Travel Journal Mexico 2013 - 2014

with Claudia and PJ Potgieser

 

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If you are not up to date yet and want to read about the first four months of our trip ? Click on this link first: Travel journal Canada , Alaska and USA 2013

December 2013 Mexico

December 9, 2013 , Ensenada - Mexico

So here we are, with fluffy slippers on, the electric heater is snoring, the camper shakes on its six wheels by winds of 50 miles p/h and it is 51°F. Yes, we are in Mexico, although you would not think we are.

This morning we had a two-hour drive through California before we were at the Tecate border crossing. The temperature is only 37°F and PJ is a bit grumpy. He is worried that we will find it too cold in Baja California, that long peninsula to the west of the mainland. There is a cold front going through the USA and we also feel it in California.
In Mexico they have a simple system to cross the first border check. You park at the traffic light and if you get the green light (this is an arbitrary system) you may continue without control.
PJ stops for the light with the word STOP and when it turns green, he starts driving. A soldier waves him to the side, of course, you can always override the system!

The man asks if he can look inside and I open the camper door for him.
"Did you bring wine or beer?". I am a bit surprised by that question, they have never asked us about wine and I honestly say yes.
"How much?". I show him the 5 liters box wine and totally forget the other 15 liters that are stacked away somewhere in the camper. Also, we do not talk about the whiskey and rum. We can continue.

The custom actions you need to do for Mexico are:
- Go with your passport to immigration to apply for a visa of 180 days.
- Fill in a form at immigration and go to a bank to pay.
- With that receipt go back to the immigration, who stamps the visa in your passport.
- Then to the Banjercito to arrange the paperwork for the temporary importation of your vehicle.

Does not sound too difficult, and we have done the border crossing at Lukeville many times, we can blindly find our way there.
But now we are in Tecate ....
After the wine-check we look for a place to park the camper, so we can go to the customs. But it is tight here and we have to drop off the camper a few blocks further and walk back to the border. Not a nice idea to leave your house in such a chaotic border town. We walk back to the border post.
Oh yes, on the American side, we still had to hand over our white visa waiver card, proof that we have left the country after 90 days. While PJ waits in the truck, I walk to the customs building, but all the doors can open only from the inside! A Mexican walks out, so I slip inside in the opposite direction. But soon I come to another door that opened only from the other side. I give up this mission.

So our first mission is to go on foot, with the rest of the Mexicans, to the American border building at  the right side, through a revolving door that only goes in one direction to see Customs. We hand over our visa cards and ask how we can get out of here again because we are on our way to Mexico.
The customs officer walks us back and says very sternly: "Stay here," as he puts a wrench in the revolving door. "Go ahead," and we are ‘released’ again.
The next step is Mexican customs. We soon find the right building and the immigration officer is very helpful and even speaks English with a thick accent. Before us, a young French-speaking Belgian couple (later we see their cute self-made camper) who apparently do this for the first time, because they have a hard time understanding that they only have to walk to the bank to pay their visa. They ignore us, so we let them muddle.
After we have completed the visa application (the English translation is taped on the table), we walk three blocks to a bank. We see the Belgians standing at a counter, so we know we are in the right bank. PJ gets pesos from the ATM machine, and then we pay our visa at the counter. With proof of payment, we walk back to the customs, and we get our stamps in our passports. The officer tries to explain the Belgian couple that they now need to import their camper at the Banjercito, but they can also do this in the port city of La Paz, 1,000 miles south.
We eavesdrop, and of course we are a few minutes later at the Banjercito building. Strangely, the Belgians are not there. But soon we discover it too: the computer is not working, can we come back in an hour?
We are in doubt whether we shall wait (and probably the computer still not works), or count on that we can do in La Paz. We choose the latter because it's already noon and we want to be in Ensenada before dark.

                        

The navigation lady sends us on our way through the busy town and before we know it, we are on our way to the major border city of Tijuana. We wanted to avoid that city, so we opted for the smaller border post Tecate! Thus reversed, ignoring the protests of the English lady and half an hour later we are on the right road. Soon the Belgians are driving behind us, they have apparently also chosen to do the paperwork in La Paz. When we stop for lunch, they pass us. Too bad, I would have likes to talk to them.

In 2002, we have been once before on Baja California. So we have driven the winding narrow road through the barren mountains before, but I cannot remember much of it. Were there so many wine orchards?
 

Mid-afternoon we arrive in Ensenada. I have selected a luxury RV park with WI-FI, those first day we want to get in touch with home. To get to the RV park, we first have to drive 30 miles  north and we can only reach the RV park by toll road, which follows the rugged coastline. A long stretch we have to drive slow, due to roadwork. A signs says that the ground is unstable. A few weeks later we read that piece toll road is completely washed away by an earthquake - with a truck on it! Fortunately, there are no casualties.

   

From the road, we can already see that the RV park is busy with lots of new luxury trailers. We park the camper, are blown out of our pants, plug in with electricity and turn the heater on.
It is 51°F. We do not see any people, but suspect that everyone is cuddling up inside. When it starts to get dark at 5 am, we find out that we are only ones at the RV park! There are no lights in the RV’s around us. Ensenada is only 70 miles from the city of San Diego, so this is probably the second 'home' for the Americans. Being here all by ourselves does not feel comfortable, but apparently it is safe enough, otherwise the Americans would not leave their expensive campers behind.

 
                The ghost RV park Clam Beach Resort


Sunset in the windows of a building

The advantage is that we do not have to share the Internet and we can watch Dutch television. Another advantage is that we cannot get into a quarrel with the neighbors...

December 10, 2013 , Ensenada - Baja California Mexico
In the course of the morning the wind dies down, so we decide to stay another day. Something new is that PJ has bought a mini toaster oven for me. At the Dollar Store I found a tiny cake pan and a muffin tin for six small muffins. So I try out my new toy (warms up the camper too). In the cake pan, I can just fit a two persons lasagna.

   

11 - 12 December 2013 San Quentin - Baja California Mexico
We drive south to San Quentin. The main road is very narrow and it just fits when trucks passes us.

   

We camp at RV park/restaurant Posada Don Diego. This RV park has besides an apparently successful restaurant not much to offer. At half past five there are more and more cars parking in front of the restaurant. And the next morning many cars come and go. We just assume in good faith that the food is good and they do not come to Don Diego for other practices.
Our Chilean friends Claudia and Cristián mail that they will come to the Baja on December 15th. They still had many plans but their old camper could not compete with nights of -25°F in Utah. For us this is good news, because we had our doubts that they would arrive in time for Christmas on the Baja.
We stay another night at the RV park, so we do not have such a big lead on them. Unfortunately, the next day we receive another email from them, they will not come till January 3rd to the Baja. That is a disappointment.

 
                                                           Lonely city camping in San Quentin

December 13, 2013 , Valle de Cirios - Baja California Mexico
We continue our way south through the dry desert. Here we see a lot of different cacti and succulents, but also the Boojum tree. This tree is found only on the Baja and can grow up to 45 feet tall. It resembles a slender upside-down carrot and is covered with spiny twigs. When the tree is mature, it splits into two to six jagged branches. The Mexicans call this tree Cirio (candle) because it is reminiscent of the candles in a church. Well, maybe if you have gotten incense in your eyes.

   
    Carrot-like Boojum Tree                              Jagged branches                               Peculiar shape  of the Boojum Tree

 
                                                                                            With a little imagination you can see candles

   

We drive through the desert and take a 40 mile dead-end road to Bahia de Los Angeles.

           

The village looks rundown and the two campgrounds in the village too. But we have chosen Daggits RV park, a few miles north. We arrive at the beach camp and there are three other campers. The sun is shining and we can finally sit in swimwear in the sun. The temperature rises to 68°F. Each site has a thatched roof (palapa). Pelicans are waiting for a fish on the beach, we see a school of dolphins come along and an osprey is hanging in the wind looking for fish.

 

The Sea of Cortez is deep blue and on the beach only washed shells, no waste. We were once at a campground on the Yucatan where we had to grub through washed by flip-flops, sneakers, bottles and plastic bags before we could lay our towel on the beach. This RV park has WIFI and costs only $9,- per night.

   

   
A beach with only shells and stones ,                                     huge clams and large shells

Paradise? No, not quite yet. Annoying flies sit on our mouth and in our eyes. In the afternoon the wind begins to blow so hard that it is really too cold to stay outside. We have no electricity so I cannot use my toaster oven. The water (which is hot) in the shower has no pressure so I cannot get my hair wet to wash it. And there are no palm trees, which is a must to be called Paradise. Yet we stay there for four nights.



      

   
 

 

December 17, 2013 , Bahia de Los Angeles - Baja California Mexico
We continue our way south along the narrow main road, through the dry desert with so many different cacti and some last Boojum trees.

   

   

Whenyou cross into the province of Baja north to south, you will pass a fruit- and vegetable checkpoint. When we passed this checkpoint in 2002, we were asked if we had fruits and vegetables. Then we did not know better than to tell the guy honestly what we had in the camper.
No, oranges were not a problem, but onions, potatoes and tomatoes were. We were allowed to keep the pineapple and avocados. Not really a problem, we could just buy some new vegetables. But then we got a rude awakening: the next supermarket we saw that the shelves of fresh vegetables were virtually empty. The potatoes were shriveled and the tomatoes dented. And there were no onions at all.

Our Dutch friends Gerard and Monique would travel a few days later to us (they had some delays in Los Angeles, waiting for a car part), so of course we emailed them about the checkpoint.

We were surprised when our friends told us that the avocados were taken, plus the oranges! It seemed that the fruit officer was getting a shopping list from his wife every day and he took only the things that his wife needed for supper!

 

So it is not surprising that - 11 years later and with 16 years of travel experience - as a precaution we hide our fruits and vegetables. I leave an overripe banana lying in the fridge. For the record: In California for example, you may not bring any oranges from other states and I would never secretly take fruit with me. Imagine that the fruit crop would fail, because I brought in some fruit flies. But in Mexico this was clearly a case of randomly taking fruits and vegetables, and we are not planning to help them!

But first we have to go through a military checkpoint. A kid of 17, 18 years old with a pimpled face asks if he can have a look. I unlock the camper door for him and let him inside. It is a common control; cabinet open, cabinet closed, under the mattress and he looks into refrigerator.
"Sleep here?" He asks in Spanish, pointing to the bed.
"Si".
"And is that your husband?", Pointing towards PJ.
"Si".
"Do you have children?"
"No".
"Why not?"
Now have PJ and I deliberately chosen to go through life childless, but imagine that you had a huge wish to have children and have done everything to have a baby and then such a brat would ask why you do not have kids!
I point to my belly and make a sad face. He blushes, which makes his pimples more visible. I barely keep from sticking my tongue out.

