Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our Secret Spot

Big teeth (for crushing shells) and large dorsal spines
Punta La Gringa in BDLA served us well, but we felt it was time to leave after the weather started getting a bit odd, with unpredictable winds blowing from all directions (not at once, but close).  The day before we left, Scott caught his second Baja fish after only a few casts - still using the "small" rod and spoon (la cuchara).  Again, we had to ask someone what it was, and if we could eat it.  Turns out, it's a "Triggerfish" and that we could safely eat it.  I have to admit, it wasn't as tasty as the scorpion fish.  I'm starting to get picky about my pescado (fish) these days.

On the opposite side of the peninsula from BDLA is the famous "seven sisters" surfing region.  We stopped in Santa Rosalillita for a couple of days thinking we might get to surf the famed point break there.  We quickly realized that this wave wasn't going to appear unless a VERY big swell event occurred, so we headed south to a place called "The Wall" at Punta Rosarito -- the most famous of the sisters.  The road in took us over an hour to navigate and it was only about 10 miles.  The surfing was fun, but there was quite the scene of gringos, all hailing from California or Oregon.  It was as if we hadn't left the USA.

My own little pescadero
We left The Wall due to the strong winds. The wind made it impossible to surf, yet we couldn't kite either, due to the offshore direction. We went exploring to find a beach that would work for kiting. We discovered a secret spot we named Playa Del Tigre because we would not have made it without El Tigre's four wheel drive. This was solely due to driver error, as Scott drove straight into a soggy marsh while saying, "I wonder why that other route goes around this section?"

We arrived on a windy day with less than an hour of daylight. Scott got in a short kite session in some nice waves--he thinks he might be the first person to kite here. The wind direction was side-off, the ideal direction, yet the curvature of the sandy beach ensured a safe backstop if anything went wrong. It really could be a dream spot. We don't know yet because the wind hasn't returned, but we'll wait. There's no one else around, it's free, there's a good SUP wave right in front of our truck, and there's surf potential nearby. Scott even managed to paddle out on his SUP with his fishing pole. He quickly caught a rock bass that we enjoyed in some veggie soup. We only left Playa Del Tigre because we were nearly out of water, food, and underwear. Now, we're loaded up and heading back.

Kiting near some abandoned palapas (complete with huge bird's nest on top) at Playa Esmeralda.
A morning SUP session with some glassy baby-waves at Playa Del Tigre.

Link to November photos

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bahia De Los Angeles

We had read and heard about Bahia De Los Angeles (BDLA), but found it hard to believe that it was really as gorgeous as all the hype suggested.  BDLA is a detour off the main highway on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja.  A few days ago we decided to take the detour.  We were blown away when we arrived at Punta La Gringa, our camping spot for the past 4 nights.  This place is magical -- sunrises, sunsets, water, cascading mountains, islands, dolphins, fish, birds.

Sunset and sunrise from our camp at La Gringa
Scott caught his first Baja fish!  It was a "scorpion fish" that turned out to be excellent eating.  We had to ask the local fishermen what it was, and if it was okay to eat.  He said it was one of the best, but that the skin can be toxic to humans when it's alive.  Fortunately, the scorpion fish looked so scary that Scott was carrying it around with his Leatherman pliers.

The fisherman laughed when he saw Scott's fishing gear.  He said that Scott's fishing rod was too small and couldn't believe that he had caught the scorpion fish using a salmon spoon.  All along, we thought Scott's fishing pole was huge -- it is a steelhead rod that my dad gave to Scott for the "big fish" of the sea.  The locals were using huge rods nearly the size of our old windsurfing masts.

After making scorpion fish tacos and filling the night air with yummy smells, Scott stepped outside to find his shoes missing.  Earlier that night a truck with a bunch of people had driven by.  We were convinced they had stolen Scott's stinky, silver Crocs.  This freaked us out. If people were willing to steal our shoes just after sunset, while we were sitting in the truck, we were concerned about our personal safety.

Bahia De Los Angeles from Punta La Gringa
Not to worry.  Earlier in the evening, two coyotes had been circling the truck while I was out watching the sunset, so I decided to grab the headlamp and search a little farther away from the truck.  Sure enough, the coyotes had ran off with his Crocs and left them down the beach. A section of one of the straps was eaten.  Another good lesson for the gringos -- don't leave ANYTHING outside of your truck in the desert.

Link to November photos

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tarantula Sighting

After a day of getting groceries, filling the water tank, doing laundry, washing the truck, and finding internet we camped just off the road to Punta San Carlos (PSC).  PSC was our destination for many years starting in 2000 when we made our first drive down to Baja.  It's funny to look back on that trip and recognize how our travel style has changed.  Our first time, we were so scared driving into Baja that we crossed the border and drove non-stop until hitting the beach at PSC.  I didn't pee all day and Scott peed in a jar.  We only stopped long enough to fill up on gas about 6 hours into our drive.  Gringos estupidos.

Lunch stop near Catavina

After the PSC road, we stopped for a "recreation break" near a placed called El Marmol.  We rode our bikes out to the ruins of a marble (marmol) mine where a schoolhouse had been built entirely of marble.  Neither of us are very big on ruins and really, we never would've made the trek out to the marble schoolhouse except it was a good excuse to get on our bikes.  As we suspected, it was just a pile or rocks that really didn't impress us much.  BUT!!!!  as we were biking out, I saw a tarantula crossing the road.  Check out the video of Mr. Tarantula below.  By the way, Scott was biking so far ahead of me he missed out on the sighting.

