Archive | October, 2011


27 Oct

So how are things going with you? Hopefully you’re working or maybe collecting U.I.?  Maybe your benefits are just about at an end and the prospects of collecting Welfare are starting to loom large. Ever since the recession hit, things have been pretty rough and if you watch American T.V. you’ve certainly come to realize that things are way worse in the States than they are in Canada. Europe is constantly in the news, as Greece slides into financial chaos soon perhaps to be followed by other countries that have been unable to control their financial messes.

A cardinal comes to sample our oranges in the early morning

Through it all, how much have you heard about Mexico? Probably the only things you’ve heard about have been the drug wars and innocents being murdered by the drug Cartels, or perhaps the media ranting about how unsafe it is because some tourist has been mugged or killed. I’d be willing to bet you haven’t heard a word about how the Recession has impacted down here have you?

Things are very bad, very bad indeed. First let me explain a little about Mexican Employment Law. Once you have been hired, unless you do something so egregious that you could be arrested for it, you can’t be laid off or fired. The only way you leave a job is to retire, quit or die. Our social services such as Welfare and Unemployment insurance either don’t exist here or are offered only sporadically depending on which State you live in and Baja Sur has neither. Now I exaggerate, but not much, you can be laid off but it requires a large severance package to be paid.

So imagine what happens to cities and states that have all these employees, but no money to pay them. Not only do they not have money to pay the employees, they have no money to run the basic infrastructures that keep cities functioning. Since they have no money to pay in wages, they certainly don’t have any to pay out in severance packages to laid off employees, so they stay on the payroll.

Trying his luck, fishing at dawn

Let me give you a little background here, so you’ll have a little understanding. Mexico is a third world country that has lots of petro dollars and like every other similar country; it also has lots of corruption, from the local city cops right up to federal government ministers. It also has very wealthy drug cartels.

Now this is going to sound a bit strange but when there wasn’t this huge crackdown on the Cartels, things worked better. The Cartels held areas of the country, mostly along the border and in a few other states such as Sinaloa and Chihuahua. In these places the Cartels ran everything, including the schools, hospitals and charities. They made sure that the people were looked after. Sure the elections were rigged and only those politicians who were being paid by the Cartels were elected, and if you crossed them your life wasn’t worth a plug nickel, but things worked, maybe only in a warped way, but they worked. Money trickled down eventually to everyone.

That is no longer the case.

Who watches the watcher?

First came the American war on drugs and the billions of dollars offered to the Mexican Government to do away with the Cartels. Now, I’m not saying that was a bad thing, since at the same time Calderon was also getting rid of those in his government from Customs Officers to Federal Ministers who were corrupt and replacing them with honest people who would work for the betterment of the country as a whole. In the minds of right thinking people this was a wonderful idea and full of good intentions. The problem is we all know what the road to Hell is paved with.

Calderon was using the American money to try and break the Cartels and was siphoning other monies to the cause from various Government agencies, when the recession hit. Now the Cartels are no longer looking after the people in their areas, they are using it to fight a war against the government and the Government no longer has excess money to spend on anything. The people are suffering.

A school of fish paying me no attention.

Down here in Baja, the city has employees, but no money to pay them and hasn’t for 2 years, there is also a drought that’s in it’s 2nd year and the fishing is getting worse every year. Unemployment is rampant and even those with jobs are only holding on in hopes that eventually some money will appear and they will get some back wages. The Rancher’s animals are dying because they can’t afford to feed them and there is nothing left to eat in the desert. The fishermen, generally the poorest of the poor are bringing in less and less all the time and no one has any money to buy their catch anyways. Even the big tourist developments have stopped work because the tourists are not buying anymore and they certainly are not coming in the numbers they used to. Things are very bad.

Now, try to predict what happens in places like this when every 6 months, there is a large influx of what look like rich tourists who come to stay for 3 to 6 months at a time. Do you think you’d look upon these folks as fonts of money? Bingo!

