Tag Archives: mexico

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!

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Not your average year!

19 Mar

Just finished celebrating my birthday (March 14th), the last year of my 50’s as my youngest so delicately put it. Sitting around the fire, eating BBQ ribs, scalloped potatoes and drinking tequila, talking about how much longer we all have before we have to head home once more.

The population of campers on the beach has halved over the past week, signaling the end of another season. For all of us, it’s a time of sadness as well as anticipation; sadness because some may not make it back to the beach next winter and anticipation as we all look forward to seeing friends and relatives back home!

This is what the waters have looked like up until today.

This is what the waters have looked like up until today.

As I sit here writing this (March 16th), I’m listening to the VHF radio, hearing chaos out in the Waiting Room and Inner harbour at Puerto Escondido, as boats break loose from their moorings, dinghies capsize and docks are torn to pieces. Today is the very first north wind, exceeding wind speeds of 55 knots! That’s higher than the wind from Hurricane Paul of 2012. It almost seems as if Mother Nature was saving up everything for this one blow!

..and this is what it looks like today!

..and this is what it looks like today!

Up until today our weather has been unseasonably calm, and warm. We’ve had mostly gentle breezes when we would have appreciated slightly higher ones, due to all the mosquito and no-see-um activity all season and we’ve had our little heater on for exactly 45 minutes the entire winter. While everyone at home suffered through some of the worst winter weather on record, we seem to have been sitting right on the very edge of the drought conditions hitting the southwestern United States.

This has been an odd season because normally the Grande Nortes start blowing in November/December and the temperatures begin to drop. It usually gets cold enough that most of us are wearing long pants, with a light jacket during the day because of lower temperatures and blowing sand. Nights and mornings are usually cold enough to have a heat source on for at least a little while.

This year, as I said no winds and average daytime temperatures never dropped below 70 F with averages in the low 80’s. Even the water temperatures have stayed high. High enough that even I’ve been out swimming recently and that’s never happened in the past, at least not for me! Once the water gets below 65, I just don’t want to go in, but this year, it had only just reached that when it started to rise again and it’s now fast approaching 80 again.

For those with years of experience on the water, they’re starting to be a bit concerned about the coming hurricane season since 80-degree water sustains them. They believe with the high temperatures this early in the year that it could lead to a very bad hurricane season with multiple storms. I guess we’ll see and we’ll be watching the weather closely before we venture down next fall.

Ladies fishing day

Just me and Jan out fishing and successfully I must say!

Other than strange weather and worrying about our families back in the extreme cold up north, it’s been pretty much an average year, lots of parties and get togethers, BBQ rib nights, bocce ball games, when we weren’t getting eaten alive by the bugs, fishing, kayaking and hiking. I even got to catch a couple of large Yellowtail on my single action reel which I’d been told was impossible plus we managed to have a couple of Ladies only fishing trips which were highly productive and the cause of much conversation around the fire!

Awesome fight with a 24lb Yellowtail on my single action reel and 10 foot rod!

Awesome fight with a 24lb Yellowtail on my single action reel and 10 foot rod!

The big difference this year was the season brought us kittens instead of puppies. We are usually the recipients of abandoned dogs and puppies on the beach, from the locals, since over the years the folks here have managed to find homes for almost every one. This year it was 9 kittens and 1 cat, most likely the mother of 8 of the kittens, maybe. I have to thank our friends and neighbours on the beach, Sy and Jan, who actually shouldered most of the burden of looking after this brood. We only had one at a time appear on our doorstep, while they had almost the entire group!

Sadly, out of the original 8 kittens, 2 had to be put down and 2 died, most likely from complications of Feline Leukemia, which is a major problem amongst the cat population down here. One of them, I’m sad to say, was a little Siamese cross female that we had decided to adopt and named Bella.

This was the lovely little girl that we originally adopted, before she started to show symptoms of illness.

This was the lovely little girl that we originally adopted, before she started to show symptoms of illness.

Happily, however the other 4 found homes and still remain healthy. For this we have Jan to thank as she did all the leg work and doggedly searched for people to adopt these lovely little girls! The adult cat was eventually live trapped, spayed and released, where she will hopefully manage to survive without producing any more unwanted kittens.

