Mexico, Part 9: Nearly Deserted Road and Nearly Deserted Beaches

Nearly Deserted Roads

After leaving Agua Verde all four sets of couples (Jan and Diana, the Spaniards in the Windstar, Pablo and Anna, and ourselves) went separate ways at separate speeds. At Agua Verde, Mexico 1 cuts across the Baja Peninsula headed west, and very nearly hits the coast before turning southeast and heading back to the Sea of Cortez. Between the coasts we spent a few nights at an RV park to catch up on blog posts and enjoy some hot showers before hitting the road again. Leaving civilization, we had our eyes on a dirt road adventure along the Pacific Coast, but were turned back when the locals told us the road on our map didn’t actually exist.

We poked around unsuccessfully, looking for more adventurous side roads, but as the afternoon shadows grew longer we eventually settled on driving to a Pacific surf spot that was listed as a good area for free camping. 10km into a 20km drive down a sandy track, we gave up and stopped for the night. We weren’t going to surf at the beach, the road was deserted, the view was great, and there was no reason not to stop.

The next morning we enjoyed coffee while gazing out over the forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the rolling hills that lead down to the beach, nature’s hand only interrupted by the continuation of the sandy track that had led us to our impromptu, roadside camp spot. Everything was silent; we were alone, stillness laying ahead of us for miles to the sea, except for one tiny puff of dust that soon became a small cloud, and then a trail of flying dirt and diesel fumes furiously kicked up by nothing other than a green and silver Mitsubishi Delica! Pablo and Anna and their van La Cucaracha (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) had found us again!

We flagged them down and exchanged pleasantries, and both agreed that the nature of Baja, for the traveler at least, is very much that of a town with a single street. We were separately headed for La Paz, the big port city in Southern Baja, and planned to meet up at a Tecolate beach, a popular free camping spot for long distance travelers, to celebrate Chelsea's birthday. The one-street-town nature of Baja had us accidentally bump into each other two more times before the beach. The Peninsula is small when it wants to be.

A beautiful sandy track surrounded by cactus.

A beautiful sandy track surrounded by cactus.

Our lazy, halfway camping spot on the side of a road.

Our lazy, halfway camping spot on the side of a road.

The forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the hills.

The forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the hills.

Testing the six wheel drive - front axle engaged (green lever), rear lockers engaged (middle yellow lever), and front locker engaged (far right yellow lever). Only test on soft straight roads!

Testing the six wheel drive - front axle engaged (green lever), rear lockers engaged (middle yellow lever), and front locker engaged (far right yellow lever). Only test on soft straight roads!

Tecolate Beach

We didn’t really enjoy Tecolate beach, but we did enjoy the company we found. While we were there a strong norte, the northerly winds that ran Rod out of Agua Verde a day early, kicked up, throwing light silt into every crevasse of our rig, and rendering the shoreline unusable for swimming or relaxing. As we sought shelter from the wind we ran into our friends Dani and Kevin, the nice folks we met in Mulege, traveling in their Iveco Trakker with their dog Mali. Finding them made the windy beach more bearable. Eventually we met up with Pablo and Anna as well, and goofed around for Chelsea’s birthday, taking some funny photos in the operating but nearly deserted beachside restaurants.

Sunset at Tecolate with Mali, Dani and Kevin.

Sunset at Tecolate with Mali, Dani and Kevin.

Tecolate restaurant deck. Half the restaurant was deck, the other half was a beached ship cememented into the ground. No joke.

Tecolate restaurant deck. Half the restaurant was deck, the other half was a beached ship cememented into the ground. No joke.

Tecolate beach restaurants and Chels looking a little discouraged and windblown by the thwarted birthday beach day.

Tecolate beach restaurants and Chels looking a little discouraged and windblown by the thwarted birthday beach day.

Pablo nailed it.

Pablo nailed it.

Nearly Deserted Beaches

The next day we shook off the night’s festivities and headed to a possibly deserted beach. We followed a windy road of immaculate asphalt out to some beaches just south of La Paz. La Cucaracha and Little Foot dove off the pavement and onto the dirt at the first possibility, a decision motivated by the hand of God more than the mind of man. We navigated a washed-out decent that caused some Japanese steel to meet some Mexican rock (the Austrian steel was unscathed) only to find a lonely little Volkswagen sedan and a helpless young man at the bottom of the hill, with the car backed up into a berm, and two wheels off the ground. God had sent us down the hill to perform a rescue!

The gentleman had been driving home from the beach the night before and took a wrong turn. As he nosed up to the hill we had just descended, he realized he had made a mistake. While attempting to make a three point turn, he reversed with too much enthusiasm and got stuck on the berm. He had been there all night! We broke out the shovels and muscles and dug him out, and after a short chat we realized that he knew our friend Mauricio (of @Ensenada fame), and the world of Baja got even smaller.

We spent two nights on the beach with Pablo and Anna. It was our first sighting of mobula rays breaching and splashing in the water, as if they were clapping with their entire body. Dolphins splashed in the distance, and a single lonely sea lion sat on a rock and sang to us for hours. Other highlights included baking bread over the campfire, and trying some of Pablo and Anna’s fantastic salted cod spread. There is a recipe he published in Overland Journal out there somewhere, and I’ll try to find it for you. We also collected and steamed crabs, continuing the theme of Pablo and I killing animals and eating them.

