After a quiet night right by the beach in San Miguel, Harry and I drove into Ensenada, the last major town before the one-lane Mexican Highway 1 winds through hundreds of kilometers of hilly desert. Suddenly a police truck veered into a U-turn and flagged us down. After inquiring whether I spoke any Spanish, the officer claimed that I had failed to stop at the previous intersection. I had noticed that the city was littered with stop signs, so I quickly discarded the possibility that I was being hustled. Nonetheless, I was amazed that the officer then explained that he had to escort me to the main police station as he himself would not be able to issue a proper receipt. After fifteen minutes of stop-and-go traffic, we reached the headquarters where we were assigned a parking spot. A few minutes later I was handed an incident report, which I then had to take to the cashier where I paid MX$350 (a little over US$20) and received a very official-looking receipt in return. “Have a safe trip!,” the officer shouted as we drove off.
Passing through dozens of small towns, we took Highway 1 toward San Quintin, located 160km south of Ensenada. At some point I noticed that the brake pedal appeared stuck, so I gave it a hearty kick. That did the trick — but it also wrecked the GPS locator that I had fastened right above it and that had apparently dropped from its socket. While I’m glad that I had noticed the stuck pedal in a non-emergency situation, I was of course miffed to have lost la bestia‘s traceability.
Near San Quintin we pulled into Los Olivos Campground, a manicured site for RVs and tents constructed within a beautiful former olive grove. The only campers there were Fraenzi and Martin, a Swiss couple from Rheintal who have been on the road since March 2015, also driving from north (Halifax) to south (Patagonia). They are traveling in a custom-converted 1998 Land Rover Defender 130 that goes by “Uyarak,” which means “rolling mountain” in Inuit. Fraenzi and Martin generously shared two of the most precious assets to overlanders: (a) home-cooked food and (b) knowledge. Enjoying a fantastic zucchini risotto (see a), they had heard that the ferry between Panama and Colombia would resume service in early November (see b), which–if true–would mean that we would not have to pay for a container but rather be able to stay inside our vehicles during the 24-hour passage. We are all hoping for this miracle to materialize! On top of that, (see b again) Martin turned out to be an expert on all things electronic and he quickly diagnosed that my GPS tracker was indeed non-salvageable and offered tips on how to install a replacement device, which I’ve already ordered.
I was able to at least partially return their favors by sharing some imported Gruyere with them. The cheese made Martin sigh, and Fraenzi exclaimed: “Sieben Monate!” [seven months!]. Can’t take the longing for Swiss cheese out of a Swiss, it seems… Both parties decided to stay put for a sunny day of rest before continuing south.