La Paz is a city where one can get down to business. Which we did. We were stopped there for two days, while we waited for the ferry that would take us from Baja to the mainland. We got our laundry done, cleaned out the dust that had accumulated in the car and caught up on some internet time. We also sprung for a hotel room and spent two nights in beds. With indoor plumbing. And Mexican TV. We watched a lot of Seinfeld, in English, and My Girl, in Spanish. We also drank Micheladas at Tony Calmato's, ate some burgers at "The Shack" and meandered up and down La Paz's malecon - the sea-side pedestrian walkway. I can't say we really fell in love with the place, but it was a very useful 48 hours.
We bought our tickets for the Baja Ferry a couple days before our departure at their main office in town for a boat departing Sunday. It's not a cheap ticket, mind you. We paid for the car to cross (which includes a driver), an additional person and then we sprung for a private cabin. We also paid a 157 peso "embarkment" tax when Ian drove Lorraine onto the ship that seemed, well, informal. Even though we got a receipt, something about the way the guy sidled up to the car and asked for our 157 pesos with barely concealed glee behind a devilish grin made this tax feel "gringo oriented."
In retrospect, we were extremely glad to have the private cabin. There were a lot of people crammed into the oddly smelling boat, and it was nice to have a place to retreat to and keep all our stuff. There was a lounge with airplane-style seating facing a big TV screen (playing movies like War Horse, The Rock's Hercules, and Bicentennial Man) and a cafeteria directly adjacent.
There was also a top deck where you could schmooze with other passengers over a beer and watch the dolphins and sea turtles swim by you in the Sea of Cortes. Overall - not too terrible 18 hours spent.
We disembarked in Mazatlan on Monday around noon and headed to the neighboring Isla de Piedra, or Stone Island. It's not really an Island, but a peninsula directly across from the ferry dock. It took about an hour to drive there from the Ferry docking point, but when we arrived we realized we could literally see the marina from where we were camped on the beach.
Stone Island is very much our speed, and was exactly what we were looking for. A few restauraunts, palapas, a great beach to swim around in. We asked the first guy at the first restaurant we saw where we could camp, and he (Gabriel) excitedly directed us to camp on his property, just a few doors down. He had a great setup, with a little palapa, running water, electricity, a view of the ocean, and a kitten named Tonto, which Jessie thought was a reference to the Lone Ranger, but is actually slang for "dumb" in Spanish. The cat lived up to its name, for sure, but was also delightfully adorable.
Gabriel was a smart, funny, and incredibly kind host to us for two days. We spent that time swimming in the ocean (¡cuidado mantaraya!), drinking cervezas at his restaurant, and researching what route we were going to take to to our next stop, Ciudad Guzman. We ate tacos in town, did some people watching and took a stroll through the recently built botanical gardens. So, we basically did very little. It was perfect.
Next we hit the road for San Blas. Here on the mainland there are two main ways to get between cities - libre roads (free roads) and cuota roads (toll roads). The quota roads are well paved, often 2 lanes, and watched over by the Green Angels. That said, they are crazy expensive, even by US standards. We stuck to the libre roads, which take a lot longer, and whose potholes rival those in Chicago. The libre roads do take you through lots of small towns, which we like.
San Blas is much like Stone Island, but with WAY MORE MOSQUITOES. It is situated between estuaries in what is essentially a swamp, and a naval base. It is swarming with mosquitoes who proved to be relentless at all hours of the day, whether one was wearing bug spray or not. Best remedy was to be in the water, which we were quite a bit. Ian got some surfing in, as well.
We stayed at Stoners Surf Camp, which was essentially a hostel on the beach with little cabanas, hammocks, and camping sites. We met some very nice Belgians, Canadians, Israelis, and a guy from Toledo, OH. We rented a cabana overlooking the water and spent two days exploring town and trying not to scratch our bug bites.
Recommended: Coco Locos - just around the corner from Stoners, Coco Locos is a funky, neon red bar that will serve you cocktails from a coconut. Pros: A/C, no bugs, solid jukebox, feels like a tropical trailer park bar from a 70's movie. Cons: Maybe you hate tropical trailer park bars.
From San Blas we've made our way to our friend Cassie, currently doing Peace Corps work in Ciudad Guzman, just south of Guadalajara. It was a long day of driving, but we made it before sunset. We drove through a grey and rainy day (a welcomed change!) that took us through beautiful jungle mountains and outcroppings of volcanic rock.