Adios, Baja California Sur

WEDNESDAY (Miercoles), May 18

The heat wave of the last few days lifted.  Daytime temp in the mid-70’s.  Sleeping was much more comfortable.

Prior to leaving La Paz I tried to find a Scopolamine patch for seasickness.  Couldn’t find it so I resorted to Dramamine.  Ultimately I probably didn’t need it because the sea was calm.

Our second experience at the port uncovered one of the disadvantages of booking with the small TCM line instead of Baja Ferries: nobody who works for TCM speaks a word of English.  They’re not accustomed to interacting with tourists.  They seem to assume you know what to do and where to go because their usual passengers, truckers, all do.

Getting on to the ferry was interesting.  The ferry has 2 decks.  The top deck, where we ended up, is accessed by driving, in reverse, up a long and narrow ramp.  Once on the deck we had to maneuver, again in reverse, into the last spot in a long row of trucks.  The hombres who load the ferry are very precise about where the vehicles are parked.

We checked out the facilities on the ferry then went back to our camper, raised the roof and spent the voyage in familiar surroundings.

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TUESDAY (Martes), May 17

We boondocked last night at a parking lot next to a beach where Mexicans come to party.  Nobody bothered us.

San Jose del Cabo is an over-developed collection of mega hotel resorts (“The Grand Mayan”) and condo-mania.  The place where we boondocked,  was at the far end of the city where the fisherman dock their boats.

On our way back to La Paz to buy our ferry tickets we stopped in Miraflores to eat breakfast as Los Agaves restaurant.  We stopped there on the way down to San Jose del Cabo and really enjoyed the food and the owner/cook who spoke some English. He gave us information about the area. His eggs were la mejor (the best) because they come from his rancho. As we were getting ready to leave he picked a ripe papaya off a tree and gave it to us.

Buying the ferry tickets was an adventure in itself.  To begin with, there are two ferry companies, Baja Ferries (BF) and TCM.  BF is a standard car ferry operation.  They have a monopoly on passenger ferry service.  TCM hauls trucks.  TCM is also a heckuva lot cheaper than BF.  Another reason we chose TCM over BF is that we can sleep in the camper during the overnight passage – something BF forbids.

The first obstacle was how to get into the port to find the TCM office.  Once we found the proper entrada and parked, a guard directed us to the ferry terminal.  But the TCM ticket office was closed.  We asked another guard when the office would open.  She pointed to a small building across the parking lot – the main TCM officina.

Once at the officina the TCM agent couldn’t figure out what to charge us for the passage.  Prices are determined by type of truck. Eventually a woman who looked like she was the manager got a tape measure and walked to where we were parked and measured the length of our truck camper.  We paid the second lowest price plus a fee for a second person – all told about $417.  Our ferry departs tomorrow at 4pm.

Taken on the way to the ferry terminal:

Chris’ snorkling story

Dave and I stopped at the first dive shop we saw when we drove into Cabo Pulmo from the north and got information about snorkeling tours and said we would be there the next day – Sunday.

On Sunday morning, drove back to that shop and the young man said no snorkeling today – only a dive trip. Very annoyed that wasn’t mentioned yesterday.

So we drove down to the beach and boat launch area and asked two different shop owners about snorkeling tours and were told ‘no snorkeling today”. The fourth one said “maybe”. He had one other woman signed up but that he wouldn’t go until 10 anyway and only if he had four people on the tour. But that there might be other latecomers; to come back later to find out for sure.

Back to dive shop at 9:15 and still four people not signed up. So I said to owner, Javier, go to fewer places with just the two of us. Then the other woman, a Columbian, suggested we pay more for just the two of us and he agreed to that. We ended up paying 1020p – reasonable for a planned three hour tour.

We were fitted by Ezra for fin, mask, shorty wetsuit and life vest. After trying on for size and while taking the top of the wetsuit down so I wouldn’t overheat before getting into the boat, my swimsuit strap came down and Ezra got a good look at my bare breast. Hadn’t planned on doing a strip tease.

After gearing up, Javier explained the rules for both the snorkeling tour and the Park rules since Cabo Pulmo is a National Marine Underwater Park. It is the only hard coral reef on the west coast of North America and is the furtherest north coral reef in the Eastern Pacific. Estimated to be 20,000 years old.

We trudged down to the beach with our gear and climbed aboard the 15’ boat with Ezra captaining and Jose being the snorkeling guide going in the water with us. The company’s team slid the boat off the boat trailer at the edge of the white sand beach and we headed out northeast from the shore about 1/2 mile. We got into our gear, and on the count of three, hit the water. Again by just swinging our legs and fins around from the seat and sitting on lip of boat and pushing off into water. Water was warm and very still. This time I was calm and collected and didn’t fight to get back into the boat promptly.

Started swimming but immediately Jose was 50’ ahead of us so I signaled to Ezra and he picked us up. And then he talked to Jose about swimming slower. But Ezra ended up moving the boat since current was running strong through one of the coral ridges. There are eight coral ridges that form channels that run southwest to northeast at a diagonal from the beach.

He headed out to a location about 1 mile north of the beach where we launched. Back in the water which was still calm with 1’ swells and and I was instantly transfixed by the spectacle I was seeing below me. The water was approximately 40’ deep and I could clearly see the bottom. Saw many of the tropical fish Dave and I had seen when we were diving in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Saw different colors and sizes of parrot fish nibbling away at the corals, schools of damsel fish darting in and around, and individual puffer fish with their square body shapes, some colored black with blue neon dots, others were yellow with brown spots and others were splotchy yellow. Saw a school of approximately 6-7 Moorish Idols parading across reef all in a row. Spied all different sizes of angel fish and many other fish I couldn’t ID and too many different types to remember. Jose pointed out two different moray eels who had left their crevasses and were swimming to another coral head. Schools of neons 4”-5” inches flashing throughout. Different corals, some barrel shaped, others flakey, some brain-shaped and a few antler-shaped. In this section, the corals looked healthy.

