Saturday, August 27, 2016

Today we went to Mexico

Pretty much on the spur of the moment we decided to go to Mexico today - Gerald is out of allopurinol and it is going to take weeks for him to get the doctor appointment that is necessary in order to get a new prescription.  Not only that, there will be tests and all the related time and expense, so we decided to take a quick trip to Mexico where it can be bought over the counter in a local Farmacia.

It was such a beautiful drive - the roads were relatively quiet, especially once we left San Antonio. This year's second spring is arriving and both the Crepe Myrtles and the Texas sage is blooming beautifully.  The first spring earlier this year brought a multitude of blue, yellow and white flowers growing along the edges of the roads but this second spring (which seems to be brought on by the rains in late summer) brings with it broad swaths of Texas Sage alongside the road and field upon field of beautiful blossoms beyond that.

We were going to walk across the bridge into Mexico as it was only a couple of miles to where we knew of a Farmacia that has what we need, but decided that finding parking in Del Rio was not easy and anyhow we wanted a trial run to see how complex (or simple) it is going to be when we cross the border next year for the real adventure.

This turned out to be a good decision because it was a breeze, we just paid the toll on the USA side (a whopping $3.50 for the car) and once at the Mexican border post, got into the 'nothing to declare' lane and drove straight on through.  Of course this does raise the question about how/where are we going to get our Mexican car insurance and pay the necessary fees and get our Visado, but that is for another day, today was easy and fun.

The first big surprise was that our GPS (with only USA maps loaded) still actually worked in the heart of Acuna.  The second surprise, once we parked (much more easily than expected once we were off the 'main' road), it was much cleaner than we expected and there was a man busy sweeping the sidewalk where we wanted to park.  I was able to communicate with him enough for him to let me know that it was OK to park where we were - it looked confusing to us because there are a lot of little bumps built into the road, not painted lines demarcating parking spaces - apparently as long as you park anywhere within those little bumps you are OK.

So we parked just around the corner from the Farmacia that I had picked out this morning on a google map (having of course researched it and seen that they had what we need, at a reasonable price).  After a few moments of stage fright we started practicing our Spanish (thank you Memrise!) and managed to communicate what we were looking for (it also helped that I had written down the Mexican version of Allopurinal which is alopurinal, along with a brand name).  The next test was figuring out how many US Dollars the price came out to be.  At the end of our little 'conversation' we ended up walking out of Farmacia Del Nino with a 120 day supply for only $5.75 !  At the end of the day, 9 gallons of gas and $5.75 was an absolute bargain for a day 'abroad' in Mexico, lots of fun and education, amazing experiences and exorbitant doctors bills and lab tests etc.  What a bargain!
From here we drove around exploring and found that the streets are narrow with cars parked facing in both directions on either side of the road.  Look out for poorly maintained roads and sidewalks but mostly, there are a lot of one way streets that do not have any one way signs (that we could see anyhow).  We ended up driving the wrong way down a one way street and were kindly waved across by an oncoming motorist so that we realized our mistake.  Not a horn was to be heard, no rushing motorists, no road rage, just patient acceptance.  However, if I mention that there does not seem to be much of law enforcement and we saw at least one beat up car with Texas plates and an expired licence sticker (actually it expired in 2013) driving around, I guess that would explain the patient acceptance.  It doesn't really matter?

Our business completed, we drove and walked and generally explored - I had read about a supermarket called Gutierrez who farmacia had great prices, so we got Naggy (the GPS) to take us there.  After an adventure of several blocks, we finally ended up there and went exploring in the supermercado - this time we could not quite get clear about the price with the assistant and it sounded expensive so we left it - we will be back shortly before Gerald's supply runs out (we had bought the last of the stock that Farmacia Del Nino had).  We had great fun looking at all the strange and wonderful fruta y verdura en pastries and tarta.  The fruit and veggies actually didn't look too good - even though all the prices of groceries were very much better than here in the USA, the quality was poor - probably because all the good stuff is shipped to us and we get great quality here in TX at very reasonable prices.  Again, we had a lot of fun and feel that we learned the very small beginnings of life in Mexico.

One big lesson that I learned there, is look before you enter the rest rooms (banos or servicios).  Once I got into the toilet stall I realized that there was no paper, not even a holder of any sort for paper, so I tried the next stall but it was the same.  I left and was going to go to the car for tissues but as I looked around waiting for Gerald, I saw some people going into the bathroom but stopping first and taking paper from two big dispensers on the wall at the entrance to the area where the rest rooms were.  Now I know next time, look outside before going inside !

By now, it was time for lunch so we drove back into the central are where we had previously been - again, going around many back roads discovering lots of different architectural styles (?)  Naggy may have the map of Acuna but it is obviously way out of date and anyhow, only the major streets in the central district actually have name signs.  I am also very sure that there have been many renaming exercises between when our map was created and now.

We saw some fascinating sights and looking back, it was much quieter and cleaner that we had expected.  On our way to finding a local eatery that looked clean and inviting and frequented by locals, we saw the most amazing shoes (oh my those heels are like stilts) and of course the fantastic occasion dresses that looked like wedding cakes or something from an old movie's ballroom scene.

We found our lunch place after having passed it by once, we were walking back and took a second look and decided it was right for the day and for us.  We had another conversation and practiced our Spanish (not too bad this time) but during a conversation about water, I asked for tap water and thought that I had said something wrong but Gerald reminded me that we don't drink the water in Mexico so I requested una botella de agua and the camarera (waitress) smiled with relief.  Another lesson, another experience, followed by a great meal and a bill of only about $8 dollars for 2 big plates of food, a beer and a bottle of water !

Tired, happy and full of new experiences (and food), we decided to head for home - come on Naggy, take us home please.  Guess what, we ended up going around in what seemed like circles again and ended up going out of town on the opposite side to where we came in - I could see on the map that she appeared to be taking us out to the Rio Grand and then back along it to the International bridge.  OK, lets see where she takes us now, we always enjoy the unexpected and the scenic route.  It turns out that there is another bridge and (according to the border patrol lady) GPS systems always seem to use that crossing.  That bridge was at the top of the Amistad Dam and what a sight it was, it is amazing - a very, very quiet road, beautiful border post and an awesome view down into the reservoir and the afterbay.  Yes, there is a reason for everything, especially for taking the scenic route and not sticking to the known or to convention :)

Judge for yourself - was it worth it?