Monday, 12 December 2016

Mexico City and Tepoztlan - Days 87 & 88

Out walking with Luna, Maty and Cookie

We have now safely arrived in the village of Tepoztlan, about one hours drive south of Mexico City for our six week stay looking after three dogs, Maty, Luna and Cookie, through to 22nd January 2017.

Louise, the owner has just left for Mexico City airport to catch her flight to Ireland to visit her mum and dad, and friends in England and we are now in charge of three lovely dogs in a fabulous unspoilt village with cobbled streets, traditional houses and shops, interesting markets and street food stalls, a lot of very reasonably priced restaurants all with an amazing backdrop of craggy mountains.

It’s time to chill out, enjoy the house and garden and Mexican village life and looking after very relaxed dogs.

Our third and last flight on our trip up from Patagonia was not without incident and caused more stress. Our flight to Mexico City from Lima was a one way ticket as we currently have only the vaguest of plans beyond this housesit, so we have no ‘proof of exit’ from the country, something we’ve often done before, particularly as the UK Foreign Office website said proof of onward travel not required for Mexico

We arrived at the airport before the check in had even opened and after they had finally arranged the maze of bollards and tape for queuing the lady at the front asked for our passports and asked to see our proof of onward travel. ‘We don’t have any as we’re planning on booking a bus to make an overland crossing into Belize’ (we had agreed between ourselves beforehand). ‘I’m not sure they will accept that at check in’ she told us and, after we had queued for 15 minutes or so the lady at check in told us that we need definite proof of exit before she can check us in or allow us to board.

We told her we didn’t know of any bus companies and, in any case it’s too far in advance. ‘How long do you intend to stay for’ she asked, ‘three months’ we said. ‘Three months!’ she said in an astonished way, ‘yes’ we said. The standard tourist ‘visa-on-arrival’ to Mexico is 180 days (6 months), so three months isn’t a problem. Anyway, she told us we’d have to stand aside while she checked in others and book something on line if we wanted to board, her colleague giving us two addresses of bus companies. Nothing like a bit of pressure!

At Lima you get 30 minutes free wi-fi so Jackie started looking for bus companies on her ipad, I started looking for flights on my phone. We were basically looking for the cheapest outward travel we could find with not much intention of using it, just so we could prove we would leave. I found flights to Guatamala City for about £180 and was ready to book, but Jackie found some bus tickets from a town in SE Mexico to Belize City for £37 each. She had to use a date of about 2 weeks hence as journeys after the end of 2016 were showing. That will do I said, we’ll either try to change the date later to use them or we’ll just waste them. She filled in all the details, I read out my credit card details to her quietly so no-one else around could hear and she was just about to press the button to buy when a note came up ‘your 30 minutes free wi-fi has just ended – buy some more?’

I still had wifi on my phone but I’d have to start again and there couldn’t have been more than a few minutes left so I wouldn’t get it done in time so, with no alternative we bought another 2 hours of internet time for US$5. Got back on line hit the ‘buy now’ button and it said in Spanish, ‘there is a problem, please try later’. We tried my debit card but it came up with the same message. In a panic and almost in tears Jackie approached the next free check in counter and spoke to a different girl showing her the screen and saying ‘can you please let us on the plane there’s nothing else we can do, but we’re definitely going to leave the country, we just can’t do it now’. It worked and she checked us in and gave us our boarding cards. I asked if we needed to get something booked before we got to Mexico immigration and she said ‘no, you’ll be OK now’, but we had that nagging feeling throughout the flight that we might get to immigration and they turn us away. Anyway, we boarded the plane for the 6.5 hour flight, Jackie still in a state of shock and just kept of fingers crossed and, at arrival at Mexican immigration we had no problem. They stamped our passports with a 180 day visa and didn’t even ask us how long we were staying.

Apparently it is the airlines responsibility that people have the right documents before entering a country as, if they are turned away at immigration you are the airlines responsibility. It is they who have to return you to the country of your departure and feed and accommodate you in the event of delays, hence the reason they are strict.