A rescue! I was hoping we would need to pull him out but four extra people pushing while Chels revved the gas was enough.

A rescue! I was hoping we would need to pull him out but four extra people pushing while Chels revved the gas was enough.

La Cucuracha chasing me down!

La Cucuracha chasing me down!

Getting ready to tread some sand.

Getting ready to tread some sand.

Our deserted beach.

Our deserted beach.

Prime crab hunting territory.

Prime crab hunting territory.

Crab hunting with Pablo.

Crab hunting with Pablo.

Crabs!

Crabs!

Tasty crabs.

Tasty crabs.

We were surrounded by 360° of beauty. That forest is huge cacti.

We were surrounded by 360° of beauty. That forest is huge cacti.

Prepping bread. We baked it in coals, not on the burner.

Prepping bread. We baked it in coals, not on the burner.

The beach, with some of the cleanest and clearest water we've seen yet.

The beach, with some of the cleanest and clearest water we've seen yet.

Pablo and Anna brought a kayak from Ensenada and chased down some mobula rays.

Pablo and Anna brought a kayak from Ensenada and chased down some mobula rays.

Consulting maps.

Consulting maps.

A Bad Road and a Rocky Cove

After Leaving La Ventana and the comfort of a few days doing nothing on the beach, we set our eyes on more beach and more nothingness as Pablo and Anna headed inland. Our goal was a specific isolated rocky cove that had earned our friend Mauricio the cover shot of the 2016 Rovers North calendar. Two route options presented themselves: a short drive up and over the mountains that lay between us and our beach, or drive south around the mountains and then turn and drive back north again along the coast and through some small towns to our destination. The second option felt laborious and dull, but more importantly we have three locking differentials and nearly 35” mud terrain tires and we need reasons to use them. We filled our tanks and headed to the hills for what we thought would be a mild dirt road, After all, Google maps said we were only 56 minutes away!

What ensued was a stiff climb up a large hill that featured exposed cliffs, off camber turns, a handful of ledges, and loose granite scree. At times my navigator was crying, and at other times her terror rendered her mute, a silence that was quite unnerving. We parked in places to get out and walk, to scout lines, and to weigh options. We shoveled loose gravel into piles in hopes that some of the ledges would toss us a little less. Two hours of the drive was spent out of the vehicle. At times Loulou was even buckled in.

In the end it was a great drive, if a little jarring at times as Little Foot trundled down washed out slopes. Driving a challenging road with your home on the back of your truck definitely lowers your comfort level, but we made it, and the rocky cove was worth every tear and whimper.

We spent two days at the rocky cove, again doing not much. Highlights were reading books, snorkeling, and baking bread over the fire. Loulou chased hermit crabs on the rocks, which was probably a trip highlight for her. On the second day, Sabrina and Henning (of TrailGypsies fame) and Jan and Diana (of steffens.live fame) found us, driving up to the road we had just come down. They weren’t looking for us or the rocky cove and we hadn’t made plans to meet up, illustrating once again that Baja can be small when it wants to be.

While we were camped at the rocky cove Chelsea and I did a little unpacking of the rig, only to find that some moisture, likely sweat, had been trapped under our fantastic IKEA futon mattress and had started to mildew! Luckily we had the sun on our side, so out came the mattress to bake in the warmth after a thorough bleach-spray session as I fired up the drill and added some breather holes to the plywood that forms the base of our bed.

The problem of mold and mildew makes sense – mattresses need to breathe because we are wet, disgusting animals. While building out Little Foot in Montana we had toyed around with the idea of using a slatted platform to support the bed but had decided on a single sheet of plywood to help with weight, strength, and simplicity. I hadn’t really revisited the problem until now, and I expressed my woes to Henning, who promptly told me that they take their mattress out of their rig at least every few weeks, and drying mattresses is just part of extended car-based travel. I mention this only to show how helpful it can be to talk, at length, with other overlanders, or really anyone in your trade or niche activity. The BS sessions between overlanders aren’t just competitions or mental floss – often both parties gain valuable insights into the shared and unconventional lifestyle.

The start of the drive.

The start of the drive.

Things getting steeper.

Things getting steeper.

Parked in a good spot as we scouted and shoveled.

Parked in a good spot as we scouted and shoveled.

Loulou buckled in, and the rear diffs engaged!

Loulou buckled in, and the rear diffs engaged!

One of a few spots we piled up rocks to limit Little Foots rolling.

One of a few spots we piled up rocks to limit Little Foots rolling.

Just a little light road construction.

Just a little light road construction.

Note from Chelsea: I took this photo after all the scary stuff was over. The technical section was so scary that the idea of taking photos or video just seemed wrong…if something truly bad had happened, I would've been racked with guilt over having been recording instead of helping. Instead, I walked ahead in the line where we had decided the driver's tire would be and used a walkie talkie to communicate any other directions Christian might need. I took this photo as Christian rounded a bend above the scary section to wait for me to run up and jump in. I'm including it to show the angle of Little Foot as it climbs around a slight curve. What scared me the most was being on sections of this road that were so narrow that when Little Foot would pitch like this, it was directly over a steep cliff. So, please take my word for it when I say, it felt much scarier than it looks! 

