At the time of our last update on 4 July 2017 we had just arrived in Hollywood Hills, California, USA. We Left there and headed for Baja California, Mexico. We are currently in El Marasal – halfway between the east and west coasts of Baja and halfway between the northern and southern tips of Baja.
Main features of this period:
Off-roading (by accident) for a gruelling 12 hours across the San Pedro Martir Mountains between the national park and San Felipe.
A free camp among the cacti – still removing the burrs from our feet and rugs over a week later.
The freshest corns in their husks and slabs of freshly made cheeses bought at farms on the way back down from the San Carlos Hot Springs.
Buying and cooking a lot of pulpo [octopus/squid].
Delicious seafood cocktails amd tostadas in Ensenada.
Trying a lot of Mexican bakery goods.
Being tourists and shopping for Mexican blankets and hats.
Finding the best bathrooms in Baja so far – at Kadekaman Hotel RV Park.
Eating out [and living more cheaply] a lot more than usual.
Buying pistachio ice creams from a man on a bicycle at San Carlos Hot Springs.
Swimming in the sea.
What is happening with the weather? We Brits love talking about weather!
It has been hot again, especially on the east coast of Baja. We have cooled off on the west coast again and then gone back to the heat in the east. At the Sea of Cortez [east coast] it has been mostly around 36 degrees. On the west side it has been mostly around 26 degrees. At the national park, we were 2500m up and the temperature at night dropped to 11 degrees. We are people of all weathers now – nothing phases us. We would just like some rain please! The truck needs a clean after our long, dusty, hot, off-roading episode across the mountains.
What have we been up to?
Travelling in the heat, driving across boulders and down narrow mountain roads, visiting the observatory in the mountains, camping in the Parque Nacional San Pedro Martir with only coyotes for company.
Trying to learn Spanish, often with a bunch of Mexicans who speak no English! Having some days that resemble holidays – beach, sea, sitting around with a book, being hot. Using the truck to swill our laundry in a barrel – camps don’t tend to have washing machines here and there is not a lavaderia [laundrette] in every place we go. Eating Mexican food – tacos, cocteles, tostadas, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, salsas. Making our own tostadas and salsas. Eating a lot more fresh seafood.
We have been trying to find vegetables – it’s a bit thin here! A lot of the vegetables are not very fresh. We travel for miles without seeing any too. We are juicing sacks of oranges though so we won’t get scurvy.
We did a brilliant hike to a fantastic viewpoint in the national park – see our Instagram for a short video [the picture with the yellow stairs].
We have made some very crusty loaves in a pot on a fire but are running out of good bread flour now. The sunsets at our free camps on the coast have been lovely. We have been tourists at La Bufadora blow hole and buying a hat and blankets in San Felipe. Sarah has had a haircut after almost a year – Jon did the cutting – it is “Hair by Juan” – lovely picture of him with his scissors on Instagram. Good thing Sarah also got a new, large hat! Actually, he made a good job of it – must be all that engineering!
We seem to have given up wine and have only had 2 bottles of duty free sangria [bought so we could use the car park at the border] since arriving in Mexico. This was not planned – we just got fed up with staring at endless, different bottles of wine every time we shop! We remember feeling like this by the time we got to Oregon and Pam [from our house sit] saved us from it for a while by introducing us to a Pinot Noir that we bought in every supermarket for a while thereafter. No one seems that bothered about alcohol now though as it is too hot anyway. Jon has had the occasional beer with a meal out and we have obtained a few Pina Coladas with Rum from passing vendors at the beach. We also enjoyed some chile coconut from the same vendors to go with our pina coladas, which was nice for a change.
Are we within our budget? Are we beaten or penniless?
Yes! We are now saving every day and therefore recovering our Canada/USA overspend despite some extra unplanned expense. Gone are the days of very few US dollars to our measly pound! Roll up the Mexican peso and cheaper living!
What do we really think of it so far?
We are pleased that we finally got organised and made the decision to leave the USA. We struggled with deciding when to leave because there is always something else you feel you should have done – in our case visiting Grand Canyon amongst other things. It was too hot and too busy in the end to justify going so far out of our way. We also simply can’t do everything so something had to give. It was time to head for Mexico and we feel this was the right decision.
California camp sites were overpriced and not great as summer (and crowds) set in. The camps in Mexico so far are pretty equal in pleasantness to them, despite being more primitive [and are a fraction of the price for often the same thing] and very few people are here.
