Sunday, February 27, 2011

Headed Northbound

Today we loaded the kayak back on top of the Arctic Fox 5th wheel trailer, packed up our patio mat, outdoor chairs and other camping gear, and headed north. Though we’d only planned to spend 10 days in Los Barriles, we ended up staying 20, so perhaps Hobie can be proud of our progress in casting our plans in jello instead of concrete. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed seeing and participating in several new activities the area offers.

Though we’re on our way back to Playa Juncalito south of Loreto, we only made it to Ciudad Constitucion a couple hours short of there today, so are camped at Misiones RV Park for one night. We’ll finish the trip to Juncalito tomorrow. But turning north reminds us we’re a bit more than halfway through our 3 1/2 months planned journey, and while we’re not quite halfway in terms of mileage (because we’re making a deviation through Colorado “on our way” home), we’re close. Time flies when you’re having fun, and WE ARE!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hot Dogs, Anyone?

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Mexico is famous for its’ roadside vendors selling fish tacos, tamales, enchiladas and other fare from small, portable stands. We’ve eaten at many over these 3 winters in Baja.

Last winter when we attended spanish language school in La Paz for 2 weeks, one instructor advised us we MUST go somewhere for a Mexican hot dog, as they’re quite different from American hot dogs.  So last night we finally did. 

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“Adrian’s hot dog stand” is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. About 8 people chop, cook, take orders and serve food to a quickly revolving crowd of customers who mostly arrive on foot.  On arrival, one of the staff notices your presence and takes a plastic table and 4 chairs from a stack and sets them up for you with a clean table cloth and utensils. We had to ask for a menu as most customers are “regulars” and don’t need them.  Doug, Jill, Bob and Cathryn each ordered TWO hot dogs (we’d noticed they were small).  The plate arrives with a pretty typical bun and hot dog, but also has cheese and salsa on it.  Then you take your plate to the stand to add whatever toppings you want: guacamole, sour cream, roasted jalapeno peppers (not as spicy as when raw), cucumbers, onions, radishes and olives.  Nope, that’s right:  no ketchup, mustard, relish or sauerkraut!

And if you wanted a beer, you had to go to the restaurant across the street and buy it, as Adrian doesn’t have a liquor license. But the restaurant is happy to sell you a beer, and the proprietor watches for your departure and comes to collect the empty beer bottles as they’re worth money from the beer distributor.  What a hoot! Even Lua, Jill and Doug’s German Shepherd, enjoyed the evening, as it gave her ample opportunity to check out the other local dogs.

El Cardonal and a Hike in the Hills

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We set off to take a hike recommended by Jill and Doug but ended up at the wrong trailhead so did a different one instead. It was shorter and steeper than the intended hike, but the weather was perfect and the views lovely, so we enjoyed it. 

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Next we continued north on the Governor’s Highway, a very weird road (see link HERE for further detail in last year’s description) that took us to El Cardonal, a tiny village 18 miles north of Los Barriles by the highway (or 12 miles by the coast road).  We turned south along the coast, a bumpy dirt road that eventually arrives at a small private air strip, and the tiny village of Punta Pescadero, mostly made up of one almost-empty resort and several dozen large, fancy gringo houses strung along the shoreline. 

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We stopped for a picnic lunch on the beach, then headed back to Los Barriles, happy to have left behind yet another bumpy dirt road! Our appreciation for pavement grows as we spend more time in Mexico.

Iconic Baja

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Most people we know have never been to Baja. But everyone has heard of the Baja 500 or Baja 1000, annual off-road races held on the Baja peninsula. Motorcycles, or specialized cars, cover either 500 or 1000 miles, alm360ost entirely off-road, in hopes of winning the offered purse. There are other variants on these races, and yesterday we attended a Baja 300 (kilometers, not miles, in this case), an off-road race that began and ended in Los Barriles where we’re camped, at the Palmas de Cortez hotel. 

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An inflatable arch marked the start and end lines. Race cars lined up for blocks and blocks, revving their engines loudly, and every 30 seconds a race official slashed his green START flag, and another car took off, shooting gravel and dust over spectators 100 feet behind. The streets were lined with crowds: families, old people, and children.  It was a festive atmosphere.

