Arriving in Dimas, we were immediately met by a man called Raul. I’d seen him while I’d been waiting for Peter to catch up and he’d waved at me. When we explained what we were doing, and what we were looking for, he told us to follow him and walked 400m down the road. He stopped outside a llantera (tyre shop) and introduced us to his friend, Rodrigo. He checked with Rodrigo who said that of course we could camp there. I was assuming he meant in the gated forecourt of the llanetera and was impressed with how quickly everything had been sorted out. That was dashed when Raul started pointing at the piece of pavement in front of the shop. While he was explaining to us just how safe it would be, and how 95% of the people in town are tranquila (sedate, peaceful), I couldn’t help but notice the large numbers of mopeds that kept flying up and down the road. We thanked him for the offer, and told him we’d go and have some dinner to think about it.
We set off, and neither of us were too enthralled by the idea of camping on the side of the main road of a town that seemed to be full of mopeds hurtling around. After eating, we went with Peter’s routine of asking at the restaurant if they knew where we could camp. Usually they tell him he can camp in their yard, but there really wasn’t much space, and they mentioned a kindergarten that should be OK. We rode off, and went past a church by the town square. The relatively small number of churches is something I’ve definitely noticed in Mexico compared with the US and this one was really pretty. We stopped at it, but there was no-one inside it, and no-one answered when I tried knocking on the door of the refectory, so set off to the kindergarten.
Having gone through the town square, we had attracted a lot of attention, and now had 4 or 5 mopeded teenagers following after us. I wasn’t too thrilled, because when I’m looking to throw up my tent I prefer not to be seen, at least not that blatantly. At the kindergarten, we met 3 people who were painting the walls. They seemed OK with the idea of us camping, but didn’t have the authority and pointed to a red car at a nearby house that belonged to a teacher. Going over to that house we explained our situation and were told of a hotel. Peter told them that we have no money, something I find difficulty in saying in Mexico. The idea of camping behind the kindergarten got lost somewhere and instead one of the people pointed at a red and white building that he said had coffee, apparently that was the best place in town. Peter told him them that he would drink coffee if he could, but doesn’t have the cash so only drinks water which lead to one of the men digging in his pocket and trying to give us a handful of coins. We turned him down as while my budget is frugal by cycle-tourist standards, it isn’t for Mexicans. I’ll happily take a place to camp or an invite in to share a drink, but not money in a situation like that.
Looking back, I think that the red and white building that we went to must have been the wrong one. There had definitely been a mention of coffee and sandwiches, and that was definitely not available. Near the building, was a school, and so a mob of 20 kids started waving at us and then decided to swarm after us. We went into the courtyard of the red and white building and found a table of 9 older guys with about 100 bottles of beer on the table in front of them and a fair amount of empties broken on the floor. I should have trusted my initial reaction, and doubled back, but didn’t and we allowed ourselves to be swept along in a river of ridiculousness.
I took the lead and started explaining our situation and while I was doing so Señor Borracho (Mr drunk), the most drunk of the group, stood up and started trying to play fight with Peter. The problems being of course that Peter didn’t want anything to do with it, and that the guy was drunk enough that he was hitting pretty hard. The other men were laughing at the situation and Peter’s backing away from Señor B. The man I was talking to didn’t really provide much of an answer, so I tried talking to someone else who waved me over. He seemed much more interested in giving me beer than listening to what I said, until I told him I’d happily have a drink, when the situation was sorted out. He then listened for a bit longer and pointed at a very sullen man who was sat in silence, the leader of the group. Peter had managed to get away from Señor B and started talking with the leader who wanted to see our passports. I felt incredibly dubious, but Peter seemed to think it was the best idea and so we got them out.
While we were talking with the men, the kids who had been waiting for us to come out, started getting restless and after throwing a few bottles over the wall started encroaching into the courtyard. They didn’t come too far in, the guys probably scared them too much, but any positive feelings I had towards them were gone. They were noisy and annoying.
We got our passports from our bikes and showed them to the leader. He held Peter’s for about 5 minutes looking forwards and backwards between it and Peter. I accept he doesn’t look too similar to his passport picture, but it felt ridiculous. He then took mine and did the same thing. As I have a recent picture that’s pretty similar, I realised it was about power. That was confirmed when after going back to one of the other guys I came back to find a piece of paper with Peter’s name, signature and fingerprint on. The leader, who had still barely said a word, gestured to an inkpad letting me know he expected me to do the same. Not a chance. I’d been uncomfortable in the first place, had almost left when he asked for my passport, but giving him my fingerprint? Hah. I let him know in my broken Spanish that in England I would only give the police my fingerprint. That comment woke him from his slumber as he started rambling about how in this town he was the police, I strongly doubt he meant official, and that I would do what he told me. I apologised and refused and then he broke into a tirade of abuse aimed at me about how if he goes to the US this is what he has to do and I’m in Mexico so I should do the same thing. I bit my tongue rather than telling him that I wasn’t to blame for US immigration policy, not American and equally important that he wasn’t Mexican immigration. His tirade continued and even though Peter tried to placate him, he was inconsolable. We walked away from the table, and rode out through the noisy group of kids who had found the whole situation hilarious.
We left, and made our way back to the church, not intentionally, but because it was on the way out. I wasn’t sure where we were heading, but when we saw people in the church we pulled over and Peter went in while I stood outside, still furious from the situation that had just taken place. Peter emerged with a smile on his face and I knew we’d got a place. The priest of the church had been walking around looking for his dogs and seemed distracted when Peter asked him if we could camp. The key thing was he said yes, before going back to look for his dogs. We waited until after the evening’s service, which I sat in the back of, before putting up our tents.