Note from Chelsea: I took this photo after all the scary stuff was over. The technical section was so scary that the idea of taking photos or video just seemed wrong…if something truly bad had happened, I would've been racked with guilt over having been recording instead of helping. Instead, I walked ahead in the line where we had decided the driver's tire would be and used a walkie talkie to communicate any other directions Christian might need. I took this photo as Christian rounded a bend above the scary section to wait for me to run up and jump in. I'm including it to show the angle of Little Foot as it climbs around a slight curve. What scared me the most was being on sections of this road that were so narrow that when Little Foot would pitch like this, it was directly over a steep cliff. So, please take my word for it when I say, it felt much scarier than it looks! 

The road was as beautiful as it was exciting.

The road was as beautiful as it was exciting.

The rocky cove with dinner on the fire.

The rocky cove with dinner on the fire.

Loulou the hermit crab hunter.

Loulou the hermit crab hunter.

Bread baking.

Bread baking.

The rocky cove at sunrise that earned Mauricio the cover of the Rovers North calendar.

The rocky cove at sunrise that earned Mauricio the cover of the Rovers North calendar.

Little Foot looks good from every angle…at least we think so…but we're a little biased!

Little Foot looks good from every angle…at least we think so…but we're a little biased!

Mold and mildew. More like mild-ewwwwww.

Mold and mildew. More like mild-ewwwwww.

Planning my holes to add at least a little air flow. Don't worry…we thoroughly bleached and scrubbed all of this off.

Planning my holes to add at least a little air flow. Don't worry…we thoroughly bleached and scrubbed all of this off.

Drilling.

Drilling.

Commuter traffic! Even the main paved roads aren't without obstacles!

Commuter traffic! Even the main paved roads aren't without obstacles!

Los Barriles

Los Barriles is a tourist town, end of sentence. Its been taken over by Americans and Canadians and has lost a lot of its Mexican charm. We ran into town only to seek out WiFi, update the blog, and run some errands. Otherwise, we stayed on yet another deserted beach and enjoyed more free camping, more fires, and more nothingness. 

We were so turned off by the rampant Americanization of the town that we chose to avoid viewing the Superbowl. I really wanted to watch the Patriots, they are my team, but I just couldn't put up with the foreigner bars, and therefore I missed what my little brother told me was "The greatest game of football ever." Instead we found solace in our weekly Bible study, because Superbowl Sunday is still a Sunday!

Loulou: "Guys, maybe I can go for a swim?"

Loulou: "Guys, maybe I can go for a swim?"

Snorkel everywhere.

Snorkel everywhere.

Chelsea doing dishes.

Chelsea doing dishes.

Many of our dinner are simply guacamole.

Many of our dinner are simply guacamole.

A beach well above Los Barriles, kitchen of course facing the ocean.

A beach well above Los Barriles, kitchen of course facing the ocean.

Getting a fire going dinner.

Getting a fire going dinner.

Chicken from the fire this evening.

Chicken from the fire this evening.

Our Sundays are always spent with a weekly podcast from Barabbas Road Church (Chels' old church in San Diego) that we follow along with while going verse-by-verse through the Bible.

Our Sundays are always spent with a weekly podcast from Barabbas Road Church (Chels' old church in San Diego) that we follow along with while going verse-by-verse through the Bible.

Mexico, Part 7: Loreto, Cockfights and Respecting the Chicken at Rattlesnake Beach

Loreto

We left the Bahía de Concepción and drove to Loreto, the next big town down the east coast of the peninsula. For some reason, we were fatigued, and the prospect of a night in a hotel was intoxicating. Sabrina and Henning (of Trail Gypsies fame) directed us towards a cheap-ish hotel in Loreto, citing its price, WiFi, hot showers, complimentary breakfast, secure parking, and pet friendliness as a list of luxuries. While they were not wrong, our stay was decidedly uncomfortable, but by no fault of the hotel's! We learned that night that we didn't want hotels anymore; Little Foot is our home, certainly our bedroom at least, and we have built him up to our idea of comfort, and anything else on the road is alien. We love hot showers and WiFi, but we don't need hotels anymore, especially in temperate-to-tropical Baja. It was a good lesson to learn, especially at the $35 USD price tag - we could have paid A LOT more to learn the same lesson in the states!

Parking in the hotel's secure lot did allow us to freely wander Loreto's downtown. The community is cute, and it has just enough gringo influence to create an interesting mix of cultures, but not enough to overpower. The town square is beautiful, and boasts a small tourist district, as well as an old church and, surprisingly, a very American microbrewery.

Mexico 1 is a great road. Just look at those mountains!

Mexico 1 is a great road. Just look at those mountains!

The hotel room that taught us we don't need hotel rooms.

The hotel room that taught us we don't need hotel rooms.

Pet friendly, but Loulou wanted back in Little Foot.

