Posts Tagged La Paz

Rock Me Like A Hurricane

Posted on September 21, 2014 by 4 Comments

We’re perpetually behind on the blog – three weeks to be exact. Let me skip ahead. So, we’re in Todos Santos having a great time and minding our own business… and get hit by a hurricane.

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I was a wild ride, but our little casita (below) held up like a champ. Solid concrete with steel bar doors. Probably the safest place on the peninsula to ride out a Cat 4 hurricane.

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After a few days in the dark, we decided to go for a ride to find some services. Todos Santos was turned upside down and shaken, but it will survive. Many locals lost everything, but people are out helping each other and starting the cleanup.

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In La Paz, there was quite a bit of damage and a few stores were open using generators. A few gas stations open, but very long lines. Most were destroyed. Long lines for ice. Long lines for tortillas. But, generally civil.

La Paz provides power for Todos Santos and about 70% of the power lines were down over the 80 km stretch. Estimates are for no power or water for a month – but nobody really knows.

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Cabo San Lucas was another story. Massive damage. Nothing open. Widespread looting. People pushing and pulling carts down the street with as much as they could carry. Trucks loaded high with brand new appliances from the local superstore. I actually saw a guy walking down the street with a complete skeleton (medical reproduction) he must have pulled out of a school. The police took the day off. We split too.

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It’s going to be a while before things return to normal down here. We hit the road again north up to Constitucion and now Loreto so we don’t have to compete for resources (food, water, gas).  We’re going to sit tight here for a bit an dfigure out what’s next.

Until then, we’ll go back to blog about the happier times and cover the past 3 excellent weeks in Todos Santos. Otherwise, we’re fine… just questioning our recent luck.




The Home Stretch

Posted on September 20, 2014 by No Comments

We just drove 550 km down Baja with a shattered windshield. The packing tape trick worked pretty well – we had to re-patch it a few times. We’re still cleaning up new glass shards that appear every day, but it’s no biggie.

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We arrived at the shop in La Paz, and after a bit of discussion, they decided that they actually had the correct windshield in stock! Another client had ordered one, but hadn’t showed up to install it yet. So, it was ours if we wanted it.

There was some banging on the window frame to try to get it back into reasonable shape to accept the new glass – it ain’t perfect, but it will work.

Parabrisa nueva. Que linda.

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Filed Under: Baja, Mexico

Baja: to come down

Posted on September 19, 2014 by 2 Comments

The entire area on the Sea of Cortez (a.k.a. the “Gulf of California”in Mexico) south of Santa Rosalia is awesome. We could camp up and down the Bahía Concepción and the rest of the coast for quite a while. But, we’re on a mission to replace some glass and to get to Todos Santos. Through a friend of a friend, we’ve landed a little casita on the beach for the next 3 months, so that’s our destination.

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We cruised through Mulege and stopped in Loreto for lunch – both are fair-sized towns with no auto glass shops. Ultimately, we settled to stop for the night in Ciudad Constitución. It’s a quiet middle-of-nowhere agricultural town that’s one of the bigger towns down here. Still, no glass shops. We called ahead to a shop in La Paz and they said they would have to order the new windshield and it would come from Tijuana. But, first we would have to go to the shop and put down a deposito.

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You want to leave when?

Posted on June 12, 2011 by No Comments

Before we headed into the jungle, we were told that we needed to be flexible on returning. This is accurate advice.  The morning we were schedule to fly back to La Paz, it was raining.  Things shut down when it’s raining here.

The tiny Rurre airport has a grass taxi strip, so the rain and mud did not bode well for our departure. Once the rain finally let up, we headed to the airline office in town and waited around with the other 18 passengers who where hoping to get back to La Paz. Ahead of us was yet another planeload of people throwing a fit about their flight also being cancelled. People were actually freaking out.

It’s the jungle, people. Relax.

Long story short, the staff tried all sorts of stupid tricks to try to pacify everyone – including driving us to the airport for no good reason. This was a complete charade to clear to the office so they could deal with the next round of cancelled flights. We wouldn’t have minded a week delay if they just would have been honest with us (actually, not true, since we were running out of money. There are no ATMS in the jungle.)

Two days later, we made it back to La Paz. The highlight of the short flight is splitting two 6000 meter peaks right before landing in the city.

It didn’t take us long to be reminded that La Paz sucks. Some people think it’s a fine place. We could search for some silver lining, but we’re not going to bother.  If you ask someone about La Paz, they will probably tell you about how they got ripped off or robbed (Angela fended off a purse-snatcher). It’s just not a great destination.  There are lot’s of other places in the world to see. Moving on…

I was happy to find a shortcut out of town that’s not on any of our maps. It completely bypasses downtown from Mallesa and put us on the main highway south.

