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THE LONG ROAD HOME

13 Mar
Just another shitty day in Paradise

Just another shitty day in Paradise

 

Yeah, I know this post is late. That’s becoming an ongoing theme, isn’t it? Well, I am retired and I run on Baja time, which mostly entails, “Manana”. Why do something today, when there’s no rush and tomorrow is soon enough? Besides, the days all flow into one another and I’m always amazed at how quickly they pass. That’s the biggest reason why my posts are always late from here. I suddenly realize that I haven’t written for a while and when I check the calendar a month or more has gone by.

 

Truth be told, I didn’t really want to write this particular post because it’s the last one from the beach. Yep, it’s that time of year again, when those of us who have a life somewhere else, start to prepare for heading North.

 

The Rattlesnake Beach community started to break up last week with the first 2 campers leaving but the trickle is about to become a rush. By the 16th of March there will be only 5 of us regulars left here and Richard and I will be hitting the road by the 22nd at the latest.

 

Bougainvilla in full bloom! It's Spring in Baja

Bougainvilla in full bloom! It’s Spring in Baja

The big push comes from Semana Santos, or Saints Week, the week of celebration before Easter Sunday, when all the locals who can, move out to the beach and take over every square foot of available camping space. A few of the regulars have friends in the local communities who come every year and camp with them. They apparently enjoy the excitement of having a small city descend upon them for a week!

 

Richard and I feel that since we basically have the use of the beach for 6 months, the least we can do is get off it and let the locals enjoy it without having to share it with a bunch of Anglos. We also camp at the far north end of the beach where the launch ramp is and it gets incredibly busy and noisy during Semana Santos. After 6 months of peace and quiet the last thing we want to take away with us is the stress of absolute chaos, loud noise, music, Skidoos, Pangas, cars, trucks, kids, dogs and people and garbage everywhere!

 

So we’re already in prep mode, deciding what to take, what to leave, packing up stuff we aren’t using, unpacking it again when we realize we are still using it, trying not to purchase too much food so it will all be used up when we leave, rushing to the store when we realize we don’t have enough for dinner and saying goodbye daily to friends we won’t see for another 6 months. It evokes a kind of sadness; since we know that next year will not be an exact repeat of this year. Some folks will return, some won’t. There’s one thing in life we’ve all learned to accept and it’s that change is constant.

 

Stand up John playing around the fire

Stand up John playing around the fire

It’s not all sad because at the same time excitement is building about getting home and seeing our kids and their families again. There’s nothing to give you that kick in the butt to get moving like having one of your Grandkids ask when Grandma and Grandpa are going to be getting home. There is always some trepidation however, since we all know that the weather will not be the warm 85F that it is here.

 

We won’t be rushing home this year like we did last spring! Grummy will be put to bed properly and tucked in for a long summer sleep. Then we’ll meander our way home in Rosie taking our time and visiting ruins and parks in Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the ranch of friends we spend the winter with. We were supposed to go last year but, well, fate intervened. Plus, just because we leave here in March doesn’t mean we want to get home in March. We like to wait long enough for Spring to have have sprung. At least that’s the plan so far…

 

There’s something a little strange about watching the season’s go in reverse as we head home. We leave here and the trees and flowers are in full bloom. All through the southern U.S., everything is green and the trees are in leaf, then gradually as we continue north the leaves slip back into buds and the greenery declines until we reach home where the buds are just starting to show and the landscape has that look of anticipation, just waiting for the right moment to burst forth with the new spring.

 

 

In some ways we’re going to be swept out of our campsite this year as the winds which were mostly gentle for much of the winter have come back with a vengeance. For the last little while we’ve had tremendous blows, one that lasted 2 full weeks, with average wind speeds of more than 20 knots and gusts pushing 35.

 

I know that at home those wind speeds are not considered very big. Hell, I guided regularly in winds over 35, but with the geography here, winds of that speed push the water to deadly proportions. This is the height of the tourist season so there are Kayakers everywhere and due to heavy winds, we had an almost fatal accident just off Rattlesnake Beach 2 weeks ago. Everything worked out thanks to a very experienced Kayak guide from one of the local companies and a Pangero (a panga operator) who braved the heavy seas.

 

It pays to go with an experienced guide when pursuing a sport in areas that you are not familiar with. The group that got into trouble were experienced kayakers at home but not here, and local knowledge is worth its weight in gold. We’ve become friendly with all the local kayak guides and the companies they work for, and we’re impressed by the qualifications, experience and dedication these people show to their chosen profession. It’s the same where I guided, a professional fishing guide can keep you safe, show you the best fishing grounds and put you into the big fish, most of the time. It’s certainly worth spending the extra money; otherwise you’re taking chances in waters you know nothing about.

 

It’s been blowing now for the last 3 days, making the van rock and roll, scouring the last remaining sand from the beach. Tomorrow it’s supposed to drop down to a reasonable speed then down again to almost nonexistent, maybe we’ll get one last trip out in our kayak before we wrap her up and put her in her cradle, on top of Grummy.

 

Eventually the summer winds will come in from the opposite direction and hopefully blow all the sand back onto the beach so that by the time we all return, there will once again be a sandy beach.

 

There’s still a few social get-togethers coming up, my birthday and the last meeting of the Costillo de Puerco club, but in a few short days we’ll be on the road and slowly making our way home. Next time we talk it’ll be from Penticton, where I’m sure I’ll be complaining about the cold, but it sure will be nice to give my family big hugs and spend a few months visiting back and forth with them.

 

Hold on kids, here we come!

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Same old, same old? NOT!