Pet friendly, but Loulou wanted back in Little Foot.

Cockfights!

While wandering around town we spotted none other but Pablo and Anna (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) in their beloved van, La Cucuracha! Chelsea had just been wondering aloud about when we might see them again, and then, speak of the devil, they appeared. We exchanged pleasantries, and Pablo mentioned that he wanted to attend a cock fight in town that night. He had, by chance, spied a billboard advertising that tonight was the monthly cock fight, but Anna didn't want to go. He offered to one or both of us to join him - perhaps if Chelsea wasn't interested she could walk back to downtown with Anna? I was tentatively interested, the ladies less so, but all four of us walked to the event, hemming and hawing about the situation. Upon arriving at the town's purpose built cock fighting arena, and upon paying the small entrance fee ($150 MEX for each couple), we decided to give the event a chance. The night turned out to be excellent, and it was probably the best cultural experience we've had in Baja yet!

The cock fighting arena in Loreto is not a multi-purpose venue. It is bespoke and purpose-built for the sport, and I hope that helps to impress upon you the importance of this pastime to the locals. It's like seeing rodeo grounds in the western US - when you see one, you know the community has a rich background in herding and managing cattle. Loreto has a deep agricultural background, and the cock fighting arena is a testament to that.

The compound is a walled structure, maybe 50 meters square, complete with stalls for food vendors, two sets of gendered bathrooms, and a large holding area for competing birds. The arena itself is open air, but set in an excavated pit, lined with red and white concrete stadium seating, and covered by a concrete roof to protect from sun and heat. The ring is dirt, with a series of starting lines delineating different starting points for different rounds of the fight. An MC directed traffic from a worn, wooden ringside table, and toddlers climbed around the stadiums stairs while their mothers sat together and gossiped. This was very much a family affair, and we felt at home, welcomed, and safe.

The fights themselves were fast affairs, usually less than a few minutes, and were mostly a flurry of feathers, although here and there a minute amount of blood was visible. Make no mistake, these were fights to the death, and each fight caused at least one, but usually two, rooster deaths, as the winner was often killed out of mercy. This part of the event caused hesitation in Chelsea and I (and perhaps Anna). We didn't love the idea of the birds dying, but I realized a few things. First, there was an appreciable amount of beauty surrounding the fights, from the dances of the birds to accouterments carried by the bird's handlers. Second, this night was a good chance for the handlers to win some big money, with the victor receiving $70,000 MEX ($3500 USD). And third, there is almost nothing cute about roosters, and when watching them fight you realize they are essentially feathered dinosaurs, and that nature, with no help of the farmers or ranchers, has designed the creature kill other roosters. In the end, I really don't mind watching dinosaurs kill other dinosaurs, especially while eating hotdogs and crushing cold drinks.

Pablo and Anna at the enterance to the cock fight arena - Pablo is smiling because he knows we are all going in, and we are all going to love it.

Pablo and Anna at the enterance to the cock fight arena - Pablo is smiling because he knows we are all going in, and we are all going to love it.

The arena, like the event and practice itself, is cemented in the community.

The arena, like the event and practice itself, is cemented in the community.

A family affair in Loreto! There were folks of all ages.

A family affair in Loreto! There were folks of all ages.

Rattlesnake Beach

We directed Pablo and Anna to Rattlesnake beach, the hideout of Mr. Rod Davis, a senior boatman at our summer employment, Timberline Tours in Eagle, Colorado. Rod has it all figured out - he spends his summers in Colorado boating on the rivers, and then escapes to sunny Baja for the winters, where he continues boating, but on the waves instead. We pushed the Viajeros towards him, and stayed an extra day in Loreto doing laundry and running errands.

Rattlesnake beach is like an ad hoc RV park, full of part time and full time snow birds from the US and Canada. The beach is lined with secluded camp spots full of truck campers, fifth wheels, tow behinds, Airstreams - you name it and it is there. The residents pay a little to the federal government to stay there, and everyone is happy. There are no hookups, no dumps, no power, no water - each camper figures that out. They have a nice little community going, a camp ground without a camp ground. It was a nice place to stop for a night or a season. There is a spring a few kilometers away from the beach at the mouth of a canyon where water tanks can be filled, a town is about 7 kilometers away for most of everyone's daily needs, and Loreto is just up the road for anything a city can offer.

The next day we headed south to Rattlesnake beach ourselves, and found Pablo and Anna pulling into a nice camp spot on the beach. Anna beckoned for us to park next to them at the spot as Pablo beckoned for us to continue down the beach to another spot. As per usual, I deferred to the advice of the lady, and we camped next to them. That night, however, I was all ears and a willing student as Pablo taught me how to grill in his Argentinian style. Pablo is both a Spaniard and an Argentinian, and it is easy to see both sides of the man if you spend any time with him, especially if there is a fire and some meat nearby. I, in true American form, had moved the meat on the grill around too much and too soon, earning a dose of Argentinian scorn.

Pablo told me, "You cannot just just move the chicken around where you want to. You cannot just move it and do what you want... You must, respect the chicken!" He went on to explain that you must respect the chicken and LOVE the chicken and it will love you back. That quickly became the phrase of the night, and then of the next few adventures as well. I'm very grateful to Pablo for infinitely helping my grilling skills!

