No, Villa Union is not a villa , it is a village on the mainland close to Mazatlan. Yes, this week we crossed to the mainland, but before that we covered a few more miles and met some amazing people.
It is quite remarkable that we meet even more long distance bikers here than in the US. Most are European, North American and some Mexicans. Remember the 3 retired teachers! Most will ride from San Diego to Cabo (the southern most tip of Baja California). Others really go for the off-road Baja Divide, and a few are going all the way to South America.
Ciudad Constitucion to La Paz.
From Ciudad Constitucion to La Paz, where the ferry to mainland will leave, is only 210 km but with only one very small village in-between where you should be able to rent a room.
As the legs feel strong after the day of rest, we aim for reaching this village and are proud to already be there at 15:30! Were we biking in the Netherlands? Almost, today along flat roads and amidst fields of brussels sprouts (have not found them in any store around here). Along HWY1 we find several small and larger open air chapels, people will stop here and light candles. I have not been brave enough to investigate the reason but they are a colourful break in the desert landscape.
We find the non-sign posted cabins and to our surprise we see two other bikes. Seems that Annie and Gavin from UK, whom we briefly met in Catavinia and are biking Baja California, also stayed in Ciudad Constitucion last night and are already here! Half hour later also Cindy and Eric pull in. Fortunately for them there is still a room available. So no camping tonight!
On the way here Cindy got attacked and bitten by a dog, luckily the skin undamaged, but still scary. After a drink in the setting sunlight, listing to the stories of each of us, we have a nice meal at the Cocina Economica with chef Elisabeth. When checking with the group if they would like to have dinner there and checking with Elisabeth what she would be able to make, we get a surprise menu with fried fish, salad and of course frijoles and tortillas. Good food and prepared with care.
After a good night sleep we leave a bit after Annie & Gavin and cover the remaining 120 km with bright sunshine.
Surprise on winding roads.
The weather still being chilly it is not too bad to start with some hills. The narrow, winding road gives us some surprises, when Frank is almost pushed off the road as a pickup truck with a trailer (too) heavily loaded with bales of hay needs to squeeze in between him and an upcoming car. The other car slows down and moves to the side. I hope Frank will fix his mirror soon so he can bike in the back again, I hate seeing these things.
No food stress as there are road side restaurants.
Last ride on Baja California.
Today is our last real ride on Baja California, the last ride through the desert, again an eerie, desolate landscape with some of the valleys not having any vegetation at all. Long stretches of empty roads. Hope we will find this again off-road on mainland. Will it be as dry?
The closer we get to La Paz the busier the traffic and the more polluted the sides of the road .
After a great lunch of sandwich with avocado/tuna/tomato/mayo (all carried with us) Cindy and Eric catch-up with us! They will first stay a night at an RV resort just outside the city and then move to La Paz, before crossing to the mainland where they will have a wedding in a few weeks time.
Finally we enter La Paz but it takes still some time before reaching the centre as we have to bike around the lagoon.
We end-up in the same hotel as Annie and Gavin. He mentioned the Cathedral Hotel last night and after checking a few other possibilities this one looks the best, newest, cleanest. With the rooftop swimming pool and in the old centre we can’t complain and we can unwind.
As this is one of the final days of the carnival parade we decide to join Annie & Gavin to check it out and share a meal. Yes, carnival for us! Last time we have seen a parade was 20 years ago!
What a strong woman Annie is, eye-opening on what life brings on your path and how you cope with it. Count your blessings!
Of course we need to try churros, as during Spanish lessons our teacher Carmen was always so enthusiastic about them.
I have to say: we LOVE them! Luckily they don’t have them in each town or I would be eating them every day!
Snorkelling with the whale sharks is the attraction at La Paz and is on our bucket list. Together with Annie and Gavin we decide to go out the next morning and look for a ride. The overcast sky does not give the blue lagoon beaches & waters which you see on all advertisements but we find a boat with an official guide. In the past everybody with a boat could go out and drop you for snorkelling with the sharks. Now this has been regulated by government and only a limited amount of boats are allowed at the same time.
Also one guide per max 5 people in the water. This to reduce stress and burden on these docile 5-12m long plankton eating creatures.
As the bay current ensures a very high concentration of plankton there is a 99% possibility to spot whale sharks between November and April. Indeed our guide finds one and the 4 of us jump in.For Annie it is not so much fun as her mask does not fit very well. Due to the high concentration of plankton we get poor visibility of 3-4 meter but we can swim very close to this amazing creature and feel its calm energy. Way too soon it is over and we are heading back to the coast.
