The Path to Paradise

We were thwarted in our first effort to cross via ferry to Baja. The storm raging in the southwest was impacting the Gulf of California with strong winds and waves. The smaller ferry from Guymas to Santa Rosalia was not running. Of course, we were not able to find this out until we got to Guymas. We had half expected this so headed the 250 or so km down to Topolobampo for the larger, more reliable ferry.

This is a big ferry and a long crossing; 8 hours. We arrive in La Paz as opposed to Santa Rosalia so we’ll have to backtrack up Baja to do the things we’d wanted to do heading south.

The ferry itself is big (4 layers for vehicles; 1 for cars, 3 for tractor trailers and trucks, 2 for people) quite modern and very nice. Apparently retired from some British route as all outlets are British. The process of loading and unloading however is very Mexican.

This is the sister ship to ours but similar size.

This is the sister ship to ours but similar size.

The ferry is scheduled to leave at nearly midnight but you are supposed to be there by 8 pm. Jim had to have the car weighted before we could get out tickets. I can’t go with him as only the driver is allowed. Quite fast, maybe 30 minutes tops. Tickets in hand, we now must get in line. 4 lines wide, trucks in 3, cars in another. Now we wait. There are no concessions, it is dark, chilly, and we wait. And wait. And wait. There is no ferry to board.  8:30, not there. 9 pm, not there. Around 10:30 it shows up. 2 hours late. There are winds and waves in the Gulf, so not so unexpected.

We finally begin boarding around 11 PM. Jim and I part ways as I have to walk on and Jim drives the car. I have the ticket for our cabin. Thank God for texting so we can keep track of each other. He is on the boat in a jiffy (one of the 1st on as he is on the bottom level, below water level, below all the trucks with ceilings only about his height.) He will meet me in reception. All the passengers and foot traffic (lots of people take a bus to the ferry, then board another bus on the other side), are separated into lines of men and women. Hum…. They take us in groups of about 20 up stairs. We must line up in two separate straight lines. As we line up, a “guard” quickly walks by with a wand, looking for… metal??? Not once does it go off. Meanwhile we are all setting our bags on the floor in front of us. The men are removing everything from their pockets and putting it on a table. Not the women. Then the drug dog sniffs us all and the men take the “cross position” and and all wanded. Again, it never goes off. Off we go to board the ship.  For jim,  quick look at his ticket and passport and he boards with the car.

It looks peaceful, but big trucks and cars were coming by loading. Lots of activity of 11:30 PM/

It looks peaceful, but big trucks and cars were coming by loading. Lots of activity of 11:30 PM/

Uneventful from here, Jim and I connect, get our cabin key in exchange for my passport ID card – the only way to get a key is with some form of ID and I did not want to give up my passport or drivers license. Is a non-US-ID compliant New Mexico drivers license valid ID in Mexico? A quick mid-night meal of, unidentified pork in yellow sauce with refrieds, mash potatoes and tortillas and we are off to bed. The ship finally left around 1:30. Nice cabin and a quite rocky ride.

Slept well? not, but the bed was comfy enough. With the waves I kept waiting for it to slam down, but it never did. An air cushioned roller coaster ride.

Slept well? not, but the bed was comfy enough. With the waves I kept waiting for it to slam down, but it never did. An air cushioned roller coaster ride.

We arrive in La Paz about 8am, Took quite awhile for them to secure the 7 lines to the dock. Fun to watch. Jim returns to the bilge and the car and I joint the passengers to leave the ship. Fairly quick for us; down the steps, off the ship, through metal detectors and our luggage is scanned, show our ID and we are done. Remember, we are going from one state in Mexico to another and we are showing our ID’s and scanning our luggage on exit….  Go figure.

Fun watching the guys drop anchor and send out lines for the pilot boat.

Fun watching the guys drop anchor and send out lines for the pilot boat.

The guy on the platform has to haul the lines out of the water by himself.

The guy on the platform has to haul the lines out of the water by himself.

20 minutes in total and I am now outside waiting for Jim and the car. 3 hours later, he collects me. The process for Jim as he relayed it… First they must unload all the trucks in the 3 levels above. This is a lot of trucks – maybe 40 or 50. Many of the trailers travel without a truck and thus are hooked to the dock “truck” for removal. This seems to be a fairly fast process, but still takes quite awhile – 2 hours give or take Finally, I see Jim and the car, but I can’t get in. He must go though his exit process and I have to meet him on the street outside the port. He spends the next hour in various queues, in the car, for each step (remember, this is after we have spent 8 hours on the boat and crossed the Sea of Cortez; we must verify safety)::

  • Pay port tax,
  • Verify you paid port tax,
  • Federal police verify vehicle documents, your license, take picture of your documents ad a picture of you in your car. Could we get this as a travel photo???
  • Military verify VIN matches vehicle number and to see your passport.
  • Military inspect the contents of your vehicle and suitcases plus lots of questions of where you came from, where you are going, etc.
  • Next is the agriculture inspections. Our two bananas from New Mexico were acceptable!
  • Lastly, the tires of the car are disinfected. Funny that the trucks, nor the motorcycles don’t have to do this.

Jim finally appears on the street, picks me up and we are on our way to paradise.

The process is the same for all the truck traffic on the ferry which runs 6 days per week. It is hard to believe it would not be cheaper and more expedient for the trucks to stay on the mainland and go around,  And we think the US has bureaucracy.

When we cross back in a couple weeks to mainland Mexico, we’ll be prepared for the wait.

Off to carnival in La Paz.  the music, carnies and festivities call.

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