We continued to struggle getting gas – being charged double (again) for foreign plates and refusing to fill up our jerry can.  These both seem to be legitimate regulations that are only occasionally enforced. This is the Bolivian government’s attempt to eliminate the gasoline black market – it’s a problem.

We drove south all day as random pieces of the bus broke off. Nothing major, but it was one of those days. Eventually, we found a hot springs (warm springs?) north of Oruro where we took a quick dip. We debated camping there, but decided to make the short trip to Oruro for a hot shower and warm bed.

Sometimes you need a day to adjust back to bus-living.

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Filed Under: Bolivia

Up and Out

Posted on May 22, 2011 by 2 Comments

We coasted into La Paz (1 million people, 3500 meters above sea level) and found the first gas station. For some reason there was no line – gasoline no problem.

It’s worth repeating that we had absolutely no intention of coming here. We even told multiple people we would bypass the city completely. Here we are.

Needless to say, we were ready to set up camp. An hour after entering La Paz, we finally made it to a notorious hotel in town that caters to overlanders: the Swiss-run Hotel Oberlander. We were the 6th camper in the lot.

Once you’re in a place like this, all the kids become friends, there’s free wi-fi, a real supermarket is a short cab-ride away and before long you’ve been here a lot longer than you’ve planned. And, you’ve barely left the hotel grounds.

Bode and I finally went into downtown La Paz to run some errands and we ended up fending off a purse-snatcher.  Luckily, I pulled away when I felt something. They managed to unzip the pack while it was on my back, but they didn’t get an opportunity to grab anything. Still, it made me leery of the entire city.

Oddly, downtown and the “nice” part of the city is at the bottom of the canyon and the slums are at the top. Opposite of every other city in the world. The river in town has got to be record-setting in it’s pollution.

It wasn’t long, and we were desperate to get out of La Paz. We took off for what we thought would be a nice 2.5 hour drive to Coroico. At the mountain pass at 4600 meters, we saw a small lake just off the road. There were two Land Cruisers camping, so we pulled off to have lunch. Surprise, surprise – a French family. Bode made another great friend and they played like it was nothing. An altitude of 15,100 ft doesn’t seem to make much difference anymore. Maybe we’ll have super-human strength when we return to sea level.



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Filed Under: Bolivia

No Hay Gasolina

Posted on May 19, 2011 by 2 Comments

After lingering much longer than expected, we finally left the peaceful shores of Titicaca. We had no idea that these little communities would 1) be so endearing and 2) mask how difficult the rest of the country will be.

The day started easily enough. First, check the freshness of our flowers – still perfect.  Then, stop to fill up the tank. There was a line of about 20 cars at the one gas station in town. Hmmm, small town, we figured. “Should we get in line or take our chances?” Take our chances. Besides, you get charged twice as much here if you have foreign plates (Bolivian gas is 1/2 price compared to Peru, so they charge extra to discourage border-hopping fill-ups.)

We hit the road and drove up a 4300 meter pass and the views continued to be stunning. We were headed to a ferry at the end of a peninsula and on some sections we had panoramic lake views in all directions. Titicaca is BIG.

The ferry crossing was simple enough – just drive right on to a little wooden barge. Angela suggested we shouldn’t share one with a big autobus… right as we were directed onto the one with a big bus. Cozy.

It’s an impressive one-man operation. First, out come the big sticks and the barge is manually steered from shore. Then, a little outboard motor slowly pushed us across the lake. Twenty minutes later we pay the guy 30 B’s and we’re off. We ask around for gas and we’re pointed down the road.

We find a station – no line – and pull in. The attendant looks at us like we’re fools. He’s got diesel, but no gasolina. He suggests we look for someone with a sign in front of their house and buy from them. Huh?

Our gauge is on “R” (empty), so I manage to find a house with a lady washing potatoes in her front yard and ask. Yep – she’s got gas – for 10 B’s per liter (about $1.50 USD, and even steeper than Peru.) Quite a markup. We’re desperate, so I give her 50 B so we can keep searching. She pours it in from a dirty plastic can into a dirty funnel.

We make it to the next sizable town – passing multiple closed gas stations – and it’s the same story. A few people suggest we just start asking around at tiendas. We waste gas driving about town, but nobody has any gas. We covered the entire town. It seems odd asking for gas at a tienda selling chips and sodas, but you do what you gotta do.

While we’re stopped, I pour in the little bit of gas I have left in my stove and a few drops from our empty mini-jerry can. Things aren’t looking good and we decide to make a break for the capitol of La Paz instead up north to the little town of Sorata. We are a little disappointed to leave the lake – we still snicker every time we say “Titicaca” – but we’ve learned that we will eventually drive past Lake Poopo.

