February 25

February 25

Crossing The Line; You Can’t Get There From Here; Bad Luck Strikes (Thankfully Not Us!)

Shortly after leaving Los Barriles, we crossed the Tropic of Cancer:

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Factoid: coral does not grow south of the Tropic of Cancer because the sun is too high in the sky and too strong.

It was not an auspicious start to our stay in Cabo for a couple of our caravan members. While trying to make a tight left turn, one of the fifth wheels hit a concrete curb and blew a tire (the tire literally exploded), and badly bent the rim and axle. Luckily, his rig has two axles, so he was able to limp into the RV park. They will remove the axle and take it to a local welder tomorrow.

Shortly after everyone had gotten settled, we carpooled into Cabo so the Wagonmasters could show us where to arrange any activities we wanted to do the next day down by the the Marina. It did not end well, with several of the cars driving in circles around the one-way streets, while attempting to follow directions over walkie-talkies. It was a zoo, but we all finally managed to get together. We did suggest to the Wagonmasters that it would have been far better to rent a small bus to take us in and back. We stopped at a Walmart on the way back to pick up some groceries. Cabo seems to have recovered fairly well from September’s hurricane, but you can still see a lot of unrepaired damage.

Later that evening, another rig was broken into and had several items, including 2 computers and some cash, stolen while they were at the restaurant for dinner. They were parked in a far corner, right where a path led down from the service road above. The thieves jimmied their door, ransacked the trailer and disappeared, all while another couple was sitting out by their rig right next door and didn’t hear a thing. The police were called, and I was asked to help a bit in translation. Long story short, the police will “investigate”, and they were told to go and register a report the next day with the Secretariat of Tourism in Cabo. The couple subsequently moved their rig to a safer spot, but it kind of put the rest of us a bit on edge, and a little more careful about locking up everything of value.

 

February 19-24

February 19-24

Life’s A Beach (Except For The Bugbites!); “Steer”ing Committee Meeting On The Beach

This is a bit of an omnibus post, as I have fallen behind in my blogly duties. We spent a pleasant couple of days in Playa Tecolote, just outside La Paz. We were parked very near the beach and took advantage:

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The water was warm enough that even I went swimming. We went into town with another couple to pick up some groceries, but otherwise it was a bit of kick-back time for us. We then left for Los Barriles, a fairly short drive. Again, we are only a short walk from the beach. The difference here is that it can get windy, with a strong onshore breeze, which brings out the kiteboarders:

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The weather continues to be hot and sunny (try 90 degrees Fahrenheit at 9:00 A.M.), so the breeze is a welcome relief. Los Barriles is a lovely little town, probably the nicest place we have been to yet, quite clean and full of Canadians and Americans.

The only downside has been the no-see-ums (literally no bigger than a speck of pepper) that pack a powerful bite. Many of us are sporting the chicken-pox look; the bites raise welts similar to blackfly bites, but they have hung on for days, despite the application of every anti-itch medication known to man, and the constant ingestion of antihistamines. We’ve never experienced anything quite like it.

Today (24th), we carpooled up to the house of an American lady and her husband, who have lived here for 23 years and endured 6 hurricanes; it took 3 days to prepare for the last one (wrapping up paintings, taking down the satellite dish etc.), and they still wound up vacuuming up 25 gallons of water from the corner of their living room (the floor is sloped to facilitate that process), and one corner of their palm-thatched roof lifted. She is an artist who paints on glass; nice stuff, but expensive; we didn’t buy anything.

We went swimming in the afternoon, then had an early Happy Hour with some of our caravan friends at the beach restaurant, while a herd of unattended cattle came down to check out the beach:

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We spent most of the evening sitting around outside our rig talking with some of our neighbours. Off to Cabo San Lucas tomorrow for four nights.

 

February 18

February 18

Mission Impossible; A Mexican Tom Sawyer

This morning, we carpooled up to a very old Mission up in the mountains behind Loreto, an hour’s drive. We went with our tailgunners, Erich and Carol. Their dog was left behind to guard the rig:

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It was a beautiful drive:

Loreto and Sea of Cortez in the background

Loreto and Sea of Cortez in the background

Here is the background info on the Mission:

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and a couple of pictures of the temple building:

Main altar

Main altar

From the back

From the back

It was very moving, knowing that it was begun over 300 years ago, and almost everything had to be brought through the canyon by oxcart and mule power. It seems like an impossible task, given what they had to work with. Standing with the wind blowing around us, you realized that this is what they would have felt three centuries ago. The unanswered question for us was why they chose to build it so far inland; most other missions were established much closer to the coast.

