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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mazatlán - Warning, Long Post

By Jim

Mazatlán’s nickname is the “Pacific Pearl”, and this is also the name of their English language newspaper. We had heard more about Mazatlán than the other ports we visited, thanks to tour guides online like Mazatlán Frank and King David tours and comments on the cruise critic webpage and guide books. This was surprising as Mazatlán is the least-touristy of the destinations in my opinion. There is other industry there (For one, the Pacífico Brewery), and the port is the largest commercial port between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal, and Mexico’s largest commercial port.

We laid out our gameplan for Mazatlán the night before. Barbara didn’t want to climb up the hill to the lighthouse, so I would get out as soon as we tied up and take advantage of the morning cool to do that. Then I’d come back to the ship, pick up Barbara, and we’d head to the Mazatlan Aquarium. After that, we’d either head to the Golden Zone (tourist hotels, beaches) or to the old city (cathedral, market, beach, cliff divers).

I awoke as we were pulling into the harbor. The view off our balcony was of the lighthouse and hill.

Water taxis and tour boats

Tanker in port, note the "No Smoking" signs

Golden Princess in port ahead of us

Once we had tied up, I headed down and took the little tram from the ship to the cruise ship terminal. There were more hawkers for timeshares, inside there were little shops, and on the other side were taxis and vans all wanting to take me somewhere. I passed them all, walked outside, and caught a pulmonia outside the terminal area.

A pulmonia is a taxi unique to Mazatlán. It is an open-air cab with a surrey top (think a white VW Thing with a cloth top) and may or may not have doors, hence the name which literally means pneumonia. Negotiate the rate before you get in.

The driver dropped me at the foot of the hill. The Mazatlán lighthouse is the second-highest natural lighthouse in the world, after the Gibraltar There was a dirt road for half of the walk up, a fairly easy walk. Much more difficult was the second half of stairs. The total walk was only two-thirds of a mile, but up 515 feet as well, just shy of the height of the Washington Monument. It took the wind out of me for sure. On the way I ran into a couple of tourists who said “It isn’t much farther, and it’s worth it.” It certainly was. The view was spectacular. If you do make the hike, the lighthouse keeper sells bottled water and sodas. I wouldn’t want to carry it up. Also, do it in the morning.

Cruise ships from the walk up

The city - it was hazy that morning

The lighthouse itself

The walk back to the port was nice. I met several dogs and cats, walked by the sportfishing marina, the place where the water taxis run to Stone Island, and back to the port. From leaving the ship to back, it took about two hours. I took a quick shower to wash the red dirt from the road off my legs, then was ready to head out again.

Our next stop was the Mazatlán Aquarium (Acuario Mazatlán). It was small compared to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, but very nicely set up. We got there in time to wander the exhibits and see the fish-feeding show with a diver feeding the fish, then picking up the nurse shark and scratching its belly.

Barbara had another goal in mind, though. She found out that after the Sea Lion show, you could get a kiss from a sea lion.

They were cute. Ely’s nose was soft and her breath smelled of herring.

After the Aquarium, we headed back to the cathedral in the city center. It has a beautifully painted altar area.

Next up was the central market. If you’ve been to an Asian market in a large city, you would be comfortable. If you think all meat comes on Styrofoam from a Safeway, you’ll see some things you’ve never seen before. One of our dinner table-mates fell into the latter category, and was a little freaked out. I wish I had taken some pictures there-it was very interesting.

We had lunch above the market at one of the many small restaurants there. It had more people eating there, that’s why I picked it. Barbara had enchiladas, I had shrimp in spicy sauce. Hers were better than mine, but mine weren’t bad. And lunch was around $12 dollars, even with two Cokes each.

After lunch, we headed back through town, walking down to the ocean and to where the cliff divers do there thing. I was told it wasn’t as impressive as the ones in Acapulco, but I haven’t been there, so I was impressed.

By then, we had been walking in the hot afternoon sun for a long time, and it was time to refresh. We passed by El Shrimp Bucket and I remembered that one of our guides recommended a place just a few blocks past, where the beer was cheaper and colder and the food better. El Marismeño on Olas Altas. Beers were 2 for 20 pesos, less than $1 each. Barbara got some guacamole and chips to snack on (40 pesos), and I got shrimp ceviche. For 70 pesos, I expected a small portion, but I got something that looked like it could feed a family of four as an appetizer, or two as an entrée. It was the best ceviche I’ve ever had. The shrimp were fresh, marinated with lime juice, red onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and Serrano chiles. Fantastic stuff.

After 3 or 4 beers, ceviche, and a cigar, we hopped in a pulmonia to take us back to the ship.

The skyline was beautiful as we departed.

I'm ready to go back. I'm ready to buy a little townhouse in the Centro for $80,000, and run a shrimp boat. They will call me Shrimper Jim.

Next: Puerto Vallarta!

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Blogger Glenna said...

Way too much fun! So glad it was a great trip. Particularly loved the aquarium shots. Hey, not everyone can brag about being kissed by a seal!

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your day in Mazatlan sounded delightful and I really enjoyed your pics. I got the link from your Cruise Critic post. It has given me some great ideas for our upcoming cruise! Thanks! -Ratdoggie

3:55 PM  

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