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The day started off with us catching a cab to the bus station in Zacatecas for a long bus ride to Monterrey, our last destination in Mexico where we had planned to stay a couple of nights. The bus ride was boring with only big open places with scrub to look at. In fact, we haven’t seen anything but scrub since leaving Mexico City. We also hadn’t been under 2000m in altitude.
Damian was feeling sick which isn’t a good start to any day although soon we were both going to be feeling sick from worry!
Encounter with the Mexican Army
About an hour from Monterrey, we reached a military checkpoint where people get on and glare at everyone and get off again. This happens at least once on every bus trip we have taken so we weren’t concerned. For the second time in Mexico, people with bags under the bus were asked to get off so the army could inspect them. Damian got off and this is where things started to go bad… When Damian opened the bag, the army guy asked to see his passport instead of looking in his bag. We think this is because Damian’s hands, as always, were shaking. Anyway, we had some bad news when it turned out our visitor card was expiring that day!
I am so annoyed that I didn’t realise that. Officials on the border when you enter are allowed to give you up to 180 days but obviously when we entered they felt like being pricks and gave us only 30 days… I should have checked this, but I assumed we were right whatever they gave us, as we were exiting within a month… I forgot to take into account that January is 31 days and that they count both the day you enter and exit the country!
It got nasty then, luckily someone else on the bus spoke English and Spanish and was able to translate for us. Also, this person came and got me which the army official hadn’t wanted Damian to do. They said that they had called immigration and that we had to wait for them to come to be escorted from the country. We were actually on a bus that would finish up on a border town with the US, so I tried to argue through our translator that we should be able to continue as long as we stayed with the bus and exited that evening. the army guy argued that we had to exit through the same border point as we came through (something I have never heard of) and that being at the other end of the country, we were up the creek.
So I went back in the bus to get our stuff, incredibly scared as I didn’t want to be left with these army guys in the middle of nowhere. While I was on the bus, the army guy managed to get Damian alone and then asked for money… Damian understood what was going on and offered him 100 pesos saying that’s all we have (its about US$10)… Anyway he waved it off with a laugh and then decided to do us a big “favour” and let us keep going….
We were very relieved at this point. The best part about this experience was the people on the bus – they were so lovely to us when we got back on! They asked the lady who was translating to tell us that they were about to all get off the bus and stop the army people from taking us! I got a hug and a kiss and another lady showed us her bible and motioned that she had been praying for us!
Change of plan – heading to Reynosa
We were relieved to be on our way again but stressed as we still had to leave the country that day or get to an immigration office to extend our tourist card… We decided to leave for the US as by the time we got to Monterrey, it was too late to visit an immigration office there so we would have to go to the border anyway. It was only 3 hours from Monterrey.
We arrived in Monterrey and ran around like crazy looking for a bus to the border town of Reynosa, near where Erica lives (my friend in Texas). We found one without any problems and we were away again after only half an hour. I was sad to only get to see Monterrey from the window of the bus though. It looked like an interesting place, much more American. A couple of years ago I had two of Erica’s friends from Monterrey come and stay with us in Melbourne so I wanted to see where they were from.
We arrived in Reynosa with 5 minutes to spare before the last bus left for McAllen, the US town on the other side of the border. We hopped aboard and were taken to the border. We thought at this stage our troubles were over but this was not to be…. read the next part of our drama in Mexico US border crossing – attempt one!
Bus Zacatecas – Monterrey 7.5 hours, 293 pesos; bus Reynosa 3 hours 168 pesos, bus McAllen 24 pesos