29 January - 21 March 2016 Mexico - Baja California

Friday 29th January – Baja California Caravan - Day 1 - Chula Vista to Guadalupe Valley

On the road early to make our way to the Mexican border crossing at Tecate. We travelled south from Chula Vista on highway 94 and soon came out of the suburbs into fertile looking green hill country. Our first stop at the border was at the Mexican immigration office to fill in a form and get a Tourist Card, followed by paying the 390 pesos fee each. The official we saw was very helpful and at one point, like magic, his hand suddenly appeared from under the table holding three bottles of salsa sauce, three for $5. I am sure it would have been excellent but we politely declined. Next to the US immigration office to hand in our leave to stay permit so that they know we have left the country and not overstayed our six months which is up in March. The rest of the group was on the way arriving in convoy - we had got to the border early to see the USIS and complete the exit procedure. We went through the border crossing where two Mexican customs officers took a look inside both vehicles and ask a few questions then we were on our way.

It takes a while to get through the border inspections, therefore we all met up in a large car park just south of Tecate. John and Becky are the ‘wagon masters’ and lead the convoy in their pickup truck, with Lawrie (alias grumpy) and Monica in their pickup and 5th wheel trailer bringing up the rear as ‘tail gunner’. Everyone checked in with the wagon master on our CB radios – our handle is Harvey – before we got back on Highway 3 in convoy and headed through northern Baja wine country. As we entered the Guadalupe Valley the grape vines could be seen for miles.

Our first stop in the valley was the Wine Museum of Northern Baja where the history and beginnings of wine making was explained and then the process of making and flavoring the wine.

From a large balcony on the first floor of the building there was a marvelous view of the vineyards and mountains.

Just down the road from the museum was our camp for the night at Rancho Sordo Mudo.

Across the road from the camp is a home and school for Mexican deaf children. Volunteers from the school operate the RV Park. We all got together in the covered outdoor group meeting area provided in the park where we had nice views of the mountains. There was a briefing about tomorrow’s travel and we had rotisserie chicken, potato, onions and peppers with tortillas cooked by the school, together with plenty of side dishes provided by the group.

Saturday 30th January - Day 2 – Guadalupe Valley to San Quintin

Another lovely sunny morning and we were all ready to get on the road before 8:30. Before we left one of the volunteers from the school for deaf children came to the RV Park and talked about the school and the work it does.

We continued south to the town of Ensenada where we picked up highway 1. The CB radios come in very useful, the wagon master advises from the front of the convoy when large vehicles are approaching, when traffic lights are ahead, bumps in the road and information on points of interest along the way. The tail gunner announces when cars and trucks are overtaking and keeps the convoy together, it all works very well.

Once out of the town we climbed through a mountainous region with wide fertile valleys and winding roads. There will be several military check points on our route and we passed through our first one just outside the town of San Vincente, we were waved through without being stopped.

Fifteen miles south of San Quintin we turned off the highway onto a dirt track to El Rabellon RV Park, our campsite for the night. The camp was right next to a beautiful soft sand beach and as we got out of the RV we could hear the surf pounding. Sandy had a wonderful time running up and down the beach and the sand dunes.

There were several vultures hovering over the beach.

John made margaritas for everyone and we sat sipping our drinks as we listened to the briefing for tomorrows travel.

Tonight was pot luck dinner where everyone brought along a dish to share. After dinner we sat around a roaring camp fire talking.

We had a conversation with Grant and Arabelle, they have lived in the UK. Grant is a Professor of Philosophy and worked at Cambridge for a while, now living in Santé Fe, New Mexico.

Sunday 31st January – Day 3 – San Quintin to Catavina

Cloudy overcast morning. We walked through the sand dunes onto the beach where most people had their dogs out for an early morning run. Sandy was having a great time and got all of the surplus energy out before we got on the road. There was what looked like a long-billed curlew with four young feeding at the edge of the waves.

The sand dunes had some pretty flowering plants

We followed the coast until reaching La Rosario where we stopped to get gas and then headed east onto a plateau in the mountains.

The desert countryside was in fact very green with lots of unusual plants, grasses and cacti.

We went through a military inspection point then headed down steep gradients along winding roads. Much of the country here is protected nature reserve and is pristine desert. By lunchtime the sun had come out as we reached our camp, Rancho Santa Inez in Catavina.

We set up camp amongst the mesquite trees and then spent a while chatting with Keri and David with there lovley little french bulldog, Trip. Later we went for a short hike through the desert to view cave paintings that were several hundred years old. The desert countryside around here is spectacular, large granite boulders with impressive plant life growing between them.

As we walked John told us about the plants we saw, some of which only grow in Baja, such as the cirios which translates as candle.

When it rains this plant sprouts leaves and the colour of the flame like flower at the top intensifies. We also saw the Elephant Tree and cardon cacti. There was also an example of the cardon cacti with arms of the plant inverted which is very rare.

A member of the family from the ranch came with us as our guide.

For dinner we had a bunk-house meal cooked by the family that own the ranch, just 200 pesos each (about $11) We sat with Debbie, Dave (from Vancouver) and Becky. After the meal Lawrie and Monica (also from BC Canada)

Monday 1st February Day 4 – Catavina to San Ignacio

Happy Birthday Tommy!

It was a very stormy night and the weather is still overcast and damp this morning. We headed out of camp just before 8am, we have a longer drive today, 245 miles south. The two lane road was narrow and potholed with no hard shoulder, there wasn’t much room for manoeuvre when a large truck was coming the other way. About an hour in we had a ‘Lenny’ break or toilet break. Some years ago there was a person called Lenny on one of the Caravas and he needed frequent toilet breaks, hence they are now called ‘Lenny’ breaks. We were now travelling through flat arid desert terrain with a strong wind blowing causing sand storms but the condition of the road had improved a lot.

At Guerrero Negro we reached the agricultural check point at the border with Baja California Sur. No fruit or vegetables are allowed past this point and the tyres of both vehicles are sprayed for ‘pests’ – cost 20 pesos. As we were waiting in the queue at the inspection point we saw an Osprey nesting on one of the high platforms provided for them to use.

Continuing on into the middle of the country which at its widest point is only 70 miles wide, we change from Pacific to Mountain Time – plus one hour.

