THE Naked Cowboy

Welcome to our next bus adventure!

This time we’re with three of our kids, plus our beloved Marigold PLUS a second VW Westfalia that we are renting.  A double-bus adventure begins.

Post Baja, we stored Marigold in Irvine, California for a few weeks until our return on March 12th. We decided to take the kids on a camping adventure in SoCal for March Break.

Two buses hit the road from Costa Mesa with Jalama Beach (2 hours north of Santa Barbara) as our first destination. En route, we decided to check out famous Venice Beach. We strolled along the boardwalk, people watched, saw the famous Muscle Beach and then walked along the sand. It was 33 degrees and gosh was it ever busy! Apparently it was the nicest day of the year so far – by a large margin.

When Debbie returned to the busses, there was a whole lotta activity going on with the car parked right next to us. Cowboy hats on the roof of their car, guitars on the ground and white cowboy boots laying around.

Hmmmm…

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Then Debbie noticed the writing on the hat. It clearly stated, “Naked Cowboy”. This immediately took her back more than 10 years ago when she first saw the iconic Times Square ‘Naked Cowboy’. She first thought this was an imposter until she made eye contact with the 6’5” blonde, blue eyed, pony-tailed, ADONIS and realized he was the real deal.

Yes – the NYC Times Square real deal. THE Naked Cowboy.

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Image our good fortune. Now imagine the look on our kid’s faces…..

Robert – aka The Naked Cowboy – got into costume. Yep – ripped his clothes off down to his corporate sponsored ‘Fruit of the Loom’ tighty whities. Then put on his gigalo-white boots, slung his guitar over his bare chest with it strategically placed to give the illusion of nakedness, and put on his white cowboy hat. He was ready for action.

While he is synonymous with Times Square, he shared with us that his real start was right here at Venice Beach where he used to model.

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So here he was, on vacay, back where it all began.  And with his wife in a scantily-clad bikini alongside.  She is apparently the Naked Cowgirl.

We had a good chat with him as he was getting ready to ‘perform’.   He was super curious about our two busses and our story. Funny – while we were away from the busses and cruising the boardwalk, he was observing the plethora of people taking photos of Marigold and our rental Ruby.

We said our goodbyes, but not before we got a bunch of autographed photos, and learned about his new venture, Naked Cowboy Oysters.

Then onwards to Jalama Beach, where we are spending 3 glorious nights camping directly on the beach.

And as the Naked Cowboy told us today as we parted ways, “Each day keeps getting better”.

Thanks, Robert. That is now our trip mantra, and words we will cherish forever….

‘Moon River’

We didn’t have an opportunity to post all of the blogs we created while in Baja.  Here’s one from our time in Bahia Concepcion.

On our way northbound, we could not wait to return to Bahia Concepcion.  A breathtakingly beautiful place where the mountains meet the azure blue waters of the Sea of Cortez.  Having met many travellers, we learned that Playa Escondida was THE beach to camp on.  It’s called Hidden Beach and is set back from the highway, over a mountain saddle away from everything. The roads leading to this beach are rugged and large RV’s cannot make it here.  We had no issues navigating the dirt road and welcomed the company of smaller campervans at our destination.

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The beach camping area was smaller than we anticipated and much busier.  The winds were strong and this was one of the few sheltered camping areas.  So we picked our spot and settled into our base camp for the night.

Our immediately neighbour, Dan, came over in the afternoon and introduced himself.  He quickly commented on our Nikon camera and its large zoom lens.   In the most respectful and courteous way,  Dan begged us to take a picture of the moon rising from behind the island in front of us.  He described the islands and the cactus and the mountains beyond, with the moon shining over the ocean water. And the incredible silhouette of the cactus atop this island.   It was quite the picture he was painting.   We were game.

Throughout the day, Dan gently reminded us of the time the moon hit this magical moment.  7:00 pm……

Now the pressure was on.  We set up our tripod and snapped as many shots as we could, hoping that we captured the image for Dan.

