Archive | Mexico RSS feed for this section

Progress!

22 Dec
Just another sunrise, just another day.

Just another sunrise, just another day.

What is it about a blank piece of paper?

Every time I think of something to write about, I sit down in front of my computer and as soon as WORD pops up with it’s electronic facsimile of an empty piece of paper, my mind goes blank. Even when I have great stuff to tell you about, it takes me quite a while to get started.

 

It’s just like it was in school. I was a great writer and consistently got A’s and B’s in English, especially in English Composition, but only if I had a deadline. Not that I wrote anything until just before the paper was due though! I always did my very best work the night before any work was to be handed in. My problem writing this blog is I don’t have a deadline and usually when I think up a great beginning, paragraph or sentence, I’m nowhere near my computer and not being under 30, though I own an I-Touch, I don’t use it to it’s full potential, so I forget it.

 

This time around though, it’s pretty easy because I’m writing this and sending it from my computer, through my Internet set up, here on the beach. That’s right folks, here on Rattlesnake Beach! (Run completely by solar power, of course) A couple of weeks ago, two young men showed up at our end of the beach and introduced themselves as the owner and his assistant of a company called Avantek. They wanted to know if we were interested in signing up for Internet service. Now, there are a great many schemes that happen down here and we were pretty skeptical, but after talking to them and questioning how this was going to work, we realized that they could make it a reality. They could even give us Wi-Fi if we wanted it!

See the little antenna?

See the little antenna?

 

I’ll tell you when word got out, there was a line-up at our door of all the campers on the beach who wanted service.

It took a couple of days because we were the test case and they had to keep adjusting our receiver and then running down south to their tower near Ligui, and changing the direction of the sending unit, but eventually they got all the bugs worked out and we have the Internet at our fingertips whenever we want it.

Now, I’ll bet you think that was expensive right? Well think again, the initial, one time set up fee was $1500.00 pesos, then $250.00 pesos per month, which comes to about $125.00 for the set up and $21.00 per month, try getting that at home! Even though we’re only here for 6 months, when we come back next year, we just have to let them know, they’ll put our equipment back up, and we’ll just start our monthly payments again, no new set up charge.

The only draw back for everyone else on the beach is they sold the first 2 units, to us and another couple down the beach, and then used that money to purchase new equipment, which they are waiting on. Since it’s coming from mainland Mexico, it’s taking a while, which is quite common down here. So it’s going to be another week or so before the rest of the campers are online. They can hardly wait!

This is luxury! It means we don’t have to go into town to use the Internet, which is a 35-kilometer drive and usually entailed having to purchase a meal. Not that that was a problem, but it was money we really didn’t need to spend. Or we could go to the local store just down the road, but the noise level was generally so high from all the conversation going on around you, that you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone concentrate on what you were doing online.

Now, whenever the mood strikes or a question comes up we can turn on the old laptop and surf or Google to our hearts content!

Which brought up an interesting conversation the other day about progress. We all come from modern, first world countries where the infrastructure has been in place for a long time, but down here that’s not the case. We’ve been coming here for 8 years and some of the folks we share this beach with have been coming for a lot longer than that, some for over 30 years. For them, they can remember dirt roads and the need to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle to make it pretty well anywhere. They talk about going to places where the locals had never seen a Gringo and they could park on any beach, anywhere, even in Cancun, back in the day.

My first experience driving down here on MEX1 was NOT a pleasant one. Most of the highway was only 16 feet wide, with no shoulders, a good 2-foot drop off the sides and potholes that could do serious damage. Having anything larger than a pickup go by in the oncoming lane could be rather terrifying especially since the big semis had to actually veer a bit so our side mirrors wouldn’t smash together as they drove past us. Being passed by a semi or bus was an equally frightening event. A bus passed us one day, so close and so fast that it actually made the aluminum side ripple. It sounded like we had sideswiped each other.

Not to mention the garbage. The northern part of Baja looked like a bomb had gone off in a plastics manufacturing facility. There were plastic bags and bits of plastic in every direction, stuck on trees, bushes and cactus, so many that we were told even the locals joked about them being the unofficial flag of Mexico. In lots of towns, none of the roads were paved and water came from pumps strategically placed at the end of roads in every neighbourhood. Hardly anyone had plumbed water to his or her home. The streets were filled with garbage of every conceivable type, and everyone just stepped over and around it. It was, most assuredly, not pleasant!

Every year we drove down, there was less and less of the garbage, the roads got wider, the asphalt thicker, the pot holes were filled in, more vados (areas were the arroyos cross over roads) had bridges built over them and the services available increased exponentially. More and more dirt roads were paved and plumbing was becoming part of every household. The old street side pumps were disappearing. Of course, less and less beaches were available to camp on (as the land was being bought up) and those that were, now had a rental fee attached, but that was okay too since it included a garbage pickup.

