Mazatlán

There are two ferries that do the trip from La Paz to Mazatlán on the mainland; TMC ferries and Baja Ferries. We picked TMC, the ‘trucker’ ferry. For us, there were a number of advantages, aside from the lower cost. You could sleep in your camper on deck, you could take pets with you without crating them and food was included. Once we were truly underway, the lights of La Paz faded into the horizon and Lee had located the kitchen. It was a simple affair, you handed over your vouchers and in exchange got handed a plate of food. There was no choice of dishes, you got beans, rice and a vegetable meat thing, presented on a plastic plate. A warm box of tacos was on the table. A cup of something yellow and slightly sweet was handed to you in a plastic cup. I didn’t feel like this was the time to mention being vegetarian, so I ate it anyway. I’m not sure what nondescript meat it was, but it certainly reaffirmed my opinion that a lot of dishes don’t really gain any advantage by containing meat. Overall it wasn’t bad, a little bland, but filling enough. It saved us having to cook in the camper, which we could have done but having been up since 5.30am, it wasn’t appealing.

Being on this ferry, you felt more like part of the crew. There were no fancy cabins or waiting rooms. Duty Free was definitely lacking. The room we ate food in also served as the entertainment room, where on the wall behind us James Bond was blasted out in dubbed Spanish at full volume. This suits me just fine, I don’t need to pay for an expensive bar and a shop that predominantly sells Toblerone and terrible souvenir keyrings, basic is good. Having eaten our meal, we took it in turns to use the shower before turning in for an early night. We weren’t entirely sure when the ferry was due to arrive, expect that it would be after 8.30am the following day. 

For the last hour of the trip, we watched from the railings as the city of Mazatlán came into focus. We saw the lighthouse, the second highest in the world apparently, and the harbour coming into view. It was, as ever, a beautifully sunny morning. The perfect day to see, for the first time in over half a year, something new.

On our arrival in Mazatlán, we had pre-booked a dormitory in the Funky Monkey Youth Hostel. We wanted to be in the city centre in case there were any day of the Dead costumes to be seen. Cities, I find, are better explored on foot or by bike. Driving the camper around is more stressful than fun. The youth hostel is only around a 20 minute drive from the port, and it was around 9.30am that we stood on the top deck and watched as a tug boat manoeuvred the ferry to the dock. 

I had prepared for a sleepless night, but apart from being surprisingly hot, sandwiched between massive lorries, it hadn’t been too bad. The occasional roll of the boat awoke me with a jump as I thought I was about to fall out of bed, but all in all it was a smooth trip. Previously we have got much shorter ferries, around 5 hours, from England to France. This is the ‘overnight ferry’ leaving at 11pm, but as the trip is only 6 hours you arrive in the middle of the night. A longer ferry was actually much more civilised. 

The chains around us clattered as the lorries released the straps tying them to the deck. Engines fired into life around us. Needless to say we couldn’t see a thing, but it was’t too long before the trucks next to us shifted and it was our turn to disembark. After a rather steady exit, we drove through old town, watched Bruno navigating some rather low electrical cables, and towards the youth hostel. We parked up at the end of the a dead end road and let the cats finally leave the campers. 

Soon enough, we went and checked in, paying for our room upfront. We met Denver and Salem who welcomed us in after the usual Covid checks. We brought some stuff across from the campers and decided who got what bed. I suppose we were more tired that we thought, as an hour or so later we all work up from an impromptu nap. Sufficiently rested, we decided to go for a walk in search of food, heading towards the Malecon.

We didn’t have much luck in the way of street vendors, but in the end found a simple little restaurant on the edge of a lake, just behind the sea front. For the first time we saw that it was true, mainland was cheaper. We enjoyed a feast for comparatively little money and I got to try marlin for the first time. We sat and watched the view over the lake, with our freshly made lemonades, as turtles periodically poked their noses out of the water for air. 

That evening, back at the hostel a steady influx of people appeared. It was Halloween and there was a bar crawl going on. Initially, I think we would have gone. But as it approached 11pm with little sign of leaving, we decided that we would give it a miss. we clearly weren’t used to this travelling thing anymore, back in the room we had an early night. There was of course a plus side to this. While everyone else nursed their hangovers the following morning, we were up and ready to see the town. Hanno and Kikki took a taxi, while we cycled our bikes down the seafront and into old town. We planned to visit the lighthouse first. 

It took us around half an hour to cycle down the bay, past the cliff divers, and to the bottom of the lighthouse. After spending a while in Soriana’s trying to buy a padlock for our bikes, we were now able to chain them up at the base of the lighthouse path. You didn’t have to pay to get it, but if you want to go on the walkway, there was a 20mxp fee. We thought we may as well for that money. The lady informed us that the first bit is a path, and then there are over 300 steps to reach the top. It appears that this is also some kind of informal cat sanctuary, bowls of food and water line the path to the top with a selection of kitties. 

The path climbs fairly steeply, and I was glad we had brought water at the bottom. Needless to say we had timed it to perfection and where climbing in the midday sun. Fortunately there was frequent shade. 

