Category Archives: bus travel in Mexico

Continuation – Truck Registration

For those of you waiting with bated breath to find out the outcome of our legalization of Foxy The Truck, it did finally come to pass. We got a call from the import agent that the truck was ready, and that he would drive it to Hermosillo for us. 
NOTE: Yes, you can get certain years and types of cars “Mexicanized”, which was our goal. It is just not practical to keep renewing 6-month permits unless you are staying very close to the border, as each renewal requires a drive to the border. The paper-work for legalizing our truck cost less than $1000. In FACT, it’s really not practical to bring a car at all unless you plan to leave and take it with you. You can read about this on other blogs.
We took a bus north to Hermosillo. The trip was described by the bus agent as a 24-hour ride from Leon. The bus was nice, with movie screens and comfortable seats. But we ended up right next to the bathroom, and the fumes of chemicals were pretty strong. The trip took about 30 hours, mostly, as far as I could tell, because of the MANY TIMES (I think it was 8 times) that we were stopped by the Federales. One time we were stopped for nearly an hour. I noticed that every time they came into the bus, they questioned the same woman a few seats in front of us. And once they questioned a guy in the back seat of the bus for a half-hour hour or so. It was hot when we were stopped, and the passengers became pretty restless. Once Chon asked an officer why they were bothering everyone so much. The answer was “Por la maldita droga” (damn drugs.) There were many large buckets of some liquid in the luggage space underneath a bus that was stopped next to us, and the agents examined and re-examined them without opening them.
I had never seen the little tiny sleeping place underneath buses where the second driver could sleep – I had no idea they existed.
The only other memorable event during the bus trip north was a wonderful shrimp cocktail we had during a short breakfast stop in Navojoa. The owner of the little spot where we ate was from Guanajuato. The shrimps were medium-sized, and in a flavorful, reddish liquid with chopped onions and cilantro with lemon or lime juices. He urged me to add ketchup. It was delicious and invigorating.
We found our agent and the truck at the bus station in Hermosillo about 5 pm. We paid him and started off for a pretty easy trip back. We worried about crossing state lines, (just because Things Happen), but we were not stopped even once.
We arrived in Navojoa around ten, and stopped at an autohotel called El Peñon (one of those), and got up and left around ten in the morning.
Traveling through Sinaloa was interesting. We usually pass through there in the dark of night. Sinaloa is a produce state, (the car license plates boast tomatoes on them, which gives you an idea) and reminds me a lot of California’s San Joaquin Valley. There had been a hard freeze in January (see earlier blog entry) and many trees and fields were burned and ruined. 
There are miles and miles of fields in Sinaloa, many bearing small signs, identifying the brands of seeds used for the planting. The names on the signs were all familiar to me, and to anyone who has driven through farm country, – I saw Asgrow, Dekalb, Pioneer, and Monsanto, among others.
We arrived in Mazatlan, the famous beach town, at five pm, and had a good caldo on the main street at a family food stand. We stayed at our favorite one of those, Xtasys, and got up early, about 5 am.  That spot charges by the hour if you stay more over your allotted twelve hours.
It took 3 and a half hours to get through Tepic. We fervently hoped to get through Guadalajara without getting confused (again) by the highway signs, but alas, it was not to be. We followed signs to Mexico City, Highway 15, as we had planned, but we ended up on a bit of highway that ended in a dirt road. We got directions, and found ourselves on a hair-raising rocky road, headed up a very steep hill when the gas tank we were using, never absolutely dependable in its indicator, ran low on gas, and began to sputter. I switched tanks as quickly as possible, the engine died. I award myself many, many bravery points for getting Foxy started again while stomping hard on the brake so we didn’t slide backwards down the hill. Of course, Chon helped to keep me calm by telling me how wonderful I was (me keeping up a constant stream of sweating and swearing , and being very encouraging in general.)
Our detour took us to a wonderful artesan town called Tonala. There were beautiful object of glass, copper and wood displayed in the streets.  Our gas tanks continued to lie to us, and Foxy nearly died again as we went up an onramp to the highway. Once again, though, however hair-raising, we maintained our forward movement and headed to Juana’s house on the other side of Arandas, the famous tequila-making town.
Juana seems to have a sort of 6th sense about our arrivals, and she hurried to the door to welcome us. She fed us something really good that I can’t recall – I think it was a guisado, and we left before dark, because there is an unmarked turn we missed on the return from Josefino once.
Now we have a Mexican automobile! Legal! Forever! No trips to the border to renew permits!

