Wild Young Minds: Roadtrip part 2: Welcome to Tijuana - tequila, sexo y marijuana

Friday, February 5, 2016

Roadtrip part 2: Welcome to Tijuana - tequila, sexo y marijuana

One of the main reasons I'd chosen to go to Southern California was pretty obvious - don't they say it never rains in Southern California? Well, I know that's not true, but fact is that the sun shines a bit longer, a bit intenser and this makes the people relaxed, easy going and goddamn goodlooking. As if they're kissed by the sun. So yeah, after L.A., which was sunny but kinda unpersonal, I was looking forward to go to San Diego. And to the bus ride, since this one would only last 2,5 hours, so much better than the previous ones and the ones to come. On the other hand, it was Greyhound so you never know what to expect.
In the end, it indeed took the driver almost 4 hours to get to San Diego, but I didn't really mind. I was in the complete south of the States now, after all! My host had asked me if I was up for fish tacos and the answer was clear: hell yeah I was! I have to give it to him: he was right in saying that this restaurant served the best tacos in town. Of course I only tried about 3 of them - and many in San Francisco - but that's enough. After the tacos we walked around in Ocean Beach - OB for the locals and I always like to consider myself a local after a day or two - to the end of the pier and around the streets. It was pretty chilly for San Diego, but we warmed up with wines, that costed 5 dollars. 5 dollars! I couldn't believe my ears when the bar tender told me this. It was gonna be a good stay!
My host in San Diego was only gonna host me for one night, since I'd booked a hostel during New Year's Eve. I love Couchsurfing more than you can imagine, but I wanted to be sure that I was gonna be surrounded by lots and lots of people during NYE. It was adventurous enough to have no idea who I was gonna spend New Year's with, so I could at least make sure I'd spend it in a hostel with more internationals and more people looking to party. My host was super cool though, he was crazy about OB, had travelled a lot himself in Europe and was kind enough to drive me around and take me to all the ''must-see's'' in San Diego, like Balboa Park, the sea lions (I still can't understand why people have to take that many pictures when all they do is waddle around and look disgusting - guilty as charged myself as well though) and a beautiful view at Sunset Cliffs. 

The next day I was headed to the hostel, which had a very promising name: the Adventure hostel. This can be either extremely lame or super amazing. It turned out to be... Indeed, the most amazing hostel I've ever been to. And I've visited a lot of them. Paprika hostel in Budapest is a good competitor, but considering the fact that Adventure hostel offered free dinners, I must say this one goes home with the award. It took me a few days to realize that the free dinners were included in the prize, but even when that realization finally came, I thought it was still pretty cool. As you might know, I don't like cooking that much and I also don't like to spend lots of money. This was a fine alternative.
It's hard to say what else made the ITH Adventure Hostel such an awesome place. It was mostly the atmosphere, probably, the nice backyard and the people of course. For those of you who have travelled solo before, you've probably experienced the same thing: it's so, so easy to get into contact if you're alone. Not just because people start talking to you more easily, also because you yourself are more willing to make friends. And that wasn't hard in San Diego. When I arrived, everyone thought I was together with an Italian guy, because apparently we looked like a cool rock couple. Why? I was wearing a hat, a kimono and probably looked kinda hoboish as always, and he was wearing a leather jacket, black pants and his hair was bigggg. A few minutes later, we told the other people that ''no, we have never met before either''. Almost everyone seemed to be travelling alone in that hostel. So after the first days I was gathered by a bunch of very cool people that were up for anything. 
The first night I checked out North Beach quickly, a hipster part of town. I met up with a Canadian guy I'd briefly talked to in my dorm and his two local friends. We went to a fancy wine bar first and dancing afterwards. Finally! Not just dancing, but dancing to good old 90s R&B and hiphop. The public was interesting, but the music was gooooood. 
Starting the day of New Year's Eve (so weird that English doesn't have a word for this day, in Dutch we just say Old Year's Day) with a hangover might not be the best idea ever, but well, I managed to get a lot done anyway. Walked around at Gaslamp Quarter, went to Balboa Park with my Couchsurfing host and his new surfer from Wisconsin and called my parents and brother at 3 pm to wish them a Happy New Year already. Mine still had to start and it started with a grand buffet at the hostel. The idea was to eat and drink at the hostel and maybe check out the fireworks at the harbor later. Of course, I did not make it to the harbor, I didn't see any fireworks either but I had one of the best New Year's Eve's ever. Just because it was so spontaneous and unplanned. The guests at the hostel at that time were great: a girl from South-Korea, an older lady from the east of the States, a brother and sister from Australia who could talk Afrikaans and many more.
At 2 am I wanted to grab something from my room, but it turned out that wasn't so easy. My entire room was filled with people who were all looking to a woman sitting at the end of my bed. My bed, yes. I'd met the woman earlier that day already and she didn't come across as very bright. She was 43 and wanted to escape her family during the holidays. Alright, her choice. But the way she looked, the position of her eyes, it all seemed as if she'd used something. When I saw her sitting at the end of my bed I knew for sure she had. She was peeing over my entire blanket! All I could do was laugh, and say ''What the fuck'' perhaps five times. That night, I didn't sleep in that bed anymore, as you will understand. I felt a bit sorry for the volunteer that had to clean it, but well, it was not gonna be me. What a way to start the year!
The next day was a better way to start the year, luckily. The guys that volunteered at the hostel could get into the rooftop of our neighbor's for free and they were not the worst neighbors: the DoubleTree Hilton hotel! So all I did on New Year's day was lie in the jacuzzi, swim around in the pool a bit and make sure that my face was turned to the sun. Because it was so warm! I could think of worse ways to beat my hangover. 
That night we started drinking again, though, because after all, it was vacation, it was warm and it was San Diego. But before we could open the wine bottles, we had a bit of an adventure. Since Americans do everything with their car, it wasn't weird that we were gonna make the 1 mile ride to Grocery Outlet by car. As we were driving there, a bus driver wasn't paying attention and hit us from the side. Thank god, our driver from San Bernardino could escape to the left and no one was hurt. The guy in the front had seen his life flashing by before his eyes though. I had no idea what was happening, because it all went so fast. The car had a few scratches, but that was it. 
Because we hadn't had enough adventures those days, me and three guys decided to go to Black's Beach at 2 in the morning. Black's Beach is a deserted piece of beach and it took us at least 20 minutes to walk down. The rocks were not that stable, it was ice cold but I was wearing three blankets that covered my head like a burka. I was happy to be surrounded by 3 guys, because they took care of the bonfire and eventually we were all warm. One of them went skinnydipping, and most of the time I'm in for such a thing too, but this was just too cold. We went back to the hostel around 4.30 and my bus to Phoenix was supposed to leave at 7.30. I gave myself an hour of sleep but as we all know, it's better not to sleep at all than to sleep for one hour. Because of course, I slept through my alarm clock and I woke up at 7.30. Shit, damn, motherfucker. 
At first, I was very, very annoyed by myself, since the bus ticket had costed 80 dollars and now I had two days less in Phoenix. After a talk with my German roommate, I decided faith had decided this. Now I could join the hostel to Tijuana! Mexico! 

