We spent the first days of this week in an RV park in La Paz. Not ideal, but we needed the internet to await some financial news from the UK. We feel a bit between a rock and a hard place at the moment, as we sit about killing time awaiting updates from home, which is definitely not our forte.
We’re ready to move on from Baja in a week or so, we feel like we’ve seen it and would really like to have a look at what the mainland has to offer as everyone. On Instagram everyone seems to be having a great time. However, we’re worried about Zika and we’re also a little worried about Milton. Normally we don’t pay much mind to diseases that spring up around the world (we were both in China during swine flu and didn’t think much of it), but so little is known about it and its long term effects, that we’re wondering if we shouldn’t take a ‘better safe than sorry approach’?
As for Milton, our beloved steed, we’re worried about his size, his weight, his terrible gas mileage and his lack of 4-wheel drive. We swing daily like a pendulum, 100% confident in him to make it all the way to Argentina, to thinking there is no way he’s even making it off this peninsula. But he’s so comfortable, he really is a genuine home to us, and we finally have everything perfectly the way we want it, that we can’t imagine giving him up. So, we think about putting him on ship to Argentina, we think of selling him and flying to Europe, and of buying a Sprinter van and shipping that to Argentina. We think about just carrying on as we are, and we think about selling him and buying a truck camper and shipping that to Argentina. All viable options, none of which we can decide upon for more than a 24-hour period.
But, after leaving La Paz we went to the hippy town of Todos Santos. I know we’re supposed to put our noses up at ‘unauthentic’ places, but I have to admit I loved it, and I was very happy to sit down to some sushi, look at tat, and generally feel comfortable and clean for the first time in a while.
We camped out on a beach with the biggest waves I’ve ever seen, ever (and I lived in Hawaii) and they release baby sea turtles on that beach - how any of them survives that surf is genuinely beyond me. Just before we went to bed we thought the surf sounded awfully loud, peeked out the windows and realized we were surrounded by water on 3 sides. Oops.
The next night we went to the local theatre performance, outdoors under the million star sky. They were doing an updated version of Alice in Wonderland and it was a bit of an indictment of social media and modern life, but it was exactly what you would expect from the population of the town, and was genuinely funny. I highly recommend seeing anything about Alice in Wonderland, in a town full of 70 year old hippies, who get the drug jokes quicker than you.
We carried on down the coast, got stuck in sand again, and threw our arms up in the air in frustration. We drove to Cabo to ease our stresses in a hotel, as yes, it was stressful, and the hotel was great. Milton, you really are on a knife edge through no fault of your own.
As seems to be the current situation, we started the week on a beach, and pretty much ended it on another beach. One mustn’t grumble.
After a couple of days lounging about (nursing the Valentine’s Day margaritas if truth be told) at Spatz-a-something-or-other, we thought we’d try another little beach for a night. Unfortunately, that was literally a beach bar (Buenaventura), so we just stopped, grabbed some fish tacos and carried merrily on our way (it was quite a cool little bar, and there were more than a few US snowbirds in there, happily tucking away the tequila at 11am – and you thought our life was easy?). We ended up that evening a few hours down the road in San Carlos.
We spent a couple of nights there doing the usual relaxing & Internet’ing. It is another jump off point for Whale watching and speaking to groups upon their return, they also managed to see quite a handful. It seems they are everywhere. Interestingly, we did meet a French couple in a small converted van, who informed us about options for shipping vehicles over from Europe. Apparently it is very possible to load up a van in Europe, stay on board with it, and sail all the way to Argentina (takes about 4 weeks). With the whole Zika virus being a bit of an unknown for us, we started to seriously mull over whether we would consider doing that. But, as previously stated, we seem to be constantly flitting between alternative vehicle & travel ideas, so this is nothing new for us. We shall see.
After San Carlos we headed into La Paz. What a sight. It was like a proper little city looming over the horizon, with LTE cell phone signal, a Walmart, a Sears, and even a Dominos pizza. It made a massive change to what we had been used to. We did a night just outside the town, and then drove the next day to the beach near the Ferry terminal (called El Tecolote). It was here that we met up with a cross selection of people. Mali Mish were a family of 5 we had been following on Instagram (to date they have around 40k followers), and who are currently living out of a truck camper. Along with the gowandrly family (also 5) living out of a VW van (I don’t know how!) and go.wildly (Chris & his dog). It was great to see them all in action, and how they have managed to (some how) survive in such tiny spaces, yet being properly functioning family units. We also met two separate English couples - one in a Hymer van (Meg was in awe) and one in a converted Land Rover. They were both doing similar trips to us, so hopefully we’ll see them further down the road somewhere. Meeting these last 2 groups, especially, gave us renewed faith that we weren’t the only ones doing this trip at our age. That there were actually people under 65 years old living in RVs after all – phew…
We left the beach at the end of the week, to return to La Paz for some Internet. Naturally some drama struck, as I managed to embed ourselves in the sand. And having clearly not learnt from previous trips, I made it worse by impatiently trying to drive us out - simply burying us deeper. Thankfully the combination of an old German couple (wanting to be very German & efficient & methodical & sloooow about getting us out) mixing with a group of 15 drunk Mexicans (who just wanted to wrap some chains around our bumper and yank us out) we managed to get out after an hour or so of digging, pointing, discussing and eventually JFDI (just f*$#ing doing it). So, rather coyly we drove off & spent the night in the corner nursing our wounded prides…
After easing into Mexico, and I mean really easing into it (there hasn’t even been a cell signal all week), we got our first taste of…. rough roads. It’s partially my fault for not thinking it through, and partially Jonathan’s fault for not listening, but we spent more time than we’d like to on discussing an absolutely awful road to start this week off.