And then comes the feared fruit and veggie check. PJ stops at the man in uniform.
"Do you have any fruit?".
"Si ," replied PJ, "a banana".
"Only one banana?".
"Si".
"You can go".
What an anticlimax that was!

We drive to the town Guerrero Negro and look for the supermarket. And guess what? The fruit and vegetable department is amply stocked with fresh produce. Nothing wrong with that. Apparently there is a link between an empty supermarket and a long shopping list of the controller. Or they really have improved their lives.

Meanwhile, it is lunch time and we are out of bread. We find a panaderia (bakery) but it is closed. I can see the buns on the shelves. The supermarket has no fresh bread. So lunch will be a fish taco from a taco stand! Tasty fried fish in soft corn tortillas, with finely sliced cabbage and a spicy sauce.

             

We park behind the hotel where we have, according to my notes also camped in 2002.
"Do you recognize it?" , I ask PJ.
"Have we ever been here before?" is PJ 's answer.
Kind of weird that we both absolutely do not remember it.

In the evening I put my new toaster oven at work. Savory muffins with caramelized red onion, garlic and Parmesan cheese. And also a pasta casserole. I am really surprised how much you can make in such a simple tiny oven.

December 18, 2013 , Guerrero Negro - Baja California Mexico
The next morning we walk back to the bakery, but it is still closed. Apparently those rolls have been there for a while.

We travel across the dry desert. A Coyote crosses and we see donkeys grazing along the road. There cannot be very much to eat here.

And then we arrive in a fertile gorge filled with date palms, San Ignacio. What a beautiful sight to see an oasis in the desert. We camp at a lagoon surrounded by date palms. Each place has a palapa (thatched roof) and a bench. There is also a Mexican family with a large RV. The lagoon is full of black ducks.

 

       

During the afternoon a handyman comes along to pick dates to dry them on tables and rakes the campground. He asks if we are bothered if he turns on the generator that pumps water from the lagoon.
"No, you go ahead."
I expect that he is going to water the trees, but to my surprise the hose runs from the lagoon to the top of the shower building. I may sound dowdy, but the idea that I have to take a shower with unfiltered water where ducks have pooped in, does not sound appealing to me. So I skip that hot shower they advertise with.
   

The gardener collects $9, - for the night, sell me a pan de datil (date bread) and leaves. The date bread appears to be more a cake and makes me immediately think of Dutch Sinterklaas. It must be the spices in it.

Moments later, the Mexican family also leaves. And when it gets dark, it is pitch black immediately (the campground does not have electricity). Now we suddenly do not find this place so idyllic anymore, to be by our own in an oasis just outside the village 

 

 

December 19, 2013 , San Ignacio - Baja California Mexico
It is a cloudy day, but we still drive back to the village to see the church. The old monastery was built by the Dominicans and the walls are more than 3 feet thick and the church has a beautiful altar.

   

We continue south, the clouds dissolves and we stop in Santa Rosalia. The copper mining town has half-timbered houses and a church designed by Gustave Eiffel, better known by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

 

        
                                                                                               Here you can recognize a bit of Eiffel

We buy crusty white rolls from the French bakery (since 1900). The two whole wheat baguettes we also buy, contain too much sugar and make us nauseated.
We eat a bun along the boulevard, while the pelicans flying low

Our goal today is Mulegé, a palm-fringed village on the Rio Mulegé. Dutch travelers gave us the GPS coordinates of a camping on the north side of the river. After three attempts to find our way through the narrow one-way streets, we give it up and go to a small RV park Hotel Cuesta Real on the south side of the river. This is also a great place. The sites are bordered by palm and fruit trees (pomegranate?) and therefore it does not show that there are also almost no campers here.

   

An old German guy who emigrated to Canada comes to have a chat. When his wife was alive they usually went to the beach camps south of here, but since Horst is alone and hates to cook, he spends his winters at this RV park. The Mexican owner cooks his breakfast and dinner every day. He sits all day in front of his camper van, chain smoking and reading.
We have electricity again, so my toaster oven comes out of the box again and I make pizza and garlic bread. After two nights we call it a day, also with Horst we do not want to spend Christmas.

   
               pizza out of the oven                   a nice miniature house letterbox                    mouth of Rio Mulegé

December 21 -23, 2013 , Mulegé - Baja California Mexico
We zigzagged from the Pacific Ocean to the Golf of California, and now we are back to the Bay of Cortez. At the Bahia Concepcion, a huge shallow bay are many beaches and about 12 camping opportunities. In 2002 with Gerard and Monique, we have tested four beaches and unanimously we thought El Requesón was the best.



This beach is actually a spit of white sands with on both sides beautiful blue water, and a small island that can only be reached by low tide. PJ parks the camper down beside a palapa and when we get out, we are almost blown off our feet.
PJ spans a tarp on one side of the thatched roof, and so we can sit down in swimwear in the sun. Eating outside is not possible.
.

 

 
                                     A camouflaged bird                                                                     Room with a view

 
                                                                                               many shells on the beach



Our neighbors change daily. The from Belgian to San Francisco emigrated guy with his American girlfriend use the wind to go kite surfing. This gives us the opportunity to photograph his spectacular jumps. They travel in an old orange Volkswagen van.

 

           

This idyllic spot is not for free, every night a bearded hippy looking Mexican collects 80 pesos (six dollar) This was the same in 2002, only then we paid $ 2.45 per night. When on the fourth day the wind is blowing again we give up and drive to the town of Loreto 

24 - 27 December 2013 Loreto - Baja California Mexico
We have seen quite a lot of cyclists sharing the narrow main road. We pass two cycling guys wearing forage caps. On the beach of El Reques
ón we saw them again. It turns out to be two very nice Mexicans from the border city of Tijuana. They recognize our camper, at least only the back site because we have passed them a few times.

They want to cycle to Cancun in two months. That is almost 3,000 miles! But they did not take account that they might want to stay a day or two on those beautiful beaches with nice neighbors.

"Isn’t it all about the journey, does it really matter if you do not get in those two months to Cancun," I say.
Well, they see that differently. "Our wives arrive in about two months in Cancun, where we have a week's holiday to celebrate."
"Why do you actually wear forage caps?", I ask.
"Don’t you think I 'm already tan enough in my face? By the way, the next time you catch up with us, will you give us a lift, otherwise we'll never make it."

As we drive from the beach to the town of Loreto, we see a heavily packed bicycle girl who suddenly stops on the road to take a picture. PJ first starts to brake, because from the other side a truck is coming. But in his mirror, PJ sees a truck behind him and of course this driver does not expect that PJ suddenly brakes and even stops on the highway. So PJ takes a quick decision, sweeps by the girl and shoot just in time for the oncoming truck back to his lane. The girl waves a bit apologetic. Would she have realized what a close call this was?

 

 

                    
                                                      Another heavily packed cyclist

In Loreto we have picked a small RV park. We hope to celebrate Christmas with the other campers. As we enter the RV park we see a lot of impressive travel vehicles. Those huge Unimogs, Toyota Land Cruisers with pop-up roofs or a roof tent, DIY stuff and MAN truck campers. That should be fun, we immediately think and park our camper in one of last available spots. But it turns out that these vehicles belong to Germans who have encountered each other somewhere along the way and have agreed to celebrate Christmas here together. And that is what they do!

 

   

On Christmas Eve, they crawl into a corner to drink beers and this results in a spontaneous dinner party where everyone makes something together. Not for a moment they think of inviting the people from the other four campers. We only hear German clucking around us. We are parked next to them and can only watch. On Christmas Day, the Germans have reserved a whole restaurant and hired the cook to make a turkey dinner for them. Also this day we are totally ignored. Not a real Christmas spirit. On Boxing Day they leave with their vehicles to a beach (location unknown) to eat lobster.

 

Our Christmas dinner consists of Alaskan salmon and fresh shrimp that I bought just before leaving the beach from the trunk of a car. I could also buy a kilo of lobster tails, but I had no idea how you should prepare that. I make mashed potatoes and a delicious cream sauce with spicy chipotle peppers. And for the first time in weeks we can eat outside!

We stay four nights at this RV park. The town of Loreto turns out to be very cozy and the center is 15 minutes' walk from the campground. Every day we walk to the village to run an errand or just to have a pleasant walk on the palm tree lined promenade and the pedestrian shopping street with arched trees. There is a beautiful old church in the square.

   

                     

   

The LEY supermarket is a ten minute walk from the RV park and on Christmas morning we join the long line of people for the bakery department. We have picked a bag of hard rolls that has to be weighted and priced, but most Mexicans are standing in line for fresh corn tortillas. These are made at the spot, through an ingenious conveyor system from dough, cut circles, baked in an oven and the still steaming tortillas are placed on piles. Five inches tall stacks tortillas are weighted by the sellers and packaged. It is not uncommon that per customer ten pounds of tortillas are ordered.

There is a Mexican in the row behind us asking where we come from.
"Holanda" .
"And what do you speak in Holanda?
"Dutch".
"What is a bolillo in Dutch?"
"Roll"
He repeats everything after us saying it in Dutch, and his questions are getting more personal.
"Are you married?"
"Yes, for nearly 25 years."
"Do you have children?"
"No" .
"Why not?"
What is it with these Mexicans? That a brat is asking this, but this is an adult!

After we got a price sticker on our bag of buns we see the Mexican regularly in the store.
"And what are oranges called in Dutch?"
"And detergent?"

When we are repacked our groceries in front of the store (your groceries are automatically wrapped in plastic shopping bag, although we show them our brought backpacks) I see a cute shaggy dog with a leash attached to a pole. Automatically I start talking to the animal.
"What do you call dog in Dutch?", I hear behind me.
Here we go again!
"Hond" .
"Gond ? "
"No, hhhhond"
"How do you spell that?"
I write hond in the shop window.
"Oh, ond."
Yes, the h is not pronounced in Spanish. We wish him a Feliz Navidad, ignoring his "How do you say Christmas in Dutch?" and walk back to the RV park.

Most of the souvenir shops in the center have beautiful windows, a small assortment and shout immediately expensive. One of the shops looks slightly different. It is full, dusty and cluttered. So this shop is screaming for my visit, and I find a few boxes on the ground with hand-painted ceramic house numbers. I searched through all the boxes looking for our numbers. Last winter, our Mexican house number tiles were frozen and broke, so they really need to be replaced. After searching a while I find the right numbers. My hands are pitch black from the dust!

 

December 28, 2013 - 2nd January 2014 Ciudad Constitucion - Baja California Mexico
Since the German invasion has left, the other campers start talking to each other and it is a lot more pleasant, but after four nights we still think it is time to leave.

