La Paz, BCS

Home: Mattheus’s AirBNB

Part 2 Day 2

Now off the island, we started our transition back to unhealthy eating by extracting the maximum value from the included breakfast buffet at our fancy hotel. Then we spent much of the morning rearranging the contents of our bags to get them back to bike-touring mode rather than the kayak-touring mode we had bastardized them into.

Then, because we had time to kill between our checkout and check-in at our AirBNB, and Jorge had time to kill between his checkout and his flight back to mainland Mexico, we met up on the Malecon and walked together until we found a suitable place for some drinks.

The bathroom at the restaurant/bar we stopped at. I walked right past the urinals without even realizing it. That decorative wall? It’s a trough! The communal trough-toilet is a rarely-seen beast (even in Mexico, this is the first I’ve seen), and never in such a high-class, decorative bathroom! It exactly matches their sink design on the other side, which IS somewhat common in upscale bathrooms in the U.S. these days, so I guess here they just said “hey, if it’s good for washing it’s good for peeing”?

I haven’t written too much about Jorge yet, which is strange, because he became our closest friend on the island. I think one of the first times I said anything of consequence to him was when I passed along Chino’s claim to us that Jorge was the first Mexican he’d had on a tour in his 18 years as a guide. After I disclosed that, I immediately felt a little unsure if I should have, especially when Jorge reacted with (understandable!) skepticism to the claim. I suddenly realized that, as already the most-alone member of our group, he could have felt that was a way for me to send an exclusionary message just short of explicitly saying “don’t you know these tours are supposed to be for foreigners?!” The truth of course was the opposite: I was so happy that we’d finally have a chance to get to know someone besides an American or Canadian in our three months in Mexico, but I refrained from saying that (until I knew him much better at least!) because I didn’t want to risk overbalancing and making it sound like our safari had finally brought us to this token exotic Mexican who we could get grinning photos with to send to the folks back home.

Anyway, luckily Jorge seems to not be quite as much of a spaz as me, so he either took no offense to my cultural focus, or hid it well. As an outdoor-enthusiast who has difficulty finding countrymen (or more-importantly, women) to join him on adventures, he was well-aware that he was a Mexican rarity (one of the reasons he liked the “join a tour as an individual” setup that only BOA seemed to provide); he was just surprised that he was once-in-eighteen-years rare. On one of our last nights I finally asked Chino to confirm this, and he said that yeah, he’d guided a couple of friends-of-the-owners, but Jorge was the first off-the-street sign-up. Hopefully the first of many, because Mexicans should be fully experiencing these islands of theirs ahead of us stupid gringos anyway!

As far as why outdoor culture isn’t as big of a thing in Mexico (more evidence: Jorge says he buys all his gear from REI during travels to the US), either Jorge or Joaquin shared the theory that, with Mexico’s middle-class urbanization happening somewhat later than that of the United States or Canada, there are still plenty of Mexican grandmothers around who say to their grandkids “we worked hard to get our family out of living in the dirt, so what do you want to go live in the dirt again for?!” Which, makes sense! And highlights our extreme-level of global privilege in a somewhat-queasy light, since we essentially adopt the lifestyles of less-developed societies as a form of entertainment. Ugh.

But see, this is exactly the type of discussion that expands our thinking beyond topics we would ever be likely to discuss with fellow Americans. And even in this case, it’s only possible because Jorge, Joaquin, and Chino all spoke English at least as well as we do, which makes me feel like a cultural tourist where I still demand that the people of the culture I’m interested in do most of the work. Ugh. But thanks guys!

Anyway, more-personally, Jorge was the most-skilled kayaker of the group going in, but unlike some people he understood what he was signing up for, and accepted without a fuss that he’d need to slow down to our pace (or at a minimum, he hid his frustration well!) Oh, and maybe he didn’t actually know what he was signing up for: on the night of our pre-tour meeting, Chino said “ok, who is here for the 4-day tour and who is here for the 9-day?” and Jorge said “there’s a 9-day?!” He immediately got to work changing his plans (both with the tour company and with his job), successfully did a last-minute conversion to the 9-day group, and we’re so glad that he did! Rett and I thought we were being on-the-fly travelers by booking this tour just a week or two before it began (especially in light of several members of our tribe having it booked from pre-COVID times!) but Jorge’s spontaneity had us beat by a mile.

Early on, he got a cut on the bottom of his foot, which, unless you were bold enough to give it a good look, most people didn’t realize how bad it was because he didn’t complain and just kept trucking through it. Chino said that he’d gotten cuts that deep on the island, and due to constantly being in the salt water, they simply wouldn’t heal for the entire six months until the offseason rolled around and he could get onto dry land. For several days “Jorge’s Bucket” of clear water was his Happy Hour companion, to hold his leg in and let all the sand from the day’s activities wash out. After that disappeared, we all tried to think of various schemes to keep a barrier between the cut and the never-ending desire of the beach to invade every crevice, but he mostly relied on a pair of my socks (with the heel patches riding up to his high ankle!) when he needed a better-than-nothing option. It was certainly a cautionary example of the risks of this “living in the dirt” that we were all doing, and that even with a good amount of modern tech, not everything is easily fixed.

