Easter weekend is known as Semana Santa (week of the Saints I think) here in Mexico and apparently the holiday is bigger than Jesus himself. We have been in La Paz three nights now licking our travel wounds incurred over the last 3000 miles and it is time to get moving. After changing our oil this afternoon, the team will finally head south to La Ventana for the weekend.
Yesterday Charlie, Alex, and I started the day by going to the ferry terminal to import our bikes before we head to mainland. It was a relatively easy process that cost only $35 and I was pretty excited that my Spanish got me through the entire ordeal. On the way there we passed a semi tractor and trailer that had come into a turn too hard and tipped off the road right next to a beautiful lagoon. As a former truck driver myself, it was quite an intense sight. His cargo was scattered everywhere down into the ditch and the cops were just arriving on the scene. Another thing to look out for down here: Mexican semis; they crowd the lanes and take the right of way.
After importing our bikes we headed south to La Ventana to check out if the rumors are true. I obviously wanted to go windsurfing and Charlie wanted to go find his friend Fernando (motorcycling kiteboarder in Mulege) who had given us his address in town; Al was along for the ride. We got lost a couple times on the way down, but we eventually found the route and cruised down to La Ventana on the worst roads I have seen yet. There were plenty potholes the size of manholes and they were often three or four inches deep. I hit one at a good clip and had a scary moment as my bike wobbled back into its natural gyro at 60mph.
La Ventana was bittersweet. Fernando won’t be home for four days and the wind is nowhere to be found. We ate pizza and talked with the owners of a kiteboard shop for a long time trying to make a plan for Semana Santa. Charlie quickly found us a room for $30 a night on the corner of this kite shop’s warehouse. It has a king bed, a twin, and a couch; luxury by our standards. The building is right on the predominant sandy windsurfing beach which will apparently fill with Mexican campers this weekend for the big holiday. We made the call without Sarah and paid for four nights because the accommodation was too good to be true, especially on Mexico’s biggest weekend.
So, even though there is not much wind predicted in the future, I will be there for the next four days should it ever come up. If not, there is a wealth of wind info in La Ventana and I will be chatting with every tan, built, American I see down there. Already I cannot believe the city’s connection with the Gorge. All three people I talked to yesterday made some reference to Hood River (which makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about when I say I worked there).
Anyway, we rode home in the evening, told Sarah the plan (she loved it), chatted with more internationals, and went to bed. This morning Charlie and Sarah cooked a delicious breakfast and we are finally going to do that oil change here in the Pension California. I shaved my mustache too. It was a sad moment but it turns out most of the women of the western world cannot get past such an awesome symbol of machismo. Plus I was tired of dropping dead every time I looked in a mirror.
Also, Alex and I were riding around town running errands yesterday when we decided to bust a completely illegal U-turn on a red light in front of a Mexican police cruiser. Oops! I knew this day would come but I was not excited to see four Mexican cops bearing down on me. I freak out when an American cop pulls me over so when the Mexican blueberry and cherry are flashing in my mirrors I get a little unnerved. Al and I pulled over and two cops stepped out of the cruiser and walked over; two more were watching from the back seat.
They explained to us what we had done wrong and then showed us a traffic infraction table that said we owed $110 dollars each. Throughout the ordeal Alex was making jokes, denying the entire incident, and basically being a big pain in their ass. They took it well; they kept joking back and were actually enjoying Alex’s brash attitude. The banter went on for about ten minutes before the officer mentioned something about taking us to the station. Uh-oh! We asked him what could be done right here right now and of course there was an easy solution: bribery!
Once we started talking bribes the ballpark of $50 was thrown around and the cops sounded pretty satisfied with that. Alex wanted to keep arguing it down, but I was ready to cave; I didn’t want these guys to get sick of being pushed around by the gringos and then actually take us in… for the rest of our lives. We covertly put the 500 pesos in the officer’s notebook and the deal was done. We all shook hands, said have a great day, and continued on our journeys.
In the end we paid less than a quarter of what they originally wanted and I was satisfied. It definitely put us over budget for the day, but so do a lot of things… like the WAY too expensive Carrera sunglasses I bought the same day (I am so cool now). We later talked to a local who said we could have gotten away with a measly $20 total for getting pulled over. I’ll remember that in the future: waste the cop’s time enough and he will cave. He doesn’t actually want to take us down to the station… that’s a lot of work.
Overall, La Paz has been great. We finally encountered people our own age and it has been a lot of fun hearing their stories while Alex talks over them. I just found out too that our new friend Eric is coming to La Ventana with us. Eric is 31 from San Diego and riding his bicycle to Argentina. We have been one upped. Hopefully I run into some Wi-Fi down there. If not, I’ll be back in La Paz in a few days to take the ferry to mainland. Until then, pray for wind!