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Day 7: The Hidden Magic of San Blas

February 14, 2006

To start with, a few words about the last night. The transfer to the mainland was rather uneventful, if not to mention that it lasted for almost 8 hours instead of the promised 5, and, most importantly, we had an accidental honour of meeting a grandson of one of the US Presidents! Andrew, the grandson, was pleased and very eager to enlighten us about his grandpa (or perhaps great grandpa?..) who was the founder of the US Santa Fe railway and de facto President of the country for one day! Andrew even based his story on the materials from the Internet. Who knew… We felt very ashamed to not have known such a significant part of history before, and the only consolation at that disgraceful moment was the fact that Andrew himself discovered the noble granddad's existence only 2 days earlier… There is a museum in San Diego dedicated to Andrew's grandfather. Too many beers on the ferry: can't remember the granddad's name :(

Andrew himself turned out to be quite a specimen: a hitchhiker/ surfer, originally from Australia, he was traversing the world in search of the best waves. For as long as he has some money in his pocket, Andrew's world would consist of a backpack and a surfboard. Money gone, he would go back to Australia and work as a carpenter for as long as it takes to save enough for a new trip… We gave Andrew a lift from the ferry terminal to Los Mochis (about 15 miles into the mainland) where we all found a cheap but decent motel to stay for the night. Andrew treated us with some beers and we chatted some more. A really nice guy, our type of vagabond :) As it was getting very late and we were hoping to start at dawn the next day, we wished each other the best of luck and parted.

Having finally made up our mind to skip the Copper Canyon (which was on the "maybe list" for a long time but in the end got defeated by the Colca Canyon of Peru (one of world's deepest, twice deeper than the Great Canyon)), we continued rolling southwards. You have 2 choices from Los Mochis to Mazatlan: the old 2-laner Mex 15 ("libre") and the much faster alternative 4-lane divided Mex 15D, which at Guamuchil turns into a toll road ("cuota"). Trying to save some time (also kind of already fed up with the slow Mex 1) we choose the toll road and… it doesn't take us long to realize the decision was a mistake: "cuotas" in Mexico are VERY expensive. The merciless toll booths ("casetas") collected USD31 from us for a mere 194-mile stretch. In comparison with other prices, like lodging (you can get a decent motel for $8-20) or food, or the local people's income, the toll is simply ridiculous. The only comforting thing was that we were finally going at 80 mph on an excellent road and made it to Mazatlan in less than 3 hours. Will do our best to avoid Mexican "cuotas" in the future. The smaller alternative 2-laners are typically also more scenic, however, abundant trucks and other slow moving objects of questionable nature set the pace.

Tip #1. There is another ferry from the same terminal in La Paz/ Pichilingue which takes you directly to Mazatlan. Since the transit time of that one is about 14-17 hours, we did not consider it an option and did not even bother checking the schedule or the price. However, summing up all our mainland expenses on the stretch from Los Mochis to Mazatlan ($20 motel, $45 fuel, $31 toll road), the ferry to Mazatlan, if not significantly more expensive, might be a good idea, especially if they leave from La Paz in the afternoon (you get a free night onboard).

Past Mazatlan, the old Mex 15 is your only option. "Libre" and slow, but the scenery becomes very impressive: the road winds up and down along the Pacific, and the dull and dusty desert, the only thing we had all around us for 5 days in Baja, starts gradually turning into lush tropical vegetation. We are very impressed as we witness the first palm groves and banana plantations.

Off Mex 15, a narrow jungle lined Mex 11 is supposed to take us to the fishing village of San Blas. It was getting completely dark at the time we left Mex 15, and the 2005 AAA travel guide described Mex 11 as a road that requires a vehicle in the tip-top condition and a full tank of fuel. To be honest, we were completely uncertain of where we were going, and a bit afraid we would get into some marsh full of crocodiles driving in the middle of the jungle in the complete darkness. None of the AAA warnings, however, turned out to be accurate. Mex 11, although winding through the dense tropical forest, is a paved and well maintained 2-laner, which, on top of everything, is probably very scenic (couldn't see much at night but the palm tree branches and the lianas almost touching the roof of our Nissan surely looked impressive!). And you certainly don't need a full tank for a 22-mile distance.

Finally, San Blas: the hometown of the world-famous Mexican rock band "Mana" and the theme of one of their very beautiful songs (and, must admit, perhaps the major reason we went there at all :)). The attractive tiny fishing village with a history of having been an important harbour and ship construction yard for the Spanish fleet proved to be worth every effort. Needless to say, Mana was playing in our car as we entered the town… but did not seem to impress anyone at all :) The load "mariachi" sounds coming from the central square set the mood of the night. The town was celebrating St Valentine's Day with class! Lively and charming bodegas and petite "taquerias" were full of laughter and music, and - big surprise - almost no tourists! Needless to say, we were all smiles strolling down the narrow cobblestone streets and merging into the local fiesta.
Other than no traceable presence of Mana (at least some fan club or something!!), the town was simply great and worth every minute we spent there. The best Valentine's Day ever :) Here is the link for those who want to listen to Mana song samples.

