We have had all varieties of experiences with Mexicans. A single fellow drove down the beach in front of all the RVs, returned, parked right in front of us and turned on his Mexican “rock music” with its horns and accordions full volume. After a couple of hours, he threw all his beer cans on the beach and left. That Friday night, a group of young guys had a party that didn’t end till 5 AM. The bass was so loud we vibrated all night and nobody slept. The next day two couples and their 4 children had a picnic in front of our camper. They brought over tostadas and two clam shells filled with ceviche – raw seafood covered with salsa, hot sauce and lime juice – delicious. When I appeared they brought another plate. They had just gotten the clams that day. Barb had great fun trying to talk to them. Mark thought that by speaking louder they would be better able to understand his English. These three encounters happened within 24 hours at Tecolote, near La Paz.
At Magdelena Bay we easily got in touch with Gabriel, the young fisherman with whom we had enjoyed our panga ride into the bay so much one month earlier. He is a wonderful guy – speaks good English, and is so eager to show us a good time. He arrived 10 minutes early to pick us up and joked about Mexicans always being late. He had his very nice fishing boat and we went out to the entrance to the bay on the edge of the Pacific. We saw many California grey whales, many swimming under and right next to the boat. We didn’t get to touch any and not one whale breached right in front of us. I got a lot of great pictures especially of tails. We saw the first mother and calf that he had seen this season. We saw whales having sex and a whale’s penis. Gabriel said that male whales are just like macho Mexican men – they often don’t have much to do with the mother or calf after the fact. He was abandoned by his alcoholic father when a young boy. We bought another kilo of camarones for $5 and drove through the spectacular Sierra Gigantes Mountains to Loreto.
After one night in Loreto and some shopping, we came back to our favorite spot in Baja, Bahia Concepcion. We stayed two nights at Requeson, a pretty beach on a sand spit with water on both sides leading out to an island. There was a small caravan of 5 RVs from the lower mainland. We realized how restrictive that would be – need 5 large spots to camp, they only tend to socialize with each other, none had solar and ran their generators frequently. They had not seen nearly as much as we had. I kayaked down to the south end of the bay and when we moved on I kayaked 10 miles north to El Coyote, the beach we had spent one week at before. We hiked to some cave paintings and then some petroglyphs climbing the mountain behind with great views of the bay all the way to Mulege. When we left, I kayaked past the next six beaches, snooping in at all the fancy homes on the way to Santispac. There all the beach palapas and homes were being torn down. The ejido (the Mexican version of communal land ownership) that owned the beach and was leasing the land to the gringos, suddenly terminated all the leases and ordered them to dismantle their homes by the end of January, irrelevant of the duration remaining on the lease and with no refunds. This is the risk of any lease situation in Mexico. Land ownership has only been possible for foreigners in the last year and before that was generally done via trusts held by banks. Mexicans who sell their land often go out and buy big American trucks with the money.
In Mulege, we stayed with Kim and Sydney, the couple who run the water taxi service on Slocan Lake and live in New Denver. We ate out frequently and went to a great beach with shells – Barb was really in her element. It was too windy to go out in Kim’s boat as we had planned. They are in the midst of building a house in Mulege and have a very nice lot (which they hold clear title to) with great views of the ocean. This past September, there was a huge flood in Mulege and many homes were destroyed – those homes which had been flooded out many time before are being sold at ~40% of their value. Who would take the risk? They are selling rapidly!
We drove the 270 kms north, crossing into Baja Norte, to Scammons Lagoon, another grey whale calving site south of Guerro Negro. Scammon was an American whaler who was the first to discover where the whales went in the winter. They reduced the California grey whale population from 30.000 to 200 before they were finally protected. They have now recovered to their previous population and come to three main lagoons on the Pacific to calve in the shallow water. Camping on the shore we heard the frequent blowing of the whales during the night. We couldn’t resist going out whale watching again and saw lots of whales with calves, some breeching and some sleeping. However we didn’t get to pet any as is apparently common at St Ignacio Lagoon.
Heading north we passed a caravan of 25 Californian RVs. I guess they feel safer but we have no doubt that the Baja is as safe as home – there is so much fear mongering. So far, we have passed through three military check stops, where they only stop north going traffic. One fellow after asking about drugs and guns, asked about “cookies”. When he refused the only thing we had that was cookie-like, Triscuits, we figured out that he meant marijuana cookies! The checking of north bound only, we believe, reflects American funding. Because of the many rains, the roadside is covered in purple and yellow flowers and the yucca forest north of Guerro Negro has many large flower stalks. With no shoulders the driving requires absolute concentration as drop offs are common and guard rails rare. Buses have the worst drivers, followed closely by most Mexican and Californian drivers who drive very fast.
The central desert which is the driest area of Baja, is also the most spectacular with boujum trees, cardon cactus, yucca and many kinds of bushes and other cactus. Catavina is at the north end and with its many boulder fields, is one of the most beautiful areas in Baja. We visited a small cave full of brightly colored paintings. North of there is El Marmol, the site of the world’s largest onyx mine that closed in the ‘50s because of the expense of transporting the onyx. The school house is made entirely of onyx blocks and huge blocks lie around everywhere. We found some very nice pieces and they are joining the other multiple rocks and shells we are bringing home.
