Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crossing Borders

The night before we crossed the US-Mexico border, we stayed at Rancho Surdo Mudo, a campground built for the volunteers of the Deaf-Mute Ranch, a school for deaf kids. This is a cute little campground off of Highway 3 with orange trees. According to our guide book, there is no fee, but donations are taken. We had planned on giving the rest of our pesos to them for the donation, but nobody ever came by to collect (nor was there a donation box). It worked out, however, as we decided to top off our gas as we went through Tecate. At this point, I had forgotten that I didn’t have many pesos left, though. Fortunately, I had just enough remaining pesos to cover the cost of the gas and the customary small tip for the attendant.

We managed to navigate to the US crossing, which despite being right next door to the Mexico crossing, is accessed halfway across town. The line was already ridiculously long despite being only mid-morning, but we were able to turn off our vehicle and roll down the hill most of the wait. Unfortunately, when we finally reached customs, they sent us off to a secondary inspection area. We spent another five minutes letting them go through our van, during which time they confiscated our potatoes that we would have used in our chicken soup we had planned to make that night. Other than that, everything was fine.

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Now, our guidebook told us that we needed to turn in our tourist cards when we left the country, but they didn’t say where we should turn them in at. We assumed that there would be someone collecting them on the US crossing. However, when we asked about it, they said that we should have turned them in at the place we got them in Mexico. So, we had to find a place to park on the US side and then walk across the border, which is super easy going into Mexico, you just walk through a rotating pedestrian gate. Then we entered the Immigration office and made sure that we got our stamp on our tourists cards and submitted them. No troubles there.

We did have troubles trying to find the US pedestrian crossing. I thought it might be near where the vehicles crossed, but it wasn’t. We ended up going back to the Mexico crossing area and then we spotted the small, nondescript sign for pedestrians way up the road toward the US where the cars cross into Mexico. The pedestrian crossing was less crowded and more easily passed, however the customs lady and I had issues hearing each other.  And, I answered questions like I had for the vehicle crossing, which probably didn’t make any sense since I didn’t have any luggage with me when walking across. She and Jonathan had a better go at it, he says it was because he said he was with me, but I think it was because she liked him. ;)

So, after crossing the border twice in one day, we started heading off in the direction of Las Vegas. But, as we started the engine and gave Chuck some power, we noticed the van was acting up a bit more. Jonathan decided to pull off on the side of the road and scope it out. He didn’t find anything besides a loose cable, which only slightly helped. By now it was lunchtime (or later), and we were hungry. I convinced Jonathan to eat at IHOP for lunch and I got some delicious sweet potato pancakes. I hadn’t had pancakes in forever, and I had missed them. Sadly, the waiter ignored us and didn’t bring any butter or warm syrup to go with the pancakes. I didn’t leave him a good tip.

Finding a cheap place for that night proved surprisingly difficult. Eventually, we did find an OHV land that allowed overnight camping. Next day, we left California. We thought we had left military checkpoints behind we left Mexico. As we crossed the border, however, there was a border patrol checkpoint. We eased through the questions and process, though, as we had plenty of practice in Mexico.

Before we met my family in Las Vegas on Sunday, we decided we needed showers. So, we decided to stay at an RV park in Parker, AZ.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why does it have to get cold?

[Note: I am just complaining with the title, I don’t need an explanation.]

I don’t think I have sufficiently mentioned that almost immediately as we started heading north, it got colder. La Paz had a constant north wind that made it chilly. In fact, after that, it felt like every mile farther north felt like it was a degree cooler.

In fact, when we arrived at Laguna de Ojo Liebre, it looked like there was snow every where, and it almost wouldn’t have been surprising based upon the temperature. Fortunately, it was just salt and foam.

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Anyways, enough complaining. After the lagoon visit, we crossed the border over into Baja California (norte). I guess since it was Christmas Day, no one really wanted to work, so when we crossed the checkpoint, we were expecting to at least someone to be standing there, but the “inspectors” were on the side of the road watching someone wash their car, so we just drove slowly on through without be checked. That didn’t carry over to the military checkpoint later that day, though. They took their time and inspected everything.

Unfortunately, when we left Guerrero Negro area, we forgot we were entering the gas gap of Baja. So we did not have a full tank to try and take us to the next town with gas, El Rosario, and I had planned to explore in the Cataviña region before then. As we neared our stop for the night, we were already in the red and we still had another 125 km to go. Jonathan emptied our spare gas into the tank and I limited our exploration to one stop along the road.

