Heading South in Baja

We continued to head south in Baja and crossed the State line into Baja Sur. This meant we had to put our clocks forward an hour only to put them back a couple of days later with the removal of daylight saving time.

We stopped for lunch at Santa Rosalia before pulling in at the picturesque Playa Santispac to spend a couple of days on the beach. Whilst there were not many facilities the main pull was the water and the beach. And for 6 dollars a night what could you expect.

20131028-192744.jpg

Alisha and Lucy were a little reluctant to go in the water as there were stingrays in the shallows and we did see a few small ones but it just meant you had to go swimming with your crocs on.

20131028-192927.jpg

After a couple of relaxing days on the beach we headed about 100kms south to Lloreto and camped at a lovely quiet campground called Riveria RV park. This was very friendly and had all the facilities so we were able to get washing done. In the afternoon we wondered into town where Gilly and I had our first Mexican margarita.

20131028-193228.jpg
We had a wonder through the lovely town which contained the first mission established in Baja California back in 1697.

20131028-193509.jpg

20131028-193554.jpg
We finished the evening off with a lovely Mexican meal at a restaurant overlooking the Sea of Cortez. The girls particularly enjoyed the deserts.

20131028-193717.jpg
The following morning we did the long drive to La Paz. La Paz is a big city and the reason for coming here was to arrange our ferry tickets to the mainland in about a weeks time. We checked into the Aquamarina RV Park and whilst the girls did schooling I headed into town to find the 2 ferry offices. No one at the ferry offices spoke any English so it was time for me to habla Espanyol again. Anyway I think I have it all worked out. We will know tomorrow when I go to pick up the tickets.

Hola Mexico

By crossing the border to Mexico first thing we hoped that it would give us plenty of time to cross and get as far south as we could before night fall. We’d chosen the quieter town of Tecate to cross rather than the closest border to San Diego, the infamous Tijuana.

The quiet road winding though the desert hills took us to the border. On the US side there appeared to be only the backs of buildings facing the road to Mexico. We had been prewarned about this by other Europeans on their blogs, as this is such a small border and the fact that US citizens don’t need to check out of their own country means there is only an entry office for getting into the US, no exit. We needed to get our passports stamped out so we had to go into the back of the building when someone came out and ask a cleaner to let us through the next door. The US border guards then explained that we needed to enter Mexico, get all our paperwork done there, then reenter the US to get stamped out and then they would let us back through the entry gate. It sounds hugely complicated but it worked well.

Driving the 20m into Mexico they asked us to pull over and customs and the military did a quick search. Nothing too onerous, in fact the customs official seemed more concerned about what the girls were doing for schooling than anything else. We were then asked to drive around the block to a better parking space, as the little town on the Mexican side starts right at the actual border post so they don’t have much space. We then filled in a tourist card, paid our $25 each at the adjoining bank and got our passports stamped.

For the truck’s temporary import permit Steve then returned to the bank with a copy of the truck’s registration papers, his passport, and his tourist card which he had to first get copied at the Farmacia down the road. We had already arranged for Mexican insurance for the truck in advance online. At the bank he paid $50 for a 10 year import permit. We had expected to pay a temporary import permit deposit of between $200-400 but they didn’t ask for this.

We then all went back to the US to get stamped out and were let back into Mexico through the entry gate.

Within 1 1/2 hours we were done and that included popping to the ATM down the road for some Pesos. We were really glad we crossed at Tecate as there were no queues and everyone was really helpful.

We headed southwards on another long winding road through arid hills. At the first big town Ensanada, Steve disappeared for an hour to buy a sim card we can use in an iPad for internet access. Very impressively he managed to sort it out in his rusty Spanish. We had thought that we would either stay in Ensanada or push on south depending on the time we made. We are very aware of the problems in Mexico and have researched all the areas we are hoping to go to. Unfortunately although the Baja borders have been less affected than some of the areas bordering parts of Texas, there have still been some problems. So as it was still early afternoon we made for San Quentin.

