A Travellerspoint blog

September 2018

Life in La Paz as Fall Begins


View 2018 on mrb430's travel map.

It's been awhile since an update I realize. We've been busy settling in and truthfully I'm trying to make the switch from travel blogger to resident correspondent! The truth is I'd make a lousy photo journalist. I notice all the weird and beautiful things around us but I NEVER remember to take a picture. I'm trying to get better at it so I can record these things for us to remember and to share with you. But there's a balance between living like a local and snapping pictures constantly like a tourist!

THE RAINY SEASON

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Anyway, as fall begins everywhere else, we are settled into the "rainy season" here. We had a big storm come through, I guess technically a tropical depression, last week and another one seems to be threatening but everyone says this will be the last. Apparently by October it's pretty well over. These rains are intense. They remind us of the rain in Bocas del Toro, Panama. It lasted about 36 hours and the streets and arroyos run like rivers. There are no storm drains here so the roads are the only conduits. Our Spanish-language school was canceled because the teachers couldn't get to school. So we had a "rain day".

What it has meant is a greening up of the desert, much more humidity, and a few more bugs. It is still in the 90's every day and with the humidity it is really unbearable during the afternoon. It hits its peak about 5:00 when it is just unbelievable. Even for us heat lovers, it's too much. For the first time in my life, I'm actually waiting for it to get a bit cooler. It's made Sunday Funday a challenge because we had found two great bars to watch football right along the Malecon but they are both outdoors.
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After almost expiring in the heat on Sunday, we had to find an alternative for Monday night. Mind you it starts at 6:00 p.m. here so it's still light and very hot. And thank goodness for the hotel bar! There is a very fancy hotel about four blocks from us so, being us, we went in and asked if they have a t.v., check, A/C, check, so off we went. Turns out it was like any hotel bar anywhere. Good, friendly service, bar nuts but also olives, a few tourists - though Mexican, and a few locals. This being Mexico, we killed the sound so the locals could sing a few ballads to the bar.
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AUTHENTICITY

And that leads me to this thought. I think one aspect of La Paz that we are totally enamored with is the authenticity of this place as a Mexican city. Sure there are a few expats and a few tourists, but not many. That may change this winter but for now it's blissfully free of Americans (no offense ha!). There are a few American chains out in the main shopping mall area but not anywhere else. The people speak Spanish and with few exceptions, expect you to try to as well. It can be a cacophony of unfamiliar sights and sounds at times but that's what we wanted - to live in another country.

One of the cool things in this regard are the local festivals and events. September 16th was Mexican Independence Day and there was a big party complete with fireworks, a parade, and fly overs. With the exception of the parade, we saw it all from our our balcony!
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It was really cool how everyone decorated for it. Even our local grocery store, the Arambura, dressed up their bull! Yes they have a bull on their roof.
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Last weekend there was a concert sponsored by a Baja motorcycle club. It was down on the Malecon and we just stumbled onto it.
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FURRY FRIENDS

There are definitely days I miss Cadeau, though I know she is better off where she is than suffering here in the heat with us. But I have been blessed with the company of two furry friends at our apartment. They come each night to say hi - well it might be because I feed them chicken and beef - but nevertheless less they bring me joy. There is "Dado del Pie" (toe-biter). So named because she can't resist a quick bite on the toe before she hurries away. She's aloof and has a hard time warming up and coming over but she's a beautiful cat.
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Notice the defensive toe curl here!
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Then there's Pequiño Hombre (little man). He's a little guy, friendly and warm and fearless, and I think maybe Dado del Pie's son because even though she's bigger she defers to him and let's him have more food.
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Well that's it for now. Have to hit the beach! It's our day off from language school.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram @arrradventures for more frequent updates!

Posted by mrb430 07:56 Archived in Mexico Tagged la_paz_bcs Comments (0)

Settling into La Paz


View 2018 on mrb430's travel map.

On September 1st we arrived in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico for an extended stay. We will be in La Paz until December 29th and are looking forward to trying out a different mode of travel. The last five months have been a whirlwind; the next four will be a light breeze off the ocean.

As I've mentioned before, our goal is to travel the world slowly, staying in places for weeks and months even. Well, this is our first chance to try out that plan and see how we like it. We're looking forward to this new adventure.

MAKING IT HOME

So what does settling in look and feel like?
Well first you get yourself an apartment. Ours is a sweet little one bedroom a half block from the Malecon, the walkway that runs along the Sea of Cortez here in La Paz. Being us, we had to have a porch to sit on for coffee and cocktails.
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When we got here it was bare so first stop Home Depot for some plants to brighten things up. Yes they have Home Depot in La Paz!

