Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Day 10 - Topolobampo to LaPaz, Baja California

Topolobampo to LaPaz, Baja California
Wow, what a great day today has been; the ride to Los Mochis was easy and the scenery seems to have improved the closer I get to the sea.
Before starting on today’s ride I should mention a couple of items I forgot to include in yesterday’s report on the motel. First off you’ve no doubt noticed most motel room attendants fold the toilet paper ends into a neat little triangle? (Exception being Motel 6 of course!) Well these people have come up with a way  to fold them to resemble a flower blossom.  But that’s not all, they’ve another little exercise in foo-foo d├ęcor, they fold the Kleenex into a fancy bow.

The 2nd little surprise came as I was packing to leave. When I opened my top case lid a nasty little lever –type metal gizmo fell off the top where it must have been abandoned by someone attempting to break into it. Nice. At least their attempt failed.

So all packed up I continued south on highway 15 and enjoying the warm sunny weather. My big yellow jacket continues to keep me comfortable with the vents open and overall I’m more satisfied with it every day.
When I came to the overhead sign announcing welcome to Sinaloa I had to pause for a quick photo since it’s had so much bad press in recent times.

This area is home to one of Mexico’s toughest drug cartel‘s, the ones who like to show their strength in a rather graphic manner; like beheading opposing gang members and leaving their remains  in the town square, that sort of thing. Not too much longer after that as I was approaching the outskirts of Los Mochis I came upon a huge military checkpoint but all in the opposite lane and none in mine. Boy there were a lot of soldiers and they were searching three busloads of people all lined up next to the road. There were quite a few others in smaller groups and the whole thing looked pretty unpleasant, lots of firepower present to intimidate the hardiest of souls. I'm always reminded of Nazi Germany whenever I see military guys pointing guns at civilians; it's all very disturbing. They get a little ticked off if they catch you taking pictures so I passed.
Nothing radical happened though so I continued riding finally arriving at the neat little city of Los Mochis which turned out to be a lot bigger than I expected. Gobs of traffic driving in what seems to be standard Mexican style, i.e., survival of the fittest and never make eye contact? I worked my way through the crowded streets and redirected myself to my new goal of Topolobompo and while on the way there noticed a couple of local cops had some folks pulled over. One of them gave me the slow down sign so I waved back acknowledging him and continued along. Somehow in the back of my mind I figured he wasn’t going to settle for a plain old friendly “Thanks for the heads up officer” and sure enough it was only a couple of minutes till I saw him coming lit up like a Christmas tree. 
I pulled into a vacant parking lot and shut everything down for the upcoming chit-chat. First thing that got established was neither of us spoke the other guy’s lingo but that really didn’t pose a problem and we quickly established a friendly rapport ; he explaining by pointing at my speedometer what the correct speed was and then pointing at my alleged speed. I say alleged as I really didn’t look to see what it was till after slowing down. I kept my response to one of complete amazement and we moved on to the next level, the fine. By pencil and little notebook he indicated what the fine in US $$ was - $99, and in Mexican pesos I think it was 1570 or something like that. Naturally if I wanted to pay on the spot, say the lesser amount I could do so and be on my way.
I’ve heard these stories from dozens of guys who’ve been nailed in Mexico so I knew where it was going and played along with him. First off I told him in my best English I was dead broke in the cash department other than the 190 pesos in the top of my tank bag. He took one look at it and nearly cried, shaking his head suggested "Banko?" to which I gave him the same huge frown and head shaking back. "I’m soooo sorry" I kept remarking so he said just a minute in sign language and walked over to his AK47 toting partner, the one who shoots you if you try to run off. They chatted it up for about 10 nano seconds  and he returned and pointed to the tank bag smiling and indicating he could accept that amount. So I handed it over, all 190 pesos which at today’s exchange rate is around $15 give or take. Boo hoo I thought but felt lucky he didn’t press for more as I was carrying a silly bunch of cash.
The cool part is we both knew it was all mordida and when it was over he smiled and offered his hand just to show no hard feelings like he’d just won a game of pool. I shook it and smiled to show him how lucky I felt dealing with a cop who could show mercy.  I expect he and his mate headed straight to the nearest taco stand where they had lunch on me. It’s funny but the entire thing really didn’t bother me, just another bump in the road but no flat tire.
I’ve decided I’d like to take another route on this journey, I want to see Baja and since I’m right where I need to be for a short overnight ferry ride to La Paz I booked passage  for me and El Nino on tonight’s ferry. It departs around 11:00pm central time and arrives in La Paz at 05:30am. Since it takes so long and there’s not much to do on board I also booked a cabin where I hope I can grab a bit of shuteye. 
Road to Topolobampo

Topolobompo...cool name for a cool little town

While waiting around I stuck up an acquaintance with one of the local cab drivers and he drove me into town to a great little seafood restaurant overlooking the bay. It’s one of those tropical places with open sides and no windows where the breezes blow gently through.

"Havier" my cab driver

Great waiter but zero English. No problemo

For dinner I had fish steak smothered in chipotle pepper sauce and it was to die for. Fluffy rice on the side included tiny little calamari critters which I happen to love plus a covered dish of tortillas. Two Tecati’s topped it all off making it perfect. Ugh…calories!
There was a festival of sorts going on next door that must have been geared up for kids as they lined up everywhere to get in. Music was being played that set the whole scene in motion; altogether it was super and reminded me of past trips to the Caribbean I’ve taken.
After dinner I wandered through the little town people watching and in one instance rooster watching. What an amorous little guy he was, he chased this poor hen in circles until she flew up onto the roof of a nearby building. He followed right behind and got her pinned down – literally – after which he crowed his fool head off and hopped back down to the street. I watched the hen as she was laying very dead-like for quite awhile but eventually she popped up, flew down and rejoined him in pecking up food scraps. Romance is so nice.

My cabbie “Havier” came rolling in right about when he said he would and drove me back to the ferry terminal where I checked my bike and gear. Now I’m just waiting around for the magic moment and chatting it up with him about the drug war and how it's all our fault plus we're really wrong to treat Mexican illegals so bad, all they want are jobs, yadda yadda. It’s not so bad this riding around thing but you sure do meet some interesting characters.

PS – Finally got to board the ferry after they unloaded and then reloaded for the trip back. Never saw so many big trucks and all of them driving like maniacs to get on board within the allotted time schedule. I didn’t much care for riding up the slippery looking steel ramp but I made although it was a bit shaky.

Once on board I headed right to my private cabin and thanked the stars I’d decided to splurge on it instead of spending the night cramped in a club chair or conked out on the deck. The quality of the cabin is first rate, nothing skimped on, great private bathroom, all the right stuff. No Internet though so this will be a day late.


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