When we returned in early afternoon, we found this Mexican Tom Sawyer whitewashing the wall by tossing the whitewash onto the wall with a bleach bottle: (for those of you unfamiliar with Tom Sawyer, Google the story called “Whitewashing the fence” from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain).

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Jeannine spent some time at the pool while I took care of some repairs to our table. We barbecued some steaks for dinner. We leave tomorrow for Playa Tecolote, just north of La Paz, for our first set of beach camping days. We will be there for 3 nights before heading for Los Barriles for 3 nights. The weather has been beautiful for the last 3 days; may it continue!

 

February 17

February 17

A Loreto Look-around; Laundry and Lounging

After a well-deserved shower this morning, Terry and Jan, a couple of our Canadian friends here, took us into Loreto to do some grocery shopping, after stopping at the hotel to drop off some laundry. After stopping at a viewpoint to take a picture:

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we drove around Loreto for a while to sight-see; it is quite a pretty little place, with a lovely Malecon (beachfront walk), where we stopped for a few minutes to watch the pelicans dive for fish.

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They have a lot of infrastructure projects underway, and a lot of repair work due to the hurricane a few months ago.

We found the grocery store and did the shopping, then returned to the park to spend some time lounging around the hotel pool and managing to send an e-mail letting everyone know we were still alive. I discovered an elusive species trying to camouflage itself among the bougainvillea:

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Happy hour and taco salads at the Wagonmaster’s rig to round out the day.

 

February 16

February 16

Cinderella Taxis; Movin’ On; Power To The People

At 9:00 A.M. the taxis from last night re-appeared, magically transformed into “Tour Buses”, although we were unable to tell from their outward appearance. They must turn back into taxis at midnight. They took us on a tour of Mulege, which proved the point that it’s all about the journey, not the destination, as the route included sections of road that only a mountain goat would attempt. First stop was an original Jesuit Mission dedicated to Santa Rosalia:

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 A brief history of the mission

A brief history of the mission

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Original mission bell

Original mission bell

We then visited the original Territorial Prison, which had a bit of a different take on rehabilitation. Since the prison only held prisoners who had not committed serious crimes, they were let out at 7:00 A.M. to do manual labour in the community, without supervision. At 7:00 P.M., a conch shell was blown, summoning them back to the prison. For most of its history, the prison held only male prisoners, but at some point two women who had killed their husbands were incarcerated there. This is an original painting of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Guadaloupe, patron saint of Mexico) done by one of these women on her cell wall:

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Nice view of Mulege from the prison:

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Mulege has been hit by frequent hurricanes over the last decade, but they keep rebuilding and carrying on.

Last stop was the lighthouse, but we were not able to reach it because the tide was in. However, Jeannine embraced the Sea of Cortez, at least up to her knees.

We returned to the rigs just before noon, to be greeted by good news and bad news (have you sensed a theme here?). The good news was that the tractor had arrived to clear up the RV park mess; the bad news was that it broke down. Consequently, the decision was made to push on to Loreto/Puerto Escondido a day early, so we will be spending three days there instead of two. Pretty drive:

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When we arrived, the heavy equipment was finishing repairing the damage from the same storm that hit us in Santa Rosalia, so there was a bit of a wait before we could get in. The park has water, sewer and electrical hookups, which have been upgraded by the new owner, who also owns the hotel just up the road. About half an hour after we were all settled, it became evident that the upgrade hadn’t gone far enough, as the power shut down completely. An electrician managed to restore it, but warned us not to put too heavy a load on it, pending more permanent repairs tomorrow. As the sun went down behind the mountains, we had a happy-hour party in the empty site next to ours.

 

February 15

February 15

When Does the Fun Begin? Repeat After Me; “It’s An Adventure”; Dry Camping (Emphasis On “Dry”)

At this point, we all deserve a medal saying “We survived the Baja”. If we had had any idea of what the day would bring, none of us would have gotten out of bed. As we turned east and climbed into the mountains, the skies, which had been threatening, turned absolutely black, the wind picked up, and the thunder and lightning began in earnest. The rain was torrential at times, but we continued bravely onwards for a few hours, in spite of the hazards:

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As we finally negotiated the steep descent and tight curves down to Santa Rosalia on the Sea of Cortez, we found that the fun was just beginning. As we drove into the town, we encountered numerous washouts caused by DSC_0583

Taken through the passenger side window as we crossed

Taken through the passenger side window as we crossed

As we crossed the one in the picture above, I could actually feel the water pushing at the tires, even though it only came up as far as the door steps. The going was extremely slow as we threaded our way through several more, trying to avoid rocks and trying to guess at what might be lurking below the surface. We kept looking for the pairs of animals awaiting the arrival of the Ark.

