La Paz, Topo and onto Mazatlan

La Paz cathedral
This is how they do pork at The Shack
We had a great time at La Paz.  The city is small and it seems to have pretty much everything inclding Walmart, Home Depot all the big grocery stores, a handful of marine stores and some really decent and inexpensive restaurants.  One of our favorites was Rancho Viejo where good lunches can be had for under $5 and a great breakfast for 45 pesos, but of course no visit would be complete without a visit to The Shack.  One dollar margaritas and beers and a hamburger that would choke a horse, but don't go expecting white table cloths, it isn't that kind of place, but do expect good food and great prices.

This is in the courtyard of a really funky hotel

We had been keeping a close eye on the elecricity consumption and it was pretty obvious that the fridge was taking a lot more juice here in the heat.
On one of our trips up to the marine store we 
noticed a store selling solar panels across the street.  A quick inspection showed that they had IN STOCK the exact panels that we needed.  The old VISA took a big hit and as it turned out the panels, made in Mexico, were actually less than at Downwind Marine in San Diego.  It took a couple of days to fit then but presto all of a sudden we were pretty close to being self sufficient.  It was very good not to have to worry about running the fridge or any of the other 12 things.

For all my Kiwi friends
We spent a few days in Marine de La Paz and enjoyed the ease of marina living, like endless hot showers and a stable boat.  It was here that we met Bob and Karyn from Long Beach on their lovely Norseman 447.  Bob dropped the rudder from his Hydrovane over the side, the air turned blue and  Karyn being a retired minister.  I dont know how many Hail Mary's Bob had to say but I bet it was a bunch!
Molly shows how it is done!
 The fruits and veggis were as fresh as you get. There wasn't much we awere lacking in that department. We can even get Canadian Maple syrup for pankcakes, AND there is lots of pancake flour on the shelves. Is this because of the influx of Canucks to Mexico or do the Mexicans actually eat pancakes?
Examples of the fresh vegies available.
It is not all work, you know

The Shack "Wall"

Rancho Viejo

We finally have a weather window and are heading out in the morning to the Isla Espiritu Santo (only 20 miles away) - going into Partida Cove an island just to the north east of us and protected in all weather. After that we will be off to a place on the mainland called Topolobampo ( NE 107 miles). The plan right now is once we arrive we will be taking a land based trip to the Coppper Canyon for 4 to 5 days.

Lonley cactus

Partita east
Marina de La Paz with the yacht of the world's richest man!

Just inside the La Paz entrance, Hard right!

The trip across from Partida to Topolobampo was without incident, the wind picked up to a whopping 13 knots before dropping back almost nothing.  Just before sunset we noticed big thunderheads to the east, over the mainland.  They did not seem to amount to anything for us, however we later learned that they could be a precuser to some pretty strong winds that sweep across, at time getting up to 60 knots.  Thank goodness we did not have any of that! 

The entrance into Topo is up a 12 mile channel into a huge harbor.  Well bouyed and the only bit of exitment was the arrival of the sand dredger, which upset the Admiral.
Here is an idea of where we are -  this place certainly is incredble.  Topo is the second largest deep water harbor in the world and we are here!! 
This is a great website showing everything around Topo and a bit on the copper canyon as well.

Today we are going out to see Pechocho (a dolphin that was abandoned by his pod during a hurricane 19 years ago) and he has been adopted by the locals.  We are 1 of 4 sailboats here at the marina, our other friends are arriving today and we will plan our trip with them to the Copper Canyon.
You can watch Pechocho on youtube.
Holistic remedies in Los Mochis
Our friends and boat buddies on Real Time, Bob and Karyn finally arrived from La Paz in some nasty weather and we were just glad that they had made it safe.  We gave them a day to recover and pack for our trip. We left early on Tuesday morning  by local bus from Topolobampo to Los Mochis (Place of the Turtles) with the winds and seas kicking up again it was a good time to go sightseeing.

Bob, Karyn and Leif
So aremed withlots of advice from our fellow boaters who had just returned as we headed out.  As we were walking across the highway from the marina with backpacks and the duffel bag between us the bus arrived.  The driver stopped and waited for us and several of the young men jumped off the bus to help us with the luggage (always wonder if we look old  or they are doing it for a tip:) but most of the time they are just wonderful, always people helping out.  It was hard to find a seat that didn't have all the stuffing missing or window that we could see out - no pictures on this trip. The bus ride was 17 pesos (about $1.50) for a 25 km. bus ride. We had visited the city several days before and saw the few sights they had to offer. Los Mochis was developed in 1903 by an American who established a sugar plantation business here.  It has a big city feel with the usual plaza with flowers (now poinsettias for Christmas) but has a beautiful large park and a botanical garden with trees that are not native to the area.

