Mazatlan (again) and Guadalajara

February - April 2007

An Orozco fresco in Guadalajara featuring the anti-slavery hero Don Miguel Hidalgo

We finally left La Cruz and headed back to Mazatlan, where we're spending a few weeks before sailing north to less developed areas in the Sea of Cortez. We spotted many sea turtles and a few whales on our way out of Banderas Bay--a few of the turtles had tiny seabirds hitching a ride on their backs.

After several previous aborted attempts to visit Isla Isabella, we finally had a favorable weather forecast to visit this unique island on our way to Mazatlan. It's legendary for great diving and is home to breeding populations of blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds. Since the anchorage doesn’t provide much protection, the weather has to be calm to stay there. We were very disappointed when the wind started picking up within an hour of our arrival. We decided to raise anchor and head on to Mazatlan.

When we tried to lift the anchor, we discovered it was jammed in some rocks. As we struggled to loosen it, a pair of incensed frigate birds started attacking the red markers on our wind direction indicator at the top of the mast. The male frigate has a huge red sack at his throat that he inflates to attract a mate. The markers were a very close match in color to this sack, and must have gotten these birds riled up. The pair made quite a picture with their six-foot wingspans spread out 40 feet above us, jabbing over and over at the indicators. Finally we got the anchor up (with a bent shank) and sailed away from the pissed-off birds. We figure the visit cost us $100 an hour (a new anchor will cost about $500).

We are well settled in here at Club Nautico in Mazatlan, which is a place where locals can launch pleasure boats. Our stern is tied to a concrete wall, and our bow is tied to a mooring buoy. We still use the dinghy to get ashore, but here it's a couple minutes rowing with a safe dinghy dock-—no more precarious climbs up the side of a giant dock at low tide. The facilities are fairly primitive—-dogs drink out of the toilets and cockroaches and geckos share the area, but the showers are hot, and it's a pleasant 15-minute walk from here to the restored oldtown area. The aroma from the sewage treatment plant across the street at times makes our nostrils twitch, but we love the calm, flat water in this protected harbor. It's a nice change from having to hold on for dear life when moving around on deck or in the cabin at our last location.

Our second day here, we went to get Erin a check-up. We got a doctor's name and address from a tourist information office. Within half an hour of walking in the door with no appointment, we were being seen by not just one, but two doctors. The second doctor was merely offering his translation services. Imagine an extra doctor showing up to shoot the breeze with you at your HMO...the total cost was under $100 for an appointment and lab work (which came back showing no problems).

Erin has been getting one-on-one Spanish lessons from a waiter we met in a local restaurant. He's almost done with his mechanical engineering studies. They would sit in the main plaza as Erin learned how to say important things such as, “I smell something. Who farted?”

At the beautifully restored Angela Peralta theater we saw a world-class dance troupe perform Bolero, and The Rite of Spring with the local orchestra. The performance was great, and the venue was spectacular. We had front row center seats in the first balcony for $15 each--now that fits in our budget!

We recently returned from a 5-day break from the boat to visit Guadalajara (an inland city about 300 miles from Mazatlan at an elevation of 4500 feet). It was great to see all the culture in this old world city seemed European, except that neither of us has seen anything in Europe to compare with the size of Guadalajara's beautiful pedestrian plazas.

The 8-hour bus ride to the city sounds more painful than it was. There are different classes of buses in Mexico, and we paid the extra $5 a head for the top-of-the-line bus. We passed all other traffic on the highways, had a smooth ride, watched bad movies (some in English), and relaxed in our comfy, cushy seats. The toilet on the bus, however, was not so deluxe. No toilet paper, no paper towels, sometimes no light. A potential emergency was avoided more than once when Erin whipped out her special travel roll of toilet paper. Like a T.P. superhero, she dispensed squares to desperate passengers on the bus ride out, and didn't even charge them!

In Guadalajara, we were especially impressed with the Instituto Cultural Cabañas and its incredible frescos by Juan Clementin Orozco, the “Michaelangelo of Latin America”. Orozco greatly admired Don Miguel Hidalgo, who ended slavery in Mexico in 1810 (54 years before it was officially abolished in the U.S.) and advocated independence from Spain. Hidalgo is featured in the Orozco fresco pictured at the top of this page.

Every government building and museum featured beautiful courtyards and lots of kids. It was Easter week, after all! The weather was perfect every day—but the dry air and elevation leads to lots of sniffling, just like being in Denver.

We avoided busting our travel budget by staying at a low-end hotel. The lobby was lovely, but the shriveled cockroach under the desk in our room was not. The second night, Erin had a midnight battle with a live roach. She emerged victorious. We thought the towel routine was odd. Housekeeping took our used towels daily, but wouldn't replace them. We had to ask for new ones at the desk every day. This also applied to rolls of toilet paper.

Since we have no TV on the boat, we were entranced by the one in our room. We would watch anything in English, no matter how bad. Two of the five days we were there, we only left the room for a total of two hours. The rest of the time we sat in bed drinking beer, watching bad TV, and enjoying not having to check any lines on the boat. We had a great and very relaxing time.

Now it's back to the smelly old harbor in Mazatlan. Much as we've enjoyed this city, we're ready to move on. Now we're just waiting for the right weather window to allow us head up into the Sea of Cortez.

Selected moments:

We had a crazed single-handing male neighbor for the first week we were here. We wanted the spot his boat was in, so we waited impatiently while he tried to figure out what was wrong with his engine so he could move on and we could take his spot. Two nights in a row, we listened to the engine starting up every 15 minutes or so. The second night, he stood out in the cockpit yelling, “Estoy listo! Estoy listo, babeeee!” ("I'm ready! I'm ready!") Then we heard, “Sh_t! I should have taken a bath! A BATH before I leave! Sh_t!” This was after he'd been drinking Pacifico all day as usual. He really must have been "listo", because the next morning, he was gone, presumably without a bath. And we got the spot tied to the wall.

One Friday night in Mazatlan we went out on the town. We arrived at the site of the restaurant mentioned in our six-year-old guidebook only to stare at a roofless, vine- and re-bar-filled wreck—-yet another hurricane victim. Down the block was another seafood restaurant, where we dined on delicious ceviche and swilled Pacifico (the only beer available, although the menu listed five others) while being serenaded by the soundtrack of “Men In Black,” which blasted from a TV screen hanging overhead. Watching TV is a rare event for us, since we don’t have one on the boat, so we relocated to the seats with a better view of the bad movie and learned a few swear words by reading the Spanish subtitles. We were the only customers in the restaurant, so the four waiters stood nearby watching the movie with us and laughing at Will Smith.

This beautiful spot at Isla Isabella became our nemesis when we bent our anchor shank there during a brief stop on our way to Mazatlan

Our favorite taco stand in Mazatlan

The main plaza in Mazatlan, Plazuela Machado, is a happening spot at night

The Angela Peralta Theater in Mazatlan, where we got great seats for $10

The lobby of our cheap hotel in Guadalajara harbored no cockroaches. They preferred our room.

Every government building we saw in Guadalajara featured marble floors and beautiful courtyards

Part of the interior of the main cathedral in Guadalajara

The Degallado Theater in Guadalajara

The "Man in Flames" dome fresco by Orozco in the Cabañas Cultural Institute

Statues and fountains in one of the city's many gorgeous plazas

Part of the main mercado in Guadalajara

Birria is a local specialty of mutton stew...

...and we enjoyed delicious barria in this restaurant

Four statues in a Guadalajaran plaza. Erin is admiring the peeing boy statue
Next Page