but I decided to try again and that time it worked. I saw that as a small miracle. I was getting desperate and I prayed that God would help me. I felt relieved because I would finally be able to leave. It would have been extremely hard to make enough money to fly to Canada on a Mexican salary. This was the end of my career as an illegal migrant worker in Mexico.

El Arco, Cabo San Lucas, MexicoI bought a boat ticket to Cabo San Lucas. My hope was to take the bus all the way up the Baja Peninsula to Tijuana , San Diego and after to Los Angeles. Once there, I would book a flight to Seattle which is near Canada. Our ferry trip to Cabo was great, tourists were playing guitar and singing all the time. There were dolphins swimming and following the boat, in the background, the sun had painted a myriad of colors in the sea of Cortez. Perfect.

Cabo San Lucas in 1982 was fairly quiet. There was not a bunch of golf courses and condos everywhere like there is now. I cannot even remember seeing any RV’s. There was talk that some big stars flying and staying at some of the chic hotels.

In Cabo the main thing I did was to take a boat ride to the Arco the Cabo San Lucas. I bought a post card and it explained about this natural wonder. It said “ impressive natural arch at the southernmost point of Baja California, where two seas collide, the land vanishes in foam, the wind runs freely, and where, finally, land ends... and heaven begins.” Another of my favorite things to see in that place was all the impressive granite rock formations that were near the coast.

Fregates sur cactus!We stopped at many truck stops. The bus was almost empty all the way except for a transvestite and me. He sat in the front and I sat in the back or vise versa. In fact, I was quite happy with this long distance-arrangement. I did not want to become too friendly. The peninsula is divided in the Baja California Sur (south) and Baja California North.

I know that Baja has numerous coves, excellent beaches, there is even a mountain over 10, 000 feet high . What I remember the most though is the desertlike landscape peppered with boulders and giant cacti. Once we arrived in the region of Ensanada we were rewarded with beautiful views of the ocean. (until then we followed the interior) The length of the highway from Cabo to Tijuana is 1708 km or 1059 miles. The highway is called the Carretera Transpeninsular ( Mexico Carretera 1).

In Tijuana, I was nervous. I can’t remember much but I wanted to get out of this drug-ridden city by the US border. I felt uncomfortable to say the least.

Ensenada Blanca Loreto BCS 5One of the things I appreciated the most in Mexico was the food. I just adored it. I loved the spicy and hot food so I felt like a king being served a buffet. One time I tried one food that took some courage to swallow. They take live clams pull the meat out and put them in a glass and serve them uncooked with some limejuice. Mexicans seemed to enjoy it. It did not appeal to me but I was able to finish the whole thing. It takes some time to get use to it, I suppose.

I finally crossed the border again into the US. From there, I went to Los Angeles and stayed in Holywood at the YMCA or Youth Hostel??. I found a cheap airplane ticket and flew to Seattle.
I did not have a camera when I was there. Picture source: Webshots

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