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According to our guide booklet, there was Rupestrian (rock or cave art) paintings along the side of the road not far from our campground. So the next day I had Jonathan stop there. Sure enough, we finally got to see some of the Native American art on rocks!  These are not considered as impressive as those near Mulegé, but they did satisfy one of my requirements when coming to Baja.

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We left there and drove cautiously, hoping to make it all the way to the next gas station. And, hallelujah, we did! I didn’t really want to test out the Green Angel service while we were down here if I could avoid it.

The rest of the journey north was mostly uneventful. We did stop and eat at a McDonald’s, but I was extremely disappointed. Not only was the menu very limited, it didn’t have anything uniquely Mexican except for offering a “cheese” pie in addition to the apple pie. Oh, I guess I should give them credit for the “Auto-Mac” for the drive-thru. From here though, the van started having little issues. I thought that they might be related to the cold weather, but it kept running.

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Spanish Words of the Day:
Borders: los limites
Paintings: pinturas
Back in the states, we have cell service once more! HUZZAH!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Return Cometh

Alas, we have begun our reverse navigation of Baja.  We are a little more than half way up the peninsula.  We are making for Las Vegas, NV to visit Jen's family on holiday.  I will be posting up a summary of our last 10 days or so soon.

Until then,

Feliz Navidad!

Completely unrelated picture of my mother, that is added purely because it's ridiculous.

(Attempted) Explorations in Northern Baja California Sur


Leaving Ciudad Constitución, we made a beeline for Bahía Concepción, where I planned to check out the area that I missed out on before because I wasn’t feeling so hot (see: Gripe Session). After driving all morning, we just chilled out that afternoon and tried to get information from our hosts about the cave art in the area, i.e. how we could get a guide and get to it, whether it was any good, etc. Unfortunately, the lady didn’t know and said we should ask her son when he came back from fishing. After lunch, I thought I would like to go out on the kayak, but after getting it inflated, the wind picked up and prevented us from going out. The lady had invited us to the restaurant for food, but we thought we try it for dinner. However, I guess their place is only open for lunch? So, they heated up vegetable soup for us.

The next morning, we wanted to get around early and see the cave art. We still hadn’t gotten any information from our hosts about it, though, so we first went to get some more info from them. They said that there was some we could walk to right along a path around the bay. I thought if that worked, we would have met my definition of seeing the art and we could do the other things on my list. Putting on our hiking shoes, we walked down the path, but we never did see the artwork they said was there.

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Still trying to meet my requirements, I decided that we would try driving to Rancho La Trinidad where there were supposedly guides who could take us to some of the more popular art. Well, that didn’t work out either as the roads weren’t marked very well on which way to go. I think we made the correct guesses for about half of the way there (10 miles) but then we struggled finding the right path and the  road got really rough. Actually, the road itself wouldn’t have been that bad, but I guess the bumps were at the right frequency to hit the resonance frequency of the van and our front end hit the ground several times. I decided that we should probably just give up this endeavor and head back.

That evening we drove up the road a bit farther to get closer to Santa Rosalía. I wanted to see the church Eiffel designed and try the French-style bakery. This excursion was actually successful, despite the fact that it was Christmas Eve. We drove into Santa Rosalía and found the correct road. There was actually a parking space right next to the church as well. So we parked and investigated. It was definitely interesting. The church was mostly metal and was fabricated in France and then bolted together there in Baja.

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The bakery was just a little farther down the street, so we decided to walk down the way to it. Good thing we did because traffic suddenly picked up and we would have had a hard time getting there, much more so parking. The bakery was packed with a line that started going out the doors when we arrived. We ended up getting a variety of things, but I think the cake and the loaf of bread were the best. Sadly, I thought I knew at least the word for loaf, so I didn’t look it up or bring my dictionary. I could have sworn I had seen the word panque used for loaf of bread somewhere, so I sure looked the fool when I kept repeating it and throwing it out there to try to be understood. Apparently the correct term is hogaza.

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After Santa Rosalía, we made a stop in San Ignacio to see the mission made from lava rock.

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DSC02064 The walls were over four feet wide.