 

We drive out of town and follow the coast. When we stop at a viewpoint, we suddenly see a cute little beach.
" Shall we spent the night here? " Asks PJ.
But when we drive towards the beach, I suddenly see these familiar vehicles. The German enclave! So we continue as planned to Ciudad Constitucion. Just before the town PJ sees a gas plant and we have an empty bottle. So we quickly stop and while PJ takes out the bottle, I walk to the fillers.
"What do you want?"
"Can you fill our gas bottle?"
"Yes, if you get in line," the man is pointing.

I had seen that on the other side of the fence a large group of people had gathered, but I thought that they were waiting for the bus! We walk around the fence and see that there is a small opening in the fence and a lot of gas cylinders are lined up.
"How long will this take?" Whispers PJ in my ear.
"We do not have anything else to do today."
We put our bottle at the end of the line and wait. After five minutes it is our bottle's turn, at least it is picked up. After another 45 minutes of waiting we finally see our bottle back. I almost have a sunstroke. We are charged 200 pesos ($15,-) and now can barbecuing and cooking at the same time.

We have driven for a couple of hours from Loreto through the dry desert with lots of cacti and the city of Ciudad Constitucion, is like most Mexican cities: dusty and busy. The RV park is located in the suburb and we did not expect this: palm trees, cacti, flowering shrubs, orange trees and a beautiful swimming pool with sun loungers! PJ parks the camper in the shade of a palm tree and we have a beer.

   

The two other campers leave the next morning, so we have the pool to ourselves. The water is too cold for swimming, but nice to cool off our feet. The Bodega Aurrera supermarket is a fifteen minute walk from the campground, the assortment is not large, but sufficient, the Internet is fast, a cuddly cat circling around my feet and two Labradors are keeping watch on our doorstep. We decide to stay for 5 nights.

   

A couple of days later there are no campers left, only the owner who lives with her family and her animals on the campground and the gardener who keeps the swimming pool spotless clean.
At first I did not plan to make 'oliebollen'; a Dutch tradition for New Years Eve. But during the day I see one after the other friends on Facebook behind the deep-frying pan. Oh, well, why not? I have everything in stock to make them from scrap. So before I know I am wearing my apron over my bikini and I am sweating above the frying pan.
The owner is apologizing that she and her family are going to spent the evening at their relatives and then we are just by ourselves. I do not feel lonely at all, better just the two of us, than being ignored by 15 German travelers.

   

    

                                       We wish you a healthy and happy 2014.

January 2014 Mexico

On January 1st we consider to take a Polar Bear Swim in the ice cold pool, but who we really fooling? 

   

2 – 4 January 2014, Todos Santos-Baja California Mexico
Today we drive from Ciudad Constitucion to Todos Santos, a ride of 177 miles. In 2002 we did not go past Ciudad Constitucion, so this is new territory for us. I have a little trouble reading the map, because this morning, under the shower when I closed the lid of my shower soap I got a drop of undiluted liquid soap right into my eye. A result is a burning, swollen, tearing eye and a bursting headache.

We skip the big city of La Paz on the Gulf of California and continue to the Pacific Ocean. After La Paz, the narrow main road becomes suddenly four lanes, how relaxing driving!

       

We can quite easily find the RV park in Todos Santos. To our surprise, the camping has no WIFI, but the owner says it is available everywhere in the village. We first want to see the Pacific Ocean, according to the city plan there is a short winding road and the sea is not far from the RV park. Well, it turns out that we have to cross a few hills, which takes us half an hour. The beach is difficult to access, expensive homes and a lagoon is in between. Not something to undertake daily with an air mattress under the arm. But in the sea, we immediately see spouting whales. Super!

 
  lagoon between the road and the beach / sea                                   The date palm oasis of Todos Santos

We walk back to the RV park and continue to the village to look for an Internet café. There is indeed WIFI everywhere, but in the modern way, in the pub, restaurant, art gallery or Laundromat with your tablet or phone. We had not counted on that, and did not bring a laptop. So after we have walked through the whole village, we walk back to the RV park without having e-mailed. We did not feel like walking in one more time, eat something at a restaurant and pick up WiFi, we have already walked for two hours now.

                                  

    I absolutely love this style street maps of the brand GotBaja?Maps

Meanwhile, we have got a neighbor, 55-year-old New Yorker Chris with ginger hair and turquoise eyes. Since half a year he is a full-time RV-er. He was also at the RV park in Loreto, but we did not have contact with him. Blame those Germans.

Chris is going to stay here for a whole month. That surprises me a bit, because the RV park is an old dusty lot. There are palm trees, but if you do not maintain those trees - cut off the dead leaves - they soon look neglected. The elderly female manager lives on the site in a dusty old RV full of holes, where a shy cat walks in and out. Dogs run loose, they seem to belong to no one and therefore there is dog poop everywhere. In addition, the night was very noisy with roaring cars and mopeds, drunken people and loud music. The RV park costs only 9 dollar per night and I must say that it has the best shower in all of Mexico.
   

        

When I am drinking coffee outside the next morning I suddenly feel a dry nose against my arm and look into the eyes of a very skinny dog. We have not seen this for years on the RV parks along the coast of the mainland of Mexico. The Americans and Canadians who winter in Mexico like to give something back to the Mexican community. For years they have been organizing Spay & Neuter Clinics, where Mexicans can have spay or neuter their pets for free. These clinics often start with catching stray dogs and cats, giving the village a much better look. The helped animals receive a bandana tied around their necks and are easy to spot. We have seen not only seen this in La Peñita, where we have spent many winters but also many years ago in villages south of Puerto Vallarta.

On the Baja they still burnt plastic in open fires. I immediately notice this with my asthma lungs. Along the coast of the mainland, the snowbirds have taken up the good initiative to separate plastics from the garbage. On every street corner there is a hive in which plastic waste is collected and this is regularly collected and recycled. In schools, information is given about the usefulness of separating plastic waste. This, too, we saw not only in La Peñita, but also in Sayulita. Here on the Baja I unfortunately notice nothing similar.

So we are so glad that we can leave this RV park. We say goodbye to Chris and expect that we will be seeing him again.

 
                                                         Crested Caracara                     Turkey Vulture

                 
                                              Barn Owl

My camping book says that 8 miles away there is a small village with a RV park with Internet. From Todos Santos there are several ways to reach the sea and we would like to check out these beaches first. The new four-lane highway continues south and before we know it we have already passed the first beach. I have not seen any road to Playa Punta Lobos. For the next beach Playa San Pedro Las Palmas we miss the exit too! The exit to surfing beach Playa San Pedrito is nowhere to be found. So next is the RV park, but we cannot find it. Well, I guess life is not always easy. In hindsight, the magazine, in which all the beaches are described is off by a kilometer.

We do find the exit to Playa Los Cerritos and drive a mile on a washboard dirt road. We do not see any possibility to spent the night here, but the beach looks inviting, so we park for the day. We are not the only ones, but that does not matter. There appears to be many day-trippers from the famous resort city of Cabo San Lucas. With the new dual carriageway, they are here in 45 minutes. Many companies provide surfing lessons or rent out surf boards.

   

After an hour of watching, my fingers start to itch and the rest of the day I shoot the surfers. According to the life guard the waves are small today, but I think they are still impressive.

 

            

                           

 

 

 

 

After a day at the beach, we go looking again for the RV park with WIFI in village of El Pescadero. After three times driving up and down we have to conclude that the RV park has now become a boat storage.

So we drive back to the dusty RV park Todos Santos. "Our spot" is just taken by two young Swiss girls with a nice green-gray DIY camper. Does not matter, we will park on the other side of Chris, who is not home at the time. We start chatting with the girls and I offer to give them tips about Mexico. They eagerly accept and a little later we are bent over the map of Mexico with a beer and the Mike Church Camping Guide.

When it gets dark, we store the laptop in a backpack and walk to the village to eat something and to be able to e-mail. The nearest restaurant with WIFI is Shut Up Frank's and Chris happens to sit at the bar. I walk up to him to say that we are neighbors again and he joins us at the table to chat. I order fish tacos and a burger for PJ. When I flip open the laptop I hear that in the whole village the Internet is down. Jeez, I might as well cooked at home. The food is decent, but pricey.

 
                   DIY camper of the Swiss girls                                Fish Tacos, restaurant style (but lots of vegetables )

The next morning we walk with backpack and laptop into town. We now know the WIFI code of Shut Up Frank’s, we can e-mail at a vacant building next door without using a drink. Not really ideal in such a noisy environment, especially when I read that my American uncle is deceased. Difficult to find comforting words for my nephew and niece, sitting at the street. 

We walk a bit through town. In 2006 Todos Santos was awarded the status Pueblo Mágico (magic village) by the Secretariat of Tourism. A series of towns and cities across the country have this status and thus they want to encourage visitors a "magical" experience - on the basis of the natural beauty, cultural heritage or historical relevance of the village.

Todos Santos has beautifully restored colonial buildings, a monastery, a lot of art galleries and is situated in an oasis of date palms.

   

   

   

And here is Hotel California, made famous by the Eagles song (“you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!"), although it is not proven that this song refers specifically to this hotel. This hotel is for the third time hosting the annual Festival de Música Todos Santos. The idea for the festival came from Peter Buck, the founder, guitarist and songwriter of the rock band REM to connect with like-minded musicians and raise money for the Palapa Society of Todos Santos.  In 2012 they raised nearly U$ 50,000,-. I am glad to read that there is something being done for Mexico by the snowbirds.

When we are back at the RV park and ready to drive to the other shore, the Swiss girls come back from town with the announcement that they have found the road to Playa Punta Lobos. The entrance of the road is near the RV park, they show us on the map, so we will try it first. The Swiss will follow us later.

Playa Punta Lobos is the official place where fishermen come ashore and offer their catch of the day. As soon as they have put their pangas (long small boats) with great force through the surf on the beach, they are surrounded by men who buy fish for the restaurants. It is nice to watch this, but that lonely beach attracts us even more. We assume that this place will be completely deserted at the end of the afternoon and think we even be able to spent the night here for free. The Swiss girls come as promised to take a look, but when I ask if they will also stay here tonight, they say surprised "no". Then it is not an option for us, because we are not going to spent the night here alone, but we remain sitting on the beach for a few hours. Lobos means sea lions in the Mexican (wolves in Spanish), but I could not discover these animals.



 

Chris is pleased that we are back. That afternoon the Swiss have also found the road to Playa San Pedro Los Palmas; a bay lined with palm trees, but you cannot stay overnight. That would mean that we could do a day at the beach tomorrow, but then we have to come back to this dusty RV park. We do not feel like it, so tomorrow we really go to the other shore. Maybe we will come back here later this month.

5 - 20 January 2013 Los Barriles - Baja California Mexico
The first 30 miles north we whiz back on the four-lane road, but when we turn to the Gulf of California, the road is narrow and winding again. The desert becomes greener, we pass a few brightly colored villages and as the sea is visible, we see palm trees again.

