Be careful passing through Altamira and Tampico!

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by Fuzznuts, Jul 11, 2010.

  1. Fuzznuts

    Fuzznuts Your Guide

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    Costa Rica, Central America, I know where to go...
    The last two tours I did going through Altamira and Tampico Mexico were very bad with the Transito, or Traffic Police. My first was about mid April when one of my customers was stopped for running a light. He didn't, but he and his partner were in a hurry to get up to Texas where they had a flight back to Canada. Foolish me advertised that I pay "tips" whenever necessary. Never more... that one cost $150. Twenty minutes later, they had us pulled over again, this time for riding in the center lane.... just something made up to stop us. I began telling them we'd already paid and weren't paying another peso. They told me to be quiet, I was arguing in their own language and people were standing around. I kept up and told the guys not to pay anything. One of the cops took one of my guys behind a car and took his wallet from his hand and all the money out of the wallet. I payed that, too but it put a serious damper on the tour.

    Later in Texas, I met a guy working with "Doctors Without Borders" riding a BM. We had dinner and spent some time together he headed south to Guatemala. Later that week, I was in a van with my bikes heading south and met him at the border. I asked why he was there and he told me he'd been robbed at the same place I'd warned him about.

    Another tour operator told me he'd been robbed there too. But I'm slow on the take up and it's a good ride to Tampico.... so I took my most recent tour, this time going south, through Altamira to Tampico. Sure enough, we got hit for a small $20 "favor" fine to Tampico where we were pulled over and told one customer didn't have a helmet on and we were in the center lane. So as bare headed riders passed in every lane, I began to question the law. They told me I'd be welcome to do that in front of a judge and I called what I believed to be a bluff. It wasn't and we followed them in... only to find the court was closed. The bartering commenced as the price for these non-existent crimes against Mexico went up and down. It's a longer and more interesting story but to stay to the point, we settled on $250 and got out of there.

    I'd like to stress that I've never been hassled in any other part of Mexico, and though they're going through problems with drug traffickers, they seem to keep it to themselves and not bother tourists that much and it's a country you need to pass through if you're going to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua or Costa Rica..... and, Mexico is a wonderful country with a culture all it's own. You need to see it before debating the merits of northern border towns. Thanks, Paul Furlong in Costa Rica, Eyeneo.com
    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    67,838
    Sounds like they see riders as 2 wheeled ATM's! :lol2

    Moved to RF: Latin America
    #2
  3. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    Oddometer:
    4,150
    Go to this page

    http://www.tamaulipas.gob.mx/servicios/quejas/

    Fill out the form.
    Or next time remember to get the names from the badges (Badges? We don need no stinkin badges...), note the time, note the plate and vehicle used to stop you, follow it up with your local Mexican consulate. If nobody reports corruption it will never end. Far too many people think it is simply easier to pay the bribe than take the ticket if you were booked for something that you did wrong. Also, far too many people roll over for the shake down and think it is a fact of life. It isn't by the way.
    You'd be surprised at how many Mexicans absolutely refuse to pay bribes. Watch how fast the cops get bored with you when they realize you won't pay to play their game and are costing them money because they are dealing with a stubborn gringo or two.
    If you need help filling out the form, PM me.
    #3
  4. Fuzznuts

    Fuzznuts Your Guide

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    Costa Rica, Central America, I know where to go...
    Thanks guys,
    I'm filling out the form now and my wife is correcting my spelling. I did have a phone number and a name. Let's see what happens. Going through that area is just simpler then going around it and people do want to see the beach on these rides.
    #4
  5. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    I had a traffic dick waving me over during a past trip, right in that area, and I just kept on catching gears.
    #5
  6. balloonman

    balloonman Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Oddometer:
    231
    Location:
    CoMo
    I got tired of being stopped there and Tampeco. Changed my route to 85 south and 105 south as I worked my way to Puerto Escondido Oaxaca. Captain Tom
    #6
  7. Fuzznuts

    Fuzznuts Your Guide

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    Costa Rica, Central America, I know where to go...
    Yes, I have a special "look" when I see a cop... I look away as if I'm checking out a chick and keep focusing till I pass him. But when they stand in front of you or pull up beside you in a car and your customers are stopping, it's hard to do that.

