Day 60 – Delayed in Ensenada – 55.54 km
Although the campground I was staying at had a shower and bathrooms, I unfortunately did not use them. Neither of the toilets worked, and the shower, although functional, did not look fit for use. The door was detached, and to cover the shower you had to pick it up and place it over the opening. I decided it was better to stay dirty for another day. I did manage to get some clean water here. Although it tasted funny, it was supposedly purified.
The road to Ensenada did not prove to be easy. The toll road runs along the flat terrain of the coast, where as the free highway heads slightly inland through hills. Today’s climbs proved to be much worse than any I had encountered in the United States, similar to Canada. It seems that we in the United States prefer to go straight through hills by blasting them whereas over here they go right above them. This, combined with the fact that I was riding through a scorching hot desert, made my ride quite challenging.
I made it to Ensenada, which is one of the larger cities in the Baja, at about 1 PM. Here I knew that I had to visit the tourist office in order to obtain a tourist card. It is only necessary to obtain a tourist card if you are staying in Mexico for longer than three days or if your are going below Ensenada. I managed to find the office with relative ease, however here I ran into some trouble.
It turns out that if you do not obtain your tourist card in one of the border cities you must pay a fine of 50 pesos, which is about 5 USD, at the bank before being able to obtain a tourist card. No problem, I’ll gladly pay that. But there is a problem, since today is Sunday all the banks are closed! This pretty much forced me to spend the rest of the day here in Ensenada, since there was no way I was going back to Tijuana. I couldn’t even find the “Welcome to Mexico” sign, let alone the tourist office! You have to love it how guidebooks don’t mention these things.
Ensenada is a very tourist oriented city with a very busy main road. I managed to find a nice motel roughly a two minute walk from this road for $19. This is quite the bargain considering camping yesterday cost me $15! It turns out that camping really isn’t worth it since these campground are RV oriented and charge almost the same rates for an RV as for a tent. My room is surprisingly very good. Sure, it may not be anything luxurious, but at least I have a warm shower with included soap and shampoo and a working toilet. As an added bonus I also have a color TV and a kitchen, which I really have no use for.
I walked around the main roads of Ensenada for awhile and then visited the port. Ensenada is supposedly famous for its huge Mexican flag, which really was as big as they made it out to be. Walking around the shops and being harassed to buy things was actually quite relaxing. Should you like, you can buy anything from prescription drugs without a prescription to the goofiest souvenirs. There is just something about the atmosphere of these countries that I love. I did not however manage to find the only thing that I was looking for today, hex keys. I unfortunately left my hex keys and screwdrivers at Merle’s house in San Diego, so I will have to pick up some of those. I just hope that nothing breaks down on me before I am able to find some, otherwise I will have to improvise for tools somehow!
To make matters even worse my phone does not work down here. I called my cell phone company a week ago and told them to enable international roaming on my phone, which they said they did. Telus really isn’t the greatest company in the world, in fact they are far from it. My phone did not work in Alaska and even in Seattle! Frankly, their roaming is quite terrible.
I guess I must really look I am from here as on the street and in restaurants people always start talking to me in Spanish as opposed to English. Additionally, I guess the little Spanish I know, I know well, since when I say something I get crazy complicated responses. When I told a guy on the street in broken Spanish that I did not speak it well he look quite surprised. I guess it’s better to fit in that stick out like a sore thumb! Overall I don’t think it should be too bad, as of right now I know more than enough to survive on.
Day 61 – Life in a Convection Oven - 148.70 km
I went to the tourist card office right when it opened today at eight in the morning. It turns out that obtaining this tourist card isn’t such a piece of cake. First I had to go next door to pick up the form for my fine, just printing the form cost me $5. Next I had to get the form for the tourist card itself and fill it out. Then I had to take these two forms to the bank and pay for the fine and the tourist card, which cost me $28. Finally with all this done I could go back to the tourist card office and they would give me all the right stamps, yikes!
Finally ready to head out of Ensenada I set off, but not before stopping at a gas station to fill up on water. The water in my hotel was non-potable, it actually tasted like sulfur. It seems that I don’t have to worry much about finding anything in these large cities. I managed to find the hex keys I lost with ease, and not too much communication headaches. On the way out of the city I saw a Home Depot, Costco, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, several very large grocery stores which are popular in Europe and even an Applebees.
The road past Ensenada was not easy. The highway cuts inland through very hilly and hellishly hot territory. The Pacific coast of the United States was a piece of cake in comparison with this. It gets terribly hot here around midday. Usually on down hills you get a nice breeze from the speed you are getting, today it was not so. The breeze that I was getting today felt like it was coming out of a furnace. I felt as if I were cycling in a convection oven. My eyes were dry from the heat and I was literally melting. Not myself fortunately, but the sunscreen was melting off of me.
For a portion of the road today I actually had a two foot or so shoulder that I could ride on. Sure, there were holes in it I had to swerve around at times, but it was still a great relief. I didn’t have to look in my rear view mirror every fifteen seconds to make sure there wasn’t a car that was going to run me off the road. Fortunately the drivers here are fairly nice and give me a fair bit of room, however when there’s a car on the other side, it’s not like they plan on slowing down, so you better move over! My only explanation for the shoulder is that somebody made a calculation error when building the road, for this is truly an anomaly!
In the town of Camalu I decided to stop for a quick meal. I decided that today I would have tacos, and thus went to a neighborhood taco place. In my broken Spanish I managed to successfully order four tacos for a mere 32 pesos, which is roughly three dollars. When I asked if they had any ‘cervesa’ to drink, they directed me to the store next door. Unfortunately, the store was closed, so I told the people in the restaurant that I would settle for Coca-Cola. But they would have none of that! One guy quickly ran to his car and grabbed a beer, when I asked him how much I owed him, he told me not to worry about it. From what I have seen so far the people down here are both very friendly and very helpful. In fact, while I was looking at my map in another city a man walked up to me and asked me if I needed any directions.
I am currently staying at a place in Camalu called the “Hotel California”. This should ring a bell for anyone who knows anything about good music. Unfortunately lodging today cost me 220 pesos, or roughly $21, but there was nothing cheaper around. Campgrounds are few and far in between, usually off the road, and generally not a good bargain when traveling alone. Although my room isn’t the most elegant thing in the world, the shower is however big enough to fit four people comfortably. As a side note, for those of you who have never heard the song “Hotel California” by the “Eagles”, go do it now. Seriously, it’s a classic.