Sunday, December 12, 2010

12/09/10 Goodbye Baja! La Paz – Cabo San Lucas – La Paz: 340 miles, 8 hours







Im on a boat. Chilling out in the restaurant/lounge of this surprisingly comfortable ferry getting ready for the 6 hour journey from La Paz to Topolobambo on the mainland.

I spent the next few days doing errands and stuff and just enjoying La Paz. Kevin arrived 2 or 3 days after I got there. What can I say about Kevin? A motorcycle riding self-made entrepreneur who is now semi- retired and enjoying life. Super cool and we end up hanging out a bit and talking. Hopefully next year when I get back to NYC I will be part of a new idea he is working on, but I’m getting ahead of myself. While taking care of errands, one roadblock I run into is that when I go to Immigration to get my tourist visa, Im told there is a $100 fine for not taking care of it at the border. The card itself is less than $20. Naturally, Im pissed off and after talking to a couple of helpful women at a nearby tourist office, they make some calls and sheepishly inform me that this is a new nationwide policy in Mexico. I don’t pay the fine and make it a point to see if I can get around it in the next couple of days. Kevin does end up taking me to the airport to try to take care of it there, but no dice. His local lawyer buddy doesn’t have much advice either. My buddy Alex in Cabo knows someone in immigration down there so maybe Ill have some luck if I head down.

I decide after a couple of days to head down to Cabo. Alex insists I have to check it out while he is in town. I head out of La Paz through a scenic route through the mountains. Too bad its the wrong way and after backtracking and adding 60 miles to a 120 mile trip, Im back outside of La Paz and on my way south to the very bottom of Baja California. I hit the picturesque beach town of Todos Santos and have some pollo asado. Then an hour later, past the most stunning coastline views Ive seen on the trip, Im in Cabo. I head to the marina and get to a coffee house with wifi and call Alex. He has dinner plans but we meet a couple of hours later at the marina. We drop off my bike at his aunt’s house and head out. Cabo is definitely a shock to the system after these past 3 weeks, with its high end shopping and thoroughly modern feel. The next several hours involve a lot of drinking, boxing, women. We even wander into Cabo Wabo (Sammy Hagar’s place) and see a cover band doing Journey and 300 middle aged, sunburned tourists dancing badly. We quickly leave and hit some other spots and we are lucky to make it home by 5 in the morning at Alex’s place in Cabo San Jose, about 20 miles away.

The next day we head to Alex’s friend Mora’s art gallery which is filled with all sorts of colorful and amazing indigenous art. Mora decided to close up and hang with us for the day. We grab breakfast at a rooftop café filled with vacationers from the States watching football. A couple of women are especially obnoxious and the service sucks so we are all pretty glad to leave. We head to the local beach and marina, and then back to Cabo San Lucas where I can see what I missed driving home last night in the dark, which is yet more stunning coastal scenery. We hit the beach and Alex hooks us up with a buddy’s boat and we head out to check out El Arco (famous rock arch) and the very tip of Cabo. Its pretty awesome, the boat is glass bottomed so we can see the tropical fish and I can say I made it from the very top to the very bottom of Baja, where the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez meet the deep blue of the Pacific. Back on shore we check out the national championship soccer match and drive back to Cabo San Jose to drop Mora off and take a nap, before me and Alex duplicate what we did last night here in San Jose.

The next morning Alex and I hit the immigration office. Even though he has a hookup, they still say I have to pay the fine. OK, I need this visa to take on the ferry and its either that or back 900 miles back to the border, so no matter how pissed I get, I have to pay it. The process which usually takes 10 minutes at the border takes 4 hours, with 3 times as much paperwork (even with Alex translating the finer points and moving things along) and me having to write a letter saying I didn’t get the visa at the border. Obviously. I pay the fines and costs at the bank across the street. At least the teller there was beautiful and friendly. She laughs at my Spanish, I laugh at her English, ya know…..damn I wish I was staying here longer, I would love to see where this could go… Anyway, the office is open weekdays 9-1 and they are about to close. 20 hours a week for the only immigration office in Cabo, what fucking joke. Its like that in La Paz also. The guy who has been helping us then suggests I come back the next day because processing takes a long time sometimes. Now Im visibly pissed and say that there is no way I was leaving the office until I got the visa. I would have spent the night in jail before I left that fucking office. That kind of makes no sense, but you know what I mean. Alex’s hookup kicks in at this point, as the names he has been dropping and an email sent make the guy process me in about 15 minutes, even with people there who have been waiting since opening, some with their lawyers in tow. I say nothing and we slip out and get breakfast. Alex suggests I take the east cape road home, which is all unpaved, some of it pretty gnarly. I have vowed to stay off the heavy dirt here in Baja, but I don’t want to pussy out now just because of that. Alex drops me off at my bike and we say our goodbyes. I cant thank him enough. I never would have seen as much of his place without him and his help at immigration saved me 3 times as much hassle. He is planning on doing a trip to Central America sometime in his modified 4-Runner and we talk about me joining him for a leg of it before I finally head out for the east cape road back to La Paz.

It takes me almost 2 hours to even find the road and even then Im not 100% sure im on the right path. Im struggling through sand again and Im not focused, tired and still annoyed from earlier. This is a recipe for something bad happening and combined with the late start and the lack of any gas station which I was counting on finding, it’s a no brainer to backtrack 10 miles or so through the dirt and hit Hwy 1 back to La Paz. Its great, with some steep mountain passes before dropping back down outside of La Paz which I hit as its getting dark. Get back to the apartment and head out with Kevin to a higher-end burger joint where I opt for the Portobello mushroom burger before hitting the café/internet spot and calling it a night. In the morning, Ill head to the ferry terminal and leave Baja, if all goes as planned.

It doesn’t, as often happens. I get really sick. Im laid up for 2 and a half days barely able to move. In the meantime Kevin is leaving for a month and hooks me up with Gatorade and some food, which I unfortunately cant eat. We speak a bit about his future business idea before he heads to California, and I thank him again for all he has done for me.

So this morning I head to the ferry terminal, and get my Vehicle Import Permit which takes all of 15 minutes, get my tickets for me and the bike (1600 pesos, about $128) and drive into the boat, head upstairs and shoot a few pics from the bridge before settling in the corner of a lounge. The engines start up and we are now underway. Although there is no internet, there is cheesy Spanish tv and a lady in a skintight camouflage dress singing bad karaoke as the ship’s hired entertainment. Am I a dick because I saw her at the bar earlier and thought she was a prostitute? Boat hooker, hahaha, funny. Anyway, I am relieved to have finally ridden Baja and its backroads on a dirt bike, and equally relieved to be leaving for other adventures. The plan is to make a couple of stops along the coast before heading inland to Guadalajara for a few days, and then Mexico City for a while, where I will probably be for my birthday and Christmas. Until next time then…..

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