Route 1 the only main road in Baja runs from North to South. Although it is generally in good repair it is incredible narrow, so much so that if we pass a truck going in the opposite direction we have to slow right down and get as close to the white line as possible. The road is so narrow that the white line is actually on the complete edge of the road usually with some sort of drop and we pass by with just a whisker between us. The trucks of course don’t slow down at all. We’ve also been witness to some crazy overtaking and we’ve been reminded of why we’ve vowed not to drive in the dark.

Unfortunately we hit rush hour on the road as we passed all the farms that grow fruit and veggies for the US market, all the workers were streaming out in old US school buses. We arrived at a rather windy and very empty campsite right on the beach just as the sun was setting. Although we are in low season, the tourist trade has been very much hit by the publicity of the drug violence.

The following day we kept on going south to Bahia de Los Angeles where we stayed at a scenic if rather neglected campsite on the Sea of Cortez.

20131027-152443.jpg
We knew we were too early for the grey whale carving season but Steve and Alisha were keen to try out the fishing. When we booked the trip however, we found out there was a possibility to see whale-sharks and fin whales close to the shore so we all piled in with great excitement. The whale sharks we saw weren’t at all bothered by our presence and we were able to get really close to them on the boat. We had thought that we would snorkel next to them. Steve tried it first and found he could see them better from the boat. We tootled back and forth beside them for about half an hour.

20131027-152622.jpg

20131027-152652.jpg

20131027-152713.jpg
We then headed off to fish and were thrilled to see two large fin whales swimming around the bay. They even surfaced so close to the boat but in the opposite direction that we were all looking that the unexpected blow made us all jump.

20131027-152815.jpg
The fishing was fabulous. Plentiful enough bites to satisfy the kids attention span and exciting enough for Steve’s tastes. We caught about 20 bonito tuna all about 5 or 6lbs, 10 bass and a barracuda. Most of them went back but we kept enough for a couple of night’s tea for us and the boat owner.

20131027-152917.jpg

20131027-152943.jpg
We fished in areas where we could see the sea birds going crazy diving into bait balls of fish gathered by the bonito tuna attacking from below. The frenzy only lasted a few minutes in one spot but at that point any fishing lure you put into the water was struck within seconds by a hungry bonito.

20131027-153028.jpg
Once we had fished ourselves to exhaustion we headed back to shore, it was too much for some of us.

20131027-153132.jpg
Route 1 further wiggled though the cactus strewn desert until we got to San Ignacio a date palm filled oasis. The cacti are the type you would draw as a child or see in a western movie, so if feels very atmospheric.

20131027-153233.jpg

20131027-153300.jpg
An historic and attractive mission church in a small central plaza, a campsite right in the oasis and our first proper Mexican meal made for a great overnight stop.

20131027-153347.jpg

Reflections on the US

20131020-202638.jpg
Lucy

I love America because it has Disneyland.

We looked at sea lions, they were funniest things ever, they made me giggle out loud. They went “owh owh owh”, were super stinky and kept on pushing each other off the floating things.

I liked Yellowstone, it was covered in yellow stones. We saw lots of Bison. Once loads came across the river into our campsite. Alisha and I stayed in the truck to keep safe. The bison were just one foot away from our camp, we were having s’mores that night but we had to wait for the bison to go.

I am a really good walker, once I walked 13km in one day. My legs were quite tired after that.

I loved the princesses at Disneyland. We went to see Merida from Brave first, then we went on Dumbo. We saw two shows with princesses in them.

We are going to Mexico next.

20131020-202908.jpg
My painting of sea lions

Alisha

I also really liked America. My favourite bits were Disneyland, Las Vegas and meeting the dogs Dillon and Lily. I really loved Disneyland, although I did not like the Mr Toad ride or the Finding Nemo ride. I loved meeting the Princesses and seeing the special shows. I also loved Las Vegas the lights and the noise. Whilst I love living in the truck I liked having the big bath at the hotel and also the big pool.

