Crossing to the mainland

Trip Start Dec 22, 2006
Trip End Feb 10, 2008

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ferry Day! We were both especially excited to get our ferry ride to the mainland and explore some new territory. We went to the ticket office the day before at the ferry terminal and were told that the cost would be $170 for both of us and 'Nilla This was an enormous savings from our first quote of over $500. Tickets are only sold at the ferry terminal on the day of the sail. We had attempted to buy the tickets in town the day before, however we were quoted a higher amount and opted to wait for sail day.

We spent a relaxing morning at Playa Tecolote packing up the van and getting some snacks ready for the 5 hour ferry ride. We had been warned that a 5 hour ferry generally means 6 or 7 hours in actuality. We walked the beach and bid farewell to some friends we have met during our stay at Tecolote, especially Bill. Luckily for us, Bill was just about to head out into the Sea of Cortez for a late morning kayak when we were leaving and we snapped some great shots of him. Before he hit the open water he presented Geraldine with a special pre-Valentines gift.....chocolate! Bill certainly knows how to woo the women. We were so touched by his generosity that we packaged up a nice note of thanks and tucked it into a "Canadian" ball cap that we left on his windshield. Bill was already out on the water at this time so it would have been a pleasant surprise on his return to the camp. We will think of Bill every time we eat Hershey chocolate and hopefully he will think of us when he dons his swanky red and white ball cap.

During our round of goodbyes we ran into Ben C. another fellow beach camper. Ben was tired of the Baja and decided that there was no time like the present to hit the ferry and explore the mainland. We did not mind the company and helping a fellow camper find the path to Mazatlan.

As instructed by the Baja Ferry office, we arrived at the ferry terminal 3 hours in advance of the sail time. Not only did we want to get on the ferry on February 10, 2007, we were also set on getting the best deal we could. We had heard that for $1000 pesos ($100 USD) the cost for 'Nilla and the operator would be covered, thus leaving us to purchase only one single fare for an extra passenger. The sign on the ticket office even confirmed least that is how we read the Spanish sign. However, the operator was only included for any vehicle other than the basic automobile rate of $1000 pesos. So, we were dinged with two passenger charges at $700 pesos ($70 USD) each. We paid $240 USD, which was less than our guide book told us to expect. We still call it a deal! And again our little 'Herbie of the RV world' was able to fly under the radar and not be considered a motor home.

We waited in the ferry parking lot for an hour or so before we were called to board. The ferries in the Baja are nothing like the ones at home.  For those familiar with BC Ferries, the process in Canada is quite on one side, park and then drive out the other side. This simple theory was not employed by Baja Ferries as they only have one side of the boat that opens for vehicle loading and unloading. Large tractor-trailer units actually reverse into the ferry. It was the oddest thing to watch.  'Nilla was put in the lowest level on the ferry. We had to drive in the ferry, head down a ramp and make a 90 degree turn to a small parking area. It was sooooo confusing as there was no ferry staff anywhere in sight to direct us. We made without much hassle, but there was quite a bit of head scratching.

The interior ferry set up was exceptional. One side of the boat has a bar and the other a restaurant. There are cabins on every level above and they are sold according to size and amenities. Some simply have four seats while others have beds, showers and private bathrooms. We are not able to comment much more about the cabins because we bought the budget fare ticket and found seats in the restaurant / cafeteria. There is a meal served on the ferry, which is included in the price of every ticket. It was a basic meal of rice, beans, vegetables, tortillas and a choice of beef, chicken or pork. The meal was tasty and filled the void from our 3 hour wait before sailing.

Once the ferry left the dock the real action began. A live band pumped out tunes in the bar and the crowd of onlookers sipped on beers and danced. On the tamer restaurant side, they played movies. Luckily for us the movies were in English with Spanish subtitles. After two and a half movies, we were in Topolobambo.

What we have now learned is that the large transport trucks get off first, which leaves quite a wait for the other passengers. We were boarded quite early, which meant that we were the last to get off. Oh well, at least we were safe on the other side. We finally got off the ferry around 10:00pm. This is a bit too late for us to drive so we decided to pull into the ferry terminal parking lot and camp for the night. It was a bit noisy in the parking lot while they loaded the midnight ferry, however after that we slept without hassle.

The following morning we got up early with a strategy of hitting the pavement to make good time to Mazatlan. We had heard that the drive could either take 3 hours or 7 hours. Not sure what to believe, an early departure was better that later. The extra time proved to be a valuable asset as we made a few wrong turns before eventually finding the highway. As we have said before, the road signs in Mexico are essentially nonexistent. Once on the toll highway (Highway 15D) we put the pedal to the metal for real this time and hit a cruising speed of 110km/h. Of course this was the posted maximum...there is no need for senseless encounters with the police. The only bummer of the trip was the number of tool booths and steady increase in tool price as we rolled toward Mazatlan.

