Tag Archives: beach

Back to the beach!

30 Sep

Alright, it’s finally come to an end. No not my blog, though I’m sure lot’s of you thought that’s what happened. Naw. There just wasn’t much to talk about. This is after all a travel blog and when the only travel we did this summer was back to the Island twice and a quick visit to our friends on one of the gulf islands, well there really wasn’t much to tell you. We’re putting the last bits and pieces into the Dodge and will hit the road Wednesday morning, heading south once again. The roads into Baja are open but we haven’t heard much from any of our friends there, so we’re not sure what to expect. Hurricane Odile went right through there but didn’t do anywhere near as much damage as it had further south. They didn’t get through unscathed, though the city of Loreto is now trumpeting the fact that they are open for business once again, so hopefully everyone has come through safely. I’m thinking the beach is going to be pretty overgrown and it’s looking like we’ll meet up with one of the long time campers there around the first week in October. We’ll have our work cut out for us getting down the old dirt road and cutting down the weeds to be able to access our campsite, but hey, if that’s what we have to do, that’s what we have to do. Time to say a sad goodbye to our family and friends here and look forward to another 6 months in our other home in Baja California Sur, Rattlesnake Beach. When we get there, I’ll tell you all about the trip and post pictures of how things are. Take care all of you and we’ll talk again soon!

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!

Oh baby, it’s cold and wet here!

26 Apr

So here we are, back on Vancouver Island, which isn’t really home anymore, but we’re a lot closer than we were. The trip home took us 10 days, and once again, just like the proverbial horses headed to the barn, the closer to Canada we got the quicker we moved. I have to apologize for the lack of photos, since I just didn’t see anything interesting enough to take pictures of. This is the problem with taking the same route home more than once, everything becomes familiar and after a few more times, uninteresting.

We spent 2 lovely nights at our favourite Baja campsite, in San Quintin, though this time around it was anything but quiet. Since the weather was sunny, warm and sultry, and it was the start of the Easter holidays, the beach was filled everyday with picnicking and partying locals. Lots of good food, people and  music. Not to mention the beach itself being used as a freeway, plus a full scale clam fishery underway. It was fun, lively, entertaining and interesting. It’s such a neat place at any time and we know we’re always going to enjoy our stays. Plus you can’t beat the price $120 pesos a night. With the Canadian dollar doing so well these days that’s a grand total of  $10.00. Now I have to qualify a bit as they don’t have potable water for drinking available, but they do provide a sanitary dump  and have hot showers using brackish water. The view is great and depending on the  season, a variety of absolutely fresh seafood is available right out of the  Fishermen’s boats.

Now, I have a dirty secret…I looooove BEEF!!!! Most especially steak and roasts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat just about any type of seafood until it’s coming out my ears and you’ll never hear me complain, but every once in a while I need to eat  a thick, rare, tender steak, which are damned hard to come by in Baja. The beef cows there are free range as I’ve mentioned before but they are also in survivor mode, so there’s no such thing as a fat cow. Beef is definitely available but it’s best cut up fine, shredded or stewed, and if you do get a steak you’d better have good teeth.

Is all this leading somewhere you ask? Well, yes it is. I’m not fond of chain restaurants, but a few years ago we discovered a place called The Golden Corral in a small southern California town named El Centro. It’s a steak and seafood buffet where for $8.00 each before 4PM or $13.00 after, I can indulge my need for BEEF! Richard really just indulges me, but I notice he’s no slouch in the number of plates he goes through. Richard is a firm follower of the SeeFood Diet, you know, see food, eat food!

Anyways, I make him go this way every time we leave Baja, just so I can indulge my need to sink my teeth into a nice piece of rare steak. It causes interesting travel plans since whichever route we use to get home always starts at El Centro. This time was pretty pedestrian, we drove around the west side of the Salton Sea, a route we hadn’t been on before, then just took secondary roads west until we hit the I5. For once, our mechanical problems were simple, a torn fan belt, and replacement of a couple of wheel lug bolts. Both times when need appeared so did salvation. The belt was replaced with an old one we had with us, then a Napa Auto Parts store on the side of the road sent us to a diesel parts shop just a couple of blocks from the Mojave Airport.

