The alarm panged at 6:55am and we were up. We’d hit up the 7 Crowns Hotel the night before while on the boardwalk and amazingly they had power and Wifi (the only block in the whole city with electricity). So we knew the ferry terminal opened at 8 and we were gonna be first in line to try and get this shitshow back on the road. We traversed the rubble strewn streets out of La Paz centro and were pleased to find that when we hit the pass some of the rocks and boulders had been removed so the drive was a little easier.
Down at the docks everything was still closed. James and I exchanged a grim look, but a security guard told us to go to the Baja Ferries office down the road. It too was closed, however. A security guard there said it would open at nine. While we waited, other anxious locals and travellers began to gather. A rather pleasant guy in a SF Giants shirt and matching hat showed up. He was a good-natured happy sort and wanted to know what we were up to. He was floored when we told him we were driving to Argentina. Further into the conversation he was floored again when we explained the Mongol Rally. Helpfully he was bilingual and he talked to the guard again, but the guard said the place was closed. It was ten to 9 so we stuck it out anyways.
Shortly after 9 a dude in an orange hazard vest came around. He had a Baja Ferries badge and he rattled off a brief announcement to the small group that had gathered. Our SF friend translated that the office would open at 12:30. He shook our hands and walked back to his hotel. Walking away he called back, “I hope to see you on the ferry, I want to hear stories from that trip!”.
A Baja Ferries employee emerged and began measuring a couple of the cars parked near the entrance. We didn’t know what was going on – and a query in broken Spanglish went unanswered – but figured we needed this to get on the boat. Trying the get the employee’s attention, a friendly guy in a tropical shirt asked if we needed an interpreter. After getting El Burro’s stats on a piece of official-looking paper we felt the relief of knocking an important task off a list. Mr Tropical said that’s all we needed to get on the boat. Hope renewed, we went back to waiting.
Over the next several hours we migrated between the doors of the building, where the racket of a poorly-tuned generator was too loud to talk over, and a piece of cement on the other side of the road, where we had to watch for fast-moving trucks that would splash us with leftover storm sludge if they approached too quickly. It quickly became more humid, more hot, and more chaotic as the number of passengers hovering near the office increased. Hazard man and a cute Baja Ferries lady came out a few times with more announcements, none of which we understood. A Sonoran named Juan repeated everything they said in English for our benefit, asking his wife to repeat the announcements he missed during translation. At one point it seemed like the office was going to remain closed – one of our translators told us the generator wasn’t up to the task and they’d have to move the circus down the road – but eventually it did open and they began processing passengers. The previous semblance of two neat lines quickly dissipated but we managed to maintain our position near the front.
They started taking people in threes into the office to book tickets around 11:30 and our perseverance led to a quickish entry an hour later. We met Juan as he walked out, he was going to slam his car into the queue, “If you need any help on that side of the fence, find me.” Unfortunately, a swift back and forth led to the revelation that we needed a vehicle permit before we could get a ticket. The girl at the desk mentioned that the ferry office sold these and that it was open at this moment. James and I were now in a race to get the proper documents and back to the office for the tickets before boarding at 2. We can do this.
We piled into the car and bombed back to the ferry terminal. A security guard told us where the permit office was and we shot over there only to find no one there. Another guard radioed over an attendant and she sauntered over (a little slower than our anxious hearts could stand) and opened up the office. Fortunately she was very pretty, and very helpful. Unfortunately, they needed two things we didn’t have: Tourist cards (curse our ignorance!) and a $400 dollar deposit for the permit. US dollars. And they had no power so it had to be in cash. She gave us a map and circled where we might be able to find an open ATM, two gas stations that were actually back on line (we were running on fumes at this point), and the IMN office where we could get the tourist cards. We had just under 2 hours and we were determined to make this ferry crossing happen.
We careened back into town through the tumbled pass and fallen palms to the first spot on the map. ATMs. All powered down. No banks were back online in the only block that had any power. Fuck. Ok next. We headed for the gas stations the girl had marked. Blocks and blocks from them we ran into a nasty amount of traffic. Everyone had found out about these 2 places carrying the resource we were all hopelessly tied to and the lines to get to them were immense. Cars were lined up. So too were people with their jerry cans, lined up for blocks. Fuck. Ok, that just left the tourist cards. We headed straight there and of course the trifecta was complete. It’s Mexican Independence day and we were trying to get into a government run establishment. Fuck.
And that was that. We needed a permit which required tourist cards both of which required money which required electricity. We were defeated. Since we didn’t have 400 cash for the vehicle permit, let alone even more for the ferry tickets, not to mention the fines we’re facing from immigration officials for being in this part of the country illegal, we decided our best bet was to spend what money we did have on more beer and at least make the most of the evening. After that day we felt we’d deserved it.
On the way to the only convenience store with power in the entire city we came across a hostel that seemed to have electricity as well. We stopped in to investigate and ended up getting a room from a sweet lady named Eva. “We have air conditioning” she boasted. We were sticky, and we were in. Also in the hostel were 4 fun loving Australians (one played guitar fabulously), a knock out French girl named Sandy, and a handful of others passing in and out. We had nothing to do but wait til tomorrow so we grabbed some problem solving supplies and got comfortable.