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Published: February 3rd 2017
Not the M25....
ATV ing along the coastline.
Hi everyone, Happy New Year. Although by the time I have sent this, it will probably be the end of January, all your New Year’s resolutions will have already been thrown out the window or forgotten, and the countdown to Easter will be well on its way. Anyway I hope you all had an excellent festive season.
Our run up to Christmas was pretty chilled; in fact so chilled we could have so easily let it pass us by. Considering most days we have trouble knowing what the date is and the hot sunny days are a little distracting it was hard to get a festive mindset on, particularly with no TV adverts and Sound of Music repeats to remind us. So, Graeme was in his element with absolutely no Christmas shopping required. After all, what can you buy each other, unless you want a Mexican plate, or glass, or a painted cows skull (very nice but possibly a bit difficult to get back to the UK). It seemed pointless, considering our current life style, to buy “stuff” so we decided to treat ourselves to a three day hire of a Quad Bike. They are stupidly overpriced but
New Years Eve
Graeme, Gordon and Cheryl, waiting for that Baja Midnight.
such great fun, so it seemed like a good treat for Santa to bring.
However, Xmas couldn’t really slip by. Many of the people here are “Permanente’s” and stay all winter. They arrange Christmas dinner by the poolside, and everyone is invited to join in. Contribution towards the Christmas dinner was 80 pesos (just over £3) & a dish towards the meal. If you thought you may have sweated a bit over your turkey, please spare a thought for Dee and team who ended up cooking enough turkeys to feed seventy people!! I certainly did, as I sat reading my book. Besides taking the pigs in blankets, I decided to make a big dish of bread sauce. Now, this is a very good way to establish cultural and foodie differences and sort out the group into their nationalities. The large bowl of white looking mush, which if you don’t know what it is, is exactly what it looks like, was passed up by most people. But the English here were heard to say “Ohhh bread sauce lovely” as they ladled it on. I guess it’s like the way I look at Grits and wonder why they exist!
Mr Green did it....
The ATV post Cluedo debrief. Gordon, revealing the weapon.
Bread sauce anyone I have quite a lot spare in the freezer.
New Years Eve celebrations were also held in the park, Baja style. The residents of the area we are parked in prepared a street party, again, all invited. Now oddly, for some reason Ted has a recording of Big Ben (and a steam train, I must ask him why) so we would see in 2017 to the familiar sound of Big Ben chiming. Now, here everyone talks about Baja time. It’s not just the different pace of life, but basically most people go to bed fairly early, and are up at the crack of dawn. So the plan was to ring the bells at midnight, east coast time and then each different time zone until Baja Midnight. That way everyone should make at least one New Year. I am not telling you what time zone we got to but I can tell you the Mexicans take no notice of any time zone and just party all night, the next day and most of the following night as well. It must be the tequila.
So here we are in 2017.
... the two of us together, in the same picture!
Originally our plan was to leave just after New Year but this is a very engaging place. We kept muttering about going, after all there is so much to see on the mainland and we have to be out of Mexico by the end of April. Then, Gordon came up with a plan for an ATV treasure Hunt, Orton suggested a ride down along the coast to a place for lunch, Pat arranged a walk in the mountains, another group planned an ATV trip to the Hot Springs, Graham & Dee offered us a day out to Cabo, & another trip to the Bay of Dreams, & so on. Suddenly it was the second week of January and here we still were.
Again, we planned our departure date, then realised there were a couple of unique events coming up in the next few weeks that looked really interesting. The “Lord of the Wind” festival (a kite boarding competition) and the Baja 300. The Baja 1000, 500 and 300 are off-road races in which vehicles race through the rough mountainous terrain and arroyos (huge dry river beds) When we travelled down the Baja we had seen pictures of
Sue, Graeme and Kathy, our Cluedo team.
this event and were disappointed we wouldn’t get to see a race. We didn’t know alternate years they do different areas & this year the 300 runs through Los Barriles.
Most importantly Jan to March is when the grey whales arrive in the Baja to give birth. They make the amazing 12,000 mile migration from their rich feeding grounds in Alaska to the shallow lagoons on both coastlines of the Baja to calve.
As we were still around we thought we couldn’t miss the opportunity to see something so wonderful.
The nearest lagoon for us was back up the Baja on the west coast, through those wonderful road works we so enjoyed.
Another plan was required.....we were on about version five now.
We decided that if our space was available we would book to the end of the month, fit in all the events we wanted to see and still have three months in the mainland.