We have struggled to find time to master Latin American Spanish until arriving here – but we don’t really think we would have been better off struggling away with it when we had no mumbling Mexicans to practice on. They speak very quickly, not very clearly, sound nothing like the Spanish CDs. It is like talking to someone with a strong Geordie or Welsh accent in England whilst Mexican music blasts away in the background [or cars with no exhausts]. Some Mexicans are being really helpful, now we have learned to ask them to speak slowly. They do not all speak English here – in some areas, only occasionally do we find someone who does.
Although timing could be considered to be a bit off beam as usual – we have had the pleasure of places to ourselves again! This is particularly good when camp sites only have 2 showers and being in a crowd in the heat is not always conducive to a good nights’ sleep or a relaxing time on the beach. It is often much nicer to be the only tourist in town!
We had to smile when we saw a sign here saying “TRUMP: Make America Mexican Again!”
A dentist from Mexicali, who joined us for the sunset at El Mirador, looking out over La Bufadora, assured us that there were “good and bad Mexicans, same as there are good and bad Americans, and good and bad English!” People have been very approachable and friendly here so far.
We have been to some very friendly restaurants and shops and people seem to appreciate our custom in them. Word has it that less Americans are visiting and it does seem quiet around the towns.
As usual we have seen some lovely scenery, driven a long way, been hot a lot and generally had a nice time. We liked La Bufadora and watched the blow hole spouting for ages. We eventually got fed up with our 12 hours off-roading experience but came away with an sense of achievement! It’s been nice to slow down here and there, swim in the sea, and just get the camping chairs out and sit around in the shade.
It has been a change to eat out and enjoy more fish and seafood. We really liked the street food from La Guerrerense in Ensenada, our meal at La Vaquita in San Felipe and today’s tacos and tostadas with salad at Mariscos Las Playas in El Mirasal.
We would prefer there to be more variety and freshness of vegetables available. Fresh produce often has to travel to here in the heat. The quality of ingredients is a bit of a worry for those of us who are used to high quality foodstuffs and making our own bread etc. We have realised how lucky we are at our Nottingham home – we have access to an abundance of good, fresh vegetables available year round there that has yet to be matched anywhere since Autumn in Nova Scotia.
Berkeley, California has provided the closest food to what we are used to yet. This was partly because many nuts and vegetables were in season when we visited and access to farmers’ markets was easy from our house sit. Unfortunately it also seemed supremely expensive compared to what we are used to for the same quality at home. We miss Riverford vegboxes, Abel and Cole, Manor Organic Farm at Long Whatton in Leicestershire, Out of This World in Beeston, Nottingham and even a few bits from Sainsburys in the UK.
We are obviously very spoilt and now even more appreciative of our good fortune back home. There we spent our spare money on high quality fresh food rather than TV channels/films/gaming/DVDs/CDs/other entertainments or having a bigger house/another car and a mobile phone contract each. We made a point of not developing a “need” for all these other things at home as it helped us to eat well, become healthier, and to save all our money for our trip. We are very glad about that now as we need every pound we saved and we would have to go without these things in a truck constantly travelling abroad anyway! People often ask in wonder how we afford our trip. Put simply it was by only spending money on food (and bills we really couldn’t get out of) when we were at home and forgoing lots of other things. We are having all our “entertainments” in one trip now. Our way is not for everyone but it works for us!
You also miss good, fresh food when you can no longer take it for granted. Our health is also quite important – we can’t just pop to the local NHS surgery if we get sick – so eating well and staying well is a priority. We don’t mind that we have got a lot thinner either as we had weight to lose. We might go back on the wine a bit more often too when we get back home though!
We spend a lot of time staring at new things in new food shops in new places – mostly processed things in packets/jars that we turn away from. We like fresh ingredients to cook with rather than a series of things to heat up. We also spend a lot of time worrying about basic things like water replenishment as it is not always available here and sometimes the taps only offer salty stuff! People here live with this all the time though. It is a dusty desert land.
We like the Baja and its people so far and are looking forward to exploring the rest of it. Tomorrow we hunt for baguettes at Santa Rosalia and head for Mulege to see if we can see some rock art. Hopefully there will be some cakes too!
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Where do we go from here?
Southern Baja and then a ferry across to mainland Mexico.
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