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After that we drove straight through to Scammon’s Lagoon (Laguna de Ojo Liebre) near Guerrero Negro. The place had just opened for viewing California gray whales who congregate there to have babies. I wanted to see if we could see them. When we were in Los Cabos, I had heard that the best time to try to see them is in the morning. Thus, I positioned us to have a good view of the lagoon in the morning. As we waited around on Christmas morning, I did see the blows of whales all the way across the lagoon, but sadly there was no way to get closer. There was no one working at the campground as it was Christmas day, so we continued northward.

Spanish Words of the Day:
Loaf (of bread): la hogaza
Lagoon: la laguna
Christmas: la Navidad

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Heading North Again

Thursday rose with all of us preparing to head north again. Jonathan and I had to do laundry and pack up all our belongings again. Dave, Cyndi, and James needed to figure out how to pack the souvenirs into their already full bags, with the added stipulation of not breaking anything. Then we all had to make sure the rental was in the proper state as required by the contract. Instead of following them to the airport, we gave James thorough instructions on how to get to the airport and the gas station to fill up the car before they turned in the rental. We said our goodbyes at the rental then, with me praying that they would do alright without my translation and navigation skills. Apparently they made it safely and in time, as later the next day when we finally got internet, we saw an email from James from late the previous evening.

Jonathan and I headed first to the nearby Wal-Mart, as our pantry was rather empty. This time, I was prepared with a list based upon an meal schedule we had worked up the week before. On an impulse, I even bought some of that cactus sold there to add to a few of the dishes. After that, we were ravenous, and thought we would try the VIPS restaurant that we had seen a few times throughout Baja California, normally near a Wal-Mart. It ended up being a Mexico-wide chain that did not do a good spaghetti dish nor a crepe. Fed, we left driving up the four-lane, divided highway, Mex-19 to Playa Tecolote near La Paz. By the way, if you never seen pelicans dive bombing in coordination like they do at this beach, you are missing it. It is fantastic. Several pelicans take off together and glide in circles through the air, then they all start angling off together towards the ocean, often flipping over backwards when they dive bomb. If it there are calmer waters/wind, the splashes they make are rather loud.

That night, Jonathan and I cooked our first meal of the new schedule, which happened to be the first meal with meat we had ever cooked in our van. I called them fajitas, but the chicken slices were not from fajita meat. It was delicious though, I must say.

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Next day, we headed back across the Peninsula to the Pacific side to try to watch for whales. To do this, we planned to stay at the Mar y Arena Restaurant in Puerto San Carlos. However, when we arrived, the place seemed like it was out of business. Not willing to stay in an unofficial location, we decided to give up on the whales and go back to Ciudad Constitución and stay at one of the parks there.

Afraid of the bugs we think we caught at the place we stayed at last time, we decided to try another location, Palapa 206 RV Park. This place had warm water for showers at least, although many mosquitos inhabited the building. The one thing it really had against it was the dogs. There were a lot and they made noise all night long. Normally I don’t have an issue with noise after I fall asleep, but they were rowdy enough all night long to keep even me up. Then in the morning, we found that they had left us another present, or should I say the opposite? When Jonathan finally got around to go use the restroom, he couldn’t find his shoes. I told him he had left them outside last night, and he replied that they were no longer there. My response was that someone had obviously taken them, most likely the dogs. Sure enough, he walked to the front of the van and found one of his sandals, but the band had been ripped through and the sole chewn.  Nothing like waking up to that in morning, I tell you.

That is definitely one of the things I don’t appreciate about Mexico: the rampant dog population. Very obnoxious. Jonathan hates that every spot we stop, every dog in the neighborhood has to come up and mark its territory on our tires.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Surf’s Up

After the paid excursion didn’t meet our standards, we decided to try planning our own outings some more. On Tuesday we decided to hit the beach for surfing. At least, we wanted to give James a chance to learn to surf. I was considering it, but Cyndi’s description of it combined with the frigid water and wind discouraged me from the activity.

The beach we chose was Playa Los Cerritos (which came highly recommended by Hugo). It is a safe, surfing beach up near Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula. The beach was decent, but there was no shade without paying for it, and there was a bit of a breeze. When we arrived, the road makes it seem like you must pay $5 to park in a safe area, but just a bit farther north, there was a spot to park (no security, however) for free. We decided to save money as nothing was in the car anyway. Then on the beach there were a couple of vendors renting out surfboards and such. We got James a board and sent him out into the water with a couple of words of advice from his mother with the surfing experience. True to his athletic ability, James was catching waves in a couple of tries, just needing to perfect his timing.