And serendipitously, La Paz actually faces almost West so we get fabulous sunsets from the Malecon.
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We can see the water from the deck if we lean way out but we have a great view of it from the bedroom.
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Not a great photo but in person you look right through the riot of flowers and windmills outside the window down to the blue water.

Then it's off to find the Walmart, yes they have that too, for all the little things we want to make it feel like home but that weren't supplied. Nicer pillow for Scott, the kind of scrubbies we like in the kitchen, a juicer (but of course), and other small items. Have to find your local market for food, we have one four blocks away, the farmers market (Tuesdays and Saturdays three blocks away), the bakery, it's an amazing French bakery three blocks away, and the thrift store at which we found our French press for morning coffee. And now you have an equipped and stocked kitchen.
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Small but very functional. Of course you have to learn all the nuances of how things work in another country. How do you light the gas burners on the stove? Well there's a "sparker" button. How do you light the oven? Stick your lighter into the hole above the pilot. Oh and don't forget the plumbing is crazy here so hot is on the right in the kitchen sink (but not in the bathroom or shower?)!

Dirty clothes and no washer/dryer? The drop-off laundry is six blocks away. Two loads washed and folded for under $10 US.

Ok, we're all set. Now we just have to learn the language and for that we start school on Monday.

FINDING YOUR LOCAL

Football season has begun. The time of year that all day Sunday, along with Thursday and Monday nights, football dominates our lives. But we don't have cable! So, off we went to find where to watch American football. Luckily, La Paz has a fair number of expats so we have two good options. Both right on the Malecon within walking distance. There's Tailhunters - run by a woman from California and her Hawaiian husband. And there's Harker - run by Brian Harker and his lovely Mexican wife, who bakes the cheesecakes! As with most things here, they are multi-purpose joints. Tailhunter also runs fishing trips (you can bring your catch back to the restaurant to have it cooked) and Harker is a SUP shop and outfitter.

We've eaten amazing food for incredibly cheap prices but are yet to find our go to spot. We'll keep you posted on that.

FINDING THE BEACHES

While there are beaches along the Malecon, the water quality can be suspect during the rainy season so the main beaches are on the road south of town. There are four, each with their own appeal. The first, Playa Tesoro, is a quiet bay with mangroves and a small restaurant that will be perfect for a quick paddle (I may finally get to inflate the paddle boards we've hauled all this way!). The second is Playa Pichilingue, a bigger, more open bay with a few restaurants and chairs and umbrellas for rent. Then its Playa Balandra, reputedly the most beautiful but with no services. When we went by it was crowded with families. And finally, on the other side of a small point, is Playa Tecolote. It's a wide open beach facing out into the Sea rather than in a bay. It has gentle waves, beautiful sand, and a bunch of restaurants.
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This is the place we think we'll spend the most time. We can even drive out onto the beach to set up and then just walk down to the restaurants for something to eat.
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GETTING IN SHAPE

Five months on the road was not kind to either Scott or I in terms of keeping fit. After Florida, where we had such a promising start with our beach walks and yoga, our routines faltered. BUT, we've picked them back up again here. The Malecon is a five kilometer path that's wonderful to walk as it's all right along the sea front. But at this time of year, it's too hot unless you're up before the sunrise - 6:30 am! We've done it a few times but decided it wasn't going to work on a regular basis so we joined a gym. It's really nice and, more importantly, it's air conditioned!

THE WEATHER

And finally a word on the weather. We arrived earlier than we originally planned and we knew it would be hot but just how hot we weren't prepared for. July to September are the hottest months with highs close to 100 and high humidity. That means you leave the house to walk to the market and by the time you're back you're drenched in sweat. Mornings before 11:00 am are good and the evenings cool down. So we spend the middle of the day in air conditioning. Either at home or at the gym or the mall. Once it breaks, the weather will cool and it will be in the 80's and then the 70's for the rest of our stay.

And I must also mention that this is the "rainy" season. What that means in practice in La Paz is if a major storm comes in we might get rain. Because we are an the bay here, it keeps the afternoon storms pushed back into the mountains. We hit some rain storms coming back from the airport but we've only had one rain here so far.

You may recall our post about being rainmakers.
https://arrrblog.travellerspoint.com/68/

Well, the first night we were here we were talking with our landlord and he said: "It never rains in La Paz". Famous last words! The very next day it rained for the first time in a year! And it was a deluge. The streets were running with water like small rivers. So our track record is intact! Ha! Check out this short video for what it was like.