Another military check point and then four kilometers on we reach our stop for the night at San Ignacio and Rice and Beans RV Park. The restaurant and bar here serve giant margaritas and we had a delicious fish dinner.

Tuesday 2nd February – Day 5 – San Ignacio to Mulege

This morning we went to San Ignacio which is an oasis town with an abundance of palm trees, a wide river and picturesque town centre.

The restored Spanish mission overlooks the town square which has huge ficus trees which are over 200 years old.

Inside the church the alter area was very impressive with whole wall covered in gold leaf

and outside there was a pretty side garden. We stopped off at a small ice cream shop in the square run by a nice friendly family whose son spoke English and translated for everyone.

Past the square at the Tortillaria we watched the ladies making tortillas, they smelled delicious.

There were several vultures flying over the town.

One perched on the top of the church and fanned his wings out, looking just like the gargoyles seen on medieval European cathedrals.

After our visit to the town we packed up camp and continued our journey south. On our way we past a large, still active volcano called Las Virgenes. There was a wide larva flow from the volcano with elephant tree growing in the lava soil.

As we continued through the mountains we came to the steepest downhill gradients so far, the Cuesta del Inferno. It was low gear and brakes all the way but the views were spectacular.

We had our first view of the Sea of Cortez on the eastern side of Baja.

Pulled in by the side of the sea for lunch just before the copper mining town of Santa Rosalia. Next we came to the town of Mulege and continued on twelve miles further south, past lovely views of the Sea of Cortez to the beach where we would be camping for three nights.

Santispac beach on the Bahia Concepcion is a beautiful white sand beach, edged by shallow turquoise water. The bay is very sheltered and there were several sail boats moored in the bay.

The dogs were the first in the sea, having a wonderful time.

We set up camp and then got out on the beach. Later we had a game of Bocce (a form of beach bowls) with Debbie and Pat.

The beach bar had happy hour this evening and it was a very lively event with plenty of margaritas being consumed.

We had really sociable couple of hours talking to different people about their travels. Came back to the RV for dinner then Debbie and Dave came around and we watched a dvd.

Wednesday 3rd February – Day 6 – Santispac Beach

Quite a windy night but a lovely sunny morning, still windy but very pleasant in the sun. We were speaking to a lady in the bar last night and she and her partner had been in Baja for a while wind surfing.

At the last campsite we could not fill our fresh water tank because there was no water pressure. Luckily a local person came onto the beach to ask if anyone needed fresh water. John was here to translate and soon a pickup arrived with a large barrel of water and a pump to fix to the hose. We used our new UV filter and the tank was soon full. Other vendors came to the beach selling fruit, vegetables, tamales and fish. We bought some scallops.

Spent the day on the beach and played Bocce again in the afternoon with Debbie and Jerry.

Playing Mexican Trains.

Had dinner at the beach restaurant with Grant, Annabelle, John and Sara.

We all had fish or shell fish, it was all delicious and we had nice evening with some lively conversation. Came back to watch the last episode, season five of Breaking Bad.

Thursday 4th February – Day 7 - Santispac Beach

Another very windy night. Bright sunshine again today but the wind persists. Spent the day on the beach. Played dominoes with Debbie and Shipp. Quite a lot of bird life visits the beach, including pelicans and herons.

Late afternoon John and Becky arrived with margaritas, wine, beer and grilled chicken, everyone else bought a dish of something and we had a beach party. Finished off the evening around a log fire on the beach. A nice relaxing day.

Friday 5th February – Day 8 – Santispac Beach to Loreto

On the road at 7:30 am and off to the gas station to fill up.

Back at the beach we joined the rest of the group on the beach and set off south to Loreto.

We followed the beautiful coastline of Bahia Concepcion and arrived in the town at 1100. The RV Park is small and in the suburbs of the town near a school, it took a while to get us all in and parked. The police turned up to observe the procedure and threatened to ticket anyone who should drive over a pavement.

First was a visit to the laundry across the road from the RV Park where a machine load of laundry cost 70 pesos (just over $4) for washing and drying. We were near to the town centre and decided to bike in with Debbie and Dave. Loreto is a nice, friendly resort town at the base of the Sierra de la Giganta. At a nice cobbled stone square we came to the hotel Posada de las Flores and went in to look around. It is an old Spanish styled building with an open courtyard and fountain which now has a glass bottom pool for a ceiling and it looks just incredible.

The town was preparing for carnival and there was a fair being set up along the seafront. We called in at a couple of nice bars for refreshments on our way around town.

Back at the RV Park in the afternoon. John and Becky arrived with cake and ice cream for everyone at the afternoon briefing.

In the evening we biked back into town to restaurant La Palapa for dinner. Tasty fresh made guacamole and scallops.

Saturday 6th February – Day 9 – Loreto – Rivera Del Mar RV Park

This morning we took the narrow winding road into the mountains to San Javier, a former mission settlement. We travelled with John and Becky in their pick up. The road travels through an arroyo or river gorge and we went through several shallow fords crossing the road. The village consists of one main cobbled street with palapa (thatched) roofed small houses and has a well preserved Spanish mission church, one of the first built in Baja. The mission began in 1699 and the church built from 1744 to 1758. The church has ornate carved stone work around the doors and windows that has been worn and weathered.

Inside is a gilded altarpiece inlaid with portraits of the saints, really beautiful.

Walking along the irrigation system

to the agricultural area we saw several vegetable and fruit crops, peas, guava, papaya, sweet lemon, cumquat, oranges, tamarind, flowering prickly pear with a hummingbird taking the nectar.

Chickens and fighting cocks were either tethered or in cages around the farms.

Back to the centre of the village for lunch at La Palapa restaurant.

Bought some home baked guava pies, delicious.

Lovely mountain scenery and a distant view of the Sea of Cortez on our way back to Loreto.

Crossing the road at one point was a herd of goats accompanied by a dog. John explained that when a kid is born it is taken from the mother and bottle fed. The kid is replaced by a new born puppy which is reared as a goat. The dog stays with the herd of goats and keeps it together, guiding and protecting the herd - neat solution to goat herding Next we came upon two vultures in the middle of the road that were not keen on moving.

This afternoon we all gathered for individual and group photographs.

Walked into town this evening and had dinner at a restaurant in the Plaza with Grant, Annabelle, John, Sara, Dave and Debbie.

