Following the border crossing at Tecate, our second challenge awaited us in the form of crossing the Sea of Cortez. The gulf runs between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico, for 410 miles and driving all the way around if would have taken 34 hours. With the fuel efficiency of Betty, a 5.2L guzzling truck, at the forefront of our minds we decided we would ship ourselves from La Paz to mainland.
There are two types of ferry running the route, Baja Ferries who primarily cater to tourists and foot passengers and TMC ferries who are primarily used by truckers and cargo shipments. The latter was about half the price, and coupled with the fact that Baja Ferries weren’t running the route we wanted to take the decision was made that we’d go with the cargo ferry. Mikey called up beforehand and as a true test of his Spanish reserved us a spot on the TMC ferry for the Wednesday. We were told to be at the port at midday for a 5pm sailing which we thought seemed a little odd…
So come Wednesday we showed up at midday and there was a queue of over 30 lorries waiting just to enter the port. At this point the usual concerns of ‘will we make it on – did the reservation go through?!’ came to mind. After queueing for just under an hour we passed through a checkpoint where are papers were pressed and we pressed a button which either returns a green or a red light – meaning your vehicle will be searched or it won’t. For the first time since we’ve been in Mexico we weren’t pulled over for an extra search by the police! Then we paid to have our van weighed which was strange as the weight didn’t seem to factor into any ticket prices and took our weight and length to the ticket office to purchase our ticket.
The lady selling the tickets didn’t make any mention of a reservation but it didn’t look like we’d need one. She was super friendly at put us through as a car rather than a commercial van (which we’d been told in the office is what we’d be charged as). In total the crossing cost around £200, for a 17hr ferry journey and two tickets we weren’t too upset!
What happened next was a classic case of tourists being plunged into a system of organised chaos. We joined one queue which turned out to be for the wrong ferry so we were pulled to the side. We then located our ferry and tried to board but the coordinator told us to hold on – he was going to make sure we had a space on the top deck so we could sleep better. When we were called on to the ferry we were put under a canopy at the back which didn’t look like it had the best of breezes, so we tried to convince the person on deck to let us move but she told us she needed permission from the coordinator. So we had to drive back off the ferry to discuss with him! Then we returned to the back of the ferry in open air confident we’d have a good nights sleep there.
We headed to the canteen and had our dinner of meat, tortillas, beans and nachos which was surprisingly good. We learnt that they had made an impromptu female toilet due to Annie’s presence on the boat as every other passenger was a middle age man driving a truck! Then we enjoyed good showers and tried to sleep. As it turned out, no matter where we were parked, it was the roughest night sleep we’d had since the desert in Nevada. The heat was unrelenting, and due to being packed expertly between big trucks we didn’t have an ounce of breeze. The night was long and we were glad to see the back of it – both promising ourselves we’d drive to higher land as soon as we docked.
The next morning, groggy, we headed to a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs and enjoyed the views from the top deck. We spotted dolphins playing in the wake, birds diving into the ocean from dizzying heights to catch fish and even a sea turtle hovering at the surface of the sea!
Finally, we docked at Mazatlan with a feeling of great relief. It was time to point Betty to higher ground and a good nights sleep which we both were in dire need of!