Luna relaxing in her bed
We were glad to get through immigration after queuing for about 30 minutes at midnight (feeling like 3:00am for us due to the time difference between Patagonia to here), but much more queuing was required, a huge queue to even get into the baggage reclaim area and then a hugely long walk to the belt conveyor for our bags and the nothing. 15 or 20 minutes later it briefly chugged into life and my bag came out but then it stopped for another 10 minutes, chugged into life, stopped again, more wait and finally chugged into life and Jackie’s bag came out. At last, now we just need to exit – er, no! Another long queue this time for security, not just a bag scan, this was proper searching, presumably for drugs. The sniffer dogs came by and when he got to my bag he stopped and had a good sniff ‘here we go’ I thought, but he moved off and his owner didn’t seem bothered. We handed in the ‘anything to declare’ form and the guard asked us to push a button, if it lights up ‘green’ you are free to go, it its ‘red’ you’re in for a full search. I pressed……..’red’!

We’d already seen other people bags being emptied, one girl’s empty case being x-rayed twice while all her stuff was just lying on the counter. Not sure what happened to her. Our turn came and we opened the cases. The guard just shoved his hand in and around all our bags, hardly taking anything out and just said ‘OK’ and we were out!

Now we just needed to find a cash machine, which was at the other end of the terminal and then book a taxi. ‘Always book an official taxi inside the terminal’ Louise had told us, ‘don’t get into any old taxi waiting outside, it may not be a taxi’. We’ve read so many things about corruption, robbery and short changing that we were on high alert, despite the time. We toured the taxi booths trying to get the lowest price and eventually agreed with the first one we’d visited got into the taxi and he drove like the wind through the relatively quiet Mexico City streets (if such a thing as ‘relatively quiet’ exists), overtaking on the inside, then the outside. ‘I wonder if we’ll die tonight’ we thought!

We got to the hotel and into our room (which looked like a ‘knocking shop’ – well, they do rent rooms for 6 hours apparently) at about 02:30am and crashed out immediately. Screaming police sirens going past the window woke us at 06:00am, but I went back to sleep, Jackie not really. Eventually at 08:00am I woke as Jackie was reading her emails – I refused to let her open the curtains at 07:00am when she first wanted to, still dozing.

We had a tasty breakfast (which we had to pay extra for), took a walk to find the nearby bus station without luggage, just in case it was too risky or difficult and then came back, checked out and took our luggage, carrying it over the pedestrian overhead walkways over the busy roads, queued to buy our bus tickets and waited to board the bus. The big cases went into the bus storage area under the bus but the hand luggage we were taking on board was searched both by hand and with a metal detector. In a way that made us feel safe, but in another way, quite unsafe as they feel they have to. Apparently it’s common in Mexico, presumably too many busses have been held up and passengers robbed through people taking guns on board.

The bus was of high quality with reclining seats and even a film showing which was something we didn’t expect, we thought it would be an old rickety bus with dirty upright seats but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Jackie got chatting to a very nice Mexican lady who was also going to Tepoztlan (it’s only the first stop and goes on somewhere else), understanding about 40% of what she was saying and she told us when to get off (but the SatNav on my phone also verified when we were there), even offering us a sweet, which was very nice.

Finally, after another 1km taxi ride over the very bumpy cobbled streets of the village we arrived at the house to be greeted by the lovely Louise and three barking dogs, who soon were our friends with waggy tails. We talked and talked, lovely to finally meet in the flesh. As I write they are all flaked out, Maty lying across Jackie’s lap

Jackie working on the blog with difficulty
We walked the dogs and visited the vets, the walk is only 10 minutes round the block, but involves taking a big stick to fend off other dogs. Two people, two sticks and three dogs was fine, how Louise copes, one person, one stick and three dogs I don’t know.

We went to the market for dinner, to Louise’s favourite stall, serving good vegetarian food. Thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but have no idea what we ate. Back for a beer before bed, and then I was out like a light, due to my earplugs, the other two enjoyed the delights of the party opposite till 04.30!

We made ourselves scarce after breakfast to give Louise chance to shower, finish packing, finish the translation she had, deadline today, before coming back for lunch, only to find her slightly panicked, all busses till 15.30 including the direct one to the airport had vanished from the website, so she dashed off in a taxi to the bus station where fortunately she bought a direct bus ticket, as the bus was half empty! Even so, time flew, she made some lovely guacamole which she never got to eat as I threw her out of her own house. I really hope she made the bus!

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear your flight to Mexico sounds absolutely horrendous- well done for eventually getting yourselves on the plane! How very stressful for you both. Enjoy the calmness now and enjoy the R & R I'm sure you really need it! Take care xx