Dan was on a father-son camping trip with their golden lab, Timber.  He was a widower who has been travelling to Baja for many many years.

His description of the big event was impeccable.  The beauty of the moon rising, illuminating the Bay, back lighting the cactus was something we will remember for the rest of our lives. We all stood in silence soaking up the moment.

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Then as the moon rose higher and higher in the sky, a river of light appeared on the Sea of Cortez.  It was so bright none of us needed flashlights and Orion’s Belt was hardly visible.

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Dan asked us if we knew the song,  “Moon River”.

Debbie replied, “Yes.  It’s by Henry Mancini and I happen to have it on my iPod”.

Dan was gobsmacked.  He got a little emotional and shared with us that he had not heard the song since he was 12 years of age, more than 4 decades ago.   He asked if we could play it.

So Debbie queued up the song – an old time favourite of her late father’s.  She recalls him singing it to her when she was a little girl.

Under the full moon, Dan, Debbie, and Jeff crooned out loud the lyrics from this classic.  It was one of those precious shared experiences that brought Dan to tears and got Debbie choked up.  A special moment for each of us an individuals, and for us together – being total strangers.

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossin’ you in style some day
Old dream maker, you heartbreaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Our Door

Here is a blog we weren’t able to post during our Baja California roadtrip.  There are a few more blogs to follow shortly!

December 26, 2014:  After an extra long journey to Costa Mesa, CA on Boxing Day, we arrived late at night to pick up Marigold. Thanks to a 7 hour flight delay caused by bad weather in Denver, we finally arrived at VW Surfari at 7 pm to pick up Marigold, with little time to stock up for our 16-day camping expedition.  Our goal was to cross the border at 6 am the next day, so we worried about being able to honour our pre-camping ritual: Trader Joe’s.

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Back in November, Bill Staggs of VW Surfari generously offered to receive our bus off the car carrier and then store it along with his dozen-plus air cooled VW campervans. We’ve gotten to know Bill a little bit by phone as we live over 4,000 km away from one another. You may know him from his appearance in the recently released documentary, “The Bus Movie”.

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So last night we arrived at his shop – weary and anxious to get going – only to discover the sliding door on Marigold was jammed. It would not budge. At this point we are in Bill’s garage, working like possessed zombies half asleep, trying to open the door. It should be noted that we have never had issues with our sliding door. Ever.

We called Bill who was 30 minutes away. He talked us through a series of remedies (including Debbie hip checking the door from the inside repeatedly.)

Nothing worked.

And we were losing patience…

Bill told us to make ourselves at home at VW Surfari’s world headquarters and he’d be over right away. Meanwhile we were course-correcting our trip and praying Trader Joe’s was open late on Boxing Day. Otherwise we’d be losing one valuable day in an already tight schedule to travel the entire Baja California peninsula.

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Bill arrived and quickly went to work on the door. He took charge for no charge, and worked tirelessly for more than an hour. We took the sliding door off, took apart the hinge, replaced parts, deep cleaned everything, and super lubed the seized piece. Bill said he had seen many things, but not a door like ours (which he said was working a few weeks before).

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At 8:45 pm PT, the problem was resolved, Marigold’s door was reinstalled and working better than ever. Without Bill coming to our aide our trip would have been greatly compromised.

He was kind, generous, trusting, patient, wise, and provided a wealth of information. He lives and breathes Baywindows and Vanagons and is a walking encyclopaedia. Fascinating man – someone we’d love to sit around a campfire with for a long chinwag.

Thanks, Bill, for opening the door to your business. And opening Marigold’s door – our home for the next 16 days in Baja California.

On a final note – Trader Joe’s opened their door to us as well! We arrived at 8:50 pm just in time to shop for our trip before they closed at 9 pm. Our grocery list was quite long and TJ’s staff stayed late to allow us to stock up.

