Right Here Right Now

One thing that I’ve learned in my life is that often people, time & place come together just right to make a really sweet experience and it’s difficult to recreate it. So I try to focus on that moment and take it all in. Covid has presented us (and everyone else) with many challenges and lost plans but there have been some definite bright spots. Coming down here, having not been able to ship our truck as planned and traveling closely with great new friends has been one of those experiences. And these days it’s good not to look too far ahead.

The three of us have seen some really cool spots and gone back to a few we particularly enjoyed as we rounded the bottom of Baja Sur and started heading north. It is quiet down here this year and we have a great choice of camp locations and plenty of open space wherever we go. I was really looking forward to getting to Todos Santos and we had a nice lunch there in a little courtyard and walked the town but it didn’t really call to us to stay for long. We spent a couple of nights nearby on the beach though with the Pacific waves crashing and covering our trucks with salt spray. Now I have a lot of touch up painting to do. I thought I was done with salt spray for a while but no. It was a really pretty area now that I look at pictures.

Remains of a sugar plantation port in Todos Santos
Wading around Balandra beach near Tecalote
Balandra bay from up high

It felt good to get back to the beaches near La Paz because the water was warming up fast and the winds had settled so swimming was more fun. We stayed at Tecalote Beach for a few days snorkeling and hiking around the beautiful bays there. I love the setting of the shallow Balandra Bay and all the tropical colors and the way you can wade all over it. I love seeing people out enjoying the uniqueness of that area. The main beach at Tecalote is chucker block full during the day of beach goers and is a lively scene with 2 Mexican bands that play to whoever will pay to listen. In the eves, the pelicans would give us a show at sunset as they dive bombed for food in view of our campspot and outdoor dinner table. We’ve now spent quite a bit of time outside in our crappy camp chairs and realize that more comfy chairs and a more significant table need to be in the kit.

La Purisima & El Pilon mountain

We did a couple of longish driving days to get to an inland area in the region of Comundu. I’d read that it was a beautiful valley with a year round spring that formed a river that had drawn the missionaries to settle years back. They’d left behind the typical date palms but also an unusual aquaduct that brought water to form farmable areas with attractive villages amid a pretty, rocky backdrop. And also a rather impressive network of hiking trails that are now maintained by the people of the town. We walked a long way on those white rock lined paths in some stellar but hot weather. I think it was there that Jon coined the phrase “too much is never enough”. I think I can never get enough physical activity on any given day. Is that a bad quality? Ivan & I run on some mornings and then Jon takes me out for a hike after that! Those days feel really long- in a good way. There are mountain lions down here. We’ve seen pictures of night time game camera capture. Also mention of it on a sign once except there was a picture of an African lion instead. Close enough maybe! We haven’t seen any of either but sure would like to. Often when we’re hiking I get a chorus of animal sounds from Jon & Ivan. Horses, cows, goats, birds and the occasional monkey thrown in. But my favorite is the elephant. I guess since they both played a wind instrument in the past, they know how to do a good imitation. Cracks me up.

A slow flowing stream from the spring in the area and a footbridge crosses it
An aquaduct flows around the town often carved into the rock walls

In La Purisima there were so many friendly animals and some locals pointed out a flat campspot on their land where we could have a birdseye view and a breeze. From all around the town of Purisima and from our campspot of course, we could always see El Pilon, the big rock that has no trail to the tippie top, like a tease. But Jon & I hiked as far as we could until the climb was totally vertical. When we asked a local who put the white cross on the summit he said it was probably the guy who fell off doing it!

The area had some really beautiful, old cactus too. Even with all the water, there still didn’t seem to be enough food for all the cows. We would see them just bite into an ancient elephant cactus and it would make us cringe. What took hundreds of years to make could be destroyed in a day and it didn’t look very filling for a cow.

When we walked around the little town square late in the day we saw several people & kids hanging out on the benches and steps and thought oh wow isn’t that nice, they come out to the plaza when it cools off to hang out. Well we were half right. The town provides wifi to its people and the plaza is the place to get it! A sign of the times. We often have to go for several days at a time with no internet down here.