When we arrived a few years ago, the economy was booming, condos, golf courses and hotels were being built at breakneck speed and all the beaches that were accessible were free to all. That changed in 2009, with the introduction of a rental fee for the right to stay on the beach and call the space you occupied yours for the season. Now we are talking a million dollar view for a pittance. The rate was 1940 pesos per month, that’s about $160.00 Canadian.

This little fellow was just as curious as I was.

You can imagine the hue and cry that ensued, with some flat out refusing to pay and actually being escorted away by the local constabulary. I mean let’s face it, none of us, regardless as to where we come from, could find anywhere at home for that price, probably not even a rat infested flophouse.  So most of us coughed up the money, knowing that we were is some small way helping the locals.

The price stayed the same all of last year, but and it’s a big but, no one was quite aware as to what the local Mayor was up to. It seems after the election in Loreto last February, it become obvious that the previous Mayor was a big time crook and he took the city for ever last cent they had, then buggered off. The city is absolutely, flat out broke and there is no money to be had from the State of Baja, since they can’t get any from the Federal Government. What’s the new administration to do? Why, raise the beach rates of course.

The fellow who has always collected the monies came last week and told us that the new Comptroller wanted to raise the fee to 3600 pesos a month, (about $300.00 Can). Since we are all rich tourists we could afford it they thought. Wrong!

Heading back to his home.

Off we all went to see this gentleman and to try and disabuse him of that impression. Most of us who spend 6 months of our lives every winter in this beautiful place do so because we can’t afford to live in our own counties full time. We are the poor (but not impoverished) of Canada and the United States, who have to travel to a poorer country in order to survive on our limited pensions and incomes.

We made a new friend that day and we all came away with a new understanding as to the struggles we are all facing in this new age of financial uncertainty. He understood that we could afford a small increase and that all of us try very hard to spend as much money as we can afford to support the local businesses. We were made aware of just how bad things are down here and how far they need to go to get back to where they were just a few years ago.

So rent has gone up to 2400 pesos a month, (about $200.00 Can) bringing in some badly needed funds into the cities coffers and helping to pay city workers that haven’t had a pay cheque in months, we got an offer of garbage pick-up, better security, a little work on the road coming in here and maybe, somehow they’ll bring in water. We’ll see, sometimes money in hand down here means we won’t see anyone again until next months rent time, but since we now have a better understanding as to what poor means down here, none of us mind. We pay our rent and this beautiful spot is ours for the winter and if we can help the locals make it through the bad times, so much the better.

We may not have much but for those who have nothing, we are rich beyond compare. They see us arriving with our cars, motorhomes, campers and boats and see wealth. We see old cars, motorhomes and campers that are past their prime and boats that need TLC to keep them afloat and constant tinkering to keep the motors running.

I guess everything really is relative and people judge things based on the only reality that exists for them. We all see our selves as poor or just getting by, yet we all seem to feel ourselves lucky to be here at this place and in this time. Even the locals who are suffering, will tell you that they know folks who are in worse shape than they are and that though things are not great, they could certainly be much, much worse.

Life truly is seen simply through the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?



20 Oct



Just before dawn and only 22c


I mentioned previously that the average daytime temperature down here was sitting at around 35c but that doesn’t actually tell the real story. You have to factor in the humidity levels, which are between 35 and 40 percent. Now I know that doesn’t sound like very much but oh, man does it make a huge difference. With the humidity, the actual temperature is between 40 and 45c. In other words, it’s freaking hot here!

Our home, where ever we are


It’s so hot and humid that you sweat heavily just sitting still and there is no part of you that isn’t wringing wet all day long. Just before sunrise it’s only 22c but as soon as the sun comes up the temperature skyrockets and within 20 minutes it has reached the maximum it’s going to be for the day and it doesn’t cool down until about 3 AM.


So what’s a person with lots of time on their hands to do? Why go swimming of course, or snorkeling or simply standing in the water, right? Uh, wrong. Not unless they have a full-length wet suit. Why? Well, there’s this little creature in the water here that folks call an Auga Male (that’s pronounced malay) Which translates to Bad Water in English. Now that’s probably not its real name nor have I been able to find anyone who can tell me what it really is, but it’s a suitable description.