Remainder of the day we discover the streets of La Paz, walk the hectic boulevard and bump into Michael, Cindy & Eric.
After weeks of great Mexican food we treat ourselves on a European/US dinner. Choices enough as La Paz feels almost as an US colony.
We wanted to cross to the mainland the next day but discover that Baja Ferries only sails every other day to the mainland. There is another possibility with a ferry company that mostly carries cargo, but we cannot get a confirmation by phone whether we can board the next day. We decide to bike to the departure point on Thursday midday to be able to speak face to face and look at the opportunities. Great but scary route. Fun to see pelicans dive for their meal. At one moment two bees on a bike approach: Gavin and Annie who discovered the area of La Paz by bike. Will miss you both!
Happy to have biked it early with no departure stress as it takes longer than expected. At the terminal we decide to wait for the Baja Ferry leaving on Friday as they offer cabins. We try twice to buy tickets at the ticket office but both times credit card transaction is refused.
And we don’t have sufficient cash with us. At the hotel next to the terminal, with a white private beach, the credit card is accepted, so now we know there is an issue with the ferry credit card system. Cantamar hotel is a bit run down, but with super friendly people, seems more a diving holiday retreat than a ferry hotel.
I forgot to mention that from La Paz and almost the full Sea of Cortez was the playground of Cousteau! Whale sharks, sea lions, whales and tons of tropical fish. Next day after a decent breakfast I snorkel around the pier to discover some of its beauty. Frank chooses to work on his tan (it is way to chilly for him).
Cross to mainland.
Around noon we go back to the ticket office but the transaction is again refused. So no other solution than taking an Uber back to the city centre, get cash and return. As the boat only leaves at 20:00 we still have a great afternoon at the beach after an excellent lunch with ceviche, local speciality of raw marinated fish.
And then the last hours on Baja California have slipped through our fingers, boarding the Baja Ferries gives a safe feeling. Boat looks very well maintained and the cabin is spotless and looks recently renovated.
After a basic meal and a nice beer at the bar we call it a night. The steady noise of the powerful engines with a calm sea ensure for a tranquil passage.
Steaming steady to the East, sunrise is slightly hidden. But mainland is there.
Docking a ship is always impressive.
And then we are at the mainland.
City of colours.
As we arrive so early we decide to stay one night at Mazatlán to discover the city. After dropping our bikes at a basic hostel which offers bikers discount we are ready to stretch our legs and head off to discover the city.
Clean, spacious, busy, colourful! So different from Baja California. So many people, so many tourists.
We are so lucky to bump into David from the US. David is in his seventies and he and with his wife Lynn spend winters in Mazatlan. Culture, mix of people, food, friends and great accommodation is the perfect cocktail to ensure a wonderful wintertime with nice temperatures. He ensures that we know more about the history & culture of the city then when we arrived! Thanks again for the great tour and showing us the hidden gems of Mazatlan.
Did you know that 3 Germans started brewing Pacifico, one of the leading beers of Mexico? Still brewed in Mazatlan, currently owned by Grupo Modelo, which is 50% owned by Belgian-Brazilian Anheuser-Busch Inbev. One of the main tourist attractions during day and night is the square with it’s old colonial house. And yes they see too many tourists…
The basilisk is a must see, but a poster at the entrance of the church, warning for the dangers of the anti-conception pil leaves us with mixed feelings……
Dinner at Hector’s where the chef explains that you will not find local aged ham or cheese (only import), as Mexicans live by the day and/or most can’t afford to wait so long before return of their investment.
Excellent first day on the mainland! Many more people, such a high concentration of so many different colours, so much more food.
Credit card issues.
On Saturday we want to head off but I discover that the 3 refused transactions from Baja Ferries are reserved on the credit card. As we can’t explain this in Spanish and we want to be sure we don’t pay 3 times for the transit we head back to the port and spend 4 hours solving this! Only a very short ride in the afternoon to Villa Union gives us the first impression of biking on the mainland!
It is a great pity that we are not able to visit the solo exhibition of my brother, Johan Creten at Perrotin, in Paris. You maybe still can go?
The post of week 36 was late, as we have been covering miles during week 37 and by the combination of long days and some bad connectivity were not able to post earlier. How many kilometers during week 37: find out in the next blog!