We could see people wandering through and enjoying the shade that the beautiful park had to offer.  A local artist had carved faces and animals into the trunks of  trees that had died. Another thing that I enjoyed was the holistic market that had herbs, bark etc. and cures for everything from cancer to indigestion in huge big bins - very interesting.  The city is also known for its  delicious seafood so we did enjoy that as well at the famous El Farallon restaurant.  

When the bus arrived in Los Mochis we grabbed our luggage and were off on foot for several blocks to the blue bus station that was to take us to El Fuerte.  This bus was first class, very comfortable with air conditioning and the movie Transformers playing with Spanish subtitles - not my kind of movie but practiced my Spanish a bit. We arrived 4 minutes before the bus was to leave so grabbed bananas, drinks and peanuts for the journey. Bob had headed off in a different direction to get some drinks and we spent a frantic few minutes before we realized that he was calmly sitting on the bus while we ran around looking for him.  The bus driver was standing at the door tapping his wrist watch!  This was a 2 hour bus trip costing 70 pesos ($5.25). We could have caught the train to the Copper Canyon from here but by going on by bus to El Fuerte we could sleep an extra 2 hours in the morning besides we wanted to visit El Fuerte, which is a designated Pueblo Magic (Magic Town).  These are towns designated by the government as of historical importance and qualify for federal assistance to fix up the area.
Rio Vista
View from the terrace
Arriving in El Fuerte (The Fort) we grabbed a taxi to take us to the Rio Vista Hotel (River View Hotel) on the  recommendation of fellow yachties. El Fuerte was founded in 1564 by the Spanish.  It is one of the most picturesque and clean little towns I have ever seen in Mexico. At first glance the Rio Vista Hotel looked intriguing with all of its eclectic artefacts, the awesome view of the El Fuerte river- with goats, cows, and chickens living just below the hotel. Our room #11 was painted with kingfishers and had a view of the river.
We dropped our luggage off and headed to town for lunch -  we had to test out the margaritas and tacos - delicious both. Back to the hotel to meet up with Chal our guide for the afternoon.  We head out by truck with boat in tow as we are going  bird watching and then off down the river to see a set of petroglyphs. After doing that Chal rowed us down the river as the sun set, it was magical.  BUT when we got back to the hotel I realised my legs were eaten up by noseeums.  The bugs here seemed to have a special venom, the itching plagued me for a number of weeks.

 It was very damp and  had turned cold (around 60 :( but when you are used to 80 that is COLD:) and this is when we figured out we had no heat in our rooms and we were eating our dinner outside by a fire to keep us warm. Dinner was great with freshly caught fish and langoustines.

When we asked for more blankets -  they arrived with a heater as well - the fan heater allowed us to sleep more soundly and not have to hear the rooster that would certainly be waking everyone at  around 4:30 a.m.  We walked to a wonderful little restaurant to have coffee (to warm up) and dessert - some people went as far as having brandy or Bailey's in their coffee.  We decided we liked this place so much we are staying another night. In the morning the river is covered with fog so we take lots of pictures and the birds now are around the trees also trying to keep warm.  After breakfast which is beside the fire it is another walk to town to warm up.  We visit all the  wonderful Spanish architecture - the large Palacio Municipal (now housing a lot of government offices), plaza, church, museum, fort and the old Posada del Hidalgo hotel (where we should have stayed) I think they had heat!!!  This was also the birth place of Zorro and the hotel has a great statue of him in the forecourt.  After lunch we buy a couple bottles of wine as we head up to tour the reconstructed Fort.  We enjoyed our wine on the deck of the hotel and watch an amazing sunset.  We are not eating outside again so head off to town for dinner.  The next morning same routine with breakfast outside by the fire, they even brought out another electric heater which we stuck under the table to try and warm things up and then off to the train station for 8 a.m. 

Morning view from the terrace
Remember how we were drinking wine on the deck - well our guide Chal had joined us and convinced us we should get off the train at Bahuichiva and he would hook us up with a guide that would meet us and take us to a great hotel. The only thing he asked us was if we liked to hike - we all said YES!!  We thought it  sounded wonderful and never really asked any more questions - price of tours, hotel etc. you just show up and it will all be taken care of.

We were the only tourists catching the train that morning for our 5 hour journey - the train is modern, air conditioned, clean and travelled slowly.  We were able to get great photos of the canyons - passing over rivers and going thru the 86 tunnels. The train hugs the sheer cliffs and the river beds are far below - with a few derailed train cars at the bottom of them. It took them 10 years to lay this track. 

