Ok, it's time to quit procrastinating and get back to regular blog entries. Our 4-week vacation is over and I've completely run out of excuses for not writing anything, so, for better or worse, here we go...
Back in Puerto Escondido:
Our trip back down south was pretty uneventful. Prior to leaving my brother Rod's house in Portland, we had carefully loaded anything that might seem even remotely threatening to the TSA into our checked bags. Then, since those bags were likely to be opened outside of our presence, we loaded anything that was likely to attract a petty thief into our carry-on bags. Between us we had 2 large backpacks weighing probably 35-40 lbs each, 2 medium size duffel bags weighing another 30-35 lbs each, and 2 day packs weighing 5-10 lbs each. So, fully loaded down, we were each schlepping 70-85 lbs of stuff. Fortunately we never had to schlep the load too far although sometimes it seemed pretty darn far.
We got through security at PDX with no problems at all. Yeah, I remembered to take my belt all the way off this time. We took off from PDX at 7:10 AM so, needless to say, we had been up since about 4:30. While we were waiting to board our plane, they made an announcement that the flight was going to be very crowded and, if anyone was willing to let them check their carry-on to keep it out of the overhead bins, they'd be sure to have them available to pick up within 20 minutes of landing. Well, we were certainly in no hurry when we reached San Diego, and checking our bags (at no additional charge, obviously) meant that we didn't have to hassle with the backpacks on the plane. So we handed them right over.
We arrived in San Diego about 9:45 and retrieved our bags from Baggage Claim by a little after 10:00. Now loaded down, we trundled out to the bus stop where we caught the bus from the airport to downtown. I had worked backwards from the bus leaving Tijuana for Loreto to figure out what today's schedule was going to be. The best info I could find on the internet said that there were 2 buses a day from Tijuana to Loreto. One left at noon and the other at 9:00 PM. There was absolutely no way we could make the noon one and we didn't really want to try to idle our time away (loaded down with luggage) until 9 PM. So, we opted to spend the night in Chula Vista and catch the noon bus the next day.
We boarded the Blue Line trolley headed south and got off in Chula Vista. We now had to tote our bags over the interstate, across a parking lot, and around the back to the office of the Sleep Inn where we stayed on our trip north. This doesn't sound very far, but loaded down with bags, it was plenty damn far. We dropped our bags and asked for a room for the night. The desk clerk asked if we had a reservation. No. "Well," she said with way too much delight in her voice, "I'm afraid we have nothing. We're all booked up for tonight." ACK! I hadn't even considered this. Fortunately there were two more motels nearby. We shouldered our packs, hefted our bags and headed back out the door, across the parking lot, over the interstate, across the trolley tracks, across a four-lane road, through a gas station, whoops - dead end, back out to the street, up the driveway next to MacDonald's and finally to the office of Motel 6. PLEEEEEEEZE have a room.
Turned out to be no problem. We got a room for the night and saved $20 over what the Sleep Inn wanted.
Now relieved of our bundles, we had all afternoon to kill. We decided that the smartest thing to do, after getting some food, would be to make a dry run across the border. We wanted to see what's what and be well prepared so that tomorrow, when we were once again loaded down, we'd have no surprises.
We had purchased all-day passes on the trolley so it cost nothing extra to take Blue Line on down to the border at San Ysidro. Right by the end of the trolley line is a little Greyhound office. We bought 2 round trip tickets to the Tijuana Main Bus Terminal. Not particularly cheap ($10.50 each, one-way) but it'd be worth it if we avoided hassles tomorrow.
We got on the bus and headed for the border. The first stop was right at the border (La Linea). A couple people got off and a few bags were pulled out of the cargo compartment. There was an armed customs agent there writing stuff down on a clipboard. She made one of the ladies who got off push the button that determined if her bags would be searched (red light) or not (green light). She got a green. Next thing we knew, we were on our way again. Never got off the bus, never had to show our passports or visas, never had to say whether we had anything to declare or not, nothing. Hmmmm. Maybe all that will happen later.