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P1010751 And for the ladies…
Meanwhile, Jonathan and I enjoyed reading books on the beach. I tried to avoid the sun as much as possible, but I managed to get a bit darker and my nose caught more sun than the rest of my face. Oh fun. After a bit, I managed to order a pizza from the beachside restaurant/bar. They brought the meal out to us on the beach and provided a table and such for the pizza. The pizza was not too shabby, but the cream-cheese- or ricotta-stuffed crust (couldn’t tell which) was a bit much for some of the family.

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When everyone had enough fun in the sun, we drove up the rest of the way to do some browsing of the artistic town of Todos Santos. Then we called it a day and headed back to our place in Cabo San Lucas. Along the way, we spotted the water spouts of several whales along the coast. However, we couldn’t find a safe road to the coast to see them up close.

For Wednesday, we thought we would like to try kayaking. There were some beaches along the southern coast that were recommended kayaking and snorkeling. So we drove out to Playa Bahía Chileno. There was supposed to be a palapa on the western end of the beach offering kayaking and snorkeling gear. However, when we arrived, we couldn’t find any such vendor. It was a beautiful location, though. With nothing to do on the beach but sun (which isn’t Jonathan and my favorite pastime), we decided we would try the second beach and see if it had the gear.

The next beach, Playa Santa María, was rather busy but did have the kayak and snorkel vendor, so we picked out a kayak and a couple of snorkels and picked out a spot on the beach. The afternoon was enjoyable with everyone rotating the various activities. Cyndi and I went out and kayaked into a small cave at the end of then of the cove that was inhabited with lots of crabs.

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That evening, we made our way to Tacos Gardenias for an early dinner. They hadn’t yet tried the famous fish tacos of the Baja, so Jonathan and I thought we would introduce them. Tacos Gardenias had high ratings for the having some of the best. We tried the fried fish taco, I think it was fried halibut. It wasn’t too bad. I could have used some different sauce/topping offerings to make it delicious, though. Another interesting menu item that we tried was the cactus quesadilla. I liked the cactus; it was kinda like a green bell pepper, but without the bitter spice. We ended the evening with a walk to the marina and the Puerto Paraíso Mall.

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Spanish Words of the Day:
Whale: la ballena
Wind: el viento
Sun: el sol
Sand: la arena

Monday, December 17, 2012

Excursions

Sunday morning found us making a list of all the things we were interested in doing in Los Cabos with family. By the time 10 o’clock came around, we had nice list going for the concierge to investigate for us. Since there was no time to reserve anything for today, we decided that we would head out to Medano Beach near our place and get a ride to Finisterra and el Arco, the typical Los Cabos excursion.

Arriving on the beach, we negotiated a glass bottom boat ride out. The sun was mostly out and it was beautiful day. We saw lots of interesting fish and rock formations. Then strolled across Lover’s and Divorce beaches. James entertained us with acrobatics. While we were waiting for the boat to return to take us back, a young whale surfaced in the bay. Unfortunately we did not see it resurface again to take a picture. Supposedly on occasion an young whale will get lost in the bay and eventually make its way back out to its herd.

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After our Finisterra visit, we went up to Blvd Mijares in San Jose del Cabo to do some shopping. Cyndi picked up a good deal or two before we left. Gotta love the pharmacies there, especially in the tourist sections.

DSC02014 Viagra isn’t a prescription drug in Mexico, so it is a popular purchase when visiting.

We finished the outing with a stop at The Container Bar and Restaurant. It is ranked as #2 restaurant in San Jose del Cabo. While the young waitress didn’t speak much English, we were able to get our orders communicated. Dave and Cyndi picked up the happy hour of deal of 2x1 margaritas, which might have been double shots instead of 2 for the price of one, as they were super strong, or so I was told (me and soft drinks don’t mix, so you can imagine how well alcohol and I mix). Pleasantly surprising, everyone’s food was delicious. They all had a bit more traditional food, including with Cyndi branching out with the chicken mole poblano. I tried it, but I didn’t appreciate it, although well flavored it was too spicy and smoky for mild senses. Jonathan and I split a cheeseburger (we were wanting something a bit different than what we had been having for the past month). I didn’t have much expectations for it, as most often American food is not done well in Mexico, but it was fantastic. The meat patty was freshly made with onions and cilantro (I think) and seasoned well in its sandwich, absolutely one of the best burgers I have had.

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All in all, a good, fun day.

