Charlie G. Posted by Charlie G. on January 13, 1999
Headin’ South from Nogales (an update)
My son and I crossed the border at Nogales yesterday (1/11) and were pleasantly surprised with the efficient system we found at the Mexican immigration and customs station on the loop west of Nogales about 19 miles below the border.
Coming down Hwy 19 from Tucson we got off at Exit 4 approaching Nogales and turned right on Mariposa which loops around to a border station somewhat west of Nogales. We crossed there and, after a brief check by a Mexican customs agent, who just looked in the back of my pickup and asked if we had any guns, continued south 19 miles to the Mexican customs and immigration station where visas and car permits are issued.
Although we arrived there about 9AM on a Monday morning there were only a few people crossing and the whole process took barely half an hour. A large sign in English directs one to follow a simple three-step process. 1. Get your tourist card (FMT visa) at the immigration office. (I told the guy I would be in Mexico for about 6 months and he gave me 180 days with no problem.) 2. Get copies made of your visa, your car title or registration, your passport and your driver’s license. (This can be done for a dollar at a window to the left inside the main building.) 3. Present the copies along with a credit card at one of the windows in the front of the building where the car permits are prepared. (They charged me a fee of $118 pesos on the credit card and gave me the car permit form with a pull off sticker which I was told to place in the upper left-hand corner of the windshield. And that was it. No problem. Although I was speaking Spanish with the clerks, an older gringo couple in front of me spoke not a word and seemed to be getting along all right.
After getting the car permit and attaching the sticker one drives through a lane to the left of the building past customs. If you get a green light (random, I guess) you are free to head south. If you catch a red light, as I did this time, you are signaled to pull over to a customs shed for inspection. The agent asked me where I was headed and indicated he wanted to look in the back of the truck. Prepared for the worst, I got out of the truck as directed and opened the back of the pickup shell to display a pretty large load which presently represents all my worldly possessions. The agent glanced in the back and asked, “What do you have, eh? Just clothes and food?” I said, “That’s pretty much it, and a few personal items.” (Not mentioning that the personal items included a TV, a stereo, a microwave oven, a laptop, printer and accessories, a video camera, three still cameras, a telephone, a cellular phone and a few other items I didn’t really want to discus.) He then asked if I had any guns and when I assured him I didn’t he said, “OK…Have a good trip.” Relieved that I had not been required to unload and have my stuff poked through I promptly locked up and prepared to drive away as unobtrusively as possible. Unfortunately in my haste to be gone I somehow pressed the button to arm my alarm and when I started the truck it triggered and started whining and shrieking at full volume. It took me three trys to shut it off while all the customs agents gathered around trying to figure out, I guess, what the hell I was doing. So much for stealth. But that was it and we were off down the road.
Leaving the customs and immigration stop about 9:30AM we made Ciudad Obregon about 4PM. An easy drive. good signs all the way….didn’t even need to look at the map. Went through Hermosillo with no problem and took the bypass around Guymas, a rather uninteresting town that I’ve never much cared for. Most of the driving was on toll roads which were in fairly good condition with two lanes both ways. We paid 4 tolls totaling $144 pesos to Cd. Obregon. The toll-booths were giving $9.50 pesos to the dollar. We didn’t need to buy gas in Mexico the first day as we gassed up before we crossed the border. A rip-off in that we paid $ .99 per gallon in Tucson but were charged $1.19 near the border only sixty miles south…I suspect because most folks want to fill up on the U.S. side to postpone paying the even higher prices in Mexico. We picked the motel Valle del Yaqui on Miguel Aleman to the left at the north end of town for $390 pesos with two large beds as a place to stop for the night in Obregon. A pretty nice place with very secure parking and surprisingly quiet for being right on the main street.
We got started about 8AM on Jan. 12th from Obregon and made Mazatlan by 2:30. We did buy gas and paid 4.72 pesos per liter for 97 octane unleaded, about $2.00 per gallon at an exchange of $9.50 to one. The 87 octane was cheaper but I didn’t notice how much. The roads were quite good through Navajoa, Los Mochis and Culiacan. All two lane divided highways, well marked and in reasonably good condition. Traffic was very light, perhaps due to the high cost of driving the toll roads. We paid 7 tolls between Obregon and Mazatlan totaling $217 pesos or $23.00 U.S., but we were able to cruise at 80mph and made good time. The cuota road between Culiacan and Mazatlan is the best I’ve seen in Mexico and rivals most U.S. interstates. All in all, a smooth trip.
We’re laying over tomorrow in Mazatlan and I am writing this from a cyber cafe on Cameron Sabalo in a little shopping center next to Domino’s Pizza. This is my very first experience with a cyber cafe and Cyber Cafe Mazatlan is a neat little place. Ten P.C.’s available at little desks for $20 pesos per half-hour with free coffee. A reasonably fast 28.8 connection and user friendly. Some pretty cute girls in here too….ah, if I were just a little younger. We were, however, able to change dollars to pesos at 9.97 today and the rate seems to be going up.