12 Jan

 

Hi, it’s me again. As usual I’m a little late in my post but hey, I’ve been sick. Geez that sounds like a line from a Looney Toons cartoon doesn’t it? It is, however true. After all these years of eating damn near anything I could find down here and not once suffering from Travellers Tummy, I finally got hit, and it was my own damned fault!

 

My youngest daughter convinced us to try the Paleo diet along with a Cross Fit training program and since it involves lots of meat and bacon, (mmm, bacon) we decided to go for it. So breakfast became the old-fashioned bacon and eggs. No problem, since eggs are easily found here, and they’re cheap. Sometimes they come from factories but lots of times they’re obviously from some local farm, which means they haven’t been cleaned. I guess at some point, some bacteria from the shell of one of the local eggs found it’s way into my breakfast, then into my tummy and it stayed there. From about December 18th until about a week ago, I’ve felt like crap!

 

After discussion with a couple of the ladies on the beach, one a genetic researcher and the other a nurse, plus a lot of Internet research, I finally narrowed down what the problem was. With help from my son-in-law, Dave, who’s a pharmacist, I’m now on a regime of antibiotics, and starting to feel better. Hopefully this will do the trick, cause sitting in Grummy, with no desire to do anything while the sun shines and all our friends are outside playing has sucked big time!

Between my last post and getting sick though, Richard and I did manage to get up Tabour Canyon, the easiest and closest hike to Rattlesnake Beach. Now, over the years, I’ve told you about this canyon and I’ve posted numerous pictures. About the only things that have changed over the years have been the folks accompanying us and slight increases or decreases in the water level.

One of our friends here, on the beach, has an old book dated from the 50’s showing photo’s of Tabour Canyon and it looks no different from any of our own shots, but Hurricane Paul changed everything!

 

Whenever we hiked the canyon, there were certain spots we’d always stop, to admire the view, take pictures, or have a bite to eat. A couple of spots especially to take pictures of those we were guiding so they would have a touristy shot of themselves either crawling out the Rumble Pile hole leading to the upper two thirds of the canyon or sitting in an incredibly convoluted fig tree. Not anymore!

 

The entire place has changed, so much so that we can’t even tell were we are most times, except for a few places that are obvious. Like the Rumble Pile for instance. This was a spot that unless you knew where to look, you would assume the canyon dead-ended. If, however, you knew the secret, you crawled under the rock ledge, slid carefully over the palm tree log, came out on the top of the ledge, went over it then back under and climbed up the hole, which brought you up to the next section of the canyon. Many, many people have had their photos taken emerging from that last hole, but sadly, no longer! The holes no longer exist!

 

 

Take a look at these pictures. The first one shows how we used to access the upper portion of Tabour with a couple of friends up through the first hole, sitting on the rock ledge. The second shows how deep the gravel is now after Paul came through.

Tabour Canyon before Paul

Tabour Canyon before Paul

 

Tabour Canyon after Paul

Tabour Canyon after Paul

This second set is in the same area. The first shows the big rock sitting in a pool of water that was virtually impossible to get around. We had to climb up a rock wall just to the south of it, sidle across the skimpy ledge, duck under and through a hole made of 3 big rocks balanced on top of one another and came out just below the Rumble Pile. Now you can barely see the top of the rock, which is what Richard is pointing out.

 

Before 2012

Before 2012

How much Paul changed everything!

How much Paul changed everything!

 

We had to go through a lot of old photos and compare them to the most recent to figure out what we were looking at and where we were within the canyon walls. Even when we did know where we were, the canyon is virtually unrecognizable, from beginning to end. All of this was caused by the incredible power of water.

 

Now, I’ve explained about the wet summer but what everyone thinks happened here is that in August it rained about 20 inches in a couple of days, causing the ground to become saturated for the first time in 7 years. The next big fall, about 10 inches, happened at the end of September and filled every available space that water could accumulate in. When Paul hit there was nowhere for the water to go, plus even though it rained only about 101/2 inches down here it was probably in the neighbourhood of 30 inches on the top of the Gigantes. As the water fell down the steep slopes of the Gigantes, it gained speed and power and nothing stood in its tracks. There are places in Tabour where solid rock has been pounded out by the force of water and the rocks and boulders it was pushing in front of it. From what we can figure out there is at least 20 feet of gravel covering the old canyon floor.  Boulders the size of houses have been tossed around as if they were toys, tearing out chunks of the canyon walls, and destroying all vegetation in their path.

 

Tabour used to be my favourite hike as it was a full body workout. You used your arms and legs scrambling up and over the rocks and now except for the easy climb over the bit of rock that separates the upper canyon from the lower, it’s virtually just a stroll.

 

Ah well, nothing really ever stays the same does it?

 

Hopefully once I’m back up to fighting strength, we’ll try Wow and Ligui Canyons. We already know we can’t drive as far up the road to Wow as we used to since an arroyo has torn away part of the road. We hiked a kilometer into the canyon and it looks much the same as before but since Wow requires a lot of wading through very cold water we went no further. We haven’t even attempted to get into Ligui yet especially since it’s a very long drive up the arroyo to get to it and we know that there was considerable damaged caused by water flow all along it’s length. For all we know the canyon is no longer accessible, but I’ll let you know.

 

In the meantime friends, keep warm and try not to have a jammer shoveling that white crap.

 

Hasta Luego!

 

Oh, cry me a river!

6 Dec

Okay, don’t whine! I know I’m a couple of days late with this post, but hey, what don’t you get about RETIRED?

