Local color: La Paz, Mexico

It’s everywhere: on walls, banners and murals; in graffiti and on buildings; on sidewalks. Forget those overgrown Mexican tourist hotspots. Art and color pervade this sleepy seaside city.

The adventure begins in Cabo San Lucas on the Baja peninsula, where most go to vacation. My friend and I fly in from Seattle, instead choosing a long bumpy bus ride through the desert to a small city on the Sea of Cortez called La Paz, a stop along the Baja 1000 desert race. I’ve not visited Mexico, so I’m unsure what to expect. It will be hot according to forecasts, water is supposed to be clean, and the food should be good. I research, but nothing can prepare me for what I’m about to see. From brown desert a kaleidoscope is blooming.

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OPTIC OASIS

Color–everywhere. Murals, wall art, sculpture, flowers, bright pastel walls. Even graffiti is dynamic and eye-catching. It’s hard to not see it. My artist’s heart sings.

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Baja 1000 racer at rest.

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I’m not ready for the volume and vibrancy after that long trek through such a barren landscape to get here. The ocean is turquoise turning to cobalt in deeper areas. Indeed it’s hot, but a breeze is just enough to keep the sweat at bay. Until lunch.

COME ON BABY, LIGHT MY FIRE

Dining is usually excellent, inexpensive and spicy. We try several areas around the city from low-brow to fine dining. One place has turtles swimming around; another features ornately decorated bathrooms. It’s a challenge to find something without spice or heat. I get it: it helps cool in this hot clime; other hot countries have similar traditions. Drinking plenty of water helps. And siestas during peak heat. At night, a mezcaleria is lit with pastel tones.

That’s the correct size for a molcajete. And a margarita.

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Yep. Turtles while you dine.

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Praying it all comes out.

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Late night street meat can’t be beat.

Memorable mezcal.

As I explore, I note the cathedral and plan to come back when the light’s right for taking photos. Upon returning, I’m awarded with a wedding happening just as I walk up.

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I continue to survey less developed areas, stumbling on wonderful images.

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IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE

We’re here in the “cold season”, when it’s 85-90 degrees with significant humidity at times. My unprepared PNW body is withering under the stress, used to 45 degrees. I can’t imagine when it’s “hot” here: 115 with no breeze? Yikes. Locals are working in this heat wearing long cotton shirts and jeans and boots. My mind is blown. How can this be “cold”?

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DOWN BY THE SEASIDE

The beach is rather inviting in all this heat. Accordingly, locals and tourists play here: swimming, snorkeling, and diving. We’re snorkeling with whale sharks here.

 

We also take the bus up to Balandra beach for superior snorkeling in particularly shallow water. Interesting ride, too.

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Ancient lighthouse is now a tourist beacon.

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Some people live aboard their vessels, so it’s common to see folks with their dogs–on boats and bicycles. And a few in closed yards.

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After awhile, nothing is surprising. I stroll past an open high voltage box on the street, without any special tape or warning. Wow. That’s different.

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But that’s what I came to experience. So much color and artistic expression is here.

GO DOWN LOW

More color every morning and night. We have a good view from our room of sunrise, and enjoy sunset along the promenade.

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I’m just scratching the surface when it’s time to pack up and head over to another town. Time to see more local color, in a different shade.

 

IF YOU GO
La Paz, Mexico can be reached by small plane or by ground transportation from Cabo San Lucas. We use a bus line but rentals are available. It’s an inexpensive “hippie town”, full of artists, expats, dune buggy racers and sailors. I recommend asking locals where the best food is.
All images and content copyright ©2018 Eric Schadel. All rights reserved.

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