Sitting on the dilapidated concrete dock at the Pichilingue ferry port in La Paz I glimpsed the name of the ferry we’d soon be boarding. Mazatlán Star. More intriguing was the name under it, which had been painted over: Montpellier Mieuxquevous. The last word was something else, but I didn’t write it down. The point is that the ship was French. A ship broken in under the sunny skies of the French Riviera. The idea of traveling over sparkling blue Pacific waters aboard a majestic French vessel was to me the epitome of romance. A man with a machine gun blew his whistle, pointed at me, and I drove Nacho into the fairy tale ship’s nether regions. I drove down two levels to the very bottom of the hull, or whatever, and parked. Nacho would spend the next 16 hours driving under the sea.
Once aboard the ship, we found our way to the sixth floor where we had reserved a 3 bed cabin. We paid a total of USD$263 for the tickets, which included under the sea parking for Nacho, the 3 bed cabin, dinner, and breakfast. Not a bad deal if you ask me. What it didn’t include was electricity for charging our computer, as Nacho still didn’t have an inverter. No, when the ship arrived from France nobody bothered to replace the outlets, so it required continental European plugs. Furthermore, the electricity was 220V instead of 110V. Welcome to Mexico.
Our entertainment options aboard the ship were fairly limited, as this was no cruise. In fact, the Customs agent in La Paz reminded us of that. Due to some mislabeling on our Mexican street map, we were unsure as to whether the ship would go directly to Mazatlán or if it would first stop in Cabo San Lucas to pick up more passengers. When I asked the Customs agent if the ship was stopping at Cabo, he gave me a half smile and said, “No sir, this isn’t a cruise.” So no pool? No cabaret shows? In the end we found that we could either hang out in our cabin, or we could go to the cafeteria where they served food, drinks, and had an endless stream of American films dubbed in Spanish.
Just after shoving off from La Paz we hit up the cafeteria for our free dinner; we had our choice of barbecued chicken or fish in some kind of sauce. We ate chicken, watched Wall Street in Spanish, and then went to bed at 8:00 due to sheer boredom. When we ship Nacho to Malaysia in about a year, we’ll have the option of riding aboard the container ship for multiple weeks. Multiple weeks of eye-stabbing boredom. Pat and Ali were able to stand it, but Sheena and I are soft, so we’ll fly.
In the morning we awoke and hurriedly made our way to the cafeteria for free breakfast time. Nothing gets us going like Mexican breakfast. Sheena staked our claim at a table by the window and I stood in line for food. Our choices this morning were salchicha (cut up hot dogs), or huevos con salchicha (eggs with cut up hot dogs). Come on, that’s not a choice! Huevos con salchicha please! The tired looking “chef” with the scraggly beard filled our two plates with giant mounds of the egg/hot dog concoction and I returned to the table. My hot dog and egg euphoria quickly turned to nausea as I took the first bite. Fish. What we saw was a wonderful medley of processed meat and the ovulation byproducts of a flightless bird, but what we tasted was fish. Fish, as in last night’s other dinner option.
We disembarked in Mazatlán at 10:30AM, our bellies full of fishy eggs, ready to start the arduous search for our friend Santiago’s house. Due to our inverter failure we still didn’t have a computer, and thus no ability to tell Santiago when we would be arriving, or whether we had actually made it onto the ship. As we left the ship yard, who else would be walking across the street in front of us than Santiago. He gave us a quick wave, hopped in his Mercedes, and zipped out into traffic along the peninsular road toward the historic center.
“So, how was the ferry?” Santiago asked, once inside of his apartment in the town’s historic center.
“Not too bad. Slept most of the time. We had the worst breakfast though. They didn’t wash the pan that they used to cook the fish from the night before, and then used it to cook the eggs for breakfast. Most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted.”
He gave an understanding nod and the corner of his mouth rose in a half smile. “Welcome to Mexico.”