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We’d heard it would take 4 hours for the first racers to return, and we staked  out a spot to watch as they came through the Buenos Aires arroyo (dry river-bed) about 2 miles from the finish line. Armed with chairs, books, sandwiches and beer, we soon were surrounded by dozens of Mexicans with their friends and family doing the same thing.

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Drivers all wore helmets and heavy-duty respirator-type breathing devices to cope with the massive dust they inevitably ate along the way. The vehicles were loud and could be heard coming down the arroyo before they were visible.

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We decided observing the Baja 300 was more like watching a slow game of baseball, not basketball, as only one or two race cars passed our observation point on the hill above the arroyo about every 5-10 minutes. Jill, Doug and Lua (their German Shepherd) joined us for part of the race too.

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At one point we saw a bright yellow pickup truck drive down the arroyo, not one of the race cars, watched its’ progress, and suddenly it FELL into an open gravel pit, flipped a somersault, and landed upside down. Eventually some men scrambled down the steep hillside where we sat, ran over to the gravel pit and disappeared below where we could no longer see the yellow truck or its’ inhabitants. A full 15 minutes later an ambulance came screaming down the arroyo, and promptly got stuck in the sand several hundred yards short of the accident site.  A police vehicle then arrived, and 3 policemen got out of their truck with their guns and “stood guard” (from what???) at the top of the gravel pit.  Eventually a race observer drove his pickup truck down into the gravel pit, and 8 men loaded a very large, limp figure into the back of the pickup truck, transported it to a waiting ambulance nearby, and off they went.  This was at least 30 minutes after the truck fell into the gravel pit. We’ll never know the end of that weird story, as we left half an hour later and went to “Smokey’s” bar and grill on the main road through Los Barriles, where we sat with Doug and Jill drinking a margarita and cheering the racers as they came through town on their way to the finish line.  It was very strange to watch race cars coming through a busy town while other traffic, pedestrians, cows and goats continued sharing the two-lane roadway too.  Never would something like that happen in the U.S. or Canada!  People don’t sue each other in Mexico, perhaps. Nor, apparently, do they place signage indicating a nearby open gravel pit!

Note added the next day: we heard later that one racer collided with a cow in the road at Cabo Pulmo, breaking both his arms and femurs, and killing the cow. Ouch!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Exploring the South East Cape

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When you hear folks talk about going to “Cabo” on vacation, do you know that’s the spanish word for “Cape”? The town we’re in, Los Barriles, is on the East Cape, near the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, but on the east side of the lower cape, a couple hours north of Cabo San Lucas, on the Sea of Cortez rather than the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula.

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Today  we drove to Cabo San Lucas with Jill and Doug to shop at our favorite place for home accessories. “Artesanos”  offers pottery, baskets, pewter, glass, metal art, candles, woven tablecloths, placemats and lots more. 

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We spent an hour making our selections, then headed north to drive the 40-mile dirt road from San Jose del Cabo to La Ribera on the eastern shore back to Los Barriles.

We averaged 15mph for the whole trip, stopped to let Doug and Jill’s dog have a run while the 4 of us sat on the beach and had a beer, and stopped for at least an hour along the way to view the HUNDREDS of whales in the waters offshore.

 

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It was sunny and warm and spectacular, with mile after mile of beautiful, empty white sand beaches. We wish we’d had more time to meander instead of feeling rushed by impending darkness and are so glad we made this trip.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Miraflores

Last year we had a great time in the town of Miraflores 45 minutes from Los Barriles with Bob’s sister Lynn and her husband David (see link HERE). 

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Today we returned, found Guadalupe in his furniture-making shop, and showed him photos of the items David made from the Palo de Chino wood he bought from Guadalupe.

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He was most impressed with David’s skill and called him an “intelligent wood worker”.  We agree.

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Guadalupe also took us to his workshop adjacent to his home to show us more wood samples, some furniture he’s in the process of making, and tell us about a large sculpture he recently completed of dolphins which is scheduled to be installed at the San Jose del Cabo marina.

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We wish we could see it, as his workmanship is incredible. He told us about his 10 grandchildren, inquired whether we had any, insisted he recalled us from our visit last year and gave Cathryn a hug and kiss on the cheek on our departure. We promised to visit him again next year.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A morning in the Zodiac

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Our travel buddies Jill and Doug have a 12-foot inflatable Zodiac with a 25hp motor. They take it out fishing and exploring and invited us to join them the other morning. They left their large German Shepherd dog in their RV so the 4 of us humans could fit in the boat.

