La Paz and some Red Tape


September 28th through October 3rd

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I rolled into La Paz and headed for a place called La Mision Hotel. It was right on the beach, and supposedly not that expensive. It was also somewhat tricky to find, just a door in a row of small businesses, but since I had left later than him Jeremy was standing outside and waved me down.

Most of the rooms at La Mision were huge two bedroom suites with a kitchen and living room, and Jeremy had already taken the one that was discounted for the lack of a TV. I ended up with a much smaller room, but he commented later the air conditioner in his mansion wasn’t up to keeping the place cool, while my (much smaller) room was always comfortable. I had been thinking about trying to get some of my money back, but the comfort was definitely worth it.

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“Park by your door.” So I did…

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At the end of the small, tiles and very slippery courtyard. The other bike is Jeremy’s VFR. Just as a reminder, this is Jeremy-

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Who is from the Isle of Man (not the UK, though he usually says that just to keep it simple), and this is his VFR

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It didn’t used to have all the duct tape, and when I saw it like this, back in Guerrero Negro, I asked if he had dropped it. It appears his shiny sport bike was getting a lot of attention at the frequent checkpoints and from wandering police while going down the road. The duct tape was supposed to “make it look less flash.” It didn’t seem to be working.

So, score one more for the small, dirty and old bike. The checkpoints usually waved me on before I’d even stopped all the way.

I had three things to do while I was in La Paz. I still hadn’t gotten my tourist visa, and was now past the point I could legally be in Mexico without one. Still, in Baja, all I faced was a fine. On the other end of the Ferry ride they would just not let me keep going. I also needed the import sticker for Curiosity, and I needed to get a ticket for the ferry ride itself. I was hoping to get all that done in one day, which would let me leave La Paz and ride around the loop in the southern tip of Baja. I had paid for the hotel room through the date of the ferry, so I could leave most of my stuff there.

I asked where the Immigration Office was, since that was the first thing I had to do, and walked over in the morning. There even little maps on the sidewalk with the location marked, so I could see when I was getting close.

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When I got there, however, it appeared to be somewhat closed.

I found a police officer and asked them where the office was, and they directed me the other way, past my hotel by a couple of blocks. There was a tourist services office there, offering boat tours and stuff, but no sign of immigration, and the tourist place was also closed.

I walked back to the old immigration office, which was now a series of gutted offices on the lower level of an office building, and walked to the upper level, thinking maybe immigration had just moved upstairs. I found an office offering “Visa Assistance” and went in.

It was actually a tax service that helped people obtain work visa’s in Baja, but he knew all the steps for a tourist visa, and then called a friend in immigration to find out what had to be done for the motorcycle. He made a few copies, filled out a couple online forms, said he would charge me 100pesos on top of my visa fee and fine, and after I paid him told me to come back in a couple of hours.

I went for another walk, exploring some of La Paz. The catherdral was built in the 1860, but had two major rebuilding, each adding a tower to the front.

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The left tower was added first, in case you were wondering.

I found a burger king for lunch, something of a late lunch since I had been wandering around La Paz looking for immigration most of the day already. Once late morning arrived the streets generally emptied out as the heat got too oppressive. The Tropic of Cancer is not far to the south, and since La Paz sits on the warm Sea of Cortez the afternoons can get quite steamy.

I was back at the office at the appointed time, and he had all my paperwork done. Then he gave careful directions on getting the import Sticker for Curiosity, which he said would be easiest at the ferry terminal. And I needed to hurry, since they were closing soon.

Oh, that was another thing. A lot of businesses, mainly the non-food and retail types, closed around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

I went back to the hotel, got on the bike, and headed for the ferry terminal. I had been sent there because it was a one-window operation. There was no walking back and forth from bank to customs. Unfortunately, by the time I had the import sticker, the ferry ticket office was closed (and had been for an hour. In fact, the bank where I got the sticker had been just about to close when I walked up, and they stayed open to help me.)

