01/09/2009, La Paz
We decided that our travels in Mexico and central America would be much easier if we learned to speak Spanish.
We did not even discuss doing this any place other than La Paz. This is a wonderful city and the idea of spending a month here was very attractive, even if we were not going to go to school.
The school we selected "Se Habla La Paz" was a considerable distance from the Marina. It is a walkable distance but the thought of spending 45 minutes each way every day for a month seemed like it would become boring.
The distance problem was quickly solved with a little help from Juli, who runs the school. She hooked us up with Benjamin Duarte who rents bicycles. Benjamin is a very charming man who is extremely introspective. He was full of comments about the height and weight of mexican people (Benjamin is way less than one standard deviation away from the mean in both departments) and is a very service oriented businessman. Benjamin replaced the first bike he brought for Shawn in less than an hour when Shawn told him that he needed a taller bike because of his back problems. Benjamin provided the bikes, helmets, cables with locks, and a backpack with a pump, spare tube and lots of tools. He also gave us his cell phone number so we could call him if our bikes needed service. He also gave us lessons in the operation of the shifting mechanisms on the bikes.
So, we ride our rented bikes to school every morning.
It takes less than 15 minutes to ride to school and the route is along the malecon de La Paz.
El malecon is the ocean front street. In La Paz El Maelcon includes a wide, flat sidewalk right along the beach. It is very common for Latin American countries to set aside the city's waterfront as public space (usually called El Maelcon). El Malecon de La Paz is studded with bronze sculptures and small park like areas that encourage people to linger. The space has been carefully adapted to the life style of the citizens of this city.
There is a lot of, potentially expensive, real estate dedicated to this well used public space and it makes our daily commute to school a very pleasant experience. En route we get to see a lot of folks going about their day-to-day lives and also get to observe the daily tidal changes. When you pass by the same waterfront locations at the same time every day for several weeks you become very aware of the natural cycles that are obscured by urban life.
The boats anchored in the harbor do what is called the La Paz waltz with every change of the tide. The tidal currents are fairly strong and all of the boats turn to face the tidal flow like dancers in unison.
El malecon is the focal point of this seaside town, for good reason. The personality of La Paz has a lot to do with its seaside location.
12/31/2008, Off Isla San Jose, Sea of Cortes
We were chugging along comfortably when all of a sudden there was a vibration that we hadn't heard before. Being an optimist John first assumed that we had caught a very big fish but, unfortunately that was not the case.
We were not able to see anything on the prop by leaning over the side so John took everything out of the lazarette (no small task) to make sure the transmission and drive shaft was OK.
With a little experimenting we found that the vibration went away a lower rpm so we limped into the San Evaristo anchorage for New Year's Eve.
The following morning Shawn volunteered to brave the 64 degree water and swim down and have a look at the problem (Happy New Year). When he came up for his first breath he said that there was no difficulty diagnosing the problem. The picture above this blog entry shows the junk he pulled off the prop and drive shaft.
For the next 30 minutes he used a steak knife to carve several feet of polypro line and a plastic gunny sack off the shaft and prop. We have added some pictures of the debris to an album in the gallery section of the blog.
Some of the polypro rope had melted and was very difficult to get free. Shawn got enough of it off that vibration problem went away and we made it into La Paz without any more problem.
A diver is scheduled to come finish the job later in the week. The bottom needs cleaning anyway.
12/22/2008, Baja California
Today we took a bus trip from Santa Rosalia to Mulege (about 40 miles south on highway 1).
The photo with this post shows the view from an observation post behind the mission church on a hill outside of town. You can just make out the tower of the famous Mulege prison sticking up above the town in the distance.
It was hard to decide what to use for a photo for this post but the lush valley is really the thing that sets Mulege apart for the rest of the Mexican towns we have visited so it seemed like this was a good choice to show was most struck us about this place.
We bought our bus tickets yesterday and were on deck and ready to leave well before the 9:50 scheduled departure.
The bus was an hour late arriving in Santa Rosalia and the driver spent about 20 minutes screwing around with luggage and freight before we finally got underway toward Mulege.
In about 1/4 mile the bus pulled over to the side of the road and the driver announced a 20 minute dinner break (for him). So most everyone piled off the bus and stood around the highway for the 20 Mexican minutes that the driver took for his lunch. That works out to something slightly longer than 30 of the type of minutes John's watch measures.
We were standing there within sight of the bus station we had left from. Why he did not just wait to put people on the bus until he had finished his lunch is something we are still trying to figure out.
We finally got to Mulege a couple of hours later than we had planned but still had plenty to time to wander around and see the highlights.
Mulege is on the Santa Rosalia river which is one of the few fresh water rivers in this part of the world. As a result the river bank is lush with vegetation (mostly date palms) and is a very striking sight in the baja desert. Its very strange to see large stands of Saguaro cactus right up to the forest of date palms.
The mission church building is beautifully preserved and still in use. The tower and parts of the main building date to the early part of the 18th century.
While we were wandering around looking for the mission we ran across a young guy who was walking up the road carrying a bucket. Eager to test the Spanish we had been practicing on our DVD we asked for directions to the mission and got an appropriate response (always a bit of a surprise at this point in our studies). This young guy was walking our way so he escorted us all the way to the mission (using a short cut to get us up the hill behind the mission.
He told us that he worked with drug addicted kids, some as young as 10 years old.
In addition to its mission church mulege is known for its old prison building which is on a hill over the town. When it was in operation the prisoners were allowed out during the day to work and spend time with their families. They were summoned back at night.
Apparently the rare escapee was usually hunted down and brought back by the other prisoners who had a vested interest in seeing the honor system remain intact.
One of the other things we noticed about Mulege is that it is really loaded with gringos. We saw California, Nevada, Colorado and British Columbia license plates on cars and RVs loaded with surfboards and fishing gear.
The trip back was a real E ticket ride (in the old Disneyland parlance). Our driver had a heavy foot and went barreling along inches away from small herds of cattle along the side of the highway. We should have been suspicious that we were dealing with an aggressive driver when the bus arrived and left on time.
We were both struck by the incredible beauty of this place. Once you get even a few hundred yards from the relatively dirty towns you find yourself in virtually untouched stands of cactus and stunning views of the rugged mountain ranges that make up this part of Mexico.
We took a bunch of pictures and will upload them into a gallery album. The pictures we have taken of the countryside just dont do it justice so we are leaving those out until we figure out how to get photos that do a better job of showing the beauty of this part of the world. There is something about the scale of the cactus stands that does not come through in our photos.