In Southeast Asia we never stayed in place longer than 5 nights. This created an almost constant rhythm of every other day neatly packing our bags back in order, hopping on a new bus, and moving onto our next location. We developed a mantra; new day, new city. Hanging out in Cabo San Lucas by the pool with family was a welcome chance for us to catch our breath. For 10 full days we were able to take a vacation from our mantra with no real plan other than to swim by the pool, enjoy the sun, and eventually find some food. Yet, by the end of the 10 days both Mandy and I were ready to get back on the road. We missed our new day new city life. The only difference now was we had no end day in sight. As we boarded our bus to La Paz to start backpacking across Mexico, we were eager to get immersed in new sights, new cities, and most importantly, the Mexican people and their culture.
We stayed in two different locations in La Paz and each had their own flavor. Our first stay gave us that familiar feeling of culture shock. Behind an iron gate sat two apartment units, one being rented by us via AirBnB, and the other our host’s home. The dirt yard was strewn with toys from his children and mangos that had fallen from their tree. Their dog, who was chained in the back, would constantly bark the moment she saw us. We weren’t in Kansas anymore once again.
Eager to explore the city, we dropped our bags and headed out to the Malecon of La Paz. I had never heard of a Malecon before the start of our trip in Mexico but every town along the coast we have gone to since has one. Essentially it is a long stretch of paved walkway that goes along the sea. Roller-bladers, skate boarders, walkers, runners, and bicyclists cruise along the Malecon past a whole host of unique statues and the sign which displays in boldly colored letters the name of the town you are in. We walked up and down the Malecon and caught a beautiful sunset. We can see why this town is a major Mexican tourist destination.
Around the port on the Malecon there were a couple of tours being offered out to Isla de Espiritu Santo, a massive island off the coast where sea lions are plentiful. Having never seen sea lions, or as our tour guide called them, “lobos del mar”, in the wild, we were excited. Literally translated this means sea wolves, and after the tour we could see why they had this name. Our guide spoke very little English and we shared the tour with a Mexican family who knew little to no English. Translation? Much of the trip Mandy and I were a bit on our own in interpreting what was going on around us. Despite this we still had a blast.
Swimming with sharks is one of those items that seems to show up on most dare devil bucket lists, but I submit swimming with the lobos del mar was an adrenaline rush, and worthy of any bucket list. Once in the water with these creatures it was simply amazing to see how quickly they can move in the water. The most intense bit came when a particularly big sea lion who just had fought with another sea lion for a good sunspot slipped into the water. When I say big, I would say he was probably 600 lbs at least. Anxiously I am scanning underwater to see where he is turning in a 360 circle, and then, there he is no more than 3-5 feet from me coasting by. Cue the adrenaline spike!
At our second location we were right by the center of La Paz in a square called Jardin Velasco. As we have traveled through Mexico this has been a common theme as well. Typically, a giant square with gardens and a big pavilion in the center. The one in La Paz is directly in front of the Cathedral de La Paz, an old Catholic church from colonial times. Ironically it is here on a walk back from sunset we found live music on the corner.
Like most teenagers, punk rock was a staple growing up. Screaming, yelling, and head banging. Probably the last place I would expect to see some of the most genuine Oi punk rock is in an outdoor square in front of a colonial Catholic church, but boy is that what we got. A three-man band screamed out some epic Oi that will always be burned in my memory. Although we didn’t learn the name of the band or understand the lyrics of the song, we felt the energy, and we loved it.
A short bus ride to the north of La Paz is a magical beach called Balandra Bay. White sand beach lines the bay that has ankle deep water for hundreds of feet, so shallow you can very nearly walk across the bay without having to swim. Mandy and I are suckers for a beach, so we had to go check it out after seeing some of the pictures online. Aside from the bus not picking us up where we were dropped off (FYI for anyone going here you need to walk up to the main road out of the parking lot for pick up) the whole experience was just what you are looking for out of a beach day. We rented an umbrella for 200 pesos and read our books by the beach packed with Mexican vacationers and locals alike.
La Paz was a great small beach town where I feel we got our first real taste of Mexican culture outside of the hotel district in Cabo San Lucas. The sunsets were magical, the town is very walkable, and we met a couple of locals who gave us some good tips on where to go as we travel through Mexico.
Similar to Southeast Asia we always have our ears open to hear where we should go next, whether that be in person or online.
From La Paz, we wanted to head directly to Mazatlan and had heard that there was a ferry that goes directly there, albeit being a 13-hour ride. We walked over to Baja ferries where we had seen tickets to Mazatlan online only to find that service to Mazatlan no longer exists. So began our first detour in Mexico.