At first, Internet was only available at businesses that had a couple of PC’s, the connections were poor, down loading was impossible and most of the time an e-mail could be sent, eventually, for about 10 pesos an hour. Occasionally you’d see someone with a cell phone but most calls happened at pay phone booths spread all over town.

A few years later some of the restaurants in town put in Wi-Fi with a good sized bandwidth and suddenly their customer base increased as the Gringos looked for somewhere to access the net while eating a meal or drinking a beer at the same time.

Fast forward a few more years, Wi-Fi is available in many places including the local store down by our beach, everyone has a cell phone, there’s still a little garbage around but nothing like it was before and the roads are starting to look like highways back home. Some places have been expanded to 4 (or 6, we’re still trying to figure it out) lanes including the highway leading south out of Loreto.

The changes have improved life for the locals too. In Loreto, most of the side streets are now paved or will be soon, almost every home has electricity and not a roadside water pump is to be found.

With Internet so readily available even the poorest citizen, who previously couldn’t even afford a TV, can now see the world, not just their small part of it.

It’s made our lives easier so much easier too as we can now contact our kids at anytime and have real time conversations with our grandkids without interruption or distraction.

I guess only time will tell if this is going to be a good or bad thing for the locals, but one thing is for sure, in a place like Baja progress is noticeable, recognizable, and so far, moving at high speed!

 

A curious herd of donkeys we met on one of our hikes. You just never know what you're going to see down here!

The above photo is here to show you that even with all the changes, old Mexico is still right around the corner. We came across these curious donkeys on one of our hikes and you still see the occasional horse, mule or donkey, complete with tack,  tied up beside a very modern store or restaurant in Loreto. It’s kind of nice that the old still co-exists side by side with the new.

 

Before I sign off I just want to take this moment to wish all of you Feliz Navidad and Prospero Anos Nuevo! See you in 2014!

The year of the Mouse? Mosquito? Whatever…

31 Oct

The road beckoned in late September as the first hints of the coming winter, started to reveal themselves. We wished our son-in-law a Happy Birthday, kissed our daughter and grandkids goodbye, and headed for the ferry to Washington State and the road heading south.

With Rosy, our Dodge van, full to the rafters with a new fridge for Grummy, a telescope for me and many other odds and sods it was going to be a fast trip and it was. Travelling Highway 101 down the west coast till just south of San Francisco, where we swung over to I-5 we made it to our usual spot on Rattlesnake Beach in 5 ½ days.

The weather breaks

The weather was a bit rainy the first day, but after that, the sun came out and it was a beautiful trip down. If you ever get the chance, drive the 101. The scenery, from mid-Washington State to just before San Francisco, California is awesome. We’ve found over the years that the traffic is easy to deal with, as long as it’s not high summer and there are many places to stop for a walk, picnic, hike, play tourist, shop for unique gifts or just to admire the view and take a few pictures. The problems start just before you hit San Francisco, where the population density increases so drastically that we find it’s just not worth the hassle. That’s not to say that the coast road in California isn’t worth the trip, it is! The sights are great but the best part of the trip is really the dramatic views off the coast of Oregon with it’s many islands, sandy beaches, lagoons and massive erratic’s!

The rugged coast of Oregon

The rugged coast of Oregon

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

Once we arrived in Baja, it was obvious that we’d come just a little too soon. The daily temperatures averaged 95 to 100F with 85% humidity. Now, I can hear all of you saying “Oh, poor you”, in a sarcastic voice, but think about that for a minute. There’s no air conditioning in our rig, no breeze to evaporate sweat and with the humidity that high, it’s like sitting in a sauna all day and night. Sweat just poured off of us as if we were standing under a steady shower and we needed to carry paper towels with us at all times to keep it out of our eyes. Even the ocean didn’t provide any respite since it’s temperature was in the high 80’s. You couldn’t even tell you had walked into it for the first couple of weeks we were here. Nudity or as close as you could come was the dress of the day.

A Mexican Horse trailer

You can tell you’ve crossed the border when you start to see things like this.

The bugs weren’t bad, a few mosquitoes, no-see-ums and fly’s, left overs from the last tropical storm that had gone by over the summer, when it had rained for 3 days straight. The government had actually sprayed due to Dengue Fever showing it’s ugly head. Other than that, it was very green and lush, looking much as it had when we left in March last year. The beach this year was actually sandy, with a lot of wood from the storms, but nothing as bad as it had been after Hurricane Paul had gone by last October.

Underneath all that wood was a beautiful sandy beach.

Underneath all that wood was a beautiful sandy beach.