We also drove out to two small old villages collectively called Comundu to visit an old mission and walk the stone streets. We had to park further outside the village than originally planned because of the height of the streamers they had running across the streets. The whole area was very picturesque and peaceful, like stepping back in time. Then to leave the area it was 60km out a high clearance road that traveled through beautiful, remote scenery. It was slow going but quite a road and we had fun doing it. We even took out the tools for a brief bit to do some trimming. About mid way through, we met up with a guy stranded along the road in his SUV having waited a day and a half already for his friend, who had set off on foot to get help. We’d seen all the oil along the road already from where he’d damaged his oil pan. He asked us for food & water and declined anything else so we continued on our way. It felt good to be back on pavement but we’re already looking forward to going back!

The calm part of our kayak trip!

We headed back to Bahia Conception to kayak, snorkel and get one last Sea of Cortez fix before leaving it for the rest of this season. We set out in the kayaks in the morning across a placid sea and then rowed back in what felt like small craft conditions so we got our workout that day. Some say too much is never enough! While we were really hoping for whale sharks, we had to be satisfied with seeing piles of sea squirts that apparently had gathered to mate. The ospreys & seagulls are already nesting and we saw their chicks. Cute! From there we ducked in to Mulege for a night to restock and get some internet. Also a brewery fix and a dinner out. I really like that little town.

In San Ignacio we returned to the campground we’d stayed at on the way down with Sandie & Karsten to wash some of the salt off our trucks. We really wanted to take Ivan to the place where we’d had the best margaritas. But that night the weak, mediocre margaritas were on special instead. And the raccoon was nowhere around. Bummer. But the campground owner sold us some sort of we’re not sure what kind of seafood, maybe a snail??? And Ivan made us a great Spanish paella with it. He’s a great cook and I think I will try one last time to get a pressure cooker to recreate some of the stews he’s served us.

Sea lions sure know how to relax!

We’ve been on the Pacific side now as we keep driving northward. Since we envision being down here in the fall, we need to get rolling with the things we want to get done this summer. The Pacific side is beautiful, sometimes in a sort of melancholy way. The crashing waves seem endless and it’s a lot damper. Unlike the Sea of Cortez side, you can’t swim and the water doesn’t wow you with its colors or clarity. It was great to see & hear a sea lion colony though and we’ve found some beautiful stretches of ocean such as where we are now.

Fishermen are active all up & down the shore and you can often see fishing related refuse along the beaches. I can’t figure out exactly what is going on, but in places there seems to be a lot of dead sea life like dolphins, sea lions and the like. I don’t know if its because the area is so concentrated with sea life and so age and casualties are just part of the numbers or if there’s more to it than that. But whether you’re on the coasts or inland where the harsh desert takes its toll on the free range goats, cattle and horses, there sure are a lot of bones everywhere! I much prefer seeing all the living things here.

Baja has been a place I can’t entirely figure out, but I know what I really love about it and what parts are just OK. I couldn’t imagine the solitude we’ve found here until I felt it for myself. Parts of the desert are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The sea birds are incredible. Being able to do so much beach camping is awesome and sometimes you get your own palapa to break the wind. The Mexican people have been nothing but kind, upbeat, polite and welcoming. Looking in from the outside, a lot of the things that happen here give us a laugh like the common sight of a speed limit sign saying 40 or even 60km/hr when we can barely manage 20 from all the curves and bumps. In all the time we’ve been here we’ve never had anyone lay on the horn or be rude to us even as we are moving slow or maneuvering in tight spaces. We’ve had some great food, and not just tacos. We’ve only had GI upset once. Having the raw ocean side and the Sea of Cortez side makes for a nice contrast. We wish the snorkeling was better and that we had more confidence in how good the scuba would be. Cousteau liked it but is it still the same as then? We wish we had a better feeling about the conservation of the Baja, but at the same time we can see organizations that are helping to protect swaths of land and we’ve been to a few of these protected parks. I think litter is a universal problem. But the most temporarily annoying thing are the military checkpoints that have no point. Because there is more interest in our washing machine or what is in the fridge rather than guns, drugs and stowaways. But I feel sad for those young guys more than anything because it’s a boring task to search vehicles all day. If that’s the price for visiting I’ll gladly put up with it.

We plan to continue heading north checking out some more spots. I’d like to see some of the wineries here. We got stuck on one brand of decent priced easy to find Baja wine and it has become a bit of a joke because at most dinners one or the other brings a new bottle of the same old wine. We also want to visit the park with the highest mountain peak. I’m already looking forward to coming back here. It won’t be like this time, but I hope it will be just as good.

This pelican was hoping for a handout

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