Nogales, AZ, to San Carlos, MX

Once you get through the US post at the border crossing at the end of Mariposa Road in Nogales, there is no way to return for quite a while. You have to go over pieces of metal that would shred your tires if you go across them in the wrong direction. Then, you are on a closed toll (cuota) highway for quite a while. The highway opens to four lanes past the Mexican city of Nogales, and continues that way after the KM 21 checkpoint.

Generally speaking, the drive to San Carlos was tedious. The speed varied from 110KPH to 40KPH and there was a lot of construction. The road conditions were decent and it was fun to drive through small towns and see the contrast between grungy local shops and shiny big name chains like OXXO (convenience store) and AutoZone.

The biggest excitement of the day was the drive through the city of Hermosillo, the capital of the state of Sonora. There was a detour, but I just followed the signs for MX 15, as well as a whole parade of cars, and had absolutely no trouble. Really, after you’ve driven in Montreal and found your way out of Flagstaff, you can drive anywhere. 🙂 Part of the detour route would have been a little rough in an RV, but not too bad.

I quickly noticed that Mexican drivers do not believe in using turn signals, so I got into the habit myself of passing and merging without signalling. I’m already living like a Mexicana! 🙂 There really wasn’t much traffic the whole way down to San Carlos, not even in Hermosillo, and this was a good way to ease me into Mexican driving. I’m not a very aggressive driver and I was worried I’d have a tough time down here, but so far, so good!

I was just about ready to pull into a Pemex station and beg for a bathroom when I saw the big ‘El Valiente’ sign that was my clue that the exit to San Carlos was coming up! It was coming on 1:00 and pulled into Totonaka RV Park at about 1:15, almost exactly six hours since leaving Nogales. I made good time! Croft recommended that I stay in one of the rooms the park has to rent. Unfortunately, their rates are quite a bit higher than on the website, 40USD for the least expensive room, rather than 25USD. I’m staying two nights for sure, then will possibly get a tent site for 15USD if I’m stuck here because of the storm.

My room wasn’t ready, so I was invited to park, using the public restrooms, and sit outside for a bit with the WiFi. I was also offered a map of town if I wanted to go exploring. I was hungry and Croft had recommended a restaurant, Charly’s Rock, right across the street, so I headed there.

This is a seafood restaurant open to the beach (the Sea of Cortez!!!!!!) with an amazing view! What a place to unwind with a cold beer! I ordered a Pacifico, which turned out to be delicious, and sipped it while munching on tortilla chips, salsa, and limes while I perused the menu. San Carlos is a gringo community, so I expected the menu to be bilingual. Nope! I read it slowly, occasionally looking up words on an app I downloaded to my iPhone.

The chips and salsa were good and quite filling, so I decided to get something light, with my eyes finally resting on the words ‘ceviche al coco’, thin fish filet with coconut milk and serrano peppers. I had no idea if serrano peppers would burn off my taste buds, but I decided to be brave and try it! For those who aren’t familiar with ceviche, it’s fish or seafood ‘cooked’ in acid, usually lemon or lime juice.

I was almost done with my beer by the time the meal came. It was beautiful! I took a sip of the liquid and my taste buds were flooded by the acidity of the lime juice cut by the sweetness of the coconut milk. The peppers added flavour, but no heat; same thing with the red onions. The fish was soft and melted in my mouth. There was also a little avocado and plenty of crackers to soak up the juice. Yum, yum, yum. 🙂

When I was done, I flagged down the server and asked for the cuenta, which came to 135MXN. I added 20MXN for a tip. I still can’t wrap my brain around the money and keep reminding myself to remove a decimal point to make the sums easier to stomach!

I left the restaurant and walked up towards the centro to check out the supermarket. I found an ice cream place on the way back and got a small cone. There was a dizzying array of flavours, most of which I did not recognized, so I asked for chocolate and was offered Rocky Road and some other kind. I asked for ‘No Rocky Road, el otro.’

When I got back to the RV park, my room was ready. It is small, but adequate, with a clean bathroom and a very hard bed. I am tempted to grab my mattress out of the truck! I have a fridge, but no microwave. I really need to figure out how to get coffee tomorrow morning! 🙂

So I’m really in Mexico, using pesos and speaking Spanish! Wow! I’m so proud of myself. 🙂

Driving here, I couldn’t help but marvel at the brave souls who do so with little to no knowledge of the language. I’ve been cautious about over estimating my Spanish skills, but after the last few days, I know that they are much better than I realised, well beyond the basics of where’s the bathroom and I want a beer! I mean, I have negotiated rent on an apartment, rented motel rooms, bought currency, ordered meals, paid tolls, and done a few things at the border all with what I learned 20 years ago! All those late night Tuesdays and Thursdays of conversation class are finally paying off!

11 thoughts on “Nogales, AZ, to San Carlos, MX

  1. I am a little concerned about the increase in prices, I hope it is not a trend. You are in a tourist area so things might get a bit better as you go south. You will have to discover the street taco stands where the locals eat.

    I guess hard mattresses are part of Mexican life. I noticed them the few times we stayed in hotels in MX as well.

    I like Charly’s Rock. It is friendly and being open to the ocean while still being in the shade or out of the rain can’t be beat. Not the cheapest but they will let you just have a beer and chips. You noticed the twin peaks up the beach to the north? That is where the sun sets.

  2. A rule of thumb is to just divide the pesos by 10 for a rough estimate of the USD/CAD value. It’s close enough to give you an idea of if you really want to spend that much.

    Yes Croft, things are more expensive. But if you search out places and eat where the locals eat you can still afford to eat out.

  3. Contessa, I am using the divide by 10 rule, which is working out great because it’s really closer to dividing by 13, so things are an even better deal than I realise. 🙂

    I’m surprised that you are finding things to be expensive. They are much less than I would pay in Canada or the US. I guess it will take time for me to discover what real non-gringo prices are here and then I will be shocked by the price of my octopus taco last night!

        • Good price for a taco like that. There is a great place on the Isla that I will show you, just a few blocks from your place that we and the locals go to. One of the few places that is open after 6 PM other than the taco stands.

        • Tips are the same as in Canada or the US, 10 – 15%. Contessa is correct, that is a good price for a good seafood taco. In many places there is a platter of condiments where you help yourself to onions, tomato, cucumber, salsa, lettuce, etc. For a meal, order two and ask for an extra tortilla to make a third.

  4. If the truck in front of you flashes his left turn signal it means. 1) he is turning left, 2) He is telling you it is safe to pull out and pass him, 3) there is an oncoming bus or a blind curve and he wants to see if he can scare the crap out of you by telling you it is safe to pass or 4) He just did it for no reason.

    Timid drivers in mexico are called “Parked Vehicles”. 😉

  5. ROTFL!!!

    I was quite happy at first to drive slowly, but after all those 40KPH zones, I was quite adamant that if the limit was 110, I was going 110 and I passed quite a few trucks. None of them ever flashed their signals at me. 🙂

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