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August 31st 1986
Published: August 8th 2007
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Night falls in BajaNight falls in BajaNight falls in Baja

A photo at dusk.
The history of California makes for a fascinating story. Who would have thought the world's eighth largest economy was formerly part of Mexico? The US took control of several border states formerly in Mexico at the conclusion of a triumphant war, yet the enormous influence of their Latino neighbours to the south is still prevalent in California today. Continuing from the previous journal my American friend and his buddy offered to drive me down to Baja California for a weekend away from San Diego. Mate, the furthest I'd travelled before going overseas was the to the border with Queensland, and here I was preparing to visit Mexico as my second overseas country. How exciting is that?!

We piled into the car, dear reader, and drove the twenty kilometres from downtown San Diego to the border. The Californian town of San Ysidro shares a border with Tijuana on the Mexican side, and together the cities form the busiest border crossing in the world. It's a startling experience for a new traveller to cross the border from a wealthy country to a developing country, and this will live strongly in my memory especially as it was the first time. It felt like entering a time machine as we were transported from magnificent US highways lined with beautiful houses to suddenly be confronted with dirt roads, swarms of touts and beggars surrounding the car. For the first time I was coming face to face with a standard of living that was far lower than the lifestyle we take for granted in the west.

The journey to Baja California is very popular for Californians, and downtown Tijuana is a mere twenty kilometres south of the border with San Ysidro. We don't have travel experiences like that in Australia, and I can guarantee that not much will change if you drive forty kilometres in any direction when you're Down Under, there certainly aren't any foreign countries or foreign languages anywhere on the horizon! But that encapsulates the excitement and exhilaration of overseas travel. The customs officials on both sides shot a cursory glance at our passports as it was only a weekend visit, then we passed into Baja California to commence our Mexican adventure.

The customs officials on both sides shot a cursory glance at our passports because we were only planning a weekend visit, and we passed into Baja California to commence our Mexican adventure. I was blown away by the sights, sounds and smells of Mexico, but my San Diego amigos were more familiar in these surroundings as they'd paid regular visits to Baja over the years. For me though, overseas travel was starting to get very exciting. My friends were older gents and very responsible which in hindsight was a good introduction to the life of a traveller. We didn't get wild and crazy on the weekend but still had a very enjoyable stay in Tijuana. It's not hard to get into a travel routine when visiting the main strip in Tijuana. The Avenida Revolucion is swarming with bars and restaurants, and includes many restaurant workers who speak good English. The food is great and so are the beers, and how about the price!

My first experience in a cheap country proved to be a real hoot, and a lot of this can be put down to the simple maths involved. If I can share my true blue Aussie mental arithmetic ... the beer tastes the same, the beer weighs the same, the beer looks the same, but the beer costs half the price. Even I realise that's my kind of maths! I told my friend that the Mexican life was proving to be a bit of alright. He simply smiled and gave me one of his bone crushing handshakes.

The crazy life awaits travellers to Baja California, but with the benefit of hindsight I know that you only love crazy until crazy loves you! We stayed overnight in the heart of Tijuana, and then pushed on to the quieter beaches of Playas de Rosarito for the remainder of the weekend.This suburb of Tijuana features rows of beach front bars and restaurants, but on a smaller scale to downtown which is an advantage. We feasted on magnificent seafood plucked fresh out of the ocean, and later arranged to go on an offshore fishing trip. Believe it or not, I'd never gone fishing in my life. My American friends were very excited by the prospect and I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss is about, after we cast our lines the first two times without attracting a nibble. The skipper tried a few locations for a fish when suddenly the ocean seemed to come alive. I'm no fisherman but it quickly became an amazing fishing experience. The skipper and crew had helpers on board who quickly became very busy participants in our fishing exploits. I'd cast my line with my friends and almost instantaneously haul a fresh catch on board. My amigo then took the fish off the hook, I'd throw another amateur cast and the process would repeat itself. It was incredible and we were hauling fish in almost as quickly as we could cast our lines! Rosarito is a great seaside resort town to relax for the weekend where you can engage in various water sports by the ocean and then go on to enjoy the nightlife. There's lots of excitement spending a weekend in this part of Mexico where, basically all of you should be here now!

Politics is not the art of the possible. Rather it consists of choosing between what is disastrous and what is merely unpalatable." J.K. Galbraith

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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