Articles published below by date are: Video: Follow the money, Gearing up for bicycling in Mazatlan, Salsa and Salsa, Whale Watching.
Gearing up for bicycling in Mazatlan
By Sally Ross (October 2011) Reminder, all amounts are in pesos.
Perhaps you have survived our scorching temperatures, or perhaps you have just arrived when our climate is ideal, so now it’s time to get out and explore Mazatlan at your own leisure, at your own pace, and on your own schedule… on a bicycle!
Which bicycle is right for our streets?
Street bikes are made for racing on smooth even roads. Mazatlan sponsors numerous semi-pro and professional bike groups that receive permits from the local government to block off major traffic arteries, like the Malecon, over the weekends for their stimulating racing events. If you are not participating in a race, the narrow tires of road bikes are not recommended on Mazatlan’s uneven, pothole filled streets. A better option for street bikes may be hybrid/touring bikes which are strong enough to take on the cracks and curbs while not as heavy and clunky as a mountain bike – but hybrids are a new style of bicycle, not all that common here. The truth is, that Mazatlan is mountain bike territory. The thick tires on a mountain bike slide over cracked uneven pavement, the sturdy structure allows you to bounce off the sidewalks or jump across ditches with ease and grace. The special brakes found on a mountain bike ease the glide down a slippery slope and help you maneuver a quick turn and rapidly adjust your gears to tackle the steep incline two feet away. Mountain bikes have no limits and no restrictions and will allow you the full freedom to trek any place you wish under any conditions.
Rules of the street, assume nothing
Driving a car, like riding a bicycle, is a whole different experience in Mazatlan. A Mexican friend once commented “you foreigners do not know how to drive here, you just assume because there is a stop sign, the other driver will stop.” Watch out, so very true. Bicycles have no right of way and are totally vulnerable to the disorganized traffic caused by vehicles, by pedestrians, by dogs and anything else you can imagine. Assume nothing. Keep your eyes open all the time. Watch for cars turning in front of you, watch for people opening car doors, be very careful with pedestrians who will look you in the eye and then proceed to step right in front of your bike. Don’t be embarrassed to be cautious, be preventative. Use hand signals whenever possible. Avoid city biking during rush hours and try to stay off the Malecon at sunset, as it is too crowded. The Malecon is made for bicycling in the morning or afternoon and city biking is best reserved for Sunday mornings. Always wear a helmet; sun glasses help with sunlight and flying dust, and biking gloves provide comfort and extra protection for your hands. Invest in a loud bicycle bell, it forewarns people of your presence and opens spaces between groups of pedestrians who take up the whole width of the Malecon.
If this is your first bicycle experience in Mazatlan then you should sign up for a guided tour with Fernando Kelly, at Kelly’s Bike Shop. His $330 half-day guided tour includes all supplies and will be tailored to your preferences. Kelly is an experienced mountain bike and road bike racer who will adjust the bicycle to your needs before taking you on one of his awesome tours. Kelly also rents bicycles for $200 per day or $1250 per week, helmet and lock included. Be forewarned that it is difficult to find Kelly in because he is always out in the hills with his machete cleaning out exciting new bike paths. Be sure to call ahead: 914-1187. Kelly’s Bike Shop is located at Calle Carlos Cansejo #6020, local 6. (formerly Marina Boulevard). Look for the bright yellow building with white arches located halfway between Soriana and Tec de Monterrey. His “official” hours are Monday to Friday 10a.m.-2 p.m., 4:30p.m.-8p.m; Saturdays 10a.m.-4p.m. but again, call before you go. He often works in the dark, and is probably there – if the metal door is up, just holler out his name.
Snowbirds and full-time residents may prefer to purchase a bicycle. Used bicycles start at about $1200, new bicycles at $5,500 and up depending on the quality. Funky simple bicycles can be purchased at Sam’s Club or Walmart; middle of the road and used bicycles can be bought at Bicicletas Vallin and similar stores located on Ejercito Mexicano (inland at the Fisherman’s Monument, left on Juan Carrasco) or for serious, high-quality bicycles, once again- back to Kelly. He is the “only game in town” when it comes to quality bicycles and gear but it’s well worth the investment.
The oh, so necessary accessories
Most basic bicycle equipment is available in Mazatlan but not necessarily of the same quality as NOB, and it’s more expensive. Bring your own camel pack and shoes with clips. Nice helmets are available at a hefty price, specialty bike clothing is not common and only used by serious bikers. Pumps, water bottles, slime tires, tire patch kits, bike locks, lights, etc are all available at Kelly’s. You may want to pick up a simple city map upon arrival as it is easy to get so caught up in biking that you get lost.
