I woke up in the middle of the night to “Holy FUCK! Murphy, check that out!” James was pointing to the ceiling where water had started to seep through the roof from the floor above. It was coming down on him in his sleep and woke him up. Some plaster had started coming down from the ceiling as well and it was all looking pretty sketchy. We were worried it might cave in. On top of that the Hurricane had greatly increased it’s intensity while we were asleep and the large double glass balcony door was shuddering and bending under the force of the wind. It looked like it would shatter into the room at any moment.
We hadn’t slept that long and our stupor was still upon us but we jumped into action mode. In our soggy boxers. It was then that we noticed our hotel room was covered in about 2 inches of water. Unfortunately, James’ bag of clothes was on the floor and a good portion got sopping wet. We moved everything to higher ground. Along with the water coming through our ceiling, a quick glance out our door revealed water streaming onto the floor from several “springs” in the wall at the end of the hallway.
Fighting the water was futile but getting impaled by broken glass wouldn’t improve our situation, so we took James’ bed mattress and box spring and jammed them up against the balcony door. While doing so we noticed that the tree that had been whipping us in the face on the balcony earlier wasn’t there anymore. A quick glance outside showed it laying in the street that was now rushing with water and debris.
After setting up the barricade we both sat on the bed listening to the storm. It was chaotic. A car alarm (or maybe shop alarm) started whoo whoo-ing from somewhere in the street below. It was loud. And annoying. And it went off for the next 5 hours while we tried to sleep.
All of the power was out and it was pitch black. We had to walk through the plaster and ankle-deep water in the dark with a flashlight to use the bathroom, which thankfully still had running water.
In the morning things had died down. Our first order of business was to check on El Burro. Rounding the corner onto the street where he (she?) was parked we saw broken glass, tree limbs and dislodged pieces of cement throughout the street, but our steed was intact. Three trees were completely uprooted within twenty feet of the parking spot, but none had connected on their way down.
With our mind at rest over the condition of our wheels we took a walk along the waterfront to survey the damage to the town. It was extensive, to be understated. Streetlights torn asunder. Boats capsized in the harbour. Marquee signs ripped from their facades and left in undignified piles of twisted metal and shattered plastic. Where yesterday there had been a large garage with sheet metal siding now stood a barely-recognizable frame and a street full of warped corrugated steel. Other motorists were not as lucky as we were – some cars had windows smashed out and others had fallen victim to larger debris and utility poles. Armed police patrolled streets throughout the city and a convoy of military guard rolled by. The city was a state of disaster.
No one had electricity but the nearby Hotel Perla opened the doors to their dancing hall and the staff were giving out coffee and toast not only to their patrons, but also to stragglers poking their heads out from the carnage, gringos and locals alike. Everyone was in the same predicament: no power and no food, the community coming together to help out as best they could. This was especially fortunate for us because aside from booze and mix our sustenance supply consisted of a half-can of peanuts, some dried fruit, a pack of gum and toothpaste.
We informed the sole remaining member of our hotel staff about the state of our room and he responded that all of the rooms were like that, but we asked to see another regardless. He took us by phone flashlight app to one across the hall that lacked a balcony but more than compensated for that with its (relatively) dry floor and (relatively) little amount of plaster crumbing from the ceiling, so we nabbed it. It was surreal to walk around the semi-flooded hotel in the dark, even during the day. There were no windows in the hall and they had placed a single Jesus candle on each floor as the only source of light. If you were to simply add zombies it would look like a scene from The Walking Dead.
There was little to do in the destroyed, powerless city so we laid around the room, reading and recovering from our night of ill-advised and poorly-timed descent into atavistic and disgraceful behavior. As the afternoon drew to a close we drove out to the port of Pichilingue – where we planned to embark the following day – to see how extensive the damage there was. The drive took several times longer than it had the day before as many of the roads were reduced to a single lane due to fallen trees and, after leaving La Paz city limits and traversing the rocky coastal passes to the north, rocks and small boulders occupied much of the roads. Some parts were completely impassible due to utility poles and downed lines.
The port was locked up solid and the damage was immediately visible, with several of the buildings missing many of their windows and twisted metal debris scattered around. The game plan doesn’t change though – we still fully intend to get on a boat to the mainland tomorrow – and we pull a 180 to head back into town.
Food became more of a concern as we squeezed the last of our toothpaste onto a handful of dried apricots. Walking back out to the waterfront, increasing numbers of people were out, with some carrying bags of snacks. A few quick “bueno cop, malo cop” interrogations got us directions to a corner store where we stocked up on hot dogs, cheese, refried beans, rice, chocolate, pop and cookies. We then commenced our first night of “camping”, cooking on a gas stove in our hotel room by lantern. Our culinary masterpiece was comprised of most of the ingredients listed above:
In the evening we dug deep into our reserves of responsibility and restraint and managed to limit ourselves to a single six-pack of Modelo Especial on the boardwalk. While down by the water we heard someone call “Hey, aren’t you boys supposed to be in Guadalajara?”. It was our server from the first night. I finally got his name, Marteen (sp?). He was a portly fellow with a great snicker and impeccable english. “Do you need supplies?”, he was directing us to another super market that had apparently opened it’s doors. We felt ok with the meager things we’d picked up for hotel camping. Marteen was a little drunk and the conversation fishtailed here and there sluggishly.
A few blocks further we caught up with Rainbow sitting with a dog on a bench. “Pretty crazy, eh?” we said in passing. “Just another hurricane” was all he said. Maybe for you Rainbow, but the citizens of La Paz weren’t expecting things to be this bad. No power, no gas, no place open to buy food, no telephone service or WiFi meant no communication and a lot of confusion, and most of the roads are impassable. Everyone is just trying to survive now. We started hearing horrible things about Cabo.
Despite the chaos we sat laughing and telling stories on a bench by the still surging waters. But the somber juxtaposition of last night and today settled on us in a slight depression over the state of things. The hurricane had brought a sharp smack of karmic justice and the honeymoon period of this trip felt like it was over. Resolve set in. Tomorrow we are getting on a boat and we need to bring our A-game.