Harry and I have driven over 20,000 kilometers by now. It really doesn’t feel that way. For me, too, the blog is a helpful reminder of where we’ve already been and what we’ve seen during the past three and a half months on the road.
As we are about to cross the Tropic of Cancer, thus entering the tropics, the scenery is changing fast. Remnants of Spanish colonization are as ubiquitous as lush green foliage. The mission church in San Ignacio, picture above, was built of lava rock; its walls are over four feet (1.2m) thick.
Fraenzi, Martin and I were eager to also see Santa Barbara church in Santa Rosalia. Designed by Gustave Eiffel and made of metal sheeting, it was supposed to be erected in one of France’s sub-Saharan colonies. When that deal fell through, it was eventually shipped to Baja California.
On November 11, Team Uyarak and Team Harry parted ways. Fraenzi and Martin had to slow down and stay put for a few days to allow friends from Zurich to catch up with them. Meanwhile, Harry and I drove nearly 500 kilometers in one day to reach La Paz–the main city in Baja California Sur–in order to buy a ferry ticket to Mazatlan for October 14. We stayed at Campestre Maranatha just past El Centenario, a recently renovated Christian camp that doubles as an RV park (USD16 per night). That’s where we met Mario and Gino, two brothers in their late twenties from Ohio who are currently en route to Patagonia in their Honda CRV. With the recent rains, the mosquitoes were vicious, and we ended up putting up my 10’x10′ screened canopy which provided at least some protection.
On October 12 Harry and I reserved a spot on the Oct. 14 TMS ferry to Mazatlan and stocked up on groceries. We then met with Mario and Gino for a delicious mariscos (seafood) lunch on La Paz’s Malecon. Afterwards we headed south toward Los Barrilles, a small town on the southeastern coast.
Just as we were about to leave La Paz, I paid my first bribe. A municipal police officer who–an assault rifle dangling in front of him–had stopped la bestia, probably after noticing the foreign plates. At first he had merely wanted to see the temporary vehicle import sticker, but when that strategy failed (la bestia has the required sticker), he claimed that I had been caught speeding. I asked him for proof; he replied that I would need to accompany him to the police station to dispute his claim unless… well, unless I had a “small gift” (pequeno regalo) for him. I asked him what that regalo would look like. “It’s very hot today,” he said, “so maybe something so I can buy a drink?” “Fine,” I replied, “I have some beers in the cooler, would you like one?” He grimaced. “No, money is more practical,” he explained.
At this point I should have called his bluff. But I didn’t. I simply didn’t have it in me. I just wanted to continue on our way. So I showed him my wallet, which only had one USD20 bill and several USD1 bills in it. “The $20 would be fine,” he whispered. “No,” I replied. “I am poor. I cannot give you all I have. All I can offer you as a regalo is the $1 bills.” He hesitated, then nodded. “Okay, fine,” he said and took the money. “Have a safe trip. And don’t get caught speeding!”
I was upset — not because of the money lost (probably USD10; I did not count it) but because I had let myself down. I promised myself to be tougher if and when such a situation happens again. I have a feeling that I won’t have to wait for long.
Harry and I arrived in Los Barriles in the late afternoon and after dashing through two mighty thunderstorms. We set up camp in East Cape Casas & RV Resort, probably the most manicured campground I’ve come across in Baja. The shower–with a large rain shower head and ample water pressure–alone was worth the USD10 fee. In addition, I was finally able to do laundry, and the manager (Omar) turned out to be a soccer fanatic who knew way more about the Bundesliga than I ever will.
Two strong margaritas helped me drown my anger about getting ripped off in La Paz. Unfortunately, when I returned to Harry and la bestia the temperature and humidity had not changed at all, and we had a sweaty and semi-sleepless night (around 2AM I even started la bestia‘s engine for fifteen minutes to run the AC). We woke up exhausted and realizing that we may need to look into alternatives to driving all the way to Panama. For now, though, we are going to explore Cabo Pulmo where one can camp on the beach, and tomorrow we’ll return to La Paz to catch the 4PM ferry to the Mexican mainland.