Mexico By Geezer

Day 8 - January 25

 

Interesting day. Still undecided in the morning whether to stay in Loreto. Was looking forward to seeing San Javier, so decided to set out.

Heading out of town, realized I had not eaten anything and was hoping to find something on the way. Right at the start of the road to San Javier, pulled into a cool restaurant/bar catering to Gringos. Good breakfast and good atmosphere - busy place.

Looks like you could even get a room

Where I'm headed

First part of road to San Javier is paved and twisty and a lot of fun. Spectacular scenery as it winds up a little canyon. Last third or so is good gravel road. I was expecting to take a long time to get here but but only took 45 minutes including a brief stop.

San Javier is a very cool setting. There is a little town there with a long coble stone road and the church at the foot. Road lined with shops, etc. I think you can even get a room there.

Beautiful old church; interior well restored and somewhat gaudy but not unusual. 

My understanding of the efforts to establish Missions (churches) in the lower Californias was that the Jesuits first tried in La Paz in the late 1600's but were rebuffed by the natives. Were finally able to establish the first Mission in Loreto at the location of the current Misión but this structure has been rebuilt a number of times being destroyed by hurricanes, etc and bears little resemblance to the original. The second Misión to be established was at Misión San Francisco Javier and since it is inland and protected from the ravages of hurricanes, is still the original building. 

Apparently the Jesuits wanted to establish a whole string of missions each within a day's donkey ride from the next. Got a couple dozen done. The Spanish King suspected the Jesuits were amassing a lot of wealth and eventually kicked them out and that is when the Franciscans took over and started expanding into upper California. There, your history lesson for the day. 

You can see the thickness of the walls by looking at the windows.

Found the olive tree located well behind the church. Apparently was planted by one of the Jesuit priests at the time the Misión was built making it around 300 years old. I'll probably look pretty gnarly like that long before I get to be that old.

Some of the many gardens around the church

People kept asking me if I was continuing on the road west of San Javier. Said yes and they would say things like; It;s doable; and; Don't worry there are some farmers along there if you need anything. Jeebus! What is this road like? 

Very interesting road and other than the last 10 or 15 km, was quite enjoyable. It basically follows a river bed crossing it dozens of times. There would be a lot of interesting water crossings if trying this in the rainy season. Judging by the size of the boulders and the size of the river bed, that must be one wild ass torrent when it is flooding. The road crosses back and forth and in some cases runs right up the river bed. 

Donkeys, horses and goats wandering around. Some parts of this "river" consisted entirely of boulders like the one in the foreground and it would be a good 100 yards wide.

It appears so dry and arid in that whole area, I don't know how those farmers make it. 

Road condition of this part ranged from washboard to rocky to gravel; wasn't bad. Either washboard or shallow sand. The washboard vibrated a couple of screws loose holding the headlight and windshield on. The sand was ok (I'm not a sand rider) but it was deep enough that the bike was wiggling around if you didn't pay attention. The last chunk (western end) was just annoying. It was very large washboard that went all the way across the road with no smooth shoulders to escape on.

Here is some of the pretty smooth part and one of the dry water crossings

Some of the locals gawking at the loco turista.

The rest of the afternoon was consumed heading to La Paz. Hindsight being what it is, it would have made more sense to stop in Ciudad Constitucion for the night and then have a leisurely ride to the La Paz ferry in the morning. As it was, got into La Paz late and started scouting for a hotel. Forgot to note recommendations before I left so was floundering around (this becomes a recurring theme - you'd think somebody would figure this out). Finally wandered into one place and they wanted $150 - jajajajaja. Sent me up three blocks to the Bugambilos which is a big old place with a locked compound for the bike. Suits me fine. Got them down to $50 which was better than 3 times that. Had some great tacos down the street.

 

 

Day 9 - January 26

 

Rode a total of 25km today. 

Got to the ferry terminal a bit early – it is actually a pretty ride out to the terminal at Pichilingue. Didn’t know what to expect, so gave myself some extra time. Originally planned to get my tickets and then find something to eat. Didn’t quite work out that way.

For those who may be traveling by this ferry for the first time, here is the process. Upon arrival at the terminal, you immediately go through customs & immigration. Customs is like travelling from another country to Mexico. Apparantly you don’t need the TVIP for your vehicle in Baja but I do think you need to have obtained your Tourist card before you get as far south as La Paz. I knew I was going to need both so had them in hand. You can apparently get them at the Migración office at the terminal. They will check everything thoroughly including verifying the bike’s VIN to the TVIP. 

I didnt affix my TVIP sticker to the winds'hield like they want you to and the customs guy got a bit upset about it and was ready to stick it on.  I told him I was worried about it getting stolen as my windscreen disconnects real easy (which it does) and told him the guy at the border said I didn’t have to have it on (well, I kind of made that up) and he finally relented and handed it back. If you don’t turn that sticker back in when you leave, I suspect you aren’t going to get your $400 bond back and therefor don’t want to leave the thing where it can grow legs easily.

