Archive for the ‘Jalisco’ Category

The ferries to and from Baja are the cause of a lot of questions and frustrations with travelers. There are numerous stories of people getting stuck in Mazatlan or La Paz waiting for an open spot. Apparently things have gotten a lot easier now that there are two ferry companies. The ferries from La Paz also serve Topolobampo and Los Mochis. In retrospect we probably should have driven down Baja on the way down and taken the ferry to Los Mochis in order to visit Copper Canyon but I didn’t realize how easy it would have been.

The two ferry companies are very different and offer extremely different amenities for Baja travelers. The Baja Ferries company offers very nice new boats with cabins, good food, state rooms and a nine hour travel time but you definitely pay for what you get. It is a little confusing to try to determine how much we would have actually paid for the van on Baja Ferries from their website but it might have been as much as US$1000 depending on what classification it fit into. We would have also had to purchase a cabin for another US$60-$70 if we wanted to get some sleep as you don’t have access to your vehicle.

By contrast, Transportación Marítima de California is the truckers choice. The boats are older and slower – 16 hours to La Paz. The bathroom facilities are borderline revolting. The food is passable and there are very few other amenities. But its significantly less expensive than Baja Ferries and you have access to your vehicle for the duration of the trip. For us that meant watching movies, drinking mescal, and sleeping in the van – and after the most non-romantic discussion of all time about benefits and taxes, we decided to get married. Smooth, I know. All for the low price of about US$350 (not the marriage stuff).

Boarding the ferry is pretty straightforward, if you are trying to get the ferry near the holidays you apparently need to make a reservation; but we just rolled up, measured and weighed the van, submitted to the most extensive military search yet, and kicked it on the docks while they loaded all the trailers and semis. The loading process is fairly long and semi-painful but the workers are total pros and work pretty hard to get the tourists on last. Last on equals first off! The first couple of hours pulling away from Mazatlan and the last few hours near La Paz make for some great sight-seeing especially the early morning views of the mountains of Baja Sur with huge pods of dolphins playing in the ferry’s wake.

There are a lot more pictures over on Flickr.

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Once again we find ourselves in Mazatlan knee deep in van repair. Ever since the steep, uphill, overheating incident in Oaxaca the van has been gradually going proverbially down-hill. Our gas mileage has dropped from a pathetic 7-11 miles per gallon to a wallet emptying 3-5 miles per gallon and we have to gun it to get up the smallest of hill climbs not exactly putting on a demo of the notorious 460 big block power. Combine that with our previous van expenditures, an extra couple of weeks on the road, some bad math, poor planning and we are B R O K E. Broke like we can’t afford a bus pass broke. Seriously, we took the libre partway from Tepic to Mazatlan to avoid the last two tolls of the astronomically expensive cuota. I want to know what percentage of Mexican’s can afford that stretch, at over MX$500 pesos for 214 kilometers it comes to over US$0.50 per mile, totally ridiculous.

We had additionally thought that our problems were caused by some bad gasoline but by the time we rolled into Mazatlan, our tail pipe black like we were running diesel, the back of the van smelling like smog, and pouring our remaining cash into the tank, we realized that things were worse than dirty fuel.

A little depressed and not sure where to start, I dropped my car problems on a fellow van camper that had wandered over to chat and check our ride. Neil Hanlon is Canadian snowbird that has been escaping to Mexico from his snowy winter confines since before I graduated from high school but you’d never know it from looking at him. His blond hair, vernacular, and easy, smooth manners defy his real age (which I don’t actually know but can guess based on 26 year old kids). It took him all of about 3 minutes to tell me that the choke was failing and she was running rich. He conferred with another resident mechanic and told me that we could dial her in come morning.

Natalie and I then cruised over to Isla de la Piedras to see Warren and Joyce from our first car repair dominated visit to Mazatlan, reclaiming our propane splitter in the process. It was a little bit of Déjà vu sitting in their Chieftain (Jefe de la jefes) motorhome and recapping our days since last in Sinaloa. But great too. Great in the sense that we feel totally different and totally accomplished since our last cocktail with those crazy Canadians. Joyce made my favorite Mexican safety joke of the whole trip, telling me that they didn’t go to Tuscon, that it was too dangerous and there were too many shootings there.

The next morning we were up at eight, pulling apart the van, removing the dog house and breaking out the wrenches with Neil. His wife made us copious amounts of coffee and we managed to right her wrongs and fix a few miscellaneous issues along the way. We pulled out of the Mar Rosa beachside trailer park at a quarter to one, hoping to score a spot on the ferry; power plant restored, smog emissions greatly reduced, and fuel economy restored to previously dismal, although better than recently atrocious levels.

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Cocos Frio… Listo

I can confirm with 100% certainty that it is easier to open a coconut with a machete versus an axe.

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Barra de Navidad is one of the niceset, cleanest, more picturesque spots we’ve visited. Barra itself is a small fishing port town turned tourist town. Just to the north of Barra, across the crocodile infested river, is the town of Melaque. We had been erroneously informed that there was good surf in Barra. We arrived, in theory, right in the middle of a pretty substantial west-southwest, expecting to get a few choice waves. We were hopeful with the sizeable whomp smacking the beach in Melaque. Our first clue should have been the relative lack of surf shops in town. Normally, with as many tourists and gringo settlements as there were, should there be decent surf, you’d expect at least a decent shop with 10-20 rental boards, if not two shops. Sayulita is a comparable size town and must have six or seven shops. The one lone surf shop in town is run by a local by the name of Odin, his modest shop stocks four or so boards, mostly of the longer thicker variety and the pictures on the wall are of him nose-riding with his dog on the front. Not good signs. We chatted with the guy working the counter and it seems that there was good surf in town at the break and that it had been working earlier in the afternoon around 2:00. We wondered toward the jetty wondering exactly where the spot was. When the sets would roll in a small little peaky wedge would pop up and occasionally curl back to the jetty. Hoping that wasn’t the break we wandered back to the shop to ask. Sure enough, at low tide there had been some pretty consistent waist high rollers for a couple hours.

Had we actually been able to camp right out in front of the break we’d have stuck around for at least a day and scoped out a little more of the town. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to camp in Barra and you have to walk the 2 miles down the beach from the camping spots in Melaque. So instead of our original plan to hang here for a week or so we stayed for two days, caught up on some internet and made some skype calls, a little splash in the hotel pool and off to Pascuales.


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We spent one night in the cool little campground area of Boca de Iguanas, a beautiful cove and a crocodile infested rivermouth (or so the multitude of signs warned) with a few expat snowbirds that supposedly is overrun with weekenders from Guadalarja. We had movie night and cooked up some tacos. We’ve come to realize that we are the only foreign campers who cook Mexican food for most of our meals. Seems like everyone else is making pasta or roast chicken or the like. We’ve had the occasional pasta dish and Pad Thai but for the most part we cook what we cook at home. Mexican.

Before we went back to Tucson we had picked up the most amazing bottle of Tequila evah. Leticia Hermosillo’s Alma de Mujer (soul of a woman). Ever since we have been scouring Mexico for it. Finally a Tequila shop in Puerto Vallarta had in in their warehouse. We cracked the first bottle here. Sadly I ordered the reposado when we had the anejo the first time. Its still delicious, but not quite the same. Oh, and I bought 8 bottles. Tequila anyone?

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The whomp in Melaque / Barra de Navidad is amongst the best we’ve seen. It’s not Cabo San Lucas / Lover’s Beach good but it thumps pretty well. Yesterday the local kids were tearing it up on their skimboards. Here is one video, there are several more over on our YouTube Channel.

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