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We were hoping to find a pod of whales or school of dolphins, neither of which we found, but we did have a great time exploring the Los Barriles bay, seeing tropical fish, eels, starfish, stingrays, and a large sea lion feeding on a fish that was too large for it to swallow!

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Looks Like Home, But It’s Not…

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We woke up this morning to a view that could have been home.  The sky was grey, and the sun was peeking through the clouds over what could just as well have been Puget Sound.  However, when we stepped outside and found it in the mid 60s we knew we were still in Baja.  We’ve had some cold days, and lots of windy ones, but this is the first that has come in grey. Maybe we’ll even have rain. We doubt it.

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Yesterday we returned to the San Bartolo waterfall, one of our favorite short hikes in the East Cape area. Last year we went here with Lynn and David. See link HERE

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This year access was a bit more difficult.  A barbed wire fence has been constructed across the ATV path that leads from the closest truck parking location to the waterfall.  Since ATVs are no longer pushing back the rampant bamboo, it has now largely overgrown the path, making it necessary to walk up the streambed to get to the waterfall.

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The happy result was that we had the place entirely to ourselves for two and a half hours, and we very much enjoyed a picnic lunch, reading our books and laying in the sun or shade. You know how much trouble we have finding time to relax in the Baja, so we felt we’d scored a good one.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

“Awe” Junkies: testing a theory

Maybe that’s what we are: Awe Junkies. We’re fortunate people. For all it’s flaws, we were born in a Great Country, blessed with parents who loved us, always had a home, food, clothes, education, friends and endless opportunity. So to a certain degree, when we became adults who landed jobs and made a decent living, we became what we refer to as brats:  people who “had it good” and sort of expected it would always be that way.

We’ve lived in a couple of special places. We raised our children on Beaver Lake where we had a nice view, and they could swim, boat, attend good schools and live in a safe environment. Then we retired to a small Puget Sound beach house with a beautiful view. Four years later, we still think we’re very fortunate, and we adore our home with its’ view, but admit we take it for granted during the many months each year when the weather in Seattle is  cold, rainy, and not conducive to outdoor activity.

So . . . . we go other places in the world in search of Awe. We’ve found It in the animals of the Serengeti, the ancient winding streets of Brugges and Zanzibar, the souks of Morocco, and the blue whales of the Sea of Cortez, among other things and places. Fortunately, we still find It in things we’ve seen before.

This afternoon’s example is the barrel-rolling stingrays of Baja.  We’ve posted about these in previous years, but for newer readers, we’ll explain the photos below.

The Sea of Cortez, the waterway on the eastern shore of the Baja peninsula, between it and the Mainland of Mexico, is home to many, many stingrays. They aren’t as large as the ones we’ve seen in the Caribbean, but they’re much more plentiful and visible.

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Almost every afternoon here at Playa Norte in Los Barriles, and many mornings when we’re out in the kayak, we hear a sudden bursting forth from the water, and see one, or a dozen, stingrays fling their bodies out of the water high into the air (3 feet perhaps?), perform a barrel roll, just like an aerial acrobatic pilot, and flop back into the water.

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This, our third winter in Baja, we still find it produces a sense of Awe.  And we will continue to find pleasure in winters in Baja as long as we can feel It.  Does that make us Awe Junkies???

Friday, February 18, 2011

Double Kayak Day in our Double Kayak

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Today was a banner day: our kayak actually made FOUR trips into the Sea of Cortez, though we were only on board for two of them.

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We started the day heading offshore in the kayak, traveling  to the far south end of Los Barriles, about 2 miles each way.  This afternoon our next-door neighbors, Don, Patty and their son Pete took 2 short trips out in the kayak to test the waters.

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Tonight at 6:30, Bob, Cathryn, Doug and Jill set off together in our respective kayaks to experience a first-ever “kayaking by moonlight” tour.

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F0r almost 2 hours, we paddled  offshore listening to fish jumping, being bumped by underwater “somethings”, taking photos of the almost-full moon and silhouettes of each other in the moonbeams, and yes, we admit, even sipping a little bit of wine.

