La Paz was only a couple of hours ride from San Carlos, so we had a lazy lie in , followed by a leisurely breakfast before hitting the road. La Paz, the main city of Baja, came into view after an uneventful journey along the MX1. First we hit the topes, then the traffic lights, the first we had seen in Mexico, then the traffic strted to pile up. We negotiated our way through the cars, trucks and busses and headed down towards the sea. With a little help from our GPS, we found the Pension California, recommended to us by just about everyone who had been to La Paz, sorted out a room, and went out to explore.
La Paz was thankfully devoid of Americanisation, and although a big town, almost a city , even, had a relaxed and friendly vibe. We made friends with a few travellers in the Pension, and that night, a group of about 8 of us headed into town for the Luche Libre.
This was without doubt the best experience so far in Mexico. I had spotted the sign for the Mexican wrestling on the way into town and we all thought it would be fun, however we had no idea exactly how much fun it would be. We got to the arena early and got ourselves ringside seats, hot dogs, beers and doughnuts. An hour or so after the wrestling was supposed to start , the first of the fighters came out to the ring, the crowd, mainly families and young kids, went wild!
The fights got better and better, most of the action outside of the ring. There were one on one bouts, double and even triple tag teams. The outfits, the moves, and the showmanship got better as we got drunker, and at one point, we narrowly avoided being landed on my a big fat Mexican throwing himself off the ropes onto a downed opponent who was standing dazed in front of us after being thrown out of the ring by his nemesis. We were all in tears of laughter as the wrestlers chased each other round the outside of the ring, being heckled by the crowds, whacking each other with steel chairs, and shouting abuse at the crowds and at their opponents.
None of us had an idea who had won, but for 100pesos ( about £5 or $7) we had a superb and unforgettable night out.
We spent a couple of days in the Pension California, during which time we rode out to a couple of beaches and chilled out, gorged ourselves on cheap tacos, and smoked, heavily!
I think Aussie Dan got itchy feet first, but after a few days we were ready to move on.
I had a friend in Todos Santos, and artist community about an hour from La Paz on the west coast of the Peninsula, and we made a beeline for there. The town was a really quaint old place, dating back to the 18th century. The were galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants a lovely square, an old Theatre, and the Hotel California, one of many of the Hotel California’s that claim, rightly or wrongly, to be the namesake of the Eagles song of the same name.
We met up with my mate Adrian at one of the town’s coffee shops, and he led us 10km out of town to Pescadero, and the Pescadero surf camp, where we rented a Casita for three days, which turned into a week, then two weeks, then 17 days!
Our extended stay was in part due to the beautiful Pacific beaches that surrounded us, which definitely had a hold over us, but also, we had for the first time, bike trouble!
I went down first when the Harley developed an oil leak. I ignored it a t first, but it bugged me, so, begrudgingly, I rode down to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico’s Benidorm, and took the bike into the Harley Dealer for a once over.
The mechanic asked me to leave the bike with him for an hour. An hour later, he asked me for 2 hours. When I went back at 4pmn, the bike was in bits! The mechanic told me he couldn’t find the oil leak, and would have to look again tomorrow. Thankfully, the owner of the Harley shop was an exceedingly helpful American, and he agreed to lend me a bike to get me home on while the mechanic, whose name was Jesus, worked on my bike.
I rode the loaner home, and told the Aussies the bad news. We were stuck!
Then, more trouble, the Aussies, on their way back from a day doing the time share scam in Cabo San Lucas, broke down. Their KLR had run completely dry, not a drop of oil in the tank, about 2 km outside of Cabo.
So the four of us found ourselves stranded in paradise, could have been worse!
We took the loan bike for a spin to La Paz to catch the last night of Carnival, Mardi Gras, and were greeted by some familiar faces back at the Pension California when we checked back in for the night. We unloaded the bike once more, parked the bike up inside the inner courtyard of the Pension, and headed out to the Malencon to catch the Carnival Parade. It seemed as if the whole town and then some were out that night, and the Promenade along the sea front was heaving with people out t o celebrate in true Mexican style. There were vendors everywhere selling everything form huge bottles of beer to candyfloss, trinkets, eggs filled with confetti-which were used to throw at people that you fancied-tacos, sweets and whistles. We watched the floats pass by, danced with the locals watched some of the bands, and at around 1am headed back to the Pension.
The next day, we road back to Pescadero to the camp.
We kicked our heels for a while round the surf camp, our mate Adrian came round a few times to visit and drive us into Todos Santos or down to Cerritos surf beach. A couple of days later and my bike was ready to be picked up, and it was time for us to say our tentative goodbyes to the Aussies and the camp residents and head off. We rode out through the overly Americanised and quite garish Cabo San Lucas, past the more typically Mexican San Juan de Cabo, and then North as far as Santiago, a little Mexican pueblo, where we found a quaint hotel and settled in. We walked around the town, which took no more than 10 minutes, and returned to the seemingly only place to eat, a Tacos stand in the back garden of a neighbour of the hotel. The music was pumping out of a boom box and smoke was pouring out to the road, the smell drawing us in as we began salivating at the prospect of some tasty Carne Asada. We were not disappointed!
Early the next morning, after a most uneventful evening, we were back on the road again, this time, we were heading for Cabo Pulmo, a national park on the East Cape, which, unfortunately for us, was only accessible via a dirt road. We bumped and bounced for what seemed like an eternity over sandy washboard tracks; in reality it was only about 20 miles, but it felt like a lot more!
We arrived in Cabo Pulmo, and our spirits were instantly raised. The town was one road, which ran along the shore, with a dive shop, a bakery, a restaurant or two and a handful of small hotels. It was lovely and unspoilt. We had a quick scout round the hotels – all of which were out of our budget – and began thinking we would not be able to spend the night, when our new friend, Memo, saved the day.
