Chapter 8: A nightmare, and its over.
It was a deal. GG gets my motorcycle to Ensenada, and I pay him two hundred and fifty dollars for his service. GG had completed his part of the deal. I was yet to fulfill mine. Before starting from Catavina, Ankit and I shared a small concern, “What if we are not able to take out the money using our ATM cards?”, one of us had expressed. “Why would we be not able to?”, the other responded addressing the concern. Now was the second time in the trip our dreaded ‘what if’ question was converted to a ‘what now’ question.
Ankit knew of an ATM in zona turistica in Ensenada. After reaching there, I asked them all to wait for me to get the money out. Ankit gave me his ATM card just in case. “fuera de servicio” (out of service), read a notice on the ATM door. I found another one near by – fuera de servicio. Luckily I found another one not very far. This one was working :). I insert my card, a quick thought exercise tells me I need four thousand pesos, 4-0-0-0; enter; Insufficient Funds; “Ah crap!”. I try my card again with fifteen hundred pesos – “Can not process your request at this time”. “Damm!!”. Next I try Ankit’s card – to be safe with fifteen hundred pesos again, a deep sigh of relief – the machine spits out fifteen hundred pesos. I try his card again for another fifteen hundred pesos – “Can not process your request at this time”. Fear turning into nightmare. I tried both our cards again a couple of times but to no avail.
Returning back I gave all of fifteen hundred pesos to GG and assured him that I will return with the remaining fifteen hundred. This started my first encounter with the city of Ensenada. I went on a ATM chasing exercise on Ankit’s motorcycle. Found my first ATM – “Can not process your request at this time”, rushed to another one – “Can not process your request at this time”, still another, this time HSBC ATM in their main branch – “Can not process your request at this time”. Tried a medical store with an ATM. Ditto. Tried for cash back in a super market – no help. Tried for another ATM at the supermarket. Bah!. Out of ideas and ATM outlets I decided to return back – on the way tried for another ATM of some random bank – :(. Ankit was understandably furious. He was the one who had to bear the agony of staring eyes. I told him that I was not able to find the money. “Lets ask the hotel if they can give us cash back or something”, he said. We went to a hotel, and another but the concept of cash back was alien to them. We were desperate.
“Sir, please understand that we are really in need of fifteen hundred pesos. We are ready to do anything for that, you can charge us for the night, you can charge us for two night, but please lend us the money. We promise to return it. If it helps, you can also keep our passports with you until we return you the money. Please.” We were literally begging the hotel manager.
“I really want to help you, and if it helps, you can have this five hundred pesos. That is all I have on me. I don’t have the authority to lend you hotel money. I am extremely sorry“, he tried to help. Unfortunately we needed fifteen hundred pesos. There were a bunch of teenagers in the same hotel. We repeated our plea to them. Expecting fifteen hundred pesos was a bit too much I suppose.
Sadly, we came back to GG. One of the teenagers, Louis, accompanied us as a translator. He explained GG what was going on. GG did not looked too pleased. We were out of ideas to get the money so asked GG to stay over night on our expense. He seemed okay with the idea. A little sense of relief. Next task would have been simple in the wildest of my imagination – find a hotel with two empty rooms in the city of Ensenada. I still can not believe it. I refuse to believe it. I urge you too not to believe it either, as I must have got something wrong somewhere, but there was not a single hotel with a single empty room in Ensenada. I literally checked out over thirty hotels in two hours without any of them having any vacancy, of any kind, of any price. Ensenada being a popular tourist town and that weekend being the last of the summer holidays, the city was jam packed with tourists. Destiny was clearly having its share of fun.
“I dont know what to do, I’ve burned out”, I exclaimed to Ankit at 4:30 am in the morning. “Lo siento (sorry) senor, Lo mucho siento”, I exclaimed to GG. He was sitting in his car, with his two children and wife. He had been sitting there for the past four hours. I sat down along the side of the road. My head down. I truly felt defeated. We were right outside Casa Del Sol, the breakfast place from a day ago. Ankit decided to try his hands at the ATM. He had befriended Louis while I was on my hotel search exercise, who accompanied him. They went to the ATM that gave us our first fifteen hundred pesos. I was hoping to see a smile on his face when he returned. Just hoping. The ATM failed on him too, but he had good news. Louis used his card to get the money and was ready to help us out! Louis – if you ever read this: “I would never ever forget this gesture of yours. I can not even contemplate what we would have done in absence of your help. Thanks.” Louis paid GG the balance and told us to return the money by noon. I gave him my camera as collateral, gaining his confidence.
It was already day break by then. Ankit and I starting contemplating what to do next. Earlier, I had shown reluctance to call for Kumar’s help from San Diego, but I changed my stance. However, the call did not go through. We rode back to El Sauzal, to our motel stop for the first night, but that too was packed. Our last option was to get back to San Diego. We had just enough money for gas to get back. At the gas station, Ankit uttered, “We should give our banks a call”. An act that should have been done hours ago. Things started working out. Our banks unlocked our cards. It was locked due to stringent fraud protection policies. Returning back to Casa Del Sol we paid back Louis, called the insurance company again, which finally agreed to tow the motorcycle from Ensenada to Tijuana at no charge, parked the motorcycle at a parking lot near the border and drove straight home.
Just twenty eight hours ago we were sluggishly getting ready for the day in Catavina. Just twenty eight hours, and we had had a lifetime of experience. It was almost one in the afternoon. We slept.
The next day, I went with a service man from my college to get the bike back home from Tijuana. As you might expect, this was not free of adventure either, but I am sure you are as tired reading about adventures, as I am writing about them :). The trip was officially marked complete.
Yesterday, I checked what was wrong with my motorcycle. It was the stupid side stand switch that had failed. All that was needed was to bypass the switch. A one minute task at the most. A little presence of mind and a little more confidence and we would have been ripped off the adventure, the Mexican brouhaha 🙂