 

Halloween is over, having given away handfuls of candy to local kids dressed to the nines, American Thanksgiving has been celebrated with turkey and vast amounts of food, two Full Moon parties have been held and the Christmas feast discussion is under way. Richard’s and our friend Kottie’s birthdays have been observed and another campers is fast approaching. The celebratory occasions are coming fast and furious but we’re all having a hard time being as social as we usually are. The reason?

BUGS!!!!

Hence the name of this post, because every time I try to explain to anyone at home about our plight, that’s the answer I get. Absolutely no sympathy from anyone, especially since the first thing they ask is, “What’s the weather like?” and I have to be honest and tell them it’s sunny and the daytime temperature is hovering between 23C and 28C. Isn’t that wonderful? The problem is we can’t go outside to enjoy it unless we’re heading out on to the water, slathered in DEET or the wind is blowing more that 15 miles per hour.

 

Just one of many different flutterbyes. This one stayed still long enough for me to get a good shot

Just one of many different flutterbyes. This one stayed still long enough for me to get a good shot

Going out on the water is great but you can’t do it every hour of every day, the idea of covering every square inch of oneself with vast amounts of DEET (Yes, I did say every square inch) everyday is probably not a healthy idea and the wind is just not cooperating this year. Not only that but even on the 2 occasions when the wind has actually reached those speeds, the little buggers just hover in behind us and take sips at their leisure, and for God’s sake don’t step into the shade!

 

When the wind does blow, you can walk on the beach, but only at low tide since the messy debris left by Paul is still there and will be for years. Trying to walk at anything but low tide is treacherous, since not only is there woody debris on the beach but also buried deep into the sand making footing none too safe. There is no other place to walk, for as soon as you head up the road the bugs come out looking for blood and the many trails we have walked for years are so thick with weeds that it’s hard to find them. When you do find them, there’s no telling what’s under your feet and with the number of snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies wandering through the grass, none of us are going to attempt them until the weeds and grass dies.

 

2011 was the last of four years of drought, preceded by six years of sporadic and lower than normal rain falls. I’ve written in the past about how hard it was on the livestock and the people, but there were no bugs! Oh, sure, there were the few wasps, flutterbyes, moths, ants and beetles we see every year, but no mosquitoes or biting insects at all. Even scorpions had become scarce. Snakes might have been seen occasionally but rarely. This year, everything has changed!

 

There were three major rain events this summer here, each lasting two days and dropping between 10 and 15 inches of rain, in August, September and October. Each one giving a boost to the local plant, insect and reptile life.

 

This is one of 5 tarantulas I've seen so far this year. Don't worry we built a little rock bridge to this one could get to safety.

This is one of 5 tarantulas I’ve seen so far this year. Don’t worry we built a little rock bridge so this one could get to safety.

There are more insects per square inch here than most have ever seen, even the locals. Now, the average lifespan around here is 80 years, but climatically, that’s pretty short, so it goes without saying that it’s likely this is not the first time this has happened. BUT, it’s the first time it’s happened to all of us campers on Rattlesnake Beach, and it SUCKS!

 

There are so many bugs here that we all swear there are some that have never been catalogued! Thank God I bought that No-See-Um netting before we left!

 

We have a vast array of flutterbuyes and moths, just about every size, colour and shape imaginable, from ones the size of your baby fingernail to others the size of your hand. The air is alive with thousands of gaudy, sunshine yellow butterflies during the day and gigantic brown and grey moths at night, that cover your radiators and your windshields, not to mention that as they die off they cover the ground like torn up origami paper.

 

We have Stink Beetles that raise their posteriors and shoot out a foul smelling acid. These at least are quit small and their numbers have decreased considerable since we first arrived.

 

From an ill advised trip outside without protection. This is just a small portion of Richards arm, imagine what the rest of us look like.

From an ill advised trip outside without protection. This is just a small portion of Richards arm, imagine what the rest of us look like.

There’s a beetle here that has huge, long antenna and a large body. They look like there is no way in hell they should be able to fly, but they do! Not very well, and they seem to have a hard time navigating, but the bastards fly. Nothing like getting a beetle that’s the length of your middle finger flying into your face. Then, there’s the ants. We’ve got all kinds, big ones, little ones, red ones, black ones and sort of a combination of both. We got some that only come out at night and others that we see only during the day. We’ve even got some that keep on getting into Grummy. Not many, but we’re constantly on the look out. It’s not a good thing when ants get into RV’S.

 

Most of the grasshoppers are gone now but for a while you couldn’t go out with out the grasshoppers going off in a sort of domino effect. As we walked or drove, those around us jumped, sending those where the first ones landed, off, over and over again. Sometimes it felt like a type of bow wave as the hoppers continued to jump just ahead of us until we hit the pavement.

 

And spiders? Don’t get me started! If there’s a place they can get into, they’re there, there are a lot of them and they are big! I’ve seen more tarantulas this year that all the past years combined, though they don’t actually bother me. Maybe it’s because they are furry. The yellowy-brown  ones the size of the palm of my hand, and the black ones of any size are the ones I really don’t like. It’s a good thing the seals on all our widows and doors are in good condition because the big ones are constantly trying to get in that way and they sit just inside the metal parts of the doors unable to get under the seals, then when you open they door, the leap out! Yeah, that’s great for my nerves! I hate spiders!

 

 

We’ve seen lots of big scorpions, as well as snakes and snack track. Watched a beautiful Rosy Boa taking a short cut right through our campsite the other night! The bane of our existence though, are the mosquitos, no-see-um-s, bobitos, hey-hey-nees and collectively, for want of a better name, ankle biters! These little bastards are making life miserable for just about everyone. Some or all of us react to at least one if not more of all these biters. The mosquitos are at their worst during dawn and dusk but bites can happen all day too. Though once night falls they seem to mostly disappear. The biggest problem with the mosquitos is they are known carriers of Yellow and Dengue Fever, and there is still, and will be for sometime to come, many, many areas of standing water for them to breed in.