We asked “can we extend our stay” and were informed our space was booked. We were deciding what to do when someone from the office called
round to say that if we liked we could stay but would have to move sites. We assumed (silly us) that there was a reason for moving us and not just allocate the new RV into the empty site, but as it meant we could stay on we were happy to do so. Now, we should have known better really. The (I have a business degree) owner here is a little disorganised. I think it must actually be a degree in chaos theory and alternative facts. She also appeared to have missed the customer service module. However it is a lovely park and the people in it very nice.
So possibly for the shortest journey ever, we packed up the Rig, and set off to our new site, which was all of 50 yards away. When you move regularly you get into a system of all the checks. Cupboard locked? Yes, pantry latched? Yes, remove clock from wall, yes, and china plates protected? Yes, well mostly I often forget this one, that’s why they are all chipped ..........and drawer in bedroom, shut tightly? ............... I pressed the button to bring the slide in and heard a resounding
Beautiful rock pool
This coastline is remote and beautiful.
crunch, oops I forgot the drawer check and now it was nicely squashed by the slide coming in. Nick & Teresa will understand that sinking feeling!
Anyway, with only that slight hiccup we relocated sites. We waited to see what big Rig would arrive. Later that night a very nice, but smaller Rig pulled in to our site and set up. Two days later we watched as it pulled out again.......... We moved back.
We have experienced great hospitality here from everyone, but particularly George and Kathy our neighbours, who have supplied us with considerable quantities of strawberry Margaritas and more. We wanted to return the invitation, however there was the slight issue that we are only really stocked up for the two of us. So, I decided that I would ask if they would like to come round for supper, but if so could they supply the furniture! That puts a whole new meaning on “can we bring anything” Yes please, your table, chairs, lamps, plates, glasses, candles .............. I will just do the food.
It was really funny, it was like
Graeme, enjoying my Birthday Cake! ....
It was so delicious but so rich it lasted for days.
changing rooms. The usually rather empty area outside our Rig rapidly changed in appearance as Sue & Cathy appeared, placed the tables & chairs, supplied the table cloths and lamps. It was like a pop-up restaurant. The final touch was when Sue bought over their fire pit. It looked really nice. A table for eight? ....... Certainly madam, come this way, we just built one earlier.
Meanwhile, I just overwhelmed the campsite with the smell of the preparation of various curry dishes.
Now, during our time here was the inauguration of a certain Mr D Trump. (You might have heard of him?) Orton & Debbie, Ted & Sue decided to hold an inauguration party breakfast. Despite the promise of homemade cinnamon buns and fizz Graeme preferred to stay in our rig and play Jimi Hendrix's Woodstock version of Star Spangled Banner and Purple Haze. Me, I was out walking, enjoying the fact I had at least fitted in one more birthday before the possible apocalypse hits.
Speaking of my birthday, thanks everyone for sending me birthday wishes. Subsequently, I posted my first ever facebook pictures. Beware now; it could be a
El Triunfo Mule Sculpture
No, I am not wearing a mini dress, I had a skirt on and had to hitch it up.!
But when there is a horse sculpture and a selection of hats, you just have to use them
slippery slope. Next thing, I might just change my profile picture, it is ten years old, although I don’t look a day different!!!
I had a great day. Ron & Cheryl took us out to EL Triunfo, an old silver mining town, where we had a lovely lunch. I didn’t need to think twice about my choice, homemade ravioli with gorgonzola sauce........ not a bean in sight. For Mexico it was not cheap, but worth every peso, and it was my birthday. The chocolate cake that followed was also amazing, even Graeme couldn’t finish it all off in one go!
(Oh the pasta dish was all of £8 (shows we have been here a while!)
As you may gather from this blog we have experienced yet another side to our trip by staying longer in one place. We have met some great people, most of whom live in British Columbia Canada, but we have met a few English people as well. The first of our travels.
Graham (originally from Blackpool) & Dee (from Minnesota) spend most of the year here and then return to their home in Pahrump,
Nevada. There is not really any reason to tell you this, other than that; I just love the place name. It is a Native American word for “water”. Graham basically acts as a general information centre and taxi service, offering lifts to Cabo, or the airport, or wherever. And Dee, well she bakes cakes!!! What more can I say. Oh, actually I can say something more; Dee supplied me with a huge pot of Marmite and homemade marmalade, excellent and thank you. (Obviously, Dee is has many more talents than cake making but well, you know how nice homemade cakes are) Graham also spends a lot of his time trying to sell us a trailer to stay here for the winter. The answer is still “No”
We also met Gordon from the West Country and Joy from Liverpool. They have lived and travelled around the globe, and have fabulous stories, too many to tell. However their last previous “lifestyle” was three years on a Catamaran sailing the South Pacific Ocean. You can see some of their trip on their YouTube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHHdxELATPM
. Personally, I can’t imagine being at sea for three years, and even more so, can’t
imagine Gordon doing so, because he is constantly planning something or other. Give Gordon a seed of an idea and watch it flourish. Do an ATV day? Ok but let’s turn it into a Cluedo game, do a music quiz, let’s not just have questions but all the music as well. Introduce him to “dingbats” he draws his own. Joy, how did you survive three years!!!