The next day was not so enjoyable, at least for me, so maybe I am not the best person for relating the day. Through our concierge, we booked an excursion with Baja Buggies, with transportation pickup at 8 am on Monday. When the van arrived, it was already full minus four seats and there were five of us. So, one self-sacrificing couple ended up with her sitting on his lap the entire trip. Then, they after paying and getting our gear, they walked through to take pictures with animals (they took the pictures and wanted us to pay for them later), which we weren’t interested in.

Finally, we got to get in the buggies. They were not in the best of conditions… Suspensions were nearly out, boots were broken, steering columns all but unusable, tires of different treads on all wheels with all of different wear. Needless to say, this made for an interesting drive, especially with the huge washboards on the route. But, what made it completely unbearable, at least for me, was the protective gear. My four-point safety belt barely fit, the bandana to keep dust out of my mouth was rough, the goggles and helmet too big, and the goggles had insufficient cushion. I literally had bruises on my face from the goggles when I finally got them tight enough to stay on. For the first part of the trip, I couldn’t get the helmet or the goggles on tight enough and had to hold them on.

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DSC02022 Notice the ridges/marks in the middle of my forehead and the bridge of my nose. This was several hours after the ride.

Because I was holding them on, I couldn’t hold onto my camera, which I had tucked under my shirt. All of a sudden, I realized my camera wasn’t there anymore. I freaked. Jonathan said that sand wouldn’t hurt it, but the issue was not getting it crushed or lost. I didn’t see it anywhere and had no way of knowing where to look for it in the scenery and we were in a caravan that we couldn’t just stop to look for it. Praise God in heaven, when I turned and looked in between our seats, it was caught on the floorboards underneath Jonathan’s seat belt connection. I decided from then on to keep my camera in my pants, using my waistband to keep it from coming out. Awkward, but at least I didn’t lose it from then on out.

Jonathan drove most of the time, but I did take a swing at it. I guess my off-road driving skills aren’t as honed as Jonathan’s. I could hardly keep up with them. I went fast enough to make my helmet fly up and hang behind my head uselessly. Plus, while my feet reached the pedals fine, the steering wheel was too far away. So every time my wheels hit a rock, the steering wheel was jerked from my hands. Plus on the driver’s side, the front wheel had a tendency to spray rocks up into your face. Definitely not a pleasant thing to drive in my opinion.

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Remember my mention that the vehicles were in horrible condition? Well, during one small stop, we shut off our buggy. When we went to start it up again, it wouldn’t. It finally turned over with the mechanic’s help, but we were demoted to the back of the line and warned not to shut off the vehicle again when we stopped. Cyndi and Dave had it worse off then us. When Cyndi took over driving, the gas pedal broke, so they had to switch buggies. Then, later, their tire went completely flat, and they had to switch again. I guess she is a crazy driver with a heavy foot. ;P At our last stop, I noticed our tire had a nice tear in it, but it fortunately wasn’t leaking air yet. James, I think, had no issue. 

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Back at Baja Buggy headquarters, they took one last picture, wheeled us into a room to show off the pictures and try to sell us a CD for $30-$50, and fed us nachos for free but charged for any beverages. Finally, we were allowed to pile into the overfilled van and head back. As you can guess, this wasn’t my favorite excursion. I think I am the one who enjoyed it the least, or at least the most vocal about my discomfort. Maybe everyone else really enjoyed it… As I said, perhaps I am not the best person to relate this adventure.

At least the hot tub at the rental was welcoming. And it only took a couple of days to get rid of my marks.

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Spanish Words of the Day:
Pharmacy: la farmacia
Dune: la duna, el médano

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Family in Los Cabos

Jonathan’s parents and youngest brother were scheduled to land about 11:40am on Saturday. Jonathan and I arrived at about 11:45. Not sure on how much time we had, and realizing we had missed the only parking entrance, Jonathan dropped me off to see if I could find his parents while he circled back to park. We had told them we would meet them at baggage claim, but we had forgot that we couldn’t do that since they would have to go through customs with their luggage. So, I figured meeting them at the exit would suffice. However, I quickly found that there were two exits: one for groups and one for individuals. They should be coming out the individual side, as they didn’t book a group tour or anything, but I was afraid they might get roped in by the persistent locals looking for fresh saps. To prepare for all options, I stationed myself with a view of both exits, the parking area, and the rental cars, so I could watch for them and my husband (to station him at one of the exits when he got the van parked).