 

The worst ones are the small ones, some so small you can barely even see them, but these buggers pack a wallop, they can really hurt when they bite. It feels like someone has stuck you with a pin, and the itch is intense and long lasting. Even weeks later when all evidence of the bite is gone, the site can still itch. These nasty little bugs can walk through your clothes and DEET seems to have little to no effect on them.

 

Right at this moment, I have 20 to 25 bites, mostly ones from the ankle biter types and almost all on my lower legs and feet. From where I’m sitting typing this, I’m looking at five different bug repellants and two bug killers sitting on the doghouse of the engine, where they are readily available for use before we go outside. Apparently after the big rain event in August the town of Loreto ran out of repellant. The local merchants must have taken note because there is stuff available everywhere now and it’s a damn good thing too!

 

You CAN’T go outside without some form of protection, if not chemical than clothing that consists of long legs and sleeves that are thick enough to stop the mosquitos from biting you through the material and tight enough to stop the tiny ones from getting inside.

 

Which brings me back to my original comment about how this is affecting life on the beach. We now spend a lot of time in each others rigs instead of sitting out enjoying the sun or stars and even that doesn’t really help since most of the tiny biters can easily crawl through the screening on everyone’s RV windows, except ours and ours is too small to have more than four people in it at a time. Even that can be too much sometimes. We’re all going through a fortune in repellants and soothers and everyone is searching through their wardrobes for suitable clothes that won’t cause them to suffer from heat stroke. Outdoor get- togethers are short and sweet and accompanied by lots of fans, bug zappers, long sleeves and the heady aroma of many different bug repellants. We talk about which ones we use and how well they work, where to get them and a comparison on prices. Conversation has definitely taken a strange turn this season.

 

The nice thing about this year is that it’s throwing us into each other’s laps more. It’s become quite usual to have a dinner party for four or six and simple hold it in whoever’s rig is the biggest, even if they aren’t actually doing the cooking. I’ve walked more than one platter of sushi down the beach so far this winter.

 

Now, I know it’s cold where you are, maybe raining, maybe snowing, but in your heart of hearts, when you would normally think of us with envy and yes, maybe even a touch of bitterness throughout the winter, this year you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that we are suffering too.

 

In our own way maybe, but believe it baby this is suffering Baja style!

 

Hasta Luego!

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR…

6 Nov

I’m sure you’ve heard the old expression in the title of this blog and you all know the next part, “ because you just might get it”. Well, I have to say that I’m never going to tempt fate again and having been involved in the fishing industry most of my life I really should have known better.

Our campsite on October 3rd

Let me back up a bit here. Before we arrived in Baja we knew that this year the rainy season had lived up to its name in spades. We were still astonished though at how green everything was and how many bugs there were. We had hit the beach a day or two after a heavy rain and the temperature, humidity and bug life was pretty overwhelming.

What the campsite looked like on the morning of the 14th

Rattlesnake Beach came as a very pleasant surprise however, because over the course of the summer it had become a true, sandy beach, from one end to the other. We’d been told that the nature of the beach changed fairly regularly and were thrilled that for the first time since we started to camp here, we’d get to enjoy a tropical, sandy paradise, and we did! We were having difficulty getting our kayak out of storage in Loreto as the caretaker was away, but with the water temperature at around 90F we spent a lot of time in it simply because it was a great way to escape from the heat, humidity, (which was in the 70 to 80 percent range) and the bugs. We swam and snorkeled at every opportunity.

This is what it looked like just before Paul hit

In a normal year here, the hurricane season is considered to be over by the beginning of October and we had a few conversations with those who live here year round about what it’s like to experience one. It was during one of these chats that I made the fatal error. I said that I’d experienced massive storms and hurricane force winds at sea and every year very large gales whipped the shores of eastern Vancouver Island where we lived. I’d even been in Vancouver when the tail end of Hurricane Frieda slashed through in 1962, but at the age of 7, didn’t really remember all that much about it, and then I said, “Wouldn’t it be neat to be here and experience one?”

The next thing we knew, the weather reports were tracking a storm in the southern Pacific that was gathering force and heading for the Baja. Eventually it grew big enough that they gave it a name, “Paul”, and it became apparent that it was going to hit the peninsula, though no one was sure exactly where it would make land fall.

Same spot right after Paul passed

We had arrived on Rattlesnake Beach on October the 3rd and gradually, over the next 2 weeks, the temperature and humidity level declined slightly and even the bugs seemed to be leveling off, but come October the 14th it started to rain. The weather gurus explained that Paul wasn’t going to hit us directly but would make landfall further north, That didn’t mean that we weren’t going to be affected by it, just that we wouldn’t experience the full force of it.

This is a spot on our road into the beach called Five Corners. This was on October 3rd. It’s the same spot in the photo below.

This gives you a pretty good idea as to what our road into the beach looked like, and this was only Monday morning before Paul hit.

As I said, on Sunday, the 14th in the morning, the rain started and continued to fall until the afternoon of the 15th. Now I realize that if you live anywhere on Vancouver Island or the lower mainland, at this point you’re shrugging your shoulders and saying, “So what? Sometimes it rains here for weeks on end!” and normally I would agree with you, but during that 36 hours it rained 10.29 INCHES of rain and that was what fell here on the beach, that doesn’t include all that fell on the Gigantes, the mountain range that sits just behind us.