 

 

 

 

 

North of Los Barriles, you can camp for free in an arroyo (dry river bed), and we will not be the only ones, but first we need a few days at a RV park with Internet service. This turns into fifteen days!

We drive to Martin Verdugo's Beach Resort Hotel, that is a mouthful, but fortunately it is not so fancy. It makes me immediately think of La Peñita RV park, though this park is only half the size. There are lots of palm trees and flowering plants, nice people, old and new campers and regulars have landscaped gardens around their RV’s. Between the RV park and the beach is the beach resort hotel, and we are assigned a site near the hotel. That is good news, because the Internet provider hangs on the high walkway of the hotel, we can watch internet TV in the camper using our internet booster, the rest of the campers have to e-mail on the doorstep of the hotel. The beach is 30 yards away and the pool even less. A high white painted wall protects us from the northern wind and the neighbors on both sides are not there (the whole period that we are here). If we pay by the week camping cost 20 dollars per night.

 

 
the nose of our camper and the walkway from the hotel and the sea,                                  the back of our place

In a wide scrub tree, I hang my birdfeeder and after a day I 'borrow' a hummingbird feeder from our absent neighbors. In return I water their potted plants. Soon lots of birds arrive; Finches, Hummingbirds, the yellow and black Oriole, small pigeons and the Cactus Wren. They also like the apples and oranges.

   

   

I have yet another awkward accident. We sit on the couch watching TV and I climb on the bed to grab something. When I reverse back to the step, I step with my foot in a hard plastic cup (yes, I had put it there myself). My foot twist and the next morning I can hardly walk on it.

But we have to run some errands in town and PJ soon forgets that I am not walking so fast today. I am walking as an Arab woman two feet behind my husband. Only the burqa is missing.
"Are you okay?" PJ asks when he realizes that he has left me behind.

Los Barriles is a nice village with a paved main street with high concrete sidewalks, the side streets are covered with sand, there are a few curios shops, a large supermarket, restaurants and a few small shops.

             

   
                                       
three glasses of milk a day is already outdated with us

      

Our quest for bread also goes on here. In Todos Santos, we had finally found a bakery, but that did not open until two o'clock in the afternoon. That sounds like a very lazy baker! When we came back at 4pm, we saw many bags with fresh buns. But when I asked for them, the rolls all have been reserved and we walked out empty handed.

Also in Los Barriles it is difficult to find bread. The big supermarket does not sell fresh bread. A shop sells coffee, homemade cookies and bread. But the bread baskets are empty.
"No bread?", I ask.
"Mañana (tomorrow)."
When we come back the next morning, the bread baskets are empty again.
"No bread?", I ask.
"This afternoon at 2 o'clock."

When are you supposed to eat bread here? Not for breakfast, not for lunch, but for dinner? In the afternoon we walk back to the village and yes, the baskets are filled with large rustic whole wheat breads and small white baguettes. I grab one of each and checkout.
"That will be 150 pesos."

Twelve dollars?? The loaves do not even taste so good, with a tough crust and a bit sour, so that was ones and not more.

Due to the constant northern winds, this place is popular with Kite Surfers. We see many, but in front of the RV park there are only two men who make high jumps. I shoot them one morning as they tumble through the air.

 

 

 

   

January 6, 2014 , Los Barriles - Baja California Mexico
Also in Mexico, Epiphany, is celebrated on January 6th as Día de los Reyes Magos. Because the Three Wise Men went to visit the baby Jesus and brought gifts, also the Mexican children get their ‘Christmas’ presents on this day. The Mexicans also eat a special sweet bread (Rosca del Reyes) and drink hot chocolate. This bread has the shape of a crown with diamonds. The baker will hide a few plastic tiny dolls in the bread representing baby Jesus. Who bites into the bread and finds a baby, should according to good use give a party on February 2 (Candlemas Day).

 

Every morning I go for an hour walk, mostly to the north. I soon find the boondock spot in the dry riverbed. As I expected, the campers are not alone. I soon count 40 to 50 campers. And most of them are camping with all their belongings in the dunes.

         

We are not that desperate and rather stay for U$20 per night good at the RV park. Strange that I call it desperate, we have just travelled through Canada and the USA for four months and have stayed in a RV park a grand total of six nights. And we would not like to do it differently. Maybe it is because it is warmer here and sometimes I jump twice a day in the shower.

          

                                    Or because the beds by the pool are so relaxed.

   

During a morning walk on the beach, I see a fence surrounding sort of signs. As I get closer, I see that this is another great project by volunteers who want to protect the turtles. I had already read about this on the website of Dutch travelers Marita and Paul:

 

In August and September, the females come out at night to the beach. Here they dig a hole, lay 100 to 150 eggs as big as ping pong balls. After this heavy task, they return to the sea, never to look out for their little ones. In that period volunteer Juan delves every day at the beach, digs up the eggs and brings them to the place behind the fence. Here the eggs are buried again, get a sign with all sorts of information on it and after 45 days the baby turtles emerge. By this time Juan puts out extra mesh around the places where the eggs are buried, to protect the little ones against hungry birds. When their shell is hard enough, he releases them into the ocean.

Nice to see this now, at least the breeding ground, not the turtles themselves.

On the beach there is a sign indicating that it is forbidden to drive on the beach: this will destroy the turtle nests, contaminate the beach and will make the sand compact. But judging by the tire tracks on the beach no one is taking notice. A man parks his car under the sign to let his dogs out on the beach.

The sidewalks are 10 inches tall and at the houses the sidewalks regularly run diagonally to the street. Then 10 inches are quite an oblique angle. Of course, I slip once causing a hole in my knee, a scrape on my hand and a bruised ego, because I hear someone laugh from a house.

The next day when I go for my daily morning walk PJ asks sarcastically: "Do you have your first aid kit with you?". I have such a caring husband ...

         

This is the third strange accident in the first week of January. I hope this trend does not continues, because then there will be not much left of my body.

   

I marvel at the houses and beach hotels here. Too bad there are hardly any guests, apparently they do not have very good business here.

We go out for dinner and after we ordered the main course, a beautiful Mexican bowl with appetizers is set on the table, complimentary!

   

But I am pretty good at it at home too! And what about a casserole under the palm trees?

   

             

January 20, 2014 , Los Barriles - Baja California Mexico
We have not seen the final part of the Baja and of course I also want PJ to drive me south.

 

              

I hope to be able to snorkel at Cabo Pulma, a living coral reef an hour south of Los Barriles. There is no wind when we leave, but by the time we arrive at the reef, we see white caps on the water.

"I probably cannot snorkel today?" I ask the man who is renting snorkel sets.
“No, and also not tomorrow."
What a bummer. I would have love to test my underwater camera, photographing fish and turtles.
It took us an hour to drive 7 miles of dirt road, and there is still another 30 miles to San Jose del Cabo. We do not feel like it, so we drive back to the main road and drive south over a paved road. We pass the beach cities of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, called Los Cabos for convenience.

                   

Only later did we find out that we have left Los Barriles two days too early and thus have missed the annual International Kite and wind surfing competition! The ‘Lord of the Wind’ event lasts five days and attracts surfers from around the world. Sand Artists had made a gigantic sand sculpture, there is a part where the kite surfer should leap in the air as long as possible, every night there was a party, in short, a missed opportunity for beautiful photos.

At the big MEGA supermarket we go shopping (fresh whole wheat bread!), and search for a RV park  in the luxury resort of Cabo San Lucas, but we do not like it. The RV park is full of snowbirds and the few spots for transients looks like a construction site. It is now 5pm.
"Shall we drive to the RV park of Todos Santos again?" PJ asks.

And so we get there just before sunset. New Yorker Chris is still there and has found a dining and drinking buddy in Jim, another man traveling alone and had an excellent good time.

Our neighbors are a surfer couple from Utah. Jim and his girlfriend Chris (well, what a coincidence) just spent a few days in Playa San Pedritos and left it because the waves were too high. That sounds interesting for photos. I ask for the exact exit and the next day we will see if we can find it.

January 21, 2013 , Todos Santos - Baja California Mexico
So it appears that my guide was a mile off at every turn, and now we find the exit to Playa San Pedritos easy. By a bumpy dirt road we drive towards the sea. At the entrance stands Ishmael, a swarthy Mexican with scary eyes, which keeps things tidy, supplies water and collects the waste. For this we need to pay him 3 dollars per person per day. Officially, the beaches are owned by the government and everyone is allowed free access. Well, for 6 dollars we are not going to argue with a crystal meth addict.

We find a nice spot.  The waves already look impressive and I am going to take pictures immediately.

 
  In the red circle you see a surfer just running off a wave.                    Climbing for our spot picture

                      

 

22 to 27 January 2013, Playa San Pedritos - Baja California Mexico
At 6.30 I open the curtains and see giant waves. And full of admiration and sometimes horror I also see surfers in the water. So I dress quickly, pack my gear to capture these daredevils. The waves are super high, I think sometimes 15 to 18 feet. In the first sunlight I take 600 photos in two hours.

 

 

                   

 

Due to the powerful waves, strong currents and rocky soil, surfing in Playa San Pedritos is more suitable for the experienced surfer. I am trying to sell nice action shots, but these surfers are all living on a dime.

 

 

 

Super fun when we see whales breach, waving their tails or make great foam waves in the water.

 

And Ospreys visit regularly.

   

I am not going to pretend that this place is heaven, because there are some snags. Surfers usually come to these places with a car and sleep in a tent or come in a minivan. And since there are no toilets here, campers have to do their business in the bushes. I see them coming and going with a shovel and a roll of toilet paper under the arm. And of course that attracts flies. Fortunately, we have our own bathroom with a large holding tank, so we are okay for a while. But after a week we have seen it here. We urgently want a shower, because if you sit in the sticky sea breeze every day, it is not enough to take a bird bath.

                       

We drive to the RV park of Todos Santos, remember they have the best shower in all of Mexico. The owner recognized us from previous visits and says, "Ah, you're back!"
I answer that we urgently need a shower.
"Well, that could be a problem. Since 11 am, we do not have water, the whole village by the way, and the repair will probably take four days."

What a bummer! Not only we wanted a shower and wash our hair, but also many other things that have to do with water: rinse the hand wash and hang to dry, rinse the salt of the sun roof (the poles felt oily after a few days on the beach) , I wanted to give the inside of the camper a thorough cleaning job and perhaps wash even the outside of the camper, because we had one night of light rain and the camper is covered in salt and sand.

Without water there is no point to stay at this RV park, so we drive back to the almost free beach camp of Playa San Pedritos. Of course our beautiful spot is taken and we have to settle for a place on the second row, with no extensive view. And we still have not refilled our water tank and had no shower.

