Sunday, October 25, 2015

Days 21-25: Mazatlan, Mexico

Okay. First thing's first. I have been asked to give more detail about the border crossings, so I'm going to back up a bit and talk about the crossing at Nogales, Mexico.

If you're staying in the 20 km buffer zone, you just drive through the "nothing to declare" lanes, most likely without stopping, but they may pull you out for random inspection. If you're going past the buffer zone, however, you want to pull over and get your passport stamped. The only place to pull in and stop were for the commercial merchandise to declare lanes, so we pulled in there. We found an official walking around, and we asked him where to go to get our passports stamped and the permit for the truck. He pointed to the building right in front of us for the passports and told us we could not get the permit for the truck until we got to the 21 km checkpoint. The immigration office was about halfway down a short hallway on the right. We went in with no wait and filled out the normal immigration form. After she looked at our forms, she gave us a little slip of paper to take to the bank. We went to the next building over to the Bancomer window. It was not in the big line that was waiting for something else. We just walked right up to it. He took the little ticket and about 600 pesos for the two of us (it was 300 something each), gave us a receipt, and sent us back to immigration. The lady at the immigration desk took our receipt, stamped our passports, and sent us on our way.

Once we drove through Nogales, we started getting concerned. We hadn't thought to check the odometer, so we didn't know how far we had gone, and we were well out of town without seeing a checkpoint. We eventually pulled over at a gas station to ask. The guy laughed and told me we had about 2 km left to go. You couldn't miss it. Well, you could, but we didn't. It's not a place where everybody has to exit and some just pass right on by. You have to actually exit into the station, but it is well marked with blue signage. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I was too busy trying to navigate and make assumptions about where we were supposed to be.

There was a lady selling Mapfre insurance over to the side. We needed insurance, so we went there. IT IS NOT CHEAP. Let me repeat - NOT CHEAP. For a month of coverage, it was $105 US for liability and $135 US for full coverage. I feel like we got soaked and that it could have been gotten cheaper with proper planning, but too late now! Then we went to the copy kiosk and got copies of my immigration stamp. We already had copies of the title and registration and my passport and driver's license. We made several of those before we left the states in anticipation of needing to give them away at border crossings. We only needed mine because the truck is in my name. After getting copies, we went to the back of the station to the bank. I think it was also Bancomer, but I'm not sure. There, the lady looked at my original passport and driver's license and the original title and registration and took my copies of: title and registration, passport, immigration stamp, US driver's license. They will send you back if you do not have the originals with you, so be sure to bring them. They didn't ask for proof of insurance. I paid the fee (I don't remember how much, but it wasn't much) plus the $200 deposit for our truck (based on the year of your vehicle, and ours is old), and she gave me our permit. There is a window sticker that you put on the windshield, in the center, below the rearview mirror. When we cancel our permit at the southern border, the deposit will be credited back to our credit card. And that was it. Easy Peasy!!

Now, back to Mazatlan! Being the night owl, party animals that we are (more sarcasm for those of you who don't know us that well), we decided to stay in the old town. Excellent choice. We ended up at the Hotel Belmar, once a favorite of the US film stars. In fact, we were across the hall from John Wayne's room. The Belmar was built in the 1920s and saw its heyday in the 1950s. It shows its age, but is still a nice hotel, especially for 500 pesos a night (about $30) right on the malecon. They have a secured garage for the truck. We didn't get an ocean facing room, but our view was still very good. You can see the cruise ship in the port on the other side of the peninsula, and the ocean view was just an elevator ride down. I don't tend to spend a whole lot of daytime in the hotel room, anyway.

Mazatlan is a really neat city with a really cool malecon and loads of history. Not just history of being a playground for US stars such as Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, John Wayne, and others. But there is a deep history of Mexican music here, as well. The German influence is obvious in the banda music. There are statues of various musicians along the malecon as well as various statues paying homage to women, fishermen, and denizens of the sea. We felt like the old town side of the malecon had much more character than the golden zone. We talked several times about going to the golden zone at night to see it lit up, especially Valentino's Castle (a disco), but we never had the energy to go after dark, so that didn't happen, and it was just a little too "like anyplace else" for our taste during the day. Here are some sights along the malecon that we did see during the days we were in Mazatlan. All of these are right on the malecon.

I loved this pool! You could swim laps, and when the waves crashed up, you only got sprinkles on you and some light waves. Not strong enough to break your stride. The bottom is sand. Just be careful when you put your hands on the sides. I didn't look, and when the little crabs moved under my hand, it scared me to death!

La mujer de Mazatlan - The woman of Mazatlan

You can get Memphis style BBQ on the malecon. We didn't try it.

Good thing they kept this door locked tightly!

Mermaid and child...and me

Just another beautiful view. The stairs and walkways go just down onto the rocks.

Me playing the left-hand part with this famous composer whose name I forget.

It's awesome the way the notes are even etched onto the sheet music. It could use a little restoration, but I could still read them.