 

It rained so much on Sunday alone, that one look outside Monday morning told us we were all going to be in trouble. Our campsite had a lake in it, the road behind us was flooded and the old arroyo beside us was starting to run. We had already discovered a couple of leaks in Grummy, including one of our skylights, two other small ones that had bowls under them, nothing we couldn’t deal with but we were worried about some of the older campers.

This was our lovely sandy beach north of us just before Paul hit.

It’s hard to explain just what it was like actually. The temperature was in the low 90’s and the humidity level was at 95 percent, everything just felt wet. We even turned the heater on for a couple of hours trying to dry things out a bit but it was too hot to keep it running.

And this is the same beach after Paul, nice eh?

We put on minimal rain gear and headed out for a walk. Come on, we’re from the Wet Coast and a little rain wasn’t going to stop us, besides there was hardly any wind blowing and we wanted to make sure the rest of the folks here were doing OK. We walked from our campsite to the arroyo to the south of us, which was flowing pretty good, and everywhere we went was flooded. The roads weren’t roads anymore they were rivers! Richard carried a hoe and we tried to dig trenches to funnel water where it would do the least amount of damage. Everyone was doing all right, though most had some small leaks, mostly they were all hunkered down waiting Paul out. It rained so hard during the day and was so warm that both Richard and I had showers outside. Hey, why waste it right?

Paul didn’t hit us with a lot of wind, only about 30 to 40 miles an hour, mostly because the vast expenditure of water and wind was thrown at the mountain range at our backs. Thanks to a nasty convergence that was still to come, we were to eventually experience some fairly nasty repercussions!

Over the years I’ve written about the canyons that we hike on a regular basis in the Gigantes, but these are canyons in name only, what they really are, are vast water collection systems designed to funnel it and pour it out in the arroyos that fan out from the base of them, like the one at the end of our beach. When you sit out on the water and look back at the beach, it’s obvious that this entire area is a vast flood plain created by the erosion spewed out of the Gigantes over eons. Most of the time these arroyos are dry and are used as roads to get from place to place where real roads don’t exist, but not on October 14th. Just after noon on Monday, the arroyo to the south of us filled to capacity and broke through a sand dam that had built up over the last 10 years, spewing everything in it and everything that had come down from the Gigantes, out into the sea. The one beside our campsite just kept getting bigger as more water and debris flowed down it.

Around 3 PM the rain stopped and the clouds parted, but it wasn’t over yet. The wind that we did get, combined with the storm surge, high tide and the huge amount of water pouring off the Gigantes into the arroyos came to a head. I don’t know how deep the water coming out of the big arroyo south of us was but the amount of debris it was carrying was tremendous and as the sun started to come out, that debris started to spread. The waves pounded the shore throwing up mountains of woody debris and continued all through the night. The water had so much force that it ended up scouring rocks off the bottom and tossing it up on top of the debris burying it under tons of rocks and gravel.

On Tuesday morning our beautiful sandy beach had vanished and in its place was a horrific mess of deadwood, torn up trees, cactus, weeds and vines, in many places buried almost completely under the rocks and sand.

We had to remove as much out from under the rocks as we could because we realized the smell from the rotting vegetation would be overwhelming if we didn’t. There was no sense waiting for the local municipality or the government to help. We were a pretty low priority as they needed to deal with the damage done to the local area which included destroyed water mains, downed power lines, washed out roads and the approaches on a few of the nearby bridges. The highway, Mex #1 which is the one and only main artery on the peninsula, was closed amazingly, for only one day as they rushed to fill in gaping holes and missing pavement and make the road as safe as possible in as short a time as they could. We were very impressed at how fast the work was completed, especially since the water didn’t stop flowing in some places for a couple more days.

The road into Rattlesnake was severely damaged and though those of us with 4-wheel drive could get in and out, we knew there were a few more campers due to arrive soon. It was a very uncomfortable, bumpy ride that might have proven dangerous for motorhomes and trailers, so we all chipped in and hired a local from the nearby village of Juncalito, who owns a loader, to come in and fix it.

We have only just finished cleaning up our beach and the boat launching area beside us. For days the only way we could get rid of anything was to burn it and for a week, day and night, the fires burned. Everything was done by hand using rakes and shovels.  Considering the size of some of the debris, without a chainsaw, some spots had to be left for the elements and time to deal with.

The continuing trouble for us has to do with the well that we draw water from. The pipes that carry the water and the power lines that run the pumps both crossed the arroyo that drains to the south of us and both were ripped away by the massive runoff out of the Gigantes. This arroyo starts in Tabour Canyon, which I’ve written about before, so Richard and I decided to go up and have a look and what we saw stunned us! The drainage canal that had been built to funnel the water down into this arroyo and away from Puerto Escondido had been about 12 feet deep, only now it’s level with the ground, filled with rocks and gravel. The canyon itself bears no resemblance to anything we remember. The ground that we had walked on before was buried anywhere from 10 to 15 feet below us and from the damage to plants and trees, what little was left, meant that the water level ranged from 25 to 35 feet high as it crashed down off the Gigantes. There is almost no vegetation in the canyon anymore, all of the palm trees are gone and massive rocks bigger than houses, not to mention smaller ones have been tumbled around like toys.

One of the campers has been coming here for 30 years and has a 50-year-old book that explains how the canyon came by its name. The pictures in it show the canyon as we all knew it and this is the first time that anything this dramatic has changed in Tabour. She calls it a Millennium Storm and considering all the damage done by it I think she’s right. At least we can all be thankful that there was no loss of life!

