Ride South: The Baja Ferry

From Baja, we departed for the mainland of México.

First came the task of getting the bikes out of our hotel:

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It took some moving, shifting, and rolling, but eventually we made it out of the courtyard. Never a dull moment.

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The ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan is fairly pleasant. It departs from a port slightly north of La Paz. For our ferry line (there are two – one is a bit less comfortable), the ship’s three decks accommodate many trucks and cars, and motorcycles are kept on the top deck where you strap them to the railing.

If you’re considering taking this ferry, it might be worth to note that you need to bring your own tie-down straps — we’re glad we brought a set!

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We’d gotten our paperwork in order a day before departure, which I’d recommend — in all, it took us about two hours to get our Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP) processed before we were even beginning to look for ferry tickets. The TVIP is a permit you need when you are traveling by a motorized vehicle through México, and requires you putting down a deposit of 200-400 US dollars depending on the model year of your vehicle. Do double check it when you receive it — the clerk made errors three times issuing mine, and it has to be 100% correct if you want your deposit back!

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The TVIP is issued at the Mexican federal bank (Banjercito) at the ferry terminal, and tickets are also sold nearby for the ferries. We had to buy separate tickets for ourselves and our bikes.

Returning the next day, we rode the beautiful road snaking out of La Paz to the port again (slightly slowed down by a bicycle race that was going on that day) to get on the ferry proper.

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These kind of ferries are an effective bottleneck for travel and as such make great places to meet other travelers. No exceptions here: when we passed a customs check (which uses a button to randomly select whether or not you get searched fully — I was unlucky enough to get the full search) and our papers were checked out we lined up to board and ran into Matt.

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Matt (Dawson) is traveling to Tierra del Fuego as well, but by bicycle. Pretty badass! We chatted up a storm in line and a few minutes got waved onto the top ferry deck where we boarded with two other motorcyclists; a couple riding from Utah and a friendly fellow BMW rider from Guadalajara.

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The ferry left (predictably about an hour late) and all in all took about 18 hours to cross the Sea of Cortez to Sinaloa. We spent the time socializing and drinking beers with a group of bicycle travelers (including Matt and his friends Shane and José, from Australia and México, respectively) and sleep.
I made myself popular with the strip of Dramamine I brought aboard, which I judiciously handed out like candy to people who got sick on the rocking boat.

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While you can buy a cabin for cheap, the ferry had no more available when we checked in and we were forced to sleep in our designated seats. The seats are fairly big and comfortable, but the cabin is so cramped that you’re almost always sleeping an inch away from seven other people crammed onto the floor and in seats around you. Cozy! At least there’s free dinner and breakfast.

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Around 5:30 AM I went to the top deck and watched the night turn slowly to a dim glow…

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and eventually a beautiful sunrise.

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Shane and a few other guys had spent the night sleeping up here on the sun deck, which I wish I’d had the insight to do as it was a perfectly pleasant warm night.

Dreary and sleepy we socialized up here with our new friends. Juan José, the BMW rider from Guadalajara, bought me a michelada to introduce me to Mexican beer cocktails. Verdict: not bad.

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By the time we rolled off the ferry we were hungry and tired, and so we met up with the bicycle gang and went to find ceviche and beers, rather successfully. Altogether we finished off a bunch of buckets of Pacificos and three huge servings of ceviche.

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When here, indulge in seafood. Mazatlan has fantastic seafood.

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We said our goodbyes to the bicycle travel troupe and rode into town.

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We checked into a hotel in the historical centre of Mazatlan for the night, hoping to get out early the next day to forego our planned route to Guadalajara and instead riding what we’d heard was a beautiful ride inland known as ‘El Esponiza del Diablo’ (the Devil’s Backbone).

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