Probably needless to say, we were nervous about taking a cargo ferry across the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to Mazatlan. We knew it was primarily trucks and truckers carrying various cargo. I wasn't sure about the ocean conditions or the other passengers. After all, we would be two women on the open ocean for 16 hours with a hundred truckers and cargo ferry crew. We had heard horror stories about women being turned away as passengers and the cranky office staff who arbitrarily doled out tickets.
As it turns out, we had nothing to worry about. The process from start to finish was painless. I admit, I cheated a little. I asked my fluent-in-spanish mother (who is also gifted at dealing with people and making them her best friends) to call the TMC Ferry office in advance to book our voyage. This worked, too well. Within minutes of asking her to call, she told us we needed to head for the ferry to get on board. Its a good thing we are self-contained - we went from coffee to the ferry without a minute to regroup. For reasons I will never understand, the office workers told her to have us hurry and get to the ferry so we could get tickets for an overbooked sail time.
We arrived about 5 hours before the ferry was set to leave and ended up waiting...about five hours...for a ferry that was underbooked. We went to the office, paid 231.00 (USD) total for both of us, the vehicle and our dog, Gracie. We did have one small mishap where we took a wrong turn trying to find the loading area and accidentally left the docks and had to go through customs a second time to re-enter. But it wouldn't be a vagabroads trip if there wasn't at least one three stooges style moment involved.
I don't know what I had pictured but it wasn't the ease with which we boarded. We literally just drove the car onto the ship, motioned to the ferry worker that we wanted to be on the top deck and within five minutes we were sandwiched in between another car and a semi-truck full of who knows what waiting to depart. The ocean was as calm as it could be and the ride, uneventful. Surprisingly, about 1/3 of the ship crew was female, which we found incredibly comforting.
Our tickets came with meal tickets for the small mess hall but, although we were grateful, we didn't partake in the powdered eggs and cereal. We had packed snacks, beer and charged our laptops so we could watch movies. We knew there wouldn't be much sleeping in an upright position in the vehicle. All smart decisions. We traded our time between running around the ship taking in the ocean air and beautiful scenery and watching movies in the car.
The ferry ride was one of my favorite events to this point in our journey. It was exciting and scary and truly, an adventure. I mean, WHO GETS TO DO THIS? We were on a CARGO SHIP riding overnight across the Sea of Cortez in MEXICO. It was surreal. The truckers were all sweethearts. We spent a couple of hours getting to know one of them the next morning - Esteban. We shared coffee and very broken conversation as the sun rose across the water. Esteban owns a food stand in Guanajuato but was spending time with family in Baja. He showed us pictures of his children, wife, family and friends.
Riding the ship was a turning point for us - it introduced a reality to what we were doing. Our time with the safe and easy Baja was over and the real journey was beginning - fear and courage were fighting a battle in the pit of my stomach. What I've learned time and again on this trip - all of the best moments have begun as the scariest.