I know I left our last blog post on a bit of a cliffhanger, but I’m here to assure you Jacqui and I have not given up on our adventure. We are still enthusiastic to see all the wonderful things to come on this trip and are prepared to take on the hardships that will inevitably come with them.Read More
So Jacqui and I are sitting in a familiar place yet again. Several times we’ve returned, and each time seems a little more dramatic than the last. On this occasion we arrived riding on the tailgate of our friends’ truck to spend yet another Dolphin-less night at Tres Amigos. Shall we rewind a bit?Read More
Jacqui and I are really eager to start sharing stories of our adventures on the road, but… we’re still not done fixing the Dolphin! Just like that stubborn download that speeds along then suddenly takes forever to complete the last 10%, so our rebuild progresses.
During the heavy construction, each day ended with a sort of instant gratification. When we put the tools away we could stare in pride at how much was accomplished. Progress was so apparent to the naked eye it seemed like things would come to a conclusion in no time. Now it’s the filthy finishing work that consumes our days and makes it obvious that this is no quick project.
Crawling under the car to install a sheet of plastic to line the wheel well is necessary, and will leave you washing mud out of your hair, but it’s not the sort of work that you sit back and admire at the end of the day. The same is true with taping, priming, electrical and plumbing. All these tasks rob hours of time but never are seen when completed. So…I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive us for our lack of zealousness in photo taking this past week.
Despite the snails pace things have taken on, after another week of work, the old girl’s insides are really starting to look like our home again. We even had another creature encounter. After finding a small plumbing leak, the decision was made that the heater would need to be removed to access it. A couple screws and a quick tug later a mummified rat was discovered. At least it was already dead, unlike a certain series of previous spider encounters.
Outside of construction, life in Tres Amigos RV Park is slowing considerably as many of our new friends are leaving to head north. Goodbyes are never a happy affair.
Don’t let my construction and goodbye complaints mislead you though. Jacqui and I, when not filthy and tired, are still happy to be where we are. After all, when we complete a long day of work we can get clean with a boogie board in the ocean, or sit on the beach watching the horses being led on their twice-daily walk. We’re in a place people pay tons of money to come visit just for a day, the prime example of that being the cruise ships that pull in every Wednesday. Jacqui and I always manage to get second looks from the cruisers when they realize not every gringo on Stone Island came on their boat. This is especially true if we’re carrying construction materials.
So now I will make a cautious attempt at a prediction. If things continue forward with minimal hiccups, we should be hitting the road again by next weekend!
After missing out on a chance to see the Grey Whale breeding ground in Guerrero Negro, Jacqui and I were not about to miss out on the Whale Sharks in La Paz. We made a quick reservation with a tour guide via phone call while we were in Tecolote, and were supposed to meet him at Marina La Paz the following morning.
However, the next morning rolled around and we couldn’t find our tour guide. Whether it was a location miscommunication or he just flaked I couldn’t tell you. But lucky for us there was an office in that port that offered nothing but Whale Shark tours. A man from the office came out and asked if we were lost, at which point we asked if he knew of the tour guide whose business card I had. He didn’t and neither did the port authority. But it would seem the tour office took pity on us. He informed us that if we wanted to join with the group they had leaving in a few minutes, they would drop $15USD off each of our ticket prices. That brought the price to equal with what our other guide was offering, and made it a no brainer to hop on board.
Best decision ever!! We had the privilege of seeing 4 different gentle giants that day. Strangely enough, it almost seemed like we saw them in order since each was bigger than the previous. We started with an 8ft baby, followed by a 16ft teenager, a 20ft adult and ending with a 35ft grandpa.
Thanks to the GoPro and Jacqui’s newly found video editing skills, we have a 1min highlight video of the day.
After a few weeks settling into our temporary hometown of La Ventana, Jacqui and I had an epiphany: we are the only people who ever seem to drive our RV. There are a lot of RV's here, but they stay constantly parked. It seems every other person brought an extra car, an ATV, a motorcycle or bicycles. Whereas every time we want to run errands, we have to pack up the whole house, take it off leveling blocks, and drive sluggishly to pick up a few groceries. So this brought on: Operation Find Alternative Transportation.
Our first thought was how awesome it'd be to have a small, beater motorcycle or scooter to ride around. I'll tell you right now, if you want something cheap with an engine, buy it in the US. Back in the states a junky motor-vehicle is an eyesore, and something your neighbors or significant other is constantly convincing you to get rid of. But here in Baja, anything that moves, or limps along for that matter, is a viable means of transportation. There seems to be no social stigma I can see about piling your entire family, groceries, and whatever cargo you have onto the back of a tiny scooter that’s billowing black smoke. Because of this, it’s next to impossible to find an old motorbike for sale.