To avoid boring you with the details, Jonathan arrived within a few minutes and set up watch. Ten minutes later, Jonathan’s family walked through my exit (the individual one). Then with some hustle and confusion about how we should handle the rental car, we all ended up at the rental car shop, where we found out the price of the car doubled as a result of the insurance. That was frustration at all ends as Cyndi had already purchased an insurance for the car, but apparently it wasn’t sufficient for the car company. Then to pay for it, she needed to use a credit card, but it was declined. They had forgot to alert the card company that they would be Mexico. I offered to pay, but then realized that I didn’t have enough money in my account for the security deposit and our credit cards didn’t have a high enough limit. So, they ended up having to call via cell phone (with international roaming charges) to get the card company to lift the ban. Eventually, we had a car.

By this point, everyone was hungry and tired. Cyndi had a headache. I had planned a nice restaurant to visit for lunch, so we headed there. Upon arrival, we found a sign at the entrance that said the restaurant would not open until 5pm. Another plan thwarted. Defeated, we decided to head straight to the rental. With only a few issues determining where and how to enter the complex to meet with our concierge, we arrived at the rental to meet Hugo. With his clear English and well-informed knowledge of the area and doings in Los Cabos, he quickly dissipated Cyndi’s headache and helped us figure out the rental car situation.

From there, it got better. The unit was well-decorated two-bedroom penthouse with rooftop access. After unloading and getting situated, we decided to try for food again. We ended up at Vagabundos restaurant located within a trailer park, as it was highly rated, located close, and Jonathan and I knew how to get there. Dinner was mostly a success and from there we went to Wal-Mart and stocked up on supplies for the week. Back at the rental, full and with a soak in the hot tub, all were feeling much better.

I will take this chance to elaborate on our accommodations. Dave and Cyndi got the master suite with a luxurious en-suite and balcony access, Jonathan and I got the 2nd bedroom, and James got the pull-out bed in the couch. More than having a bed without enclosures so I can hang my arms and feet off the bed, I was really excited about the bathroom. It was the first clean, pretty bathroom with a fully functional shower and toilet-paper flushing commode (in Mexico you generally put your paper in the trash, not the toilet, as their sewer system can’t handle it) that we had had since before we entered Mexico. It was pretty exciting.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Weather Changes

While in Los Frailes, we were out of touch with the internet. However, we knew that Jonathan’s family was considering joining us, so we had to find internet to see if they had arranged plans to come down. Thursday, we stopped and got internet and saw the good news that Jonathan’s parents and youngest brother were going to join us in Los Cabos starting on Saturday, December 15th!

Now, we had two nights to figure out how to spend them. We to go to Aguas Calientes near Santiago Thursday night and then to Cabo San Lucas Friday night to scope out the rental and the area for when his parents would come the next day.

Aguas Calientes was supposed to be a hot springs located down an arroyo in the Sierra de la Laguna. However, as we left Cabo Pulmo, we ran into our first drops of rain in Mexico. They weren’t more than sprinkles though. We maneuvered down Mex-1 and around the historic town of Santiago, then followed the dirt (sand) road along the arroyo. We passed over the dry riverbed and found the hot springs campground. As we parked the for the night, the rain was still coming down in sprinkles. We took a few moments to explore the area to make sure there wasn’t any other place we wanted to park. The hot springs was located at an old dam. The dam was no longer working, but there was a set of pools off to the side that someone had built to hold warm water. They were pretty nasty with algae growth and bugs and such. In the shallow “lake” created by the dam, there were some rocks set around a small “waterfall” that must have been warm water as well. But as we had to cross to the other side of the dam and through the shallow lake to get to it, we didn’t check it out. (Unfortunately no pictures, as it was just to scope it out and I had hoped to explore further in the afternoon after lunch.)

We went back to our van, and the rain started to come down harder. The rest of the day the rain was coming down, whether in sprinkles or showers. This did give me a bit of concern considering that we crossed over the dry riverbed on the way to the campground. I wasn’t sure if it would be dry anymore. The next morning, the rain had mostly stopped. We did see several results of the rain: sections of ruts where the rain had washed through, puddles of water covering the road, wet sand, and mud. We managed to make it through these tribulations not too worse for the wear, minus a dirty window or two from splashing through water. As we topped the hill that overlooked the riverbed, we found the road in good condition, even better than some of the spots we had traversed already.