    Yes, we've been ATMs and No, I'm not gonna be no mo....

    and thank you Captain Tom, I know that route and somehow got focused on the mud hole.... I like the whole idea of it. Spent a lovely week in Puerto Escondido a couple years ago. I can take in San Miguel de Allende, too, if it's not too commercialized. I spent a winter there about fifteen years ago. How is it now? Fuzznuts, eyeneo.com
    #7
  8. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,898
    I haven't had any problems in Mexico, but from my experience, it works if you pull out your camera and start taking photos. Grab your phone, too, and start calling your consulate. Keep your consulate and embassy numbers handy, like right on top of your tank bag. Once you get the embassy on the phone, ask the cop if he wants to talk to them.

    This has worked for me.
    #8
  9. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    Oddometer:
    4,150
    If the cop was rejected for an entry visa for the US so he could visit his relatives do you think he's going to give a damn which one of Uncle Sam's minions he's talking to? Goes double for Canadian bureaucrats. Don't be surprised if they just call for the tow truck if you try to threaten or put yourself above them. Do you think a crooked cop in some pohdunk berg in Georgia is going to care if a visiting Mexican national pulls out his cell phone and dials his nearest consulate? I think the phrase " a la chingada con" will be spoken at some point in the conversation either roadside or later at the station.
    Don't antagonize a corrupt cop, just wear them out with polite and courteous conversation delivered in a confident and sincere manner.
    It's an acquired art form but on the bright side you'll get lots of time to practice it!
    The whole problem with the embassy approach is if they call your bluff and talk to the personnel the personnel at the embassy will tell you what I have told already. Get the name, the badge number, the time, the vehicle id, and the ticket and pay it. The way the game works is the moment you try to opt for paying the mordida after the embassy hangs up, they'll double it on you and keep you sweating roadside in the sun until they are done with you.
    Avoid it all by being polite, courteous, and admit that you made a mistake if you did. If you didn't make the mistake, then be polite, courteous, and unyielding and make them write the ticket.
    Take it like a man if you committed a traffic offense and they might let you go with a warning, if you are trying to get out of a ticket that is warranted, you should make real sure you understand the consequences of being called out by them after you have called them out.
    At the end of the day, you don't have home field advantage and they do.
    #9
  10. Eduardo

    Eduardo Eduardo

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Minnesota
    I have been through Tampico 20 times in the last ten years, and have been stopped once. The guy didn't have a uniform, drove a Chevy pickup, but had a flasher and a siren. He wanted to see all my papers: license, visa, vehicle title, and passport. I played the "no habla espanol" routine, and he let me go, without the "bite".

    I think the best way to get through Tampico is to stay to the west, and slide through on the outskirts. I am usually coming from Manuel/Gonzales on a 2 lane blacktop, which turns into a four lane as you come into the edge of town, then I take a right turn, cross the river, and lose the congestion quickly on my way toward Posa Rica. I have been in the thick of Tampico before and it's a traffic mess, and have taken the western route ever since. I wish I could be more specific on the turns to accomplish this and will look in a maps website for blowups of the metro area to talk specifics.

    They have added so many freeways and new bridges in the last ten years, and that along with the fact there isn't great signage, make it a tough town to navigate. I would say basically to stay off the freeway which seems to dump you into the thick of it, or route you way out your way.
    More later hopefully...I say hopefully because I'm not convinced the web maps are updated to all the new changes.

    Saludos, Eduardo
    #10
  11. Fuzznuts

    Fuzznuts Your Guide

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    Costa Rica, Central America, I know where to go...
    First, some aggression in say, Nicaragua, especially if they made up a reason for stopping you, works. I've actually taken a customers license out of a cops hand and nodded for us to ride off, which we did.