 

Mexican Magic

Day 14:  The Driveway of Naomi and Gonzo (near Aqua Caliente)

Woke up our second last day of our adventure, and quickly started calling Bus Depot, Go Westy and many parts suppliers to get a brand new alternator.  Only Bus Depot had one in stock, at it was going to take days and a whole lotta shipping charges to get the part to San Diego.

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Meanwhile, Naomi had offered to drive Debbie to the San Diego airport.  So sweet.  Our Plan B was coming together with a new part for the bus, and getting Debbie home in time for the kids.

Plan A was sourcing a part locally, and getting back on the road by the end of the day.  Gonzo believed our alternator could be rebuilt, so off he and Jeff went to the guru in town.  They said it could be done and it would take a few hours.

During this time, we connected with our hosts and their friends.  Peeking into a world that was foreign to us in many ways.  Naomi and Gonzo have given up much of their money, possessions and now their home, to be in service to others. They were days away from having an Open House to show off their new home for the abandoned and neglected elderly in Mexico.  Their home was part trailer and part permanent structure – perhaps about 1,100 sq. ft in size.  They were giving up about 800 sq. ft. of their home – 75% of their personal space – to help others in need. Something we rarely see in our society.

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Naomi quickly got Jeff to help out the volunteers finish the kitchen – some dry walling, electrical wiring and cabinet installation.  Meanwhile, Naomi and Debbie hit the kitchen to do some baking for the Open House.   Debbie learned how to make Empanadas with a recipe from Naomi’s Mexican grandmother.  We also baked cookies.

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Then Gonzo returned with our refurbished alternator.  And voila, after a few more hours the bus was running and like new.

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We hugged, kissed and high-fived our new friends and hosts.  Debbie even got a little teary-eyed saying good-bye.  Touched by the kindness and generosity of total strangers.

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The whole experience was magical, moving and expanded our world.

For us, the emotional extremes were profound.  Having the bus breakdown in an unknown area……at night……..in Northern Mexico, conjured up all sorts of obvious stress and anxiety.  Fear for our safety and wellbeing, getting Debbie to the airport on time (we had less than a day), and finding a replacement part for Marigold with limited resources available to us.  We didn’t know if our phone would work, and there was no WiFi.  Plus, we were in the middle of an intersection when the bus konked out. At night!

But lo and behold, it was our good fortune that the car behind us was a helpful soul who took the time to ensure we were taken care of.  Thanks to Ulysses and his wife Patricia (who stayed with Debbie and Marigold, while Jeff went to visit the mechanic).  How lucky is it that we ended up meeting not only a magical mechanic, but generous people with HUGE hearts.  Naomi and Gonzo wanted nothing in return and were simply helping us.

The experience will stay with us forever, and really can’t fully be captured in words.

By 2:00 pm we were back on the road, heading north on Mex 1. Naomi had secretly tucked some warm empanadas and cookies in our bus. In her usual self-less way – she gave us half the batch of baking that we had made together.

Our next big hurdle was crossing back into the US at Tijuana before dark. Not long ago, waits could be up to 6 hours to cross.  Just last year, they upgraded the San Ysidro access point and we sailed through at 5:30 pm on a Friday night. This is the largest border crossing in the world with 1,000,000 passing through each and every day.

Made it to San Diego at sunset…..sad to know it was the end of an epic trip, and happy to know we made it 4,000 km safely.  And much richer for the magical experience.

TJ

Jeff’s Banana Hammock

Day Eleven:  Playa Escondida, Bahia Concepcion to Guerrero Negro (350 km)

While initially we were planning on staying 2 nights at Bahia Concepcion, midday we decided to break camp and move on.  But not before a kayak around some islands to chase a pod of dolphins.

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And not before checking out the hand made goods from a beach vendor.  They came along selling the usual blankets, jewellery, etc.  However this vendor was selling something very special…..

…a Banana Hammock!!!

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Seriously.