An Auga Male. Sorry, but it's the best shot I could get!

These things are polyps, less than ½ an inch long, and so clear that they are virtually invisible in the water. They feed themselves by deploying a very long clear thread and when it touches bare skin, it burns, a lot! It also leaves a line of raised red welts that sting and then eventually itches like mad.


Our problem is where our campsite is. We are the last site right beside the launch ramp, so whenever any of the folks down here are trying to launch or retrieve their boats, they usually need help since all the launch ramp really is, is a gradual decline of sand into the water. Not to mention that except for ourselves, the average age on Rattlesnake Beach is 70 and up, so every day we accumulate large numbers of stings and man, are we going through limes since the best cure is warmed lime juice. Vinegar works but not anywhere near as well and I’m sorry but I’m just NOT going to try the old having someone pee on me experiment!

(Appreciation for help is paid in fish. Not that we’ve ever asked but hey, when someone offers you a Dorado, you don’t say no!)


An angelfish swimming by

These little nasty’s will eventually disappear when the water cools down some, but will then be replaced by a jellyfish called String of Pearls which look exactly like their name, except they are an iridescent blue colour. These too make life miserable for swimmers.


All in all, though it may seem as if we’ve moved into Paradise, there is always a price to be paid for it.


I got smart this year and purchased a full-length wetsuit, but have you ever tried to get into a wetsuit? Try doing it when every square inch of your skin is already wet. I know, I know, use cornstarch, but you know what? When your skin is already wet, cornstarch just clumps. So it’s a struggle and by the time I get the damn thing on, I really do need to get in the water as the sweat is pouring off me. Not to mention that even a wetsuit with mask, snorkel and flippers doesn’t cover every portion of skin. The hands and parts of the ankles and face are still bare and you know, getting stung on the face bloody hurts. Considering how long it takes to get the damn thing on, when the folks need help with their boats, I go as I am and in most cases it’s just my bathing suit and me. Oh well, nobody ever said life was going to be easy.


This is a Balloonfish, though they are mistakenly called Pufferfish. These little guys are anywhere there's a rock to protect.

I’m sure your sitting there thinking, Jeez, what a whiner, but you know, writing a travel blog requires truth so here it is, these things are the price we pay for our little slice of Shangri-La… this year. Next year it could be a plague of flies or biting insects, a Grande Norte that blows hard all winter long or a continuation of drought that makes fresh water difficult to come by. We never know what to expect until we get here but we always know there won’t be any free lunch!



Heading to the 25th parallel

13 Oct

Hidy Ho Campers! Here we are on beautiful Rattlesnake Beach in Southern Baja, once more, ready for another winter in the sun.

Daytime temperature is 33c and nights cool down to a balmy 22c. The water is holding steady at 28c. Yeah, I know that’s rubbing it in but hey, this IS a blog about travelling and I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t tell my viewing audience what to expect if they decide to come for a visit or want to live vicariously through me, right?

Now, the last little missive I posted told you I have a peeve I want to rant about, so I might as well get it off my chest right away. I started to notice as we slowly made our way down roads less travelled that everything had a name; roads, bridges, overpasses, parks, beaches, trails, underpasses, byways, freeways, you name it. (hahaha, sorry)

Lake Crescent, northern Washington, on Hwy 101

What got me going was that almost everything was named after, in most cases, “Some Politician”.  Now, I tried looking up some of these names and for the most part Google just went “Huh?” What is it about your average politician that they just have to have some edifice named after them, especially since within 20 years, no one is going to remember who the hell they were, except maybe their closest friends, (Is that possible?) and relatives.