We finally arrived at the RV park we were supposed to be staying at, but actually continued on past it and gathered in the parking area of a PeMex gas station, where many of us wanted to top up our tanks while we were waiting for our Wagonmaster to drive down the hill to the campground to check in and begin calling us down. Do you want the bad news or the bad news first? The bad news was that the gas station had no electricity, hence no way to pump fuel. The other bad news was that the campground also had no electricity, but more importantly had been flooded out. The good news was that they were planning to bring in a guy with a tractor the next day to push the mud around and try to make it habitable. Meanwhile, we were left with little choice but to circle the wagons and stay in the parking lot overnight. At least the storm had largely passed by that point.

The day, however, was not without its better moments. While awaiting news from the Wagonmaster, several of us had an impromptu tailgate party in a clear space among the rigs. At 5:00, taxis (using the term loosely) arrived from town to take us to dinner at a local restaurant, which, with great music from a keyboard magician, great food and great service, lubricated by great Margaritas, turned into a wonderful evening of dancing, singing and general revelry, complete with the cooks dancing in the kitchen.

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To add to the milieu, we were joined by a complete stranger, who left her boyfriend at the table while she danced, sang, and kissed either sex indiscriminately, as if she had known us forever. A bit of a bizarre performance, but as we say down here “What happens in the┬áBaja stays in the Baja”. We reluctantly poured ourselves back into the taxis and made it back to the rigs unscathed.

 

February 14

February 14

A Cautionary Tale; De-bugged; Food Worth the (Long) Wait

We pulled out at 8:00 this morning for the drive to Guerrero Negro, which turned out to be somewhat of an adventure. Like yesterday, the road is a narrow twisty affair which demands your constant attention. At the morning briefing Jim, our Wagonmaster, had made a special effort to point out that, in the event a front wheel dropped off the road , not to immediately jerk the steering wheel to the left, as this will only cause you to veer across the road and wind up going off the other side before you could correct the situation.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to one of the big motor coaches towing a car in our caravan. He shied away from a semi coming the other way, which wandered a bit over the yellow line. He wound up doing exactly what Jim had warned not to do, and went airborne over the opposite shoulder, coming down hard in what luckily turned out be soft sand and miraculously staying upright. Our accompanying Green Angel and the tailgunner stayed with him, while the rest of us were told to carry on. A tow truck arrived in 15(!) minutes and had to tow him about a 1/4 mile before he could find a shallow enough slope to get his rig back on the road. Total damage? A bent tow bar and a bunch of empty cupboards inside the rig. No-one was hurt, but the tow car had to be left behind in a compound, which they will pick up when we return through here later on.

The interesting part of this story is that this same guy had a locking pin come out of his tow bar the day before yesterday, and yesterday he steered right to avoid a pickup truck, only to have a highway sign shear off his passenger side mirror. The consensus among many of us is that he is a bit too nervous as a driver to be doing this trip, but we are also, considering how lucky he has been not to have suffered worse consequences, considering pooling our money and sending him to Las Vegas on our behalf!

As we crossed into the southern half of the Baja (a separate state), we were subjected to a military inspection (just a few questions), but I couldn’t help but notice a large sign that said “This is a military inspection point; if you have any complaints or suggestions, please call (insert phone number here)”. I thought a more accurate ending might have been “please call 1-800-wedon’tcare”. One more stop to drive over a grate and have your tires and underbody sprayed with pesticide (paying 20 pesos for the privilege) and we were good to go.

The RV park here is basic to say the least, with a funky electrical supply, so some of us have decided, for the one night we are here, to unplug and operate on propane. It does have what we were told is a restaurant that serves excellent and reasonably-priced seafood. It is owned by Mario, who also owns the trailer park. We were warned that the service would be slow, and the warning was 100% accurate. We sat down with two other couples at about 5:30, and finally left at 8:45. There were about 35 people in the place at any one time, all being served by Mario’s wife, while Mario did the cooking. Add to the mix the fact that she spoke not a word of English (thank God for my Spanish), the fact that in spite of my best linguistic efforts, she somehow missed writing down Jeannine’s order, a thunder and lightning storm with heavy rain outside,and you have the recipe for a very leisurely dinner (which, by the way, was excellent), accompanied by nature’s floor show. All of which tends to indicate that Mario knows much about food, but little about electricity.

Here are a few pictures:

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Another “Lost in Translation” moment:

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We will be crossing the peninsula tomorrow to the village of Mulege, where we will be spending two nights and distributing some of the school supplies we have all brought with us.