Our second week in Mazatlan was spent with our new German friends Sophie and Peter of Dancing-Fireflies. It started off with two nights of street camping in downtown Mazatlan where we were joined by a lovely Swiss couple, Roland and Nelli, and their 14-year-old son, Kim-Lion. We all sat out on the street around a “campfire in a jar” and talked about our travels and our native countries. Meeting people with similar interests, but very different backgrounds is one of the most interesting things about traveling. So interesting in fact that KP, Roland, and Peter stayed up until 4am talking about it. Street camping had a certain romance and novelty to it the first night, even though the karaoke bar less than 20 feet from our window was busiest between 11pm-2am. But, one more day of exploring Mazatlan and one more night of street camping had us ready to get out of the city.
We said goodbye to our lovely Swiss friends who were heading North, while KP, Peter, Sophie, and I headed out to Stone Island…. After about ½ a day of continuing van maintenance that is. We got our provisions on the way out of town for a couple days of “roughing it” and left the city for the beach. Stone Island (not actually an island) is supposed to be a really cool beach that is about a 10-minute water taxi ride from Mazatlan, or an hour long drive out and around the bay. We decided rather than drive all the way to the end of the beach, we would take one of our favorite routes to any campsite, a squiggly line on the map to an unidentified location.
We really tested out the van on our little off-road trek and realized that once we got to the sand, the van wouldn’t so much be “driving” as being pushed around/pulled behind us, or the truck. We did manage to pull it to a great spot on the beach, and for the next two days and nights we played on the beach, laid in the sun, worked on the van, and drank most of the booze we had. It was beach camping at its finest!
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We had to go back into town the following day so KP and I could catch up with more travel buddies, this time a couple from home, but one we’d only ever met on the internet. They had traveled from Portland to Guatemala and were on their way back to Oregon when we met them in Mazatlan for dinner and drinks. Their travel adventures are chronicled as The Next Big Adventure. It was so great to meet up with them and share some burgers and a coupe bottles of wine! We all went over to La Bohemia after so I could make my now weekly appearance at the Jazz Jam Night. I got to do three songs with the band and was even invited back to help out with a benefit show the following night. I could get used to the music scene in this town!
We camped out for a couple more nights on a stretch of road that looked out over the ocean and gave us an incredible sunset view (ya street camping is the worst, right?). Thanks to our new friend Rob as well for letting us use his bathroom since we were parked down the street from his house. One of the hardships of street camping is bathroom access, but we don't need to go into that in depth.
We were also very lucky to get an invite from Jerry and Donna for one last fancy dinner and a night in their comfy house with the hot shower and washer/dryer. We started the night with a pitcher of Strawberry-coladas (I think Jerry had a better name for them, but I forgot once the pitcher was gone...), and a trip over to the canal in their neighborhood where you can watch the birds fly down the canal in groups of more than a hundred around sunset. Unfortunately, they must have been taking the night off, or running late because we never saw more than a few a time, but the strawberry-coladas were good and the company was even better. They took us out for dinner at El Presidio which became our new favorite restaurant in Mazatlan for sure! Incredible food, and an even better ambiance with live music in the beautiful open-air courtyard. It was an incredible send-off from these wonderful friends of ours, and we were reminded again how lucky we are to know them!
After returning from our cushy night at the Shawnke's, we planned to head downtown for one last night at the German’s old street camp and a little going away party before we went our separate ways the following day (them to the North and Baja, us to the South to Ixtapa). We bought lots of wine and beer, guacamole and salsa, and were just settling in to get the party started when fireworks started going off and we noticed colorful cars with women in ball gowns sitting on top of them. I know, weird right? We wandered down to investigate and found the most unorganized, but totally fun, parade I’ve ever seen. A mess of cars with the candidates for Carneval Queen sitting proudly on top and waving robotically went by, followed by busloads of their supporters, street performers of all kinds, and the standard Friday evening traffic in the strangest parade we’ve ever seen.
A couple bottles of wine later, the parade was over and we greeted some of the guests that came to Sophie and Peter’s impromptu going away party, Howard and Jennifer, who we met our first night in Mazatlan. Another couple bottles of wine later and they left, leaving us to decide where the rest of the night would take us. Turns out that was across the street to the karaoke bar, where I serenaded everyone with my favorite Top 40 songs. Most of the other singers sang in Spanish (and were all VERY good), but lucky for me, they knew all the sings I picked so they didn’t seem to mind that I sang in English. It was an incredible “going away party”, and if we had just left it at that, KP and I would be halfway to Belize right now, but unfortunately we couldn’t say goodbye to our new friends so soon.
We decided that a parade and drunken karaoke was not the right send off, and instead we all headed for the mountains and a lake that I found on the map. Unfortunately though, the hills up to the lake were too much for the van, and with one missed switch (the one that turned on the fan, yikes!) the engine over-heated and the head gasket was blown. Since we were almost to our camp spot for the night we decided to tow the van to its resting spot for the night, and regroup in the morning. A campfire was built, and the menfolk stared woefully into the flames as they contemplated the work ahead. Mechanics in Mexico are not what you’d call reliable… or particularly talented… and ultimately very lazy (I’m sure there are some great ones in Mexico, but on a whole this was our findings), so KP volunteered to stay and hone his VW skills with Peter.
We towed the van from our mountain campsite, to downtown Mazatlan and an Autozone parking lot, a journey that was not for the faint of heart.
And here we sit, one week later, new head gasket installed, but more problems that keep the VW from being more than just a very beautiful parking lot condo.
KP and I will pick this up next week, with stories of our life in the Autozone parking lot, eventually I'll post the itinerary I promised for a visit to Mazatlan… though I’ll probably leave out this final campsite… :)