No, not the Speedo variety popular in Europe.

We bought the REAL DEAL.

A genuine hand-made Mexican mini hammock for our banana’s and other fruits.  (If your mind is elsewhere, focus).  We could not stop laughing after we made this purchase.  It actually works perfectly and gentle cradles our fresh fruit.  We picked a yellow hammock to match the bus interior.  Several fellow campers on the Baja are seriously envious of Jeff’s Banana Hammock.  It seems everyone we meet wants one like ours!

Now back to our travels….

Having the freedom and flexibility to change our itinerary to suit our daily desires is one thing we love about road tripping in Marigold.

Now that we are backtracking north, we get a chance to repeat things that worked well for us – not to mention the amazing scenic drive on Mex 1.

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One of the highlights was a stop at a famous 100+ year old bakery in Santa Rosalia.  This town has a church designed by Eiffel, which was built in France then shipped overseas and re-assembled.  The bakery – no doubt – was influenced by the Parisians.  We stocked up on their famous warm Conchas (Pandulces or sweet breads).  Pure yummy-ness.

We arrived in Guerrero Negro to find our friends from Montreal camping here.  It was nice to get caught up with them and camp beside them.

The bus is making the most peculiar sound.  We had to visit Chinos Garage here in Guerrero to determine how serious the problem is.  It’s been a stressful day determining how to proceed – whether to flat bed or carry on.  The Mexican mechanics believe her engine is solid and there is some wiggly part in the fan making a racket.

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To be safe, we are spending an extra night in Guerrero to drive solely during the day.

Stay tuned.  750 km to the border……fingers crossed.

BTW, in case you were wondering, Jeff wears board shorts, not Speedos.

Our New Travel Companion – ‘Hottie’

Day Ten:  Tecolote, La Paz to Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach), Bahia Concepcion (482 km)

We’ll be perfectly honest.  It’s been a bit more challenging than expected to cook meals without our beloved stove.  The MSR WhisperLight has been fine, but we’ve been using it sparingly as we cannot find camp fuel anywhere in Baja.  Nor can we find a replacement propane stove.

The propane single burner that Eric and Donada kindly donated to us overheated and broke a few days ago.  What a bummer.

While camping last night at Tecolote, our neighbour friend David reframed our entire ‘Bandito’ experience with our stolen camp stove.  He said that we were camping in an impoverished area (our bad) and this seemingly upsetting event for us, is likely helping some poor family with a new cook surface and stove.  Hmmmm.  Interesting reframing of something that was initially so upsetting for us.  So we feel at peace with this incident knowing someone less fortunate is better off.

We were still super frustrated at not being able to purchase a new stove anywhere in Baja. Not even at WalMart in La Paz……until today!!!

Debbie spotted what looked to be a mobile garage sale set up beside a gas station in Ciudad Insurgentes about 230 km north of La Paz.  This guy was selling everything you could imagine from elliptical trainers, to weed wackers to inline skates to…..CAMPING GEAR!

He had 2 double burner propane stoves for sale.   Slightly used.  Hmmmmmm…….

After grappling with our basic human need for heat for cooking with the ethics of buying stolen goods, we hung our head in shame and bought the stove.  After some typical Mexican price haggling we paid $25 US plus 100 pesos.

So there you have it.  Things came full circle.  And we got to experience the black market in Mexico firsthand.

We affectionately named our stove Hottie, for all of the obvious reasons. Below is our new stove, Hottie:

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So about that family using our deluxe table and stove to feed their children?  Ummmm, not so sure.

But hey, if you are ever without a stove in Baja, and find a dude selling them on the side of the road near San Quentin, know that we are more than okay if you wish to buy our original red deluxe Coleman double burner propane stove.

Turnaround Point

Day Eight and Nine:  Rancho Pescardero south of Todos Santos (0 km driven today)

Months ago while planning this trip, not having any idea how we’d feel after driving 1,700 km in a vintage VW Westfalia, we decided to check into a hotel for 2 nights at our turnaround point.  Our thought was that we’d take this time to recharge,  put our feet up and get ready for the second leg home.

