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La Paz: December 15-26 2015
The city of La Paz is about a 20 mile sail from Playa Bonanza. There was a mix of upwind tacking in fairly strong winds in Lorenzo channel followed by a down wind run once in the very large harbour of La Paz. It seems like you are almost there once you reach the channel but it goes on for about 3 and a half miles. We often find the final approach to a place goes slowly. That gave us time to pull out the very useful Spanish for Cruisers and prepare ourselves for checking in with the Port Captain. Feeling awkward and nervous we hailed him on the radio. Fortunately, he did not deviate from our script too far and spoke clearly and slowly. Oddly enough, he could tell we were not native spanish speakers.
Although there were many milestones along the way, arriving in La Paz felt like we had reached our goal. In a way, it all started here as it was a visit to La Paz (by plane) that sparked our interest in the area. Four years ago our friends Rick and Kyra graciously let us stowaway on their sailing vessel Nyon, introducing us to the city and some of the nearby islands. This photo of Rick, Kyra and Bjarne was taken on that visit and shows one of La Paz's many excellent sunsets. Although reaching a goal is an end point, it also is a starting point. From here we intend to venture forth to explore the Sea of Cortez, using La Paz as a home base for a while.
We decided to stay at a marina, considering it a Christmas present to ourselves. The daily cost was ridiculous but if one stayed for a week the per diem rate was only somewhat more expensive than back home. It was almost as bouncy as the anchorage when the north winds picked up, but we avoided having to negotiate the rough weather and the strong current in the dinghy. Easy access to land can be quite a treat and makes many tasks simpler.
Groceries were high on our list of priorities so we nostalgically headed for the store that Nyon had introduced us to. It is particularly memorable because of the cow. The spanish word for grocery store is mercado. We took to calling it the mercowdo, and our friends on Yare modified it further to the moocowdo. We figure we are just about fluent in spanish if we can make puns. We were delighted to see the friendly bovine again, this time dressed for the season.
La Paz is a pleasant small city. There is a long walkway (malecon) on the waterfront with many attractive works of art. At this time of year it was additionally decorated with Christmas lights. There are many stores selling alcohol but the Tunel Express drive-through beer-store was the most surprising to us.
Our main method of transportation is walking but we did take the small collectivo bus out to Walmart one day. After shopping we noticed there was a cinema nearby so took the opportunity to see the new Star Wars. It was in spanish but on a whim we decided to watch it anyway since admission only cost about $2.50. The movie had been out for just a few days so we were surprised to be alone in the theatre except for one slightly rowdy group of youths. Even more puzzling, they all left partway through the movie. Well, at least we had lots of space around us for our grocery bags. Channelling our inner teenagers, we topped up our coke with a bit of the hootch recently purchased at Walmart and settled back to watch the show. We got the gist of the movie since there was lots of action, the worlds and many characters were familiar, and the plot was largely a rehash of earlier movies. Later, we quizzed friends who saw it in english to help us clarify some points. Returning home took quite a while because we were on the wrong side of the road for the bus we wanted. Finally, a helpful local told us to cross back to the same side we got out on – apparently the route is a loop.
Our diet has altered to take advantage of the local food and to try new things. We have replaced much of our bread consumption with tortillas, which last longer and can be filled with pretty much anything. Tomatoes, avacados, refritos, and limes are all readily available. We've become fans of jicama (hee-ca'-ma), a turnip-shaped vegetable which, when eaten raw seems more like a pear. It can be prepared in many ways, tastes good, has lots of nutrients, and keeps amazingly well. We even tried some prickly pear cactus paddles, called nopales. One can get them at the grocery store with the prickles removed. We fried them up and had them with rice and mole. They have a tangy flavour, tasty enough, but the slimy texture was unappealing. We have read that less stirring will reduce the slime factor, but we haven't tried them since. Still, good to know we can harvest nopales if need be. Of course, every now and again we just need to make our familiar pizza - modified only slightly with some squirts of lime.
Lugging provisions from the grocery store is a common cruising activity. To keep our strength up during the half-hour trip, we have taken to supplementing our groceries with a couple of pastries from the baking counter. We then stop at the waterfront to enjoy our treat while watching pelicans, gulls, and egrets cluster around returning fishing pangas. Come to think of it, we walk to grocery store at home as well - about 25 min each way, but we have a cart for carrying stuff. Still, maybe we should implement this pastry idea when we get back...
One day we were invited to a pool party. The Yare family was staying on land while they had visitors from home. It was a little cool that day but we still had fun splashing around with Odin and Lars, followed by happy hour socializing. It was at this party that we first heard about Tosti-elotes from Tor...more about those awesome treats in a later post.
Our week at the dock was up a couple of days before Christmas so we anchored out to try our luck with the La Paz Waltz (so called because the strong current causes boats to swing around quite a bit). We didn't leave town at that point because the invitation to join Anjuli and Konami for a turkey dinner was not to be passed up. Although we forewent many of our usual Christmas preparation activities we did cook up some batches of fudge to share.
This box of ChocoZucaritas with marshmallows was a Christmas morning treat. The name is based on the spanish word for sugar (azucar). Why be coy? Check out Bjarne's shadow in the photo - it can't wait for him to eat the cereal.
Over Christmas day we worked on our contributions to dinner. Buns are an easy choice for this boat since Bjarne is such an excellent bread maker. A cranberry sauce made from Craisins (work with what you have) turned out surprisingly well. The final potluck contribution was rice pudding with a local twist – the sauce was thickened and sweeted jamaica (ha-my'-ca) juice, with a touch of lime. The bright red jamaica drink is made from steeping hibiscus flowers; large quantities of the dried petals are readily available at the mercados. For the health conscious, there are various studies suggesting it is good for lowering blood pressure and the drink can be consumed hot or cold (either way, we prefer it sweetened a bit). It also mixes just fine with vodka or tequila, but we digress. We are not sure if anyone else has made it into a rice pudding topping but it worked dandily.
We piled everything into the dinghy in the splashy weather and started fighting current and wind to get to the dock where Anjuli and Konami were tied up, trying to keep our Christmas finery (such as it was) from getting too wet. At least, we thought we had loaded everything up. While bouncing along en route, we reviewed what each of us had grabbed...and ended up going back to Hoku Pa'a, twice!, for various forgotten essentials.
There were 6 of us for dinner but enough food for many more, all of it excellent. We had a great time and it was nice to be with folks we'd travelled so many miles with (we'd met in Turtle Bay, about half-way down the outside of the Baja). After supper we were all groaning because we ate too much. Dan from Anjuli summed it up nicely when he said, “I want to thank each and every one of you for making me so uncomfortable!"
The next morning we were underway fairly early, heading out of town to the islands, breaking our fast along the way with left-over rice pudding. We enjoyed La Paz, had fun and got lots done, but were also really looking forward to exploring the nearby islands and reconnecting with nature. We were excited to see a whale in the channel, until it surfaced right in front of us! “Head down! Head down!” [sailing terminology for evasive maneuvers] A quick alteration of our course avoided a collision. Well, our hearts probably needed a little revving up what with all the whipped cream in the rice pudding, but that was almost a bit too much connection with nature.