28 to 29 January 2014, Playa Los Cerritos - Baja California Mexico
The next day we drive to the town of Playa Los Cerrillos (all within a couple of miles). We have heard that you can camp here at Cerritos Surf Colony RV park. This is the same beach where I photographed the first surfers three weeks ago.

The RV park appears to be more a boondocking area at a hotel, without power or water, dump, toilets or showers for 20 dollars! “But you may use the pool, bar, toilets and lounge area”.
When we see the Mexican tiled pool and sun beds with curtains, we are hooked.  My brother tells me that hiring such a lounger on the Spanish Party Island Ibiza soon cost 140 dollars per day!

   

   

      

I talk with other campers who tell me that there is one water tap somewhere in between the palm trees, that there is also a dump and that we can use the cold outdoor showers at a resort next door. Now we know that we can fill up with water we take a hot shower in the camper. 

When you camp at Cerritos Surf Colony it includes the use of the swimming pool of Hacienda Cerritos (a Mexican ranch converted into a hotel) that is built on top of the rocks, a short walk on the beach away. Because I want to photograph the surf boys from a higher point, I lug over there with a camera, long lens and tripod.

   

 

       

The hotel is beautiful, with a courtyard with fountain and plants everywhere, statues and Mexican tile. Inside there are works of art, and are lazy couches. The infinity pool looks inviting. Two identical kittens squirm plaintive meowing around my legs and take me to their empty bowls. I give them a nice hug instead. The prices of the rooms run from U$ 350,- per night, but you can also rent the whole hotel (10 bedrooms ) for U$ 3500,- per night. Anybody?

   

   

January 30, 2014 , Todos Santos - Baja California Mexico
After another wonderful day at the day beds at the end of the afternoon we drive to that remote water tap in the parking lot. Of course I have first checked whether there was really water coming out and it did. But I have not taken into account that the pressure is so low that we cannot fill the water tank with a hose. Bummer, now we still have no water!

Needless to say, of course we would not drink this water, it was only meant for the shower, to do the dishes and flush the toilet. Drinking water we buy by 5 gallon bottles.

We drive to the RV park of Todos Santos in the hope that as the water problem is solved. There is water coming from the tap, but again with very low pressure. So PJ fills the water tank with a few buckets of water, so at least we have some water. Obviously also the shower does not work.

New Yorker Chris is still there and he is jealous when he only now hears about the RV park at Playa Cerritos. He should have cruised around on his scooter.

January was a lot about bread and water...

February 2014 Mexico

We decided to leave the Baja California Peninsula and go to the Mainland of Mexico. We could take the car ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan, but for PJ the idea that he will be on a boat for ten hours gives him the jitters. And we have seen how hard the wind can blow on the Sea of Cortez. It is not a cheap crossing and PJ does a calculation: if we drive the same route north again and go south along the coast of the mainland on the toll roads to Mazatlan, it will cost us just a little bit more… Yeah, right.

                     

When we drove south on the peninsula we were still a little early for a tour at the lagoons where whales mate and the females give birth to their young. So we have skipped that on our way down.
"If we are going to drive north I want to do a whale watching tour." I say.
I can see the fear in PJ's eyes and see him thinking ... oh no, then I still have to go on a boat.

There are three opportunities to see the gray whales in the bays, at Bahia Magdalena, Bahia Ignacio or the famous Laguna Ojo de Liebre. I want to do the tour in Bahia Magdalena, 30 miles west of Ciudad Constitucion.

February 1, 2013 , Ciudad Constitucion - Baja California Mexico
PJ wakes me up by saying : "The sky is overcast and I think it's going to rain."
I could be mistaken, but do I hear relief in his voice?
"There are two more opportunities to see the whales, you're not done yet", I bounce back.

I get out of bed, and after a cup of coffee I walk to the showers and read the sign on the door.
"There is no water, this afternoon a mechanic is coming. Sorry"

Without showering we drive to Loreto where we camp again at the small RV park. It is almost full. Actually, you cannot call it a RV park, because the sites are nothing more than parking spots without a patio, but it is a popular stop. We pay for two nights. I quickly run a machine wash with the bedding before the camp fills up completely. PJ fills the water tank. By the end of the afternoon, the RV park is really full, our neighbors even put two large RV’s in one site!

 

2 to 3 February 2013 Loreto - Baja California Mexico
After a cup of coffee, I take a shower. Brr, that water is cold! I tell it to Yolanda, the blonde owner of the RV Park. Today is Sunday, they will call a technician tomorrow. In the afternoon there is suddenly no water. I am glad I did my laundry yesterday.

We walk into a small supermarket.
"Is that guy cutting Parmesan cheese?" says PJ.
I can see that he is cutting a large piece of cheese into smaller wedges and occasionally he nibbles on it. I dare to gesture that I also just want to taste it. It is indeed Parmesan and we immediately buy a large piece. Delicious! That is why we are called Cheese Heads.

At the Deli, I ask in my best Spanish for three ounces of York ham. The butcher cuts the ham, but when we are back in the camper we see that the 3 ounces are only 3 slices. Very thick slices. I should probably go look up what thinly sliced is in Spanish.

Without a shower we drive the next morning further north. A large group of campers who were at Loreto RV park, are gathering outside of the gate. This is group travel tour with their own transport (trailers and motorhomes), but they are travelling with guidance. It is called a Caravan. We are glad that we have a head start to the group. But then PJ overlooks a tope (Mexican speed bump) and the top of camper flips forward. We hope we did not break the overhang like we did in South America! PJ parks the camper and checks the damage. Nothing is broken, but the chains of the camper are on the street! While the Caravan overtakes us, PJ repairs the damage temporarily.  

   
Do you see the speed bump?

Just outside the town is a military checkpoint and all the RV’s from the caravan are thoroughly inspected for drugs and weapons.
"That may take a while," says PJ.
Unexpectedly a soldier waves us forward and asks if he can do an inspection. I open the camper door for him, he steps inside and recoils back. Due to our little accident PJ has thrown the whole stock of toilet paper and kitchen towels into the camper (we had just bought a pack of 40 toilet rolls and I re-pack every four rolls in plastic bags) so PJ could get to his tools from under the camper.

The floor is littered with toilet paper and kitchen towels. The soldier looks in amazement at the chaos and turns abruptly. "Gracias".
"So, that went fast," says PJ, apparently he has also forgotten that you cannot walk in the camper. We wave at the caravan and drive to the same RV park as six weeks ago in Muleg
é. German Horst is still chain smoking in front of his camper.

PJ repairs the broken chains and while he drinking a Corona beer, he whispers: "Clau, hand me a camera."
I give him the camera with the 400mm lens and hand holding he clicks a wonderful shoot of a hummingbird drinking from a cactus flower!

   

 

February 4, 2014 , Mulegé - Baja California Mexico
After a cup of coffee, I walk to the shower. Full of anticipation I open the tap and a generous hot jet comes towards me. Unfortunately , halfway through washing my hair, the water turns cold. I tell PJ to wait for half an hour, as I might emptied the hot water tank, but after waiting for a while PJ still has a cold shower.

The caravan was at a RV park next door to ours and apparently left before us. We notice that when we see one of RV’s half hanging off the road. The driver apparently made a wrong maneuver.

When we slow down for a military checkpoint , we see a some familiar faces! Bill and Dorothy Bell are driving south in their Volkswagen camper. We have known them for ten years or so, met them in La Peñita. This couple are editors of an Internet newspaper about Mexico and in the years have used a few of our photos. They are both dressed in long pants and a woolen sweaters.
"Are you cold or so?", I ask, while I stand in shorts and tank top. They have just done a whale tour.
"Yes, it's very cold at Ojo de Liebre", they assure us.
The soldiers are getting nervous and wave to us to drive to their checkpoint. We think we are now getting a revenge full check, but it is again the usual 'cabinet open, close the cabinet, under the mattress and into the refrigerator’.

                                                                 Bill and Dot on top of a Maya ruin at Mexico-City.

When we arrive at the RV park in Guerrero Negro the caravan is just installing themselves. The owner of the RV park wants us to wait until the people are settled in before we can park. Yeah, right, we do not feel like waiting. So we drive to the lagoon where the whales are.
For this we have to drive 17 miles over salt flats. I shoot a couple of nice landscapes pictures.

 

 

 

As soon as we can see the lagoon we see the first spouting whales. At the entrance of the Laguna Ojo de Liebre we have to pay five dollar parking fee, this includes camping as long as you want. Except for toilets there are no other facilities. We find a nice spot and with the binoculars I check out the lagoon. I see so many whales spouting, it must have been at least a hundred.

From December almost the entire population of gray whales migrates from Alaska and Siberia to the warmer waters of Mexico, a journey of 5000 – 6000 miles. That takes them about three weeks. Pregnant females arrive first, then the adult whales and then the young animals. In the shallow water (25 yards) of the three lagoons, the females give birth to their young after a gestation period of 12 months. The estrous females couples in the lagoon with the males, usually through a threesome. Research has shown that the animals eat little during migration and their stay in the lagoons. That means that whales live without food for around three to five months.

 

February 5, 2014 , Laguna Ojo de Liebre - Baja California Mexico
PJ wakes me up by saying: "Overcast , windy and it's cold."
"Well, I can also go by myself on the whale tour".
PJ happily agrees, so an hour later I am standing alone on the quay. I have a backpack with the SLR camera with the 100-400mm lens and at the last minute I also have stuck my waterproof point-and-shoot with me. Might be nice to take a 'Selfie' on the boat. It is a tour of almost two hours.

 

What do we do if there are no other tourists?", I ask the ticket seller.
"You have to wait fifteen minutes, and if nobody comes, then you will get a private tour."
That sounds nice, of course, because the ticket seller speaks English, but those fishermen who do the tours, usually don’t.

I know at least a thousand Mexican nouns, many verbs, I can read all the traffic signs (more about that later), I know how to say good morning, afternoon, evening, how are you, I'm doing well, what's your name, thank you, nice to meet you), I can ask the price of an item and usually also understand the answer, I know what you, me, we, and it is in Spanish, I can order 3 ounces of ham, thinly sliced please, I can count ... but I still cannot make sentences ! I cannot conjugate verbs. So I cannot keep up a conversation.

But fortunately a young couple joins me in the boat, the Australian Andrew and his Finnish girlfriend Sonja. and of course they speak fluent Spanish. Our capitán name is Rafael.

With high speed we sail across the lagoon. Soon we are circled by a dozen whales, some less than sixty feet away, others at fifty yards. They spray their breath high in the air, waving their tails and very occasionally I see them Spy Hopping.

 
                                                                                Three whales in one frame: 2 adults and a young.

According to the rules, you cannot interfere with the route of a whale. But here in the lagoon the whales are swimming in circles and it is hard not to block them, there are so many!

And then a whale comes right at our boat and dives underneath.
"Phew, that was a close call," I sigh.

