Mazatlán: Part 1

Our visit to Mazatlán has been such an unexpected joy. Almost every moment has been spent with friends new and old. From the ferry ride to Mazatlán to street camping in the Centro Historico, we have been so blessed with extraordinary experience after extraordinary experience! Here are just a few of the wonderful experiences we’ve had so far. I will have to break Mazatlán into two parts because as I write this we are planning to spend one more week here still! : )

Note: Next week I will include more pictures of Mazatlán, the slow connection made loading pictures particularly difficult!

The Ferry:

There are two ferries that go from La Paz to Mazatlán and back. One that is a passenger ferry as well as vehicles, with nice rooms and decent food… and then there’s the trucker ferry. Of course we opted for the latter and were not disappointed in its eccentricities and entertainment. We drove on, took the “truck ladder” to the top deck (if you’ve never ridden in your car on a truck ladder then you have not lived), and parked between a semi and the rail of the deck. As they started strapping down the bigger trucks to the deck, we waited patiently for our turn to be chained down… which never came. KP even learned the phrase “Hacer que necesitamos cadenas” (do we need chains). “No necesito” was the reply from the friendly guys on deck. Ok, then!

Sleeping in your truck on a moving boat is probably one of the weirdest feelings there is, and makes for some interesting dreams. It will definitely be our most unique campsite of the trip. In the morning we had our breakfast and then watched from the deck as we drew closer to Mazatlán. In the couple hours it took to get to port, we made friends with a few of the truckers, only one of which spoke English. We spent the morning laughing about our differences in culture and arguing about which language is easier to learn. Oh and watching whales, which the truckers were as excited about as we were. Our arrival to Mazatlán put us in just the right mood to start an incredible week of new friends and new experiences.

Ferry Info:
For those curious about the ferry or who may travel this way eventually, we traveled with TMC Ferries. They leave about three days a week from North of La Paz at Pichillingue Port at 5pm. You should be there by about 1pm to buy your ticket and board. They start with the smaller vehicles so you will be first on the boat and they start boarding early at around 2pm. Our fare was 4700 pesos (about $223) and included dinner and breakfast for both of us. There are great places to camp just a little North, if you get to the port early and, like us, wanted to avoid La Paz while you are waiting for your ferry. Great info on the TVIP and the ferries on iOverlander.

The first day:

We left the ferry terminal and drove less than 10 blocks in a straight line to the Centro Historico. Our intention was to have lunch, wander a bit, and then drive out to Stone Island to camp for a couple days. Instead, while at the restaurant we looked up hotels and booked a room right off the square for the night. Don’t judge us, it was our first hotel on the road since Vegas!

We picked the Jonathon, a modern boutique hotel, for its rooftop bar (one of our favorite features of any city), its rooftop pool, and its hot showers. Well, the pool and bar were both closed despite it being Saturday night, and in the morning the showers were cold, but we still enjoyed being in a slightly bigger space and so close to the Plaza Machado.

We wandered all over the squares and streets of historic Mazatlán and quickly realized this was a place we could hang out for a while. On our walk we noticed some kids in a VW Van parked on the street and wondered what their story was, but we were too shy to stop and say hi. Our rule for this trip has been “Always talk to people” because in a situation where we are lost, or have questions, or just think someone might be interesting, every time we have stopped and talked to them we have not been disappointed. Luckily we got a second chance when we made our way down to the square and saw this sign:


We knew we had to check them out now. When we got to their van we found a young couple about our age, who were German but of course spoke perfect English (as well as Spanish, Italian, and some French) and who looked eager to have company. We soon realized that they were just hoping we’d take their stuff! They were fellow overlanders who had moved into their ’97 VW Kombi van the week before after a six-month restoration project and, as most of us come to find out when downsizing, they had too much stuff! We told them our own story of downsizing and about our three months on the road, and in no time we were fast friends. We invited them to abandon their yard sale for the time being and join us for dinner. We walked to their favorite spot, a little pizza place down the road, and had pizza, wine, and of course lively conversation!

We were joined by another of their friends - living and working on their van on the streets of Mazatlán for months had made them a popular attraction among the locals and they had made many friends – who came with her own stories of traveling in India on a motorbike. Our newest friend Jennifer’s husband happened to be a musician who was currently playing in the square around the corner. If you have ever met me you can probably see where this is going…

Fast forward through several more glasses of wine and much more conversation, to us walking to the square and making friends with Howard, Jennifer’s husband who was a Sax Player and the wonderful piano player Rob. They were part of an incredible group of musicians playing a mix of old country with a jazz twist. It may sound a little strange, but it was awesome! They were kind enough to let me join them for a jazzy rendition of Crazy, which you can see on our Facebook page here. A perfect end to a perfect first night in Mazatlán!

Visiting old friends:

The next few days were spent visiting some wonderful family friends who live down here for three months of the year, and have for the last 15 years. They took us sightseeing to the incredible beach petroglyphs of Los Labrados, the delicious and interesting Tequila Factory Los Osuna, and to countless wonderful restaurants around Mazatlán. Not to mention let us stay in their guest room and use their consistently-hot shower! The whole visit was a blur of good food, good wine, great conversation, and pure joy! The only damper was KP caught a pretty nasty cold a couple days in, but he was a trooper and did his best to hang with us despite a fever and a chest-rattling cough.

That brings us to the end of our first week in Mazatlán, it was nothing like we expected a big coastal city would be. The city was beautiful and inviting, the people were warm and interesting, and the food.. oh the food!!!!

Next Monday we’ll tell you about our weekend of camping in the Centro Historico with our new German friends, a Swiss couple, two Dobermans, and a 14-year-old boy… sounds like a joke, right?