20 January, 2016

Baja California North

Location: Santispac, Baja California Sur, Mexico

After a week in Mexico we are starting to get familiar with the currency, military roadside checkpoints, good and bad roads, what's available and what isn't – all the sorts of things that make life interesting.

We're finally warm so can now slow down and start to smell the bougainvillea. We'll explore the northern section in more detail on our way back up when it's warmer.

Our first night right on the Pacific near Ensenada
So far we've been having a great time, the scenery is beautiful, lots of cacti that we haven't seen before, rolling hills and sometimes really crappy roads. The people are very friendly and, luckily, we are being able to make ourselves understood even with our limited Spanish. We are also making friends with fellow travelers. 

Cirio cactus

There is only one main highway down through the peninsula. It is mostly well paved but only 2 fairly narrow lanes and no shoulder so you don't want to go too fast.  There are sections that are in terrible shape with potholes, some of which are quite deep.   You just have to slow way down so you can avoid them. Luckily the roads are not very busy, so we haven't run into any problems by being slow.  And if someone wants to pass you, they will - on hills, on curves, in the face of oncoming traffic, you name it - a bit scary. 

There are topes (pr. "toe-pays" - speed bumps) in some of the weirdest places, some of them are marked and some aren't. For instance, if you are coming upon a sharp curve there may be a series of topes approaching it to make you slow down and we mean really slow down! Some are quite tall and others are not, you never know. Most small towns that you pass through have several topes as you go along the main street, again some marked and some not. It's taken us a while to get used to them, be we haven't been caught out but once or twice early on. The tires and suspension are grateful to us for our caution.

San Ignacio Mission
San Ignacio cafe

San Ignacio square

One of our favourite stops so far, San Ignacio, is an oasis with a lake and lots of date palms surrounded by arid mountains. With the main attraction being an old mission, this quaint little town has a lovely shady town square. We really enjoyed our walk around the small town.

Traveling over to the east coast we came down out of the mountains into Santa Rosalia. The last bit of the road road was very steep and windy, and, as we approached town, was in terrible disrepair. We camped south of town and then spent the next morning wandering around. Alexandre Gustav Eiffel, of Paris Tower fame, designed a prefabricated iron-walled Church in Paris for the 1889 Paris World Exposition that, along with the Eiffel Tower, shared first place honors. Interestingly enough, Eiffel also designed locks for the Panama Canal and the framework for the Statue of Liberty.

 At any rate, after the exposition it was dismantled and stored in a warehouse until the owner of a French copper mine in Santa Rosalia discovered it and had it shipped to Baja around Cape Horn. Also in town are some of the best examples of French colonial style architecture as well as many French-built wooden houses that are very quaint. We spent a morning wandering around the grid of narrow streets between the mesas, enjoying looking at all the different shops and houses. This was a copper town - the copper ore from the mine was shipped up to Washington state for smelting. Not wanting to come home empty, the ships brought back hardwood lumber on the return trip. It's very unusual to see so many wooden structures in this area. Our favourite shop was an old French bakery, we didn't just window shop there...Yum. 

Mark made our solar panels tilt so we could catch more of the winter sun

We are now camped on the shore of Bahia Concepcion, a national marine preserve. Along the shore are many beautiful beaches on which you can camp.  Some people spend the entire winter in this spot. We were afraid it was going to be really crowded but so far we are not finding it so.

Our first stop was Playa Santispac. We've spent 2 days here and are enjoying walking the beaches and along the rocky coastline. There are 2 restaurants here, right on the beach, one even has wifi which is why you are getting this Khronicle. 

Vendors wander up and down the beach in the mornings selling various fresh foods, water, Mexican rugs & blankets, etc. Cruising boats are anchored off the beach, that's what attracted us to this particular spot. We've already met and chatted with a couple of cruisers, so we're right in our element.

We are half way down the Baja peninsula on the East side, wow this is a really long piece of land, and we're really looking forward to seeing more of it.

12 January, 2016

Bitter and Sweet

Location: Tecate, CA, Mexican border

Our bitter/sweet news is that Rachel has sold (sorry Jill!). The final papers were signed yesterday. We shall miss her greatly, she has been a huge part of our lives for the last 12 years. She saw us safely home after over 25,000 nautical miles, from Maine to Panama, from newbies to experienced cruisers with countless friends and acquaintances. Over the years she has proved to be a safe haven, a great friend, and a stalwart companion. To many of our cruising friends, as well as to ourselves, we'll always be known as “Mark & Julie, The Rachels”. Weepy eyes.

Now that all the paperwork involved in Rachel's sale is taken care of, we've decided to head down into Mexico for a while. We thought the Southwest US would be a warm place to spend the winter...but it's not. It's been in the 50s or 60s during the days, but down in the 30s or low 40s at night. And that's in the low elevations. Today we crossed over 4000' and had snow and ice on the side of the road. A chilly breeze made it uncomfortable to be outside. Brrr. No walks up there. We miss being able to wear shorts and tee shirts! So we've decided to head down into Mexico and check out Baja California

Today, we are poised on the border of Mexico at Tecate, CA. Earlier today we drove to the border, parked, and walked across to get our tourist cards. By doing that today, we hope to cut down on the time it will take to cross into Mexico and will, hopefully, get an early start on the road tomorrow.

Unfortunately, when we were done with our paperwork, we just reversed our course and walked back up the road the way we had come, apparently crossing from Mexico back into the US without passing through US customs and immigration in the process. Oops.

As we headed to a currency exchange to buy Mexican pesos, a US customs officer in an SUV stopped us and let us know in no uncertain terms that we needed to retrace our steps and head up an alley we hadn't noticed to pass through the border station. After a lot of apologies, they realized that we were just clueless and let us back into the US.

We've put 16,000 miles on our RV in less than a year. Wow that's weird – we've already put on over half as many miles in less than a year that we put on Rachel in 12 years. The world flies by so much faster at 50 mph.  The clueless mind boggles...

Happy New Year to all and stay tuned.

Julie & Mark

PS – no new pictures on the blog – we'll update the blog and add more photos after we spend a bit of time South of the Border.....