I'd almost given up on the idea of going to Mexico, because most Americans I'd asked for advice told me: skip Tijuana. It's a drughole, it's dangerous and it's not like real Mexico. Furthermore, I'd heard that it's super hard to enter the States again. The story sounds complicated, but is actually quite simple: my visa had expired the 23th of December, but that didn't mean I had to leave the US straightaway, I was given a month grace period to stay in the States. If I was to leave the US, however, I had to buy an ESTA (a tourist visa) in order to be allowed back in again. This only costed me 14 dollars, so I didn't worry about it and I included my plane tickets in my wallet, as proof that I was gonna leave the US in two weeks anyway. 

I do like some danger, so I decided to ignore the advice (sorry guys) and take the risk of being rejected at the border. Tijuana it was. Around 3 pm we took the bus from the center of San Diego to the border of Mexico, which only costed us half an hour. There we were! The oh so notorious border of Mexico. Hundreds of cars were waiting to enter the States, but to leave the States, you could just walk through. First, we went for tacos, which were way cheaper than in California, and of course margarita's and tequila's. The rest of the night consisted mostly of dancing to Spanish music and drinking tequila's. That's all I have to say about that :) Around 12 am, me and three others went back to the border to catch the last bus, and of course this proved to be as tricky as expected.
The other three could just walk through, since their visas were still legal. My ESTA was too, of course, but apparently I missed some sort of stamp, so the immigration officer directed me 500 meters back and asked me to speak to another officer. You've got to understand, there's no one laughing at such an office. Everyone is looking like something terrible is about to happen. Moreover, I was extremely tired (luckily not drunk or anything!) and things like customs or checks always scare me to death. Even though I have an European passport, you never know what they might accuse you of, right? Anyway, I had to pay another 6 dollars, answer many questions and finally, I was allowed back in. 
Meanwhile, my friends had had no idea if I was even gonna join them, since the officer had told them he ''didn't know where I went, or when I was gonna get back''. Classy, dude. But well, I was safe in San Diego. A few of the other hostel guys weren't, though. They had stayed behind in Tijuana, somehow upset some Mexicans and gotten into a fight. The next morning they returned to the hostel, without any sleep but with a typical Tijuana story to tell. Maybe the Americans had been right, Tijuana was sketchy. We'd seen no American tourists at all, lots of poverty and macho Mexicans. Whatever, I was glad I joined. It might not be the authentical Mexico, but at least I can compare it to other Mexican cities in the future. I definitely wasn't upset about the oversleeping anymore.


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