So a bicycle became the only way to go. Once again we found it would have been cheaper to get a good condition, used bicycle in the states. However, getting a bicycle professionally repaired here is incredibly inexpensive. So a used, poor condition bicycle becomes a frugal man's best course to take.
I managed to find an old mountain bike for $46USD that suited me nicely at a pawn shop. It definitely needed work and had obviously been poorly spray-painted red. However, I was in love.
Jacqui's bike was harder to find, and more expensive, but we finally found a beast we decided was perfect for her at a posted price of 1300 pesos (about $100USD). But, worry not, Jacqui and I have been listening to Spanish tapes and reading our dictionary, so I was ready to use my excellent negotiation skills. I approached, greeted the woman good afternoon, and asked her if she could sell the bike a little cheaper… or so I thought. You see, the word cheap is barato, but if your pronunciation is a little off, you might slur out the word borracho...which means drunk. My negotiation of price was met with hysterical laughter.
However… it was successful. This señora was good-natured and agreed I could have the bike a little more drunk. With a wink, she proposed 1200 pesos and 4 cervesas as her counter offer. A purple bike with front shocks for about $90USD left us more than happy, and with a good story.
Finally, we had to figure out where to put these bikes. They certainly were not going inside the Dolphin since we're already crammed for space, so we decided to visit the local welder. I spent 30 seconds drawing up a diagram of what I thought could be the perfect rack. I wanted it to come out from the center of our spare tire, fork upwards and be removable with a pin. To me, this did not sound like an easy or cheap thing to make. 300 pesos later (roughly $24USD) we have a fully custom bike rack.
Operation Find Alternative Transportation, complete.
Four Days after crossing the border we finally arrived in our temporary hometown of La Ventana, Mexico. Just describing the three days of driving from Punta Baja to La Ventana is no small task. It really feels like every time you turn a corner, every time you get through a valley or over a mountain the scenery completely changes.
On the subject of safety, the people here are extremely friendly. The gas stations don’t fill your cars up out of cans. (They even have the option of premium fuel) There are official banks with trustworthy ATMs, and I even witnessed a fellow tourist leave his card in an ATM, then a local ran after him to return his card. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone with a pinch of common sense to embark on this journey. The roads are narrow, windy and sometimes have crossing livestock, but if you’re not speeding or driving at night, there is no reason to fear for your safety. I think one of the most interesting facts, however, is we never got pulled over. In our 8,000 miles of driving now, the only place we got police attention was Mississippi. Hmm…. Maybe we just don’t look like we have any money for bribes?
After waking in Punta Baja, prepping the Dolphin for travel, and saying goodbye to some of the local pooches, we began our trek again. Day 2 driving included endless mountains of boulders, and the largest cactus I’ve ever seen in my life. Guerrero Negro was the town we choose for our temporary home that night. It boasts the highest concentration of grey whales in the world, and much of the town’s business is focused around taking tourists out to them. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see them and we hit the road again at first light.
For day 3 I had it stuck in my head that I wanted to camp at Bahia de Conception. I really had no reason other than seeing the name on the map, and my imagination telling me it must be amazing. On route to our night’s camp we made a friend on the road. Well, kind of, I don’t think he actually knew. There was a truck pulling a giant fifth wheel camper, on the side was the logo COUGAR. Jacqui and I both decided we liked driving near this Cougar. Call us a bit sinister, but the Cougar was so nice and flashy, we decided he was cop bait, and if we stayed near him we’d never get pulled over.
We finally said goodbye to our Cougar friend when we went for lunch in the town of Mulege. An absolute must see. One of the most beautiful towns we have had the pleasure of seeing. It’s literally known as an oasis, with a river flowing through the town, palm trees everywhere, and great food. But just around the corner from Mulege, after dodging some cows that were carelessly crossing the highway, is Bahia de Conception. It needs no words, just see the photos.
Day 4 doesn’t need a lot of description. It was an early start, a long drive full of cliff side views of the Sea of Cortez, and forests of cacti. With one last giant climb we finally found ourselves descending into La Ventana. A town that is hardly inhabited outside of the windy season. Almost every winter day when it’s finally cool enough over the sea, the desert sun heats up the mountain side which draws in the cool sea air causing a mad rush of wind. It’s almost like someone turns on the light switch everyday from 12-5.