As we left the restaurant someone at the bar said “I know that accent”. It was a lady that had lived in Baja for some years but originated from Arley, Worcestershire!

Sunday 7th February – Day 10 - Loreto to Rivera Del Mar RV Park

Departed Loreto this morning and headed south on Highway 1 along the coast road past the National Marine Park and resorts with pristine golf courses. The road turned west up into the mountains and we stopped for a ‘Lenny’ break at Aqua Verde, a small restaurant and rest stop.

Came out of the mountain region onto a very straight and reasonably wide stretch of highway. Stopped to get gas and then continued on south through a very flat crop growing area. We came to the town of Cuidad Constitucion, a smart town where one side of the highway was closed for carnival. There were many stop signs and police along the route. Just south of the town we stopped at Palapa 206 RV Park, our camp for the night. We were now inland and although cloudy it was hot, 31 degrees c and not much wind.

Today is Super bowl Sunday – American footballs final between DenverBroncos and the Carolina Panthers. We all congregated outside Jerry and Kathy’s rig to watch Shipp’s TV set up on the back of the pickup. We had a sweepstake for the winner of each quarter. It was a tense match but Denver won.

Beautiful sunset this evening.

Monday 8th February – Day 11 – Ciudad Constitucion to La Paz

Just got on the road to start our 130 mile journey to La Paz when one of the RV’s got a rock stuck between two of the back tyres. A helpful local produced a long crow bar and with help from some of the guys the rock was levered out and we were on our way.

Travelled through flat farming and ranching country and had to keep a watchful eye out for stray cows on the road.

Had a Lenny break at a place called Las Pocitas. There was a small family business there carving tables and garden furniture from large cactus plants.

After stopping for gas we headed into La Paz with views of the bay to our left. We pulled into Maranatha RV Park which is about two miles from town. The RV park has nice gardens and a swimming pool.

La Paz is the largest city and state capital of Southern Baja. It is set at the southern end of a large and beautiful bay on the Sea of Cortez in the Gulf of California. There is a promenade or malacon around the bay. Here there are lots of opportunities for water sports. About twenty years ago we came here to scuba dive and remember swimming with the playful juvenile sea lions around the islands and the wonderful undersea topography. In the underwater current it felt like we were flying over mountains and deep canyons. The highlight was at the end of one dive when we were on our own doing the five metre stop and we saw a shoal of hammer head sharks coming up out of the depths. An occasion when the word ‘awesome’ really applied.

Tuesday 9th February – Day 12 – La Paz – Fat Tuesday

Beautiful weather. Stayed around camp today. A group of us sat outside Dave and Debbie’s rig this afternoon. Debbie made Clamato cocktails of clam and tomato juice with vodka and tabasco.

Keri and David’s dog, Trip, just chilling out.

The local laundry came around and collected our washing to be done and returned before we depart tomorrow.

Got a taxi to the malacon for the carnival parade.

The fair with rides and stalls was set up along the parade route.

We were walking along the malacon

with Debbie, Dave, Keri and David when a girl came past with a young bower constrictor around her neck.

Found a bar with a first floor balcony from which we had an excellent view of the oncoming parade floats and sunset over the bay.

Wednesday 10th February Day 13 – La Paz to Los Barriles

Our laundry was returned washed, and neatly folded before we set off for the last leg of our journey to Las Barriles. We continued on Highway 1 and before climbing into the Sierra de la Laguna we stopped for a Lenny break for humans and the dogs:

Arabelle, Grant and their dogs.

Kathy and Daisy.

Debbie and Ulee

In the mountains we came to El Triunfo, once a silver mining town, followed by San Antonio and as we started our descent out of the sierras, San Bartolo, a farming settlement with views over palm trees and the arroyo.

This is a fruit producing town and we could see many flowering mango trees from the road.

The Sea of Cortez soon came into to view as we approached the town of Los Barriles and Bahia de las Palmas. Turning onto a dirt road north of the town we headed for Playa Norte RV Park.

The RV Park occupies a large area alongside a nice beach and has plenty of trees and shrubs to provide shade. William, the owner of the park and Hutch the Park Manager were there to greet us and sort out our parking sites. This is where we said to goodbye to John and Becky. Many of the caravan group are staying at Playa Norte for a while but some have continued on to other areas of the peninsula.

This afternoon we gathered together at our camp site for margaritas.

Thursday 11th February

Went with Debbie and Dave for a drive a few miles south to La Ribera a coastal town with a nice municipal beach. While there we had a look around La Trinidad RV Ranch, a quiet, well set up park, with a restaurant and swimming pool.

On the way back we stopped off to look around Los Barriles. The town is small and relaxed but with plenty of shops, supermarkets, restaurants, bank etc. There are quite a people going about in ATV’s that they use as transport on the dirt roads, beach and to go to the shops.

This evening we went around to Grumpy and Monica’s for drinks.

From their site they have a lovely view across the bay.

A short walk down the beach is the El Gecko Beach Bar and Restaurant where we went for dinner with Debbie and Dave. We all had fish dishes that were delicious and great service from Freud our waiter.

Friday 12th February

Cattle and goats roam about freely here and this morning a few cattle came onto the beach.

The beach is a popular spot for fishing and kiteboarding. In the afternoon the wind builds up and is ideal for the kiteboards.

Stayed around camp today. The sewer pipe on our site is not working, therefore Hutch arranged for the maintenance guys to come along to fix things. They dug a hole and the problem became evident, a large hole in the outlet pipe. The pipe was replaced and all seems to be working okay.

Drinks with Debbie, Dave, Monica, Grumpy, Kathy and Jerry at the El Greko bar. Then back to the RV for steak dinner.

Saturday 13th February

Rode into town on our bikes with Debbie and Dave.

Our first stop was the Farmers Market set up in a small plaza. Everyone was very friendly and the vendors were selling bread, pastries, fruit, vegetables, leather goods, clothes, rugs, table cloths and chocolate tequila!

Next we biked to one of the beach resorts, Hotel Palmas de Cortez. A very nice hotel set in large grounds and gardens with sea views. The entrance has a large palapa roofed area with an aviary full of budgies of all colours. We stopped off for a drink at the Smoke House bar before biking back to the RV Park. Later we went to Debbie and Dave’s for drinks and snacks - homemade guacamole and chicken wings.