Rail car in the gorge
The Copper Canyon has over 20 canyons carved out of the Sierra Tarahumara by 6 different rivers and they are 4 times larger than the Grand Canyon.  We are headed to the deepest canyon Barranca de Urique at 1879 meters with a sub tropical climate but its peaks are about 2300 m above sea level. - but at the time we did not know this.  We are met at the train station by Mario and  his Toyota 4 runner - with springs shot and a back door that does not open so the luggage is tossed over the back seat with a crate of eggs and we are off into the hills, but don't know WHERE, we only know the name of the hotel!!!  For the next 30 minutes we drive up into the hills on the roughest road I have ever travelled and we are all beginning to wonder what we have gotten ourselves into.  We pass the small village Cerocahui - where we see a very large number of indigenous people, the Tarahumara, lined up to receive their government money at the local office. They have travelled from their homes in the hills by foot or in the back of someone's truck if they are lucky enough to be picked up  - that is the whole family (they collect 60 pesos (about $5 for each child per month).   We pass trucks of soldiers with bullet proof vests on and machine guns over their shoulders - again we begin to wonder with all the talk of the drug problem here and what better place to grow. 
We finally arrive at our hotel - well not a hotel but a mountain cabin -  Cabana San Isidro Lodge - with a wood burning stove in the room for heat and very heavy hand woven blankets on the beds - now we are worried.  Lunch is served shortly - soup and very basic tacos , cold beans with grated cheese.  We then head off for a hike to see some of the homes of the Tarahumara natives but no one is home. Back to the cabins to light our fires and at 6 we have margaritas by the campfire and dinner at 6:30.  Somehow it doesn't fit -  drinking iced margaritas by a fire when you are freezing:)

Our humble abode
In the morning we are up at 7 for breakfast and ready for our big hike.  We drive to the top of this incredible canyon and for 3 hours we hike the edge with sheer drops - all I could think was don't slip and our guide was Victoriana-  a Tarahumara runner 65 years old  that had won the 100 mile race in his day with his tire tread sandals.  He could have probably run the 3 hours and not gotten tired.  He spoke a little English but for us out of shape hikers who can talk when they walking anyway:) 
The intrepid hikers

After the 3 hours our driver picked us up and we drove toward the bottom of the canyon where we could see the town of Urique.  We stopped at the school for the children that live in the hills.  It  was a one room school house (just having moved into their new building) with 28 children (ages 5 - 12) and 1 teacher.  Children are children where ever you go - they were happy to see us and show us around the school.  It was the last day of school for the Christmas holidays so they all had received candy from the teacher.  It was also lunch time and mothers were heating refried beans in another building where the children ate - but it was hot and smoky.  Leif and Bob started playing soccer with the boys -  most had no shoes on but they were all smiling and a few came out to show off their skills.  After they ate lunch they all had to wash their own dishes outside from a large water container - even the little ones.

We are now heading down again by car.  We can see the town way below with a very large street running down the center and just before we arrive a medi vac plane lands, and takes out one of the dogs that has run out onto the street, to take a very sick child to the hospital.  After lunch we head back up the canyon  on the rough hair pin turn road and back to our digs to light a fire but Leif could not get it going tonight so we have to ask for help.  We find 12 American travellers have arrived to spend the night and then will be going to the train as well tomorrow.  Cold margaritas by the fire again and then we all enjoy dinner together and after we have a sing song.  Next morning we travel back towards the train and stop at the town of Cerochui.  We visit the Jesuit church built in 1690 and across the street is the boarding school for all the Tarahumara children over 12 years old.  They house 300 children at the school.  They also have a beautiful hotel called the Mission Hotel and they had heat in the rooms!!!
The train ride down was again comfortable but we lost the light very shortly after leaving so Nichols Sparks kept me company on the way down.  We go all the way to Los Mochis and then catch a taxi back to Topo arriving home by 10:00 pm. 
We are now stocking up for our sail to Mazatlan which is approx. 200 miles and 2 nights at sea which does not make me happy but once there we will stay for several weeks.  We will go again to the Copper Canyon but do it a little different next time.