The last section of stairs was a rather warm business, but we made it to the top and met Hanno and Kikki. Then we went to go and walk on the platform we paid for. This was a mixed back, it’s not a particularly big platform and there was a large queue. Due to covid, they were only letting on one group of people at a time. This meant we waited rather a long time for our slot. The good thing was, that for a few minute you got the whole thing to yourself and could take some rather nice unspoilt photos. You had to wear little protective booties too, I assume to prevent the gland from being scratched. We asked for a photo from the person manning the queue and were rather surprised by his commitment. 

Having got a pretty good view of the city, we began our descent. 

At the bottom, we grabbed our bikes and headed for old town, which was supposed to be pretty. We cycled through the Plaza Machado which was preparing some Day of the Dead celebrations. 

Lee had naturally zoned in on the nearest potential brewery but it seemed to be shut. We locked up the bikes and went for a wander. 

We visited the cathedral, sitting in another pretty square.

We found some pretty streets, covered in flowers and brightly painted buildings. 

Back at the bikes, it turned out that the brewery wasn’t shut for the day, but permanently, so we decided to see if we could see the cliff divers. We hopped back on our bikes and headed for the seafront. The cliff divers are something that Mazatlan is famous for. People dive from the top of these stone railing on the rock into the water below. While not massively high, it is apparently quite critical to time the dive with the swell off the water in order to avoid a rather messy incident with the rocks below. Unfortunately we weren’t in luck, the rock was empty, which meant at least we could walk up it. A couple of street vendors half heartedly harassed us. 

We met Hanno and Kikki back at the cathedral, and then made our separate ways back to the hostel.

We were halfway back, when Hanno messaged us to say there were cliff divers. It was too late to go back now, but at least you can see Kikki’s photo of what the event entails.

With all the luxuries of a big city round us, we decided to treat ourselves to takeaway. I love tacos, but still it is nice not to eat a taco every now and again. For the sake of variety, we enjoyed some sushi in the youth hostel kitchen. We thought that for the remainder of the evening we would break out the projector. We watched Coco, a particularly apt film for the time of year and enjoyed some popcorn on the roof of the youth hostel. We had decided to stay an extra day, as Salem had told us that if we were to see any Day of the Dead celebrations then they would be tomorrow. The youth hostel was a nice place and reasonable priced so it was an easy decision to stay another day. 

Apparently, the best chance we had of seeing anything would be back in the Plaza Machado between 7pm-10pm. With a day to do some things, we decided to go to the shopping centre. A combination of sun, mechanics and Mexican laundry had meant that I had no shorts left. It’s not actually the often we are near clothes shops, so we decided to make the most of it. Having successfully restocked with shorts, we had this small snack which set us back by £5.70, mainland pricing is the real deal. I couldn’t eat it all and could barely move afterwards.

We then went to Petco, another novel experience. Finally we got a few bits and bobs we needed for Aimee and some more coconut coire for our compost toilet. Simple things but very lacking in the last six months. With too much money spent, and a lot of walking around, we headed back to the hostel to get ready to go out. 

Lee enjoys that fresh cut grass smell that is lacking in Baja

We decided that we needed to try out one of the special taxis here. A VW Pulmonia car, an open top taxi, made specifically to be used as a taxi in this city. We walked down to the malecon and flagged one down.

A brief negotiation, and he drove us the twenty minute drive down the road to old town for 100mxp, that’s about £3.60. Back in the square, not much was happening. It was busy enough, but not with any costumes. The time to really see this, is the parade, needless to say it was cancelled. The square was well decorated, nonetheless.

We were lucky however, as we headed down one of the back streets we saw a family dressed up. They were taking photos in the street with an awesome crumbling work of graffiti behind them. They didn’t abject to us taking some photos, although they’re not the best. 

At least we had got a small taste of this festival. it was also nice to walk around old town again at night, the buildings lit up beautifully from the pavement.

We decided to walk around on the seafront a bit, and ended up back at the cliff diving spot. We got churros, which I think it is fair to say Kikki was excited about. The guy who made them was also quite excited. 

Then, with impeccable timing, a set of burning torches appeared on top of the rock. Someone was about to jump, in the dark too! It took a while for a big enough crowd to gather, a man walked around collecting tips for the jumper. Then he walked up to the top of the rock and took the torches from the guy who had been waving them around enthusiastically for ten minutes. It turns out he was the jumper. After a few minutes of watching the timing of the waves, sure enough he went for it. It was not a spectacular sight, but I’m glad we got to see it while we were there. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it myself and you’ve got to respect them for that. 

We wandered around a little longer, returning to the square in hope of seeing more but with no luck. We decided to go and get a drink at a Cevichela. This is somewhere that mainly makes micheladas or similar beer cocktails. That’s good for me, I like them. When the waiter turned up with four 1L cups, brimming with micheladas, no one else was happy. Hanno sent theirs back and got some kind of weird margarita instead. I enjoyed mine and Lee drank his because ultimately it’s still alcoholic. After a lot of liquid and all those churros I was stuffed. We headed back down to the  seafront to catch another taxi home. We got in another Pulmonia that sounded like it was missing a cylinder, and pottered our way back to the hostel. 

The next morning was time to leave. I made the most of an oven and made a double batch of bread, then filled the camper shower up and packed away. We said goodbye to the owners, who kindly sent us the photos they took.

A stop off at the supermarket and we were heading south again, for our first wild camp spot on mainland. 

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