– visited August 2014 –

I am short on time. I have to reach New York soon for my flight back home. But I want to get there in style, that means overland and trying to get a quick impression of the places along the way. I was quick in Central America giving me a few days for Mexico.

As we leave the boat in Chetumal we are told to put all our bags on the ground in one line. The dog comes and sniffs around, searching for drugs. No results. I spend too much time visiting Valladolid, the Cenotes (sinkhole lakes) of Zaci and X-Canché and the Maya ruins of Ek Balam so I have to cancel my planned visit of the famous Chichén Itzá. Just no time. On to Mérida.

In Guadalajara, I meet with Rodolfo, whom I met travelling ten months earlier in Venezuela (in the Venezuelan Mérida). We head to the village of Tequila; you might guess what this place is famous for.

People keep telling me just to fly to the United States, but this is a border I definitely want to cross overland. I take a night bus to Monterrey and from there I can take another night bus into the US. Monterrey is a beautiful and interesting city. I visit the Parque Fundidora, an urban park organized around a disused steel mill that can be visited. Things in Monterrey have come back to normal after an attack by the criminal gang Los Zetas, who set fire to a casino for failing to pay extortion money, killed more than 50 people in 2011. Mexico certainly has a problem with organized crime.

Several buses are running to Dallas at similar times, so I have to randomly choose one of the operators. I chose the wrong one. It starts with: “You have to change the bus at the border”. Having reached the border town of Nuevo Laredo half an hour before midnight it suddenly sounds very different. I would have to wait the whole night, take an early morning bus across the border to Laredo and then continue to Dallas with yet another bus. No way. First, it is very inconvenient to have to spend the whole night at a bus station and secondly in this case I would arrive in Dallas way too late for my plans. I complain. There is an earlier option but in order to take this bus I will have to take a taxi to the border right now. I shell out the 10 US$ for the taxi. Just as we reach the border, three black cars without number plates aggressively overtake our car. They pass the border entrance and take a right turn back into town. I ask the driver about the cars. “Narcos”, he says, drug traffickers, showing themselves totally openly.

I enter the Mexican border post. The lady is friendly but at some point, the process seems to stall. She is concentrating and staring at her screen but doing nothing. I ask if I can help. “No, everything okay.” After another minute of screen staring, I ask again. “I need to pick Germany somewhere here but I can’t find it”, she does the right thing, turns her screen and gives me the mouse. After a few seconds, I select “DE–Alemania” from the drop-down menu. Fairly incompetent, it can only get better on the other side. It will not.                  

I find myself doing what I never wanted to do, half an hour after midnight, I walk over the bridge crossing the Rio Grande towards the US border post. I am alone at night in one of the most crime-ridden areas on earth.