Sunday 14th February – Valentine’s Day

Today we headed up into the Sierra De La Laguna and Rancho Ecological Sol de Mayo. We took Highway 1 south to the town of Santiago and then onto a dirt road up to the Rancho. Here there was a small restaurant, space for small RV’s to park and casitas for rent. The big attraction is the Cascada Sol de Mayo, a lovely little waterfall and pool down in the Canon de la Zorra. Dogs were not allowed at the pool, therefore Tony stayed behind with Sandy and had a nice steak lunch cooked on the outside grill.

The waterfall is a quarter mile hike from the Rancho down a track with some large boulders and rough cut steps to negotiate. It was hot going in the blazing sun but it was worth it when we reached the beautiful cool waters at the bottom.

We spent some time swimming in the pool, it was just delightful. Debbie and I went off to explore a small waterfall at the edge of the pool and on the way back a small black water snake swam in front of me and disappeared into the reeds at the side of the pool. Eventually we made our way back up to the restaurant and stayed a while to have a drink. What an idyllic spot.

On our way back to Los Barriles we had a look around the town of Santiago. From the dirt road we had a lovely view of a palm fringed lake at the edge of town.

This is a fruit and palm growing area. The palms supply the material for the palapa roofs that are seen everywhere.

We cooked dinner for the six of us this evening. Grumpy and Monica supplied the Valentines champagne.

Monday 15th February

The weather is just beautiful, hot and sunny with a breeze. Stayed around camp today and did some reading.

Went down onto the beach this afternoon and watched the kiteboarding. Sandy is having a great time with several runs a day on the beach and cooling off in the sea.

Dinner at Grumpy and Monica’s this evening overlooking the sea.

Tuesday 16th February

Up early this morning, the sunrise over the sea was beautiful. We headed out going south towards La Ribera where we turned right onto the Coastal Road for a further 17 miles to the small community of Cabo Pulmo. There was road works and we were on dirt road most of the way, some of it extremely bumpy – lucky we were in Dave and Debbie’s pick up truck.

Cabo Pulmo was a fishing village but is now a sleepy beach village with holiday homes and several scuba diving and snorkeling centres. The sand bay is lovely and there is a coral reef just off shore, one of the main attractions here. We stopped off at El Caballero restaurant for coffee and then headed for the beach. Debbie and I did some snorkeling, didn’t see much but the sea was pleasantly warm.

Back to Los Barrilas for lunch on the open patio of Las Casita restaurant near the RV Park. The menu was good and we all had excellent meals. I had parrot fish on a bed of mash potato topped with vegetables, Debbie had large coconut coated prawns and Tony and Dave had spare ribs.

Wednesday 17th February

Quiet day around camp and the beach.

Dinner at Debbie and Dave’s this evening, a lovely seafood pasta.

Thursday 18th February

Debbie and Dave went over to the west coast today, to the town of Todos Santos. We dog-sat Ulee whilst they were away.

Keri and David arrived back at Playa Norte after spending a few days on the west coast. We had an early evening get together with them and Debbie, Dave, Grumpy, Monica, Pat and LeRoy.

Friday 19th February

We were up at first light to see the sunrise over the sea. It was a little cloudy this morning but the sunrise can be spectacular here.

We also saw a group of Mobula rays jumping out of the water.

Debbie and Ulle joined us on the beach.

The wind has dropped to nothing and the sea is like glass. Madeleine and Michael very kindly said that Debbie and I could borrow their kayak. We set off and paddled slowly along the coast.

Came across quite a few people paddle boarding, one lady had her two dogs on board.

We stopped to chat with a couple of boarders and they told us where to go for the best snorkeling.

The Gecko Beach Bar.

Playa Norte RV Park.

This afternoon we set off through town to go to the snorkeling spot we were recommended to visit. Just off the beach there was a group of rocks where the fish congregated. We saw several colourful fish and I spotted a small octopus emerge from under a rock and immediately change colour to merge in with the sand.

This evening several of the group went to ‘Three Dog Corner’ a car park on the road into town. Every Friday and Saturday a food cart is set up and tables and chairs are put out in the car park. The food is cooked on an open grill and the place is very popular.

Saturday 20th February

The wind has returned, which has pleased the kiteboarders.

Took a ride down to San Jose del Cabo which is about an hour away to the south. Our main purpose for the journey was to visit Walmart and stock up on food.

On the way back we stopped off at the Tropic of Cancer, latitude N 23 degrees. South of here you have officially entered the tropics. There’s a monument with a very pretty little chapel and a globe marking the spot.

Further along the road we saw several Mexican cowboys riding their horses along the side of the road. They all seemed to be heading towards a gathering, looked like the Mexican version of a gymkhana.

We all went to Debbie and Dave’s for drinks this evening. Met their neighbours, Sharon and Ron who are regular winter visitors here.

Sunday 21st February

We woke up to some tragic news this morning, our neighbour here Bob, died in his sleep during the night from a heart attack. Bob and his wife Brenda are from British Columbia and have been coming to Playa Norte for some years and have many friends within the regular winter community here. Everybody rallied around to support Brenda and help with the formalities and the Mexican medical authorities and Police.

We all congregated at Michael and Madeleine’s RV this morning for breakfast waffles. Michael mixes his own sough dough and has a waffle maker. We all sat outside in the sunshine enjoying the fluffy fresh made waffles covered in banana and a sweet sauce – delicious.

Debbie and I attempted to go for a swim but there are a lot of stones to clamber over in the shallows and the waves were rolling in fast.

Sat outside the RV this afternoon and played Mexican Trains with Debbie, Dianne and Randy. We all won a round each.

This evening the whole group gathered for a pot luck dinner at Monica and Grumpy’s site. The food was plentiful and delicious, hotpot, fish and seafood stew, vegetables and pasta, Mediterranean salad, barbeque ribs and chicken wings, date bread and ice cream with banana and sweet sauce. We have some excellent cooks on this caravan. Finished the evening playing famous people.

Monday 22nd February

We said a sad and tearful goodbye to Debbie and Dave this morning. They are heading north to La Ventana to see some friends. We have had lots of fun and laughs together and we will miss them very much. Saw Brenda this morning. Her son has arrived and three other children will arrive today. Brenda called Sandy over for a cookie – Bob always did that from the day we arrived. The family will be going to La Paz to arrange the cremation. Bob’s ashes will be scattered at his favourite spot along the coast.

