Flying is not as easy as Thumbing
My couple hour nap came to a close when it reached 4am, I now had to get to the bus that would take me to the airport, from there it was out of Cancun and on to Phoenix. I walked through the streets with my bag to the bus station, about an hour or less, in time to get my ticket and soon get on the ADO bus.
The bus dropped me off at the airport terminal, I waited in a short line and turned in my ticket, I'd also split my bags up to keep one as a carry on. The small bag pretty much contained everything I owned except for my sleeping bag and utility knife that I wouldn't be able to get on the plane. The guy at the desk asked if I had a tourist card, I didn't, he said I'd have to take care of that in Mexico City where I'd have a short layover.
Next I was flying off from Cancun to Mexico City, it was a fairly short flight, I slept through a lot of it. We landed and I started asking where I needed to go to take care of the tourist card thing, I got pointed through the large terminal until I got to the little room where I was supposed to be, a decent amount of people waiting their turn ahead of me. The clock ticked away, closer to my flight to Phoenix, it was only a 45 minute layover.
I finally got my turn to talk to the girl behind the counter, she flipped through my passport without seeing a stamp, she wanted proof that I'd been in America, "a receipt from something you've bought, anything". I had nothing, I fished out a big coin from my pack, a US silver dollar, she wasn't impressed. She told me the fine would be 5000 pesos, around $400 or $500, I didn't have that so I said I'd wander off to figure something out.
Glancing at the clock it was only minutes before my flight would take off. I decided I was just gonna go for it and try to get on the plane, I had the ticket after all, just not this tourist card they wanted. I cut into security and rushed through, they wanted to look at my harmonica when they saw it in the x-ray, they knew what it was, they just wanted to see it. After this I ran for my gate, getting there right on the minute, but they said I'd missed the flight, they even knew my name.
I wandered out of the gate area to reschedule the flight and see what could be done. The woman at the desk said it would cost a couple hundred to reschedule the flight, I didn't have that. I asked her for a map, she gave me one of all of Mexico that wasn't too helpful. I wandered around contemplating what was next, I figured I'd have to hitchhike from here to the states, perhaps make a stop in Guadalajara along the way.
I then remembered my backpack, I assumed it was going all the way to Phoenix without me. I went up to a different desk to ask about it, the woman told me it should still be here. She asked about my flight situation and I explained that I had no money to reschedule and was having issues with immigration anyhow. She exchanged some words with a supervisor and scribbled some stuff on my ticket saying she'd rescheduled the ticket for the same time tomorrow at no charge.
I now had a good ticket, but immigration was still the issue, I went down to baggage claim where they were sending my bag, I watched a guy outside wearing my backpack and holding two heavier bags walk across, then throw them all on the belt. I grabbed my pack and head back to immigration.
I talked to the same girl right away, she kept talking about proof of some sort of purchase in the US. Finally we landed on a print out of a credit card or banking statement, she told me they had internet in Terminal 1. I made my way over there, a sky train connected the terminals.
I looked for signs of internet, I somehow stumbled into some sort of receptionist area and asked a lady behind the desk about where to find internet. I think she was confused, thinking I was asking if I could use her computer, and that's what she let me do. I hopped on and quickly printed out a paypal statement proving I bought a six pack of beer in Las Vegas.
Before she gave me the printout, the woman asked for my passport as if to verify that I was an employee or a guest or something else, I couldn't understand her entirely. She made a copy of it first, handing me my passport and my pay pal printout. She started to investigate the passport and I split before having to deal with anything, I think she shouted for me as I disappeared out the door and down an escalator.
Back in Terminal 2 at immigration, I showed the girl my proof of buying beer in America, it was good enough for her and she got the paperwork rolling. After filling things out and signing things she gave me the paper I'd have to take to the bank where I could pay for this "tourist card". I took it off to the bank, halfway there I glanced at the price, over 1000 pesos, about $100 all added up. I almost couldn't believe it, enough so that I brought it up to the bank window to see what they'd say when I said I was paying in US dollars. They told me they didn't accept US Dollars at all, the guy next to me told me to wait outside a second and he'd point me to a better bank.
The guy was a pilot, he inquired about my situation, saying the whole thing was ridiculous. Apparently when people fly in they get this tourist card, but when driving (or walking) into Mexico, they don't, which is why I was having the issues trying to now fly out. His advice was to go to the airline and try to argue it and not pay anything, so off I went back to the Aero Mexico desks to work things out.
It was a really long line, I waited it out. After getting my chance to talk to someone they pointed me to a supervisor across the room, who pointed me to another, who pointed me to yet another, the real one I suppose. She said they had nothing to do with immigration and I'd have to deal with them, meaning the girl who accepts a printout saying I bought beer in Vegas as proof of being in the US over an official passport.
