The Baja is truly magical, and so vastly different from the rest of the country. However, there may come a time when you need to venture beyond the sea and desert landscape and make your way to the mainland. Of course, you may also find yourself on the mainland and desperate to explore this unique world that so many people have fallen in love with.
Unless you intend on driving a long way north through the state of Sonora, your only option is the ferry. There are two types of ferry, both open to travelers of all kinds if you have a vehicle. Unfortunately if you are a foot passenger you may only board the Baja Ferry. This ferry company truly does cater for tourists. The ship looks nicer, there is a nice dining and sitting area and it services all routes to and from La Paz. The alternative TMC Ferry is more designed for truckers although tourist vehicles are welcomed whole-heartedly! In fact, it is cheaper and faster than the Baja Ferry and your ticket includes meal vouchers for both dinner and breakfast! There are even showers for you to have a quick freshen up in the morning and, unlike the Baja Ferry, you have full access to your vehicle at all times. This means you can sleep in the comfort and privacy of your own camper as well as keep a close eye on your belongings.
The ticket purchasing system is daunting and a little tricky, perhaps made even trickier by our own inability to speak fluent Spanish. The first step before leaving La Paz is to ensure your vehicle has a Temporary Import Permit (TIP). You may have purchased this at the border, but seeing as the Baja is exempt, you also may not have. This is an incredibly simple process. We ventured out to the port and were pointed in the right direction by a friendly official. We took our documents to the window and were greeted by a grinning face. We didn’t have any spare copies but that was no problem, there was a little office around the corner that would take care of that for a few pesos. Job done and money exchanged, and we were given a sticker to carefully place on the windshield. We were then kindly pointed in the direction of the ticket office and went in search of obtaining some tickets for the next day. After being simply told to come back tomorrow we headed off to have a swim in the turquoise waters.
Tomorrow arrived and we made our way back to the port. We were waved ahead to customs, feeling a little confused as we weren’t exactly leaving the country, but I guess vehicle checks are necessary nonetheless. The next step was to be measured and weighed. A little slip of paper was completed and we were told to park and go and fetch our tickets. All seemingly smooth so far right? Wrong. This is where the waiting began. For two hours we sat and sweated, sweated and sat. Frustrations were creeping in as we saw vehicle owners come and go and couldn’t figure out why we weren’t being served. There are only so many ‘five more minute’ gestures one can take from the smiling lady behind the counter. It later transpired that we were waiting until the very last minute to see if there was actually any room left on the ferry – the pen and paper system was cute for about 10 seconds, but seriously, look into a computer system TMC! Despite this, had our communication skills been better we would have known this and spent our two hour waiting time with a cold cerveza and taco! In the end, we loaded on to the ferry (noting to ourselves that there was plenty of room) and headed to the upper deck to forget about our irritable afternoon and enjoy the magnificent view. The sunset was nothing short of amazing and with tummies full from our included dinner (a delicious beans, veggies, rice and tortilla concoction) and a cold beer we left some magical memories behind us in the Baja.
As dusk set in and truck drivers headed off into their vehicles for some sleep, we carried our air beds and sleeping bags to the top deck, nestled into a corner behind the bridge. We enjoyed a sleep in the fresh sea air under the stars, drifting off to sleep to the gentle rocking motion of the ferry with happy memories of the Baja!