By plane fly to Monterrey. Contact La Posada ahead of time and book your taxi. It is as simple as forwarding your flight info. You will have a ride waiting to take you right to the climbing area. This costs around $50usd
By car: Directions from Laredo in Texas. Cross the border and follow the registration directions at the bottom of this page. Follow the toll road (85) to Monterrey. Locate the Monterrey bypass (periferico) called 40d. Take this to highway (carretera) 53 towards Monclova. Drive thirty minutes north west on 53 until you reach Hidalgo (Note that when asking directions you will need to ask for Hidalgo Nuevo Leon, not Hidlago Sablinas which is a much larger town. People generally will not know where Hidalgo N.L. is so just ask how to get to the “carretera a Monclova”.) turn left into Hidalgo if coming from Monterrey. At the traffic circle take a left. Go across the rail road tracks and past the police station. When this road T’s take a left. Go 20 meters take a right. Go 20 more meters take a left. This is the road to the canyon. La Posada is two kilometers on the left.
Check out the bottom of this page for more driving info
Posada El Potrero Chicowhere experienced cooks will prepare a northeastern mexican cultural experience for you to taste. As well as vegetarian and some international dishes. A variety of drinks and red wines will complement your meal in an relax and fun ambience. For more on our restaurant click here.
Checo’s is across the street from Posada
Homero’s offers local fair
Delfines is a sea food restaurant in town
Mano de Dios is a local grocery store on the square in town. They sell dry goods, cheese, meat, milk, produce.
Carneceria Mexicana is another grocery store at the bottom of the hill on the same road as Posada. they leave a little to be desired in the way of freshness.
The Traveling Market comes twice a week. It has stands that sell anything you could think to buy in mexico from corn with mayo (elote) to plastic statues of the Virgin Mary. This is a great experience to hear see smell and taste, but please buy your food stocks in town. The traveling market pays no taxes and takes money from the town of Hidalgo.
What to Climb:
There are a ton of great routes in El Potero Chico. For a list of classics complete with pictures click herePeaks of El Potrero Chico
The most complete guide book for El Potero Chico is called “The Whole Enchilada” by: Dane Bass. you can buy it at Posada and at most gear stores in the states, amazon.com, or directly from Dane and Kita at www.potrerokrew.com note the “k”.
How to Climb Here:
Bring your helmet
Don’t climb under people
Know: One of the most common errors at El Potrero and other sport-climbing destinations is to assume that multi-pitch sport climbing is as easy and fast as climbing a few single-pitch routes back-to-back. (Nighttime at El Potrero Chico is often witness to at least one team of climbers frantically trying to rappel by headlamp.) In fact, both a medley of new skills and an awareness of fresh dangers are prerequisites to multi-pitching. In addition, climbers attempting to complete some of El Potrero’s lengthy multi-pitch routes need to be at their most efficient to avoid the dreaded unplanned bivy.
Heres some good things to do before you leave for El Potrero Chico by road
* Collect necessary paperwork: You will be required to obtain a temporary vehicle import permit if you are driving beyond the border towns. You must have certain paperwork with you to obtain the permit. These papers can include vehicle registration and title, permission to drive the car in Mexico from any vehicle co-owners or lien holders, your passport, a bank-issued credit card, and return receipts from any previously issued import permits (see “The Vehicle Import Permit”, below, for more specific details).
* Take care of maintenance issues: most Americans will want their car well-maintained so that they don’t have to worry about breakdowns or unexpected repairs on the road. Get the oil change, make sure the tires and brakes are good, etc. (On the other hand, many Americans cross the border specifically to take advantage of lower costs on many repair jobs: this is especially common in Tijuana where Californians know that they can get good body repair and upholstery jobs done in Tijuana for substantially better prices than they’d get at local shops — but this is a huge can of worms and a sizeable treatise in itself).
* Understand customs requirements: Leave at home anything that will get you into trouble. Customs agents expect you to declare things that wouldn’t normally be used by a tourist. They won’t blink an eye at your 35mm SLR camera, nor at your laptop. But, if you’re carrying a 25″ color TV or a desktop computer system, customs agents may demand that you pay import duties on the merchandise (or they may confiscate them if you didn’t declare them). Also, I don’t know why some Americans feel that they should bring a gun with them when they cross the border, but you might want to be aware that Mexico has extremely strict gun control laws. Carrying so much as a single cartridge across the border is a felony that can land you in jail for a decade or more.
Crossing the Border To take your car into the interior of Mexico (more than 20 kilometers from the border), you must obtain and display a temporary vehicle import permit. You must also purchase insurance from a Mexican company. Technically, you could save the money on the insurance and nobody would be the wiser, but if you do not have the insurance and you have an accident, you should expect to be jailed — possibly for some time. Uninsured motorists sit in jail until police determine responsibility and all claims arising from the accident are settled.
