First, Eric ran out of liquid for his vaporizer, though he thought he’d brought enough to get to La Paz. His vaporizer holds a small fraction of nicotine compared to any cigarette out there, but the absence was still impacting him.
Second, we’d heard a vibrating noise near the front driver axle on two occasions. Once coming out of Puffer Fish Beach, and the other leaving Juncalito. On both occasions, we were in 4-wheel drive. Once we were back on the road, the sound eventually stopped. Until we could diagnose the issue, we didn’t think 4×4 was the best choice for our home on wheels.
So to the big city we went.
First Impressions of La Paz
La Paz is the capital of the state of Baja California Sur. While there, your three-year-old may ask, “Why did we stop?” because he hasn’t seen a stop light since Ensenada.
For those who crave a big city fix every now and again, La Paz has everything, including the big box stores, boutique indie shops, varied cuisine, and beautiful street art.
We were trying to avoid landing during Carnival because we figured everything would be packed. But we didn’t run into any crowds other than near the malecon where the festivities were actually taking place.
Where We Stayed in La Paz: Beach Camping
We had three beach camping options at the top of our list: El Mogote, Playa Balandra, and Playa El Tecolote. El Mogote is on the far west end of La Paz, so we nixed that one until we could deal with our Jeep issue.
Playa Balandra and Playa El Tecolote are close to each other, and not too far north of the malecon and downtown La Paz. We were already downtown, so we headed for El Tecolote.
We arrived on a Saturday around sunset, and the beach was packed. But we kept driving in until the crowd thinned. Once we hit heavy sand up the ridge, we were the only ones camping. We were wiped and that was good enough for us. But as an FYI, you can actually go around the cliff by the water, or go farther back from the water, to get more remote camping at El Tecolote.
Despite the crowds, it was a beautiful spot. Only real cons: we missed seeing the stars with all the city light pollution, and there were some wasps and flies to avoid. But on the pro side, the sand was soft and clean, and the water view was stunning.
Where We Stayed in La Paz: Established Campground
After Eric’s long Sunday of trying to figure out what to do with our Jeep (more on that in a sec), we started heading to El Mogote for the night.
But because of mechanic plans for Eric and overland friend plans for me on Monday, we redirected at the last minute. This cut half-an-hour off our commute the next morning. Campestre Marantha was right where we needed it to be, so we pulled in.
What a lovely campground with a ton of ammenities. Though we were geared up for more beach camping, reality was we were ready for showers and laundry. Here’s a quick run-down of what to expect:
- Laundry room with lots of washers and one dryer, plus a large clothes line area right outside.
- Two bath houses for overlanders and RVers. The one by us had private rooms with a bathroom and shower, like Romanita in Loreto.
- Nice swimming pool
Parking was abnormal because of a big yoga event Campestre Maranatha was hosting. Instead of parking in the regular dry camping area, we stayed in a vacant cottage driveway, right by the laundry/bathrooms in the back. This was super convenient for our short stay and need to reset.
The nightly rate was 300 pesos ($15 USD), plus 70 pesos to wash and dry one big load of laundry.
Activities and Restaurants in La Paz
Vrentino. That’s all you need to know.
In all seriousness, there’s a local bakery and cafe called Vrentino Baking & Co. and we found some killer baked goods there. The cinnamon roll was our favorite, but the butter croissant and coffee cake were also top-notch. Just don’t go on Monday because it’s closed and you’ll be super bummer (not that I would know).
For a traditional panadería (which you know we’re always looking for), Panaderia Ojeda out by Campestre Maranatha was awesome. We rolled up and weren’t sure it was still in business, but inside there were rows of pan dulce shelves. We caught the last few items of the day, and the polverones were the best Eric has found in Baja.
Other than that, we had a nice open air lunch at El Rincon Chilango (they also have interior seating). Eric’s torta was unbelievably good and I wish I’d ordered one, too!
Besides our time on the beach at Playa El Tecolote, we spent more of our sight-seeing time on the malecon. While a lot of the area was taken over by Carnival vendors and rides while we were there, it’s still a beautiful place to see the city. Actually, the malecon across from Vrentino is one of the nicest stretches, in my opinion.
What Broke on the Jeep
So I mentioned a Jeep issue was one of the main things that brought us to La Paz early. It didn’t take too long to diagnose an issue with our front drive shaft, the original on our 2014 Jeep Wrangler.
Without having to purchase another stock drive shaft here in Mexico, or have a used one sent from the U.S., we opted to replace the CV joint only. We hoped this would be enough to get us back to the U.S.
So Eric spent Monday morning with a fellow Jeep owner named Daniel, who had been recommended as a mechanic. Daniel and Eric went to a local parts store, where the parts guy measured our CV joint with a micrometer and matched it to a new CV joint he had. The part cost 1940 pesos, or just shy of $100 USD.
Daniel then installed the new CV joint back on the front drive shaft, and put the drive shaft back on the Jeep. Eric did a test drive and put our Jeep into 4-wheel drive, and the clicking that had been happening wasn’t there anymore.
We knew we’d still need a new drive shaft as soon as possible, but we hoped we’d make it back stateside first.
Fun Times With Another Overland Family
The thing about traveling full-time with kids is that vehicle issues can be taxing. Here’s a mental picture for you: chasing a three-year-old boy around a dirty, dusty mechanic’s lot for four hours with tools and sharp parts lying around. Dream land for the little person, and nightmare for the mommy person.
I wasn’t about to do that. But I also wasn’t looking forward to another few hours on the malecon, which is fun until the sun gets really hot and you’ve had as much ice cream as you can hold.
Fortunately, the perfect solution presented itself. We’d been chasing our friends @ourjourneyoverland down the peninsula, and we finally caught them. They were doing a reset at a local hotel, and enjoying Carnival at the same time.
When Carrie and Nate found out about our predicament, they were so kind to invite us over for a visit. Caspian and I had the most restful morning with our new friends in the hotel restaurant, pool, nearby playground, and there may have been a mom visit to the bar for happy hour.
What an awesome family. Carrie and Nate have been overlanding for 20 years, including at least one trip to Australia. Meeting them was a great reminder there’s a quiet portion of long-time anything (not just overlanding) who just love to get out and pursue their passions, and not necessarily share it everywhere online. The best way to meet these inspiring, knowledgeable people is to get out and do it yourself.
Eric did get his vaporizer crisis resolved, as well. He was ready to take me anywhere after that.
Since we hadn’t planned to spend more than two nights in La Paz, we started south to Todos Santos on Monday afternoon. I’d been looking forward to that little town for a long time.
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