I rode back to the hotel, took a nap (which is the thing to do in the afternoon apparently) and then met up with Jeremy, who was sitting outside the hotel enjoying the view. It was pretty nice.

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He had found a Canadian couple, traveling in a right hand drive 4×4 (vagabond2011.wordpress.com Mike and Nastaja). He had met them further north on the peninsula, and like everyone else who was planning on taking the ferry they had arrived in La Paz to get their import sticker and ferry tickets. I sent them to the ferry offices, since it had been simple to do there. They went off to find somewhere to stay (the cheap rooms at La Mision were gone, I think there was just the two of them actually). I hung out on the beach and watched the sunset.

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The next morning I was up, and headed for the ferry offices to get my ticket. It was pretty straightforward, though I was surprised no one there spoke English. My Spanish was (surprisingly) up to the task, and I even added a cabin to my fare. You can sleep in the common areas of the ship, but I decided the extra 500pesos for a cabin would be worth it. I am pretty sure I was right.

As I was about to leave Jeremy pulled in to the ferry terminal to get his ticket, and I stayed to help him with his Spanish, which isn’t quite as good. Since he got the same thing I did, it was even easier.

We both headed back towards La Paz, since it was closing in on noon, which meant it was nap time, but different riding styles and picture choices meant we weren’t together very long.

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Not going to be our ferry. Sad, since this on has a disco.

I had all my paperwork in order now, and had to be at the ferry terminal by 3pm on Sunday. When I got back to the hotel it was just a little after noon on Friday, so I still could do the loop around the tip, but I admit to laziness and decided to hang out in La Paz, see some sights, and rest. And take siestas.

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I liked finding a Wyland Whale Wall, though it returned the bitter taste of Milwaukee tearing theirs down.

Jeremy had been spending part of each day riding south out of La Paz looking for the Tropic of Cancer sign. He had a picture of his bike at the Artic Circle and was looking to start the set. He hadn’t been able to find it, and I spent some time online trying to help him. No much help with the sign (he never did locate it, though we were both thinking it was because he just didn’t go quite far enough), I did find out that Todos Santos, just 80 or so kilometers south of La Paz, was the location of the original Hotel California. Yeah, the one on a “Dark desert highway,” from the Eagles song. So, Saturday morning before the heat got too bad, I headed south.

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A little disppointing, to be honest. Hotel California was playing in the lobby, which I guess should have been expected, and everything was about four times as expensive as in La Paz, which I guess should also have been expected. I had thought about eating there, but suffered from some sticker shock and wanted to find something something cheaper.

I also wanted to find the beach, since this was Todos Santos, and the beach was supposed to be nice. There were signs, which led me right back to the square where I started following the first one. I tried it again, and decided they really did just go in a loop. Later I found out Mike and Nastaja had also gone to Todos Santos and had the same issue. In case you ever find yourself there, the beach is actually around 10km south of town. I still can’t tell you what the signs are for.

I found a convience store and picked up a few things for lunch, then found a shady spot and settled down to eat. Then I had my first beggar experience in Mexico, I gave him a couple of pesos, thinking he would go away. As it turned out he was actually hoping I would give him whatever food I didn’t eat (since I had bought groceries clearing intended for more than one meal) and a ride back to La Paz.

On the ride back to La Paz (alone, thank you very much) I was surprised at how much that one encounter had soured my mood towards Todos Santos. It was the first negative thing I could remember since arriving and I had a hard time shaking my funk on the ride back. The heat probably didn’t help.

The next day was the ferry. I had to check out of the hotel at noon, Jeremy had managed to get a 1pm check out but I decided I was too antsy to sit around. We had been told to be at the ferry by 3pm. Not really knowing how the process was going to work I decided to try and be there by 2pm, and at noon turned in my key, waved to Jeremy, and went to find lunch at a Pizza place that had been recommended (Rin Rin Pizza). It was actually very good, but not air conditioned. I was really starting to love A/C in a way I never had back in Wisconsin.

Lunch eaten, I rode off for the ferry terminal for my first really big boat ride of the trip.

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