Lazy Day to La Paz

Monday, January 28th, 2008

On the way out of Ciudad Constitucion traffic suddenly stopped. I was puzzled as to why, until I realized that there was an actual traffic light. The first one I had encountered since arriving in Loreto. Looking at the map, the drive from Ciudad Constitucion to La Paz looked a bit flat and boring. To make matters worse, I had vowed to keep the speedometer at 100km/h or less. It's a good thing I had a hammer to smash the glass and some duct tape to tape the needle in place at 100 ...just kidding. Even though I caught myself creeping up to 110 now and then, I did consciously try to keep my vow. It made for some interesting driving with annoyed Mexican truckers becoming frustrated at only being able to do 100 in an 80 zone because of some silly turista. Now the road and desert was lined with small yellow flowers, to beautifully contrast the green cacti and dusty, brownish desert.

And there it was!! another road less travelled. What does one do with a rented, low clearance Chevy when confronted with a dusty, sandy, bumpy road heading off into the distance? One takes it! So off I clattered to Punta Chale, to see what that was all about. Only 3 other vehicles came the other direction during the 30km drive. But I could see them from about a kilometre away due to the tornado like funnel of dust behind them. None slowed down the least as they went by. At the entrance to the village a "Scareturista" greeted me. I'm assuming it's the head of the last turista on a stake, as a warning to others.


Punta Chale is a little ramshackle fish camp, complete with modern looking school and a bunch of outhouses interspersed between the little shacks. Happy, laughing children were playing and curious villagers looked at me, probably wondering what some lone gringa was doing here. They're all basicaly there to fish and make a living. As everywhere else in Baja so far, people were cleaning everywhere. I observed a woman raking her yard, which was a bit odd since the "yard" was basically just the sand surrounding her shack. Very clean people, as far as I can tell.

Fishing "panga"

One of the nicer shacks in Punta Chale

So off I went back to the highway. Nature was calling and I wasn't too keen on exploring the Punta Chale outhouses. Like outhouses all over the world, including back home, they're not exactly the highlight of any trip of mine. So I had to do a roadside squat once out of sight of the village. I was intently listening for vehicles rattling up the road, and I had amusing visions of jumping up and pulling up my pants in mid stream ...don't laugh, it actually did happen to me some time ago ...there I said it, and I'm not ashamed of it.

Shrines dot the highways all over.
But this one was the biggest, honkin' kickass one I saw.

One trucker tried to give me a little bully message by coming within 1/2 car length of my bumper on an uphill, while I was following another slow vehicle at a safe distance until I could pass. Of course, the troublemaker in me just had to take advantage of this perfect low speed situation. Truck, uphill, lots of gears, double clutching, hard to shift gears uphill ...hehehe. So I slowed down ever so gently and made him suddenly drop a few gears. Anyone who knows anything about loaded trucks on an uphill, also knows that it's not that easy to shift on the uphill. The truck quickly became a speck in the distance as I continued at the same speed as before. I can only imagine the Spanish words coming out of that trucker's mouth, as he got stuck in some low gear up the hill ...heehee!. Probably involves crushing the next gringa he sees. Maybe he won't get that close next time ...yeah, I know ..dreamer.

The landscape turned from boring and flat, to drier desert with huge mesas all over the place. The road once more became twisty with dire warning signs imploring drivers to slow down to 40km/h. These slow speeds are quite ridiculous, I thought, as I went around a corner, only to suddenly see a small spill of strawberries on the road, right beside a little shrine to some poor sap who bit the dust at this very corner. I guess they have to put up these incredibly low speed limits, knowing that the average Mexican will slow down to about double the speed limit. Within a few minutes, at another curve, there was yet another strawberry spill. I could have used some fresh fruit, but there was no place to pull over.

Suddenly La Paz appeared off in the distance, right by the water. A wide four lane road led up to it, including the usual undercarriage ripping "topes" (speed bumps) appearing out of nowhere. Four out of the 5 RV parks listed in my Moon guidebook were no longer in business. The one recommended by my friend Ulrike (El Cardon) was now "El Cardon Real Estate Development", with a bunch of soulless condos popping up. I was becoming cranky and starting to drive like a Mexican again, so I checked into the only Chinese hotel/restaurant in town, the Nuevo Pekin. Run by an actual Chinese, Chinese speaking family.

After getting all my crap out of the car and up two flights of stairs, it was time to take the car back to Budget. I parked the dusty sardine can, took a deep breath and walked in expecting a host of problems. The agent went to examine the car, and let out a surprised whistle upon laying eyes on the mud caked, dust cloaked little machine. I cringed as he came back in. He professionaly filled out the paperwork, my credit card slip from Loreto had already been sent down to his office, he calmly filled in all the correct amounts, explained the charges (all legit), and made absolutely no mention of the deplorable state of cleanliness in which I had returned the car.


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