We did spend one day running errands – well, one morning. As you may remember, we had a shattered window on the truck that needed to be taken care of. I still wasn’t able to call the free numbers on my phone, either using my Movistar phone or the Magic Jack, but I was able to call the local office. The lady who answered the phone gave me several different numbers to try. The only one I could get through to was a recording. The guy on the recording spoke so fast, I just couldn’t come anywhere close to understanding him, so we drove down to the local Mapfre office. It was just off the malecon, in the golden zone, around the corner from Dominos Pizza. The folks in the office were wonderful. In spots where we had some difficulty communicating, we used Google translate to help. Turns out that fixing the window wouldn’t meet our deductible, so Mapfre wouldn’t be paying for it, but the adjuster was very helpful and called around to get us good rates and fast service to get it fixed. He sent us to Cristales Crinamex, who did an awesome job! For 650 pesos (about $40), they took out and disposed of the old window, put in a new window, and added tint to match the one on the other side. And, they did it in just over an hour! We’re thrilled with it!

While we were waiting for the truck to be finished, we went searching for a bite to eat. We found a gold mine!! Tucked behind a bunch of trees on the side of a four-lane divided street is a little outdoor place called El Bigotes. We're apparently not the first to discover it because it has a lot of awards from Trip Advisor. We got the plate of "build your owns" for two. The meat was very tender and tasty. Bruce didn't have any trouble chewing it with his new teeth and still-healing gums. For the vegetables, they had raw onions and peppers, grilled onions and peppers, and vinegar-soaked onions, peppers, and carrots. The salsa was some of the best I've ever had. And the mood is delightful. It's a little green space with trees and plants all around. They have a little fountain, and they invite the birds to hang out. The birds aren't agressive, but if you get up and leave your plate unattended, they will take over! If you're ever in Mazatlan, you have to eat there. It's just about a block up from the malecon in the golden zone. If you make it to Cristales Crinamex, you've gone too far!

I love zoos and aquaria, so we had to spend some time at the Mazatlan Acuario. It was relatively small, and some of the exhibits didn’t have the animals that were listed on them. Also, the exhibits weren’t all groomed to the level we generally expect in the zoos in the US, but the animals all appeared healthy and happy. When the parrots were set free to fly, they didn’t try to go away. They didn’t necessarily do what they were told or come back when the keepers whistled for them, but they didn’t leave the area and chose to come back when they were finished playing around. Mexican zoological parks have the same corny shows the ones in the US have, too. The Mazatlan Acuaria also does research and rescue operations, providing care for injured animals and homes for animals that cannot be returned to the wild and lobbying for animal protection activities, as well. Here are some shots from the Mazatlan Acuario.

Skeleton of a gray whale. On the other side, the bones are labled.

Unicorn fish

Two parrots just playing around. I got lots of shots of blue skies! This was the only one with birds in it, though. They were having a blast ignoring the whistles and commands to come back. A couple of times, they even acted like they were coming back, but veered back up at the last minute.

Rather sizeable and healthy looking ostrich.

 The Mexican crocodiles were enjoying the waterfall.

Yes, Chrissy. It's a sharkray!

She told me I could gently rub the hawk. When I did, he squawked to let me know I didn't have his permission.

Corny bird tricks

Sea lion show

I did finally spend some time in my favorite ocean again! I’ve missed it so much! There is a small area where there are little cabanas right on the beach. They have a lifeguard driving up and down the area in his four-wheeler, and the people out selling their wares. We went for lunch, and Bruce had a beer while I played in the water. A normal occurrence in Puerto Lopez (Ecuador). I don’t know what we’re gonna do when we get back since the cabanas have been removed! Anyway, Montanita has nothing on the beach in Mazatlan! These are the strongest waves I’ve been in yet, and I love a good strong wave to play in! They knocked me on my butt more than once. And, I know I’ve gotten out of shape since we’ve been gone, but these waves took me down more frequently and with more force than the waves on the Mar Brava in Anconcito did when I first got to Ecuador! The waves were higher, too. I did ask if the sea was normally so strong of if it was the effects of Patricia. They laughed and explained that Patricia was way too far away to cause stronger seas here. This is the normal seas in Mazatlan. Maybe a little calm.

Little parachute toy. I considered getting it because it would be fun to fly on the beaches everywhere.

And, I'm down again!

This water was below my knees until the wave came in.

I brought in a significant amount of sand!! It's pretty coarse here.

See how small the surfers look compared to the waves, and this wasn't one of the bigger ones!

We stayed an extra day to let Hurricane Patricia get past. Thanks to everyone who reached out concerned about our welfare, by the way. We were never in danger. We decided to go see the El Faro lighthouse. It's supposed to be the tallest lighthouse in the Americas and one of the tallest in the world. The lighthouse was completed and put in service in 1879 and is still operational today. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. I didn't realize you had to hike up the mountain to get there until our driver dropped us off at the bottom and told us, "Es caminando." We were game to try, though. I'm not sure how far we made it, but I don't think it was half way. We got some nice shots of town and stuff while we were hiking though. Maybe we'll make it next time.

I thought the town was just beautiful framed in these trees.

Looking from the hill over the channel toward town

There are regular taxis, but the primary mode of hiring transportation for short distances is the pulmonia. These aren’t nearly as bouncy as a mototaxi and have more horsepower. Most of them are volkswagon, but I did see one Audi.

There are some beautiful sunsets here, too.

Time to head south, but we will be back, Mazatlan!


  1. I take it you've worked out the details about bringing an old motor vehicle into Ecuador?

  2. Glad you were able to spend more time there and explore. And great deal on the window repair!