We got the belt and a chance to visit the historic airport where Burt Rutan built his SpaceShipOne which was the first civilian aircraft in space. He maintains his company Scaled Composites here which is considered the most creative company working in the aviation industry today.

The bolts were even easier. We stopped for coffee in a road side rest stop in Lake Shasta, when a gentleman walking by looking at the van noticed a bolt missing and informed us. About 20 miles down the road was a Les Schwab Tire store. They replaced 4 of them when it became apparent that the missing one wasn’t the only problem and we were on our way again in a couple of hours. So, for once no catastrophic mechanical failures and the trip home was pretty uneventful. It was even warm and sunny right up to until we boarded the Black Ball Ferry to come home.

We’re back on the island now and it’s raining and cold and the forecast is for more of the same until at least this weekend. We were gone for 5 months, the temperature during the day averaged 65F to 75F and during that entire time we probably had less than 20 cloudy days and 1 hour of rain.

People ask us why we go to Baja in the winter? Well, duh!

The wind, she’s a blowing.

2 Mar

The Grande Norte came back this week. We’ve  been enjoying warmer weather and watching the sun rise higher in the sky everyday, but just like at home, just when you think Spring has arrived, a late season storm puts paid to that for while. So it is down here. The wind is supposed to blow all week. It’s not going to be high winds, but it makes kayaking and hanging around on the beach just too cold and uncomfortable, so we have to find something else to keep ourselves occupied. It’s time to go hiking!
There are 3 canyons nearby that we can choose from, Luigi, Wow and Tabour. All are basically the beginnings of the large arroyos that dot the landscape around here. Places where the waters that fall on the Gigante Mountains are gathered and funnelled to the Sea. They are also completely different from one another.
Now, I can’t speak about Luigi Canyon as we’ve never been up it. It is on private land, fenced off and the gentleman who has the key can be capricious, if you can find him.
Tabour is the closest and easiest to access. It’s just a little ways further up the road from the water well that we all use for our drinking water, about half a Kilometre from the highway. It consists of boulders; some small as baseballs, some so massive you can’t conceive of any power strong enough to move them. In Tabour, you do a lot of scrambling up, over and around the rocks, and unless you know the secret of the Rabbit Hole, you only get to experience 1/3 of the climb and miss the fabulous views of Danzante available further up the canyon.

Over, under or through the boulders of Tabour

Entrance to the Rabbit Hole.

The view from the top of Tabour Canyon

This hike starts the minute you park your vehicle and it generally takes us about 5 hours, but that includes a couple of rest stops to admire the scenery, take a few photos or do a little yoga, (Yes, even here we’ve been known to do a few asanas) plus one long lunch break.
As I said earlier, these canyons are funnels for water but just as the hikes are different so is the water you find. All the canyons have pools and all of the water is very cold, (though that doesn’t stop the hardy from swimming in them) but in Tabour you don’t usually get your feet wet as all the pools and rivulets can be skirted. This year the water is very low as Baja Sur is in a long drought. From the picture below, you can see where the water level usually is. Tabour comes eventually to an end. Those who are rock climbers can go further, but those of us who don’t do class 5 climbs call it quits here.

See how low the water is?

As far as you can go in Tabour.

Wow Canyon is about 10 Kilometres down the highway from Rattlesnake beach and is reached by turning down a bone rattling dirt road, that eventually just peters out after about 5 Kilometres. You park, start walking and just continue to walk, there are no massive boulders to overcome here, as the canyon bottom is flat and easily walked, but there are large pools of water that must be waded or swum through. This hike you get wet and I don’t like doing it until this time of year. The sun is much higher in the sky and actually shines directly down in the canyon in some areas. Any other time of year that we’re here, it’s in the shade. It doesn’t make the water any warmer but it sure dries you up a lot faster.

The first fording in Wow.

