Midnight in the Garden of Good & Wobbly. The bar of the Matadors. A boat ride back to El CID. Lost in Mazatlán again.‏

Beautiful young woman peeks from behind her mask Carnival Mazatlan, Mexico. Photo: Jerome Shaw for TravelBoldly.com
A beautiful young woman peeks from behind her mask during Carnival celebrations in Mazatlan, Mexico. I am on three year mission to visit the three largest Carnival celebrations in the world. Last year I was in Mazatlan, this year I am in New Orleans and next I am going to blame it on Rio. Photos Jerome Shaw
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Midnight in the Garden of Good & Wobbly.

The bar of the Matadors. A boat ride back to El CID. Lost in Mazatlán again.‏

by Jerome Shaw

Last year during Carnival I was in the midst of week long siege in Mazatlán. This year I am in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  I am in year two of a three year binge, working my way up from the third largest Carnival celebration to the number two this year and next year I take on the granddaddy of them all. No not the Rose Bowl, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

More on New Orleans later but right now I am in a reflective mood. I am thinking back to last year and a couple of all nighters in Mazatlán. In the intervening year the days have melted together into one elongated Carnival parade featuring a unique cast of characters, hours of walking and dozens of beers and margaritas. 

Sax Player Machado Square Carnival Mazatlan, Mexico. Photo: Jerome Shaw for TravelBoldly.com
Sax Player Machado Square Carnival 
Mazatlan, Mexico.
Many late night events have no photos of them. On a couple of the nights after the officially sanctioned events end and our guides and minders leave us to our own devices to find our way back to our hotels. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and I sent my camera equipment back to the hotel with our driver. While Mazatlán may be safe during Carnival, putting several thousand dollars of equipment in the hands of a drunk didn't seem prudent. 

So now liberated from the constraints of keeping track of cameras and phones I could get my party on. 

And that we did. Mike Fisher, a travel writer and humorist from Calgary, and Craig Zabransky, a blogger from New York and I set out to truly experience Carnival. Not sanctioned events from VIP enclaves but from the man on the street vantage of the allnight block parties and open all night bars. 

I have to say it was not a preplanned, forgone conclusion that I would forsake the safe and easy van ride back to El Cid with the tour guide Adolpho and the PR representative Ashley. It was a spur of the moment decision egged on by Mike and Craig and further fueled by a generous amount of alcohol. I have no doubt that they'd say the exact opposite. That it was all my idea and if I hadn't have been so gung-ho for the adventure of experiencing Carnival they'd never thought to do it. Such it the nature of male peer pressure. No one wants to wimp out. 

So it was after much food and wine at the wonderfully situated VIP party and having watched a grand fireworks display over the bay looking out from the Pedro Infante memorial overlook, that the three caballeros set out for ... we knew not where. 

Fireworks recreating the naval battle with the French.  Photo: Jerome Shaw for TravelBoldly.com
Fireworks over Olas Altas recreating 
the naval battle with the French during 
Carnival in Mazatlan, Mexico.
I can't speak for the others but I'd already had a considerable amount of alcohol. On a normal night I'm sure I'd have been content to slip snugly into bed and slide quickly into a deep sleep. 

Tonight was not an ordinary night.

Once we made our way out of the security of the VIP party we are swept up in wave of people flowing down the street. About all I knew was we were headed back in the direction of the Shrimp Bucket where we had had dinner earlier in the evening. This much I knew but just exactly where we are or where we are going I have no idea. 

We are looking for a party but also trying not to lose each other. More alcohol seemed the first order of business. We spied a beer tent with girls clad in blue and silver spandex advertising Pacifico beer. We were stopping for beer whether we needed it or not. I tried to make small talk with the tall brunette beer goddess. I don't think she even noticed. Now beers in hand we looked for a stage to stand near. We were enthused by the vitality of the crowd. It was difficult to find a place to stand still, there were two currents of people flowing by us as we watched the band and occasionally broke into dance. Craig decided to go for more beer or the bathroom or both. Mike and I agreed to stay put until Craig returned. Mike and I shout-talked at each other above the music and everyone else’s shout-talking. I don't know why we felt so invigorated but we did. 
The currents of the crowds on Olas Altas sweep down the street   during Carnival in Mazatlan, Mexico. Photo: Jerome Shaw for TravelBoldly.com
The currents of the crowds on Olas Altas sweep down the street  
during Carnival in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Further proof that this was not a well planned assault on Mazatlán Carnival was that none of had that much cash. I had a credit card but only few Pesos and maybe $30US. Mike not much more with Craig being the high roller of the group. So there we were partying like Rock Stars, albeit broke rock stars. 

I can't recall if the music ended or changed at the stage we were near but we moved on down Olas Altas beach again in the direction of The Shrimp Bucket, my Northstar for the night. 

Much of the reason for the decisions that were made this night remain a mystery to me and most probably they were a mystery to me that night as well. 

The burning of bad humor in front of the  Shrimp Bucket on Olas Altas. Carnival   Mazatlan, Mexico. Photo: Jerome Shaw for TravelBoldly.com
The burning of bad humor in front of the 
Shrimp Bucket on Olas Altas. Carnival  
Mazatlan, Mexico.
I remember we listened to a lot of music - stopped by many bars - sat on two or three patios - drank more beer.