Look! Birds not dying! Birds living! At Rod's camp spot at Rattlesnake beach.

Look! Birds not dying! Birds living! At Rod's camp spot at Rattlesnake beach.

Preparing the chicken to be respected.

Preparing the chicken to be respected.

Preparing a respectful fire.

Preparing a respectful fire.

Camped on Rattlesnake beach!

Camped on Rattlesnake beach!

Rattlesnake beach views.

Rattlesnake beach views.

Pablo tending and respecting the fire.

Pablo tending and respecting the fire.

Temperature is taken by placing your hand near the fire - great respect.

Temperature is taken by placing your hand near the fire - great respect.

The view from the top of Heart Attack Hill.

The view from the top of Heart Attack Hill.

Chelsea had been battling with back pains for months, and it had gotten a little more serious in the past weeks, so we set about finding a cure. Some campers at Rattlesnake assured us that Antonio, a local "witch doctor" in Loreto, could help her out. The next day some folks were going into town, so I loaded Chelsea into their truck, and headed out for a hike with the Viajeros up to a view point (complete with a cross) and then up the Tabor canyon in search of a fresh water spring.

The hike was outstanding, the spring cool and clear. Pablo, Anna, and myself scrambled up and over enormous rocks, and the whole setting seemed like something out of a Jurassic park movie. We enjoyed the views of the sea and the dips in the spring water as Chelsea got adjusted by Antonio, who is very much not a which doctor, but a self-taught physical therapist. She found great relief there, and not wanting to be left out of the fresh-water fun, insisted that we take showers in the spring water the next day before leaving for the next adventure.

I got to ride in  THE  La Cucuracha!

I got to ride in THE La Cucuracha!

Pablo arranged for the electrical station's gaurd to watch the van, to protect from the bandits, which had been reportedly breaking into cars at the trailhead.

Pablo arranged for the electrical station's gaurd to watch the van, to protect from the bandits, which had been reportedly breaking into cars at the trailhead.

The road to the canyon, across from Rattlesnake beach.

The road to the canyon, across from Rattlesnake beach.

Climbing up the canyon.

Climbing up the canyon.

I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully this captures some of the excellence of the area.

I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully this captures some of the excellence of the area.

The views up and down Tabor canyon were outstanding.

The views up and down Tabor canyon were outstanding.

A clear cool spring is just what every traveler needs!

A clear cool spring is just what every traveler needs!

Chelsea did get to bathe in some fresh spring water! Don't worry, she wasn't left out.

Chelsea did get to bathe in some fresh spring water! Don't worry, she wasn't left out.

Mexico, Part 5: Baja Sur, Whale Watching in Guerrero Negro, and San Ignacio

Baja Sur and Whale Watching in Guerrero Negro

The peninsula that Americans know as Baja is comprised of two states, Baja California and Baja California Sur. Baja means lower, and refers back to Fransican's division of their Californian mission territory into Alta and Baja. The peninsula is still known as Baja, and the lower half of lower California is know referred to as Baja Sur, or southern Baja.

The border between the brother states is marked with limited fanfare: a large flag, some Grey whale bones, and a guy spraying down tires with pesticide. Like a never ending Phish set, Baja Sur is a continuation of the song of the north, with a few more subtle riffs on beautiful beaches and palm trees added for good measure. It's very nearly the same paradise, but "very nearly" isn't identical.

Our first stop was Guerrero Negro, home to the greatest salt mine in the world and a renowned whale-watching spot. Grey whales spend their summers eating and copulating in the rich waters of the northern pacific. When the weather turns and the days get shorter, the lady whales migrate to the warmer waters of Baja to birth their baby whales. The water is warm and the lagoons are protected, providing a perfect spot for teaching their little ones how to swim and breathe and get by.

We camped on the beach by a salt refinery for very, very little money, and caught a whale watching boat the next day. By a blessing from God we found ourselves alone on the boat, just the two of us and the captain and a boat hand. IT WAS AWESOME! No crowd, no one else to talk to, just near silence while we stalked a few pairs of enormous whales. The babies were pretty big and the moms just huge, to put it in bland and blatant terms. I grew up whale watching every summer on Cape Cod, and this is nothing like that. While our captain did keep us a respectful distance from the new mother-child pair, it was much more intimate than my expectations.

The camping spot was exquisite. We weren't actually charged for camping, but for entrance into the park, so technically the camping was free. There weren't a lot of other folks camped, and almost no light pollution, so the photo opportunities were outstanding. Chels broke out her big camera and tripod one night to capture some stunning shots of the sunset and the starry night.

Flag, whale bones, and somewhere down this road there is a lonely gentleman spraying tires with pesticide to protect the desert ecosystem.

Flag, whale bones, and somewhere down this road there is a lonely gentleman spraying tires with pesticide to protect the desert ecosystem.

Loulou, exploring yet another campsite, this time at Guerrero Negro.

Loulou, exploring yet another campsite, this time at Guerrero Negro.