Later, we get to a toll booth and the guy won’t even look up from the paper to collect a toll. I get his attention and he says we can get gas in 1 km. No toll. A few kilometers later, there are more gas stations, but the same story. No gas.

The needle is way below the “R” and we assume we will sputter and stall at any minute, but have no choice but to keep driving. We slow down each time we see a station, but have learned not to stop until it’s obvious the pumps aren’t covered in plastic. Still, no gas. Almost to La Paz and amazingly, Angela spots a tiny “Hay gasolina” sign hanging from the doorway of a welding shop. It’s a relative bargain at 6 B’s per liter and I buy all 10 liters. Enough to coast down the hill into La Paz – the highest capitol in the world.


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Filed Under: Bolivia

Ferry to the Mainland

Posted on March 4, 2010 by 7 Comments

We shipped ourselves as cargo to Mazatlan. From the time we drove onto the ferry to the time we drove off was about 21 hours. Total cost to ship the three of us and the bus from La Paz to Mazatlan was $290 USD.  Three people and 5 meters / 1800 kg of vehicle.  We chose Transportation Maritima de California (TMC) over  Baja Ferries simply because of the large difference in the cost. TMC is the freight carrier and it seems some folks don’t know they exist and insist Baja Ferries is the only option. Maybe because it’s hard to find.  If you want to make the trip, here’s a quick summary.

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Drive out to Pechilingue to the shipyard and pull in through the main gate. On your left is a set of lanes you can’t enter and on your right is drive-through customs.

If you don’t have your vehicle import permit for the mainland, just park anywhere and walk through the gate on the left to the big yellow building to find the permit office. Ask for “vehicular permissio” if you can’t find it – it’s about $30 and is good for 6 months. You can’t go through customs without it. You’ll need photocopies of everything – passports, license, registration,etc.

Now, get back in the bus and drive through customs and you may or may not get inspected. Next, drive onto the scale right in front of you- “Bascula” – and get weighed. You’ll be asked for your carrier and destination (you won’t have a ticket yet.) They’ll give you a paper with your vehicle weight and length and now you can go buy your ticket.

On your right is a permanently closed TMC office and an open Baja Ferries office. If you want a cabin and a nicer boat, Baja Ferries is for you. Everyone there speaks English and they have another office outside the port as well (go past the entire terminal on the main road and turn left after the fence.) If your family is cargo (like us,) loop around the scale and park next to the other big yellow building and go find the TMC office. No one in here will speak English, so be prepared. All prices are clearly posted. We came  here a week prior to make a reservation, but no one seemed to be interested in looking it up – we just bought our tickets on the spot.

Figure out when to load (usually two hours prior to departure) and drive over to the ship and wait for someone who looks official to recognize that you want to get on the boat. He’ll go through all your papers and tickets. Before driving on, ask if you can be loaded on top. If you’re on the bottom, your car will be sealed up and you won’t be spending any time at your vehicle. On top, you have fresh air… and you get to ride a big elevator.

Officially, on both carriers, you are not allowed in your vehicle at any time during the trip. The closer you get to the boat, the more lax personnel get about this regulation (at least on TMC – Baja Ferries may be more strict.) Just keep asking. We stayed in our bus for most of the trip (16 hours on the water) and slept in it – way better than the seats in the tiny passenger cabin. Apparently, dinner is included with your ticket in the little galley, but we skipped it and had sammys in the bus.

The other passengers are almost exclusively truck drivers and most of them sneak away to sleep in their vehicles too. Everyone we encountered was very nice. Walking around the boat is not really something you want to do unless you need to. The ride was pretty wild, and the boat not exactly the safest place for a child. Angela, who has never been seasick, had to take Dramamine. There are bathrooms and showers, but you will probably want to avoid these too if you can. This is not the Love Boat and there is no one named Issac mixing drinks(“Outta sight!“)

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We arrived in Mazatlan exhausted at about 11 am (now, two consecutive nights of very little sleep) so we grabbed another cheapy hotel (about $20) right near the Old Town and took naps before wandering around. Oh yeah, driving in this town is crazy. Maybe it was because there were two cruise ships in the port and taxis everywhere, but it was total mayhem. Stop signs and individual lanes aren’t really recognized here. Multiple close calls with tour buses and plenty of loco taxi drivers later, I tried to park the bus… and backed into a tree… twice. They let the trees grow out of the street here. Pick your parallel parking  spot wisely. Fortunately, our rain gutter took all the impact.

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Shopping seems the be the primary activity here, so we got bored pretty quickly after one day. A trip to the aquarium was the highlight. For $6, it’s also the best bargain in town.

Mazatlan is a nice enough place, but we decided we were done and continued south.

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Filed Under: Baja, Sinaloa

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