Thursday, January 26, 2012

Back on the Trail

It was time to move on from La Paz so we were underway at 0715 last Thursday. I had been watching the weather for a few days and it was forecast for 15 to 20 knots and dropping late in the day. It was a little rough coming from the port stern quarter for a few hours as we started our crossing of the Sea of Cortez but the wind started dropping and by nightfall it was down to 7 knots. Sunset over the Southern Baja was wonderful, full of color.
It was our longest overnighter and took 30 hours; we found the small channel into the northern Mazatlan harbour no problem soon after midday and by the afternoon we were on the bus to explore the historic old town. Most of the modern development, hotels and fast food is at the North in the Golden Zone. Moving swiftly on from this area the old town has a great deal of charm; much of it was built in the hundred years after Mexican independence. The 9 1/2 peso bus ride will take you anywhere you need to go; the market is busy and full of fresh
 produce. No wonder Mazatlan was discovered and adopted by many poets, musicians and art folk back in the fifties and sixties. As a visitor here generally one is not bothered by restaurant touts, time-share salesmen or beggars; it is a working and residential town and fairly unspoilt.
The economy here is shot to pieces. Presumably in the heyday there were charter-loads of tourists coming in from all over the US but they estimate that 60% of the trade has been lost. The malecon (sea-front promenade) connects the old town and the Golden Zone (tourist district) and it contains tens of boarded up bankrupt businesses. Our marina is part of the El Cid group, still thriving, but next door is a huge hotel and beach complex which is all boarded up and obviously has been derelict a while. On top of the world recession, the negative spectre of Mexican cartel violence has put off the majority of would be holiday-makers. We have been doing our bit for the local economy; choosing one or two little haunts to go to for eats and ice-cream (quesadillas or ice-cream are $1), buying giant shrimp from the dock man ($5 per pound), getting the boat cleaned (top or bottom $1 per foot of boat length). No wonder some cruisers have been here for ages; that is why the Mexican authorities give you a standard temporary boat import permit which lasts for ten years.
I have for quite a while wanted to write a piece on Mexican cuisine. Mainly because I have never really got it. I must say that I have many times chewed over the items on the menu while I have sipped my margarita.........what are these things? Burritos, tortillas, tacos, tamales, quesadillas, enchiladas, chimichangas? First of all let's eliminate the things the Spanish brought here in the 1500's - yes - they brought rice, chicken, pigs, cattle and cheese. The Mexicans already had - well - they had corn, beans, turkey, avocado, fruit, vegetables and fish. And chocolate. So what is a tortilla? Well, that is a corn or wheat flat thin cake. It comes with a filling. What is a burrito? Well, that is a wheat flour tortilla which comes with a filling. A taco? That is a corn or wheat tortilla, with filling. Quesadilla - tortilla put on the hot plate, with filling. Enchilada? That is a corn tortilla but it has sauce on the outside as well as filling on the inside. Tamale? A corn-based dough cooked with a filling. Chimichanga? Ah, that was apparently invented by mistake in the 1920's when someone dropped a burrito in a deep fat fryer - it is a deep fried burrito. Now what about the fillings? Well, I think we all know that these days they are chicken, beef or shrimp, with as much lettuce and tomato as they can get away with. Anyway, at least we now know what we are ordering. As for Mexican cuisine, as they say, it's a wrap!
I did manage to stumble into the music scene while we were here. Rob Lamonica is a great keyboards player and kindly invited me to join the full blues band one evening down at Los Canucks del Leon.........

It was a great band, some good original material from Sheryl and super guitar playing from Gerry; I stayed lurking in the background wondering if it is time at last to learn some new tracks! I did manage to get my request for Black Magic Woman in anyway.

Here is the final picture; Mazatlan has its own particular style of taxi, called a Pulmonia. So called because you will get the opportunity to breathe in the luxuriant air of the street traffic!

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