Spectacular sunsets, as per usual, over the west side of the Baja Peninsula.

Spectacular sunsets, as per usual, over the west side of the Baja Peninsula.

She knows how pretty she is.

She knows how pretty she is.

Did I mention sunsets?

Did I mention sunsets?

The campsite was amazing at all times of the day.

The campsite was amazing at all times of the day.

Little Foot looks good in any light, no big deal.

Little Foot looks good in any light, no big deal.

Me, impersonating a whale.

Me, impersonating a whale.

All alone all day! No other tourists with us on the boat ride.

All alone all day! No other tourists with us on the boat ride.

Scared? I don't know.

Scared? I don't know.

Whale saying hi!

Whale saying hi!

There was no part of the trip that wasn't magical.

There was no part of the trip that wasn't magical.

We were super close to the enormous beasts of the sea.

We were super close to the enormous beasts of the sea.

I couldn't stop giggling.

I couldn't stop giggling.

The scars are from barnacles, boats, rope, nets, and other bad things.

The scars are from barnacles, boats, rope, nets, and other bad things.

Half the fun was searching for the whales.

Half the fun was searching for the whales.

Little Foot driving through the salt flats.

Little Foot driving through the salt flats.

San Ignacio

After leaving the Guerrero Negro lagoon and campground, we provisioned in the town and headed out. With tanks full of water and a stocked fridge, we made our way to San Ignacio, by way of some small highway town that gave us a foggy night of camping in a hotel lot.

We arrived in San Ignacio, parked in the town square, and explored the nearby mission. There are missions up and down the peninsula, and the one in San Ignacio is supposed to be the best balance of accessibility, originality (as in terms of structure), and quality (as in terms of upkeep and grounds). We're Christians but we're not Catholic, but that didn't keep us from really appreciating the grandeur structure. We recognize that the history of missions in both Mexico and the US is a history of bloodshed and subjugation, and while we in no way support the methods put forth by the missionaries in the name of God, we can't help but recognize a beautiful structure when we see one.

After pondering the beauty of the town square and its mission, we headed out of town to find a camping spot, only to run (pun intended!) into the Via PanAm team! Via PanAm is a team of four crazy people who are running marathon lengths (26.2 miles) from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina for charity. Weking and Seba are the runners, and Liesbeth and An are their support. "To Walk Again" is their chosen charity, and their goal is to support folks with physical limitations. Maybe that means keeping them active or maybe it means starting the process to get an expensive prosthetic made. To help the charity, the Via PanAm team runs a marathon EVERY DAY. Everyday there is one team member running, one recovering, and two supporting. The supporting team members drive two very cool Toyota Hilux trucks with custom built camping boxes, but the trucks are just there to carry the stuff. Their's isn't a vehicular trip. Their travel is supported by wheel, but driven by feet.

They haven't raised a lot of money, and they deserve your support. Give them the price of a latte or a draft beer, or something. Check out their website www.ViaPanAm.Today and maybe give a little, not because you must, not because you can, not because they are living an amazing story and it inspires you to push your own limits and realize your untapped potential, but because THEY RAN A MARATHON TODAY.  And they will tomorrow. And the next day. And then again. And then again and again and again. All the way to Ushuaia, Argentina. Oh you don't know where Ushuaia is? IT'S WHERE SOUTH AMERICA RUNS OUT OF THINGS YOU CAN RUN ON.

Our camp site that night was awesome. The Lagoon in San Ignacio is fed by a freshwater spring, a real life Oasis on the peninsula of desert. We camped, cooked, swam, and enjoyed the rope swing. Cost? 80 pesos (~4USD) a night. I love this country.

Digging out our water tanks to refill. Agua Purificada shops are plentiful and cheap. Even better…the water they produce is absolutely delicious.

Digging out our water tanks to refill. Agua Purificada shops are plentiful and cheap. Even better…the water they produce is absolutely delicious.

Chels' morning yoga and stretching ritual is often interrupted by head butts with Loulou.

Chels' morning yoga and stretching ritual is often interrupted by head butts with Loulou.

The foggy camp spot. Cool trucks camp together.

The foggy camp spot. Cool trucks camp together.

The mission at San Ignacio.

The mission at San Ignacio.

Chels shooting in the mission.

Chels shooting in the mission.

Mission beauty. 

Mission beauty. 

More mission beauty.

More mission beauty.

Contemplating benches.

Contemplating benches.

If your kid told you he was driving from Alaska to Ushuaia, or maybe riding motorcycles, you'd probably be terrified. These crazies are  running  that trip. On their  feet . Donate now: www.ViaPanAm.today

If your kid told you he was driving from Alaska to Ushuaia, or maybe riding motorcycles, you'd probably be terrified. These crazies are running that trip. On their feet. Donate now: www.ViaPanAm.today

San Ignacio camping. Super Sweet.

San Ignacio camping. Super Sweet.

Rope swinging.

Rope swinging.

Rope swing panicking.

Rope swing panicking.

Chels's jumping photo had an equally if not more terrifying face, but she wouldn't post it since she was in her skivvies. Alas, you'll have to take our word for it and at least see this photo of her soaking wet as proof that she jumped from the rope swing as well.