But to my surprise the whale lingers around our boat. And she also has a 5 week old calf with her. When these calves are born they are already fifteen feet long! She continues swimming to the edge of the boat with her huge head with barnacles.

"You can touch her, but only her head, not her body," says Rafael and Sonja translates it for me. It would not have come into my mind to touch the whale. We all put our hands in the water and her skin feels unexpectedly velvety. She and her calf cannot get enough of it. But while we bow our head over the edge of the boat, she squirts a fountain of water from her breathing hole! Although it looks from far away like they blow a fine mist, I can assure you that it does not feel like a mist of water up close. As if I just got a bucket of water over me! I am wet down to my underpants!

 

 

I just managed to keep my expensive camera away so I decide to store the camera and continue shooting with my point-and-shoot camera which is waterproof after all. It is much too close for a 100 - 400mm lens anyway. After the whale shower Andrew says: "We are blessed." To be blessed by the breath of a whale, what a nice expression. Eventually I shoot almost 60 pictures with my point-and-shoot. At one point I creep into the far corner at the front of the boat, so I have a better overview of the couple that caresses the whales at the back of the boat. But the whale mom keeps an eye on me and soon she swims under me at the front of the boat. And sprays another water fountain. This is bizarre.

Suddenly we heard a bang and the boat starts to rock dangerously!
"What was that?", I ask startled.
"That's the little one" chuckles Rafael, "he gave the boat a little push."
"Did a boat ever capsized?", I ask and Sonja translates it to Rafael.
"Not by the whales, but it can happen when there are ten people in a boat and they all lean in the same direction."
I do not want to think a about that.

 
                          The calf lets the boat rock!!

After twenty minutes Rafael starts the engine again and we slowly chug away. As soon as we stop a whale comes to the boat.
"There is Blanca again," says Rafael. It is the same whale with her calf.
"Do you give the whales names?", asks Sonja.
"No", laughs our captain, "but she does have a very clear white pigment spot on her head”.
I see it later in the photos too. We hang out for another ten minutes and the young calf takes the opportunity to splash Andrew completely dripping wet with its tail.

When Rafael converse towards port after 75 minutes, no one objects. The wind starts to blow harder, the boat recoils on the waves, the overcast has thicken, we are wet and cold ... but what a fantastic experience.

For days I wonder why a whale seeks contact with humans and also let her newborn offspring touched by humans.
As wildlife photographers it does happen that a land mammal approaches us. I am talking about a squirrel, fox, coyote or even a grizzly bear. Actually, that is mostly not good news. The animal is fed and associate people with food. With a squirrel, fox or coyote it is not a realbig deal, except that they can be easily run over by cars. With bears it is different, when they associate a car with food and do not get it, they become aggressive. And then they usually have to be shot.

   

But what about those whales? We did not feed them crustaceans, worms nor starfish, and I am sure this has not previously happen. They also do not want to eat, they live on their accumulated fat reserves.
I google it on the internet and find videos from Youtube of people even putting their hand into the open mouth of the whale and stroke the tongue and gums. And the animal keeps coming back for more. Or that people kissing the whale on the head. I see pictures at the bay of San Ignacio where a mother pushing her young up so that the tourists can pet her baby. Or that the whale plays with the boat.

No other wild mammal - or other large vertebrates - brings his offspring close enough to humans for physical contact. Scientists agree that all cetaceans (dolphins, orca, whales) are very sensitive to touch. Maybe it is because the naturally curious and intelligent animals, who were rewarded with a pleasant touch are now coming back for more.

What an intriguing mystery and the best part is that it was initiated by the animal and not by man.

We leave the area and drive further north through a beautiful desert landscape with large boulders and cacti. Once we leave Guerrero Negro behind us, the sun shines again and the sky is clear blue.

                    

 
                                                                                         Not many gasstations here, but the locals are inventive...

We camp at a campground in the middle of the desert, without any facilities. I take a walk through the area and photograph the sunset.

 

            

February 6, 2014, Cataviña - Baja California Mexico
I wake up in the morning with a headache, a sore throat, a nasty cough, wheezing, runny nose, and beeping ears. Could this be the whale breath? Without a shower we head north.

With great regularity we see U.S. rental campers as oncoming traffic, all the same model and the same brand. Almost all of them have a German flag somewhere. They must have crossed the border today.
"There's another one!", I call out surprised as number 27 passes us.
Apparently a German caravan is en route to the Baja. The insurance for that must cost a small fortune, which American rental company allows its customers to go into Mexico? Joining a caravan is not cheap either. I would like to see their faces when they arrive with all thirty campers at once at the RV parks which currently have no water…

We are making good time and arrive in the late afternoon in Ensenada. PJ thinks the main highway on the Baja is a lot less narrow, so apparently he got used to it. It is cloudy again and the temperature has dropped to 54˚F. We do not want to stay at the same RV park as we were our first day in Mexico, because that is well north of Ensenada and -  as I wrote earlier – the road has collapsed. We are not sure if the RV park is still accessible. So we start looking for another place to stay. At the first RV park we find, we ask if they have a hot shower and WIFI.
"No, only cold showers, no electricity and WIFI at the office."
The second RV park, appears to be abandoned. The third RV park is more a park model place with a few sites for RV’s. Again no hot showers, but electricity and WIFI. This was the last opportunity south of this city, so we take it. We do not want to start up the boiler of our camper for a shower and go to bed early.

February 7, 2014 , Ensenada - Baja California Mexico
When we wake up, it is only 37°F. It should not get any crazier. Today we only have to drive 75 miles to Tecate, but we managed to be busy all day. We do grocery shopping at the supermarket, buy some parts of the Home Depot, have to refuel. With a full tank we get four burritos and two cans of Coke for free. At the Walmart supermarket, PJ finds stroopwafels (Dutch syrup waffles). Sometimes we can buy them in Canada too, but usually you can smash someone's brains with it. So we buy one pack and try them out at the parking lot.
"So, those are good!" smiles PJ and we decide to go back for more. Always a nice gift for our Canadian friends.

The Tecate RV park is located 18 miles east of the border town. Despite the fact that we drive with the navigation system, we naturally read the traffic signs too. While PJ is driving through the city to the east, the navigation lady keeps saying that we need to make a U-turn. So PJ parks the camper to the side and increases the navigation map.

Ah, the navigation lady finds it more convenient if we cross the USA border and drive eastward over the American highway and then come back into Mexico. Keep dreaming, girl!

The Tecate RV park Ojai Rancho turns out to be a beautiful Mexican ranch.
"Camping is 33 Dollars per night."
Ouch…
"But we have a discount this week and the second night is free."
The sites are nice, WIFI is reasonable, the old farm has become a recreation room with lots of mounted deer, there are washers and dryers and ... red hot showers! So we stay for two nights. I hope I can pull myself together again, because I keep struggling with that bad cold.

   

Time to summarize our visit to the Baja. We have spent two months on the peninsula. It was nice for a change, but we would not do it again soon. First, here are woefully few RV parks by the beach, while on the mainland almost every RV park on the coast is actually overlooking the ocean. Furthermore, you should at least drive to La Paz (1,600 mi) before the temperature is pleasant. In these two months we did not often have eaten dinner outside, and hardly enjoyed a balmy evening. Rising in February, with a temperature of 37°F is too nippy for our taste. Highlights were the whale tour and the surfers in Playa San Pedrito with the huge waves. We would recommend the RV park in Los Barrilos.
The nadir is that we went without a hot shower for 18 days (I do not count that quick shower in the camper). I really like camping, it does not matter to me that we are driving around in a small house, a cold shower once in a while is okay (if it is outside temperature is warm enough), but after a week on a sticky beach we want to enjoy a hot shower. There are limits to roughen it…

Lyrics of 'The Road Ahead (Miles Of The Unknown)' from the Dutch band 'City to City'

The road ahead is empty
It's paved with miles of the unknown

Whatever seems to be your destination
Take life the way it comes
Take life the way it is

Horizon in the distance
So close and yet so far away

You shouldn't be surprised
When on arrival
The dream has flown away
Or fears not have to stay

The road ahead never gives away a promise

The road ahead
Is a highway or a dead end street

Raindrops on your windscreen
They fall from heaven or from hell

You drive into the light or into darkness
Uncertainly as your guide

The road ahead never gives away a promise

The road ahead
Is a highway or a dead end street

The road ahead never answers any questions

And nothing is sure along the way
Not even tomorrow

With miles of the unknown ahead of you

The road ahead is empty
It's paved with miles of the unknown

Whatever seems to be your destination
Take life the way it comes
Take life the way it is...

I promised to tell more about the road signs in Mexico. When I wrote that I could read all the traffic signs you probably thought: duh, that is pretty easy. The signs in the Netherlands and North America mainly consist of symbols. Here, in Mexico, that is not the case. The signs are - with a few exceptions – mostly two lines of text.
For example the symbol for "slippery road" is in Mexico the text: "Con lluvia disminuya su velocidad”. By the time you read this text, you are probably already off the road.
Funny is the text: “Maneje con precaucion, su familia le espera"= Drive carefully, your family is waiting for you, and "No deje piedre sobre el paviemento” = leaves no stones behind on the road. My favorite is in La Peñita de Jaltemba: "Semaforo en operation" = the traffic lights are working! It is not clear to me why they use so many text signs instead of symbols. Surely it must be safer to get the message at a glance.

There are a lot of the text signs of Mexico

      

February 9, 2014, Tecate - Mexico
From Tecate the next RV park is in Santa Ana, but that is 400 miles away. And we must also arrange the temporary importation of the pick-up somewhere halfway. In previous years we would spend the night at a Pemex gas station, but we are now so close to the border, we think that this is not without risk. We feel safe in Mexico, but why would you be looking for trouble?

                  

We can also drive to Puerto Peñasco, which is about 60 miles extra driving, but only 250 mile in total. Yesterday I spend the day on the couch with a headache and a runny nose, so PJ prefers a shorter travel day. Afterwards he told me that I reacted very slowly that day or not at all. He apparently did not realize that I slept almost the entire trip.

                         

We start the day with a lovely mountain pass, filled with large round boulders. The road is quite steep and the trucks are advised not to drive faster than 40 mi p/h. Matrix signs above the road indicates how fast you are driving. We see that two buses pass us at 75 mi p/h. Glad we did not buy a bus ticket. A truck thinks our 40 miles is too slow and rushes past us. A little later we smell burned brakes and the truck is on the roadside with his lights flashing. And that is supposed to be a professional driver.

 

At the end of the afternoon we arrive in Puerto Peñasco. This is a favorite winter destination for Americans because it is only 60 miles from the Arizona border. Everything is anglicized here and the Americans call the town Rocky Point. The RV park is nothing more than a large asphalt parking lot, but right at the sea. There are no trees or shrubs, nor flowering plants, the shower is coin-operated and at sunset the RV-ers join each other for Happy Hour on the bare asphalt.

