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Old 31-03-2009, 22:30   #1
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Mexico - Safety ?

I'm taking my wife and two boys (7 & 9 yrs) in the Baja Ha Ha this year then into the Sea of Cortez and along the Mexican west coast for the remainder of the season (back in San Diego by June 2010).

I have a friend who lives in Puerto Vallarta who tells me that he won't drive the highway from San Diego to Cabo because there have been kidnappings and robberies along there this year. I had thought that all the violence was mostly confined to inland northern parts of Mexico, but now I'm not so sure.

Does anyone know of any violence against boaters along Baja, etc in recent months? I have scoured the internet and found nothing. I'd like to take that as "no news = good news", but since my kids are involved I don't want to be too hasty. I also know that official Mexican sources under-report such occurances because of the effect on tourism.

Noonsite.com doesn't even list the west coast of Mexico as a site with any piracy. Did I just miss it?

Is it still safe in those waters?

Craig
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Old 31-03-2009, 23:08   #2
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I was in Tuscon last weekend, and I met a Federal Law Enforcement officer and asked him about going down into Mexico. He has young kids and said that he wouldn't take his family to Mexico based on the classified security reports that he has access to in his work. But he did say that if he was single, he might risk it.

Things are out of control on both sides of the border, and I don't know of any way to push the odds in your favor to guarantee your security. I sailed around the world on my yacht, and I lived for sixteen years in the Middle East without a problem. It was easy to stay out of harms way with a few common sense rules. The border area is different with large amounts of money and drugs corrupting the region so that there is disrespect for the law.

I have not made the trip into Mexico, and I stay out of south Pheonix at night because it is lawless to a significant degree.

If I was going to the areas at risk, I would drive an old pick up truck or beater car, and I would make a concerted effort to look like I wasn't prosperous, which gets easier to do every day.
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Old 31-03-2009, 23:58   #3
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Ask your friend to be more specific. I'm in La Paz and the net is pretty sensitive to the reported dangers. Nothing that I can recall.

My take on it is, we seem to discount the ugly in our own countries and depict the same thing in other countries as unique.

I travel the world with my work. Seems to me that wherever people go, they settle in and everyting is fine and get along just great, then one day you find yourself in the wong place/wrong time. How is that different than back home?

I don't want to sound like I'm ignoring the reported problems here in Mexico. Of course we perk up our ears to problems. I will say that La Paz has been attracting people from other parts of Mexico who are looking to get away from violence in other parts.

On the morning net (VHF) they ask for new arrivals and departures via car or boat. When cruisers travel by car everyone ask about problems and I cannot recall any negative reports there either. There are several military road blocks to go through along the 2 day drive from San Diego. They are a lot more interested in the vehicles going north than the ones going south.

There is a much more prevelent danger of a wheel dropping off the pavement and rolling a car in the middle of nowhere, or hitting a cow than any danger of banditos. The roads are narrow and no shoulder. It's a 2 day drive because you can't see the cows as well after dark. Did I mention the narrow roads with no shoulder? Man, I hate that part.
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Old 01-04-2009, 00:22   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cadence10m View Post

I have a friend who lives in Puerto Vallarta who tells me that he won't drive the highway from San Diego to Cabo because there have been kidnappings and robberies along there this year. I had thought that all the violence was mostly confined to inland northern parts of Mexico, but now I'm not so sure.
Still safe in the off-shore waters and kidnappings near the coast can be two totally different scenarios. While I have no information that might be helpful for "cruising" that coast, I can tell you that a few years ago a friend and I decided to go bass fishing in Mexico. We flew into Los Mochis, where we were driven up the coast highway a ways and then inland a bit. Just after we got north of Los Mochis we stopped for some reason and none of us knew why. A few minutes later our driver came back to the van, and following him were three machine-gun armed police officers that escorted us the remaining hour of our trip. One driving and two in the back of their pick-up truck. We had no idea that we sigined up for a trip that required armed escorts! Later I asked the resort owner what the deal was, and he said that there has been, on occasion, some kidnapping and armed thievery issues. I didn't ask exactly where the issues took place - I was just happy that we were being escorted in and out.

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Old 01-04-2009, 02:00   #5
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- I was just happy that we were being escorted in and out.

Did you pay them, or tip them?
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:22   #6
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They were paid by the resort/outfitter, but yes, we also did give them a tip.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:47   #7
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I just returned...