One of the most fun things about Jorge was remembering the difference between Day 1 Jorge, and, say, Day 4 Jorge. Of course, every one of us began as a more-reserved version of ourselves, and then opened up more to the group over time, but somehow his transformation felt larger than anyone else’s. Once fully-bloomed, his snark, humor, pragmatic-romanticism, and cheerful-cynicism all made for a whole lot of relatable entertainment during our island evenings. So that’s why it was especially fun for the three of us to sit together for a couple hours having drinks and doing a full post-game breakdown of our week, and to get to know each other even better. Unfortunately I’ve already written too many intimate personal details into this post, so you’ll just need to read between the llines or use your imagination to guess everything we talked about!

Well, we also talked a little about Rett and I as a couple. The view I assume the rest of the group had of us was an oddly-mismatched couple, in a perpetual state of mild bickering due to obvious incompatibilities like me being too future-focused to ever cut loose how Rett would like, or Rett being too much of a chatterer to ever let me learn as much as I’d like to from others. Jorge definitely recognized our differences, but he also made it clear, with concrete examples, that he genuinely believed those differences made us stronger than a more-similar couple would be. After all, there’s no way two Neils would have even considered this kayak tour, and no way two Retts would have figured out to make it happen. And this one Neil and this one Rett are both really glad that it happened! And glad to get a reminder of what a good couple we truly are and how important we are to each other.

And then Jorge showed that my straight-laced view of just myself wasn’t that accurate either, by reminding me of a small thing I’d completely forgotten: two nights ago after the crab racing, I was drunkenly distracted by my own shadow that, cast at an odd angle from Rett’s headlamp, looked like a top-heavy Incredible Hulk (or in retrospect, more-specifically “Swole Doge“). That inspired my skinny-ass-self to spend a couple minutes doing Hulk poses on the beach for my own entertainment.

And maybe that’s part of why I wrote so many personal details into this post, because getting an explicit view of yourself from the outside is something that doesn’t happen very often, and such a view is especially valuable if the picture painted differs substantially from the image generated from inside. Thanks Jorge, we’ll miss you!

The remains of Jorge: sunburn lotion, and his hat/visor, now adopted by Rett.

After he left to catch his flight, and Rett and I were closing out at the bar, we got even more positive external feedback. The waitress, who spoke little English, pointed to Rett positively and said something in Spanish that included the English words “Top Model”. Huh, ok, cool, thanks? A few minutes later, we laughed as she came back with her phone that had a photo of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw displayed on it, a woman Rett never tires of being compared to. The Spanish-only busboy, with whom our waitress had surely been discussing this celebrity look-alike, joined in with a grinning English “beautiful!”. This routine seems like one you’d play to gringos on the tourist strip before we paid the bill, but we’d already paid, including the tip, so I think they were just genuinely impressed with how beautiful and celebrity-like my wife is! And they didn’t even know that she was less than 24-hours out from a week living on a desert island!

Part 2 Days 3-4

We’d (correctly) predicted that we’d need a recovery from our vacation-from-our-vacation before continuing our regular vacation, so we’d booked three nights in a 2nd La Paz AirBNB. This one was closer to downtown, and had an unusual old-European hotel/vintage/lived-in feel to it. Our host Mattheus ironically ran a touring company that did (simpler) Espiritu Santo tours; sorry, we’re all toured-out, and I think we picked the right one!

View from our landing into the gated parking area. Again proof that it’s difficult in Mexico, even in an upscale neighborhood (which isn’t quite where we were) to not see an unfinished pile of concrete blocks somewhere in your field of view.
Variety in the view the other way from our La Paz landing: a couple churches, a mountain, palm trees, and lots of parked boats.

The most exciting thing we did during our second La Paz stint was my 45th birthday celebration. Where else but a walk to a brewery? But this time, a fully-Mexican, La Paz-ian brewery, Pinshi Paceña, which is more exciting to me than the mostly-expat-founded breweries that have been the main option in Baja up ’til now. Once again their selection of Rett beers went from disappointing-to-zero, but my birthday gift is that I didn’t need to feel bad about that this time!

Still more mermaid/dolphin sculptures on the Malecon for Rett to become a part of.
Vegan Hot Dog Stand (Mural)!
Double-fisting it, party time!

On our walk home, we got some ice cream at an ice cream shop (somehow the first time in our nomadcy!), and then walked the Malecon in the evening for the first time. It was still buzzing, and, again keeping with the La Paz-for-Pacenas theme that makes La Paz a healthy and vibrant place, was at least as populated with locals out for their evening stroll (or in the case of a matching t-shirted running group, their evening run) as it was by tourists.

First time I noticed this “Puerto de Ilusion” appellation, but I guess it fits.
Old couple on the beach! Well, at least an old man.
Ah, at least he has a beautiful wife to make him look younger!
Whale shark, one of the few (only?) bits of iconic La Paz-ian wildlife we did NOT see!


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