    I agree that we're not so popular as we were and this guys certainly able to read the news in Arizona. As one officer put it, "up there you very big. Here, you are nothing." I almost always take the humble approach and treat the offense as if it were real. I usually insist on a ticket, but I've never been written one except in my country of citizenship, Costa Rica. I don't believe there are any sure fire ways and my point of posting this was just so people would know it's very busy up there in that area now.

    I did report this last incident, thanks to Balloonman, who sent me a form to fill out. I appreciate the PMs and your suggestions. Staying west is good but I'm looking at way west, dropping down through San Miguel de Allende and get on the west coast. It's nice there and I cross into Guat. at the same place. Right now my bikes are in Costa Rica so I believe I'd like to do some loops up to Antigua and back using different routes. Fuzznuts
    #11
  12. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,898
    You're obviously very experienced in all this. If you're being forced to pay bribes, then the Tampico cop-banditos must be very, very bad.

    In Panama, if I'm stopped for obeying the law, I'm supposed to give the cop $10 or $20, and then remind him that he's MY cop. It's been a while since I posted about what we do with Panama cops and road blocks. On a motorcycle, you just have to carry a little cash. In a 4x4, I carry a cooler and some cokes and cookies. Even if I'm not stopped, I hand the cops a cold soda. This is especially helpful if you're going into the Darien.

    Lucio and Paula had good advice about playing the "journalist" card. Paula would get the camera out and start taking photos. I'm pretty sure they didn't pay any bribes. There's more info on their trip in their ride report, especially here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=10002320&postcount=129

    #12
  13. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    Oddometer:
    4,150
    Not fair they are Brazilians! That explains everything. ;)
    #13
  14. luciosiq

    luciosiq Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    378
    Location:
    Santos - Brazil
    Yeap....we are brazilians, but you could easily do the same speaking english slowly with a few words in spanish, like: Periodistas = journalists
    That works very well together with a camera.
    They understand very quickly and clearly what you are going to do.
    Anyway, it worked ok for us.
    We paid no bribes during the whole trip.


    #14
  15. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    Excellent posts. :thumb
    #15
  16. Fuzznuts

    Fuzznuts Your Guide

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    Costa Rica, Central America, I know where to go...
    Thanks for that bit of Brazilian journalism. I've been hesitant to pull out a camera I don't want smashed or have a chip removed with lots of good stuff on it. On my way up to meet my customers in Texas last time, I stopped in Estali, Nicaragua to shoot a mural that covered a long wall. As I moved along the wall, I noticed a solder walking towards me. Hell, I took a picture of him, too. Then he asked me why I was taking the pictures and I told him I thought it was "beautiful". So he invited me to visit the sergeant at the gate.... duhhh.... it was an Army base and I didn't know it. I waited for some kind of word to come down while they inspected my passport and papers. My helmet cam was running but I was afraid to reach over and shut if off...

    Eventually an sharp dressed officer stepped out and asked to see the pictures, an act of logic, I'm not used to down here... I happily showed him the pictures because I was really just getting off on the wall and had no designs on an attack that day. He thanked me very much and I left. All in a days ride...

    Thank you all for your input. It's imposable to know it all. I do use the camera just to let them know I've got their picture but you don't want to be taking pictures on the Mexican border on the US side... no no... or anywhere their army is. And Tampico and Altamira are very forceful.

    Fuzznuts, Eyeneo.com (due for an update)
    #16
  17. markharf

    markharf Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Oddometer:
    712
    Location:
    Bellingham, Washington
    Man, I hope those bribe amounts are in pesos, not $US!

    FWIW, I don't pay unless I've done something wrong. Maybe I'll get my comeuppance sometime soon, but this has been working for me throughout Africa, the Americas and even Chicago. I don't like following behind people who've been throwing around cash freely, and I don't want to make trouble for those who follow me. I just settle in and wait for it to be over....and eventually it's always over. So far.

