Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Years in Baja California

After Christmas, I drove a car out to Los Angeles to my friend Susan's mom. It was a nice drive, and I was able to stop in San Diego and see my friends Matt and Andy from college. We had fun in San Diego, watching football, ultimate fighting, and walking to the local bars. The following morning I headed up to Los Angeles and called Susan's mom Margret to let her know I was on the way. She was kind enough to stay on the phone with me until I arrived at her door, and took me out for dinner as well, before boarding the train. The station below was great, but the train I bought my ticket for was canceled without warning, and the next one was late. This made for a late trip to Tijuana.
After arriving in Tijuana, I had another bite to eat, and caught a van to Rosarito, where I spent the night. The next day I walked around the town, had tacos, and caught a bus south. It was New Years Eve, and I could have stayed for the party scene, but I asked the gentleman at the bus station to recommend a relaxing little town which wouldn't be as crowded and focused on partying. He suggested Camalu. The bus for which I purchased a ticket was full, and the next bus required a stop in Ensenada. This would have been a nice place, as it had a nice little walking area. I kept on, however, and ended up in Cavalu later that night. It was extremely little. I mean, the only paved road was the road passing through the town, and the one pool hall I found didn't have anyone playing. It was pretty much dead, and my hitchhiking efforts led me nowhere. Luckily, a friend I met on the bus (below left of me) was getting gas and offered to take me to the next town south. He took me in his old Cadillac, and made great time. I don't know how fast he drove, but I know the Cadillac was pegged with the speedometer only going to 85mph. We stopped at an old schoolmate of his Miguel, and they caught up (below right of me)

We all had yoghurt, tamales, and grapes. It was very interesting, and my ride ended up having to leave because he received a call that his brother was in some sort of car accident. I was going to continue on south, because this town was even smaller than the last, but not far from a slightly larger place a bit further south. I was coaxed by the mom, Estela, to stay with the family there, and we had a great time chatting about all sorts of things.

For instance, Miguel plays soccer for his university, and could juggle a ball with all sorts of stalls, between his legs in the air, and quite acrobatically. The father told me of when he was in Arizona, and how he walked from Mexico all the way to Phoenix, for 3 straight days, and ended up staying a few months, and how it cost $2000 for the trip. Now he has a really nice little grocery store in town, where the mom made us all a wonderful breakfast in the morning. That night, however, we all had fun with fireworks, blowing up buckets, lighting off bottle rockets, etc... We celebrated midnight with a toast of orange fanta, and went to bed.

The following morning, the boys took me out to "the old mill", which is on the water. We saw some seals, and had a fun drive out. The "nopale" farm above was very interesting, as it seemed to be prickly pear cactus which are partially harvested for food, and is also featured on the Mexican flag as the bit where the eagle lands.

When I caught my bus, I headed south to Guerrero negro. I walked around, missed a bus further south because of a time change that occurs when you cross into south baja, and had some good conversations on the merits of Mexico vs. the USA in a bar. I also heard of a town called San Ignacio from some others, and how it was a good place to see whales and quaint.

I ended up heading there the next morning, and found that to get to see the whales, required a 60km ride on a dirt road, and that the van trip ($40US) was full for that afternoon. I decided to start walking until I could try and hitch there with a supply truck or something. I didn't have any luck for hours, and watched the eagles hunting prairie dogs and read a magazine. I started walking back to town, and got lucky catching a ride with a couple from Oregon who were going to camp out on the beach. The picture above shows the sand peninsula where the cabanas were at sunset. I was able to find a place to sleep, and had a small dinner. Since the whole place was solar powered, it was dark early, which meant an early nights sleep. I did manage to get up for the sunrise though, which was amazing.

I was able to get on a whale watching boat, which is just a small boat piloted by a local fisherman. The whales don't come in any large numbers until February and March, but we did manage to see a lot of birds.
We also saw dolphins, and had them playing directly next to the boat, and jumping in and out just by us.

I really enjoyed the dolphins, but we did also manage to see some whales.


A teacher from just south of Los Mochis saw what he thought was a dolphin, but was the young whale below. He was in very shallow water, and interesting to watch.We later saw an adult, and followed it for a while. Apparently, in the high season, they become used to the boats, and are also very playful. Our boat captain/minister/fisherman/mechanic told us many stories, about being lifted out of the water on the belly of a whale, by being splashed, having celebrities like Pierce Brosnan and Cameron Diaz, etc...
I was able to catch a ride with the teacher, Martin Cuevas, and his uncle, and we went and saw an oyster farm, and caught the same bus. I received a little bit of misinformation regarding the Ferry from Santa Rosalia to Guaymas, and luckily asked at the ferry station as the bus made a quick stop. It turned out that the ferry left early in the morning on Friday and Sunday, though I had been told evening. I decided to continue on to Mulege, a town about an hour south, anyway because I had already bought the ticket and had it in my head from speaking to some bikers, that it was a relaxed town. I arrived around 10pm, and it was also quite dead. I walked around, and decided to take a bus back north and catch the ferry in the morning back to Guaymas. of course, on the walk back I found a pool hall, and got into a few good games which helped me miss my bus. It was decided for me to stick around a couple of days.

The next morning I went to inquire at a dive shop about scuba diving. It was very expensive, but they also had a kayak, and I could use the gear for the day, so I agreed. I met James from San Francisco at the dive shop, and he drove me and the kayak to the beach after breakfast, and was also going diving the following day. I kayaked across the bay, and then did some snorkeling around the point. It was a great day, which ended with us eating a self caught lobster, scallops, and fish at a restaurant near the beach. The family that ran it was very friendly, and we ended up coming back later. We met a couple of photographers from Chicago, and tried to hit up the disco, but there wasn't much going on a Friday. Apparently Saturday was the night to be out.

The following day we went to "Burro Beach" to dive a wooden sailboat wreck. The wetsuits were hard to get on, and water wasn't clear. My vest kept inflating which meant I kept floating up, and releasing air and sinking, and it made the whole thing a pain. Our second dive was similar to my snorkeling the day before, but not as good. It was an ok experience. Maybe I have been spoiled by great diving the past year, and lunch included, boats to reefs, etc.... We did have a fun group though, which ended up with a night on the town, Poi ( a sort of fire on a rope thing) and a return trip to the restaurant on the beach, about 2 miles from town. We were even lucky enough to get a ride back to town with a nice guy in a pickup. When he dropped us off, he then gave us a 6 pack of beer because he didn't want to get yelled at by his daughter (his wife was with him in the car) Funny night. The disco was quite busy, and I slept for an hour and ran to catch the 4:30am bus to get the ferry.

The ferry was about 11 hours, and when I arrived in Guaymas I was able to meet my old friend Victor Calleja out for a couple of tacos, before catching my bus north. I arrived in Tucson around 5:30 am, and decided to walk home. I was so used to walking a few miles here and there, that it seemed like no big deal. Now, since getting back, I haven't walked anywhere. It is funny how things changed.

Well, Happy New Year. Take care.

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