Here’s the problem…..Now that we’re back in civilization, we really miss Marigold. And it seems our need to recoup doesn’t really exist. Why is this so….?

We had the best nights rest – sleeping in our bus. Like 9 hours each night.

We ate incredible food – cooking while camping in our bus. Clean and healthy.

We were rested and mellow – from the drive in our bus. Chillin’ while drivin’

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So we are well rested, and this hotel stop is merely an added bonus.  Although we are not quite sure what to do with ourselves.   We don’t have to set up camp, pop the top, make the bed, do the dishes, stow away our gear, make the meals, let alone navigate and drive.  This is our way of life when living in a 90 sq. ft. home on four wheels.

We actually developed some neat systems in Marigold and are proficient at breaking camp, splitting the driving (Debbie prefers to do the first leg in the morning), and setting up camp.  It has become second nature to us. We each intuitively know our jobs and get ‘er done each day.

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So this morning – with all of our extra time – we walked north on the beach to San Pedritos to check out the surfers and the free beach camping site.  Much to our delight there were two Baywindow busses camping in amongst the big rigs. Sadly, however, the hurricane ravaged this area and it is a mess.  Gone are the lush surroundings, and palms.  Instead there is debris everywhere and the access is poor.

One of the busses was a 1992 that looked like a 70’s Baywindow.  It had Chilean plates.  We spoke to Ben, the owner, who told us it was made in Brazil.  You may recall, the last of these busses rolled off the assembly line a year ago.  It should be noted the Brazilian busses are an interesting and odd breed.  They combine the front end of the 70’s bay window bus with the back end of the 60’s split window configuration (15 windows).

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Ben has been on the road for 2 years and has another year to go.  He is a videographer who is documenting his journey and bus life.  Part of it involves being a sort of taxi service for anyone wishing to join him for the ride.  His website (www.kombilife.com)  is where you can follow along.

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Finally, we wish to acknowledge our friend, Juliet Nicol, who first introduced Debbie to this beautiful  part of the world.  Many of your friends are still here – Carlos, Danny, Renee, and Karla.  Hola from your friends here at Rancho Pescadero.  (Yes – the fish tacos are still out of this world, Juliet)

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Lessons Learned Travelling 1,700 km in Baja

Day Seven:  Tecolote Beach to El Pescadero (Rancho Pescadero to be exact) 110 km

We are here!  After 1,700 km, we reached our southern most point on the Baja.  We are choosing not to go further south to Cabo San Lucas.  Too many cruise ships, gringos, and tacky tourist stuff going on.  We are opting for solitude and some time chilling at Rancho Pescadero – a very relaxed tiny boutique hotel on the Pacific.  This is our home for two nights.

As we reflect on the journey so far, there are a few things we have learned:

1.  Mexicans are warm, friendly people. With the exception of the jerks who stole some of our camping gear, every person we met and everyone who greeted us, did so in the most genuine welcoming way.  Yes – even the military at the 5 checkpoints heading south were lovely.  Despite believing the local police were corrupt, Debbie ended up accidentally driving down a one-way street in La Paz, and head first into a massive police vehicle with 4 armed police officers on board.  They flashed their lights, honked their horn and laughed at our mistake, while Debbie frantically backed up and out of their way. They waved us on our way and wished us the best.

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2.  Beware of TOPES.  What the heck is a tope, you are asking?  They are devilish Mexican speed bumps.  Here’s the problem – more often than not, there is no warning about their impending arrival.  Sometimes they are marked with rumble strips, or street signs.  Other times, you hit them at high speed and nearly get whip lash.  The other problem is some topes are long and fat, and others are tall and skinny.  The tall skinny ones will rip all four wheels off your vehicle if you get it wrong.