Beginners – where to go!
The Malecon is a logical starting point for bicyclists of all levels. After cruising alongside the ocean side, try tackling the steep hill up to Colegio Pacifico and enjoy the cruise down the far side. If coming back up is too much, simply come back around the hill via the level grounds of Playa Sur. On another day, return all the way back down the Malecon, cross the street a block before you get to the Glorietta (Valentino’s turnaround,) and ride alongside the traffic down to Burger King. Turn inland at Burger King and go to the back entrance of El Cid. Give the security guards a big smile and wave and they will assume that you are a resident there and allow you to pass. Go through El Cid to the back Marina entrance and continue on out to Cerritos and take a break and enjoy that nice cool drink you so deserve.
Intermediates – where to go!
Ready for some hills? Start on the Malecon. Come on around Olas Altas, change your gears quickly and speed up Paseo Claussen, glide down the far side… and keep going… see the lighthouse? That is your next venture! The city just cleaned the path up to the bottom of the steps so the smooth wide path is perfect for intermediate level bicycling. You can do it! Give your legs a workout and peddle your way up the steep path, taking a mini break at each of the 6 switchbacks until you finally reach the bottom of the steps. Now for the fun part, coming down.
Advanced – where to go!
Contact Kelly for intermediate and advanced group excursions on a variety of exciting bike trails back into the hills. There are several groups of very friendly enthusiastic individuals that get together on a weekly basis; including a gal’s group early Saturday morning, and a mixed group of local professionals every weekend afternoon. One of the more pleasurable excursions is a trail called “Los Hediandos,” literally translated as the stinky place, reflecting the swine farms it transits through. This trail is a good challenging adventure with hills, valleys, and beautiful scenic views. “Piedras Blancas” or white rocks, is better known as the trail of death. Without going into detail, I will simply mention that Kelly will stand at the top of the hill shouting encouragement while taking bets on who can maneuver their way down that slippery vertical hill, flip the corner, and change gears quickly enough to maneuver their way up the steep path filled with ditches, branches, and other obstacles. Piedras Blancas is difficult to hike on foot and only the most advanced can claim the fame of having maneuvered the entire route without falling off the bike. Helmets are never optional, but especially true for the trail of death.
Repair shops/taller de bicicleta
Bicycles are the Mexicans main means of transportation. Getting a bicycle repaired is very inexpensive but getting the bike to the repair shop really hurts. Pulmonias can take a single bicycle in the back seat, or call an auriga (red pick-up truck) at 981-3535. Agencia de Bicicletas Fajardo, is conveniently located in Centro on Constitucion #810, directly in front of the Pau Pau Cantina. Jose Luis Rodriguez is very punctual and is at his repair shop – Monday to Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4 p.m.-8 p.m. He is a friendly, honest gentleman who does an amazing job of making old bikes look and feel like new for about $150. He often offers same day service but speaks no English. Kelly is the only technician in town who can work on upper line bicycles. He does an excellent job and typically charges about $300. He has parts for most bicycles in stock but may take several days to complete the job. I always request a loaner when I drop my bike off with him, if for no other reason than to guarantee that he will finish it pronto!
Salsa and Salsa
Intro by Sheila Madsen, reviews by Al and Gerard from Vancouver. ( Dec. 2010)
Start your week off with dancing, drinking and cooking. Mondays bring you Salsa and Salsa from 11-2 at Hotel Royal Villas. Rated number one by trip advisor for things to do in Mazatlan, I was pleased to have that claim substantiated by two critical, successful business men from Vancouver. So ladies, grab a partner and kick off your week with zest.Al’s take: When Gerard asked my wife and I to join him at Salsa Salsa I was looking forward to the Salsa part but not the Salsa part. I love to cook so any new lessons learned are always welcome. To make it more interesting I learned before we went, that Maaike, one half of the duo, was Dutch. I am of Dutch background so I was wondering if she would be wearing wooden shoes.It was very interesting to learn about all the different fruits and vegetables that I had never seen before. Then we were shown how to make seven different kinds salsas. The ladies were very patient and showed us step by step what to do. We were encouraged to try other salsas because even with the same ingredients the taste could be different.
Because Laura and I were married the longest, at 30 years, the ladies had us up front to assist in making strawberry margaritas. Laura put in the tequila and I got to put in the Controy. Just as I was about to pour, I was blindfolded. During the three hours the margaritas just keep on coming. If you weren’t quick to cover your glass the pulmonia driver would have had to carry us to our rooms.