Wow Canyon always lives up to it’s name. None of us know what the Mexican name is for it, but it’s called Wow, because just about every corner you turn, someone in the group will usually exclaim “WOW”!

Just one of the magnificent views in Wow

This last trip we startled 2 California Bighorn Sheep from their drinking. This is a very rare sight and we were really lucky to have got a couple of shots of them. We also spied a Ringtailed cat that scampered quickly away.

Like Tabour, Wow comes to and end by a pool and again, those who are experts can go on if they like, but we eat our lunch, then head back, admiring the views that we missed on our way in as we head out.  A trip through Wow generally takes 8 hours and still, no one every really wants to leave this magical place.

As you can see, unless you're a rock climber, this is the end in Wow.

Wherever there's water in the canyons, the sound of frogs can be heard.

Just one of many massive Figs growing in Wow Canyon

This pool we swim in Wow, just for fun. It's very deep and at this time of the year it's the warmest.

Both of these canyons are filled with an abundance of animal and plant life supported by the constant availability of water. Even in drought years, there is water here. Some pools may go dry and streams flow under the rocks instead of above ground, but there is always water. Canyon Wrens sing their beautiful songs, frogs of many different colours and sizes croak to one another, flowers bloom in mass profusion, Fig Trees grow to enormous size, Ring Tailed Cats, Coyotes, Bobcats, Sheep, and other wildlife come to drink and every once in a while the silence is broken by a few humans seeking a little exercise and looking for something to do while the wind blows.

The end of a wonderful day!

 

What are we going to do today?

23 Feb

When people find out what we do every Winter, they exclaim, “Wow, that sounds wonderful!” Then you can see them start to think about what they would do to occupy themselves day in and day out for 5 to 6 months. Eventually they come to the conclusion that it must get pretty boring here after a while. Well nothing could be further from the truth. When we get asked what we do all day, our standard answer is, “I don’t know, but it takes all day to do it!”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Our days are filled with activity! We do yoga 3 mornings a week and after that anything could happen. Maybe we’ll go hiking up any 1 of the 3 huge canyons in the Gigante Mountains behind us. Perhaps I’ll climb the hill beside us, cleaning up the trail and checking to see that the rock steps are still in good repair, while Richard goes to collect firewood or do some work on the road coming into Rattlesnake Beach.

A small portion of Wow Canyon

We might decide to go into Loreto and pick up a few things we can’t get at the local store and to have lunch. Perhaps a Torta or maybe a Mesquite grilled chicken, Mmmmmm!
If the winds are cooperating, kayaking might be a good bet. Watch a few whales and dolphins, try for a fish for dinner or just find and explore a new beach with nary a soul in sight.

In search of solitude

No one knows what they are, but they sure did taste good!

Visiting with other campers on the beach is a great way to spend the day, learning about each other, discussing philosophy, or current events, or simply shooting the breeze. Sometimes we have pot luck suppers with many of us gathered together to celebrate the full moon, a birthday, the arrival of family for a visit, the departure of friends, or for no particular reason at all except a fire is always nice when you share it with someone.

Nothing like a good fire to share with friends

Or maybe we’ll just hang about lazing away the day in the Grummy or lying in the hammock, reading, relaxing, watching the birds and trying to identify who it is that comes to our water bath or sings so beautifully in the bushes beside us.

He thinks this is his exclusive drinking fountain

This fellow comes by every couple of days to check out our campsite

Sometimes we just sit and watch the beach and ocean, kayak groups getting ready to leave for the week, sail boats coming or leaving Puerto Escondido, dolphins, seals, schools of fish being chased by cormorants or unseen advisories below, friends launching their boats, pelicans and boobies diving, even whales going by on their mysterious journeys. We sit with coffee in hand and simply enjoy the passage of the day and the constantly changing beauty all around us.

The view from my hammock, looking up through the Mesquite branches

Sometimes beauty can be found in a patch of sand!

We have so many things to occupy our time, our biggest problem is deciding which one of them we’ll do today!