Thursday, August 2, 2007

Driving the Jeep to Mexico - Part 5

So I successfully crossed the border and headed into Matamoras, confident that I would be able to find my hotel. I was sadly mistaken. The hustle and bustle of foot traffic, cars, buses and minitaxis was almost overwhelming. At the very first stop light I was accosted (and that is being kind!) by boys squirting stuff on my windshield and trying to wash it, vendors trying to push their way into my open window to sell me who only know what and the beggars. Actually reaching into the Jeep with open hands that tugged at my shirt….but not at my heart! Amid me yelling NO TOCAR (don’t touch) and VAMANOS (go away) and NO GRACIAS (no thank you), the light thankfully changed and I was able to slowly pull forward, dodging traffic coming from my left that seemed oblivious to the fact that the light had changed. I had my Lonely Planet beside me and tried desperately to read it, while watching for non-existent street signs, traffic, light changes and various animals. At every stop light or stop sign it was a repeat of the first one. No chance to read the map because I was far too busy pushing hands out of my window. Incredibly, I somehow managed to get myself lost!

I drove further away from the border and what had seemed to be nearer to the center of downtown and ended up in some pretty unsavory neighborhoods. By this time, despite the oppressively hot and humid weather, I had zipped up my window to keep the prying hands out.
Drenched with sweat and ready to cry out of despair and frustration, I found a somewhat safe spot to pull over. I reopened my window, took several deep breaths and evaluated my situation. I was hopelessly lost in a foreign city in a foreign country. I felt unsafe, dirty and totally without hope. I was wrestling with two decisions: keep on driving and try to find the hotel or keep on driving and try to find the border. I was so miserable and doubting my decision to drive in Mexico that I was really ready to go back across the border, sell the Jeep and get a flight back to my safe, sane island home! Ok then, drive it was and see where I ended up. What happened next made the decision for me.

I generally pride myself on my sense of direction. I must admit, it is much better in the country, like on dirt trails and back roads. Nevertheless, I do have some sense of which direction to go. (yeah, right. Remember Oklahoma City!!) So I headed in the general direction of the border. Maybe I would see a sign for Calle 10 or make it to my hotel after all. I had only driven three blocks when there on the side of the road, with easy pull off, was a taxi stand! I pulled in, found a driver who spoke English and paid him to slowly and carefully lead me to the Hotel Ritz! Down back streets, main streets and alleys we went. Finally, there it was! A hotel never looked finer. I paid the cabby the 100 pesos he wanted and went inside. Luck was with me. They did have a record of my reservation for the next night and were able to put me into a single room for that night. Life was getter sweeter. I checked in and moved the Jeep to the gated, guarded secure parking lot next door. Nothing to do now but wait for Jaimie to arrive the next day.

It was now 5pm and I had crossed the border at 2:30pm.


Brenda said...

I can so relate to this!!
There isn't anything that can prepare you for that first crossing if you cross in the center of a city. You definately know that you ain't in Kansas anymore. LOL Our first crossing was in the centre of the city of Nogales. I am sure that I had fingernail holes on the dashboard. The traffic was insane!!! We made it through with no mishaps but ever since we have used the Mariposa crossing at Nogales rather than the centro one.

John W said...

Ah, the ol' hire the taxi to lead you trick. I got lost in several Mexican cities before someone suggested that solution to me. Now I routinely hire taxi pathfinders in new cities. Saves a whole lot of frustration. Unless, of course, the taxi gets lost, which happened to me in Guadalajara.