Chels's jumping photo had an equally if not more terrifying face, but she wouldn't post it since she was in her skivvies. Alas, you'll have to take our word for it and at least see this photo of her soaking wet as proof that she jumped from the rope swing as well.

Just buy a truck, a van, a camper, a rig, ANY RIG, and go exploring. This is what you'll get. (Cat not included.)

Just buy a truck, a van, a camper, a rig, ANY RIG, and go exploring. This is what you'll get. (Cat not included.)

Stretching and coffee with Loulou.

Stretching and coffee with Loulou.

Contemplating the day. Evidence of a fire in the background. San Ignacio.

Contemplating the day. Evidence of a fire in the background. San Ignacio.

Mexico, Part 4: Mike's Sky Rancho, Sea of Cortez, Coco's Corner

Mike's Sky Rancho

We left Ensenada reluctantly, saying our temporary goodbyes to Mauricio and Abby (and Vini the dog and the '61 Land Rover). Mauricio repeatedly told us that he didn't want us to leave because once we realized how excellent Baja really is, we'd never return to Ensenada. Don't worry Mauricio, we'll be back, we promise.

Our first destination outside Ensenada was Mike's Sky Rancho, a little backwoods ranch popular for dirt bike and off road trips. It's got a long history that we don't really know much about. The winter seems like the off season, as the pool was not full (or clean) and most of the rooms were unoccupied. One medium sized dirt bike tour was at the ranch when we arrived, but other than them, a few ladies running the kitchen, and the Mike tending the bar, we were alone in the woods. The ranch is 31 kilometers in on a decent road with a handful of small, washed out climbs that could be handled by a stock Ford Ranger, but perhaps not by a Subaru Legacy, if that makes sense. Honestly, a Legacy could probably get to the ranch, but might drag a skid plate here or there. We stayed one night, didn't love the price or the accomodations, and left the next morning.

A sweet Ensenada sunset saying goodbye to us.

A sweet Ensenada sunset saying goodbye to us.

The team, animals included, on the morning of departure.

The team, animals included, on the morning of departure.

We could hardly get out of our seats before being surrounded by the folks from the dirt bike tour checking out our pad.

We could hardly get out of our seats before being surrounded by the folks from the dirt bike tour checking out our pad.

Loulou exploring new heights while we peruse the map for our next destination.

Loulou exploring new heights while we peruse the map for our next destination.

4-wheeling with a cat!

4-wheeling with a cat!

We drove through mountains and over small desert passes until we reached the Sea of Cortez at San Felipe. San Felipe is the northern-most city on the Sea of Cortez on Mexico 5, and marks the point where the highway begins to follow the beaches. The town is small, but set up for tourists, complete with a crowded merchant block, and many small RV parks and hotels. We continued south and camped at a forgotten RV resort that never took off. The whole scene was quite dystopian, and even though the security guard was charging too much ($300M) for nothing (nearly no facilities), we spent a nice night and got to cook over a fire, which is always a plus.

The next day we made it to Puertecitos, a small community split nearly 50/50 between locals and expatriates. Puertecitos not only boasts excellent beachside camping, but also a tidal pool hot spring that is a perfect temperature right as the tide is coming in or out. At high tide the hot pools are blown out and filled by cold sea water, and at low tide the pools are hot enough to boil you alive, so the window of opportunity is fleeting and ever-changing.

There we met some other travelers, including one nice Californian who swapped a Chevy 350 small block into his Land Rover. It makes a GREAT sound, and the roar is totally unexpected when you see the rig. We spent New Year's Eve soaking and dining at the community potluck, and headed out the next day.

Desert mixed with beach in Baja California.

Desert mixed with beach in Baja California.

Our camp spot in the forgotten RV resort.

Our camp spot in the forgotten RV resort.

Super slow service at the poolside bar... let it suffice to say that the bartender didn't get a tip.

Super slow service at the poolside bar... let it suffice to say that the bartender didn't get a tip.

Camping and cooking at the forgotten RV resort.

Camping and cooking at the forgotten RV resort.

Free fuel, collected from the beach. The dish in the foreground is a pie plate heaped with coals, acting as a dutch oven to bake the corn bread within.

Free fuel, collected from the beach. The dish in the foreground is a pie plate heaped with coals, acting as a dutch oven to bake the corn bread within.

Our new friend francisco and his Land Rover with a 350! Sounds so good!

Our new friend francisco and his Land Rover with a 350! Sounds so good!

Seaside hot springs in Puetrecitos.

Seaside hot springs in Puetrecitos.

Testing the tidal hot spring water.

Testing the tidal hot spring water.

If you bring your own hose, a convenient water spigot becomes a shower!

If you bring your own hose, a convenient water spigot becomes a shower!

Puertecitos even had a library and a post office! And a yet-unnamed project building.

Puertecitos even had a library and a post office! And a yet-unnamed project building.

South of Puertecitos we followed a highway project back towards Mexico 1, and we had about five lanes of space to use. We dodged ruts and washboard as best we could, but it was tiring. We had heard of a fabled spot, run by a guy named Coco, Coco's Corner, and folks had said camping was free if you bought a beverage. How could we refuse?

