The Monolith

October 7th-11th
Not designed for mobile viewing. It's prettiest on a computer!

October 7th

I write this from a plastic chair at a plastic table in the grass at night in the front yard of the hotel in whose driveway we're staying for a few nights.

The morning after where the last post left off, our first stop was a coffee shop in town where we wrote up our posts. After that we went to explore La Paz a bit, with Kelly's goal being to find a yellow dress, and mine to check out the shops and perhaps get a tattoo if we found a shop with availability the day of.

We wandered around aimlessly and looked at trinket booths and peeked into shops selling odds and ends, but never quite found the perfect thing that would be worth spending money on.

A cute fish we found in town

Kelly was excited to call my bluff on whether or not I'd actually get a tattoo, so we googled tattoo places and went to somewhere that was a barbershop, bar, and tattoo parlour combined, called Black Diamond. It turns out they did have availability that day, so we got a design down and the designer told us the artist was at lunch, so we had a few beers at the bar while we waited.

Eventually the artist returned and I got my ink! I always forget how much it hurts to get a tattoo until I get another one, then I promptly forget again.

My new ink

I got it because I'm always getting hungry on expeditions so I need to be constantly snacking. That gave rise to the joke between me and Kelly about second breakfast, so now I have the Lord of the Rings quote "What about second breakfast?" stuck in my head all the time. I kinda wanted to get a tattoo of it for fun, so I thought the scene from weathertop when the ringwraiths find them because they're cooking up "tomatos, sausages, and nice crispy bacon" would be a smidge more original than the PO-TAY-TOES scene, so here I am! In the future I want to get "What about second breakfast?" tattooed under it in tengwar, but that's for another day.

As it turns out, they didn't accept cards, but we had JUST enough pesos to get absolutely cleaned out and not come up short. Sadly, this meant there wasn't money in the budget for a yellow dress that day :crying:

We made our way back to Tecolote, picked up some drinks on the way, and arrived just before dark. I had a lab meeting in the morning, and we really didn't want to go back to La Paz for it, as it was at 8am. I ended up having an exciting conversation (as one who speaks little Spanish but is trying) with a sillhouette named Juan about how much WiFi cost from him, if he would be okay helping me set it up at 7:30am the following morning, and general chit chat.

Now that I write it out it doesn't seem like that much, but it required two visits (thanks Kelly for checking if he knew it was 7:30am and not 7:30pm and if I knew he would take what little coins we had left).

October 8th

Another morning at the Tecolote Beach, which neither of us were complaining about! My lab meeting was picturesque, albeit a little loud from the suft (first world problems at their finest...).

Where I had my meeting

After my meeting I joined Kelly at the van where we had some breakfast, then hiked up to the hills behind the beach.

Tecolote beach from the hills

Two happy hikers!

Once we sweatily made it back to Savannah, we decided we should just head to the ferry terminal early (it was noon). It wasn't scheduled to depart until 5pm, but we were stressing a bit about getting everything in order, so we figured it would be better to sit unstressed at the terminal than stressed looking at the beach.

First we snagged some cash at an ATM near the ferry to pay for fees, breezed through customs, had a slightly interesting time communicating to figure out what to do at the scales, waited for about 30 minutes in the ferry company office to get our tickets, then we were good. At about 1:00pm. The woman who sold us the ticket told us we should go to the ferry at about 3:00pm.

And thus, we spent about 2 hours hanging around in the ferry terminal parking lot waiting for our time, less stressed!

When 3:00pm rolled around, we headed in the direction the ticket woman instructed us. We came across a ferry worker who said I had to hop out and go around to this other building, which we suspected we might happen as we'd read about that in a travel blog. I hopped out and went over there. The summation of that situation was that Kelly had to sit alone in Savannah while they loaded trucks onto the ferry for about 2 hours and I had to sit alone in a waiting room for 2 hours until pedestrians (of which I was the only one) could board.

When 5:00pm came around and I walked around the back of the building (through a security room remeniscent of airport security, except there was only one guy in there absorbed in his phone with his feet up on his desk who ignored me as I trapsed through, I came to a waiting area where I could see Kelly waiting patiently in Savannah and our ferry being loaded with trucks.

We waited about 45 minutes more texting from 50 feet away until it was time for Kelly to board, and I watched whistfully while she stressfully backed Savannah onto the upper deck of the ferry. I wanted about another half hour until a man waiting in a car to board left his car to stretch in the waiting area and we got to chatting.

Eventually it came to light that Kelly was on board and he told me I could literally just walk on. I did so and nobody stopped me. I turned back and waved my thanks!

On board the ferry it was toasty as all get-out. We waited until after dark to finally leave at about 8:00pm, and had some chicken, bean paste, and pasta for dinner at the small comedor while Baby Driver played in spanish on the other side of the room.

They had these up in a weight room we found while wandering about looking for the comedor

And we were finally on our way! We tried to sleep in Savannah for about 10 minutes until it became clear it was FAR too hot and stuffy to pull that off, so we grabbed a blanket, my sleeping pad, and Kelly's yoga mat to go sleep on the deck.

A stab at astrophotography on the ferry

The deck was hard and a bit breezy, but we managed to get some shut-eye before dawn broke.

October 9th

After dawn broke we hung around for a while until breakfast was ready (bean paste, dry beef, and scrambled eggs), which we ate while John Wick 3 played in spanish on the other side of the room.