Practicalities: there are many nice hotels all around the town, starting from $20 for a nice room with very basic amenities. Easy access to nice beaches and free camping can be found south of town, along the Pacific coast. (as well as numerous "palapa" style open air restaurants - must be quite a party at night!) For camping with services (hot shower, electricity hookups, etc..), head towards Santa Cruz on Mex 161. There is an excellent campground called "Playa Amores" right before the "Playa de Cocos" sign.

The last but definitely not the least was the little Walla restaurant episode. The two American guys singing "Cielito Lindo" (Click here to listen or view video) and other traditional Spanish and Mexican songs with a very appealing accent were simply lovely! Later, when one of them pulled out a rather big plastic bag with something much reminiscent of the "happy stuff", we thought it was very funny … The whole experience, however, was topped the little old lady of the romantic couple next to us, who for the first time that night let her husband's hand go in order to… light up a PIPE!!! (Zee found that very sexy and recommends that all smoking ladies switched from cigarettes to pipes, especially when on the first date - will surely knock any guy out! :)) Check out the visual material! The clips have been recorded in a rather dark environment so you may want to adjust your screen brightness to see better. We'll try to edit them later and increase the brightness while encoding.

Bizarre things may be happening in San Blas from dusk till dawn… All in all, we give the town the best possible rating but will never ever tell anyone about the little hidden magic place - let the tourist masses go to Cancun, Acapulco and all the fancy Cabos! :)

Cick on the pictures to enlarge

Not that we really care much about you, but if you're already here, then be our guest!

San Blas entrance

Ne tai, kad mums labai rupetu jusu apsireiskimas... bet, jei jau atvaziavot - sveiki atvyke!

Fish for breakfast, fish for lunch, and some more fish for dinner...

San Blas harbor

Kasdienines zuvies prigaudykit mums siandien...

The charming hotels of San Blas: bueno, bonito, barrato!

San Blas bungalows

Vienas is zaviuju San Blas viesbutuku

In case you feel like missing another traditional Mexican sun or a fish...

San Blas market

Dar vienas miestelis - dar vienas turgelis

So you think we sing funny?! Wait until we have some of the happy stuff from the bag!

Gringo cafe

Manote, kad juokingai dainuojam??! Palaukit, kol patrauksim is "linksmybiu maiselio", ot tada tai uztrauksim!

Nuvesk pelyte virs paveiksliuko, spustelk jos kaire ausele, ir paveiksliukas padides

7-oji diena: San Blas romantika ir… pypke

2006 m. vasario 14

Trumpam griztu I vakar: i La Paz grizom be nuotykiu. Mex 1 buvo ne ka greitesnis uz Mex 19, bet laiko turejom I valias: isvaziavom aksti, o keltas - tik 3 val. po pietu. I zemynine Meksika persikelem irgi be didesniu nuotykiu, isskyrus tai, kad vietoj zadetuju 5 valandu Baja kelto svetingumu megavomess beveik pilnas astuonias. Taciau nera to blogo, kuris neiseitu: kelte radom elektros kompiuteriukui (po to, kai taip begediskai nugirdem ji vynu, o jis mums uz tai atleido, kreipiames I ji tik paciais graziausiais ir malonybiskiausiais vardais) ir alaus savo suvargusiems kunams (ar tikrai aiskiai paminejom, kad ant smelio miegoti buvo kieta?? :)) ir laikas netruko prabegti.

Kelte susipazinom su Andrew is Australijos. Irgi neblogas bradiaga, kurio pasaulis susideda is banglentes ir kuprines. Kai pradeda trukti pinigu, grizta namo ir truputi padirba stalium, o visa likusi laika praleidzia bastydamasis po pasauli, ieskodamas geriausiu bangu. Uzklausem Andrew, kodel neapsistoja kokioj nors vienoj labiausiai patikusioj vietoj, kaip, pavyzdziui, Indonezija, kurios nesiliove gyres. Atsakyma priemem besalygiskai: nauji papludimiai banglentininkui - kaip slidininkui kalnai. O geriau uz kalnus, kaip kazkada dainavo Vysockis, - tik kalnai, kuriuose dar niekad nebuvai…

Pagaliau atplaukiam. Dar karta Bienvenidos a Mexico, pagaliau - I tikraja :) Pavezam Andrew nuo Topolobampo terminalo iki artimiausio miestelio Los Mochis ir visi draugiskai apsistojam tame maciame motelyje. Los Mochis moteliai pigus ir svarus - gera vieta nakvynei. Andrew vaisina mus alum ir pasakoja apie savo proseneli, kuris buvo JAV de facto prezidentas vienai dienai, ir net gi rodo is Interneto atspausdinta medziaga. Is karto pajuntam didele pagarba Andrew, ir didele geda, kad buvom praleide sitoki istorini fakta. Dar labiau geda, kad net dabar negalim atsiminti to senelio pavardes…

