Topolobampo, Sinaloa – How does a Mexican ferry ride smell?

The ferry to Topolobampo, how Los Mochis’ harbour is called, shall cast off at 2:30 pm. Not sure how long procedures will take, we arrive at 10 am. First we pass customs, since vehicle papers are checked when leaving to mainland from Baja California with its special provision. We have to press a button that lights up nine times a green light, but a red one on every tenth trial. The lamp is red, and the very friendly customs officer apologizes for having to check our vehicle. The brief opening of two closet doors and drawers as well as the bathroom door doesn’t take much more than a minute to satisfy with the rules. The chronically bad-tempered lady at TMC asks if we drive a motor home. “No, a small truck.” I’ve learnt my lesson. We are sent to the scales where we are classified, measured, and weighed. Our personal data are entered in “driver” and “adjutant” – that’s me – since in Mexico most truck drivers have a co-driver.

Back to the ferry office we are curious to see the result since we couldn’t identify the code for the vehicle’s classification. To ship as a RV would be much more expensive. The ill-tempered girl types on her computer keyboard and presents the correct bill: Arminius is transported as small truck for 3300 Peso; the co-driver gives us 710 MXN. Hence we safe 2000 Peso compared to TMC’s camper-class.

The shipping – we start an expected half hour later – is an olfactory experience. The two restroom doors – one for the toilet, one for the urinal, there are no other differences – in the tiny icy air-conditioned passenger room with two oversized flat screens stand wide open. The facilities have been cleaned, but a blind truck driver would find them without hesitation. I leave the establishment and pass the kitchen, whose little inviting odour remains insignificant, since it only caters the crew. Passengers can buy chips, cookies, popcorn, microwave-warmed packet-soup, and sodas. For more comfort you have to travel with the other company, Bajaferries, but the local flair is here. The next scent experience is brought by a huge truck, built around the Stone Age, with a bonnet as big as our Arminius, who is highly loaded with fresh hey. Unfortunately this smell doesn’t last long, since the next freight consists of dozens of silent goats with huge horns squeezed together on the loading space. Their excrements can probably seep onto the deck. This stench will stay with us until the end of the ride.

There are not many women among the passengers that are mainly male truck drivers, but those must thank God daily for the invention of Lycra. Without stretch material it would be difficult to squeeze into such tight fitting t-shirts that don’t hide any spare tyre. Finally we arrive in Topolobampo two hours late, but with a lot of new experiences.

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