Friday, July 27, 2007

Driving the Jeep to Mexico - Part 4

I pulled over to the curb, got out of the Jeep, caught my breath and got my bearings. So many gates and buildings and all identified only in Spanish. I found that surprising. I would have thought they would have been in both languages. Thankfully I have learned a few words in Spanish and was able to identify the building I needed for crossing with an automobile. I parked the Jeep in the designated area, found my file of documents and headed into the building.

It was just one huge room with folding chairs in the middle and a counter that ran along three sides. The fourth wall was dominated by the cashier windows. I first went to Immigration and had no trouble at all getting my entrance stamp. So I was legally back in the country. Then on to the Mexican Auto Insurance window. Thankfully they were able to find a nice fellow who spoke English to help me. I should be noted here, that if you think the USA is full of bureaucracy, then you have never had to do anything in Mexico! I first had to go to another window and register the Jeep to bring it into the country. They would only give me a sticker (permit) to bring it into the country for six months, despite the fact that I have my FM3 status. (This is a “passport” that allows me to stay in the country for one year without having to leave) I tried to get a longer permit but he could have cared less that I am not a casual tourist and that I live here permanently with proper documentation. And he would not accept my Mexican address as a legal residency! So, even though we no longer live there, I had to use the USA address because it matched my passport and drivers license. What a bunch of foolishness. I also had to pay a security deposit of $340 to ensure that I would take the vehicle back out of the country. Of course, I did not realize what I was paying at the time. Nobody would translate any documents for me and they certainly did not tell me that when I paid the money. Supposedly, one gets this security back when the vehicle goes back over the border, but I have heard from many people that it doesn’t happen. Just another Mexican con game? Time will tell.*

So finally back to the insurance counter. Wow! Just 30 days of insurance was $246! With that purchased, I was back in the Jeep and on my way into Mexico proper. Amazingly, the way the border crossing was set up, the exit from the building totally bypassed the inspection point and nobody ever even looked in the Jeep! Glad to not have to unload and reload the Jeep.
I had consulted my maps and Lonely Planet book for Matamoras. Before leaving the island, I had made reservations in Matamoras at the Hotel Ritz. Mostly because the guide book said they had protected, patrolled parking. Of course, my reservation was for the next day, but I figured I would be able to get a room for the extra day I was there. The map of downtown Matamoras showed a straight street leading away from the border crossing and just one turn and I should have been at the hotel. Whoever drew that map should be made to crawl the route and discover fro themselves what an idiot they are. Needless to say, it was not a simple drive to the hotel!

* This charge never showed up on my credit card. Almost two years later, when I returned the Jeep to the USA to sell it, they still had the paperwork from when I crossed and they tore up the credit card slip! Not a con game after all.

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