Yesterday we decided to go into Loreto in the afternoon. We chose Wednesday afternoon specifically so we could have some of the excellent baked chocolate clams served at Augie's during happy hour. We also needed to get some cash and a few supplies. We had kind of decided to take a cab in and back until we found out what the current fares were: somewhere between 600 and 700 pesos round trip. That's $48 - $56 (USD). Crazy! The cabbies, like many other Mexican businessmen have this very unfamiliar (to norteamericanos) approach to business. That is, when business is down, you make up for it by raising your prices. The idea, I guess, is to make more money off fewer customers. So, since this is not tourist season, there are fewer people needing taxis so the fares go up. Brilliant, eh? We decided to hitchhike in and ride the evening bus back.
We shouldered our packs and got started on the 25 minute walk out to the highway. We hadn't gone 50 yards when Debby, a fellow cruiser who has a place in nearby Juncalito, stopped and gave us a ride as she's done many times before. After a quick stop at Fernando's tienda to get a couple of bottles of water, she dropped us off at the highway. Right after we got out, a semi came whizzing by from the south. We didn't even bother sticking our thumbs out for him, knowing that it was very unlikely that he'd stop anyway. So we patiently waited. After 15 minutes, that semi was still the ONLY vehicle we had seen coming from the south. We knew there was some construction going on down the road and figured that soon the northbound traffic would be let loose and we'd get plenty of chances for a ride. We waited another 5 or 10 minutes without seeing a single vehicle headed north. We were just about ready to throw in the towel and skip the trip for today when a water tanker truck came lumbering out from behind the electricity substation across the highway. The driver made a wide turn that put him partway on the northbound shoulder and motioned to us asking if we wanted a ride. DAMN STRAIGHT WE WANT A RIDE! We crowded into the cab and he started grinding gears and heading to Loreto.
Twenty minutes later or so, the driver dropped us off in front of a grocery store that we wanted to check out. We thanked him and headed inside to see what they carried. Ultimately, we didn't buy anything there but we were in a good spot as we needed to walk by the bus depot to check what time the southbound buses ran. After determining that our best best for a bus was at 6:55 PM (if we missed that one, the next one wouldn't be until 11:00 PM), we tried to hit a couple of ferreterias (hardware stores) in search of string for the string shopping bag that Lulu is crocheting. Unfortunately, it was siesta time and the ferreterias wouldn't re-open until 4:00 PM.
Next stop was the Banamex bank to get some cash. We had been having difficulties with Lulu's ATM card so we decided to try it first. It was a new card that had been activated but had yet to be used successfully. We inserted her card and entered the PIN. Punched in what we wanted to do and how much cash we wanted. The machine thought a minute and then told us that her account did not exist. This is what happened before. Looks like we need to call Wells Fargo. No matter, I plugged my card in and punched all the appropriate buttons. The machine mulled it over for a few seconds and then informed me that my account didn't exist either. WTF? OK, no big deal, we'll just try a different bank. Had a problem once in La Paz and just going to a different bank did the trick.
On our way to the other bank, we passed the modatela (fabric store) where we tried again to get string. After finally figuring out the word for string (mecate), we determined that, while they did have string, they didn't have any of the size Lulu wanted. Oh well, next stop, the bank. But first, let's stop at El Pescador, the largest supermarket in Loreto. We got some cheese, Gatorade powder, and a few canned goods. OK, now to the bank. But wait! We forgot to get the fabric Lulu wanted for making a new bedsheet. OK, back to the modatela and another exercise in dealing with the language barrier. We finally did get the fabric although it wasn't really what she wanted. But, when choices are limited, you get as close as you can. We also scored a scrap of thin red nylon that we can use to repair the frazzled outside edge of our Mexican courtesy flag.
OK, now to the bank.
We got down to the Bancomer and, when it was out turn, went in to the ATM booth. Plug in the card, punch in the PIN, describe the transaction and wait. This time the machine told us that it couldn't complete the transaction and we'd have to contact our bank. WHAT? Maybe if I try for a smaller amount. Same results. Oh, this is definitely NOT good. We need to call Wells Fargo and soon. We walked over to a public phone to try to figure out how to make a call to the States. First we'd have to buy a phone card. I really didn't want to get cut off mid-way through a conversation with the bank and so, was very wary about using a pay phone with instructions that I couldn't really understand. And then it came to me: AUGIE'S! Augie's Bar has a computer set up with a MagicJack and allows customers to make phone calls to the States since it costs almost nothing. OK, we're off to Augie's.
We walked into Augie's air conditioned bar and basked for a few minutes in the refrigerated air. Ahhhhhhh......... Then we ordered a couple of micheladas and asked to use the phone. "Sí, claro." MagicJack is pretty cool as you use an actual phone so it's not quite like using Skype. I dialed Wells Fargo's number from the back of the card and went through all the automated menu crap until I finally got to the point where I could talk to a human. When he answered I explained that we were in Mexico and our debit cards had been turned down at 2 different ATMs.
"Were you trying to get a cash advance from your credit card?"
No, I was trying to take cash from my checking account with my debit card.
"Are you sure you didn't maybe mix the cards up?"
No, I'm sure I got the right card.
"Because it shows here that 30 minutes ago someone tried to get a cash advance of $XXX.XX dollars from your credit card."
Huh? Oh, WAIT A MINUTE! Geez! I DID try to use the wrong card! Look, this other one says right on it "Debit Card". What a dummy!
"That's OK, I'll just remove the restriction that your previous attempts put on your credit card so it's still useable. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
No, thanks, you've been very helpful.
WHEW! That's all the problem was. This explains Lulu's problem as well as the credit card is the only one she had in her pocket so it's the only one she's tried. We left Augie's, went back to Bancomer, had a successful ATM transaction, finished our shopping and hoofed it back to Augie's for happy hour.
At Augie's we saw pretty much the same people that we always see there at happy hour. Marv was still fretting and stewing about his Mexican cell phone, just like he was when we were there 3 weeks ago. The clams and micheladas were excellent and we got into a conversation with a guy sitting next to us at the bar drinking cranberry juice. Jim is from Washington and has a home here in Loreto (well, Nópolo, actually). He comes down every few months to check on things. We talked a lot about Puerto Escondido which, as a businessman, drives him absolutely crazy. Here sits this veritable gold mine and, not only won't the Mexicans develop it, but they make it next to impossible for anyone else to develop it either. Anyway, ultimately, Jim offered to give us a lift back to the marina which we gladly accepted.
We were back on the boat by 7:00 or so. Would have been there sooner except that the outboard ran out of gas shortly after leaving the dinghy dock (could have sworn there was plenty of gas), and I had to row the rest of the way. After a dinner of chips and salsa followed by chips and a dip made of chilorio, crema and mayonnaise, we settled into our regular evening routine.