We took frequent stops, generally after each toll to stretch our legs and take bathroom breaks. At one stop Ben drove up and something did not quite look right. Upon closer inspection we realized that the kayak previously on the roof of his RV was no longer there. Ben jumped out of his vehicle and told us about his view of things. Apparently a gust of wind got under the front end of the kayak and pulled it loose from the tie-downs. From the side view mirror he watched helplessly as his kayak shot up in the air and did a nose dive straight down to the asphalt where is bounced a few times before shredding itself into multiple pieces. Oh what we would have given to see that. Ben was encouraged to check the rest of his straps and once satisfied we hit the road again.

The drive to Mazatlan was beautiful. The sun was shining the entire time and the winds were warm. The highway is slightly inland and the Sierra Madre Mountains were off in the distance to the east. The highway is in the valley on the west side of the mountains and is surrounded by fertile farm lands. The main crops are corn, sugarcane, tobacco, and beans. It was a change to see the various shades of green from the brown shades of desert and beach we experienced in the Baja. Roadside markets are much more plentiful on the mainland and the prices are considerably less than the Baja...thankfully.

We did tons of reading on the ferry and decided on staying at La Posta RV Park right in the heart of Mazatlan. It was a bit tricky to navigate our way directly to La Posta as the road signs were either sun faded and illegible or nonexistent. After a few turns and shifty lane changes we were at the La Posta doorstep. The park is very clean with a nice pool out front. The place is filled with massive RV's and we again felt like the short runt of the bunch.
Within minutes of our arrival, our new neighbour Dianne came over to greet us. She is a resident of Florida via Hawaii. Dianne has come down to Mazatlan several times and had tons of advice for us. We took her up on an offer to head over to the local Saloon to watch the Pro Bowl. It was enticing as the bar was offering food and drink specials and we had to accept. We made it to the Saloon in time for the game, however it was not the right day...the Pro Bowl was on Saturday, not Sunday as the flyer indicated. Oh well, we sipped on 2for1 drinks and passed the time snacking on free peanuts.

The trip to Mazatlan was twofold. We were excited to meet up with Peter MacDonald (Geraldine's co-worker from Belfor) and to celebrate Carnaval (Mardi Gras). Peter was scheduled to arrive in Mazatlan on February 9, 2007 and when we finally made it on February 11, 2007, we set out on a mission to find him. The only information we had was that he was staying at the El Cid Resort. We had never been to an El Cid Resort and were hopeful that it would not be too difficult. We walked to their resort from our new camp at La Posta. The walk took about 20-25 minutes, which was not too bad considering the size of Mazatlan. Unfortunately for us the El Cid Resort is about the size of a small town on its own. Without a room number we were really at a loss to know which tower, condo complex or villa that Peter may have been staying in. Then we turned our attention to the helpful reception desk. We found Peter's room and left a message on his phone. We walked around the El Cid complex for a while to see if we could find Peter, but to no avail. After an hour or so we decided to head back to camp and settle in for the night. On our walk back down the strip known as Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) we poked our heads into cantinas and night clubs on the hunt for Peter. Again we faced nothing but failure. The last place we looked into was called "Gus-Gus Save the Taco". The place was busy, but still no Peter. As we stood perplexed on the sidewalk, we were approached by a jolly man named Bill Flynn. We recognized Bill having passed him a few times on our walk down the strip. He asked if we would like to join him for a drink in Gus-Gus. Not wanting to break the budget before meeting Peter for the Party, Party, Party week he had in store, we politely declined. Bill then offered to buy us a that was an offer we could not refuse. We sat and chatted with Bill over a couple of cervezas for a few hours. We talked about our trip and learned about Bill and his life back in Traverse City, Michigan. At one point in the evening, Bill explained that he was down in Mazatlan on a time-share and he was staying at El Cid in a double condo unit. Since he was travelling alone, Bill offered the second condo unit to us....for free. We initially declined the offer as we just finally became accustomed to the confines of our new home and were quite happy staying in the heart of the action at La Posta. We exchanged contact information with Bill and agreed to think about his offer some more and possibly connect with him for a beer the next day as we intended to head back to El Cid to meet up with Peter. Before leaving the bar, Michael used the facilities and was amused at the sign they had posted over the toilet. Apparently in order to flush, you need to 'push the button one's and turner back'. We assume this was to read 'push the button once and turn it back', however in actuality, you needed to 'push the switch up and then push the switch down'. We were told that some men have read the sign and physically turned themselves around in the stall - not sure what that was to accomplish, but at least they were trying to follow the directions.

It was now after midnight, which is late for us on our travels. We headed directly back to camp where we found a note on the windshield from Peter. We immediately found the nearest phone and left another message at his room. This sounds easy enough, however finding a telephone that actually took pesos rather than phone cards was a bit of an ordeal. Not to mention that we had no idea which of the 15 digit number actually needed to be dialled. With a little persistence and help from a local taco vendor we sorted out the telephone. We must have been tired, yeah that's it, that's why we could not work a simple telephone. We decided to get some rest and try finding Peter again first thing in the morning.
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Where I stayed
El Cid Resort
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