2 weeks ago Tropical Storm Octave went right over us. It didn’t do much to the beach, but it did rain 6 inches in less than 24 hours and of course, once again Highway Mex1, was severely damaged in way more places than last time. See, with the Gigantes Mountain range right behind us the rain builds up there, then comes thundering down, building up speed as if heads for the Sea of Cortez. If you remember your science classes, water will always find it’s own level and even though there are many established arroyos, all it takes is a new rock or tree blocking even a partial bit of the old course, to make the water veer and start a new one. Water forced it’s way over, under and through places that had never had water before. Every time it rains for more than a couple of hours here, it’s a new lesson in hydrology with just how powerful and destructive water can be.

Here’s a little something to think about too, the desert surrounding us is so saturated, that wild, Shaggy Mane mushrooms are growing on the road into our beach. Now that’s not something you see in the Sonoran Desert much, I’m thinking!

A week after that, we had a 6.8 earthquake, centered just 65 miles due east of Loreto. Nothing unusual in that since the Sea of Cortez is actually a continuation of the San Andreas Fault. The experience for us was interesting, as we just happened to be in town that day and neither of us had ever experienced the shaking of one before, but a conversation with a kayak guide who had been out on Carmen Island made us realize how dangerous it actually was. The land around here is made up of, basically, volcanic rock, liberally laced with compressed ash. With all the rain widening any gaps, once the earth shook, rock came loose and fell. The guide said he’d gone up a hill to make a cell call, then headed back down to his guests, reaching them, just as the quake let loose. The place he’d been standing fell and he said that it was raining rocks the size of our Grumman. If he’d been on the top of the hill when the quake struck, he’d have died. Nothing like a little perspective!

And now, 2 weeks after the rain, we can’t go outside anymore. The mosquitos are so bad that even wearing 30% DEET doesn’t repel them and Dengue Fever has reared its ugly head again. Used to be, that even when the bugs were bad, it was only in the early morning or close to sunset, but not anymore, now it’s all day and night. It’s almost funny watching people do the bug dance, until you have to go outside yourself, and then it’s a misery. Even being right down at the water doesn’t keep them away!

Then there are the mice and rats. Since last years rain brought grass to the desert and this years has kept it growing, that means there are a lot of seeds to eat and in the desert if there’s an abundance of food, there will soon be an abundance of things to eat it, hence the rodents. There are millions of them and they are everywhere. We weren’t here 2 days when a rat took up residence in the engine compartment of Grummy. Thank god they can’t get inside. Richard built the van with absolutely no access to the outside using his Dad’s experience as a guide. Dodge however, wasn’t so lucky and it took us 2 weeks to get rid of the mice that had taken up residence in Rosy and the same amount of time to figure out how they were getting in. Both had not only set up housekeeping but had built nests and started raising a brood. Good thing neither of us are softies, since the idea of traps and poison didn’t even phase us. I don’t know about you, but cute as they might be, I’m not in the slightest bit interested in sharing my living space with them. Oh, and did I mention the Gopher snakes that eat rodents? Seems there’s been a population explosion amongst them too!

Yeah, I know. Bitch, bitch, bitch!

Well, I guess that saying about the snake in Paradise is really true, or maybe it’s the one about having to always pay the piper, who knows, but down here nothing ever comes easy. Ah, well, there’s certainly never a dull moment down on Rattlesnake Beach!

TTFN!

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!

Sensationalism at it’s worst?

19 Mar

 

Well it’s that time of year again when the neighbourhood starts to break up. Folks have to start heading home now for a variety of reasons, some for jobs, some for taxes, some for doctors appointments. The reasons are as varied as the folks who live here all winter long.

 

Of course, few leave without a send off of some sort or another and it’s always a damn good reason for having a potluck.

 

The last get together we had, the conversation rolled around to Sirius Radio and a news report that was heard on a Canadian station. The same folks then viewed a similar program on BCTV. (Yes, some of us have satellite TV down here). The stories were about how dangerous it is to travel in Mexico!

 

This prompted a great deal of hilarity around the campfire. None of us have EVER had any problems down here, except for the occasional, minor pilfering. No violence, no hold-ups, no kidnappings, no drugs, no guns, and there are people who have been coming to this area for over 30 years. Oh sure, we’ve all heard the stories about somebody’s friends cousins girlfriend, who was held up at a blockade on the highway by gun wielding drug runners who stole everything including their car. Try as we might though, none of us have ever been able to find a single person who has experienced this first hand and every year we hear the exact same story only the location changes.

 

Any excuse for a party. Eat drink and BS

As we sat around talking about this, all of us had stories to share of the exact opposite treatment. There was not one of us on the beach that didn’t have an anecdote, about some Mexican going way out of their way to be helpful. For example, we often stop on the side of the highway for coffee and more than once, we’ve had locals stop and ask if we were okay, and did we need mechanical help?