We also met two lovely dogs, Dillon and Lily at Daddy’s friends. They have been our imaginary friends as we have been out walking since then. I also liked Yellowstone National Park but I wanted to see some wolves.

20131020-203118.jpg
Merida from Disneyland

Gilly

I thought there would be few surprises when we came into the US. After so much exposure in books, tv and movies, lots of American friends plus a couple of visits years ago it was almost like I felt I knew the country as well as my own and certainly better than Czech Republic and Russia where we have lived over the last 15 years. However, bits of it certainly surprised me. Yes there were the usual cultural stereotypes which Europeans get terribly snobby about: very loud voices in peaceful places, a general lack of interest in the world beyond their borders and don’t get me started on portion sizes (our record was a KIDS meal with an enormous pile of chips and 10 fish fingers!!!). I wasn’t expecting the sheer beauty, proliferation and isolation of the national parks. That was a definite highlight, until they were unexpectedly closed down. They are all so well organised and maintained, so people really get a chance to enjoy the splendour of their surroundings. The people we met were generally incredible polite, kind and certainly in places like the national parks more internationally minded.

The truck is still an object of fascination for the people we meet. Here the most common question is about its fuel consumption, where as in Canada we were frequently being asked where we were going to in such a beast. People here rarely ask where we are going to, most people assume that we have imported it here once they heard it is from Germany to drive around the US only. “Sweet Rig” seems to be the most frequent moniker we hear about it, which is nice.

The Size of RVs has really surprised us here, initially we pointed out the exceptionally large ones to each other when we were on the road. Now however, it seems common place to see massive caravans of 12m or so which are so large they can only be pulled by huge pick up trucks. So called 5th wheelers are often 14m long when hooked up to a vehicle on the road. They all have “slide outs” too, up to 4 different sections of the body that come out to give more space when stationary. The coach type RVs are also surprisingly massive at between 10-12 m long and as tall as us with their 3 air-con units on the top and they all seem to pull a car behind then for when they park up. Not some little polo sized city car though, often they are massive jeeps or pick ups behind. We feel comparatively tiny and agile beside them.

20131020-203339.jpg

20131020-203401.jpg

20131020-203348.jpg This one with a built in loft is just bizarre.

We’ve all settled into our life on the road. We’ve slowed considerably down since Canada with 8 weeks in the US. It was inevitable I suppose that it would take a while for us to change from our usual home pace. It’s been good to have more time to do things as well as not be in too much of a rush to get things done.

Steve

I imagined the US would be just a warm up before we really started traveling but I have to admit I have really enjoyed our 7 weeks here. The scenery, particularly in the mid- west is stunning, and the National Parks are a real credit to the country. The scenery is stunning with some great campgrounds. They are also very well run and with the junior ranger program had great things for the kids. They are also great value. It was a shame they were closed down in the recent government shutdown but we were lucky we managed to visit 9 parks and only really missed out on Yosemite.

It’s 25 years since I last did a road trip in the US and it’s a bit different with your family than with 2 mates. A number of things have changed most notably the beer. The beer is now very good with the explosion of craft beers everywhere. I have not touched a Bud since I have been here and have become very fond of “Fat Tire” brewed in Colorado.

People have been very friendly and helpful and this is particularly true out in the countryside and when camping in the National Parks. We have also had fantastic weather with the only rain in 7 weeks been in Colorado when there was so much a federal emergency was declared.

We are all now used to living in the truck and find it very comfortable. On cold nights it’s much mor pleasant climbing in the back than into a tent. We can also have a decent shower too. Living together 24/7 is going pretty well although I am sure we would all admit the odd break from each other would be welcome but we are managing well. It’s not all one long holiday though. Planning the trip and doing all the chores takes time and we do need to think ahead for things but these are hardly great stresses.

20131020-205608.jpg