We found Coco hollering "HELLO! HOLA! HELLO! HOLA!" over and over and over again. He's nearly 80 years old and a double below-the-knee-amputee, so when a car arrives he's a little slow to greet them, but calls out greetings in different languages in hopes that whomever entered his compound will stay and chat. He's fantastically giving, even though at first glance it looks like he doesn't have much. He lives in a well built, although mostly uninsulated plywood home. Most Americans would call it a shack, but its a step above that. Everything in his house is fit for him. The kitchen counters are too low for me but at the perfect height for his wheel chair. His workshop is the same, with workbenches built just for him. His compound is mostly powered by a few solar panels, but at night he fires up the generator so he can watch movies and turn on the flood lights of the lot. He offers help to EVERYONE, and even gave us a round of beers for free. If you're in the area, stop and see him. His generosity will warm your heart. He is a gift from God for the traveler. (And his 80th birthday is February 25th, so if you're in the area, give him a big birthday hug from the both of us!)

Using not only the whole road, but all the roads.

Using not only the whole road, but all the roads.

Signing Coco's guest book. HEY PACIFICO! SPONSOR THIS GUY!

Signing Coco's guest book. HEY PACIFICO! SPONSOR THIS GUY!

Had to draw Little Foot, for all the travelers of the future to see. (He makes you sign the book with your given birth name name and birthplace!)

Had to draw Little Foot, for all the travelers of the future to see. (He makes you sign the book with your given birth name name and birthplace!)

Cooking with Coco. He told me that I am NEVER allowed to open my own restraurant, as I'm much too slow for his liking.

Cooking with Coco. He told me that I am NEVER allowed to open my own restraurant, as I'm much too slow for his liking.

Glamour shot with Coco. He gets around in his chair, but he also walks on his knees pretty well, hence the hefty leather "boots".

Glamour shot with Coco. He gets around in his chair, but he also walks on his knees pretty well, hence the hefty leather "boots".

Do not feel bad for Coco. He's happier than you. Figure out what he has figured out and you will be happy forever.

Do not feel bad for Coco. He's happier than you. Figure out what he has figured out and you will be happy forever.

Little Foot posing.

Little Foot posing.

Heading on south! 244 kilometers to go until... somewhere?

Heading on south! 244 kilometers to go until... somewhere?

Mexico, Part 2: Valle de Guadalupe

We had to take last week off from posting a real update due to lack of sufficient wifi, so forgive us for the delay and let's pick up where we left off!

After crossing the border we knew we had to cool our heels for a few weeks and wait for a Christmas visit from my father. He was planning on meeting us in the Valle De Guadalupe, an up-and-coming wine region just south of the border. We headed there at the recommendation of our friends Mauricio and Abby. They knew of a good vineyard, the Bibayoff estate, that would let us camp for cheap money. We drove the few miles from Ensenada to the valley, set up camp, and hung out for a few days of nothingness.

In the photos below you'll see highlights such as: beautiful vineyard views, a great camp spot, a few hikes and walks around the area, some great hammock shots, the first use of our road shower, me impersonating a wine bottle, Loulou being perturbed, and some dogs laying in the dirt. Enjoy!

Little Foot and Loulou all set up.

Little Foot and Loulou all set up.

A View of the Vineyard.

A View of the Vineyard.

Many vineyards in the valley are young, but BIbAyoff's grapes have been growing for 40 years.

Many vineyards in the valley are young, but BIbAyoff's grapes have been growing for 40 years.

Chelsea Posing, showing off the Napa of Mexico.

Chelsea Posing, showing off the Napa of Mexico.

We spent multiple days doing exactly this.

We spent multiple days doing exactly this.

Very excited about Pancakes.

Very excited about Pancakes.

Walking A few miles to town for tacos, Gotta have those Tacos, yo.

Walking A few miles to town for tacos, Gotta have those Tacos, yo.

I'm impersonating a Bottle, Poorly.

I'm impersonating a Bottle, Poorly.

PAblo, Anna, Me, Chels, Abby, Mauricio... Little Foot. Our Friends came to Check on us.

PAblo, Anna, Me, Chels, Abby, Mauricio... Little Foot. Our Friends came to Check on us.

Loulou not loving my "Lion King" Impression.

Loulou not loving my "Lion King" Impression.

We went for a short hike and had some fun with JUGgling a two-person Panorama.

We went for a short hike and had some fun with JUGgling a two-person Panorama.

The First Use of Our Homemade Road Shower.

The First Use of Our Homemade Road Shower.

Chels looking fresh after her outdoor shower. The Stand of Pine Trees we parked by was inhabited by at tleast 3 screech owls. it was real cool!

Chels looking fresh after her outdoor shower. The Stand of Pine Trees we parked by was inhabited by at tleast 3 screech owls. it was real cool!

two-person Hammock Hanging.

two-person Hammock Hanging.

The Vineyards Dogs were our constant Companions, always running to greet us when we opened the kitchen.

The Vineyards Dogs were our constant Companions, always running to greet us when we opened the kitchen.