As mentioned earlier one of the events we stayed to see was the “Lord of the Wind” competition. This coast is renowned for being windy, but as usual when it needs to be windy nature does not always comply. We wandered down to look at the sea. Never, since our arrival had it looked so beautiful, so blue, and........ so flat, our sympathy went out to the competitors. They travel internationally to take part.
As the week went by, the weather improved (or deteriorated) depending on which view point you held. The winds arrived and the competition took off........ Literally. The boarders managed amazing leaps, tricks and speed, it was fascinating to watch.
Life is constantly busy here, next it was
One event in the competition is who can spend the longest time airborne. I think the winner was up for about seven seconds.
time for our whale watching trip. I had decided to set my expectations low, if we saw only one whale I would consider it worth the trip, any more would be a bonus. So, car rented & bag packed, we set of to drive the 250 miles north to Bahia Magdalena.
Five hours later after an unexpectedly easy journey, due to the fact that most of the evil roadwork’s had been completed, we arrived in San Carlos.
Many of the roads here were just sandy tracks, and road names, if there were any, seemed to be for local information only. We stopped to ask directions, a man approached our car. “Can I help” he asked. We asked for directions to Hotel Isabella. Oh, he said they are my rivals, well, friends really. You will never find it; let me give them a call to collect you. A few minutes Captain Marco arrived and said follow me. We set off down the dusty unmade, unnamed roads, eying up our surroundings along the way. Graeme said “don’t have too great an expectation for the Hotel will you?” Looking at the semi derelict & derelict buildings I
understood what he meant.
We arrived and parked up in a dusty, rather derelict looking area by a large sign, saying “Welcome Hotel Isabella, cleanest rooms around”. We looked at each other, shrugged, got our bags and ducked to enter under a low palapa entrance, to find a delightful small restaurant area. We booked in, got our key and went to check out our room. Now, it could not be called luxurious but it definitely could be called spacious. It contained two enormous beds, a large futon sofa & living area, all spotlessly clean and an ensuite bathroom with the whitest towels ever seen. How anything remains that white here amazes me when there is sand dust everywhere. We could only agree with their sign.
We happily settled in, pulled on another layer of clothing, (it was much cooler here, only 60F!) and set off to the shore to look at our surroundings.
Bahia Magdalena is a series of shallow bays protected by a long string of barrier islands. Along with the surrounding estuaries and mangrove swamps it supports a unique and vibrant marine ecosystem. In 2009 it suffered greatly from
Hurricane Jimena, which made landfall here at San Carlos resulting in most of their infrastructure and services being destroyed. The area was declared a natural disaster zone. However, partly due to lack of financial support the path to recovery is really slow for these coastal communities. Even all these years later we saw the evidence of it all around. They are currently just rebuilding the towns’ central square or Zocola. Life in these beautiful remote areas can be very harsh.
You do not just drive by this area, stop to have a look and decide to stay overnight. Or pass it en route to someplace else. You have to plan to come here, so at least the Whale trips bring in some tourists, work and income to the community.
The company we had booked with has been established since 1976 by Crispin, known as the “Whale king”. Whilst we were sitting in the restaurant area, a journalist was interviewing Capt Crispin about the how and whys of his company history. It was lovely to hear him describe how much he loved the whales and how he would go out and talk to them for
Barnacle encrusted Whale.
along with a few of her whale lice friends
hours. He never bored of them. He did also say though that the numbers in the bay were diminishing.
As far as the experts know the Grey whales have been migrating to this area for ever.
Every October small groups of grey whales start their journey from their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas and migrate here, where they mate and bare their offspring. This trip takes an average of 2 -3 months to complete and is considered to be one of the longest migrations trip of any animal, covering between 9,000 – 16,000 miles with the average being closer to 8,000 – 10,000 miles. During this journey the Grey Whales will travel night and day, moving at an average speed of 5 mph until they reach their destination.
The common name of the whale comes from the grey patches and white mottling on its dark skin. When you see a whale they are not alone. Their skin, especially around the head and flippers is home to white barnacles and orange whale lice. Apparently up to 100,000 lice have been found on a single whale, and each one is
Whale creating a rainbow.
Nothing more you can say,really.
the size of a thumbnail. (I can’t imagine who counted them to get that fact). As a result of this, their heads sometimes look like a crusty ocean rock. They have a life expectancy of between 50 -75 years and they can reach a length of 14.9 meters (49 ft), and weigh 36 – 40 tonnes, about the same as five male African elephants!.