When you cross into Mexico you pass through gates that have traffic signals on them. You will get either a green or red signal. If you get a green signal, you are free to pass and go about your business. If you get a red signal, an alarm bell will also sound and a customs officer will wave you over to a parking spot on the side. You will be asked what you are carrying, and you will probably be asked to open the trunk or the back of your vehicle if you have a truck or van. The inspection is usually quick, courteous, and perfunctory. The inspectors are enforcing the same types of laws that U.S. Customs officers enforce: you cannot carry certain types of produce or agricultural products (I’ve had cut flowers taken from me), you cannot carry excessive quantities of liquor or tobacco, you cannot carry excess quantities of cash (I believe the limit is $10,000, but it may be less), you must declare any expensive merchandise that you are bringing in (cameras, TVs, stereos, etc.), and they are looking for any type of firearm or ammunition whatsoever.
After passing the gates, look for the blue signs saying “Vehicle Import Permits”. That’s also where you’ll get your tourist visa.
The Vehicle Import Permit
If you want to drive your car into the interior of Mexico, you must get a permit — this is a big difference from crossing into Canada where you can essentially just keep on moving once you pass Customs. Not so in Mexico.
The permit consists of a silver hologram sticker that is affixed to your windshield and a certificate that you must carry in the car. The permits are good for 180 days (same as the tourist permits). Getting a permit is straightforward, but can be time consuming, especially during peak periods (summer weekends, christmas and easter holidays, etc.) I have had the whole process take me as little as 20 minutes or as long as 2-1/2 hours. The current wave of hysteria about travel that is keeping many Americans at home is great for those of us who like traveling — one Friday in October, I crossed into Nuevo Laredo Tamps at about 7pm and got my permit within 20 minutes! Last week, there was a mere handful of people in line at the Aduana — and I was the only gringo!
They moved the Aduana in Nuevo Laredo as of September 1. It’s now on the road facing the Rio Grande, in between bridges 1 and 2 — watch for the signs immediately as you cross the border. The new office is bigger, cleaner, air conditioned, and has signs suspended from the ceiling that (almost) clearly tell you what you need to do.
How the process works: 1) Get the tourist visa from the Migracion counter. There is a $20 fee for this. 2) Go to the copies counter and make copies of all required documents: vehicle title or registration, drivers license, tourist visa, passport, credit card. If you have had previous import permits, bring copies of the comprabantes showing that you returned the permits. 3) Go to the Banjercito cashier windows and present all documents and copies. You will be charged a fee based on your vehicle blue book value. The cashier will issue your certificate and window sticker. 4) If you haven’t already gotten Mexican insurance, get it from one of the many agents in the Aduana office.
I have heard of people having problems getting permits because they did not have a clear title to the car. In theory, you are supposed to have permission from the lien holder if you have a loan on the car: in practice, I’ve never been asked for it. In theory, they can ask you for the title: in practice, they always seem to accept registration card. (Last summer I was getting a permit and had a registration document that was a year out of date. The guy asked me for a new one, and I told him I didn’t have it — Texans usually just have a registration sticker on the windshield, not a paper document. He shrugged and gave me the permit.) I have also heard that they sometimes insist that the credit card must have a bank name on it. I have had no problem using MasterCard and Visa cards that don’t clearly have a bank name. My information is complete and accurate to the best of my knowledge, but I still advise you to check with the Mexican consulate before driving all the way to the border — official info is usually the best info…
When you leave Mexico and return to the United States you must again stop at the Aduana and cancel your permit. If you do not, your credit card may be charged and you will be unable to ever get another permit. I have heard of inconsistencies in enforcing these rules in the past, but the Aduana guys seem to be getting their act together lately. On recent trips, they’ve known which permits I’ve had recently and which were canceled when (at least to the extent where I haven’t had to show a sheaf of cancellation comprobantes), and they’ve had hand-held permit readers that they scan over the holograms to bring up data on your current permits. Aduana enters the 20th century…
Insurance No matter how good you think your American auto insurance policy is, you need to buy auto insurance when you go into Mexico. In the even of an accident, you must show “financial responsibility”. That means proof of insurance through a Mexican company (or proof of a bond). If you don’t have the right documents, you go to jail until the authorities sort everything out and claims are settled.
Prices and coverage vary, so it pays to shop around a little and compare prices and features. This is easy if you speak Spanish, hard if you speak only English since not all the agents will speak English. The prices depend mostly on the value of the vehicle. Here’s some examples of what kind of rates to expect. My 2000 Plymouth Voyager has a listed value of about $16,000. In October, I paid $34 for a 3-day policy. Last week, I paid $76 for a 6-day policy that included extensive legal coverage. Over the summer, I paid about $120 for a 2-week policy. My 1999 Saturn SL has a value of about $13,000. In November, I paid $29 for a 2-day policy on that car. Expect to pay cash (US dollars are fine) for the insurance — few of the agents take plastic.