3. All gas stations in Mexico are gov’t controlled Pemex Stations.  They are everywhere – with the exception of central Baja, and the famous Gas Gap.  Each Pemex is clearly marked with a unique number, which corresponds with some of the maps and guidebooks we used.  WIthout the Pemex for obvious reasons, we most certainly would have been lost.  Their numbering system was  a helpful way to navigate.

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4. Our Baja ‘Bible’ has been our single best resource for everything here.  Mike and Terri Church’s book, “Travellers Guide to Camping in Mexico’s Baja” is worth the money and clearly they have done their research.

5.  Learn the driving ropes down here.  There is a groove to the way people drive in Baja. Slower moving vehicles will signal when it’s clear to pass, hazzard lights are used to indicated some issue on the road ahead, and when being passed, pull as far right as possible. No one follows the speed limit – just sayin’

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6. ‘Curva Peligrosa’ means dangerous curve, and there are loads of them in Baja.  There are several high elevation mountain passes with narrow twisty roads.  Here’s the issue – not all truly dangerous corners are marked with any signage.  And many are missing guardrails.   So be alert at all times and take precaution in the mountains.  One helpful thing for us is watching the speed limit. When it was reduced – even slightly –   it usually meant a big dangerous curve.

7.  VW Beetles out number VW busses – probably 50 to 1.  We thought we’d see a lot of VW campervans on this journey.  But this is the land of Beetles and Baja Bugs.  They rule down here.  The choice vehicle for camping seems to be any sort of all wheel drive such as pick up trucks with the camper in the box (see photo below).

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8.  Cell Phones – a fellow traveller shared this great tip with us.  When you enter Mexico, head to any TelCel store and buy a Mexican SIM card. In doing so, you can get local calling for very cheap.  Not only a safety measure but a smart cost saving too.  Most buy their SIM card in Ensenada.

9.  There are LOADS of Canadian down here.  Plenty that are making the same trek as we are.  But many taking weeks or months to complete the journey. Cool, eh?

10.  Good luck with Wifi.  It’s intermittent, hard to access and downloading is usually restricted.  We have only been successful getting Wifi in a handful of cafes in larger towns. Most of Baja is out of cell range.  We thought there would be more opportunities to connect.  Guess this trip is about connecting with nature, the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific, instead.

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Meeting the Whale Sharks

Day Six: La Paz to Tecalote Beach (50 km)

New Years Day and we headed to Costa Baja in La Paz.  It’s sort of like the French Riviera (ummmm,,,,that is a bit of a stretch).  Beautiful stone sidewalks adjacent to the ocean.  Loads of cafes and restaurant along this stretch of the ocean.

Our mission this morning is to find someone at 8:30 am on January 1st, who is sober, willing and able to take us to see the whale sharks.   Whale sharks are slow-moving filter feeding fish that grow up to 40 feet long.  They are the largest fish and the largest shark in the world.  Fortunately they don’t eat people.

Our preferred tour company, Espiritu Tours was closed.  Seemed everything was pretty much closed this morning.

Jeff found a guy and a decent enough looking boat (it was floating) willing to take us.  For $100 US, we got our own boat, a wetsuit and we were the first boat out to the feeding area which was 30 minutes away.   We brought our own snorkel, mask and fins.

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Our captain was searching for the calm streak of water, signalling the merging of the ocean currents where the plankton collects.  Once we found this calm water, we followed it until we came upon 8 – 10 whale sharks.

OMG…..

Debbie couldn’t get in the water fast enough to snorkel alongside. Check her out to the right in the photo below, to give you an idea of scale.  These sharks are HUGE!

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These massive creatures of beauty appear to move slow and even stand still at the surface, however it is hard work to keep up beside them!  Their mouths are 3 – 4 feet wide, and skim the surface for plankton.  When they are feeding, they stop swimming and gently open and close their jaws to allow water to flow in.