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And talking about the possibility of another trip together next winter. What a memorable evening!

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JELLO

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Our dear friend Hobie has long and repeatedly advised us not to make PLANS, or at least if we must, to cast them in jello, suggesting they’re much subject to change. We’re getting better and better at that jello thing as time passes.

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As those of you have kept up with our activities know, we almost never stay anywhere more than a week or 10 days without moving on to the next destination. We’ve now been in Los Barriles almost 2 weeks, and had visitors from the U.S. most of that time.  We had planned to leave for other destinations around the South Cape (tip of the Baja peninsula) when friends Park and Martha left yesterday.  We added another day for laundry and dentist appointments, then a day to accept an invitation from Doug and Jill to go out on their Zodiac boat this morning (which at the last minute didn’t happen because of an equipment failure), and next thing we know, we’re making plans for lots of interesting day-trips with Doug and Jill to places we’ve not been before!

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Despite having spent 6 weeks in Los Barriles a year ago, we didn’t get to explore everything there is to do in the South Cape.  So . . . . it begins to appear we’ll remain in Los Barriles possibly as long as another week!  But, stay tuned, as our plans are cast in jello!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Park and Martha’s Last Day With Us

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Like Anne and Eric the week before, Martha and Park spent their last full day in Los Barriles at the very lovely Palmas de Cortez a mile down the beach from us, reading books, hanging by the pool, taking a siesta and enjoying the many amenities offered by the hotel and Baja (should we take a hint that we drag our guests around doing too many activities and not allowing enough time for relaxation???).

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We stayed home and went kayaking in the morning.  About noon we were back at our campsite when Doug came by and told us fishermen announced they’d seen a humpback whale and calf heading south toward us. We spent half an hour on the beach watching them go by, the calf tail-slapping regularly, about 500 feet off shore.

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Park and Martha came to our campsite for a last evening of shrimp fajitas, Mexican rice and margaritas with the two of us as well as Jill and Doug, who brought a salad and fabulous hand-made Mexican chocolates for dessert. Bob kept the music to an acceptable level (need to pay attention to this as nearby campers may not like it), and the moon was almost, but not quite, full.  It made for a fun evening. As usual, we were in bed before 10pm.

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And this morning we met Park and Martha at “Caleb’s”
up on the hill for breakfast, then said our good-byes.  They’ve left to spend two nights in La Paz, one in Todos Santos, then off to the airport to head back to home and work.

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Having spent most of the last 10 days playing with U.S. visitors, we’re now seriously behind in our general chores.  So today we’ll clean “house”, do laundry and go to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hike in the Hills

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Today we went on a hike in the hills above Mex 1 with Park and Martha, our visitors from the U.S. this week.  The hike is one we did last year, twice actually, (see link HERE) and HERE) and enjoyed immensely.  We drove to El Triunfo, a tiny town 45 minutes north of Los Barriles where we’re camped, left our truck, and piled into Park and Martha’s rental car to head back down to San Antonio where we parked their car. By 10:30 a.m. we headed up the old cobblestone road which subsequently became a dirt road, climbed 800 feet of elevation in the first 2 miles, then continued another 3 miles through the hills, trees, a ranch with laconic cows lying in the road, and finally past the abandoned gold and silver mine leading into El Triunfo.

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It was a beautiful sunny, but hot day (83 eventually), and we didn’t have quite enough water, so arrived at “CafĂ© El Triunfo” a bit parched, hungry and tired, though happy from the beautiful scenery and pleasant hike. 

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Two beers (each, except for Martha who was more restrained) and a fabulous lunch later (pizza for Bob and Park, puttanesca for Cathryn), and sitting at a well-shaded table, we felt recovered enough to drive back to Los Barriles to catch a nap and read our books to recover – ha!

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As is common, 5:00 found us gathered outside our trailer for heavy hors d’oeuvres and margaritas with Park and Martha, Doug and Jill (our Canadian travel buddies, celebrating Jill’s birthday today) and our campground next-door neighbors Don, Patty and their son Pete.  The next 2 hours we told stories on each other, laughed, enjoyed the moonbeams on the water from the almost-full moon, and ate so much that none of us felt the need for dinner after.  Another great day in Baja!