 
Who would like to spend the winter here?                                Manford and Sons is staying here too

10 - 12 February 2014 San Carlos - Mexico
In the town of Caborca
​​, we have to arrange the temporary importation of the pick-up. We are now on familiar ground (we always do the import here), so everything goes nice and smooth. A deposit of U$ 330,- is taken from our credit card and we get a hologram sticker on the windshield. Within a week after we leave Mexico the money will be deposited into our account.

While driving the temperature rises to 88°F. These past few months we have not seen such high temperatures. We spent the night in San Carlos and book another day, just because the RV park is so nice.

 

 

 

 
13 - 17 February 2014, Mazatlan - Mexico
We try to avoid the expensive toll roads this time as much as possible. PJ must obviously remain within its self-devised budget, lol. Mexico is good with their signs where you have to leave the main road to drive toll free. Huge signs say LIBRE. But once you take the turn off the highway and are driving on some farm roads, you are on your own. The result is that we get lost and end up in the middle of the bustling city of Ciudad Obregon.


     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Mazatlan we go back to the familiar camping Mar-a-villas. This is a small RV park sandwiched between high-rise buildings, with lots of greenery and a beautiful lonely beach.

 

                       

Besides the regular older campers this time there are also a few couples with young children. We are immediately invited to the Valentine party with live music, a huge buffet and some fundraising for Charity. A female Mexican football team had a bus accident, one person was killed and 17 women ended up in the hospital. At the RV park there are only about 30 sites, but the table with food and desserts is abundant.

   

 

A band of elderly people sings incredibly off-tune, but they are having fun. A thirteen year old twin ask PJ to have a picture taken with him because they think he is Brad Pitt! We cannot stop laughing. We stay here for 5 days.
I am very embarrassed when our neighbor brings me a bottle of cough syrup. My couch is apparently bothering him. Also one of the campers – a nurse – gives me the advice to start some antibiotics. My couch is lasting now for two week and also PJ had told me that. Fortunately you do not have to visit a family doctor to get medicines, so we just go to the pharmacy and get the pills.

              
                                    and finally we can buy good and healthy bread

18 February to 5 March 2014, La Peñita - Mexico
Meanwhile, we get an e-mail from our friend Char who is in La Peñita since early November. She writes that a corner site with outdoor kitchen is available. This sounds too good to be true. The RV park is for 90% full, and I am talking about some 150 sites. And then a popular site would be free? Without reservation we drive to La Peñita and yes, we can move into the corner site. It has an ocean view, an outdoor kitchen, with tarps we create shade and there is space for two hammocks.

 

 

The two weeks fly by with lots of dining out, games with our friends, a few days we dog sit Chiquita of Bob and Char, lots of cooking and daily morning walk.

 
uDinner with Terry & Leslie, Char & Bob in Tonita II in Guyabitos                  Coconut shrimp with mango chutney

   
 a strawberry Margarita                      a mango Margarita                                         freshly caught Wahoo fish

  
after an Arrachera diner Leslie also made a nice desert                                                        dog sitting Chiquita

 
                 family portret (met doggie)                                   and after the morning walk a Mango Smoothie is our reward

It is hard to get accurate information in Mexico. So when we ask when the carnival parade will be, we are told two dates. Full of expectation we walk into the village on the first date (February 28). The main street is wiped clean and the police will ensure that parked cars are removed. That looks promising. It is 6 PM and after waiting for one and a half hour we decide to grab something to eat. The square where the restaurant is located, has a number of children's rides (bumper cars, a mini Ferris wheel and a caterpillar) and a stage is set up for a band. It is pretty busy. After dinner we walk back to the main street, but there is still no prospect of a carnival parade of young children. We continue to wait patiently and see that there is something going on at the end of the street. A group of people is surrounding something, we see television cameras and many flashes of cameras ...

Eventually, the group comes our way. A man wearing a white cowboy hat and checkered shirt is obviously very important. Women push their baby in his arms and take photos. He shakes the hands of everyone. An oompah-pah band plays a tune, the man comes closer and then shake our hands. And we have no idea who he is! After the group has passed, we remain behind perplexed. No children's parade, no pictures. Is this what we have been waiting for for hours? We walk to the square in anticipation of the band, but it is just one speech after another and we are tired of waiting.

Only the next day we read in the Internet newspaper (Dorothy and Bill’s) that this was Governor Roberto Sandoval Castañeda of our province Nayarit. The intention was that he officially would open the new Malecon (seawalk), at 6 PM but so far he never made it that far. At 10 PM the monument was still wrapped. The children's parade will be on March 4.

 

 

   

Maart 2014 Mexico

March 4, 2014 , La Peñita de Jaltemba – Mexico
The children's carnival parade will begin at half past four, so we walk into the village at 5.30 PM. Obviously things has not put in motion, but we know from previous years that the parade positions itself in the backstreets. I can take some nice close-up photographs of the faces. Despite that the parade consists of only thirty floats, it takes hours. Halfway we leave to get something to eat and still manage to shoot the tail of the parade in the dark.

 

   

   

 

   
                                                                                                       there is my favorite butcher!

 

   

   

   

   

 

   

 
                      I am fascinated by these high heels the girls area wearing on their horses

   

Of course I also photograph the wildlife at the RV Park.

 

March 5, 2014, La Peñita - Mexico
The Tostada Party is the last big event at the RV park. 160 tickets have been sold, so lots of people are expected. Also this party is organized by volunteers. The tostada's are plain tortilla's that are deep fried. The volunteers are busy all morning frying 200 of these tostada's. For dinner they are filled with pulled pork,ground beef, lettuce, salsa, beans, olives, sour cream, avocado and grated cheese.

   

   

          

6 to 26 March 2014 Sayulita – Mexico
We drive half an hour south and arrive at the RV park of Sayulita. German Thies and his Mexican wife Cristine run Sayulita Trailer Park & Bugalows for about thirty years.

   

   
                   It is only a small site and we have to improvise with an outside kitchen, but we love it

      

It is a small friendly campground and we park our camper again next to Dutch Billy and Jopie. It is party after party. Their daughter Cora (49) came over for two weeks and has brought three friends  Finally some people of our own age to hang out with.

   

     
Sayulita night life                                                                           this man makes Churro's, sweet deep fried dough

Billy bakes a Dutch apple pie, but the highlight of the day is when Billy cooks an Indonesian rice dinner for 12 people!

   

But the most fun are two - three-month-old kittens who were abandoned at the RV park when they were three weeks old and adopted by Thies and Billy. Soon the two tomcats have discovered our hammock which is  wonderful to take a nap and PJ makes all kinds of entertainment for them.

   

 

In front of the RV park there is a nice quiet beach, but sometimes it gets busy.

 

  . The sunsets are a surprise every night. A few times we walk through the jungle and shoot birds and blooming plants.

   
                                                               Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

   
                                                                                                          Black-headed Trogon

 
                                                                             Orange frontes Parakeet

     
       The owl has fake eyes on its back!

   
                                                              Woodpecker

7 to 9 March 2014, 5th Annual Punta Sayulita Longboard & SUP Classic
The annual Sayulita Surf and SUP competition is a bit disappointing, because there are virtually no waves, but the men and women are muscular and tanned, so I spent two days at the beach with camera and tripod. Just like last year the Huichol Indians will officially open the games at 11.00. A shaman will walk around and give the contestants blessings for safety and good luck. But the Indians did not show up! Oh, well this is Mexico.

   

   

   
               this year 'drones' with camera's are used, which is displeasing the beach dogs.

   

         

   

        

   

Sayulita village is colorful with lots of murals, mosaics and cute souvenir shops.

     

   

   

   

 

   

 

March 22, 2014 , Sayulita – Mexico
Finally these slow Latinos (Chilean) Claudia and Cristian come to the mainland of Mexico and we spent a few days together.

            

26 March to 6 April 2014 La Peñita – Mexico
It is hard to say goodbye to the kittens. On the way north we stop for a week in La Peñita . The RV park is almost deserted and we can take any site. We choose a corner site with kitchen again.

   

 
the outdoor kitchen comes without a tap, so PJ has to do some maintenance

For the first time we photograph the Great Egrets, Snowy Egret and Cattle Egret in their breeding plumage. This is again at the RV park in the mangrove forest. There is a rookery and we are amazed by their courting dances, mating and how the dull birds turn into something so pretty.

 

 

   

April 7, 2014, La Peñita - Mexico
With only five days left in Mexico, I had already completed this Mexican journal. I did not expect that there would happen so much more (and not so nice). One day before departure PJ discovers that the rear lights of the camper are not working. All afternoon he is busy checking and replacing electric cables. He is just finished when suddenly we heard a huge bang! The electricity in the camper stops working. But it is not just us and promptly the campers collect at the office. It soon becomes apparent that a squirrel stood somewhere on a power box and electrocuted himself. He fell from 16 feet on someone's kitchen. For now we do not have Internet access, and in many sites there is no power.  

Luckily we were planning to move out of our site so we can wash the camper. I put the laptop on the bed, but I did not close the roof hatch properly. After the camper is completely shiny again, the bed is wet and the laptop is dripping of water! We start it up, but he makes funny noises and launches all sorts of programs. So I let it dry. I have already made three meals for the trip, a noodle dish and Surinamese chicken roti is in the freezer and I quickly make a Shepard's Pie for tomorrow.
In the evening we go out for dinner with 3 other couples. The food is delicious and the cocktails are huge.

   

               

                     

April 8, 2014, La Peñita - Mexico
The laptop still has its ups and downs, though we can send an email. After a quick goodbye to the remaining campers we leave La Peñita. Two other couples are also driving north today, and will camp at the same RV parks, but they will take the toll roads. Since the Mexican toll roads are among the most expensive in the world, we decide to drive the LIBRE and meet them at the RV park in the evening. In the U.S. we will have already enough costs: a new windshield (stone chips and a crack), six new tires and the truck needs Safety Inspection and oil filters (and the fridge needs repair and the camper radio broke but we do not notice that until later).

It's half past two in the afternoon. We have just pass the village Acaponeta. We still have to drive another 100 miles to Mazatlan.
"So, I guess we will be at the RV park in about four hours," says PJ. This will be with a warm beer, because the refrigerator does not work anymore since this morning. Will that have to do with that squirrel?

"SHIT" says PJ and looks at how the temperature of the engine suddenly goes up. "The power steering does not work... and I have almost no brakes".
He quickly parks the camper next to the highway. We are lucky because the dual highway has new horizontal shoulders, with clean gravel and are as wide as a car. When we get out, we see that the belt hangs under the engine, still intact, and there is a pink liquid flowing out of the engine.