I instead went to a different Aero Mexico desk to see if I could just swap my flight from Phoenix to Hermosillo instead, I figured I could fly that far and then hitchhike the 3 hours into the US from there, without dealing with this flying immigration stuff. They wanted to charge me up and down to change the flight, even though it would be a shorter flight and they'd just changed my flight earlier anyhow.
I went back to the girl in immigration, asking why the price was so high, she just pointed to something posted on the wall with all the prices of things I didn't understand, but the 1000 odd pesos was the lowest price on there.
I took off in search for a phone card, I'd have to let my mom know that I was either going to hitchhike out of Mexico City or score an extra $100 to keep this flying thing going. No one picked up and I left a message. With the little money I had left I walked around the food court until I found a really cheap taco, I ordered it and the girl looked confused, "that's it?", she asked me about drinks and whatnot, I showed her my handful of change and said in spanish that I didn't have much money, another guy behind the counter was laughing at her. I paid and waited for my taco.
They called me up when it was ready, she had a big grin on her face. My tray had a few tacos, mash potatoes and a coke on it. I thanked her big and enjoyed my little feast.
I used the phone card again and got in touch with my worried mom. She of course opted for the extra cash to keep me in the sky rather than me hitchhiking more. I waited a bit, then went to the bank and paid for the the tourist card and brought it back to immigration once again, the girl's work day was coming to an end, but she still had all my papers and I finally got the little notecard dealie that let's people fly. I took that back to Aero Mexico to ensure my ticket for tomorrow was good, some more supervisor action finally landed me a solid ticket and got things squared away.
The whole ordeal had taken 4 hours or 5 hours, but it was still almost a day until my flight, so I decided to wander Mexico City for a bit. I made my way to the subway and transferred a couple time until I made it to Zocalo, a big cathedral in the city. I checked it out, then set off into the streets with tacos and internet on my mind. Cheap icecream showed up first, I enjoyed a small cone and kept walking.
The streets were busy with people, tourists and working folk. I found an internet cafe, but it was full, I kept walking. I stumbled into a street that I thought was blocked off for what was probably a permanent street sale, but a big bus managed to cut through, very slowly and carefully. I got myself some fried bananas from one of the vendors, very good stuff.
I continued walking through the crowded streets, tents would go on for blocks and blocks selling DVDs and CDs, flooded with people. At last I found a place with an internet sign, I went back to ask how much it costs, the kid sitting at the desk just seemed confused, so I sat down at a computer and started getting some emails out and checking things. When I was done I just walked off, seemed to be a freebie for me that time.
I grabbed a taco, nearby to Zocalo again. I remembered then that I had David's number, the guy I'd met in Merida who was now living in Mexico City and offered Kelly and I a place to stay. I used my phone card to call him, he picked up. He said it would be fine to stay with him, but that he was at work at the moment. Before we could get to any details of meeting up, my card ran out of minutes, so that was that.
I walked around a bit more and got back on the subway headed for the airport. I figured it would be better to just stick it out there through the night than deal with waking up in the morning at David's place and making my way over, wherever that was.
I sat on a bench for a while, it was 11 or 12 hours until my flight. From there I did a search around to see if I could find any cheap liquor, it wasn't cheap, I walked past it all. I saw some big steps designated for sitting and waiting, I climbed to the top and began to nod off. I sat there quite a while as people came and went. A girl in yellow came and laid out entirely to sleep, I did the same shortly after.
I did a little more wandering as the morning slowly crept in, sitting on different benches and areas. When Carls Jr opened I grabbed a breakfast burrito and gobbled it down. At that time it was about 3 hours to the flight, I snagged a cup of coffee and got in the giant check-in line.
I checked in without a problem, got through security, showing them my harmonica again, and then waited amongst the gates. I at last got on the plane without an issue, passing out as soon as we took off.
Funny enough, the plane stopped in Hermosillo after all for immigration checks. We filed out of the plane and showed our various credentials to the people, they re-checked our carry on bags, and soon some of us were filing back on the plane for the last stint to Phoenix.
I got to talking to the guy next to me on the plane, he'd flown to Mexico for business, working with submarine and helicopter parts, things like this. We exchanged some stories on the way to Phoenix, he still had flights for the rest of the day, connecting in Denver to get to Oklahoma City. He let me use his phone when we landed to give Larry a call, he was coming to pick me up.
We had to go through immigration one more time at the Phoenix airport, a guy asked me a series of questions about where I lived, where I was going and what I was doing. I stumbled over all those types of questions, but managed to pass through. My backpack came around in baggage claim, I was off to the curbside to wait for Larry, back in the USA, back in Phoenix.
Mexico was done for now, I'd also learned that hitchhiking can often be easier than flying, and it's perhaps not the best idea to accept a free plane ticket as an alternative. Being that I wanted to be in California soon, it still worked out to be a pretty good things, taking the flight, as it got me closer quicker.