Austa 7-asis Pan-American rytas, ir, pirma karta keliones istorijoj, mums pasiseka atsikelti ir isvaziuoti labai anksti. Atrodo, pagaliau issimiegojom :) Netrukus, taip pat pirma karta keliones istorijoj, suzinom, kas yra tas placiai pagarsejes banditizmas Meksikos keliuose. Mokami greitkeliai ("cuotas"), kuriems alternatyvos arba is viso nera, arba yra labai neviliojanti (siauri, leti, vingiuojanti kalnu keliukai, pilni letuciu sunkvezimiu - 300 km tokiu vaziuotum visa diena) yra, tikraja prasme, apiplesimas vidury dienos, vidury kelio. Uz tris simtus kilometru iki Mazatlan susimokam apie 30 amerikonisku doleriu. Tokia kaina yra visiskas absurdas, absoliuciai neproporcinga jokioms kitoms kainoms (padoru moteli visai nakciai galima rasti uz $8-20) ir ypac nesazininga paciu meksikieciu atzvilgiu - neatrodo, kad jie cia uzdirbtu tiek, kad doleriai is kiseniu ant greitkeliu byretu. Ka gi, vaziavom ziuredami I sviesiaja puse: kelias puikus, 4 juostu, vid. greitis - 120/130km/h. Sioks toks pasikeitimas po musu jau iprasto 50 km/h vidurkio :)

Mazatlane greitai randam leciausia ir pigiausia pasaulyje interneta, ir paliekam jums naujienas. Pats miestas visai nesimpatiskas - purvinas ir apgriuves. Net nesupratom, kodel jis vadinamas kurortu. Gal del keliu tolokai uz miesto gerai pasleptu ir, atseit, graziu papludimiu, kuriu mes net nesivarginom ieskoti. Labai prajuokino Mazatlano taxi ("pulmonias") - nedidukai bestogiai VW dzipukai, siek tiek modifikuoti, butinai balti, labiau primenantys mini pavesines ant ratu, negu transporto priemone. Talpina 4 zmones arba 3 amerikiecius.

Sekanti sustojima ir nakvyne planuojam San Blas. Krastovaizdis darosi vis idomesnis: dykumos virsta tropiniais miskais, palmiu giraitemis, bananu ir kitokiu gerybiu plantacijomis. Sodriai zalia spalva dziugina nuo rudai pilkos dykumos ir apdulkejusiu kaktusu pavargusias akis.

San Blas - nedidukas zveju miestelis ant vandenyno kranto, 36 km I vakarus nuo Mex 15.
Beveik nepaminetas jokioj knygoj (todel truputi bijom papulti I kokia Dievo uzmirsta pelke), taciau apdainuotas "Mana" dainose, ir del to mus ypatingai traukiantis. ("Mana" - meksikieciu roko grupe, kilusi is San Blas, veliau isgarsejusi visame pasaulyje). Kelias siaurutis, bet puikus: asfaltuotas (ko gero, visai naujas), eina tiesiai per tanku tropini miska, palmiu lapai ir lianos tarpais liecia masinos stoga - fantastika… Zenklai ispeja, kad pelkese yra krokodilu :)

San Blas pasiekiam jau visai sutemus, ir kaip maloniai jis mus nustebina!! Dailios, akmenim gristos gatveles, vedancios I mazute miesto aikste, kurioje net ir tokia velia valanda gyvenimas vire kaip biciu avily: kas pirko, kas prekiavo, kas vaikstinejo besisnekuciuodami, ar tiesiog sedejo ir vepsojo I praeivius, kazkam suskambejo nedidukes baznyteles varpai…Jaukios bodegos bei takerijos ("taqueria" - nediduke uzkandine), pilnos tiek romantisku poreliu, tiek anti-valentiniskai nusiteikusiu vaikezu… Gyvas miestas!! (Saulei nusileidus, tai nera daznas reiskinys mazesnese Meksikos gyvenvietese).

Juokingiausias dienos ivykis. Viename mazame San Blas restoranelyje ilgai stebejom gerokai pagyvenusiu zmoniu porele prie gretimo staliuko. Senukai visa vakara prasedejo susikibe uz ranku. Vienintelis kartas, kada juodu uz ranku nesilaike buvo tada… kai moteriske ruke pypke! :)) Noredami perziureti vaizdine medziaga, spauskite cia. Vaizdas gana tamsus, noredami iziureti daugiau detaliu pabandykite pasviesinti monitoriu - atliekama su mygtuku arba rankenele "Brightness".

Ar miestas taip dziugiai sutiko sventa Valentina, ar kiekviena diena San Blas - svente - liko paslaptimi…. bet apie puikesni Valentino dienos vakara negalejom nei pasvajoti.

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