I’ll give you an example, in the town we lived in, there was a lovely park in the downtown core, on the foreshore and it was called simply, Foreshore Park. Kind of says it all doesn’t it? Certainly tells you where and what. A couple of years after a Mayor who had served for 3 terms died, his wife and political cronies who still made up the city council decided it would be a great idea to rename the park after him. So in their finite wisdom, the local politicians changed the name to the “Robert V. Ostler Park”. Pretty much everyone still refers to it as Foreshore Park and even my kids who grew up there have only a vague recollection as to who Robert V. Ostler was. Give it another 10-15 years and only those who stroll through City hall and see his name on the list of mayors will have any clue.

The first beach we came to in Washington State, Ruby Beach

Don’t get me wrong, I see no problem naming things after “famous” politicians, you know, the ones you learn about in school or read about in history books, but the local ones? Give me a break! These, as far as I’m concerned are just a bunch of arrogant, self-centered egotists who see a way of giving themselves a form of immortality and the really crazy thing is, WE GO ALONG WITH IT!

Okaaaaay…..enough about that.

Back to our story…

We were enjoying our last visit with our youngest daughter and her family, playing with our Grandkids, sampling the fruits of their garden and being overwhelmed with her gustatory expertise when the rain started. Sure it was only a little and the sun did come back out every day, but the temperature was going down and this year there was nothing holding us back. Richard was starting to get antsy but I kept delaying leaving as a Mexican Visa is only good for 180 days and the last thing I wanted was to be coming home in March. Richard however, held out a carrot. I have a last surviving aunt in Ontario so he suggested that we could work our way along the southern US and then up into Ontario before we headed home. Damn, that was a good carrot!

One of many, free, secluded spots we always find on our travels

Cape Ferrolo, Ore. The last time we saw the sun. If you have the time and the weather permits by all means travel the 101. The views are to die for.

Once again we took the Coho Ferry across to Port Angeles, but this time we turned right instead of left and took the 101 Hwy down the Pacific Coast. The weather was good and we moseyed down the road instead of thundered. The scenery was gorgeous and we had high hopes for a slow, picturesque journey, hopping from secluded forest campsites, to beautiful beaches, all the way down the Washington, Oregon coasts, with a side trip to McMinnville in northern Oregon.

The best shot I could get. Big isn't it?

McMinnville is a small town but it contains one of the biggest airplanes ever built, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose. This is the crowning glory of The Evergreen Air and Space Museum there and though we had known about this place for sometime, our route and/or schedule had never let us stop and visit. This time we did and we spent the day wandering around, while outside the weather was summer like…and that was the last time we saw the sun, until we crossed the Mexican border.

Not bad eh? Okay it's a picture of a picture, but if you like space stuff, this is a good place to start!

I’ve only included one picture of the Spruce Goose because it’s impossible to get a correct perspective of this baby, but suffice it to say that there are over 100 planes of all sizes nestled under her wings. If you’ve ever been up close and personal with the Martin Mars, you’ll have some idea, but even these don’t come close to the Goose. If you get the chance, enjoy looking at historic airplanes or are interested in the history of the space race from both the American and Russian perspective, go, it’s worth the visit. McMinnville is on Highway 18, just south of Portland and be prepared to spend the day!

Well, folks that’s enough for now. You know where we are and the winter is just beginning, so stand by for the continuing adventures of Travels with Grummy!


Incommunicado, so to speak.

4 Oct

Just wanted to let you all know, that we’re on the road.

Actually, right now, we’re sitting at the top of Tejon Pass, getting ready to head down into the Los Angeles basin. I will post a much longer story once we get to our favourite beach, since trying to find Broad Band WiFi is almost impossible down here.

Every where we go in Canada, we see people with their I Phones, I Touches, Blackberries etc, and every place has signs advertising their WiFi, but not down here. Haven’t seen one single person doing anything but using their cell phones and haven’t seen a single sign anywhere for WiFi. The best we could do is stop at a FLYING J Travel centre and use the truckers internet. Even for these guys, the places charge $4.95 for 24 hours usage.

I guess Canadians really are more advanced electronically, then our neighbours to the south. Oh, well.

I’m going to vent about one of my pet peeves when I post so be prepared, it has to do with politicians and naming things, just to give you a hint.