Baby whales measure about 16 feet (five meters) long and weigh about a tonne (900kgm) or in elephant measurements the equivalent of 10 baby elephants.
Between the 17th & 20th
centuries the Grey Whales were hunted almost to extinction, for their oil. It was estimated there were only approximately 2000 left. Now they are a protected species and their numbers are recovering. There are now approximately 20,000 in existence. In recent years, a few whales have been seen outside their usual areas, so scientists wonder if they may be repopulating their old breeding grounds, from which they have been absent for years. Or perhaps they are just lost!
The next morning, bright and early, full with a Mexican beans and eggs breakfast, and
Showing some idea of scale
This is a tiny portion of Whale body out of the water.
also full of hope, we piled into the boat and set off to see these wonderful creatures.
We zipped over the waves, looking at the scenery, or should that be sea-ary? Our Capt pointed out pelicans and cormorants, nice but not a whale. A small shoal of fish, uhmm, a pair of sunbathing sea lions ... getting closer, then............. out on the horizon we spotted a whale spout. Excellent, the trip success criteria had been fulfilled.
The first sighting was so exciting. Once a whale was spotted The Capt. would take the boat close to the area, and then wait to see if the whale would come to us.
At this point I feel you will have a better understanding of how close you can get to the whales when I tell you the boat we were in was a small Panga. These vessels are low enough for you to trail your hand in the water with the hope of attracting a whales’ curiosity. Enough curiosity for them to want to come and visit you.
Sure enough, the whale swam by, then suddenly another sighting, soon after followed
Typically whales are identified using photographs to match the scars and patches associated with parasites that have fallen off the whale or are still attached
a third, fourth, fifth & sixth ............... at one point there were whales in all directions & it was difficult to decide which way to look.
We soon learned how to spot where they may surface, other than the rather obvious large gray mass alongside the boat. An unusual “smooth, flat” area on the sea surface, a “bubbling” noise, a grey / white shadow just under the surface, all indicate a whale is about to appear. Whales like to rub their backs on the bottom of the boats to remove barnacles. Several times one passed under our Panga, we saw her head one side of the boat and the tail the other. That could only one thing........ The remainder of her approx 45 ft / 35 tonne body was directly under our small boat. We held our breath and hoped she had good body size awareness!
Do whales sneeze, I wondered, because if so, just one sneeze would launch us skywards.
We spent several hours watching these wonderful creatures, amazed at their tolerance and curiosity. One pair of whales enjoyed following our companion Panga. We watched as they sailed their boat
in circles around us followed by the two huge whales. We saw them breach and then blow, this resulted in a scattering of whale created sea mist, which formed mini rainbows. Another first for us, I can now say we have watched whales making rainbows, a truly magical moment.
Unfortunately, this time we didn’t see any baby whales. Carol, on our boat trip, told us that last week she was whale watching and the mother bought her baby over to the boat as if to “show” him/her off. When you consider the horrible history of the whaling industry it is amazing they tolerate us being near them at all, let alone allow us to touch them and delight in their young.
Disregarding the lack of a baby whale, our trip was a wonderful experience and we returned home very happy, satisfied customers.
Next event on the calendar, and the last reason on the list to stay ..... The Baja 300. The vehicles range from souped up ATVs, to Modified VW beetles, & larger trucks. It’s crazy, off road stuff. It’s also Mexico, so health & safety is not such a big
deal. You can view the race from just about anywhere. We chose an area where the vehicles passed us prior to doing a 180 degree turn across the main road and up the arroyo.
Sat on top of the wall we got a great view of this manoeuvre; we also got a great view of the crowd. A favourite viewing place for the locals was about 2 foot away from the apex of the turn. They never even flinched as the vehicles hurtled towards them. The occasional dog wandered around the track and below us were a family with three small children. The kids with not a care in the world, playing happily in the dirt by the track side only inches away from potential disaster. Not overprotected I would say.
The crowd’s were at their most vocal, cheering and whistling when the cars didn’t quite make the turn and headed towards the barriers......... and they still didn’t move!
So now with all the “to do” boxes ticked and only a month later than expected it really was time to go. We washed and prepared the Rig inside & out and
OK, it was the wrong setting on the camera but I liked the result.
packed up. People called by to say goodbye, but I am sure at this point not everyone was convinced we would really leave. It would have been nice to stay longer, but there is a big world out there, and it was calling. So we woke up the Sat Nav, pulled out the maps and pulled in the slides. Off we went, heading to the ferry terminal in La Paz.
Mainland here we come.
On the road again ............. Excellent!
PS I have just realised that some people don't know that if you click on the photos they enlarge. Just in case you want to give it a try. x
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