We had been talking to Memo at the Dive shop about hiring snorkelling gear, and when we told him we couldn’t afford any of the Hotels, he offered us his tent, complete with blankets and pillows, for a minimal fee. Brilliant!
We booked ourselves on a boat trip with him for the afternoon to go whale watching, snorkelling and swimming with sea lions, grabbed a bite to eat, and met him on the shore to head out onto the open sea. The trip was fantastic. We had beautiful weather and great visibility under the water, I got up close and personal to a few sea lions, had a lovely swim over some shallow corals, seeing beautiful fish dart by beneath me, and even were rewarded with sightings of a half dozen humpback whales right up close to the boat. As a special treat, Memo took us to his favourite place to swim with a shoal of Tuna-like fish. This unnerved me slightly, we got off the boat, swam a few metres, and there they were, thousands of these silver fish, swimming all around us, and as I looked down, there was a tunnel of them stretching as far as I could see.
I took a deep breath through my snorkel, turned, and swam back to the boat. I had really felt like an intruder!
Back on land, we pitched Memo’s tent up on the beach, went and bought some supplies from the shop-which was really the living room of a local resident crammed with tinned food, biscuits and sodas-and with nothing else to do, went to bed.
Our sleep that night was fitful at best, but with morning came the sunrise from over the sea, directly in front of us. We sat up in the door of our tent, and watched as the sky grew lighter and the sun became stronger and fiercer.
The tent packed up and returned to Memo, we were off again, back along the bumpy dirt track towards La Paz and the ferry that would take us to the mainland.
Unhappy as I was about a 14-hour ferry crossing, the time went quickly and we arrived at Mazatlan around 8 in the morning. We rode off the ferry and after a quick reconnoitre of the locale, rode up to the Hotel Mexico, one of Andrea’s recommendations, where we checked in, changed clothes, parked the bike, and were out. The sheer Mexican-ness of Mazatlan, compared to Baja, revitalised us, and we both felt our fatigue slip away the more we discovered about this gorgeous old town. We stumbled across the Cathedral, and the main Plaza in front of it, as is the custom in most Spanish colonial towns, the Café’s lining the Plazuela tempted us in for coffee and fruit salad, and then the lack of sleep caught up with us and we walked back to the Hotel Mexico for a nap.
Mazatlan is a lively, vibrant city. The market was a hive of activity, and the people were friendly and welcoming. The city itself was a maze of streets, anda joy to get lost in. We would walk around aimlessly, following the sounds of the local brass “Bandas” until we would find their source, usually in the form of a sort of Mexican working men’s club. The bars would have kitchens but no menus. Patrons would buy their seafood from the local fishermen or the “Camaronadores” and bring it to these establishments for them to cook it, in any way you wanted it.
We were always made very welcome in these places, even though we felt extremely out of place, especially as Jacquie was nearly always the only girl in the place apart from the busty waitresses.
In the week or so that we were there-our stay was extended due to both of us having a bit of a problem with our stomachs-we must have covered almost every inch of the town, from its 32km stretch of seafront and beaches, from the lighthouse (the second highest in the world) to the drag strip.
Jacquie realised her dream of horse riding along a sandy beach, whilst I finally got the Tattoo I had been talking about for some 15 years.
We really had to tear ourselves away from Mazatlan, our first proper Mexican town, but what lay ahead eased the pain of our departure.
We decided that our next destination would be Durango, the Mexican cowboy capital. One of the deciding factors in this choice was the road that would take us there.
Who could resist roads called “The Road of 3.000 Curves”, swiftly followed by “Il Espina del Diablo”- The Devil’s Spine.
Our first stop was a small town called Concordia. Set around a majestic Cathedral and leafy plaza, the town was a little gem, we afforded ourselves a quick walk around the centre before saddling up and setting off. The road definitely lived up to its name. Within minutes of leaving Concordia, we were leaning the bike left and right, winding up and up to the hills overlooking the coast. The higher we rose, the more fantastic the vistas became. We were unable to resist the urge to stop and take photos of the view, knowing full well that the pictures we were taking could in no way give any justice to what our eyes beheld. And still we climbed, riding up to the clouds, which enshrouded the steep cliff tops. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we reached the Devil’s Spine. On a plateau at 2,500 metres, with drop offs on either side, overlooking mountains, cliff faces, deep gorges and valleys. Way below us were the odd glistening of metal, the remains of cars, trucks and busses that had misjudged corners and met their fate at the bottom of the drop.
Occasionally trucks would come round corners in the opposite direction to us, completely on the wrong side of the road, forcing us to brake hard or to ride the very edge of our lane.
We made it in one piece to the straights running along the plateau in Durango state, where we rode past huge Ranchos, through the largest Military road block yet, and into the mining town of El Salto.
The change in temperature was drastic. We had dropped from 90degress at sea level to just above 60. We found a cheap hotel, and the receptionist lit the gas fire for us in the room. We really needed that. When the sun went down the temperature dropped again to 55 degrees. We hadn’t been that cold since the States.
Hunger forced us out of our snug room and into the town. El Salto was a gritty old mining town, and as we walked we noticed that the locals here also partook of the Mexican tradition of “Cruising”. The streets around the square were jammed up with people just riding around in their cars, quite often there would be 7 or 8 people crammed into a saloon car, or 4 in the front of a pick up truck, stereos blasting Latino tunes. I asked the ladies cooking our Hamerguesas where they were all going, and they said; “nowhere, just around”. We had seen the same in La Paz, and I am sure we would come across this Mexican phenomenon again.
Satiated with our tasty burger, we sauntered back to out hotel, our 4th floor room overlooking the town, which itself seemed cut into the side of a mountain.
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