We decide to wait patiently. After twenty minutes the Policía Municipal (local police) stops. Three men get out, one loosely carries a machine gun over his shoulder. They ask what the problem is and we show them the belt and the spilled fluid. We try to explain that we need a tow vehicle. The agents think it is necessarily that PJ turns the camper to the other side of the road. We do not have a clue why and in the end PJ obeys. Traffic is stopped and PJ tries to make a U-turn, but without the power steering and brakes he has to do it in five times before he crosses the dual highway. When he finally gets to the other side of the road and is parked again on the shoulder, the police car is parked in front of our camper. And then one of them shows up with a futile rope that they want to attach to the bumper.
"No, no!" PJ calls out, "Transmision automática, no es posible!".
If you have some knowledge (or a little more) about cars, you know that you cannot tow a pickup with an automatic transmission. Even after a short distance, there may occur serious damage to the transmission. The police thinks this is nonsense and we really need to pull out all the stops to convince them. They're going to call a mechanic.

The officers drive off and ten minutes later a car stops. An old man in oil-stained clothes get out. On his left hand he has only a thumb and his pinkie, but he can move around with it. Volatile he examines the engine.
"It's the polea (pulley) of the belt," he says with conviction. That is weird, the belt and pulley are replaced less than six months ago.
"I will tow you to my house."
Of course we have objections again and we now doubt his knowledge, because we have already told him that it is an automatic transmission. "But it is only two miles," says 7-fingers irritated, "and I can have the part delivered from Mazatlan, I will drive very slowly on the shoulder."

Live is repeating, three years ago we were in Denali National Park, Alaska with a broken belt and a bent pulley. A local mechanic said that he could fix it on the spot. After waiting for a day in the middle of the National Park, including an overnight stay in a turn out, the mechanic puts in the belt and pulley. While placing the pulley it gets a hairline crack and a new one has to come from Fairbanks, another 150 miles away. When the second pulley is put in, we blow the engine a day later and the camper has to be towed to Fairbanks, where a huge expensive repair awaits us. I guess it is understandable that we are not very enthusiastic about these local handy-men (and we now also have the language barrier).

I try to explain to the Mexican mechanic that we prefer to get a tow vehicle that can bring us directly to the Dodge dealer in Mazatlan. Besides, we know that part of Mazatlan by heart and know that everything is available in the street, supermarkets, hotels, McDonalds, restaurants and even the beach is near.
I ask him if he can make the call. 7-finger grabs his phone, fiddles a bit and says he has no credit on his phone.
"We'll drive to the village," he mutters, and PJ has to come with him.
"It's very safe here," he reassures me. Later PJ tells me that the police said to him to make sure he was out here before dark!
I decide to sit inside the camper with the door closed. I do not like the idea that everyone can see that there is a woman alone sitting in the front cabin. It is 36°C/ 98°F, inside and outside, and with the ceiling fan and two windows open, I try to create a little draft. It is now 2.30 pm and with a good book, I try not to pay attention to the elapsing time. But after sweating for two hours, I start to worry anyway ... how long can it take to order a tow vehicle?

"Are you alive?", I hear PJ call, and I am so relieved that he is back.
He says goodbye to 7-fingers and then I hear his story.

So he drove with the mechanic to the village. The gravel shoulder stopped after 500 yards and then the camper had to be towed on the main highway where trucks drive over 60 miles an hour. After about three miles, PJ sees a junk yard. Is that the casa of the mechanic? Had our pick-up be repaired here? In the village they first drive to the towage. There is a tow truck with a flat body (perfect), and a pair of normal towing cars. The mechanic is doing the talking. PJ does not know what he is saying but he picks up "His wife does not want me to do the repair". Al of a sudden nobody wants to help PJ. 7-fingers becomes increasingly irritated that PJ sparsely speaks Spanish. He starts calling him “that dick who does not speak Spanish". So they drive to an Internet café, where two cooperative girls start calling the tow companies in Mazatlan. Costs: 3,000. “Peso or dollars?" asks PJ. “No, American dollars”. Are they out of their minds? PJ tries to suck up to seven fingers, if he wants to do the repair? But now the mechanic is backing out. The girls make another call. Again no result. PJ hears 7-fingers say: "I'm not his secretary". One of the girls secretly makes a certain gesture to PJ, pointing to the mechanic. Does she mean that guy cannot be trusted? 7-fingers goes outside to make a phone call using his mobile phone. Apparently his credit was not entirely empty ...

Eventually the ladies find a towing service in Mazatlan who wants to come for a reasonable price, but 2500 pesos (U$190) has to be paid in advance. 7-finger drives through the village looking for a place where the money  transferred. PJ tries to explain that he needs a cajeta (ATM), because he can only pay the advance. 7-fingers is apparently fed up with the taxi service and pretend that he does not understand PJ.
The money is transferred in a store where you can buy furniture by part-payment. After that 7-fingers drives PJ back to me. PJ is in the meager possession of 150 pesos and he gives that to 7-fingers. He cannot be very happy with the 11 dollars and 50 cents for the services rendered. He should have looked out for a cash point.
Together we wait for the tow truck, that will be here in two hours.

And yes, after a little more than two hours, the tow truck from Mazatlan arrives. In fifteen minutes the young Juan put our camper with the front wheels on the trail and turns loose the driveshaft. At 7.30 PM, just at sunset we are on our way.

                       

Trucks usually have a front bench, but this truck has two front seats; and they are tiny! PJ first climbs in and puts only his right buttock on the seat, I follow and can barely get my left cheek on the seat. And this is how we have to sit for three hours. The gearbox needs replacement and makes horrible noises when Juan put it in first gear. Due to the Mexican police, the camper is parked with the nose in the wrong direction, but our driver makes a U-turn in one fluid motion. The speedometer does not work. PJ hardly ever drives faster than 50 miles per hour, so I know how that feels. I think Juan drives at least 75. Even PJ sometimes look anxiously out the back windoe to our house, banging and shaking. And so we race through the pitch black night to Mazatlan.

Our legs begin to tingle and we try to change position regularly. Fortunately Juan stops frequently; First he takes a pee break (we can stretch our legs and do a buttocks massage), then he stops because he wants a drink with other towing water. Juan takes the time to cuddle a watchdog. He is suspiciously hyper after that stop. The next stop is for coffee. But now it's our turn. As we near Mazatlan PJ says he still needs to get money.
"Dinero?" Asks Juan surprised.
"Si". We still have to pay the remaining balance of 1,300 pesos plus a tip for Juan.
At the first bank, there is no money coming from the ATM. Shit!
So we need another stop. We know this city well, so PJ shows our driver that he wants to try it again at the LEY supermarket. First we try it in a bank, but also here our card does not work. So we run over the vast parking lot to the supermarket. The shutters already start to roll down. Oh no! The security guy looks at us quizzically and PJ says to him that he only need to get money. Fortunately, the guy lets us through. We see only one ATM and it is not the bank that we normally use. What a stress moment, but after a few moments waiting ... banknotes are rolling out.

At 10.30 PM we arrive at the Dodge dealer and the night watchman lets us stay overnight at the gate. PJ counts out the remaining 1300 pesos plus tip while Juan is busy releasing the camper. Then he walks to us with a tiny piece of paper.
"You owe me 300 pesos."
We are so surprised that we forget to ask for a receipt and a little later we see the tail of his tow truck. In retrospect, we now understand why Juan was so surprised that we had to get money, who does not have 24 dollars in his wallet? So the costs of the tow was not that bad, now the repairs. We luckily picking up wireless Internet and can inform family and friends.

9 to 10 April 2014 Mazatlan - Mexico
Wednesday morning we are up early. A handsome man with a bright white shirt and neatly pressed slacks speaks to us in fluent English. He makes notes of the problems and now it is a matter of waiting for a technician to have a look at it. The 3,000-pound camper is pushed by a couple of guys into the gates.

The pulley is not the problem, which was just a little crooked. It is the water pump. Of course the pump is not in stock and soon we hear that it  probably will be here Friday morning. The camper is again pushed out of the gate and we now just have to wait.

As I wrote, we know this part of the city inside out.

So we walk to the neighbor, the MEGA supermarket for fresh bread and a cold drink. Unfortunately, the fridge is still broken, so we buy a bag of ice.

The two day waiting are warm (27°C / 80°F), though it is not as hot here as along the highway, and at the end of the afternoon we walk to the seafront to catch a breeze.

I buy a large cup of freshly squeezed juice at a stall. Not a bad place to break down. I am so glad we stood firm that we wanted a tow truck. Can you imagine us parked in the back yard of 7-fingers with 35°C / 95°F waiting for a part that was probably not the right one? I know that most people who breakdown in Mexico are lyrical of the cooperative Mexicans, but I think we just were not lucky this time.

Afterwards we naturally ask ourselves why we did not joined the other two couples on the expensive toll road. They were driving huge trailers and I do not know if they had been really able to help us, but a little moral support would have been nice.

And why were we on the road with so little cash money? Yeah, that is just another bad decision. We did not want to have left over pesos when we leave Mexico because we are not sure if we will come back here. And we knew we would be able to hit some ATM’s, so with 200 bucks in cash we thought we would be okay.

   

April 11, 2014, Mazatlan - Mexico
At 8.30 AM we are told that the water pump has indeed arrived and at 1.30 PM the pump is placed, but also a new air and oil filters, test drive is done, the bill is paid and we are ready to leave.

We decide to camp in north Mazatlan. That is just a short test drive, but we feel gritty and exhausted of the tension. At the RV park PJ tries to find out what is wrong with the fridge, I empty it and throw a lot of food away, we do laundry and take a nice long shower.

 

 

12 to 13 April 2014 Mexico
Over the toll roads we drive in two days to the border. The truck performs   well. At the border there is unexpectedly a long line of cars and after 45 minutes we finally cross the border, which normally takes us five minutes. That was customs and now we have to go to immigration for our 90-days visa. A busload of about fifty teens are waiting with their papers. We cut the line and after half an hour we are standing outside with a 90-day visa stamped in our passports. We spend the night in the town of Ajo at a RV park.

April 14, 2014, Yuma - USA
We stop at a RV repair shop in Yuma, Arizona to have a look at our fridge. At first they think a new circuit board of 180 dollar will solve the problem. But the mechanic takes another thorough look and discovers a few scorched electricity wires. That darn squirrel! The replacement of the wires is free and we do not have to pay. 

It is only April, but it is already hot in Yuma. This is a favorite wintering place for Americans and Canadians. But not everyone here is equally pleased with the snow birds; we see a bumper sticker that says "If you can’t stand the heat in the summer, you have no right to be here in winter."

Our plans at this moment that we will be Denver, Colorado on May 2nd. Our Dutch friends Peter and Monique are coming for a month to the U.S , rent a class C motorhome and we are planning to drive some 4000 miles through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

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