    If I'm caught redhanded, I negotiate the amount. $10 or $20 is way too much: five bucks is the going rate for gringos with a bit of back and forth. I've paid twice this trip--but again, I was caught breaking the law (never mind that I was following local custom both times). I've tried my best on many occasions to get them to write me a ticket (so that I can leave them with one of my several licenses), but not once have I succeeded.

    A professional driver I met in Honduras told me that they do the same to him--"You were drinking a cup of coffee while driving, that's a hundred dollar fine!"--but that the going rate is a dollar or two. I told him I'd try that on for size next time it comes up. I was interested that our experiences meshed so neatly--it always feels like they're targeting gringos (i.e., me), but he had the same problems in the same areas of the same countries. For example, we agreed that the PanAm in Honduras is full of corrupt wannabes but that the northern routes are fine, that El Salvador is no problem at all, that Nicaraguans try to catch you doing something wrong rather than inventing nonsense and convincing you to pay them off, etc.

    OP, if your amounts are dollars you're doing a disservice to the rest of us....but thanks for posting anyway. I'll probably work my way around, rather than through that stretch.

    Mark

    (repair day in Guatemala)
    #17
  18. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about

    Mark,
    What repairs have you been tending to during this trip?
    What's happened?
    #18
  19. markharf

    markharf Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Oddometer:
    712
    Location:
    Bellingham, Washington
    Hah hah...you want the short list or the full treatment? I blew out my shock 5000 miles ago and found someone to cobble together a temporary fix which consists of a much lighter duty, shorter Honda shock mounted on a bunch of scrap steel welded together in weird ways. It's not very safe, and it sags, and it handles peculiarly at best....but here I am, safe and sound on another continent.

    My choke cable broke the other day---not a big deal in the tropics, but a potential pain in the butt once I get to someplace that is not absurdly hot all the time. I just noticed that my rear brake had stopped self-centering when I lubed my chain and heard a grinding noise which turned out to be what was left of the metal of my brake pad scraping what was left of my brake rotor. Plus I've got at least three distinct and strong vibrations which kick in and out at various engine speeds and loads, probably signifying the end of my motor's natural lifespan. And I last looked at my balancer chain 60,000 miles ago. And my valves need adjusting. And I can feel the bushings in my forks rattling around with every bump in the road. And. And. And.

    Having said all that, I was preparing to ship the bike home 5000 miles (and 10 borders) ago....and here I am just an easy ride from Chiapas. I've found a guy who claims he can get me a shock and various other parts by Saturday, so I'm going to stay put and see how that goes. In the final analysis, I've got 85,000 miles on a single cylinder engine, and anything further is probably borrowed time.....but I'd sure like to make it home before putting the KLR out to pasture.

    Now, what was the original topic again? Oh yeh, corrupt cops. I think the gist of it is that there are a variety of approaches which work for those who practice diligently--the camera/reporter/lawyer one sure wouldn't suit my style, but maybe it works fine for someone else. The people who really need to refine their techniques are the ones who drop massive amounts of cash at the slightest threat. If you wanted to encourage cops to become even more corrupt, that's the perfect way to accomplish it. Me, I want to preserve my meager hoard of dinero while discouraging corrupt cops from picking on myself and future riders.

    Mark
    #19
  20. Fuzznuts

    Fuzznuts Your Guide

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    Costa Rica, Central America, I know where to go...
    Had no idea there were so many ways to skin or be skinned by a cop... All I can say is thanks for the multitude of responses. As a result, I have blown the whistle on those who got us last, and decided on an alternate route... unless fate sends me back into that area. I may have a tour with another company that will put me back in their greedy and perhaps vengeful hands.

    To those who fear I may be too much feeding the alligators, understand I've never paid a muerdo when there weren't customers behind me and reservations waiting down the road... Also to those who travel through that area and have no problems... one man's ceiling is another man's floor and we all need to play the cards we're dealt. Fuzznuts, eyeneo.com :wink:
    #20