 

We stopped in a very small agricultural town a couple of years ago, far off the beaten track. We discovered they had beautiful gardens so we drove down every street admiring them. At one point an old farmer in his beat up old truck passed us. About half an hour later, when we’d pulled over to have a cup of coffee, the same truck pulled up in front of us, now with 3 people in it. One got out, came to our window and in halting English asked us if we were okay, were we lost. We explained how we had come to their lovely little town, and that we were just having a cup of coffee before heading off, but we thanked him for his enquiry. It seems that the old farmer was concerned that we were lost and so he drove around the town until he found someone who could speak English well enough to converse with us and make sure we were alright!

 

 

We added another little tidbit to the conversation. Recently my father-in-law who also lives near here in the winter needed to go to a bigger town for mechanical help and parts. So off he and Richard went with only an address in hand to Constitution about 100 kilometers away. Needless to say, they couldn’t find the place, so they pulled in to a Frenomex, (which is equivalent to a big chain brake shop at home). The manager spoke English and tried to explain where to go. Realizing that neither of them were familiar with Constitution, he got in his own car and drove them to where the mechanics shop was, then took them to the parts store and refused all offers of recompense.

 

The stories shared that night by more than 30 of us were very similar. All of us have had experiences where complete strangers have gone out of their way to be helpful to the Gringos.

 

We all think there must be some sort of media conspiracy to stop travellers from going to Mexico, especially since there’s hardly a week that goes by that the headlines aren’t blaring about some Canadian or American that’s been beaten, robbed or murdered in Mexico.

 

Okay, yes these things have happened, but they almost always happen in either border towns or big tourist areas, or to someone doing something they shouldn’t have been, or hanging with the wrong kind of people. That’s not to say that murder doesn’t happen in Mexico, it most certainly does, and some of it is pretty horrific, but mostly it’s Mexican on Mexican and is directly related to the drug trade, with the vast majority of it being rival gangs fighting for control, and sometimes innocent bystanders are the unintended victims.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I know enough not to go to border towns for my holidays. If there’s going to be violence, it’s going to be there, especially since border towns the world over are primary smuggling areas, and where there’s smuggling, there’s big money and where there’s big money, there’s violence.

 

I also don’t go to tourist meccas. Anyone with a criminal bent knows that there are going to be tourists with lots of money doing stupid things. Tourists seem to think that if there are many other tourists around, it’s a safe place, so they can get roaring drunk, buy drugs, get into fights and do all sorts of dumb things and nothing bad will happen to them.

 

Now, that said, the media play up every criminal act that happens in Mexico but when was the last time you heard about a tourist having problems in New Orleans? Bet you haven’t, yet many Americans, have told me if I go there to stay away from specific, well-known touristy areas. It seems the bad folk there know that drunken tourists in unfamiliar places make easy marks and being robbed or killed is a fairly common happenstance.

 

I grew up in Vancouver, and it’s a beautiful city, but I don’t travel in the Downtown East side at night there. I’m not interested in hanging around areas that are frequented by gangs either and since the worst gang problems mainly relating to the drug trade in Vancouver are mostly centered in the bucolic suburbs of Surrey, intelligence tells me to stay the hell away from there, especially at night.

 

Talk to Californians, those who live near Los Angeles and they’ll tell you it has a major gang problem and can be a deadly place to go for a walk if you wander into the wrong neighbourhoods, especially if you happen to be wearing the colours of a rival gang. Accidental death by drive-by shooting is a fairly regular occurrence.

 

I’m sure if I looked at statistics, I’d find that just about every tourist area the world over has a an ugly underbelly, yet only Mexico seems to be the country held out as an extremely dangerous place to go on holiday. I can’t tell you why; maybe it has to do with money, ideology, politics or any combination thereof.

 

Maybe your idea of a Mexican vacation is to hang around a large tourist area like Cabo San Lucas, for a week, hoping from crappy bar to crappy bar, drunk out of your mind, being loud and obnoxious and flashing a wad of cash. Or perhaps you’re looking for a little drug and hooker action in places like Tijuana or Mexicali. Chances are if either of these is your idea of a good time, it won’t matter where you are, trouble is going to find you, and it won’t be pretty.

 

What I do know is, if you come to the Baja to visit the little villages, hamlets, towns and beaches, see the sights, take a few photos and enjoy eating some of the local cuisine, you won’t need to worry about any of those things. Of course from the point of view of those of us in the know, the more people afraid to travel to Mexico, the less crowded the beaches will stay.

Hmm, maybe you should listen to those newscasts….