Bus Trip – From The Border To Leon


We decided to leave this place after we got our money and documents returned to us. Alfonso stopped by our home, room 107, to let us know that there shouldn’t be any problem passing Kilometro 21, as long as we had the pink slip and registration. Samuel tried to pry $300 from us, to have his cousin allow us to pass K21. But fortified with Alfonso’s information, we decided to – just cross.
So on the morning of the ninth, we got up and prepared to leave. Foxy started right up, and I let her warm up a bit before we left. This is how far we got.

There, right there in front of the hotel,Foxy died. We had some brief, intense conversations, switched gas tanks, tried and tried, and finally, about half an hour later, we got the truck started again. We have puzzled quite a bit over what happened, but we probably will never know. There are two gas tanks, and we have noticed that the truck doesn’t start as well when we use the back tank. 
Anyway, we drove to the town of Santa Ana, stopping only once , to sample the pulque at a local restaurant on the way. We arrived in Santa Ana, but had a difficult time decyphering the map Alfonso gave us. We gave up and called him, and he came to find us. He bought us breakfast in Coyota Maya (?) (Coyota Something). We found out later what coyotas are.
We got on the bus at Santa Ana at about 12:30. The tickets cost about $230 for the two of us, from Santa Ana to Leon (maybe around 1,800 miles. It seemed like an awful lot until we compared the price to the price of two tickets from Los Angeles to Chicago, for example. Still, we think a flight might have been more economical.
At Hermosillo  for about $2 Chon bought us four coyotas (a Sonoran tradition). They look like flour tortillas, and they have a filling. Chon bought the ones with piloncillo that tasted quite a bit like molasses. And they had an ever-so-slight flavor of wood smoke.

We left there, and in about ten minutes the bus driver stopped again. The bus driver announced a stop of 20 minutes to eat. It was a road-side place that served toasted buns with chopped-up meat on one half, and onions, tomatoes, and other goodies on the other half. We took them on to the bus to eat, and they were wonderful!

We tried to sleep on the bus with some success, and arrived at Mazatlan at 5 a.m. We grabbed some pre-made sandwiches from the  bus stop and hit the road again for Nayarit.
Somewhere in Nayarit the bus stopped to let a passenger off, at a junction of another road. It was still pretty early, and most of the passengers were sleeping. The young man stood by near the road, after jumping across a little ditch, pulling out his cellphone.  It made me think, as I had before, about the secret destinations of the passengers. 
Mexican roads in general are quite good, in spite of what you might read in travel books, especially the roads the buses take, the cuotas (toll roads). You pay, though, for the excellent quality. These cuotas run nearly parallel to the libres (free). The libres pass through all the towns, and the cuotas avoid them.
The bus companies have nices buses with bathrooms. The buses are fairly new, with comfortable seats, but sometimes the windows are  pretty rattly.
We made a stop in Nayarit, at a town called Jala, around breakfast time. Chon got us quesadillas with meat, made with hand-made tortillas. I added salsa from the molcajetes. I thought I should have added more salsa, but I put plenty – it was picosa! and the quesadillas were quite wonderful. There were many indiginous people there, and you could hear their language, which impressed me as sounding similar to Asian languages. One young woman with a baby slung on her back in a rebozo went to the sinks for washing hands, and washed her head, and not the long dark hair that hung down her back.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, except for the remarkable fact that we didn’t enter the bus depot in Guadalajara, but just dropped off the riders stopping there right on the street outside the station.
We arrived in Leon at 4, and right away got headed towards home, and got inexpensive tickets right to El Pedernal. When we grabbed our things and got off the bus at the top of the main street, some kids we know were there, and they helped us carry our things to the house – Chon had brought three guitars, and we had various other bags to carry.