Travel Journal Mexico 2013 - 2014
with Claudia and PJ Potgieser
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
The man asks if
he can look inside and I open the camper door for him.
- 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.
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.
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
11 - 12 December 2013 San Quentin - Baja California Mexico
December 13, 2013 , Valle de Cirios - Baja California Mexico
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.
December 17, 2013 , Bahia de Los Angeles - Baja California Mexico
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.
And then comes the feared fruit and veggie check. PJ stops at the
man in uniform.
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.
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
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.
December 19, 2013 , San Ignacio - Baja California Mexico
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.
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.
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.
December 21 -23, 2013 , Mulegé
- Baja California Mexico
"Isn’t it all about the journey, does it really matter if you do not
get in those two months to Cancun," I say.
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.
After we got a price sticker on our bag of buns we see the Mexican
regularly in the store.
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
December 28, 2013 - 2nd January 2014 Ciudad Constitucion - Baja
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.
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.
We wish you a healthy and happy 2014.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
We find a nice spot. The waves already look impressive and I am going to take pictures immediately.
22 to 27 January 2013, Playa San Pedritos - Baja California Mexico
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!"
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 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”.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
I get out of bed, and after a cup of coffee I walk to the showers and
read the sign on the door.
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
We walk into a small supermarket.
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.
floor is littered with toilet paper and kitchen towels. The soldier
looks in amazement at the chaos and turns abruptly. "Gracias".
PJ repairs the broken chains and while he drinking a Corona beer, he
whispers: "Clau, hand me a camera."
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.
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
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.
"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!
After twenty minutes Rafael starts the engine again and we slowly chug
away. As soon as we stop a whale comes to the boat.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Lyrics of 'The Road Ahead (Miles Of The Unknown)' from the Dutch band 'City to City'
The road ahead is empty
Whatever seems to be your destination
Horizon in the distance
You shouldn't be surprised
The road ahead never gives away a promise
The road ahead
Raindrops on your windscreen
You drive into the light or into darkness
The road ahead never gives away a promise
The road ahead
The road ahead never answers any questions
And nothing is sure along the way
With miles of the unknown ahead of you
The road ahead is empty
Whatever seems to be your destination
February 9, 2014, Tecate - Mexico
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.
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.
18 February to 5 March 2014, La Peñita
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
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
Orange frontes Parakeet
The owl has fake eyes on its back!
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
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.
"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".
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
"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.
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.
9 to 10 April 2014 Mazatlan - Mexico
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
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.