A full moon came up over the sea this evening.

We had a visitor to camp at dinner time this evening. A young Labrador cross that looked like she had just had puppies. She is a lovely dog, very well behaved, no collar on but she looked well fed.

Tuesday 23rd February

Said a fond farewell to Monica and Grumpy this morning – our ‘tail gunners’. They have been good company and did a brilliant job keeping the caravan together whilst we were on the road. We will miss Grumpy’s voice coming over the CB on our return journey announcing overtaking vehicles coming up fast on our tails.

We have now moved camp-site to a position overlooking the beach and the bay with the mountains as a backdrop.

This afternoon we went to the Lazy Daze beach bar with Keri and Dave. The bar is along the beach towards Los Barrilas and we decided to go by road and all piled into the Celica. We turned off the road onto a sand track towards the beach and along the way we came to a set of speed bumps. In towns here there are lots of these speed bumps, called Topes. We got over the first Tope but grounded on the second and all the passenger’s had to get out and walk. Tony made it down to the bar without the extra weight – as John Smith commented earlier in the trip, ‘the Celica is not a Baja car’. We spent a pleasant afternoon sitting in the shade of the bar. Sara and John joined us and entertained us with tales of the late 60’s and early 70’s when they were hippies and travelled across Europe and India in a yellow camper van.

Wednesday 24th February

The rest of the caravan left Playa Norte this morning to make their way north. They will be meeting up with Becky and John at the weekend for the journey back to the US. The caravan has been a great experience, we have met some lovely people and made some good friends, it was sad to see them all go. Baja Winters is very professionally run, well organized and experienced in the routes they travel. Becky and John are excellent hosts and Wagon Masters, very knowledgeable about Baja and good fun. We will be here until the 20th March and looking forward to John and Judy arriving on the 12th.

Lunch at El Gecko Beach Bar watching the kite and sail boarders.

Thursday 25th February

We have a lovely view from our bedroom window of the sun and the moon rise over the sea.

The weather has been hot with a refreshing wind that gets up in the morning and dies down at sunset. Stayed around camp this morning doing a few chores. Went into Los Barrilas this afternoon to collect our laundry and visit the Roadrunner Café and Bakery, picked up some nice fresh raison bread.

Friday 26th February

Stayed around camp again today and did some DIY. Tony fitted a new ceiling vent and fan in the bedroom.

Went to El Gecko bar for an early dinner.

Saturday 27th February

Up early this morning to watch the sunrise. Sandy went for her usual walk along the beach and dip in the sea. There are a lot of rocks along the beach which she likes to explore looking for chipmunks.

Our next door neighbour left this morning after being here since November, he is a keen kite boarder. The campsite is starting to get very quiet and looks half empty.

Sandy staying close by after being told to stay but keeping a watchful eye on the chipmunks.

Walked down the beach to Lazy Daze beach bar this afternoon. It is very popular with the US/Canadian winter visitors and was busy when we arrived. Everyone is very friendly and we had a nice chat with a couple of people. One recently retired guy from Minnesota has built a house here. He spent sometime in Europe in 1970 before being called up and joining the marines.

Sunday 28th February

New neighbours arrived this morning, Kathy and Art from Montana. Kathy and I heard the bark of a sea lion but on scanning the sea and beach could see nothing. A little later we spotted him lying on his back in the sea, sun bathing with feet and flippers in the air.

There are quite a few birds around the camp, notably vultures who sometimes gather on the beach looking for dead fish remains.

Also, frigate birds that harass other birds into dropping the food they have caught so that they can eat it.

Kathy and Art have a super blowup kayak that fits neatly into a bag for carriage. The make is Sea Eagle and happens to be the model we are thinking of buying. They have kindly said that we can try it out.

This evening we went to Tio Pablo’s in Los Barriles for dinner. The Sunday special was prime rib and it was excellent but far too must to eat in one go. The restaurant was recommended to us by Terry who has been coming here every winter for some years and has been very helpful with advise on where to go and what to see.

Monday 29th February.

Today we drove the southern loop road around to Todos Santos on the west coast. First, we stopped off in San Jose to visit the Mega Supermarket and stock up on a few things, including fins and snorkels. Sat outside in the sunshine eating cake and drinking coffee.

The only large supermarket that I know with such a nice view of the sea.

Continued on south through the area known as The Corridor joining San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. A 29 kilometer stretch of nice coastline with sandy beaches and luxury resorts. Cabo San Lucas is situated at the tip of the peninsula and Playa Del Amor is where the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez connect. This a lively party town in a nice setting with sandy beaches, a large marina and we saw a big cruise ship in the bay while we were there. The town is popular for deep sea fishing and has plenty of shops and restaurants. We managed to get lost whilst looking for highway 19 to Todos Santos and found ourselves away from the main tourist area in a grid of dirt roads where there were small businesses, shops, bars, restaurants and Mexican homes. As we got further into the suburbs we decided to turn back and retrace our steps and eventually headed out of town north to the pacific coast.

As we travelled along the West Cape the Pacific Ocean came into view with big waves rolling onto the beaches.

This is the least developed area of coastline on the Baja peninsula although the road is good. We turned off the highway onto a dirt track for the 2.7 kilometer drive to Playa Los Cerritos.

A surfing beach with a beach club bar and high on a bluff that shelters the bay there is a Spanish style hotel, otherwise there was very little development. The surf was up and there were plenty of people out on their boards riding the waves. The beach was busy and dotted with shaded beds where body massages were offered and vendors roamed the beach selling silver jewellery.

We noticed someone with a Baja Winters tee-shirt on, this was Ken and his wife Lara and indeed they knew Becky and John. After a chat with Ken and Lara, and a refreshing drink in the shade outside the beach bar we got back on the road.

Todos Santos is known as Baja’s art colony. This is an old mission town with an historic district of old houses and at one time it had a booming sugarcane industry. There are shops selling silver jewellery, craft stores, galleries, restaurants, hotels and nice small shopping plazas. Although there seems plenty going on in the town it still has a rural small town feel. The town and the surrounding area is quite green with crops watered by an underground freshwater spring.

We continued north on Highway 19 to meet up with Highway 1 south of San Pedro. Here we climbed south into the Sierra De La Laguna and back to the East Cape. Travelling through the old silver mining town of El Triunfo and passing by the church.

