“Listen,” whispered Nina. I listened. Wood crackled in the campfire in front of us, a couple of crickets greeted the night, and every now and then it rustled in the undergrowth. I heard the usual music of the forest, and when I looked up, millions of stars lit up the night sky. It was one of those moon-free nights in the middle of the Sierra Nevada in California. We had set up our camp in the middle of nowhere next to a stunning lake. “I don’t hear anything,” I replied almost a minute later. I could see Nina’s satisfied smile in the light of our campfire. “Exactly,” she says.
"A long time ago, in a
galaxycountry far, far away...."
As is usually the case on our blog, not only has a long time passed since our last post, but a lot has also happened. Very much so. After our cocoa ceremony in Playa del Carmen, we went on an adventurous journey through Mexico. After our visa expired, we wanted to enter the USA, as the way south to Guatemala was denied by the latest covid regulations.
This part of our journey took us through the poorest and most dangerous areas of Mexico and brought us to our limits. This trip started with an engine failure the day we left Playa del Carmen. It took two weeks to “buy out” our Pepe from the shady workshop with a lot of money. It continued with dangerous situations along a varied and poor country. We were stripped by police officers, hit with stones and beer bottles, threatened, and robbed. We paid “foreigner tax” on every corner, which was often ten times the normal price.
But what bothered us most was the constant noise. If every country has a word, “loud” is the word from Mexico. Always and everywhere – especially in the countryside. No matter where and how we set up camp for the night, a little later a dozen Mexicans came from somewhere with hectoliters of beer and speakers that made every disco owner jealous. And then they hooted, screamed, and got drunk until the wee hours of the morning. Then the pack drove away, leaving tons of rubbish. Sometimes two different groups met, then two different songs blasted from speakers just a few meters away. After the twentieth can of beer within an hour, nobody cared anymore, of course. Except – us.
One of the highlights of this adventure trip was the “Austrian Extraction”. This is what our friend Janel called the nerve-wracking operations to get us – the two Austrians – out of Mexico and safely to the USA. And I want to tell you about this Austrian extraction to give you a taste of our Mexico trip. I now take you by the hand, jump into my time machine in scene one of this multi-day drama. Because the most interesting stories are written by life itself.
Scene one take place in the deserted US border crossing near one of the most dangerous cities Mexico – Laredo. In the main roles: the two Austrians (that would be us) and a particularly bad-tempered CBP (=Customs and Border Protection) Officer. Another border officer in the supporting roles. And another one. And then another. And then another female border officer. In addition to her bad mood, she was also very aggressive. And last but not least, another bad-tempered border policeman. Everyone had gathered around our camper and were happy to treat two travelers like special criminals. Police officer Ramires (I have suppressed the real name), chosen to defend the holy land from the nasty travelers from Mexico with Austrian passports and a dangerous-looking American car, refused us entry after two hours of questioning. The decision was clear – we had to go back to Mexico.
It all started with a virus that turned the world’s heads … that was probably started a little too early. So again: the whole fiasco had started a few hours earlier in the largest city in northern Mexico – Monterrey.
Part 1: In good faith
“Let’s cross the border today,” said Nina with a hopeful voice. “Ok,” I said, not very enthusiastic. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to leave Mexico, I just didn’t like the border officers and the bureaucratic process on both sides. “We will be alright”, said Nina cheerfully.
"The border is closed"
Part 2 - the re-entry
Part 3 - We have a plan
Part 4 - The road to hell is paved with good intentions
"Finally, the door opened and a flight attendant pushed a white-haired lady in a wheelchair" - What happened?
Part 5 - to the border
Part 6 - It ain't over till it's over
We reached the airport a little earlier than expected and drove straight to the Sixt counter. I jumped out of the car and inside the small building. “We’re running late and urgently need a taxi to the terminal,” I hastily informed the clerk, who looked at me with bloodied eyes. When he talked to me, I smelled the beer on his breath. It can’t be true, I thought as he tottered outside behind me. He checked all the contents of the car as I had never seen it before: two windshield wipers, four hubcaps, a spare tire, a jack. He switched on the light and made sure that all the light bulbs were still there. And so on. Then he asked us to get in the car, he would take us to the airport. Nina looked at me and shrugged. “What the heck, the foremost thing is that we leave Mexico,” she muttered as we droved in in serpentine lines to the terminal.
At the small terminal, we hurried to the check-in and were stopped before we reached it by an employee who promptly escorted us to the departure desk. If you leave the country in Mexico by plane, you have to leave the country first. So we gave the bored-looking border officer our passports. Nina’s passport first, he flicked through, stoped, typed on the computer, took another look at the passport, and put “Bammmmm” – the stamp in it. My passport, he flicked through, stoped, typed on the computer, took another look at the passport, then back to the computer. No stamp. “You cannot leave because you did not enter,” he told me in a bored tone. “So can I go then?“, I asked him incredulously and desperately. “No,” he replied. I asked him if he could look again, he typed again and said “No” again. “Not in the computer”.
A wild explanation followed that he should use my name in the international spelling as printed in the passport. He just didn’t type the “ü” because it didn’t appear on his computer. 15 minutes later he used the international spelling and I had left the country too. We were at the check-in counter and still had five minutes to check-in. Haha, we did it to the last minute. I handed the lady our passports. She turned the pages and scanned our passports on her computer. Then she said, “You cannot board because the USA requires 14 full days stay in Mexico”. She paused and then added, “and you’ve only been in Mexico a few days“.
At first, I was speechless. The bad thing was, she was right. We had only entered Mexico a few days ago, but we hadn’t left the country. Well, strictly speaking, we were on US soil for three hours. I tried to explain the situation as best I could, but her English was not good enough to follow the story. She just shook her head. I didn’t know whether because of a lack of understanding or because she didn’t want to help. Then help came from a Mexican at the counter next to us. He was married to an American and was also denied re-entry after visiting his relatives. His wife drove across the border by car and he had to fly. He explained the situation to the lady behind the counter. The look on her face indicated that she didn’t believe him. However, at some point, she typed on her computer and printed out the boarding passes for us. We thanked our Savior a thousand times and I made a mental note that we had just met the 11th friendly Mexican in 7 months. After all, there is hope.
"You cannot leave because you did not enter Mexico" - the unfriendly border officer
"Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people"
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