Don't forget to subscribe and check us out @Arrradentures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 08:46 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches la_paz_bcs Comments (0)

Driving the Baja Peninsula, Part 2


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And our trip down the Baja continues.

Day 3: San Ignacio to Mulege

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LAGUNA DE SAN IGNACIO
Prior to heading out, we decided - well maybe I decided - that I wanted to see the Laguna de San Ignacio before we moved on. It's a very popular grey whale watching spot in the winter. There was a sign on the edge of town pointing to it and I just assumed it was - you know - right there. Well 50+ km later we finally found it. We don't call it Arrradventures for nothing! The drive out was stunning as you cross the desert and then hit the extensive salt flats before actually reaching the lagoon, even if about 20 km was rough dirt road!

Salt flats!
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The Lagoon
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We saw some of the biggest cactus of the entire trip in this stretch.
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Tree Cactus (Joshua Trees)
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Thankfully, after that adventure, we had planned two short driving days so we could enjoy some of the oasis towns on the Sea of Cortez. But first lunch. Fish Tacos!
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MULEGE
Mulege was the first stop and the road to it was highlighted by views of Volcan Tres Virgines. It dominates the view for miles before you actually got to it.
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Mulege is another oasis, this time on the coast where a river empties to the sea. It was the first real river we saw after tons of dry river beds all throughout the drive.
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As a side note, I would love to see the landscape when these rivers are flowing.

We had heard Mulege was a beautiful town and it was pretty but - well - not all that. It has a lighthouse and a mission that are interesting and it does have a small beach.
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We had not booked in advance here, thinking we would try the "let's just see what we find" approach. After an hour and a half trying to find something, we decided we really don't like that approach! We finally found a small hotel with a pool for $25/night and were very relieved. It gets soooo hot here (even for us) that afternoons are best spent doing nothing and sitting in the shade. Add a pool and a cold cerveza and all is right with the world.
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Once it cooled off, we set out for dinner and had surf and turf with some of the best langoustines ever and a wonderful sunset.
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After dinner, we happened upon an indoor soccer match and sat and watched for awhile.
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Day 4: Mulege to Loreto

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This was also a short drive day and maybe one of the most beautiful. Our route took us along the Sea of Cortez and Bahia de Concepcion for some stunning views.
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We stopped at the first cove we hit on the Bay, Playa Santispac, and had breakfast at Restuarante Ana.
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Later in the day we saw this "sand tornado" moving across an open area of desert!
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LORETO
Loreto is a beautiful town on the Sea of Cortez. It's bigger than the others along the way and has a lovely Malecon. We treated ourselves and stayed at a hotel with a bar and restaurant right on the beach. Of course, after a swim and some sun, Margaritas were in order to accompany the sunset.
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Then a walk down the malecon to the Loreto sign. Many towns along the coast have these colorful signs.
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The next morning treated us to a spectacular sunrise and we were on our way.
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Day 5: Loreto to La Paz

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Our last day and another long one. It was highlighted by more spectacular mountain passes as we had to cross back over the Eastern ranges to the center of the peninsula for the run south. The middle was dominated by very long, very straight stretches of road through the countryside, farmlands, and two significant farming towns before cutting back across the mountains to the east coast and La Paz.
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LA PAZ
And we made it!
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We have a wonderful little one bedroom apartment a half a block from the water and the Malecon in the historic center with tons of restaurants, bars, and shops. More to come on life in La Paz...

Remember to subscribe and follows at @Arrradventures on Instagram!

Posted by mrb430 13:30 Archived in Mexico Tagged baja Comments (0)

Driving the Baja Peninsula, Part 1


View 2018 on mrb430's travel map.

This is overdue but we made it to La Paz Saturday, September 1st. We've been settling in and getting to know our town and I can see many posts in our future about life in Mexico. But for now - the Baja Road trip. 914 miles from Tijuana to La Paz through some of the most amazing country we've seen.

A few observations first.

The roads were much better than we expected as far as road conditions. Here and there where there was road work and detours onto dirt tracks to get around it we were glad for Ruby's 4x4 suspension and tires but otherwise it was very pleasant driving.

That is not to say there aren't parts that are dangerous. High mountains with switchback curves, no shoulders (at all!), and no guard rails were the norm in many areas. Needless to say 80 kmp (50 mph) was about the average with times at 40 kmp (25mph) and highs of 125 kmp (77 mph) on strait aways.