Arriving back at Los Barriles early evening having completed the south loop road around the peninsula.

Tuesday 1st March

After our journey around the peninsula yesterday we had a day around camp today

Wednesday 2nd March

This morning we went snorkeling with Kathy and Art to a nice beach north of here at Punta Pescaderos. We took the reasonably paved road up into the hills and inland for a while before coming back to the coast and taking a dirt track down to the beach and hotel. The Hotel Punta Pescadero Paradise has a paved landing strip for private pilots to use and is a popular sports fishing destination. We were in the Celica and found the road rough going at times and bottomed out going over one particular hump in the road. However, we made it down to this lovely quiet pristine beach and had great views of the coastline on the way. The snorkeling around the rocks was good and we saw many colourful fish – puffer fish, trumpet fish, Moorish Idols etc. We sat on the beach for a while but there was no shade and it was pretty hot.

Nachos for lunch at El Gecko beach bar.

This afternoon Art and Kathy went out in the kayak and tried out their sail.

Then Art took us out individually in the kayak. It handles very well.

Thursday 3rd March

Started out on our bikes to go into town but didn’t get very far. Tony’s seat is still coming loose and needs some further repair, might need to go to the bike shop in town.

Took the car in and got some groceries. Stopped off at Caleb’s Café for coffee and muffin. They have a Pandelaria next door where there is freshly baked bread and cakes.

Early evening saw some mobula rays jumping out of the water.

Friday 4th March

Happy 18th Birthday Ellie

The laundry is the only place to get wifi at the moment but I managed to get a decent enough connection to FaceTime Ellie. They had just arrived home from having a birthday lunch and all the family were arriving. I saw her blow out the candles on her birthday cake and joined in the happy birthday singing.

Kathy and Art went out in the kayak to the rocks in Los Barriles to do some snorkeling. While they were out a whale came within meters of the boat. We took the kayak out when they returned but saw no whales.

Saturday 5th March

Another spectacular sunrise this morning.

Before the sun came up mobula rays were jumping high out of the water and then a pod of humpback whales put on a spectacular performance for us. They were breeching high out of the water, sending spouts of water into the air and their tails high before diving down. Hard to tell how many there were, possibly seven.

This evening we had a pod of dolphins come in very close to shore. They seemed to be going around in circles, surrounding a shoal of fish. William and his thee dogs came down to the beach to watch the display.

There is very little light pollution here and we were out this evening star gazing with Kathy and Art. We could easily identified, Orions belt, the big dipper, north star, it was quite a display.

Just another day in Baja.

Sunday 6th March

Walked along the beach this morning into Los Barriles.

There are some nice waterfront properties along the beach.

ATV’s buzzed past us and there were a few parked outside the La Playa Restaurant where it sounded like a lively scene was going on.

There is an active turtle conservation movement going on here and around the peninsula. On the beach there is a compound where turtle eggs are protected until hatching and then the turtles are released.

Went into the sea when we got back to the RV Park to cool off.

Drying off in the sun.

This evening we went to La Casita Restaurant for dinner. A very friendly and lively place with a high standard of service and a great menu. Tony had Argentinian steak, I had coconut coated shrimps. Flan and bread pudding for desserts, delicious.

Monday 7th March

Stayed around camp most of the day, cleaning the RV and doing a few chores. Tony finished sealing in place the new ceiling vent fans. This job has to be done early or late, it is too hot to go onto the roof for any length of time past mid-morning.

The local goat herd came around the park this afternoon to nibble on the trees, together with their dog minders.

Tuesday 8th March – Happy Wedding day to Melita and Jon

Had a very blustery night. We woke up to hear one of the ceiling vent covers blowing off the roof, luckily it didn’t go far. First thing this morning Tony went onto the roof to secure all the ceiling vent covers into place.

By 1000 the wind started blowing strongly again, the sky clouded over and the sea looked very grey. This continued until late afternoon when we saw heavy dark clouds approaching from the mountains and a thunderstorms struck with very heavy rain.

Managed to get a few things done, updated the blog, cleaned the BBQ but as rain had stopped play we went into town. I dropped off a few clothes at the thrift shop that I had sorted out for them to sell for charity. Whilst there we found a Bocce set. Called in at the Smoke House Bar for a drink and Nachos with French fries instead of corn chips – nice. The rain creased and there was a rainbow that looked close to shore with wide bands of colour.

For dinner we cooked fresh king prawns in oil, garlic and sliced serrano chili. The fish and shellfish here are fresh from the sea and just delicious.

Wednesday 9th March

Heavy rain most of the night. Strong winds all day but we were back to blue skies. We bought fresh strawberries from one of the vendors that comes to the RV Park and put them to good use, Tony made strawberry cocktails.

Thursday 10th March

Played Bocce this afternoon with Kathy and Art, we won by one point! Celebrated with a strawberry milkshakes all round. This evening went to El Gecko for dinner and all had molcajete. This dish comes in a lava bowl and has a choice of steak, chicken, shrimp, or combination of all three with vegetables, cactus leaf and chili sauce.

Friday 11th March.

We had a return Bocce match with Kathy and Art. They thrashed us by quite a large margin of points. This time we cracked open a bottle of wine and all sat looking over the sea and chatting until it got dark.

Saturday 12th March

Went off to San Jose airport to collect Judy and John arriving from Mexico City. It was great to see them and catch up with all the news from home and here about their fantastic tour of mainland Mexico.

Dinner at El Gecko. Had guacamole for starter that was expertly mixed at the table

and then fish and molcajete for main course.

Sunday 13th March

After breakfast we walked along the beach to Los Barriles. Stopped for coffee and then back to the RV for lunch. Sunny and warm but very windy, John braved the waves and had a swim.

To La Casita for dinner. It was very busy and lively but our table was reserved and waiting for us. We had a selection shushimi for starter then Tony and I had tataki tuna for main course, John had Mango Prawns and Judy had Tuna and avocado shushimi. It was all delicious.

Monday 14th March

Travelled north on Mex 1 this morning to La Paz. Our first stop was the tourist Information office to enquire about whale watching in Magdelena Bay. This is the nearest of three sheltered bays on the Pacific coast where the grey whales go to give birth before migrating up to Canada and Alaska for the summer. The assistant was really helpful and called the president of the fisherman’s cooperative in Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos. He said that there were fifteen whales with their babies still in the bay. Next he advised us where to go to arrange snorkeling with whale sharks. We stopped for coffee and crepes and then walked along the Malecon to Sun Rider tours who offer an excursion on a catamaran to swim with a whale shark and provide all the snorkeling gear and a wet suit to wear. Last stop Walmart for some supplies.

