As noted in a previous blog, Triple Check Your Dates Or Get Deported From Mexico, I was venturing into my shark trip with a big question mark – that question mark being would the Mexican maritime authorities let me onto the shark boat? This blog is the tale of how that question mark resolved.
A quick summation of the situation: due to a date mix-up between myself and the adventure organizer, I was not on the Mexican maritime authority’s list of approved people to go on the shark boat for the date that I was actually there.
Word on the street is that the Mexican authorities are super strict as to who gets to go to Guadalupe island, it being an incredible nature preserve as well as a national treasure (suck it, Nicolas Cage). If you are not on the list then you don’t get to go on the boat. Basically, this is the nature equivalent of a fancy night club.
Obviously, I was SUPER OMG EXCITED for this adventure! Failing to get onto that boat would have been devastating. It would have been devastating for my nerd-self, but also for the sharks, who were no doubt excited for my visit.
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On the day that the adventure was to begin, I met up with the participants at the meeting place. The adventure organizer was horrified at the clerical mistake and her anxiety about me getting onto the boat was as intense as my own anxiety. She and I decided that our best bet to get me onto the boat was to take a two hour bus trip from San Diego to Ensenada, Mexico (where the boat was stationed) just see what happens. Hey, sounded like a solid plan to me!
Problem: if I don’t get on that boat, not only do I miss out on the adventure, but I’m stuck in Ensenada for a week with no transportation, no hotel room, and no Pesos. Basically, I’m adrift in a foreign country completely naked and afraid. Why was I naked? That is my business.
Alrighty, time to do this! We boarded the bus, peaced the fuck out of San Diego, and started the bus trip into the unknown. What could go wrong?
Getting into Mexico is easy. We used the Tijuana border crossing station and it was straight on through – the authorities check your passport, they x-ray your luggage, and you get to see a donkey show. Yes, it is apparently tougher to get onto a boat in Mexico than to actually get into the country of Mexico.
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From there, the bus ride to the port was complete anxiety for the remainder of the drive offset by the gorgeous Baja scenery (seriously, what a gorgeous part of the world!).
Then, we got to Ensenada…we got to the port…and the real anxiety began.
Upon arriving at the port I realized that the word on the street about the Mexican maritime authorities was true. They stopped every vehicle heading to the port and checked out everyone in the vehicle.
The Mexican authorities entered our bus with a list of the approved names on it. Then, the federales had each person on the bus produce their passport, which they then bounce off of their precious list of authorized participants. If the person’s name is on the list they get a check and are good to go. What happens to the people not on the list? Time to find out.
As everything in life happens in a cruel fashion, I was seated in the back of the bus so I had an extra long wait for the federales to get to me. That gave enough time for the anxiety to build to overwhelming levels. When the federale got to me he asked for my passport. I spared a nervous look to the adventure organizer, who reciprocated the nervous look, and produced my passport. The federale checked my name against the list. I wasn’t on it.
He triple checked the list. I still wasn’t on it.
“Two minutes, sir. I need to figure out why you aren’t on the list.” He took my passport, exited the bus, and entered a vestibule.
Ten minutes go by.
The federale emerges from the vestibule and directs our bus driver to pull over so that other cars could get by. Uh oh, this is starting to look like it might take an uncomfortably long time.
Fifty anxiety ridden minutes go by.
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By this point I’m sweating bullets. Everyone on the bus is starting to question why I’m not on the list: Is this jabroni some kind of fugitive from justice for committing crimes of fashion? Is this guy some kind of international shark molester? Is this guy breaking the law by being just so damn handsome? Yes, to all of these questions, of course, but they don’t apply in this situation.
The adventure organizer and I are sharing terrified glimpses at each other. All the while I can see the federale in the vestibule making phone calls and pointing to his list in a “why isn’t he on here?” fashion. Oh shit!
At this point I am thinking the worst – am I breaking some kind of law by trying to board a boat while not being on “the list”? What if I ended up spending my week in a Mexican jail learning how to make high quality cars for fat and lazy Americans. The situation was getting dire!
Then, a hero emerged.
At this point, the bus driver, who is Mexican, has had enough of the federale’s bureaucratic shit. He exits the bus and storms over to the federale’s vestibule to wildly gesticulate in a “WTF is happening?” fashion. A few minutes later the bus driver returns to the bus followed by the federale. The moment of truth, and my likely imprisonment, had arrived.
The federale enters the bus, walks all the way to the back of the bus where I am sitting (in a pool of my own nervous filth)… and hands me my passport without saying anything. Then, he exits the bus.
WTF just happened?
Then, the sweet, sweet sound of the bus firing up is heard by all! As the bus starts to move the adventure operator and I share a glance of pure happiness. Holy fucking shit, did this crack-smoking scheme of ours just work? Did the strict Mexican maritime authorities just accept the wild gesticulations from a bus driver as to being reason enough to allow me onto the boat?
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The bus finally rolled through the checkpoint and we were officially in the port. After we exited the bus and boarded the boat (I still had zero confidence that this was happening until I was on the boat) I asked around as to what the bus driver had said to the federale to get me onto the boat. Literally, no one knew. I still don’t know!
Mexican bus driver, as you are no doubt reading this, myself and my little fishy friend pictured below say a big MUCHAS GRACIAS!
The morale of this story is that wildly gesticulating your arms and yelling in Spanish is the best way to get yourself out of a jam. Remember that the next time you have issues with, say, immigration or customs. And, if you get detained for your actions please remember that I’m a jack-ass blogger and not a lawyer. Word to your mom.