Link to November photos

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Cheese Has Run Out, Time To Drive To Civilization

Quatro por quatro -- que Bueno!
After our fantastic run of weather and fun at Punta Baja, we got hit with a day of rain and strong wind.  We hunkered down in the truck and tried to stay immobile for 12 hours straight.  Admittedly, I got a little stir crazy.  It sort of reminded me of our worst weather events in New Zealand.  The next morning, Sunday, we somehow decided (mostly due to some miscommunication), that we would try to drive from the beach back to the nearest town, El Rosario.  It happened to be spitting rain, at the time.  We had heard about what happens to Baja's dirt roads after rain, but we never really internalized the significance of the advice.  As we were told, the desert roads turn to ice.  Seriously.  There is a 2-inch layer of sludge that forms over the dirt that imitates ice.  The truck made it a couple of miles before we pulled off and decided to wait for things to dry.  There were multiple times where the truck was sliding SIDEWAYS.  We are really thankful for the lesson.  Even with 4wd, it's not really worth getting stuck, or worse yet, rolling the truck.  

Before we drove out to Punta Baja, we bought 2 pounds of cheese - un kilo.  That was 7 days ago.  We are nearly out of cheese.  This is always a good sign that we need to head back to civilization.

Link to November photos

Monday, November 14, 2011

Punta Baja is the Sheet

Secluded SUP-land (even got the moon in the pic)
We arrived at Punta Baja 5 days ago and found a beautiful, deserted beach where we have fallen into our new routine.  Morning starts at 6 am (daylight savings helped this). We drink our coffee and mull over our plan for the day.  The plan?  So far, the plan has been to SUP (stand up paddle board) all day until we literally have trouble eating dinner due to exhaustion.  We've taken some walks around the area to explore as well.  One evening we inadvertently picked up a scrappy, but friendly little dog at the fish camp. She followed us 2 miles back to our truck.  She indeed made it back home and then did it again the next evening.

Scrappy little perro who followed us everywhere
When we aren't walking or SUPing/surfing, we are reading Spanish phrase books.  I'm frustrated but determined.  The great thing about Spanish is if you can figure out how to pronounce all of the vowels and consanants you're halfway there.  Unlike English, the words sound exactly how they are spelled! I've got the the "i" down -- it's pronounced "eee".  As in, this place is the sheet.  Both of us have trouble remembering to pronounce "v" as "b".  Today we were out in the water with a guy named Fernando. According to Scott's translation, he works as a night-time security guard at the fish camp. According to my translation, he works in health and social services in nearby El Rosario.

The tequilla is flowing and as we predicted, our route through Baja has been sloooow.  Muy despacio.

So much Tequilla in the grocery store

Link to November photos

We Made It To Baja

The pretty drive along highway 3
It's been a long time coming.  We've been working our way towards Baja for so long that I thought the day would never come.  We crossed the border at a town called Tecate, about 40 miles east of the infamous Tijuana crossing.  We chose Tecate because the drive was reputed to be very pretty through the northern Baja wine country.  Additionally, Tecate is a smaller and safer town than Tijuana. We scared ourselves silly reading about the random drug-related violence in Tijuana.

The border crossing turned out to be perfect.  We parked at the gas station on the USA side so that we could walk across the border to get our tourist visa at the immigration office.  We walked back to our truck (through USA customs, of course) and then crossed the border by vehicle.  As you drive up to the crossing you are given either a green light, which means don't stop, or a red light, which indicates you must pull over for a search.  Supposedly the lights are random.  We got a red light, and had a 30 second search of our toy box.  That was it!

Fidel's "RV Park"
The drive south was very pretty and quite easy.  We stopped in Ensenada (about 2 hours south) for some groceries and then made our way to a campground a little past San Quintin called Fidel's El Pabellon.  (picture).  We made a few "wrong" turns beforehand trying to scope out other options.  The dirt/sand roads in Baja are no joke. 10 miles = 1 hour of driving.  Needless to say, we rolled up to our campground at dark. Fidel's El Pabellon RV Park is $9 for ocean front "secure" parking with hot showers.  During the next day I chatted with Fidel and learned that he's been running the RV park for 20 years.  He's 41 years old, has 3 kids (24, 22, 10), 3 grandkids, and 10 brothers and sisters who all live nearby.  Yep, you read that correctly, he is 41 and has a 24 year old son.  SHEEESH, that's no way to enjoy your teenage years.  When he was married (!!!) and having kids, I was just getting my driver's license.

Clifftop lovely-ness at Punta Baja
We're so glad to be in Baja.  The days are sunny, the food is plentiful and inexpensive, and we are finally adventuring.  We are currently parked at Punta Baja about 40 miles past Fidel's.  It was a 10 mile dirt/sand road out to the beach that took us an hour to navigate.  Poor El Tigre.  When we arrived, we found a fish camp with lots of boats and some houses/shacks.  We asked the only person we could find if we could park for the night on the clifftop overlooking our morning surf spot.  He said "no problema". A couple of days later, we moved about 2 miles down the beach to a different clifftop spot away from the fish camp.

All I know is that our Spanish needs some work.  We are getting by, but it's pretty rough.  Along that note, I was proud of Scott when Fidel mentioned that his "espani" was very good.  We learned that "espani" is what we call "spanglish" - Gringo spanish.  Since espani is really all we aspire to, Scott was pretty happy to hear it.

Link to November photos