Log #24—Adventures in La Paz
Sunday December 19th, 1999—Landfall in La Paz
Sunday morning we decided to find a cash machine to stock up on some much-needed pesos. Then we walked into the center of town. Expecting nothing to be open on Sunday, we were completely surprised to discover a city seized in a shopping frenzy the final weekend before Christmas. La Paz is not only the capital of Baja California Sur. It's also the largest city on the Baja Peninsula. Families had driven for hundreds of miles to complete their last minute Christmas shopping.
The family unit seems to be more important in Mexico than the United States. You can see families everywhere-walking together, playing in the parks, and talking together in their homes during the evening. They were out in force this Sunday, sampling the offerings of not only the stores, but also exploring an open air market that taken over the streets of several city blocks. This huge outdoor market lined the streets in front of the sidewalks, effectively doubling the retail space. Large blue plastic tarps framed the walls and ceiling of every vendor on the street, creating a azure-colored tent city in downtown La Paz.
Street vendors proffered T-shirts, sweatshirts, and children's pajamas emblazoned with 'authentic' Disney character embroidery. Barbie dolls, train sets, and remote-controlled cars overflowed from the toy stalls. Cellular telephones. Direct TV satellites. Silver jewelry. Music CDs from Mexico and the U.S. Anything could be had. It was a fiesta of commerce.
And pińatas. Of every size and shape, all constructed from bright neon yellows, pinks, greens, blues, reds, purples, and periwinkles.
Monday December 20th, 1999
Documentation consumed our most of the day on Monday, starting with immigration. (Never mind that we have already been cleared into Mexico with our visas, and arrived in La Paz from another Mexican city.) Some cities, including La Paz, have implemented new procedures for paying Immigration fees. You must pay directly to the bank. The extra step helps eliminate corruption.
After immigration we visited the Port Captain's office for additional signatures and stamps on our ever-expanding zarpa. Only this time, when we returned to the boat, I realized that the Port Captain's office kept the original. Armed with only four photocopies, I'm not sure if we'll ever be able to leave La Paz, or check into another Mexican city. We may be locked into La Paz for this millennium, as well as the next.
When our morning's documentation run had been completed, I stopped of in one of the growing number of Internet cafés in La Paz. I needed higher bandwidth to transfer text and photos to the Andanté web site. Cost: 90 pesos for 90 minutes-about $10.00 US.
As I waited for photo files to upload via Hotmail, I watched people walking along the street outside. Many of the local residents wore sweaters and jackets in the chilly 70-degree temperatures. I'm starting to wonder about how I'm going to do in Panama. During August.
For dinner, we walked eight blocks east, away from the waterfront, to La Papas. Los Papas might be best described as an outdoor café. Although not really a café in the traditional sense, La Papas (the potatoes) offers … potatoes drenched in butter and sour cream, served with your choice or combination of carnes (meat), champiońóes (mushrooms), adabado (grilled pork), or pollo (chicken). La Papas is infamous among La Paz cruisers. Where else can you dine for two dollars and seventy-five cents?
The ambiance of street side tables is enhanced by local color, as well as local traffic. Besides, the vehicle exhaust adds flavor.
Tuesday December 21st through Sunday December 26, 1999
Sunday December 26th I flew to Los Angeles to party with my daughter Erica for the millennium. See you after the New Year.
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