We drove on out to the airport and finally got to the bus station downtown. While there we purchased our tickets to Loreto (about $120 each) and chose our bus seats for tomorrow's trip. After a short wait, we got on a bus back to San Ysidro. This part of the trip was just like when we got here a few weeks ago. Ride the bus to the border, wait on the air-conditioned bus for our turn at US Customs while watching hundreds of cars as well as thousands of people on foot waiting to get across the border. We sat on the bus about 20-30 minutes before it was our turn. Then off the bus, get in line at Customs, walk through, show them your passport and out the other side we went. Back in the USA again. We boarded the Blue Line trolley, which runs every 15 minutes, and rode back to Chula Vista. This was way too easy. Where was all the border-crossing bureaucracy and associated angst we were led to expect? Something just didn't seem right. Maybe we'd find out tomorrow.
After a good night's sleep, we got up, packed our bags and repeated the border-crossing exercise. And guess what? It went exactly the same way. No officialdom made any attempt to harsh our buzz. We could have been bringing in AK-47s for all anyone knew. Of course, the other side of the coin is that we don't have a stamp in our passports showing that we've legally entered Mexico. However, we still have the stamps from Ensenada and, since there's no official record that we ever left, I guess we're fine. I don't really understand how this is all supposed to work. If we had needed to get our passports stamped, I'm not sure where along the line we would have had it done.
While we were waiting to board our bus south, a representative from ABC bus lines came over and gathered up our backpacks and duffles, tagged them and took them out to load onto the bus. While sitting there I noticed that everyone heading out to the buses had to go through a gate where their carry-ons were searched and the passengers had to go through a metal detector. Uh oh. Not expecting this, I had put my new Swiss army knife, in it's neat little sheath, on my belt. The signs above the metal detector showed No Guns, No Knives, No Drugs. I really did not want to lose another Swiss army knife so I eased it off my belt and buried it at the bottom of my carry-on, hoping that they wouldn't search too thoroughly. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Lulu had her little bitty Swiss army knife in her pocket.
Finally, noon rolled around and it was our turn to go through the gate. About now, Lulu noticed the signs and the metal detector. If I'd known she had the knife on her, I'd have tipped her off, but I thought it was still in her duffel bag. Too late now. I noticed that no one got stopped after going through the metal detector and yet no one ever emptied their pockets. So I hoped for the best. Lulu's bag went through, was cursorily searched and passed on. I walked through the detector and, although it bonged, no one paid any notice. Same for Lulu. She retrieved her bag and headed out. My bag was the last one searched. I held my breath, now more worried about getting into trouble than about losing my knife. The inspector unzipped the top of the pack, pushed the sweatshirt aside a little, closed it up and sent me on my way. WHEW!
We boarded our bus and again marveled at how much leg room each seat gets. I couldn't even reach the foot rest under the seat in front of me without slouching down to the point of being almost completely laying down in my seat.
The ride was uneventful. This time we were dressed right. We both wore long pants and had sweatshirts ready to do battle with the air conditioning. We only had to stop at 2 military checkpoints and never had to get off the bus or have our bags searched. Must not be as concerned about things coming south, into Mexico as they are about things going north, out of Mexico. We had delicious machaca burritos at one stop but, other than that, the trip was pretty unmemorable. Oh, our butts still hurt but we were more mentally prepared for it this time.
We arrived in Loreto at 9:00 AM local time. The trip had taken 21 hours. We schlepped our bags across the street and had breakfast at the hotel we had stayed at on our way north a few weeks earlier. Then we caught a taxi back to Puerto Escondido. Once there, the marina provided us a ride out to Siempre Sabado, where we found everything just as we had left it except that the batteries were fully charged, thanks to the solar panels.
So, here we are. Back home safe and sound, and (this is new) listening to NPR on our new Sirius satellite radio. Life is good.