We left home shortly after midnight on Wednesday. This was a long journey across the USA, from New Jersey to California, almost 1000 miles a day. I had plans to see some interesting places along the way, but it fell out that we always passed them at night. No sightseeing stops on the way this time, I did not want to delay our crossing into Mexico, which was scheduled for Saturday morning. Along the way, in the state of New Mexico, right before Albuquerque Police completely shut down Interstate 40. We have waited there almost for two hours, but highway was still closed. Local roads were gridlocked, so we decided to take a different detour, which required driving backroads over the Sandia Mountains. We enjoyed the stunning mountain views from the dirt road 165 that we took. It was a nice change from the monotony of the continuous driving on highways.
At the border Mexicali East, we went quickly through the Mexican checkpoint. In literally 5 minutes, we were in Mexico with no stamps in passports or any other unnecessary formalities. We were free to go until Los Cabos at the south tip of Baja California, but we still needed additional documents in order to drive across the Mexico. Thus, we parked next to the office buildings at the border and after two and half hours, we were in the possession of the Mexican Tourist Cards (Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM) for us and the temporary vehicle permit (permiso de importación temporal de vehículos) for Balios. Our first encounter with Mexican bureaucracy was not so bad. This is true that it required some time, but all the officials were nice and friendly. We left the Mexican border crossing with positive impressions.
Always, the first few hours are the most difficult while driving in a new country. This is a critical time to learn quickly the local unwritten rules and behavior on the road. On the streets of Mexicali, hitting hard the chassis, we learned what the reductores or bumps located on every street and how easy are to miss the alto or stop signs standing on each, even the smallest intersection. There was no doubt we were south of the border.
At Mexicali outskirts, we had our first Mexican meal at the roadside seafood restaurante. The place was a bit odd for a restaurant. There was no kitchen; all dishes they served were cold and came raw directly from the ice-filled containers. Anyway, it was not such a bad experience to have octopus in a spicy sauce while listening to the live Mexican music.