The next morning I went for a short walk after breakfast. The hotel, pictured above, had a small cactus garden, pictured to the right. Along the highway you pass all of these species, but usually just one kind at a time, so I couldn't resist a picture showing a variety.
They also had a pool with no water and a tennis court with no net or fence. I could do without the net since it spoils most of my shots, but I'm not willing to go chasing the balls out into the desert.
On the way back to the parking lot, I was joined by 3 canine friends. They were constantly looking at me, wagging their tails, and looking hungry, so I headed for the car to get them something. Knowing that they probably didn't speak English, while getting a loaf of bread from the trunk, I said in my best Spanish "Here is something for you face". They went wild with excitement. It's amazing how good my Spanish must be. As I left Cataviņa I knew that I'd made three friends for life. I'd also used three slices of my bread.
Just 5 minutes into the trip I came across the first of several stops for the day. I managed to take a quick picture from a distance. This turned out to be a typical stop. For me it was my first chance to see how it works, as well as how my Spanish works. Well, my Spanish didn't work. It seems they know a whole bunch of words that I don't. Words like inspect, trunk, drugs, guns and probably stupid tourist. However, I found that we speak okay in hand gestures. They wanted to look in my trunk. I released the trunk lid with the lever by the front seat, and they began inspecting. It was then that I realized with horror that after buying pesos and filling my wallet, I put 3 or 4 hundred US dollars in my suitcase. In a very short time they were happy and waved me on. One thing that impressed me was the condition of their uniforms. They were freshly starched and ironed. Not a wrinkle in sight. They probably each have their own personal valet. How could I have been so naive?
As I approached the next stop I was so rattled that I didn't even think of taking a picture. They were searching the trunk of the car in front of me, and the driver was standing there watching them. When it was my turn, the man said something to me and stepped back. I assumed he'd asked me to get out and open the trunk. That was it! I got out, opened the trunk and watched them inspect. Guess what. My money was still there. Boy did I feel guilty for assuming the worst at the previous stop.
Next we moved around to the passenger side where they checked front and back. When they saw the camera, they asked about it. (At least I think that's what they said.) Back then (January 2000) digital cameras weren't very prevalent, so I turned it on and let them see the image of where it was pointing on the screen. They all took turns checking it out. Add these new friends to the three dogs, and I'm on a roll.
At least I was until I pointed the camera at them. I thought showing them a group picture would be good. WRONG! Pictures of these military sites are forbidden. They all started saying "No" and waving their hands. They left no doubt. As I left this check point, I thought of how much I had learned from just two stops. They take their work seriously, their uniforms look great, they are honest, and they are polite even when a stupid tourist tries to take their picture.
I can't say as much for the inspectors when you cross into Southern Baja California. This should be the equivalent of California's fruit inspection stations, however it is far from it.
These guys aren't military. They have white shirts with some kind of an emblem, and don't carry guns. One man walked to the trunk, another just stood by the office, and a third mean looking man walked right up to my door and wanted the trunk open. I didn't have to worry about him shooting me, since he didn't have a gun, but he looked mean enough to punch me in the face. He was also blocking the door so I couldn't get out. I was so nervous that instead of pulling the trunk release, I released the door for the gas filler. The mean looking guy probably liked that because it meant that he was really intimidating me.
He asked to see my Tourist Permit that I'd picked up while entering Mexico. This is the only place I've ever had to show it. After frowning at it for awhile, he handed it back and gave me a form written in English. It started off with "New immigrations regulations require fumigation of - " I skipped down to the end and saw "$10".
For those who have not been to Mexico, the "$" is used for pesos. They wanted 10 pesos, not dollars. But I was still using training wheels and thought they wanted dollars. Well, I couldn't give them dollars because they were in the trunk. IN THE TRUNK? These guys really had their routine down pat. I gave them 100 pesos, the equivalent of 10 dollars. Not smart for one who is short on cash. All of a sudden, the trunk was closed, the mean guy was happy, and he gave me a document to show I'd been fumigated. About to be fumigated that is.
You pull forward to where you are greeted by the man in yellow. He sprays the outside of all four tires. Does anyone know what bug lives only on tires and stays only on the outside?
Does this guy look like he's saying "You have nothing to fear. This is perfectly harmless."?
Just beyond the fumigator is the town of Guerro Negro. I stopped to spend some of my remaining pesos for gasoline. As I was ready to leave I saw a man leaving a glass booth that had a teller machine at the front of a bank, and he looked very much like he was from the U.S. I asked if that worked for banks in the USA and he said "Yes, but it only gives pesos." I wanted to say "My God, man, what do you expect?"
With the money problem solved I headed for San Ignacio never expecting to be stopped by banditos.
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