Because we had chosen to go down the Eastern coast of Baja, rather than the Western, there’s a significant gap in civilization. It’s about 25 miles, and the road doesn’t really exist. Fine in a jeep. And e’d get over it in a Saxo. But in Milton? It was hell. No one spoke, not even Gogi. Half way through was Coco’s Corner, where some man had built a little store in the middle of nowhere. Why? I have no idea, but we stopped for some tension relief.
Finally, we reached Guerrero Negro. The first proper town we’d seen since passing through Mexicali at the border. They have a massive salt factory there, and apparently a very large Japanese presence (I assume for the salt?) but we had come for the whales. Ojo de Liebre lies about 10 miles out of town, and then another ten miles through the salt flats, down yet another rubbish road. I held my breath and didn’t make eye contact. Once there, you only pay $10 per car and then you can camp as long as you’d like for free, excellent! We came in with high hopes and low expectations for the whales, genuinely having no idea how many we would see and I got super hyped when I spotted my first one from the car. Little did we know…
We took a passenger boat out the next morning when the lake was calm, and we were… there’s no other way to say it, absolutely surrounded. They were everywhere! The whales come to the lagoons each year to give birth to their calves, and then teach them the ins and outs of life in a safe place, before continuing on their migration to Alaska. It was incredible. At first everyone was constantly snapping their photos, and then by the end of it, you just got used to it and were able to put down your camera and enjoy it. They swam next to our boat (and even under it a few times) and is an experience I highly, highly recommend - and a steal at $40.
Baja has been mostly desert so far, and there are even cacti growing next to the beach, so our next stop was quite a change. San Ignacio is a genuine oasis around a lagoon in the middle of the desert, and a very cool thing to pull into after seeing nothing but dirt for a few hours. After that it was onto the beach for some proper lounging.
My impressions of Baja so far are very different from what I initially expected. I didn’t expect there to be so few people, or so few towns for that matter. And we keep saying to one another the next town will be proper, the next town will have a proper grocery store and a cell signal. But, we’re wrong each time. Very wrong to be honest. Baja is a sparsely populated desert with questionable roads, but it’s beautiful, and a good way to ease into the next few years.
Our time to crossing the border was quickly approaching, so it was time to get some final Milton admin done (& of course read into that, ‘more buying stuff we probably don’t need on Amazon’). First off was the get the brakes done – tick. Grouting any various holes/gaps – tick. Replacing the sink strainer – tick. (thanks to Lou for basically doing that task). And buying a new car stereo – tick. (fed up of either silence or Taylor Swift followed by Adele combo on every station, and wanted something with Bluetooth that we could play our own music/audio tapes as opposed to too much local Mariachi music).
We also did some cheeky truck camper viewings. It had always been discussed that we’d have Baja as our Milton test track, so to speak. To see whether he was too big, to cumbersome, the state of Mexican roads, etc. We still keep going backwards & forwards on whether to trade him down for either a truck + truck camper (i.e. a more rugged base vehicle, and overall a little smaller) or convert a Sprinter type van (more stealthy, better fuel economy….AND something for me to build a little more to our own personal preferences). We saw a couple that we liked, but there’s obvious any additional expense, and just as importantly additional time (to buy, refit, and so on) that we need to take into consideration. Plus, we both seem to be constantly changing our preferred option, so who knows.
But, we did finally make it into Mexico this week.
We camped up near the tiny border town of Los Algodones. We’d originally planned to cross at Mexicali, but as we were camped up literally at that border crossing, and a guy at the camp said it was a doddle to cross over, we just thought why not. Interestingly it has the world’s densest concentration of doctors, dentists & pharmacies (or something like that). Apparently all the old Americans & Canadians cross over for a day trip & simply stock up on pills/dentures/implants that they can’t get or is expensive in the US. Bizarre to see all these people park up their cars, walk across the border, and just go wild in the aisles of the Mexican equivalent of CVS.
Anyway, we crossed over without too much fuss. Got our 6 months worth of visa, and headed South to San Felipe. A little place on the coast that we planned to chill for a few days & acclimatise. We lasted 1 night. It was fine, but just a little cramped, so we carried on South the next day to Puertecitos (via some large cactus) & bathed in some hot springs.
After that it was Gonzaga Bay (peaceful but windy!) via 30 miles of unpaved roads. That was not fun, and something that we need to avoid as Milton will definitely not survive roads like that (15 mph was the max we could do). And then ended up the week in Bahia de Los Angeles. Not really worth the hour’s drive off the main highway if truth be told, but hey, when in Rome.
Overall, quite a busy week, and after 12 months we are now what I would class as “properly on the road”.