We’re still waiting for the well to be repaired, though water isn’t really a problem since we can buy purified water in Loreto for virtually pennies. It just requires a carrying system. The really big problem has to do with the huge areas of sitting water that has created a plague of mosquitoes, fly’s and no-see-ums, so bad that you can’t go outside for even a few seconds unless you’re covered from head to toe, including your clothes, in at least a 20 percent solution of DEET, preferably 30, and even then it doesn’t keep them all away. There’s been talk of spraying since Yellow and Dengue Fever are carried by some of the varieties of mosquitoes here, but this is a Third World country and it might happen or it might just be rumour, we’ll just have to wait and see. Thank God, I bought no-see-um netting to fix our screens with; it has definitely proven it’s worth this year!

In the meantime our kayak has finally made it to our campsite and we find ourselves, all of us on the beach, for the first time ever, preying for wind! At least out on the water there are hardly any bugs so most of us are spending as much time out there as we can. This is the reason why I’ve been communicating so little lately. It’s no fun sitting under a Palapa roof trying to send off a couple of e-mails while the mosquitoes are descending on you in hordes and the only places we have access to the internet are all outdoors.

You try typing with one hand and waving the other one in the air continuously trying to keep the bugs at bay!

Though now that we’ve got the air conditioning going in the car and can sit right outside the Internet café, I’ll be talking with you a little more!

Did I even tell you how the Sea of Cortez is a continuation of the San Andreas Fault? Good thing I didn’t tempt fate by mention anything about wanting to experience an earthquake eh?

TTFN!

It’s Oh So Green!

12 Oct

Well, now that I’ve had a chance to catch my breath and relax for a moment it’s time to sit down and tell you all about the last month.

 

We left Penticton in the first week in September after rushing around trying to make sure we had everything we needed. Obviously we didn’t because we then spent the next 2 weeks on Vancouver Island doing the same thing interspersed with visiting our daughter Liz, her husband Adrian and our 2 wonderful grandchildren, as well as everyone else we could. I even took the time to attend a High School reunion. We had set the date of departure at September 24th and come hell or high water we were leaving then, so we did!

 

We decided to travel the coast road down through the US,  and despite a few days of fog, the weather was fabulous. We meandered a bit and then when we reached the beaches of San Simeon, where the Elephant seals have recently colonized, we turned inland to the I-5. From that point it took us 1 day of travel to reach our favourite stopping point in Baja, San Quintin, where we always stay for 2 nights just to relax and enjoy the endless sandy beaches as well as one of our favourite treats, Stone Crab claws, purchased direct from the fishermen’s boat that lands right in front of our campsite.

 

This is what our campsite usually looks like, at least for the last few years.

One more day and we hit Loreto. Yep, that means we were travelling fast, but we figured we might as well get the trip over with and find out what awaited us. On our way down we had noticed the greenery and the closer we got to the beach the more we saw. When we arrived it was 38c with a humidity level of 85 percent and apparently had rained only a couple of days before. The last hurricane of the season had been downgraded to a tropical storm but still managed to dump a large amount of water, enough that there was huge standing puddles everywhere. Apparently this year, the rainy season actually was, unlike the last 5.

 

This is what it looked like when we arrived this year!

When I say the desert had bloomed, I kid you not. None of us have ever seen the surrounding area so lush, thick and verdant! The land was covered in greenery, lots of it so thick that you could no longer see roads or trails and the bug life was phenomenal! Thousands of butterflies and moths, some the size of your hand and billions of tiny insects so small it was impossible to tell what exactly they were.

 

There are bugs here we have never seen before and some I’d like to never see again! It’s incredibly creepy to see the tree you camp under covered from top to bottom with squirming, black, inch worm type things that appear at dusk and then disappear in the early morning. I can’t say that the biting insects are very bad but if you’re out at dawn or dusk it’s a good idea to wear some insect repellant to keep the mossies at bay!

 

We were a bit nervous about the Grummy when we arrived since we had left in such a hurry and didn’t really know how well she had weathered the long, hot, wet summer. Upon opening the door, it was obvious that she had done OK. Richard had left one of the skylights cracked a bit and the screen had fallen in, but it was clean and dry and except for a rather large spider which had gotten in and made herself at home, (and who was summarily removed from this life) things were looking good until we opened the door of the fridge. Because Grummy uses solar power we had left the fridge turned on low, so that the system could cycle, however sometime since we left, the fridge had ceased to function and everything in it had gone bad. Did you know that really rancid butter turns a very vivid shade of red? Neither did I.

 

Last year, you could see for miles in all directions!

So began the tossing out of everything in it, not to mention all the foods we had stockpiled to bring home that had long since reached their expiry dates. Not everything needed to be tossed, but growing up I was taught never to waste food and I have to tell you that throwing out all that stuff gave me few bad turns.

 

Then it was time to turn the motor over and get her to the beach. That wasn’t happening either since the battery that runs the motor had died. It required a little exchange of batteries from one vehicle to the other and hey, presto we had mobility. Off to the beach!

 

After navigating a road that had been ravaged by all the rain and the formation of new and ever changing arroyos we made it to our site, only to discover that it was completely covered in weeds 3 feet deep! It took us all of one day, both of us working in extreme heat to make a space for Grummy. Since them it’s been a continuing program, get up at 6 AM, weed the surrounding area to make space for our van and car, get the campsite set up and attempt to get the fridge fixed.