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Soon after, we made it to the town of Santiago and paved roads began again. With ease, we made it to the Los Cabos area. Ironically, some of the worse washouts and roads were on Mex-1 in San Jose del Cabo. There were many road construction crews out dealing with the aftermath of the storm, which had covered some areas in foot-tall sand and removed the underlying sandy foundation in other spots, tearing up the roadway.

In Cabo San Lucas the devastation on Mex-1 was less, but when we turned down the road that would take us to our campground, we discovered that sand had covered the paved road and the sand-dirt road had some nice puddles of water. Despite all that, we made it our camping location safely and didn’t leave until the next morning, hoping most of the roads would be recovered by then.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Los Frailes

Originally, we thought that after a day or so here in Los Frailes we would take off for another destination: Santiago or some other spot. However, upon consultation with the dive resort at Cabo Pulmo (who suggested Wednesday would be a nice, less-windy day to snorkel) and a check at our calendars and destinations, we decided we would stick around until Thursday morning in the retired boondocking community of Los Frailes.

The weather and the water here are beautiful. And, there is an underwater canyon that butts up against the beach here. Apparently, it makes for some of the best beach fishing around. Unfortunately, Jonathan and I don’t have poles or the patience for fishing.

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Monday was the day of the consultation with the dive resort. We also explored the beach called Los Arbolitos.

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We also tried something a little different for dinner: rice and beans burritos. They were actually pretty good despite the simplicity (I normally prefer my burritos with more ingredients, including chicken, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce). Now, you are probably wondering why we haven’t tried this before. Well, refried beans can be troublesome to make, simple enough, but between ingredients, amounts, and space, it just wasn’t something we would make. But last trip to Wal-Mart, we ventured out bought a packaged of refried beans. They were good.

Dinner of Burritos - Rice and Bean
Tuesday, we took out in our kayak along the beach to examine the rocks along the point.

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Wednesday, we rose early to try out snorkeling. We decided we would probably get the best for our money and time in the tour. The tour was supposed to be at 9am, so we arrived at 8:45am to get on the list, pay, and get suited up. However, our four tour companions came from Los Cabos in the Dive Resort’s van and arrived at least 30 minutes late. Then it took another 30 minutes to outfit them all. Ironically, when getting equipped, I ended up with a kid-sized flipper, as it was the only one which fit my foot. I wear a size women’s size 8 shoe, but I do have a very narrow and thin foot, and the child size was the only one that would grip my foot, so my toes were sticking out quite a bit.

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Our tour itself was good. We visited four places, one of which was a sea lions’ colony. The sea lions were great. Most just lazed about on the rocks, sunning and sleeping. Then, some would rise up and bark at the sky. Occasionally, a few would get into the water and swim underneath you. You weren’t allowed to touch, but still they were a lot of fun. Steer clear of their poo, though. Jonathan saw one on the rock eject a stream of the stuff ten feet out and lasting a second and a half. I saw the aftermath of dusty brown coloring the water.

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On our next stop we saw a school of jack (specifically amberjack, if I understood correctly). The school was a mass of fish, each about two feet long, who swam packed together. Their paths were like a large snake coiling itself. They were impressive. Interestingly, their would be a few other types of fish that would come pick at the edges of the mass. And, occasionally you would see a jack swimming upstream through the “current” of fish.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the adventures of the day. My camera is not exactly waterproof, so I didn’t even bring it with us. Oh, and while the resort staff spoke English well, our “Captain” was not fluent in Spanish, so another lady customer and I were the translators. It was kinda fun.

Spanish Words of the Day:
Captain: el capitán
Wind: el viento
Fish: (in water) pez, (out of water) pescado

Monday, December 10, 2012

Along the Eastern Coast

Upon leaving La Paz, we piloted Chuck down to the small town of Los Barriles and made camp in the Martin Verdugo Resort. It was a nice little spot on the beach with hot showers and free wifi. They even had a pool.

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As we travel farther south, though, I can tell we are entering tourist country again. Everyone speaks English decently, including the gas attendants.  And the beaches are becoming hogged by resorts.