Then went to buy my tickets at the booth just inside Customs. Young girl was slow, wound up charging me the prices for the trip to Mazatlan which is about 270p more. I kept asking her if that was the right price and she finally figured out her error and refunded cash after already processing the higher amount on my Visa. Got around to the terminal (could have bought my ticket there also), went looking for food, found a tienda upstairs and they had some dodgy looking ham and cheese sandwiches on Bimbo bread – which I had along with some cookies and a coffee. So much for lunch.
Ferry terminal

Here is what I will do differently if I go on this ferry again: Buy the tickets online (I think you can pay for and pick up your tickets at an Oxxo), eat before I show up at the terminal, then, show up at the terminal about an hour and a half or two hours before sailing. In fact as I mentioned, I would have cut my previous day short at Ciudad Constitution and then ridden into La Paz the morning I was sailing – since I really didn’t take any time to see La Paz.

This ferry is deceptively massive, in essence a truck ferry that can take some passenger vehicles. There are 4 vehicle decks, three of which were for trucks and cargo and were packed and the vehicle deck could probably hold 100 cars but there were only 20 or so. They had me park my bike next to a steel rail, handed me a rope. Left it on the sidestand and tied the left side of the bike to the rail – very secure. They actually load and unload from the same end so, trucks (and cars) at some point have to turn around on the ferry – seems to work well. When you ride on, the passenger vehicle deck is #2 so you ride down in the bowels of the ship to get to the deck – quite an experience compared to the BC and Washington ferries I am used to.

This guy was releasing one of the massive lines tying one corner of the ferry to an anchor buoy and then starts driving the boat alongside the ferry for quite awhile. Couldn't figure out what he was up to

Then this guy hops off the ferry, acting like Mr Big Shot. I guess they use a pilot in and out of La Paz . . . you'd think the Captain would learn how to maneuver after doing this run a gazillion times. Guess it keeps the pilots union happy.

Ferry ride was about 7 hours long. One thing I hadn’t counted on is that they provide a meal as part of the cost of the ticket – it was pretty good. I did not get a cabin and just wandered around between the bar which is comfortable but a bit noisy, the cafeteria which is available after most people have eaten and then outside on the decks. My favorite was the top deck at the back where there are a couple of benches to sit on or just sit on the deck. Great place to relax, watched the Baja recede, watched the sunset, watched the stars and had a snooze. If I was on this boat for a night passage, I think I would just throw my sleeping bag on the deck - it would be great.

Didn’t get off the ferry until about 10 pm and had no desire to ride into Los Mochis for a room in the dark. Knew there was a hotel in Topolobampo, found that and got a room. Pretty average but I could park right next to my door and they had internet. 

Oxxo across the street and went to get a beer but they cut off sales at 10PM – grrrr! Can get a brewed coffee early in the morning though. 

 

Day 10 - January 27

Had a short ride up to El Fuerte today. Arrived in the late morning to a very bustling town, busloads of students on class fieldtrips and some (mostly Mexican) tourists. 

Parked the bike and went looking for a hotel. Wanted to be downtown this year. Went to four, at three the desks were either closed or not manned so, chose the Hotel la Choza. Right across from the zócalo – reduced the rate to 714p – most expensive room so far and the worst WiFi. Pretty decent place, nice courtyard, nice vaulted ceiling room. 

Front of the hotel blends into the traditional look around the zócalo

Courtyard of the hotel

They must have saved this room just for me

Wandered around downtown, sat in the square and watched people while eating some churro – basicly a long rope of dough is curled around in boiling oil then cut up into pieces and dipped in cinnamon sugar. Hmmmm!

Mexican's many times like to use vivid colors for their buildings

Went up to the “fort” museum – there was originally a fort built here around 1600 (hence the name El Fuerte) but they don’t know where it actually was and the museum is a replica. The Spanish were generally not well received by the natives so the fort helped keep them from getting hacked up in the night by the locals.

Beautiful cactus in front of "the fort"

Downtown area from the top of the fort

Spent some time in the afternoon in the lobby of the hotel with my friend Negra Modelo trying to get some of this report caught up. 

This is the second time I’ve stayed in El Fuerte and it is a very clean, friendly and well looked after town. Towns with a good tourist attraction can be this way. When I was leaving last year I really wanted to spend a bit more time poking around - glad I did come back.

Got chewed up by some sort of bug while here – little bastard no-seeums were drawing blood on my arms during the day and the next day my legs were a itchy mess. I'll save your eyes the horrors of looking at my body parts and just stick to this description.