That being said, we were happy to leave Cabo with its party atmosphere. Akin to being in Las Vegas, we can only put up with noise and bright lights for about 3 days and we are itching to go home. Bars and nightclubs and spring-breakers are the rule here. At the marina, we were docked near a party pirate ship that embarked nightly on a sunset sightseeing tour. Upon returning to the dock at night, it predictably transformed into a pirate dance club with music blaring into the wee hours. I can still hear the voice of the announcer’s “arrrgh matey” in accented but perfect English, turning up Lady Gaga to the delight of his whooping passengers. “And there will be applause, applause, applause…” 5 nights of trying to sleep to that was plenty.
In the morning we would wake to a different sort of pirate. At 5am began the shouting, laughing, engines roaring and our boat being rocked by damn near waves in the normally placid harbor. The first morning, not knowing what was going on, we raced up on deck to see small pangas and huge fishing boats EVERYWHERE. Zooming full throttle into the fuel dock from which we were directly across (5mph no-wake limit does not exist here), these drivers encroached a bit (or a lot) too close to our boat for comfort. Every boat in Cabo apparently gets fuel in the morning, this lasts for a couple hours after which the waves and shouting die down to a murmur... repeat the next morning.
One boat that came in reportedly purchased 14 thousand gallons. Yes, 14 thousand. Multiply that by $4 per gallon. Another massive yacht was the gossip of the day after offloading a Mini-Cooper onto the dock; he then proceeded to drive it up onto the sidewalk. Yeah, cause he could. So our piddly 20 gallon purchase is nothing. This is why Cabo is reserved for big fisherman with big boats and even bigger pockets, and why all the cruisers leave within a week to get to “The Peace” of La Paz.
Everyone I know who has been to La Paz said the same thing over and over: “You will love it”. So I had high hopes for this place, but was afraid it couldn’t stand up to the hype. So far, it does.
On Monday Nov. 17th we took our first trip into town during the Mexican “Revolution Day”, similar to our Independence Day. It seemed the entire town was out shopping the sidewalk sales with their families. We spent 6 hours walking the Malecon (waterfront) and downtown. It was a bit intimidating our first day with the crowds of people, but walking around town on a normal day is a pleasure. There are stores and eateries galore. I’m not into shopping but I do plan on eating my way through La Paz.
La Paz seems like a big melting pot. Not just people, but everything melds into everything. No zoning applies…Our limited walks around the downtown area reveal tiny taco stands next to expensive restaurants, gorgeous homes adjacent to seemingly abandoned buildings. Residential mixes with commercial, historical with modern. There is a 3 story Sears in the middle of downtown standard shops - across the street, a historical building. A couple blocks away we found a typical Mercado with local folks selling everything from freshly butchered chickens to any style of cowboy boots you can imagine. Go another couple blocks and you see a lovely cathedral in front of a weather-worn town square featuring an inoperable fountain centerpiece and several shoe-shiners still amazingly making a living. Across the street is a modern Starbucks-like coffee shop.
Interspersed in all this are smaller shops straight out of the 70’s and spaces for rent with broken windows and smashed tile floors inside. There seems to be an ice cream store on every corner. And shoe stores galore! On the outskirts of town we found a supermarket/mall with a GNC store, go figure. There’s also a Walmart, a Costco, a Home Depot, a cinema with English movies and Spanish subtitles (which we plan on going to soon). Old world meets new. Decay and disrepair meets new construction and upscale commercial enterprises. Mexican meets American. Around each corner is something interesting.
The Malecon, or concrete boardwalk, extends for literally miles along the Bay of La Paz and is amazingly well-maintained. Interesting statues pop up every so often and the view is phenomenal. But it is the only sidewalk that is consistent.
We learned quickly that everywhere else, we’d better be looking down while walking or we’ll be going to the hospital. Every shop front has its own sidewalk installed, therefore every 10 feet the sidewalk changes from cobblestone, to concrete, to sand, to tile. There are countless unmarked deep holes you could break a leg in, cracked concrete chunks to trip over, uneven stairs, slippery slopes, sheer ledges, shrubbery, trees, thorny cacti lying in wait, rebar poking out of the ground, wires dangling from a house above, literally any obstacle you can think of. OSHA no esta. Neither are the injury/accident lawyers, apparently. I'll be glad to look down rather than have lawyers take over Mexico.
Driving While Patient
While we have not driven a car here, we have walked lots of miles already and noticed two key things about drivers here. They don’t believe in stop signs and pedestrians are king. A 4-way stop is really more of a 4-way yield. Nobody actually stops, they slow down enough to look to their left but invariably speed up to get through the stop sign first. It all seems to be a pretty well-oiled dance though. No one honks their horn, there is no angst; they just patiently take their turn and merge evenly and quietly, unlike Californians. We are still impressed.
In fact, the other interesting thing we noted was pedestrians get treated with much caution. If we even look like we might want to cross the street, they slow down and wave us across, even if we are trying to time it to go behind. This is almost to a fault, so we have to be careful of looking too indecisive.
They (we) are everywhere. Apparently there are over 1 million Americans living in Mexico and most live in southern Baja: Cabo, La Paz, Todos Santos, etc. Many own houses, operate businesses and of course lots of them are here like us, on sailboats. They have been very helpful to those of us who are painfully obvious “newbies” and who lack the required Spanish skills.
At one point we looked lost (street signs are an enigma here) and an American couple stopped and asked us if we needed help finding anything - we were looking for a breakfast place. They said “follow us” - so we did. The couple just bought a house last year and when asked about places we should avoid due to potential crime (every town has a sketchy section we figure), they told us there was none. Amazing for a town of over 200,000.
They promptly dropped us off at Corazon, an open air patio-ed former house/compound-turned restaurant that had excellent chilaquiles and huevos rancheros, fresh-squeezed orange juice and simply really cool atmosphere. Score. Been back 3 times and it won't be the last.
On another occasion we looked lost again (sense a theme?) and an American woman asked us if she could help. Her son owned a paddleboard shop right on the Malecon and they had a pizza joint upstairs. She told us about Marina Palmira and that the operators there (more Americans) were the best people to ask just about everything. Coincidentally, Marina Palmira happens to host the Thanksgiving potluck every year, which we just attended. We thankfully got our fill of delicious turkey and mashed potatoes and every other dish imaginable, while spending the afternoon with ‘200 of our closest friends’.
In the last 2 weeks we have met many cruisers who have been here awhile and they all seem readily willing to dole out directions and tips. We joined Club Cruceros, a La Paz based cruiser social club. They host a ‘coffee klatch’ every morning that gives people a place to chat and get info, they have classes and parties, a book exchange and movie rentals. They also generously helped local boaters during and after hurricane Odile, raising money to assist those with damaged or totaled boats.
The morning VHF radio net provides local weather forecasts, and allows anyone to ask questions of the hundreds of other listening cruisers that roam the area, everything from the best place for engine work to dental work. So, if we need anything, it’s there for the asking. It may be our first rodeo, but there are plenty of other people who have ‘been there, done that’. So the mere fact that we don’t have to do as much work figuring things out, is nice. Leaves us much more time for beach bumming!