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After doing our laundry in the coin-operated machines at the resort, we decided we would make our way to Cabo Pulmo. A national park, Cabo Pulmo houses one of the few coral reefs on the eastern shores of the Pacific. About 5 miles of the road to this location is gravel and washboarded. Our guidebook says that there is supposed to be a simple campground there that charges a small fee. But it seems that this has disappeared. When we arrived at the location, we could see where the RVs used to enter and park, but it was roped off and there was no longer a sign. Since it was getting late in the day, we figured we would drive on to our next destination that wasn’t planned for another day or two, but it was only 5 miles away down the bumpy gravel road. However, to do so, we needed to turn around, and we found that the road just wasn’t quite wide enough.  So we ventured farther down the road to find an intersecting road to turn around in. When we did find it, we still didn’t have enough room, so we were stuck in the middle of the road, blocking traffic which suddenly became very busy. :/ So Jonathan and I got out and removed the trailer, in the process jarring Jonathan pretty hard when one of the chains didn’t get removed. With the trailer out of the way, though, we were able to let the travelers pass.

When we arrived at Los Frailes, we couldn’t figure out  which “road” we were supposed to turn on to get to the boondocking spot. Jonathan ended up turning a bit early and landed where there were a bunch of Mexicans living or staying. Discovering we had made the wrong turn, we tried to turn around and got stuck in the sand. I am sure Jonathan could have gotten us out eventually, but there were a couple of Mexican men standing there watching us. Upon seeing that we were stuck, they volunteered to come push. With their help, we got out quickly and efficiently. Muchas gracias, amigos. Next turn we made, we got it right and avoided getting stuck. Then to rest so we could enjoy Monday’s shenanigans.

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Spanish Words of the Day:
Washing machine: la lavadora
Dryer: la secadora
Trailer: el remolque

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Playa Tecolote

After driving a bit more than normal for our excursions in Mexico, we arrived in La Paz, Baja’s biggest city, on Thursday. We restocked at Wal-Mart and then made our way to Playa Tecolote. This beach is rather pleasant, boondocking beach near La Paz.

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After driving all day followed up with shopping at Wal-Mart, we didn’t have much energy to do anything on Thursday. Friday, we thought about putting the kayak in, but since it threatened to get windy, and our location was not ideal for kayaking, we decided to go hiking instead. From our camp, we could see a couple of hills carved into the hills behind us. So, we started out for the large cave that almost looked like it had a chair in it.

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As we got closer, we discovered it was a cactus in front of it, as was supposed.

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The rock formations here are interesting. It is sedimentary rock, but they way that it is formed looks like a pile of concrete with large rocks in it. This creates ripe conditions for small rock slides, so we had to be careful. This is on top of our goals to avoid the thorns and spines that most of the desert plants seem to possess. Through our hiking and climbing, I have discovered that Jonathan is much faster than I am. I shouldn’t be surprised; he is faster than I am in most everything. In this case, I don’t know if he is just more confident, or if it has something to do with his greater reach. Maybe I just don’t have any balance at all. Anyways, while climbing these hillsides, Jonathan is quick and graceful, while I am slow and nearly crawling on all fours. Once we reached the cave, I decided we needed a bit more exercise and adventure and proposed we climb to the topmost peak of the hills we were on. The view was great.

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On the way down, Jonathan found some large spiders. In fact, one he didn’t see right away fell onto his leg. I must say, it was the first time that I saw Jonathan so “excited” about an insect on him. To be fair, he had reason, check these guys out. To give perspective, the first’s body itself (not including head or legs) was about an inch long.

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DSC01931This one is hiding in its web tunnel. Jonathan tried to convince it to come out to play with only succeeding in getting it to poke out a leg. He was another big one. 

We headed out Saturday morning. Unfortunately, as I was looking into the ottoman, I dropped the (wooden) lid squarely on my feet. It was extremely painful, and I am now boasting two bruises and one welt. Made me hobble like an old woman all day. When we went back to Wal-Mart to get oil for van maintenance, Jonathan almost left me behind at the door, forgetting that I was limping along.

And, since Wal-Mart did have any good tortilla offerings before, Jonathan and I made a stop at our first tortilleria on Saturday as we drove through La Paz again. This was a “hi-tech” shop with a tortilla press in use. It was a slab of grill that moved back and forth while another slab half the size flattened each tortilla dough coin. It was quite interesting. When the tortilla dough had been flattened and steamed, it was tossed onto an actual grill where another guy cooked and flipped them. They made about ten while I was there waiting.

Spanish Words of the Day:
Rock/landslide: el derrumbe
Spider: la araña
Hill: la colina, el cerro
Bruise: el moretón, el cardenal
Welt: el verdugón