Travel: Soaking in Mexico’s culture | VailDaily.com
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Travel: Soaking in Mexico’s culture

Charles Lorch
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Charles LorchThe sight of Mazatlan's beach is very nice after a long, Eagle County winter.
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As many of you may have noticed, it was a long winter. Vail Mountain closed on schedule but Old Ma Nature evidently did not get the memo.

About mid-April it became clear to me that it was either going to be the Baja or the Betty Ford. I heard Betty Ford had a waiting list, so Jenny and I booked for the Baja.

Why Mexico? Why the Baja? Temperature comes to mind: mid to high 80’s with a nice breeze. Maybe more important is the culture. The people of Mexico are almost unfailingly polite and respectful. Soak, nay bask, in the culture and come away refreshed.

Dateline: Baja, 28-04-2008 (dates in Mexico are dd-mm-yr … it takes some getting used to). If you haven’t been to Baja, go; if you’ve been, return. Frontier flies direct to San Jose Del Cabo. You can be “feet wet” in the ocean by early afternoon on the day you leave Denver.

From the Cabo airport you can head south to Cabo San Lucas for what I hear is some pretty nice, high-powered vacationing. We’ve never been there.

North is the direction we always choose. There are many low key spots within an hour or so driving distance. Our favorite, alas, must remain undisclosed. For, as great a group as I presume all you gentle readers to be, I’d rather not meet you there. It’s probably just me, but too many Norte Americanos in one place is just that: too many. You’ll find your own favorite place soon enough.

Drive in Mexico? Sure. Rent a car at the airport and take off. I suggest the maximum in insurance, though, which is pricey. Mexico has a quaint custom regarding auto accidents: the financial aspects must be resolved at once, or someone (guess who?) is going to jail until the matter is resolved.

Roads: Good, then bad, then good again. It’s nice to be driving a rental car.

Driving: The road signs provide a great opportunity to work on your Spanish.

The bridges all have names. And there is even a sign instructing one to read and heed all the other signs. My favorite: “Ganados Sueltos” (Loose Cows). Be sure, there are plenty of cows, horses, goats and chickens with which to share the byways … look sharp. While I recommend dancing after dark, I wouldn’t recommend driving after dark.

Drivers: The locals all seem to drive as if they were chairmen of the activities committee for the town’s street racing club. But it’s sort of a good-natured hurry. No worries; if you are driving the speed limit (in Kilometers per hour), don’t feel pressed. However, some of the passing techniques you are likely to witness will be awe inspiring.

Dateline: La Paz, BCS, 01-05-2008 (a couple hours north on Hwy 1).

We found the capital city without difficulty and even the Malecon area via some dead reckoning. The Malecon is the seaside street and promenade around which lots of activity takes place. Our first stop was for directions from the “Policia Turista.” The young officer was very helpful, pointing out the direction to the hotel with his pistol.

We stayed at the Posada de las Flores at the north end of the Malecon: a very nice “boutique” hotel. Check it out. If it doesn’t suit, simply try another place … you can’t swing a cat without hitting a hotel here.

Where’s Ralph? It would appear that Mr. Nader has not spent much time in Mexico of late. If you did not bring your mom or your nanny with you, you’re on your own. No GFCI (shock-proof) electrical outlets: you may blow dry your hair as you bask in the tub if you choose. Things stick up, stick out and have sharp points. Stairs don’t necessarily have a standard rise. Pay attention; take care of yourself.

Alimentary alignment: The occasional stomach cramp makes one appreciative: it feels SO good when the pangs pass. Most trips I have no problems, on this one only a few. Not to worry, there are plenty of toilets.

Main market: Open air. Refrigeration not a priority. Did you know that eggs do not require refrigeration until they have once been cooled? There is a warm egg statute of limitations I’m sure, but I don’t know it. Jenny and I found the La Paz market by asking directions at a street vendor’s stand. Even our poor Spanish sufficed; if we can do it, anyone can.

The Malecon is about two miles in length and the walk is paved with ceramic tiles. There are numerous statues along its length. One grabbed me: it represented a man striding out of the ocean onto the beach with a large seashell held aloft in one hand. Lord forgive me, I thought, its “Christ with a conch.” As I learned later, it represented Hernan Cortes, who first arrived at La Paz on May 3, 1535 (hence the holiday).

Big doin’s were afoot at this time: May 1 is “Labor Day,” May 3 is La Paz “Founders Day,” and Cinco de Mayo was just around the bend. Jenny and I could only stay the night, for the next day held a trip on the Baja Ferry to Mazatlan on the mainland.

Dateline: Baja Ferry, 02-05-2008. The ferry leaves La Paz at 3 p.m. and arrives in Mazatlan at 8 a.m. the next morning, an overnight voyage.

The ferry is a large craft, loaded below deck with a myriad of semi-trucks and trailers, plus autos. There is room for plenty of passengers on board, though at this relatively slow time there were only a few hundred of us. By “us” I mean me and Jenny and local folks. Winston Churchill’s “V” for Victory sign would have answered nicely for the total number of U.S. citizens aboard.

The ferry left close to 3 p.m. A slight delay ensued, as I had to assure the captain that sufficient cerveza had been stowed for the crossing. Counting in Spanish, I had just reached “ochenta y dos” cases of Pacifico when I lost count. I was set to begin again at “uno” but the Captain said, “no mas” and we set sail.

Meals (but no beverages) are included with the ticket. Cabins, with bath, are available (we booked one). Our shower worked fine, as did the toilet.

The lounge was well stocked with victuals and beverages of various octanes.

The large screen TV/DVD was a big draw: “The Longest Yard” in Spanish is every bit as entertaining as in English and we laughed when the local crowd did. “Casino Royale” was a bit harder for me to follow (English with subtitles). It would appear that I am bilingually deaf.

The crossing was calm and gentle swells made sleeping pleasant. Come the morning, I spent some time drinking coffee and practicing Spanish by reading the posted regulations. I am now pretty well versed in the rules for refuse disposal at sea (at both the 12-and 25-mile limits).

If you can, book a trip. I assure you that you’ll be one of the few on your block to have done so.

Dateline: 03-05-2008, Mazatlan. We arrived on time, and were met at the terminal by our friends and Eagle neighbors, Bob and Patty Dorf, who had invited us to join them at their home for a stay. The rumor at the Mazatlan dock is that Bob and Patty meet every ferry; this I cannot confirm, but they were there when we arrived.

Of Mazatlan and environs, more anon.

Charles Lorch is an Eagle resident. E-mail comments or questions about this article to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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