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How I Crossed the US-Mexico Border By Foot and Met ‘The Wall’

Hello, ‘the wall’! What seems like a daring adventure is a routine commute for many.

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7 min read
My border crossing was quite an adventure but mostly in my head  
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Okay, so I went to Mexico!

A dream I have always had of that Baja (south of California) honeymoon, driving through unheard-of beach towns in a jalopy, getting sloshed on margaritas, getting sand on my thighs, having sex in a torn tent, beers and taco for breakfast...that kind of thing was my fantasy for a honeymoon when I married a man from San Diego, the American town that borders Mexico.

More than ten years and two kids later, there was still no Mexican honeymoon. So on this last summer holiday to San Diego – land of the free, home of the brave, and home of my in-laws – I was like, ‘It’s now or never!’

Our San Diego suburb of Del Mar with its holidayers and sun-worshippers is but an hour away from Tijuana, Mexico. We decided to leave the children with the willing in-laws and do our romantic getaway.

I had no idea that you could do that notorious and infamous border crossing into Tijuana – a border synonymous with the ‘outsider’, with debates on illegal immigration, Mexican asylum seekers, Donald Trump, anger, and “the wall’’ – perfectly legally by foot (with US and Mexico visas). Hundreds cross every day, perfectly legally. 
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I had always followed the stories of what happened to families trying to cross over – waiting, separated, or worse, crossing illegally and risking their lives. The border was synonymous with all of this, a sort of parallel plot to my Baja fantasies. That morning, I didn’t want the two to mix. What if for some reason as we tried to come back we were asked to ‘Go back to where we came from’?

The morning of our “border crossing’’ as I like to call it, as I applied sun screen and sipped on Brook Bond tea ( one of my mother-in-law’s few concessions to her Indian roots) this was San Diego Tribune’s headline.

 How I Crossed the US-Mexico Border By Foot and Met ‘The Wall’
Image: San Diego Union Tribune

Great.

Location of said protest? El Chapparal crossing. The place our tour operator asked us to meet? Guess what – Ditto.

No time to change plans, we were heading by car to the Mexico border where we will finally do the crossing by foot… as you do...

You cross the border by foot as it’s wayyyy easier than taking a car, because the endless lines coming back to the United States could mean being stuck in traffic for more than 7 hours.

America’s Last Shopping Mall!

We drove to a parking lot at the last shopping mall and this is when I got my first glimpse of Mexico… there, wedged between an H&M and a taco shop was for me the promised land of my honeymoon fantasy. For others, it was just the other side of the border. But I soon realised what I was actually looking at.....that brown thing in the horizon, I didn’t realise, was - the wall.
Little did we know this was our first glimpse of THE WALL!
Little did we know this was our first glimpse of THE WALL!
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)
The pedestrian crossing to the foot bridge.
The pedestrian crossing to the foot bridge.
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)

I was expecting signs saying, “Once you cross, good luck coming back!” but no, no such thing. We reach the little turnstile, wound through, and were then greeted by a friendly Mexican immigration official who asks you how many days you plan to stay… and I’m like, ‘I plan to be home by end of day please miss’, and off we go.

The foot bridge from San Diego to El Chapparal, Tijuana on the US-Mexico border.
The foot bridge from San Diego to El Chapparal, Tijuana on the US-Mexico border.
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)
The Border
The Border
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)

And just like that, we find ourselves in a big square in Tijuana...

Tijuana!
Tijuana!
(Gif: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)

To local San Diegans, TJ is where college frat boys and sorority girls come for cheap drinks… or when you’re too young to drink in California.

TJ of ‘Narcos Mexico’ fame… which made me wonder whether the white van which appeared to take us on our tour was an abduction vehicle. Just the cray cray thoughts of a woman who watched too much Netflix on maternity leave, I try to tell myself.

Turns out it was just Mr Rosario, about the most reassuring Mexican travel agent you will ever meet.

In no time, we see miles of a brown something stretching for miles beside us.

THE promised wall...? Below are twenty miles of it.

“This is about twice the height of the old one. We have two fences and in between we have the border patrol despite all the technology.”
Mr. Rosario, Travel Agent

So what does he make of all really think of all the protestors at the border?

The Mexican border debates that we see played out in the news today are not just about Mexican people wanting to cross, but about people from a host of other countries who have come to the Mexican border city in order to try to seek asylum in America…

“It has been bad for tourism because tourists are afraid to come here from America – they don’t want to get caught in a mess going back home.”
Isias Rosario

I suppose his views as guy who works in tourism are understandable.

And on Mr Trump here’s all he said. “ Some decades ago these beaches were full of pictures of him on real estate ads for beach side condos.”

As Muk seemed to say ‘we are hungry’ for the 20th time, we pulled into town of Rosarito and were met by perhaps the best cup of coffee I have ever had, at La Colombiana. This brew was its own kind of morning mellow. And it’s also famous for Churros, a sweet, fried cinnamon bread.

La Colombiano in Rosarito.
La Colombiano in Rosarito.
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)

But soon we were screaming.

“Great coffee, but c’mon, we’ve been in Mexico one whole hour and have yet to eat!” So off we sped to La Fonda / La Mision’s incredible eatery by the sea, Poco Cielo.

My “divorced eggs” red sauce on one, green on the other were to die for.

Funny name for a delayed honeymoon breakfast.

Two kinds of sauce, one green, one red, and rice and beans… husband got the sizzling scramble.

The views at Poco Cielo
The views at Poco Cielo
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)

And the dolphins decided to put on a show for us!

Uske baad we sped off to go see wine country, Guadalupe Valley...

If you must do wineries in Guadalupe Valley...
If you must do wineries in Guadalupe Valley...
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)

We drank some rose... okay, we drank some some red, some white, and some rose, and then headed off to touristy Ensenada, where we saw the place where margaritas were invented... which, to a fan, is kind of like saying where a drink was invented.

Time to eat again. This time at a Puerto Nuevo known for its lobsters. I can’t eat lobster. Muk can eat several. I ate the world’s biggest tortilla. Soft as hell. Made the best case for white flour carbs possible. Plus margaritas, of course.

Love the no-fuss margarita glass!
Love the no-fuss margarita glass!
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)
Mexican pottery on the drive home and plenty of it.
Mexican pottery on the drive home and plenty of it.
(Photo: Amrita Gandhi/The Quint)

Soon, time to head back and I was like, stopppp, I haven’t shopped!’

So we pulled over to get some painted Mexican pottery – which I must warn you, does not make for the most elegant baggage for someone doing the border crossing by foot back to America.

And I am like, ‘Man, what were we thinking, why did we do this trip, what if we don’t get back? What if we have a dodgy encounter once we are dropped off at the border?’

I am pretty much mentally clinging to our travel agent’s ankles as he drops us off at the border after we pay him 5400 Peso for the entire trip.

Of course nothing happened.

I did hear or imagine some clanging sounds and loud voices, not unlike anyone who who has been to an American airport security check has had to hear, but the dude who sat at the checkpoint was just messing with me when he said I couldn’t take my wine with me.

I would have happily given him my wine, my wedding ring, hey, even my husband if he promised me I could through without a snag. ( Just kidding Muk)

Turns out none of that was necessary. We sailed through. I finally exhaled. I was in the car.

We called my kids.

I had nothing to brag about, we did it legally, no pain, unlike the families in the news every day. We were seeing the kids again, so pretty much in an hour and 20 minutes we would be home in our leafy suburb. A shorter commute from the border than if we had to commute home to South Delhi from Gurgaon.

Is there was anything in the world more important than family.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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