South of the Border

Nogales Travel Blog

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Nogales street looking back across the U.S. border
 

 

It wouldn't be wise to drive across the border. In 2004, I drove the VW from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas - on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, some 1200 miles - but that was different. Border towns are always notorious for higher crime rates. A 1976 Volkswagen camper would be an instant gold mine of hard-to-find parts - let alone the toolbox, laptop, and Klepper kayak inside it. The risk would be too great. Beyond the border towns however, locals seemed more protective and appreciative toward foreigners settling in or passing through; helping feed their livelihood and economy.

 

I parked in a secure parking lot where a free shuttle drove me a short distance to the crossing. I was surprised by a lack of crowds or lines and whisked through a narrow, rotating gate right into the streets of Nogales.

Colorful curios
The transition into another country was immediate and obvious. Venders nearest the border lined the street with stalls of colorful blankets, ceramics, paper mache, and other souvenirs. Pharmacies, banks, restaurants, and small grocery stores stirred with mid-day activity like any bustling town. At one small shop, I bought a carton of cigarettes; at others, a wool blanket and a brightly colored ceramic tropical bird. I circled several blocks then made a final stop at Pancho Villa's Bar for an ice cold bottle of Pacifico beer. I found it odd that I never saw another foreigner.

 

The lack of other gringos, I later found out, was due to the drug wars. More than twenty of Nogales' police officers had recently been gunned down in the streets in a violent drug war that apparently now stretches from the Colombian jungles to the U.S. border.

 

 

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Nogales street looking back across…
Nogales street looking back acros…
Colorful curios
Colorful curios
Lunch!
Lunch!
Being singled out
Being singled out
Nogales
photo by: nathanphil