 

The fridge was actually pretty easy as the man who runs the nearby convenience store, the Modelorama, is a friend and he knew the right person to call.  Hopefully that issue will be resolved in a few more days! Since we now have a propane fridge in the little Dodge van, “Rosie” and a cooler full of ice it’s not been too big of a problem.

 

The biggest problem has been remembering where everything is, and how it all works. Yeah, I can hear you all now saying what’s the big deal, but let me tell you having a 6-month hiatus from everything in the Grummy, it’s taken us a week to remember where we stored everything. Even now we keep remembering things we put away and have to stop and figure out if they are in Grummy, Rosie, our kayak that’s still sitting in storage in Loreto, or at Richard’s Dad’s place.

 

As the temperature and the humidity levels have slowly declined, down to a more reasonable 30c and 40 percent, we have spent our time removing the weeds near our campsite, as that keeps the bugs at bay, working to fix the road, so the bigger rigs coming in behind us would have an easier time getting in to the beach, and fixing new screens for the skylights. Not to mention putting up the shade screens, raking the beach of all the debris left by the summer storms, drinking vast amounts of water, and the occasional cold beer. (Thanks to the ice in the cooler, which needs to be replaced every day. I told you it was hot!)  Oh, and swimming, to get rid of the sand that sticks like glue to hot sweaty bodies! Yeah, I know it’s a tough life.

 

Yesterday, most of the regulars arrived and it’s starting to feel like the old neighbourhood again. Most of the hard work is done, with a few jobs that can be left for a future time and now we can relax, and recreate.

 

Hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving, we were so busy down here we actually didn’t remember until a couple of days later, but then on the other hand we give thanks every day that we can continue to go south every winter and enjoy the life we lead.

 

To all our family, we love you and a day doesn’t go by that we don’t think of you and wish you could be here with us! Just remember we now have a spare room, and we’re always up for company!

Home away from home!

4 May

So, what do I tell you? When we got home, the first little while was spent renewing our family ties with daughter #1, her husband, and their daughter. I have to say that we were slightly depressed to not have been able to spend the time we had wanted coming home and visiting with friends along the way. We also had to get used to the major temperature difference, the weather and being back in the city. God, it’s amazing how bad some of the drivers are here!

One of the reasons we come home every summer.

When we left, our original plan was to get the broken part, have Richard fly down with it, get Grummy fixed then drive her home. That plan morphed completely as we drove north.

The stress level from our dash home had subsided somewhat, at least for me and the push was on to find a suitable replacement for our Suzuki. Something that we could sleep in and be able to cook simple meals in, be comfortable for Richard, the dog, and myself, plus get reasonable fuel mileage.

Azeet made herself at home.

The Grummy is our home and contains everything we own, so we rapidly became aware of everything we had left behind. We had to buy new clothes, shoes, dog blankets, exercise sweats, sandals, and personal products, just to mention a few things.

We settled into a routine, every day we checked all the different sales lists on the Internet that applied to our local area. We’d e-mail our findings to one another and for various reasons we’d reject them. Too small, too big, uses too much gas, too old, too expensive! In the meantime, we lived in our daughters’ spare bedroom. We thought it would work out, transferring between our kid’s houses and their spare rooms but we realized fairly soon that the quarters were just too close, and we needed our own space.

Just because we’re home doesn’t mean we stop exercising. This was a nice hike up a hill between Lake Okanagan and Skaha Lake

We love our kids and truly enjoy spending time with them and our grandkids but living right inside all the chaos that small children generate was starting to be waaay too much.

We had to go to the Island for the end of the month and again as much as we love our kids, the idea of spending a large amount of time inside a house with 2 kids, 2 dogs and 2 adults who start their day every morning at 6 AM with a heavy duty workout was going to be something we didn’t want to have to deal with, so the push to find a suitable vehicle was on and amazingly enough it only actually took a week!

Our newest home on wheels!

We found a camper van that was in good shape, had reasonably low mileage and the price was definitely within our budget. We looked at it in Kelowna, bought it the same day, and then trundled it home to Penticton. It was in need of a few minor repairs but we also needed to furnish and outfit it so we could use it on a regular basis. New pots, pans, dishes, towels, bedding, Everything we needed to live, had to be purchased and trust me, more than once both of us expressed the frustration of knowing we already had plenty of the same things sitting in Grummy, but were unable to access them.

So now we have two mobile homes, one in Mexico and one here in Canada, along with a Suzuki, an Asuna and a Geo. The Suzuki and Asuna are going on the market and we hope to recoup our purchase costs for the van by selling the cars before the end of the summer. Here’s hoping!

So there you go, we finally managed to find a new, albeit slightly smaller, home away from home. We had actually talked about doing this same thing in the near future but I guess the fates decided we were going to do it this year.

Nothing like a little excitement to keep you on your toes eh?

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley!

5 Apr

 

I’m sure most of you have heard this expression before. It originates from a poem by Robbie Burns, written in 1785 and basically translates in to, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Well, I have to say that Richard and I have experienced this with a vengeance.

 

We spent last week preparing to head back to Canada. We packed up the last of our things, fueled up the Grummy, purchased those Mexican food items that we always like to take with us, said our goodbyes around one last campfire, then on Thursday morning we hit the road!

 

The vehicle on the right is Grummy, our home and original transport and the vehicle on the left, the Suzuki is what we drove home in!

We’d only just got up to speed on the highway when there came  a not very nice tinkling sound.  The last time this sound was heard, it took us 6 weeks to overcome the problem.