At some point we decided to seek the refuge of another of our home bases Pedro Y Lola’s in Machado Square. It was not a direct beeline we made for Pedro Y Lola’s but ambling wander. We were dead reckoning our way to Machado Plaza with Mike, Craig and I all providing varying coordinates for the trip. We were furthered hindered in our journey by encountering more block parties, more beer and more dancing. I might be exaggerating about the dancing, I can't remember but there was most definitely more beer.  Mike and my debt to Craig was increasing block party by block party.

Eventually we staggered into Machado Square at the far end from Pedro Y Lola. We made our way through the people-filled plaza and onto the patio of Pedro Y Lola. We were definitely hoping we see El Flaco AKA Alfredo, the owner of Pedro Y Lola.  We were not disappointed Alfredo greeted us as long lost friends.  He was right about the lost part.  

The hour was getting late and it is safe to say we were all beginning to think about how we were going to navigate the nearly 5 miles from Historico Centro Mazatlán to our hotel in Zona Dorada. We asked El Flaco hoping he had a secret stash of taxis at the back of Pedro y Lola but no such luck.  He did recommend that we walk away from the Machado Square and towards the Malecon. He assured us we'd have a better chance of finding a taxi if we got 8-10 blocks from the Machado Square.  

He wasn't exactly right.

Soft shadows of the palm fronds on the balcony above Pedro y Lola in Machado  Square. Carnival Mazatlan, Mexico.. Photo: Jerome Shaw for TravelBoldly.com
The soft shadows of the palm fronds on
the balcony above Pedro y Lola in 
Machado Square. Carnival Mazatlan, 
Again we were dead reckoning. In retrospect perhaps it was a mistake to abandon my phone but finding a cell signal or wifi would have probably been just as unlikely as finding a taxi. Appropriately we wandered down Avenida Carnaval in what to my way of thinking was toward the Malecon and Avenida del Mar. Mike and Craig were not nearly as certain. Unfortunately we were wandering and taxi hunting with a few dozen other tired Carnival revelers.

To the astonishment of Craig and Mike I led us to the Malecon.  I have to admit I was slightly surprised myself. No empty taxis insight. Things were looking desperate. And, as we all know desperation breeds creativity. It was now only an hour or less in front of sunrise. We had joined the water near the Monumento al Pescador.  The translation, for gringo's like me, is Fishermen's Monument. Fishing boats are scattered along the beach. Mike or Craig - I am not sure which decided our best plan of attack at this point was to wait for sunrise and see if we could hire a fishing boat to take us to El Cid Marina Hotel, which for Mike and I was home. Craig was staying even further north but at least he’d be closer to home at El Cid. While Mike and Craig scoured the shore for fisherman and a boat to hire I sat down to rest and took off my shoes to soothe my aching feet under a fiberglass statue of Marilyn Monroe. I wasn't very confident in the fishing boat plan but didn’t have a better idea myself. Then suddenly I saw a pulmonia and there was no one in it. It was going the wrong direction but even so I shrieked at the driver and started running barefoot, shoes in hand, waving and flailing at the now stopped and startled driver. Mike and Craig must have heard my shouts and abandoned their fishing boat search. Craig, with his superior Spanish took over negotiations and we soon piled in and were feeling the fresh air of a open ride back to Zona Dorada. It seemed to take a long, long time to reach El Cid but about all I could think was how glad I was that I wasn't walking. Mike and I swapped stories on the ride back while Craig upfront chatted with driver. There were we heading home from a long night of partying as the colors of sunrise seeped into the sky, relieved to live to party another day.

We took a couple of days of the all night party scene but the aching feet and memories of too much alcohol faded and there we were again stepping off the PR bandwagon and searching for a taste of the real Carnival again.

My last night of Carnival at  Pedro y Lola in Machado Square.  Carnival Mazatlan, Mexico.  Photo: Jerome Shaw for TravelBoldly.com
My last night of Carnival at  Pedro y Lola in Machado Square. 
Carnival Mazatlan, Mexico.
I remember far less about our last night during Carnival except that it also lead to Pedro y Lola, included even more participation from El Flaco and featured a mariachi band and a electrical jolt machine (read more about that in Mike's article "Life is a Carnaval in Mazatlan - Pushing the limits with food, drink and fun" in WestJet’s UP Magazine.) 

At some point during the night the three musketeers found our way to the bar of the Matadors, where we met one of the forcados, from the bullfight we had attended earlier in the day. You'll have to rely on Wikipedia for an explanation of what forcados do but suffice to say these guys are absolutely crazy. All that stuck with me from this alcohol addled conversation with the diminutive madman was that the bull ears, that had been shorn off and given to him by the matador (for being such a courageous and helpful forcado) were in back of the bar immersed in salt. That image remains with me to this day as one of those non-digital images forever impressed upon the capture device in my brain. I can't seem to find the delete button for that image.

Things went even hazier from there.  I do recall we eventually wound at El Flaco’s home a few blocks from Pedro y Lola. There we learned a lot of history about old Mazatlán and Alfredo’s family and of course we had a few more beers and drinks. 

Somewhere about that time my memory shut off completely and I was lost in Mazatlán again and hoping to locate a fishing boat to take me home.


My trip to Mazatlán was sponsored in part by GoMazatlanNow.com and VisitMexico.com

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