So as to locate my son reasonably close to Valentino’s Disco (very important!) we took a room in a motel called Damy’s Bungalows just south of the Camaron Glorieta. It has seen better days but for $222 pesos for a double with kitchenette and a T.V in Mazatlan…..what can one expect? It’s going to be noisy, being right on Camaron Sabalo with all the traffic, but we’ve got a nice little pool right outside the door and if I’m going to be living in Mexico I figure I’d better get used to some noise at night. A swim in the warm 80 degree sunshine when we arrived this afternoon made the prospect of a little noise seem unimportant.
Hope the above info may be helpful to some other pilgrims heading south from Nogales. On Thursday we’re heading for Guadalajara and may post another road update from there.
Posted by charlie G. on January 15, 1999
Headin’ South…Part Deux
Left for Guadalajara this morning after spending our second night in Mazatlan. Weather too beautiful to leave sooner. 80 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze and no humidity. People here are complaining of the cold and most of the hotels are not prepared for the chilly nights. I had to bring in blankets from my truck to stay warm the first night at Damy’s Bungalows as most of the cheap hotel beds typically have only a sheet and bedspread and in Damy’s the windows didn’t even close.
Spent last night at the Hotel Belmar on Olas Altas south, way, way down the beach from the touristy Zona Dorada. An older, six-story hotel with a nice pool, small restaurant and secure, indoor parking, it looked like a pretty good deal at 160 pesos single/180 double with two full beds, a TV and a ceiling fan. The outside rooms have balconies and ocean views (and traffic noise from the street below). It must have been quite a place 50 years ago but its grandeur has faded badly. We took an inside room which was delightfully quiet but had only cold water and a 13″ TV with only one sound level setting (high) and one operating channel showing primarily Japanese animated cartoons in Spanish. Not my entertainment of choice! At least the price was right, though, and the old place did have a certain faded charm, but I have resolved to start checking these rooms out better before I rent them.
The drive to Guadalajara took 6 ½ hours. The first four hours to Tepic were on the only extended stretch of slow, two-way road we encountered on the trip. Slow going behind trucks and buses on the climb up to Tepic. But, a two lane each way cuota road is under construction from Mazatlan to Tepic and they seem to be making very good progress. Won’t be long before it’s four lanes all the way from Nogales to Guad. For now, from slightly before Tepic and for the rest of the way to Guadalajara there is a really good toll road and we were able to cruise at 80. We paid four tolls totaling 212 pesos or about $22 between Tepic and Guad. Gas (magna sin 87 octane) purchased an hour south of Mazatlan was running 4.29 pesos per liter or about $1.72 per gallon.
Got to Guad in plenty of time for a late lunch after checking into the Hotel Malibu on Avenida Vallarta. This is one of my more favorite stops in Guad and today I took a mini-suite for $560 pesos since we may be here for a few days. This a very comfortable hotel with secure parking in an interior courtyard, a nice pool and grounds, a good restaurant and right next door to the Gran Plaza where there is a big movie complex, shops and places to eat. Also close to a tennis club with nice clay courts where we’re going tomorrow to hit some balls. (Turned out to be closed – (Que Lastima!) The Malibu is a bit pricey for a retired guy trying to go back to being a budget traveler after too many years of having more money than time but I feel it’s time for a little celebrating after a long trip.
I’m writing this from an Internet Café in Guadalajara. The third one we tried today. The lines were down in the first and the other two were full of people. I wouldn’t mind being in this business in Guad. Sure seems to be more demand than supply. Cost seems to be 20 pesos per hour in most of these places. It works, but very slowly. I’ve only got a 9600 connection today. But, what the hell, I’m retired, right?
So the first leg of our journey south is complete. Gonna stay here and visit friends around the lake for a while and when the spirit moves me, in a week or so, will continue south towards Oaxaca.
Any Mexconnectors heading from Nogales to Guad can expect an easy trip on good roads.
So, to steal a line from Sr. Dumois…..
Saludos desde Guadalajara
Posted by Dutch on Julio 18, 2000 at 10:03:43:
For lodging, try the Obregon Plaza or Holiday Inn in Obregon. The restaurants are good at each one, both have off-street parking. The seafood at the Plaza is great.
In Mazatlan, the Playa Mazatlan and Camino Real are both on the beach – the former is in the “Golden (Tourist) Zone, and the Real is at the Northern end of the city, just south of the El Cid. The Shrimp Factory, one block north of the Playa Maz, has (you guessed it), one of the best deals on good good shrimp in town.
The road from MAZ to GDL, BTW, is a little rough as you climb up from the beach to the first plateau, and there is one bridge that will probably scare the bejesus out of you, but past that, it’s clear sailing into Guad. There is a new bridge under construction to replace the one in question, but I don’t believe it’s finished yet.