...from two weeks in southwestern Sea of Cortez. Sea kayaking, not sailing. I take students down there every year around this time, and didn't notice any difference from previous years other than there were fewer spring breakers crowded into Aeropuerto San Jose del Cabo last weekend than usual. General consensus of those in La Paz area seemed to be that the troubles were so far north of them as not to be a concern.
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Old 01-04-2009, 09:02   #8
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It sounds to me like the problems are concentrated in specific regions. I would only travel to the big tourist resorts and tourist towns at this point. There is safety in numbers in that you are less likely to be the gringo that gets picked out of the crowd for a crime. If you are a single or a couple gringos traveling the roads in Mexico, I think you are asking for trouble.
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Old 01-04-2009, 09:36   #9
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Last time I was in Mexico I was shook down by the local police. Part of doing business there it seems.
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Old 01-04-2009, 09:44   #10
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Quote:
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It sounds to me like the problems are concentrated in specific regions. I would only travel to the big tourist resorts and tourist towns at this point. There is safety in numbers in that you are less likely to be the gringo that gets picked out of the crowd for a crime. If you are a single or a couple gringos traveling the roads in Mexico, I think you are asking for trouble.
At the risk of getting certain individuals here overly excited, consider just one couple - the famous/notorious Bumfuzzle Bums, Ali and Pat Schulte. After completing their circumnavigation in April '07, they have participated in the Great American Road Race, winning the Rookie Class and the $14,000 prize, then bought a '58 VW split-window van and hit the road . . . hard.

After completing Just Out Looking for Pirates, their book recounting their almost-four-year circumnavigation aboard their Wildcat catamaran Bumfuzzle, they loaded up the bus and headed up into Canada in September '07. After coming back down through the western US over the next couple of months, they entered Mexico in November of that year. They were down there on that first trip for about four months, returning north in March '08.

As the weather warmed in the Northern Hemisphere, they leisurely land-cruised up the west coast, through Canada, and up to Alaska through August of last year. They then headed south again following the sun into the Southern Hemisphere.

They re-entered Mexico in October '08, and have since driven the old VW south of the border as follows:

October 2008: USA / Mexico / Belize
November '08: Belize / Guatemala / El Salvador / Honduras / Nicaragua
December '08: Costa Rica / Panama / then shipped the bus to Colombia
January 2009: Colombia / Ecuador / Peru
February '09: Peru
March '09: Peru / Chile / Argentina

They have driven the old bus some 50,000 miles in the past year-and-a-half through what some here would consider "unsafe" places, with one prime objective: Avoid the tourist traps / resorts / "safe" places at all times. They've driven from as far north in Alaska as the road will go, to as far south in Chile as possible, and they have encountered countless people of every variety - from people with literally nothing, to authorities who have perfected the shake-down.

They report not being in fear for their well-being at any time. Clearly, I think, traveling and meeting people from all walks of life makes a person a more confident and able "Citizen of the World." That certainly describes Pat and Ali.

They're headed north again, now, with Buenos Aires as their planned destination. There, they will load the bus onto a huge vessel that will transport them to Europe, and their driving adventure will resume.

Love them or hate them, it's hard not to be envious. To follow along, go to: bumfuzzle.com Once you begin reading their adventure chronicles, you'll be hooked.

TaoJones
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Old 01-04-2009, 09:52   #11
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I couldn't disagree more!

Quote:
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Last time I was in Mexico I was shook down by the local police. Part of doing business there it seems.
I spend a great deal of time in Mexico, both teaching classes and conducting research. After dozens of trips both to the Yucatan and Baja peninsulas, I've never once had an unpleasant encounter with the federales, the police, with a customs official, a port captain, an immigration officer, a merchant, cabbie or a waitperson. For that matter, I've never once come down with "tourista" during my travels south of the border.

You have to learn how to get along with people on their turf, and how not to appear to be the clueless gringo yachtie with a target on his back. This is a vital skill for cruisers. Once you learn the skill, Mexico is no more dangerous than a playful puppy.

I find that it helps a great deal to attempt to speak the language. I'm nowhere near fluent, but I find that people always appreciate my ability to at least exchange a few pleasantries in the native tongue. And the locals tend to be a lot more willing to communicate via their bad English once they've seen you struggle with your bad Spanish. Todos bien!
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Old 01-04-2009, 10:22   #12
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Good read, heading to San Carlos at the end of the month, seems like as long as you keep your wits about you and are aware of your environment, you should not have any problems
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Old 01-04-2009, 10:30   #13
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The Mexicans are generally pretty good folks, IMHO, but there are places in Mexico that you don't want to be right now. It all depends on what city you are looking at. JMHO.
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Old 01-04-2009, 21:27   #14
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Hey Craig,
How are you getting your boat south? Assuming you are cruising on your existing own boat and not buying one in San Diego for the trip. Are you going to head out the Straits in August or so and then hook up with Ha Ha?

In any case, best wishes.
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Old 01-04-2009, 21:53   #15
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Thanks for the replies

Thanks all! That alleviates my fears a lot. My instinct was that Baja (expecially BCS) is just too far south and too far from all the drug trafficking routes to be mixed up in the recent really bad violence. So there's just the "usual" background stuff associated with looking too prosperous in a poor area. Same thing that can happen in the bad parts of town around here.

I've heard before that having children with you is helpful in that the bad guys are still "good" enough that they won't do anything bad with kids around. That rings true in Mexico where people clearly value family and little kids (even big scary looking guys will smile at me if I'm walking hand in hand with my kids there, not the case in the US.)

Craig
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