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Our pod of whale sharks ranged from about 15 – 20 feet long.  It’s freaky, as they look exactly like a the classic predatory shark (think Jaws), except for their heads, their white polka-dot markings,  and their sweet disposition.

The world is an amazing place.  And we got front row centre seats to some of it’s beauty.

What a way to start the New Year!

We then headed to Balandra Beach to check out what many consider the most beautiful beach in Baja.  Given that it was a holiday here, the beach was packed and we could barely get in the parking lot.  So we moved on.

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Our final destination and home for the evening is Tecalote Beach.  Free camping on a breathtaking stretch of beach.  The pictures will do a better job capturing the essence of this place.

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Driving at Night in Baja

Day Five:  Bahia Concepcion to La Paz (with a oops side trip to Puerto Lopez Mateos): 570+ km

It was really hard to leave El Requeson beach in Bahia Concepcion.  We met more interesting people and loved hanging out with Eric and Donada from San Francisco.   We met them after we hiked over an island to go snorkelling in a remote area.  They appeared out of nowhere on their SUPs.  Had a good chat on the ocean, and it turned out they were our beach neighbors.  Eric just bought a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van and was in the process of converting it for their adventuring.  They were hard core windsurfers, who carried a ton-o-gear with them.  We loved hanging out with them after dinner and swapping stories.  Another inspirational couple who where in their 50’s, fit as fiddles and living their dream.  Thanks to  Eric and Donada, who kindly gave us a propane burner , we can now cook full meals.

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Packed up and hit the road, but not before some local women brought freshly made Tomales and empanadas to the beach.  It seemed everyone was buying from these women, so we joined in.  What a treat for 60 pesos.

Our initial destination was going to be Puerto Lopez Mateos, to see some whale sharks and their babies in the local lagoon.  We got to the town 200 km later and it was deserted and impoverished.  Marigold stood out like a neon banana in a black and white film.  Plus it was New Year’s Eve.  Plus it was getting dark.  So we had some quick decisions to make.

Either we camped in the area (which was extremely limited and seemed unsafe) or we drive 240 km south to La Paz (in the dark).  There were no other choices.

Everything we’ve read and everything we’ve heard is NEVER EVER drive in the dark in Baja.  The cows are black and stand on the roads at night, drinking and driving is a problem here, there are no shoulders, narrow roads, loads of fast moving transport trucks, and break downs are problematic at night for obvious reasons.

Decisions, decisions…..

We decided at dusk to drive to LaPaz.

The guidebook said it was 3.75 hours away. Yikes.

Onwards we go.  Debbie did the driving and maintained a good speed behind a large tanker truck.  The truck was a blessing as it gave us indication of the road ahead, and figured it would clear the road of any cows for us.

Halfway,  the truck reached its destination and we were solo in the night.

By now it was pitch black, and Debbie was most concerned about a head on collision. There was a huge volume of northbound traffic.  Mexicans pass all of the time and the roads are narrow, with no shoulder and there are memorial shrines EVERYWHERE along the roadways reminding us of the fatal accidents.

Around a curve, we saw dozens of blue and red flashing lights. Debbie panicked a bit, wondering if it was a police check.  (The military police checks are fine, however the local police are pretty corrupt)

As we got closer we saw it was a catastrophic accident with multiple vehicles.

We took a deep breath, sent positive thoughts to the people and families impacted in this horrible crash and refocussed on the road.

Onwards to La Paz….and after driving 6+ hours we arrived at a sweet campground just before the city.  Camprestre Maranatha was our home for New Years Eve.  Not on the ocean, but we were just happy to be safe, alive and get a good nights rest.

We caught our breath, grabbed a hot shower and decided NEVER EVER to drive in the dark here.  We got lucky and arrived safely at our destination, unlike others on this stretch of Mex 1.

Five driving days, more than 1,500 km  and we are pretty much here.  Happy to be in warm southern Baja.

Happy New Year, everyone.