Our arrival back in La Paz coincided with the end of the Baja 1000 race, an off-road race from Ensenada to La Paz. As such, accommodation was at a premium. We supposedly had an Air BnB room lined up, but were unable to contact the host either the day before or when we arrived. All of which left us scrambling round for accommodation when there really wasn’t any about.
No Room at the Inn
Having asked in about 6 or 7 hotels already, only to be told no, we bumped into a couple of French guys on the street (Pierre and Mattéo) who were having a similar problem. We decided that there was one obvious solution at this stage… go and have a beer!
Once we were on some WiFi, we continued our search for accommodation, but ultimately this search proved fruitless. At one point, we even had a car pull over at the roadside and ask if we needed accommodation, though that too came to nothing. A few doors down from where we stopped for a beer was a guesthouse of sorts, where they would only rent out rooms by the week. On the plus side, a weeks rent there was about the same as most rooms were for a night. They let the four of us share a double room and for a week the cost was 800 pesos (about 30 quid). Luckily our new travelling companions had sleeping mats with them to compensate for the lack of a second bed.
At that price, I’m sure the downside is fairly obvious. It was “basic” to say the least, it wasn’t very clean, but it had running water and they even brought us a fan up. Plus, it beat sleeping on the beach!
Our accommodation problem resolved, we hit the town for some celebratory beers and something to eat. At dinner I finally got to try machaca (dried beef jerky), which is a bit of a local specialty across the Baja California peninsula and the rest of northern Mexico.
We ended up in a bar called Beer Box that was recommended to me by one of our language teachers, once she found out I was into beer. They had an impressive selection of beers from around the world, but a slightly disappointing selection of local beers. I did manage to try a couple of decent beers from the rest of Mexico though, including one deliciously smoky stout, that may or may not have been from Guadalajara. I knew I would regret not writing the names down!
Back to Balandra
Our final full day in La Paz was all about doing the one thing we hadn’t got round to doing the first time and doing the thing we had enjoyed most one last time. We started our day with breakfast at Mercado Bravo (the thing we hadn’t got round to last time). We took a quick stroll through the market, taking in the stalls laden with fruit and veg, meat and fresh fish, but this was a visit for eating not shopping! Our initial reaction had been to join the longest queue, normally a sign of quality. However, I was ravenous, so we ended up just finding somewhere where we could eat straight away. We sat at a counter top in the busy market and ordered based on what we could see and knew the names of. I ordered some delicious empanadas (exactly what the doctor ordered after a few beers the night before), whilst Kim got stuck into a machaca burrito. After we had eaten, we bought some delicious fresh juices from the stall next door.
After breakfast, Kim and I took the bus out to Balandra (the thing we had enjoyed most last time), whilst Pierre and Matteo spent their first day in La Paz exploring the city. Sitting on the bus as it wound its way along the pristine coastline seemed like a fitting way to end our time on the Baja California peninsula. These journeys between La Paz and Balandra, with the wind blowing in our faces, bright blue ocean on one side and cacti studded mountains and desert on the other were where we really started to fall for Baja California Sur.
We arrived at Balandra to find it looking completely different to our previous visits, it was low tide, so the shallow bay was even more shallow than normal. On our last visit we had speculated that one could probably walk to the other side of the bay, but today there was no doubt. Not only could it be done, it could be done without water getting much past your knees.
We chose instead to walk out towards the opening of the bay until the water got deep enough for a swim. The water was so shallow and so clear on the walk that it was almost like snorkelling, picking out fish as we walked. Thankfully we didn’t encounter any of the sting rays that are supposed to inhabit the bay (although I did see one in Los Cabos).
After a swim, we walked over to Tecolote for a spot of lunch, only to find it absolutely heaving with visitors due to the end of the Baja 1000. As such, I had to wait about an hour for my ceviche and a beer, but when that wait involves staring out across the Sea of Cortez to Isla Espíritu Santo, I could make my peace with that.
As the sunset, we said our goodbyes to this wonderful corner of the Baja California peninsula for the final time. We were sorry to leave it behind.
In the evening, we met up with Pierre and Matteo after their day in La Paz and went to check out a small street festival that we had seen as we came back into town on the bus. It was fairly low key, but there were some decent local bands on. As we arrived, there was a four piece playing, very much in the style of Gogol Bordello. Later, as things started to warm up a bit, a two piece, one guitarist and a double bassist, took to the stage and the evening started to liven up a bit. By that stage, we had found a stall serving mezcal cocktails and were rapidly drinking them out of those whilst practicing our Spanish by chatting with the friendly guy running the stall.
With a taste for Mezcal developing and a small group now building, we ended up in a Mezcaleria a few metres down the road. We spent a great evening drinking some tasty Mezcal and a fair few beers, talking almost entirely in Spanish for the whole evening. I could barely conjugate a verb by the end of the evening, but it did my confidence the world of good and I got to meet some lovely people too. These kind of evenings were exactly why I wanted to learn Spanish while we were here. It seemed like a fitting way to sign off our time in La Paz and it marked significant progress on the language front since we had originally arrived in La Paz. As such, I was feeling particularly content when my head hit the pillow in the early hours.
The next morning, after breakfast and a frantic search for someone to print off our ferry tickets, we said goodbye to La Paz and our new friends as we set off for the ferry.
As per the instructions on the ticketing website, we arrived three hours early for the ferry, only to discover this was entirely pointless! Not only could we not check in until an hour before the ferry left, it was also delayed by an hour. Not that it really mattered, it was always going to be a day of waiting about. The crossing itself was fairly dull after the first hour when there was the last of the daylight, with the exception of a single moment which had both Kim and I in stitches. The onboard bar had been a quiet place, where a handful of people were watching football whilst the remainder slept on the couches around the edges. When suddenly and without warning (at least for us, who had been facing the other way whilst he set up), a keyboard player started blasting out a really naff cruise ship cover version of “the girl from Ipanema” at full volume. We promptly left the bar!
We arrived in Los Mochis (via the port of Topolobampo) feeling a little under the weather. After a long ferry crossing, disturbed sleep and a lack of food (thanks to a bizarre catering schedule on the ferry) we didn’t think much of it. After a proper night’s sleep we would be back on top form and ready for our journey on El Chepe to Copper Canyon.