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Carnaval and La Paz (Feb 7 – 14, 2016)
After three and a half weeks in the islands we returned to the hustle and bustle of La Paz. Our arrival was a bit later than planned so the annual Carnaval had started without us. Prior to that we'd been the sole boat tucked behind the high cliffs in Ensenada de La Raza, waiting several days for strong north winds to stop blasting over our heads. We dropped the hook off the beach where the main Carnaval action was happening, albeit with some doubts about the wisdom of this location. However, the other anchoring areas seemed too crowded or far from shore – choose your drawback. We opted for noise, and indeed, we were not disappointed. In addition to happy screams emanating from the midway rides, we could hear several bands blasting across the water, unfortunately all at once. Things didn't pick up until mid-afternoon, although the activity then continued until around 3 in the morning. At times it was loud enough to cause parts on the boat to rattle. In for a penny, in for a peso. A few days of cacophony was manageable.
For the final three days of Carnaval there is a parade that starts just before sunset. On our first day back from the islands we anchored our dinghy off the beach, walked all of 30m to the people-lined malecon, just in time to catch the start of the parade and enjoy the elaborate floats. We did find that the music from one parade entry would often clash with that from the following float, band or group of dancers, so wished they were spaced apart differently. Sometimes objects were thrown out to the crowd, including candy, t-shirts, and condoms. Lots of folks were holding bags of colourful balls – upon closer inspection we concluded they were half egg shells filled with confetti and then covered with tissue paper. These were hurled by the spectators onto each other and the floats. We didn't see the cans of beer being handed out that cruisers from a previous year had reported. After the last float of the parade we followed it along into the midway area, winding up in a tight stream of people. After so many days of peace and solitude this crush of humanity was a bit hard to take.
During the parade, we turned around and noticed another beautiful show happening: a tranquil one courtesy of Mother Nature.
Carnaval seemed a perfect opportunity/excuse to try some of the street food we'd heard others raving about. First on the list: Tosti-elotes. To make these tasty snacks, cut open a bag of salsa verde flavour Tostitos lengthwise. Layer the chips with a large dollop of mayonnaise, warm kernels of corn (that's the elotes), lots of parmesan cheese, and squirt on two kinds of hot sauce. Really yummy! Variations we did not try were tosti-locos, which look like they have hot peppers on them, and elotes, which are corn cobs on a stick, slathered in mayonnaise, rolled in parmesan and topped off with hot sauce. The other treat we had were churros, freshly made and still hot. These are a deep-fried batter like a cakey donut. The shape is cylindrical with ridges down the side - providing lots of surface area to be fried and covered in sugar. Squirt some lime on that sugar and your taste-buds tingle.
Some contrasts between Mexico and Canada are interesting to us. These exposed power cords with questionable electrical connections would meet neither Canadian safety standards nor the CYA (cover your aft-end) ethos. We also thought the spectators on the rooftop were a little less enclosed than we'd see in Canada. On the other hand, we were very impressed by the tidiness of the streets. Early each morning cleaning crews were hard at work sweeping up the confetti and other detritus that had accumulated during the night's festivities and by midmorning the streets looked great (except for the usual potholes and uneven sidewalks).
As usual there were many cruisers hanging out in La Paz. We were disappointed to learn that, due to our weather delay, we had just a missed a large BURP (Bluewater Unofficial Rendezvous Party) for the Bluewater Cruising Association (BCA). We did have the very pleasant surprise of seeing Peter and Joyce, formerly of the boat Matarua (and also BCA members). We had first met them almost 11 years ago at Minerva Reef, an uninhabited low lying atoll partway between Tonga and New Zealand. After we watched the parade that evening and maxed out on our crowd tolerance we braved the strong currents to visit Peter and Joyce and meet their new boat Minx. We had to be quick to grab their gunwales or we would have shot by them. At that point they were stuck with us for a couple of hours until the current switched direction. How wonderful to connect in a completely different part of the world!
While in La Paz this time we discovered a few new things. We finally figured out where the public library was and that we could get a more reliable and faster Internet connection there. Since we weren't planning on coming back to La Paz for many months, this information was only somewhat useful, but that's how the cruising life goes. We were pleased to come across a bike park, being cyclists who want to encourage this environmentally friendly mode of recreation and transportation. We figure it wasn't in use on account of it being a school day. On our last full day in town we ventured into the Cinemex Platino luxury movie theatre. For an extra fee (but still not as pricey as movies at home) one enters a theatre with seating for about 24 people. The chairs are large, cushy black leather (or faux leather?) love seats with a retractable divider. Each seat reclines, includes a comfy foot rest, and has a call button beside it for ordering popcorn or even alcoholic beverages. Snacks can be placed on the pivoting glass tray beside the chair. If that isn't enough for you, in the washrooms the paper towels are embossed with the theatre's logo. Wow. Luckily for us the only english movie that had sounded any good was playing here, otherwise we would have missed this decadent experience.
As usual we we enjoyed the opportunity to indulge in fresh produce and restock our depleted provisions (the rum is being transferred into a less-breakable plastic bottle). We also continued to be tourists and snap photos of flowers, local colour, and lovely La Paz sunsets. Once all errands, socializing, sight-seeing and fiesta-ing were done we set off with the bow pointing north. In honour of our favourite MerCowdo, dressed for the festivities, it was time to be moooo-ving on.