We eagerly watched Google Maps as we inched closer to Mazatlán at about 20 miles per hour or so. Kelly saw a pod of hundreds of dolphins playing in the waves go by while I was in the bathroom! Later while we waited we saw a single dolphin pretty close up while we were on the lower deck who did some tricks for us.

We also saw some flying fish narrowly escape the ferry, and we even caught what was presumably a fishing net draped across the water! As we were sailing, we saw a flag in the distance floating from a bouy. As we got closer we saw that there were some milk jug(?) floats lined on either side of the bouy. They got closer and closer until we saw that the ferry had picked up a rope from the ocean and dragged it for a short time until it snapped with a whiz!

I guess those fisherman didn't know they'd put a net in a ferry route.

The vehicle area of the ferry from the top deck

Mazatlán ho!

When we finally made it to Mazatlán, we were one of the first to deboard, and we were instantly thrust into busy city traffic. The road we were on for most of the time was a two lane road divided by a median, but at one point they had our side closed for construction so everyone just drove on the left side of the road in oncoming traffig with no signs or barriers. Welcome to Mexico!

After we made it to a highway we breathed a sigh of relief... followed about half an hour later by profanity as Savannah caughed black smoke from the tail pipe, shook, and the check engine light came on.

We pulled over in front of a random hotel and figured our shit out. We used an OMDII reader to figure out Savannah was freaking out about the powertrain, and Kelly called her father, Dave (a mechanic), who informed us it was likely bad gas.

At one point Kelly restarted Savannah and the check engine light had gone away and my diagnostic reader no longer showed any codes, so we ran off to the nearest Autozone to grab some gas addative to make it a little nicer.

The guys in the Autozone spoke no English and had no idea what we were talking about when we asked for seafoam (in spanish) or dry gas, so we did the best we could and bought something which later turned out to be the right thing according to Dave.

After her medicine Savannah has been running like a champ!

We made our way to the town of Tequila just at nightfall and camped among some agave fields at the parking area for some local hiking trails where I tried my hand at some more astrophotography.

A plane flies overhead while my phone, jammed in an agave plant in place of a tripod, takes a long exposure

October 10th

In the morning we decided to head for Bernal, which houses one of the biggest monoliths in the world, La Peña de Bernal, standing at 1,421ft tall), which we planned to climb!

The town was wonderful, chock full of small eateries and shops selling random stuff. We wandered the city for the evening, and had some quesadillas for dinner. We had a rough time communicating with the old woman preparing them, but eventually got it figured out! ... kind of. It turns out they were crazy spicy, but I soldiered through (I consider ginger to be a little too hot) with only a few tears.

Kelly checking out stores in Bernal (La Peña in the background)

A beautiful alley in Bernal

From there, we settled into a hotel parking lot for 250 pesos and had a super cold shower, even after I talked with the worker at the hotel who was ambivalent about the hot water heater working, but apparently got to work later in the evening.

October 11th

Today is rock climbing day!!

We immediately headed for the parking area for La Peña where we cooked some breakfast (scrambled eggs with bell pepper and cilantro) and racked up for the climb. We snaked our way through some back alleys to get to the entrance to the tourist trail which doubles as an approach trail. It turns out it costs 30 pesos for entry per person, so Kelly went back for her wallet.

An alley along the approach to La Peña

Upon paying the fee, it turns out as climbers we have to provide some info (which in hindsight makes a lot of sense). I stumbled my way through explaining what route we were doing, my name (spelling it with english pronunciation) and providing my number (in sportuguese pronunciation, I've spent too much time trying to learn portuguese), then we were off!

The climb we did was called Bernalina, a 7 pitch, 500ft, 5.8- sport climb to summit the formation. We did 5 pitches after linking the first two and the last two, which made for some mileage on those! The climb was pretty hot because it was south facing and Kelly made a friend while belaying me on the first pitch, as she had to stand directly next to the tourist trail. Furthermore, it must be some kind of special season here, because there were bugs EVERYWHERE at the summit feasting on flowers, and wasps especially loved a particular species of tree, of which there were two that we had to walk through. Fun times, no bites!

A photo on a large ledge at the top of (our) pitch 4

Obligatory summit selfie!

A map of the climb with our rappels noted (we skipped the middle one)

The descent was down a via ferrata that is used as the mega easy way up, which we rappelled in one long rappel with a smidge of mellow downclimbing at the end as the rope didn't quite reach the bottom.

Once we finally made it back to Savannah at about 3:00pm, our legs were killing us, and we'd only had breakfast so far and we were famished.

A very cool snake we saw on the way down

Our original plan was to head to town, hit the ATM for some cash, head to the hotel for some showers and relaxation, then hit the town for dinner and perhaps shopping.

Our wandering adventures to find an ATM just naturally led us to wandering a market for about an hour and then getting dinner at a somewhat ritzy restaurant. So much for resting before hitting the town!

Our view for dinner

After dinner we did indeed make it to the hotel where we talked with the hotel worker about the shower situation, and he said it should be fine now. Kelly confirmed with a shower while I got started working on this very post!

Next up, we head to the Mexico City area to attempt a volcano summit, the Sleeping Lady, at about 17,000ft!

More updates to come!


We take a ferry from the Baja Peninsula to the mainland, we drive a lot, find a cool town, and climb a big thing.

If there's something I wrote too little about, make a comment or reach out to ask to hear more, I'd love to answer any questions!

Kelly's Post

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