After two weeks in Cabo turned into two fun filled months, we headed to La Paz to board the ferry for Mazatlan. We arrived at the ferry terminal two hours early as instructed and I walked through customs while Aron drove through and waited in line to drive the van onto the ferry. We paid an extra 500 pesos (about $42) for a private little cabin with twin beds and a sink and it was well worth it to have a comfortable place to sleep and watch a movie during the 16 hour ride. The ferry was nice, nothing fancy, and had a little cafeteria that sold snacks and served dinner and breakfast and there was a movie theater like room with seating for passengers without cabins. There were also bathrooms with showers which was nice. In the morning we grabbed some coffee and watched the sunrise over the ocean and stayed up on the deck to watch Mazatlan and the islands off the coast come into view.
As soon as we got off the ferry in Mazatlan we headed to the beach. We drove north through the city along the coastal boardwalk- or malecon in Spanish- and saw that people were busy setting up band stages and food and beer stands along the street. We realized it was the Friday of Carneval in Mazatlan, the third largest festival in the world after Carneval in Rio de Janeiro and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. As we continued driving we started seeing large artistic statues of old famous actors, comedians, and musicians like this one of a famous luchador (I assume) below.
We drove to the northernmost end of Mazatlan, past the old city center and the Zona Dorada or tourist zone, to Playa Brujas (Witch Beach) and Playa Cerritos which are known for their surf. We found a little restaurant for lunch that overlooked Playa Cerritos where fishermen were bringing in fresh catches of fish, lobster, and oysters.
We shared the pescado zarandeado, or flame broiled fish, and it was blackened, crispy, and delicious.
After lunch Aron surfed little waves at Playa Brujas just south of Playa Cerritos before we decided we should probably start looking for a place to stay for the night.
We stopped at a few RV parks that we read about in a Mexican camping book that has been really helpful and we decided on Mar Rosa Trailer and RV park for its beachfront location and proximity to the festivities. We paid 250 pesos for the night which included a secure camping space and nice, clean bathrooms with hot showers.
After getting settled we headed out to explore the Friday night Carneval festivities. Carneval in Mazatlan is a five day celebration that always falls on the week before Ash Wednesday. It had started on Thursday, the day before we arrived, and is filled with events each day including a huge parade on Sunday that we would unfortunately miss. Friday night was a sort of fiesta night where 3 miles of the malecon and the street along it were closed to cars and were filled with food and beverage stands and numerous stages where different bands played.
It cost 30 pesos to get in and 20 pesos for beer, so we spent about $20 for a night of fun with food and drinks for both of us. As the night went on, the streets became filled with people and the bands started to play. A lot of the music was traditional banda style with 15 piece bands consisting of trumpets, trombones, tubas, and other brass instruments.
We ran into some people we met on the ferry from Oregon, France, and Mexico and wandered around with them checking out all the different bands and dance performances.
In the morning we headed out of Mazatlan with plans to camp somewhere along the way to Puerto Vallarta. As soon as we left the city the road started winding through little farms with grazing cows and horses and fields of corn and tomatoes and even rows of blue agave used to make tequila. After about 4 hours of driving on the toll road and passing a hundred little stands selling dried shrimp (camaron seco) and tamales, we arrived in San Blas. We had read about San Blas as a beautiful little surfing town lined with mangroves but also filled with lots of biting bugs like mosquitos, no seeums, and sand flies. We were a little hesitant to stay because of what we heard about the bugs but the sun was going down and we didn’t know what we would find further down the road. We paid 100 pesos to camp in the dirt parking lot at Stoner’s Surf Camp, named after a surf spot out front that wasn’t breaking while we were there. After putting on pants, long sleeves, and bug spray, we met up with some friends from Oregon that we met at Carneval and that are traveling though Mexico on motorcycles. We hung out in the town square of San Blas and had a few Palomas, my new favorite drink of tequila and grapefruit soda, and enjoyed some street tacos and fresh off the grill elotes (corn) with three different sauces including a delicious peanut sauce.
It was Saturday night and the town square was a happening place. It was brightly lit and lined with places to sit and stroll where families and young and old were enjoying the night. Being Saturday night, upon returning to the van, we quickly discovered that we were camped next to the main street along the beach where people like to cruise in their cars and play music as loudly as possible until the wee hours of the morning. It was not the best night of sleep we’ve had but we did get to hear some bumping Mexican music.
We woke up early the next morning and packed up and left, but not before Aron got bitten up by bugs pretty badly after only being outside of the van in shorts for 10 minutes. Once on the road we drove past rivers and mangroves and the scenery became green and jungly. There were groves of banana, mango, and coconut trees along the windy road through the lush green mountains.
We passed some nice little towns along the coast and turned off the road to check out Sayulita, a cute little colorful hippy surf town on the side of a hill.
We jumped in the water and strolled around a bit but left shortly after because we were excited to continue on to Puerto Vallarta to meet up with our friends Benny and Crystal from San Diego. They had moved to Puerto Vallarta in October and were living right in the center of town.
So far, Mexico is even more beautiful than we had imagined and we are so appreciative to have a year off from work to enjoy traveling and seeing new places. A post about our time in Puerto Vallarta will be coming soon!