Unfortunately there is no place to take cats in Loreto. Animalandia, a volunteer organization, deals with dogs and has no facilities for cats beyond arranging for spaying and neutering.

Just when we thought we were done with all the animals, I went for a walk up to the little convenience store, and on the way found a very young, very cute, puppy. I may not be a dog lover but there was no way I could ignore this tiny little girl so I carried her to the store and then back to our campsite. As I was showing her to Richard he exclaimed in horror that she was covered in fleas and upon putting her down, it became obvious she really was! There were so many on her, you could see them seething through her fur and she was covered in bumps from bites. Surprisingly enough, not one got on me, nor did I receive a single bite!

Thankfully one of the campers had a flea spray medication that was suitable for young animals, and we soon had the little girl completely free of fleas. She was very appreciative, though I imagine, the previous bites itched like hell! The next morning we took her into Loreto and turned her over to the kind ladies from Animalandia, who figured she would be very easy to adopt out, since the size of her feet indicated she would probably grow quite large, had the colouring of a Rottweiler, and good guard dog instincts, all desirable traits.

Feeling good about ourselves, we headed for home knowing that thanks to our actions, this little dog would have a much happier life, rather than getting hit by a car, being eaten by coyotes or bobcats or dying from starvation or dehydration. We walked through the door of Grummy, only to have our neighbours knock on it moments later, with a small furry bundle wrapped in a silk shirt and the greetings of Happy Birthday!

On their walk early in the morning they came across another kitten, all by itself very near the highway, and they just couldn’t leave her to get killed by a car. Knowing that we had lost the kitten we’d adopted, and that we had talked about getting another kitten when we got back to Canada, they brought her to us. And so, Bella 2 came into our lives. (I would post a picture but WordPress seems to be having major problems uploading photos these days)

(The name was stuck in our heads and even when we tried calling her something else, “Bella” always seemed to come out. She responded to the name almost immediately, so we figured she was destined to be called it).

You know, we had both forgotten what it was like to have a kitten.  They’re crazy; fun, entertaining, cute and cuddly, but crazy and they wake up way too early. So now we have to figure out how to travel with a kitten and live with her in our Dodge van at home. So far she’s taken to the Grummy with no problem at all and doesn’t seem inclined to wander out of sight of us. We’ll see,  I guess it’ll be one step at a time. We’re really hoping it will work out for her, and us, but if not, we’ve already had a couple of folks at home volunteering to take her. So one way or another this little lady is going to have a great life.

Stay tuned; I may have to change the title of this blog to “Travels with Bella”!

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!

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!

IT’S ALL IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

27 Oct

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

A cardinal comes to sample our oranges in the early morning

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

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

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

Trying his luck, fishing at dawn

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

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

That is no longer the case.

Who watches the watcher?

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

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

A school of fish paying me no attention.

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

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

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

This little fellow was just as curious as I was.

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

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

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

Heading back to his home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

AREN’T YOU AFRAID?

9 Mar

In February of 2006, my eldest daughter and I decided to go to Playa del Carmen and stay at a 4 star hotel for 2 weeks. While we were there, a couple were murdered in their room. From that moment on we have constantly been asked the same question about going to Mexico, “Aren’t you afraid?” The answer is NO!

Punta Arena Beach, just south of La Paz

We are constantly amazed at the coverage any crime involving foreigners that occurs in Mexico, is given in the American and Canadian press. The way the news is slanted makes it seems as if these things never happen anywhere but in Mexico and that no sane person would ever voluntarily go there.

 
Mexico has an economic problem. It’s a third world country, where the average monthly wage, before the recession was $130.00 US. Now, chances are many are either not working, or if they are, they are probably being paid much less, if at all. Many Mexicans we have talked to this winter have told us they haven’t received a wage in months, but are afraid to quit. If they do, they may not be able to find another job, but if they stick with what they have, they may eventually get some of the money owed them.

A piece of black coral left behind by the tide.