When we arrived back at Playa Norte I asked Hutch (the Camp Host) to telephone the whale watching cooperative to check details and get a contact name and number. They advised that we needed to be there early in the morning when the tide is high. We estimated it would take about six hours to reach Puerto Adolfo Lopes Mateos and it could mean two nights away, therefore out of the two options we decided to go to La Paz and swim with a whale shark.

For dinner we cooked prawns in garlic, accompanied by crusty bread and vegetables. For pudding we had ice cream with crushed chocolate biscuits and strawberries, covered in Mayan chocolate liqueur bought by Judy and John.

Tuesday 15th March

We packed up this morning and headed back up through the mountains in the RV to La Paz.

Booked in at the Maranatha RV Park just north of the town for an overnight stay. Then went into La Paz to watch the sunset from the Malacon and have dinner.

Wednesday 16th March

Went to the Sun Rider office at 1030 and met our guide Jaquin and got fitted out in wetsuits, fins, masks and snorkels ready to go out and swim with the whale sharks.

We crossed over the Malecon and walked down a short pier to where the boat was waiting to take us out into the bay. There was just one other person on the boat with us, Scott, who was visiting from Long Island.

The first thing we saw was a pod of dolphins that came very close to the boat.

About twenty minutes out we came across our first whale shark and jumped into the water. It was moving quite quickly and we had to swim hard to keep up. Once it moved down into the depths we got back on the boat. The captain was up on the flying deck looking out for the sharks and we were soon back in the water again.

The whale sharks are in the bay feeding on plankton and vary in size from 3 meters to 10 meters. The skin on the fish looks almost velvet in texture with white dappled spots. They have a large wide mouth that stays open when they are catching plankton and eyes that are set on the side of their head.

We stopped to see and swim with several whale sharks but the last shark we saw was feeding and moving very slowly which allowed us to easily keep up. It was a wonderful experience to swim with and watch this animal so closely.

After a couple of hours on the boat we returned to the pier and said goodbye to the captain and Jaquin who had been an excellent guide. We all agreed this had been a great trip and was amazed at how many whale sharks we had seen, in some parts of the world you would be lucky to see one. It was a real privilege to get up close and have the opportunity to see these gentle giants of the sea in their natural habitat.

We arrived back in Las Barrilas just before 5pm. Before dinner we watched a spectacular sunset over the mountains.

Went to El Gecko for dinner where we were serenaded by a Mariachi band.

Freud mixed our guacamole starter.

What a day, over dinner we discussed the animals that we had seen and what an enjoyable day it had been.

Thursday 17th March

Happy Birthday Luis – 7 today

After a late breakfast we headed into Las Barrilas to snorkel around the rocks just off shore. The weather was hot and sunny and it was nice to get into the water to cool off. The visibility was good, the water was crystal clear and we saw a good variety of colourful tropical fish.

For lunch we stopped off at Las Pirates and had the best shrimp and fish tacos we had ever tasted.

Next it was to the supermarket to buy beef steaks for dinner.

The steaks were excellent and we finished off the evening watching a movie, Calamity Jane with Doris Day and plenty of great songs.

Friday 18th March.

Breakfast

Started the day with a dip in the sea.

The water was flat calm and as crystal clear as ever. This afternoon we took a walk down the beach to Lazy Daze beach bar.

Had a chat with the owner and during the conversation it came out that her daughter in law was Pink. Walked back to the RV as the sun was setting.

For dinner we had barbeque chicken and fresh king prawns with roasted vegetables.

Saturday

19th March - Happy Birthday to Joe Blythe, born today at 2.58 pm GMT

After breakfast we got in the car to take Judy and John to San Jose airport for their flight to Mexico City before going home on Monday. It was so sad to see them go but we have had a great week with lots of memorable moments, in particular our swim with the whale sharks – blimey!

Went over to the laundry to get some wifi this afternoon to see the news that Chris and Dave had become grand-parents, baby Blythe came into the world today weighing in at 9Ib 1oz. We started to pack up the RV and get the laundry done this afternoon in preparation to leave Playa Norte early tomorrow to start our journey back to the US. We had our last sunset cocktail overlooking the sea and drank to the health of the new arrival. Sandy had her last runaround with Sammie the dog from across the way.

They have had lots of adventures around the beach, rocks and in the arroyo looking for critters. It has been good to let Sandy run around off leash. The first thing Hutch said to us when we arrived was ‘why is your dog on a leash, let her off’. There are no Mexican dogs on leashes. There is an iguana that lives here in the RV Park inside the trunk of a tree. I have only ever seen its tail handing out of a hole in the tree but for the first time today his face appeared.

Sunday 20th March – Los Barriles to Santispac Beach 353 miles – 9 hours

Up early this morning to look at our last sunrise here at Playa Norte.

We have enjoyed every minute of our Baja trip from the journey down with the caravan and all the new friends we made, to our stay at Playa Norte and our place near the beach overlooking the Sea of Cortez where we woke up every morning. Los Barriles is a relaxed un-spoilt town with a nice mix of friendly snow birders and locals. It has plenty of small shops, bars, restaurants hotels, RV Parks and amenities without spoiling the beach town feel of the place. Playa Norte RV park is in a perfect position right on the beach and the Camp Manager, Hutch has been a good host. Our favourite places have been, La Casita Restaurant - particularly the sashimi, El Gecko Beach Bar just a walk away and there homemade at the table guacamole and Lazy Daze Beach Bar twenty minutes walk away across the arroyo and all the friendly America and Canadian locals. We have enjoyed swimming and kayaking in the clean, crystal clear sea with its abundance of marine life. The pleasure of being able to walk out of the RV and maybe spot a mobula ray flinging itself out of the water or a humpbacked whale breeching high out of the sea or a sea lion lying on its back in the sea sun bathing. The rural feel of the place with cows and goats that wander around freely with their canine minders. We have enjoyed our walks on the beautiful soft sand beach, sunrise and sunset, full moons that reflect brightly off the sand and light up the camp ground, clean air, low light pollution and a sky full of stars. Sandy looking for Sammy to come out to play.