Brenda (Borboletta) and Heidi (Tahnoo) at Topo
After returning from the Copper Canyon we were all set to leave for Mazatlan but things always seem to change.  First, the weather started kicking up again as we were ready to go Tuesday and then our buddy boaters, Karyn, got sick with a bad head cold.  So they asked us if we could wait for 24 hours and then go but the wind had come up again and we were not able to leave until Friday.  There was not much to do in Topo as it is just a small village and the winds had brought cool temps with it so it was inside jobs - like sleeping, cooking, reading and watching movies and checking the computer. We had such good internet service but no phone service.  Another boat called Prairie Seashell arrived on Weds. and  as they came in  I said they have to be from home with a boat name like that - would you believe from Calgary.  So we visited and shared stories, shopped and had  a few meals with them.   On Thursday night the other 3 boaters arrived back from the Copper Canyon.  So they shared their adventure on the dock  as we were heading out.  We were telling them to hurry and get out of Topo because the forecast window was only good for 2 days again.

Sunset and another night at sea
Our weather forecast on Friday was for little or no wind all the way to Mazatlan for our 210 miles journey.  We came out of Topo 12 miles channel under engine and continued to motor all day and night and until the wind began to pick up Saturday morning. 
We had alot of large whales but no one putting on a show for us.  Several large frigate birds tried to land on the top of the mast.  We fished all day but catch nothing again.  Finally able to turn the engine off we sailed under 8 knots of wind until about 4 and then all hell broke lose again.  Gusts up to 19 knots and with the wind behind us we were moving well around 6 to 7 knots but we had another problem in that if we kept going this fast and if the wind continued all night we would get to Mazatlan at 2 in the morning and no one goes into this harbor at night.  SO when we finally get some wind to sail we have to take all the sails down and go around 3 knots and it is like being in a washing machine - steep short seas from behind.

We had the most beautiful sunset ever that night. When it was my watch time at 2 am there were at least 20 shrimp boaters around.  Most along the coast but 4 directly in front.  Leif says - you will be fine and so my eyes are glued to these boats.  It is so very hard to tell the direction they are going as they have such bright lights and distance is so hard to judge at night even when the moon is out. Well all was well for about 30 minutes and then 2 were coming straight at me one from each side.  When you can see the crew  moving on the deck they ARE CLOSE!!!!  So I panic and shout for Leif and together we managed to dodge them.
Shrimper in daylight

We made landfall at about 10:30 on Sunday morning and was so glad to get in as the wind was really starting now and all we could do was think of our friends from Vancouver out for another day in this wind.  Hot showers and Mexican laundry service always make one appreciate the finer things in a sailor's  life. We have an all inclusive hotel facility here - 2 pools and the hot tub and all the activities if one wants to participate.  We will stay for a couple of weeks before heading out to Pueto Vallarta to meet my brother coming on the 7th of Jan.

El Cid marina
I am sure you all are in the Christmas spirit and rushing about  to get everything done before Sunday.  We are very laid back - have a little decorated Christmas tree that Kirsten gave us before we left on the table.  We  will be  appreciating the Mexicans version of Christmas which I think is just as hectic as back home seeing the shoppers with all of their packages on the bus yesterday.  About 20 of us are getting together to do a large pot luck with all the trimmings by the pool - my first tropical Christmas - do I miss the snow and the rushing around? - NO - but  we do  miss the family:(  We hope to see them down here in the new year. London is already packing for the trip to see Bama and the beach:) We talk to them almost everyday on Skype so that helps.
Add caption
Our friends from Vancouver arrived safely with weather almost as bad as we all  had on the Oregon coast back in August.  They keep saying it will get better but we are all waiting to see that happen.  Warm today - 26 and sunny.  Movie night tonight at the El Cid courtesy of the marina, with free popcorn even!  Somehow snowmen really seem out of place in Mazatlan when the temperatures are near 80!
We did not take a ride in the "pneumonia", a form of open air taxi that abounds in Mazatlan.  We did however get a ride in a pickup with benches in the back and a covered roof.  There are some great restaurants like The Fat Fish-for the best pork ribs, a great hamburger place in the old town, don't miss the Topo for a terrific Mexican meal, and I don't mean tacos-best coconut breaded shrimp ever and of course the ever present street venders who serve up good food real cheap.
We got a little spanish lesson here, we had the birria de borrego, it tasted delicious.  However we later learned that it was sheep, something we usually avoid.  Just goes to show you that there should be no preconceived notions, especially with food!
Mexican Santa Claus
Santa found us in Mazatlan!  The marina put on a Christmas dinner for those in the marina.  They did an excellent job and the food was first class.  We really have to take our hat off to the El Cid they certainly try to make your stay memorable.  However it wasn't too long after Christmas that we had to leave if we were going to take in Isla Isablea and get to Puerto Vallarta to meet up with Jacki's brother, Doug and our son Christian was coming as well.  We left feeling a bit sad leaving Mazatlan but were looking forward with catching up with family.

No comments:

Post a Comment