Passing is really at will. There are designated passing zones but no one cares. They pass when they want to and so did we after awhile.

There is no highway patrol. We only saw police in the towns. Not one in all 900+ miles on the highway.

There are military checkpoints. We went through about ten. We had read about these and were somewhat apprehensive as to what to expect. Of course, all you read about are the bad times people had and from lots of travel reading we've come to expect things to be better than described in travel blog comments but still.. When you pull up to a checkpoint and the military is there with machine guns you have to wonder. In the end, we had no issues at all. Generally we were asked where we were coming from and where we were going and waived through. One time they wanted us to roll down the tinted back windows to see inside, once I opened the tailgate, once we were asked for identification (I used my driver's license), and once we were asked for the registration for the car. We were polite; they were polite. Our ritual when approaching was: remove GoPro from window, remove sunglasses, turn off the radio, act quiet and attentive. I'm sure they have a profile and we clearly didn't fit it! Thank goodness because doing a detailed search of everything in Ruby would have taken hours!

There are roadside memorials called “descansos,” which means “resting place” in Spanish. The dictionary defines “descanso” as a roadside marker or memorial to a victim of an automobile accident. They are really interesting and a little unnerving. Almost every bad curve has at least one, some two or three. Of course, if everyone that died in an automobile accident in America had a descanso, the roadsides would be littered with them and I'm sure not every Mexican victim has one but there were enough to keep you cautious. Some were obviously for truckers, who must be totally fearless to travel these roads!
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Others were simple crosses, elaborate shrines, or even carved out rocks. Many incorporated parts of the wreckage. You can see many images on Google and I'm sure someone has done a mile by mile look. We didn't get any pictures because they are often in places you absolutely can't stop!

Day 1: San Diego to El Rosario

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We had a rather inauspicious beginning to our trip! Crossing the border at Chaparral there was no line at all. This was good and bad. Bad because it didn't give us time to stop and think what we needed to do. As a result, we entered Mexico without stopping at Immigration! Oops! No passport stamp, no tourist card stamp! So we then proceeded to search out the Immigration office in Tijuana, NOT and easy thing to do! We were successful in finding it after many false starts only to learn they don't actually process immigrants there (?); we would have to go to the port in Ensenada. No big deal, it was on our way. But we did spend our first three hours in Mexico as illegal immigrants! As it turned out, we had an amazing lunch along the playa before continuing our trip.
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And the views from the cliffs down to the Pacific along the Tijuana scenic highway in this stretch were beautiful.large_IMG_2737.JPG

It was interesting how little real development there was in this part. We had expected this to be an area with beach resorts, condos, etc. for vacationers from the U.S. but there really was very little of that. Here and there were attempts at it but nothing like we expected.

From Ensenada to El Rosario, just above Baja Sur where the road turns away from the Pacific, is the most crowded and least interesting part of the drive. It's all crowded farming towns and huge agricultural operations. El Rosario is a thriving small town stretched out along the highway that offered us a great hotel, Baja Cactus, and a nice breakfast. Bloggers had said there wasn't much there but we found it very sufficient for an overnight stop.

Day 2: El Rosario to San Ignacio

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The road to San Ignacio first takes you across the Pacific range into the central plains between the mountains, across the Catavina Boulder Fields, then out to the Pacific again and through a huge area of sand dunes near Guerrero Negro, and finally back inland to the oasis of San Ignacio. It was a beautiful but long drive! So long, we had heard you need to buy gas to be sure you make it and Catavina is the only place with gas on the whole road. Seriously?!large_fullsizeoutput_1b3c.jpeg

This is what getting gas in Catavina amounts to! Muy interesante!
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Th boulder fields were beautiful and the variety of cactus just mind blowing.
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SAN IGNACIO
Built in an oasis in the desert (our first!), it is a quant town with a central square and about 700 inhabitants.
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It is a very historic mission town and very welcoming.
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We passed the afternoon and evening drinking cerveza on the square and watching the local activities, which included a volley ball game, children playing, people cruising by, and - of all things - a film company remaking the town to use as a set for a Mexican film on drugs called "Polvo (Powder)". Set in the 1970's, they were removing anything that looked more modern than that and renaming restaurants and stores to be appropriate for the movie. It was pretty interesting to watch. The film crew were all staying at our hotel and we got the very last room available!

Next up, days 3 and 4. Don't forget to subscribe and check us out @Arrradventures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 12:02 Archived in Mexico Tagged baja Comments (2)

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