This place has something special about it and it was hard to drive away this morning but it is time to move on with a hope that we will come back one day. We made our way along the sand track

by passing the town up to Mex 1 with the locals we passed waving goodbye. Crossed the arroyo and made our way north into the mountains towards La Paz. On the way we saw some cattle grazing on a steep hill like goats. Just past La Paz we came to a check point but wasn’t stopped. Continued north up the centre of Baja and stopped for a break at the village of Las Pocitas where there are some artisan shops. Passed throug

h the towns of Ciudad Constitution and Ciudad Insurgentes where we turned left heading east to Loreto. We entered the Sierra De La Giganta and started to climb. The road eventually paralleled the east coast and we got views of the Sea of Cortez. Good views of Loreto Bay as we made our way down to sea level.Past the Nopolo resort about five miles south of town with it stunning looking golf course. Just past Loreto we came to a military check point.

A soldier had a look around the RV and checked the cupboards. They asked where we were from and to see our car registration document and then we were on our way. Continued north along a wide inland valley and eventually Bahia Concepcion came into sight. This is a large shallow bay with several beaches where you can camp just feet from the sea. On the north shore of the bay we had a nice view from the road of beautiful Playa Santispac,

our camp for the night. We had spent two lovely days here with the caravan on the way down. It is dry camping, there are no hook ups and for a 100 pesos a night, trash cans and pit toilets. As soon as we had parked we were in the shallow warm water of the bay.

It is spring break here and the children are off school, therefore the beach was full of families camping along the shore. We headed for the beach bar for one of their substantial margaritas, after a long day on the road it was just what was needed.

After a dinner of fresh fish, salad and rice we went to bed early.

Monay 21st March – Santispac Beach to San Quintin 431 miles

Got on the road at sunrise and travelled north along the coast passing through the tropical looking town of Mulege with its palms, river and mangroves. Thirty eight miles further on is the copper mining town of Santa Rosalia. Relicts of the old mining operation that stared in the 1880’s by a French company lie rusting alongside the road. It looks a mess but it is also quite interesting to see this old infrastructure. The town church is also QI, it was designed by A.G. Eiffel of the famous tower, built in France and shipped out. From here we turned inland and started to climb into the Sierra San Francisco and the steepest grade on Mex 1, The Cuesta Del Infierno. It seemed that on every mountain bend we came to an articulated – or ‘semi’ as they say here - 18 wheel truck was coming the other way and we had to squeeze by each other. Just past San Ignacio there was a military check point. The soldiers examined the RV and looked in the cupboards. They asked where we were from, where we had traveled from and where we were going to and how long we has been in Baja and what the dogs name was and then we on our way. Continued on along straight roads through flat desert terrain towards Guerrero Negro near the Pacific coast. At Guerrero Negro is the border between Baja California and Baja California Sur where there is a military base, motel, big statue of an eagle and a big flag flying. We went through without any checks. Here we changed back to pacific time and gained an hour. Osprey nest at border,

Guerrero Negro.

The landscape became arid sand desert from here up to the military check point at El Tomatal. We were asked the usual questions and the RV was inspected. Just past the border a coyote ran across the road in front of the RV, good job he was fast. The first coyote we have seen in Mexico. The terrain became more rugged. A few miles down the road we parked at a truck stop for a break. Gave a very thin looking dog some food and water. We started to see more cactus and the desert became greener. The two lane highway here is narrow and has no shoulders. It is only has 9ft 5in lane width in parts which is very narrow considering the RV is 8ft 4in wide plus wing mirrors. We had a very scary moment when the outside wheel of the tow dolly with the car on went off the edge of the road. After bringing it back onto the road it started to sway which then impacted on the RV steering. Tony did a brilliant job bringing the vehicle back under control. As we headed towards Catavina the highway ran along Laguna Chapala a large dry lake bed. Beyond this is Cerro Pedregoso which means rocky hill and is a landmark for travellers along the highway. On the approach to Catavina we entered what is known as the Sonoran Desert Vegetation Region. This is the area of granite boulder fields with many varieties of cactus growing around them. It is just like a large cactus rockery, a fascinating and unspoilt part of the country. Many of the cactus were flowering and as we moved into the Peninsular Range of mountains the countryside was surprisingly green with yellow spring flowers on the road side shrubs.

North of El Rosario we climbed through mountain roads on to El Rosario Mesa before descending down the canyon to San Quintin and the Pacific Ocean. We parked for the night at one of the ocean front RV parks. It had been a long day and Sandy was pleased to have long run on the beach. Nice sunset over the sea.

Tuesday 22nd March - San Quintin to Yuma - 341 miles

Up and on the road just after sunrise. Made our way north through agricultural areas and farming communities. Spring has definitely sprung since we came through here in early February, yellow, white and purple flowers everywhere.

Going shopping cowboy style.

We climbed through green hills on winding roads before descending into the Santo Tomas Valley. The scenery is breathtaking.

After climbing out of the valley came the descent into the town of Maneadero.

From here we soon came to the large town and port of Ensenada. Followed the harbor road around the town until we came to the turn off for Mex 3 taking us north to the border town of Tecate. A few miles out we came to the vine growing area of the Guadeloupe Valley. We climbed out of the valley into green hills and valleys. As we neared the border the terrain changed to boulder strewn hills, similar to those around San Diego and southern California. We got to Tecate at about 1200,

filled up with petrol, went around the town three times looking for the border exit point and finely joined the long queue of vehicles waiting to go through the border.

The vehicle was inspected by customs and we went into the immigration office to have our fingerprints and a photograph taken before being issued with a permit to stay for a further six months. We’re back in the USA! From Los Barrilas to Tecate we have driven a total of 981 miles. We now start our journey east for 2,500 miles to Orlando, Florida to meet up with Simon, Ninette, Tom and Ellie. From Tecate we took the 94 east, a quiet stretch of road through some very green and pretty ranch and farm country. Picked up the I-8 to Yuma. Got back into boulder country and as we climbed into the hills

encountered some very high winds that rocked the RV about. The winds lessened as we got lower and entered the Imperial Valley. Around Yuma the roads were busy and we have to get used to traffic again and the rail roads. The noise of the engine whistle is one of the sounds of America. Parked at Walmart in Yuma to get supplies and stay overnight.