Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Crossed the Border! (Nogales to San Carlos)
We left Mountain View RV Ranch bright and early for the 30 minute drive down to the border. A brief stop to top off our tanks in Nogales, AZ and Evelyn now took the lead to navigate us through Mexico. We took what is known as the “Truck Route”—a road that bypasses much of Nogales, AZ as well as Nogales, Sonora. But it’s a strange and rather anti-climatic border crossing as the customs station is 21 km south, and the border crossing itself is nothing more than a set of overpass signs.
But, within a mile or two, you know that you’re certainly in a different country.
The houses you see along the road in Nogales, Arizona are no great shakes, but compared to those you see along the highway in Nogales, Sonora, they are palaces. Yet, I’d be hard-pressed to tell which Nogales residents are happier. The Mexican people I’ve met thus far have all been exceptionally friendly and courteous.
We rolled into the Aduana (Mexican Customs) at Km 21 and gathered our large folders of documentation. With me, I had my Passport, Driver’s License, Titles, Vehicle Registration & Proof of Mexican Insurance for both the RV and Tracker, Mexican Temporary Vehicle Import Permits for both vehicles (that I had purchased online about 10 days before leaving Chicago), a Health Certification from a vet in Yuma validating that Millie was in good health (this had to be done within 30 days of crossing the border), and copies of Millie’s shot records.
We first walked into the Aduana office to get our Tourist Visas. A lady there (who spoke very little English), hand signaled us through filling out the forms and pointed us towards the next building, the Banjercito, where we’d pay our Visa fees and get vehicle permits validated. As we were standing in the slow-moving line, we began chatting with an American couple ahead of us who live 1/2 time in Mexico. As we neared the front of the line, they happened to mention that we needed photocopies of our documents. Ah, so that’s why there was that big booth between the 2 buildings to buy photocopies! Off we ran to get our copies made and paid our 20 pesos while the couple kindly saved our place in line!
Motorhome permits are good for 10 years, so Evelyn was fortunate to only have to pay her Visa fee and be done with Banjercito. I, on the other hand, needed all of my vehicle documents reviewed and stamped for both my View and the Tracker. But within another 10 minutes or so, we were done with Banjercito and headed back to Aduana to show the girl there our paid receipt so she could now stamp our passports and validate our visas.
There’s a great site called OnTheRoadIn that gives full details on what all you need to come to Mexico and what to expect once you’re here. That site (and their companion Facebook web page) were invaluable in helping us plan our travels!
Finally back to our rigs, we were now able to proceed to the Motorhome lane for one final checkpoint with customs. I thought for sure this might be where they inspect your rig (and, indeed, it may possibly be done at times), but today, all the officer wanted to see were our stamped vehicle permits so he could confirm that our vehicle stickers on each windshield matched the number on the permits. No other questions or inspections of any kind! There were also never any questions to answer about Millie or show her health certification or shot records. The customs agents just waved us right thru.
Once we got out of Nogales, the scenery improved and was actually quite pretty in places. These vibrant green trees lined a valley in this stretch of Sonoran desert:
Our first larger town south of Nogales was Santa Ana, Sonora. They rolled out the welcome mat with huge welcome signs over the roadway. This one translates to “Bon Voyage!”
The landscape on this day’s drive was still quite similar to southern Arizona and part of the Sonoran desert ecosystem.
Even the coastline of the Sea of Cortez near San Carlos was still rather arid, but palm trees lined the wide avenue on our approach to Totonaka RV Park. What a cute little place to rest up for a few days and get our bearings!