South of El Rosario, we spent two nights at Pabillon, a huge beach very much like Long Beach. We walked ~5 miles along the beach to a nice hotel that had five employees and no visible guests. We watched two American kayakers playing in the surf – looked like great fun.
This is a huge agricultural area with many vegetables, strawberries etc – an important source of food with the freezes in Southern California. We went to a major tourist attraction south of Ensenada, La Bufadora, a spectacular blowhole where the water shoots at least a hundred feet in the air. Aggressive sea gulls snatched the churros right out of our hands. There were tons of vendors all with their own inventive lines – “almost free”, “no profit today”, “I’ve been waiting for you all day”. Barb got in the mood and bought wooden snakes, a basket and a bracelet. Where are we going to put all this stuff in our little camper? We had great fun dealing with these good natured fellows.
Ensenada is a big Americanized city on the Pacific coast. Barb bought a beautiful ceramic sink with sunflowers and calla lilies. We went to the huge fish market with every variety of fish, octopus, squid and lots of smells. Barb bought crab and smoked marlin. We walked the malecon and went to the Riviera del Pacifico, originally the Playa Ensenada Hotel and Casino built by Jack Dempsey in 1929. It was a big hit with the Hollywood cliental during Prohibition. Now the Social, Civic and Cultural Center of Ensenada, it is a beautiful building with majestic ceilings and paintings. There were two tours from the cruise ships in the bay at thultural centre, and decided to join them illicitly – wehad two “complimentary” marguerites each (very weak) and saw a cultural show with a mariachi band, singer, folk dancing and a rope trick artist – a great deal. We had our umpteenth fish taco lunch, and very tasty camarone cocktails – the street vendors serve the best cheapest food. We stayed in the Wal Mart parking lot. It was almost surreal – the next morning when I looked outside we saw nothing Mexican – besides Wal Mart, we were surrounded by a Home Depot, a very fancy mall, a Scotia Bank and a MacDonalds.
Deciding to skip Tijuana, we headed NE to Tecate and then to follow the four lane toll road (~$8.00) that parallels the US/Mexican border to Mexicali and Yuma. This is a huge grape and olive growing area. After Tecate, the road goes through some of the most spectacular mountains – they are covered by boulders. The viewpoints looking east were of huge plains leading to the Sea of Cortez. Baja is a very mountainous area. Today is Barb’s birthday. We had a big surprise – despite nobody being able to reach us on the On Star phone in the truck so far this trip, Barb’s cousin from Germany was able to call us in Mexicali. It was a very nice surprise and great to hear from them. They come to Canada every year and are close to Barb. We crossed into the US at San Luiz, south of Yuma, Arizona, waiting in line for over 2 hours to get back into the US. It was culture shock to be back in the states.
We were taking a detour to go to Quartzite north of Yuma. A town of 1500 in the summer, it grows to 200,000 in the winter with a huge influx of snowbirds. There are RVs lining the highways in all directtions in the desert and it is one large flea market with vendors for everything. Our main goal was to improve our solar power. Everything in an RV (except the propane stove) requires electricity and solar is the most efficient, ecofriendly way to supply that power if one wants to dry camp. We quickly connected to Michael and his wife Cyndy who are the ultimate of living off the grid. They have a composting toilet, manufacture their own biodiesel, use wind generators, and have a huge number of solar panels that allow them to function with a complete range of appliances. The most simple solutions he came up with was to change our solar regulator to a brand that boosted our solar input by 30% and to change our flat panels so that we could incline them giving a 30-40% increase in efficiency. We also moved our small 50 watt panel to the same side as our large 115 watt panel. I also wanted to add a wind generator but he had none in stock. In the flea markets, we picked up all sorts of knick knacks that we couldn’t find anywhere else and 13 pocket books for $18.
In Brawley, California we sterilized our water tanks as we were now in the states and water sources were good. I’m not sure that there were problems with Mexican water, although we were always cautioned against drinking it. We used it for showers, dishes and even brushing our teeth. We were not careful and never got sick. Mexico is one of the biggest users of bottled water in the world, and even the Mexicans used bottled water.
Onto Anza Borrego Desert State Park, part of the very dry Colorado Desert, and a place renowned for its spring wildflower bloom. It is expected to be very poor this year as they have had only one inch of rain in the past year (normally 6-7” per year). Normally occurring from late February to the end of March, there was certainly no evidence of it yet. Over three days we did seven short hikes getting a good idea of the park.
We hit San Diego on February 18 and went to Border Fields State Park next to the Mexican border on the Pacific. We hiked down to the border. With nothing within a mile of the border on the US side, Tijuana is a big, busy city that abuts right up to the metal corrugated fence that snakes over the hills. On the beach the fence was simply large metal girders stuck in the sand. With large gaps in the girders, we talked with some teenagers who tried to sell us marijuana. Border guards were in abundance. We parked near the Imperial Beach pier which extends a long way out into the ocean and watched a surfer. It is a national holiday here today, Presidents Day, raining, cold and windy and we are going to find a library to get caught up on our emails and use the internet.