Ferry outta here!

After five weeks in Baja Jacqui and I got the itch and decided it was time to continue our journey south. However, that requires taking a ferry. There are currently two ferry options in La Paz: Baja Ferries, which boasts vessels that look reminiscent of small cruise ships, with cabins and accommodations to see you make the journey across the Sea of Cortez in comfort. Then there’s what we took.

We hopped on with TMC ferries. This is a company that definitely is not catering to tourists, and because of that comes at a considerable discount. The ship is just that, a ship. It is a giant steel beast with a mouth that opens to accommodate semi-trucks with their trailers. After driving into the ship there is even a lift to move big rigs up to the top floor.

After a few repeated days of returning and trying to get tickets or a reservation we finally were successful. We lined up to be loaded on the boat while Jacqui and I were brimming with smiles and excitement. High fives, fist bumps and photographs were in order. We requested that we got put on the top floor because we’d heard you can access your car if you park there. We also heard that it’s more comfortable to sleep in your auto than the accommodations that come with TMC.

After we were guided into the ship, up the elevator, and into a spot with only a few inches to spare between all the surrounding truck trailers, we began to doubt if it was possible, or even an intelligent decision, to get back to our Dolphin. So with the newly sown doubt in our hearts we enjoyed our complementary rice, beans, carne and tortilla dinner, then settled into the passenger room. It was a large blank room full of retired airplane seats, a TV on one side, and the lovely fragrance of urine. A few hours in that room had me reinvigorated to reinvestigate how hard it’d really be to get back to our car. I saw that a few other cars were occupied and came to the conclusion…this is Mexico, no one is going to yell at me if I wander onto the deck and crawl into my car.  

In the states they would never even allow civilians on this ship. Not that it’s unsafe for voyage in any way, quite the opposite actually. It’s simply that this is not a passenger vessel. This boat was purpose built to haul semi-trucks and workers. To get down to our Dolphin we had to hold the narrow handrails, not fall down the stairwell where the door was left open, squeeze between vehicles and finally crouch under a semi-truck trailer to get in. In the states everything would have been padded, warning signs and no trespassing signs would be everywhere, and every worker would be making sure I didn’t stub my toe and sue the company. Not here, if I tripped and knocked my teeth out, I’d simply be a toothless idiot. If I say so myself… I really quite like it.

Aside from that, disembarking is a rather modest affair. We sat in the Dolphin watching them remove the truck trailers around us, and only vacated the vehicle in fear of getting crushed twice. Then it’s back down the lift, out the security gate and you’re magically in a whole new place. Mazatlan!!



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. 

I would like the bike a little more drunk please

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.

Ados y Nana bike shop in La Paz.

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.

Post-tune-up along the waterfront of La Paz.

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.

Jacqui trying out her new bike!

Adjusting the gears on Jacqui's new bike.

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.

Easily slides into a permanently welded tube, then locks in place with a pin.

While we were there I had him weld on a quick shovel mount for 100 pesos. (about $8USD)

One happy customer!

Arriving in La Ventana

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.

Our morning view of La Ventana

Day 1: Crossing the border

After finally crossing the border, day 1 in Mexico can only be described as amazing. Jacqui and I started our day extremely early, waking at 5am to drive from San Marcos to the Tijuana border. Best way to describe the crossing….. shockingly easy while still being utterly confusing.

Immediately at the border crossing station our poor Spanish skills were making things difficult. But nonetheless, a couple back and forth trips between the bank and the immigration office and we’d successfully gotten our Visas. Then it was through the gate. Well, kind of. We were instantly signaled with the red light… the red light that means, we’re getting searched! I was dreading this part. I figured we’d have to dig through everything, even the roof box, a task that could easily take hours. But, the very official lady looked at us, casually strolled through the Dolphin, half-heartedly opened a few cabinets, then stepped out and said we we’re fine to go. This of course required a ‘we’ve-made-it-into-the-country’ high five between Jacqui and I, and we were off.

The Dolphin was instantly put to the test since the steep climbing did not wait for us to catch our breath to begin. These roads are the type I dream of driving on with my old BMW, Sonia. Climbing, descending, curves, bends, danger, cliffs, and glassy smooth roads. Regardless, even in our 6000lb Dolphin I was having fun, and enjoying Jacqui’s fear-whimpering.

However, the smooth roads were not to continue. After finishing the majority of hills, the flats and valleys were full of washed out roads. It seemed like every few miles we were again detoured onto a parallel dirt road. But the Dolphin trekked on and we finally reached El Rosario, our driving goal for the night.

Or at least that’s what I thought. When you travel with Jacqui you’re are bound to end up driving down a road you shouldn’t. She got it in her head we needed to drive 4 more miles to Punta Baja. Well, 4 miles really isn’t that far, and shouldn’t take long to drive. Unless, that is, you’re driving down a pot-hole-infested, lumpy, mountain dirt road in a vehicle that handles a little less well than a giant loaf of bread. But we made it, and I am unbelievably happy that we did.

At the end of this road the scenery opened up and we found ourselves nearly surrounded by beautiful ocean. You could hardly call this a town, maybe it could pass as a village. Dozens of scattered fishing boats just sitting on the ground, a few small, hand built homes, a few others that have been abandoned, and nestled around them some small RV’s and trailers that clearly hadn’t moved in years. We instantly knew this is where we were going to spend the night.

So Punta Baja is where we concluded our first evening. We found a very nice fisherman named Don Chuy that we wanted to buy some fish from for dinner. Jacqui and I, having basically no Spanish skills, were finally able to muster together “Tengo pesos. Tiene pescado.”(I have Pesos. You have fish.) The man chuckled, brought us some freshly fileted fish he had caught that day, and refused any money.

Don Chuy

Beaches, sunsets, puppies running amuck trying to make us fall in love with them, and fresh fish from unbelievably friendly people. Buenas noches dia uno.