We recently arrived in Loreto Baja California Sur, a small pueblo on the Sea of Cortez (or the Gulf of California) approximately a 3 and ½ hour drive north of La Paz. Because of problems with the internet in our apartment here (it stopped working the day after we arrived), this post has taken us awhile to get up onto the blog.
Leaving La Paz was harder than we thought it would be. Originally, as our plans were developing last fall, we thought Loreto was were we wanted to spend time and La Paz was the place ‘we thought we should try out!’ It is interesting to us how much we enjoyed our time in La Paz and how challenging we are finding our first few days here in Loreto.
So La Paz… We were delighted with the location of the place we had booked online and sight unseen. We were two blocks from the malecón – a long walking, running and biking boardwalk (albeit made of concrete) that borders the Sea of Cortez at the edge of old La Paz. The malecón extends for approximately 4 – 5 miles, is dotted with sculptures representing the richness of the Sea, contains numerous small beaches with palapas, and is the site of most parades and other community activities. It is a well used promenade by both Paceños (people of La Paz) and extranjeros (foreigners).
One of the first things we noticed in La Paz were the noises of Mexico. Roosters live nearby and they crow well before dawn, dogs bark a most of the night, cars start early, life starts early, and fireworks and karaoke often fill the night air. We also enjoyed lots of great and abundant seafood. Mexicans do street food well! The beaches are clean and the swimming delightful. And we always felt safe.
Our apartment was little and basic but met our needs and our budget. About 3 weeks after we arrived, a young family from Kelowna (who are friends with Rachel and Dave) whom had decided to live in Mexico for a while, also decided to move to La Paz. After a week of solid looking Matt and Nichole and their 2 kids, Abby and Eli, moved into a lovely and quaint apartment 2 doors away from us. It was so unexpected and delightful to have them nearby. It became an opportunity to get to know them better and to spend time with the kids. What also really changed our experience in La Paz was a fortuitous change in our accommodations. Above the quaint apartment that Matt and Nicole found, was an equally quaint 2 bedroom apartment. We were able to rent it for the last 6 weeks of our stay in La Paz. So fun! And we learned that the quality of our living space makes a big difference to our living experience.
One of our hopes for our time here in Mexico, was to take advantage of the opportunity to learn Spanish. We started at El Nopal Spanish School at the beginning of December and finished up at the end of January, averaging 3 classes a week. Juan and Marte and their staff were wonderful to work with and Larry ended up with private lessons the whole time. The school also offers cultural experiences and cooking classes (we learned how to make sopa de Azteca) that we took advantage of as well. We were able to bike to the school the 3 days of the week that we were taking classes, and that became one of the many delights of living in La Paz (but first we had to navigate the one way streets and the idea of rolling four way stops!)
La Paz is not like the resort filled towns of the Cabos, which are about 2 hours to the south. It is a city were ordinary Mexicans live and work and tourism is a minor part of the economy. Many of the extranjeros in La Paz are living on their boats in one of the harbours or in their own condos/ homes in or near the city. It was not unusual to meet people who have ‘been coming to La Paz’ for decades. Hearing their stories often would result in us talking later about this choice people make, once they find a place they like, to keep coming back to it rather than trying different places. We are curious as to what draws people to one place over another and the decision some people make to leave the States or Canada and make the permanent move to another country. We are curious to see if our plan to travel to different places changes and if the novelty of being somewhere new wears off.
There is a very well organized ‘subculture’ in the La Paz extranjero group made up by cruceros (people with cruisers) and sailors. The weather and the seas rule the life of the sailors or crucers. Many wait the weather out in La Paz before heading over to ‘mainland’ Mexico or back up to the States and Canada. They have invested in the community and there efforts seem to be appreciated by people who live there. Our ‘take aways’ from the folks we met were that the sailing and cruising life is a lot of work, can be either really good or really bad for relationships, and it can hold moments of true terror. It can also be cold and wet when you are on a boat even in the tropics!
Activities? One of our favorite days was kayaking the Bahía de la Paz with a local tour company. Other activities included exploring various beaches in and around La Paz. Most of the beaches in town are great for sitting under a palapa reading or listening to podcasts or checking out the tidal mud flats with Abby, Eli and Nicole. There was one beach with great swimming close enough to our apartment that we could bike or walk to it. Side trips included spending the day at the kite boarding classic in La Ventana, spending the day at the Bahía de Sueñas, driving the #1 Hwy to explore el Triunfo, San Bartolo, Los Barillos, and Cabo Pulma. We also did a day excursion to Isla de Espiritu Santo, which came highly recommended, however we would recommend a kayaking excursion rather than a 5 hour ponga trip.
A web site about La Paz activities that is provided by a Canadian expat can be found at rozinlapaz.com, and it was a great source of information for us on cultural and music events while we were there. A highlight was attending 2 small and intimate outdoor music concerts at the Galaria de Arte Tonantzan
Pet peeves? Although we are in Mexico, many of the services geared to extranjeros are priced in USD. The Canadian dollar has been tanking and at times our dollar even dropped against the MXN peso. What we thought would be a totally inexpensive stay turned out to be more moderate… but the food is inexpensive at the grocery stores and mercados.
Do differently? Be more confident that we can find a place once we arrive rather than committing to a monthly accommodation in advance. Before this can happen though, Penny has to overcome her fear of not having a place to sleep and blowing the budget if something cannot be found!
Would we go back? Absolutely!