When physical violence happens here, it generally occurs in large border towns as these are Drug distribution centres. Drugs are moved to them and then across the border into the US because Americans are the drug cartels biggest customers.  Don’t kid yourself about making the border leakproof. There are always ways to get people and products across any border and the harder it becomes, the more valuable the product when you DO get it across and money is what it’s all about! The violence happens either when gangs fight over turf, or try to protect their empires from those who would bring them down. They kill each other, those they believe threaten them and anyone who gets caught in the cross fire.

 

When the US and Canadian press get hold of these stories they write them as if no one is ever murdered in their countries, there are no gangs, no drugs and all is sweetness and light there. All you have to do is read the Los Angeles Times or the Vancouver Sun to know that’s a huge crock of BS. I’m not sure why the news is slanted the way it is at home, but to us it sure seems as if it’s simply to scare people and it works beautifully. People are afraid to come to Mexico.

 
The only place any major problems have occurred in Baja is in Tijuana, just across the California border. Sure, there’s been the occasional violent crime committed in Cabo san Lucas and La Paz, but certainly, considering the number of tourists that visit those cities every year, it’s nowhere near the number that happens in say, Las Vegas, or Niagara Falls, but you’d never know that from the news reports would you?

 
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is crime here, even on our lovely beach. Last year an old rug and 2 broken lawn chairs went missing and this year just before we arrived, an old 10HP boat motor was stolen. Last month during the full moon, an attempt was made, 2 nights in a row, by the same men, to steal a 90HP boat motor, but was foiled by the vigilance and sleeplessness of one of the campers. Last night an unattended and unlocked boat trailer was pinched. These are crimes of desperation as the recession has hit very hard here and unlike the rest of North American the economy is not rebounding, there’s little work and the tourist industry is in the tank, both because of the economic slowdown and, of course, fear.

 
When these very poor locals see the things that many of the campers bring down with them, they assume we are wealthy and won’t miss a few odds and ends or can easily afford to replace those items that go missing. The local police don’t help matters since many of those responsible for the crimes are related to some of the constabulary. Down here family is everything, and the policemen are very unlikely to arrest and prosecute a relative. Plus many Anglos here, especially Americans, seem to forget that this is a foreign country, with different laws and legal system. There isn’t the vast network of police and security available to protect the individuals and their property like there is in Canada and the US, so we all have to take responsibility for our own protection.

 
Some of the Anglos here exasperate the problem by flaunting their obvious wealth, living in fancy, expensive homes, in villages where the locals live in 2 or 3 room shacks, with little or nothing in the way of what we call necessities. Down here a refrigerator is a luxury! These people always seem to have an amazing assortment of cars, trucks, Quads, boats and other toys laid out and displayed for all to see. They live down here because it’s cheap and with a  relatively small income from the US or Canada, can live pretty high on the hog. When their belongings go missing, they go berserk, loudly disparage any and all things Mexican. Though when asked if they would show strangers all the money in their wallets or leave all their belongings unlocked and on display in their home country, the answer is usually a much more subdued, “Well, no. I thought it was safe here!” No different here than it is at home folks!

 
I should also add that the local Mexicans are not responsible for everything that goes missing. There are certainly a few light fingered Anglos in the crowd and many have no qualms about purchasing obviously stolen items for cheap.

 
So, when we get asked the question by all those who believe the newspaper headlines, we tell them that we feel no more afraid to travel to Baja than we would travelling in our own country. If we stay out of problem areas, like the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, or Tijuana, the chances of anything bad happening to us, are slim. If we don’t go around flaunting what little wealth we have, which we  wouldn’t do at home, let alone while travelling, we won’t draw any unwanted attention.  Truth be told, one look at ol’ Grummy and no one would ever assume we had anything worth stealing.

A small island off Agua Verde a beautiful beach just south of us.

This is an absolutely beautiful area full of gorgeous views, awe inspiring vistas and warm and friendly people. Sure there’s a few bad apples in the bunch, but with a little common sense, you can be as safe and comfortable here as you are in your own home.

 
If the headlines make you afraid to travel, then don’t!  The less folks on the road, the more room there is for those of us who want to know where it goes.