On the Mexican Highways and Byways
Legalities and business taken care of, driving in Mexico should be fairly easy and straightforward. Check out the guidebooks and see what they say about driving in Mexico. I find some of their advice is outdated and sounds like old wives tales, but some is still probably useful. A few tips:
* Be more alert than usual. Lots of towns have big road bumps, low speed limits, and lots of local cops. Lots of outlying areas have rough roads, unmarked obstacles, and people or animals walking where you wouldn’t expect. Speed bumps can appear anywhere. Sometimes they’re marked (signs with a row of upside down cups probably means speed bump). Speed bumps are sometimes called “topes”, or topetazos, but that seems more southern usage than northern.
Maps Most maps made in the U.S. are useless once you cross the border. Many of the so-called North American Road Atlas books contain only a single page for the entire country of Mexico. If you pause for a moment to reflect on the enormity and complexity of just the capital alone — a city that is the size of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles combined — you might understand why I feel so strongly negative about these kinds of maps. I’ve called them “useless junk” before, that’s a mild term for them — trust me.
The best maps to Mexico are those by Guia Roji. There is a fat book of maps for Mexico City, fold-out maps for all major cities in the Republic, and an excellent nationwide road atlas that is widely available and which you can order on the internet from www.maps.com. Most Sanborns stores carry a good selection of Guia Roji maps.
Fill ‘er up All gas stations in Mexico are owned by Pemex, the national oil company. They are also all full-serve stations and they generally take cash only — and cash means pesos, not dollars — even in many border towns. Gas stations are plentiful in urban areas, and even in fairly remote areas, I’ve never had a problem finding a gas station when I needed one. Gas is usually a bit more expensive in Mexico than in the U.S., but they don’t post prices on signs — you have to look at the pump to see what the price is (and remember that the units are litres, not gallons).
Mexicans always tip gas station attendants, especially if he does a good job, such as by washing windows and checking oil. The tip is usually a few pesos — 5 is fine, 10 is generous.
Autopistes / Toll Roads Most of the Mexican toll roads that I’ve driven on have been among the best roads I’ve ever experienced anywhere in the world. Wide, modern, well-maintained, and well-marked with 110 kmph speed limits (which are generally enforced nice and laxly). These are also roads that you can safely drive at night. The downside though is the high tolls. The autopiste between Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey currently costs 160 pesos (about $18) for a trip of only 100 miles. The autopiste between Reynosa and Monterrey is about the same. While some guidebooks tell you that you can pay tolls with a credit card, you should be advised that this is no longer true. Cash only, please.
Car Repairs I suggested earlier that it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve taken care of any maintenance issues before leaving home. I stand by that recommendation, unless of course you’re able to speak some spanish because I can almost guarantee you that most roadside fix-it shops aren’t the kind of places where you’ll find valedictorians from the college of language and linguistics.
Some cars are easier to get fixed in Mexico than others. I doubt you’ll have any problem finding dealers or parts for anything Chrysler or Ford. Ditto with Volkswagen or Nissan. Chevrolet is popular everywhere, but the models are sometimes a bit different from those in the U.S.
Toyotas are not common in Mexico and you may be hard pressed to find parts or a mechanic who will work on them. Ditto for Hondas, though I’ve seen dealers sprout up in Monterrey and Mexico City in the last couple years, so the situation may be changing.
Certain luxury cars are easy to find dealers and parts for, especially in larger urban areas. BMW is particularly well supported and popular, and there are dealers for Mercedes and Volvo in the big cities. If you’ve got a car from any of the Japanese luxury brands, you’re in for a tough time if anything goes wrong: I’ve never seen a dealership for Lexus, Infiniti, nor Acura.
Coming Back When you return to the U.S. from Mexico, don’t forget to turn in your permit at the Aduana office, unless you don’t mind having possible penalties charged to your credit card and being banned from getting future permits…
U.S. border checkpoints are bad: in fact, I find them worse than most other countries. Expect outrageously long lines, rude agents, bad service, inadequate staffing, and general disrespect towards everyone. In Texas, the biggest entry point is Laredo/Nuevo Laredo.
If you’re crossing at Laredo, you can minimize the pain of the wait by driving about 50 kilometers west to Columbia and crossing at the bridge there (this also shortens your drive on the U.S. side by about 15 minutes). I recommend this crossing only from Mexico to the U.S. Going the other way, Laredo is more convenient, and besides, I don’t know if there is an Aduana office at Columbia where you can take care of car permit business.
I hope I’ve provided some insight for you, and if there’s anything you think I’ve overlooked, please let me know. Hope you have a good trip…happy trails, amigo!