We purchased several well priced salsa making tools for the kitchen at home, because as far as I am concerned there can never be enough tools in the kitchen. We are looking forward to trying our newly acquired skills at home. On the other hand, I have two left feet so I was not looking forward to the Salsa dance lessons. However, when the time came I tried to make a getaway, but Gerard insisted that we try it. Well, it was not long when I did not feel awkward at all. There were others in the group that were equally ‘challenged’. Gerard made me grab my video camera. Maybe I should post it on YouTube for all to see. (Al and Gerard are not on YouTube, yet – sm.)
Gerard’s take: As a regular visitor to Mazatlan I was surprised to stumble across Salsa and Salsa being the number one rated activity to do here. Astonished as I’ve never even heard of it, I made the decision to take the first set of victims, Al and his wife, to try it out.
There were more ladies than men. The venue was great, the classes were simple and informative and you worked mostly in groups of two. We learned to make four salsas including a dessert salsa as well as margarita lessons. (why did Al learn to make seven salsas? – sm.) My visitors appreciated the extra time taken to introduce us to all sorts of interesting produce not seen back home. This is unique to the Monday guests who are land based as they assume the cruise guests will not go to the market the next day and use the new found knowledge to hunt down these unique tastes.
Salsa dancing was at the end and optional, but I did it anyway. Not really much point to my trying it again but I did prove to my wife- for once and for all- that I can’t dance in any country. I hear though there is a video circulating that may cause many to lose their appetite. My wife, who normally never drinks was her usual polite self and drank every margarita. We eventually put a “do not serve” sign on her.
Well worth the $509 – it was a three hour hoot.
By Sheila Madsen (January 14, 2011)
I‘ve always wanted to see whales. Whales breed and feed along the shores of Mazatlan from January to March. Even though my husband, Soren, grew up by the sea in Copenhagen, he hates small boats, large oceans, but decided to go along. Through e- mails and phone calls I did an extensive check list with owner Oscar Guzon. Large safe boat, seating six, all with life jackets. Toilet, length of time, you name it, I asked it. Soren reluctantly agreed to accompany me. My biggest worry? We would spend four hours on the ocean and not see a single whale. That turned out to be the least of our problems.
Whale Quest, Onca Explortions’s (no, that’s not a typo, it’s Onca not Orca) owner Oscar was very professional, called me, followed up, and arranged for a Friday pick-up to take us from Centro north to the marina. It was a cold January Wednesday and I phoned Oscar to postpone our trip until the end of January. He replied it was too late, the boat already had five passengers and we had to go. He insisted we had to honour our reservation. Again, a red flag, we hadn’t paid, why couldn’t we change the date? Ok, we’ll go and dress appropriately.
When we arrived at the marina why were there 12 people waiting? Apparently Oscar was seduced by El Debate press team (one of our local Mazatlan newspapers) and they got the “good” boat with Oscar, and we – Rosemary, Soren and I and two other people – got the clunker. It was a small boat in high waves, and we all got wet. Never mind the engine died seven miles out. We were just bobbing in the Pacific. The Mexican team radios Oscar, we are towed back to land and of course, never saw a single whale. Not even a dolphin. Not even a seal. It was poorly planned, poorly handled and we were palmed off for El Debate.
We asked for our money back. With great anger and reluctance we did receive our pesos. Oscar didn’t want the El Debate press guys broadcasting that. He didn’t understand why we would not want to re-schedule. Hola? On our clunker boat (really just a row boat with two engines) and one “crew member” spoke a little English . The entire experience was unsafe and unprofessional. As Soren was not speaking, Rosemary was a great buffer and we kept pretending we were on an outing in Georgian Bay. Not stranded in the Pacific surrounded by sharks.
We head back to Centro to the Looney Bean. Ah coffee. Now time for lunch and a margarita at The Leon. Over lunch we reflected once again, how the Mexicans can not say “no”. If El Debate had sprung a PR opportunity on Oscar why not just cancel us? Instead, he shoved us in a small boat and put us in harm’s way. Rosemary and Soren thought it was a blessing in disguise that our motor conked out. For them it saved hours of boredom on the ocean. The whales were at least 20 miles away, judging from the male “singing”. Alejandro, the owner of Cueva del Leon, after we shared our saga, then proceeds to tell us how two whales swim by almost daily at 4 p.m. right in front of the Malecon. Eye roll. Then wine is ordered. Followed by a big nap.
(Subsequently I have heard good things about Whale Quest, so reserve with caution. If it’s not the main boat with Oscar at the helm, ah, I wouldn’t go. On the other hand, what happens if you are ten miles out and his motor dies? It’s all about your comfort level)