 

Now, I need to give you a little background here. Grummy was a potato chip delivery truck in her previous life and as such she was a motor conversion. The original owners, Frito Lay Inc. created hundreds of these vehicles. They were designed to carry large volumes of product that weighed very little and to do deliverys in cities, so lots of starts and stops, hence the attachment of an automatic transmission to the 4 cylinder Cummins diesel, which was originally built as a standard. This conversion necessitated a part called a flex plate that sits between the engine and transmission where the flywheel would normally have been.

 

Our second year on the road, we broke the flex plate. At first Richard didn’t know what the problem was and it took him nearly 2 weeks of taking various bits apart to discover what was wrong. Then once he’d uncovered the broken plate we figured no problem, we’ll just order up another one, find a mechanic to fix it and we’ll be on our way! HAH! Talk about naive! First off, no mechanic on Vancouver Island was interested in having anything to do with it, which meant whatever we did, Richard was going to have to do it all himself. Secondly, the flex plate was apparently a fairly rare beast.

 

Eventually we found a source for this unusual part, in Illinois, through a Cummins dealer in Brentwood Bay. The number was read off the old part, an order was put through and we were told, “a week”. A week went by and sure enough a package came, but it didn’t weigh enough. When it was opened, there was the toothed gear ring but not the plate that the gear was supposed to be attached to. Off it went back to the supplier, with a description and measurements of the actual part. “It’ll take a week,” we were told again. Sure enough a week later a bigger, heavier box arrived and….oh happy day, it WAS the right part!

 

But wait… something wasn’t quite right, the ring gear faced the wrong way and since it was welded to the plate it was no good to us. So off Richard went again to the Cummins dealer, where they decided that the plate had been welded wrong and would be shipped back. Another new one would be shipped out in its place and it would take another week!

 

The next week a box arrived and it too had a new flex plate in it and it too had a gear ring welded on backwards. Back to the Cummins dealer Richard went and this time the parts manager called the parts supplier and got the manager to go out to the warehouse and look at the parts. Lo and behold, they were all welded on backwards! CRAP! Okay time to step back and rethink the problem. We had a new flex plate but the gear ring was on backwards, so eventually it occurred to us to go to a machine shop, have the ring cut off, turned around and welded back the right way round. SUCCESS!

 

Another couple of weeks to put everything together and we were finally on the road and headed for Baja.

 

…and now, back to our most recent adventures!

 

After our initial, “What the hell was that?” Which is a game we seem to play every time the Grummy makes a previously unheard sound, Richard realized we had heard this one before. We stopped at the Mirador and Richard took a look, knowing full well what the problem was, then we immediately drove to Reuben Montoya’s shop, just before the airport road.

 

Reuben knew what it was too and spent the next 8 hours disassembling the transmission, pulling the old plate out, welding it back together, then reassembling everything.

At 4PM we were on our way again with fingers well and truly crossed. We made it to the last bridge before Loreto, when we either ran over some gravel that got tossed up into the engine compartment OR the plate was coming apart again, because we heard that familiar tinkling sound once more. We continued on till just north of town when, stressed to the max, we pulled over to the side of the road, drank a couple of beer and decided to spend the night and think about it before continuing on our journey.

 

After a virtually sleepless night, we decided that it would be stupid to continue on in a vehicle that we didn’t trust and if we broke down on the side of the road we were well and truly screwed! So we turned around and headed back to Juncalito, where for the first time we met Manuela and arrangements were made to park the van there for the time being, while we headed home in our tow car, a 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, that Richard had just rebuilt the motor in.

 

The idea was that we would get home quickly, find a new part, Richard would fly down with it, replace the unreliable one, then drive the Grummy back home since it really is our home. We grabbed as much stuff as we figured we’d need for the next couple of weeks, cleaned out all the perishable food and drove away.

 

Sounds great, what could possible go wrong?

 

It seems that when Richard, who speaks no Spanish, took the head in to get the rings redone, he asked them to replace the seals since one was leaking badly. And since none of them spoke any English, they didn’t understand him and put the old seals back in.

 

The first day was okay, till we stopped for gas and Richard checked the oil, there was none showing on the dip- stick. He put it down to the rings using up the measurable oil to seat themselves and poured in the 2 litres we had with us. Again we were off! We made Catavina, the first night! Suffice it to say that it wasn’t the nicest place to stay, the dog was totally freaked out and sleeping was a nice idea that never reached fruition.

 

We crossed the border the next night and by this point it was becoming clear we had a badly leaking valve and I was starting to hear tappet noise. Richard being pretty much deaf couldn’t hear it, but he would eventually! From that point on, every time we stopped for gas, we poured in at least 1 litre of oil and the tappet noise just kept getting louder.

 

That night was the worst because we didn’t know where we could go to spend the night. We’ve never travelled with a dog and we had never imagined a scenario that didn’t include sleeping in the Grummy. Thanks to a very nice man in a full up motel who told us about Motel 6 and a very helpful motorcycle cop who gave us detailed directions to the nearest one, we found a place to sleep,  not to mention shower and try to de-stress.

 

From that point on we drove hard and fast averaging 500 miles or 800 kilometres a day. We left Friday morning at 9:15 AM and arrived at our daughter’s house in Penticton at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, 4 nights and 5 days. It was sooo good to be home, safe and out of the car. The tappet noise was so loud by the time we got back that the Suzuki sounded like a diesel truck and I kept expecting the wheels to collapse and the engine to fall out as soon as we came to a full stop!

 

Our plans have changed as well and Grummy is going to stay in Baja for the foreseeable future. We’ll find the part,  take it with us when we return and fix Grummy but it’s starting to look like we’ll be commuting in something a little smaller and more cost effective. But just so you know, it won’t be a Suzuki Sidekick!