We swam through these ridges for about 20-25 minutes then back into the boat. The shorty wetsuit more than kept me warm. The water temperature was approximately 70 degrees.

Ezra moved the boat out further into deeper water looking for larger fish or even dolphins. We trawled for about 15 minutes but nothing was spotted so the decision was made to go south along the Coast for about 5 miles past the sandy beach to the rocky cliffs where the sea lions haul out.

We were advised to be careful of the swell and not let it push us into the rocks. Many sea lions were sunning themselves on the rocks but only two were interested enough in us to leave their perch and drop into the water and dive under and around us. So graceful in the water; it doesn’t appear they use any effort at all to propel themselves through the water and they twist and turn as if they have no bones in their body.

We swam away from the sea lions south along the cliff wall when we were engulfed by the biggest school of jacks (each approximately 18” long) I have ever seen diving or on any Nature show. They split and swirled around us for 10-15 minutes. There could easily have been 1000 or more. They just kept coming, forming and re-forming into balls and twirling around us. A real Jacque Cousteau moment!!!!

Back into the boat and re-traced our path to the south end of the mile long sandy beach we launched from and came in close to the shore. We were advised that this area was very shallow and to be extremely careful to not hit the coral reef with our fins as we passed over the ridges.

It was shallow, approximately 15’ at the deepest and full of seagrass. During this dive, Jose spotted three different Hawksbill Turtles. Each was grazing away at the grasses; we would watch until they had to come up for air and would follow them up. All were approximately 2’ long and their shells were mottled olive green and yellow. Towards the end of the dive, Jose grabbed our hands and swam fast with us over a sandy bottom to show us a 3’ manta ray swimming by. We never got closer than about 30’ away and it quickly out-swam us. In this area, I did see some dying and dead coral with the tell-tale sign of white patches.

Back to the boat and well-pleased with the outing. Another water adventure that was spectacular and that Dave couldn’t share in.

TUESDAY (Martes), May 17

We boondocked last night at a parking lot next to a beach where Mexicans come to party.  Nobody bothered us.

San Jose del Cabo is an over-developed collection of mega hotel resorts (“The Grand Mayan”) and condo-mania.  The place where we boondocked, Area de Panga, was at the far end of the city where the fisherman dock their boats.

On our way back to La Paz to buy our ferry tickets we stopped in Miraflores to eat breakfast as Los Agaves restaurant.  We stopped there on the way down to San Jose del Cabo and really enjoyed the food and the owner/cook who spoke some English. He gave us information about the area. His eggs were la mejor (the best) because they come from his rancho. As we were getting ready to leave he picked a ripe papaya off a tree and gave it to us.

Buying the ferry tickets was an adventure in itself.  To begin with, there are two ferry companies, Baja Ferries (BF) and TCM.  BF is a standard car ferry operation.  They have a near monopoly on ferry service.  TCM is the little guy.  They ferry trucks.  TCM is also a heckuva lot cheaper than BF.  Another reason we chose TCM over BF is that we can sleep in the camper during the overnight passage – something BF forbids.

The first obstacle was how to get into the port to find the TCM office.  Once we found the proper entrada and parked, a guard directed us to the ferry terminal.  But the TCM ticket office was closed.  We asked another guard when the office would open.  She pointed to a small building across the parking lot – the main TCM officina.

Once at the officina the TCM agent couldn’t figure out what to charge us for the passage.  Prices are determined by type of truck. Eventually a woman who looked like she was the manager got a tape measure and walked to where we were parked and measured the length of our truck camper.  We paid the second lowest price plus a fee for a second person – all told about $417.  Our ferry departs tomorrow at 4pm.

A few pix from the road between La Paz and San Jose del Cabo:

Bird of the day: Greater Roadrunner.

Parque Nacional Cabo Pulmo – First boondock

SATURDAY, May 14

On our way out of La Paz we were pulled over by a pleasant member of the Policia Municipal.  As far as I can determine the offense was a muy rapido lane change.  Once he had my license in hand the negotiating began.  The scam was either pay him or follow him back to the station and pay a lot more. I think his initial demand was for $500.  We immediately made it know that we don’t have dollars (though of course we do).  The next demand was M$1,500/$88. We played stupid. Finally he lowered his demand to M$500/$29, which we grudgingly paid.

We spent some time in the once abandoned copper mining town of Triunfo. We visited the church and the Museo de la Musica.  In addition to a collection of organs and other musical instruments, there was a stereo on display that contained both an 8-track and a cassette player. It must have been way cool in the ’70’s.

Stopped for lunch in Los Barriles (The Barrels), a town that is a magnet for gringos and real estate firms.  While Chris was investigating the offerings at Charlie’s Chocolates I asked a passing hombre, who turned out to be a fisherman, for a good pescado (fish) restaurant.  His recommendation, El Viejo, was a good one.  In Mexico, If you want your pescado simply prepared, order filete de pescado a lá plancha. It’s best to order fish within sight of El Oceano.

Today was the warmest day we’ve had in Mexico – 97 degrees.  But it’s a dry heat – as I keep telling Chris.

The last 10 km of the road to Cabo Pulmo are unpaved and mostly washboard.  The going was muy despacio (very slow).

Cabo Pulmo’s distinction is that the only coral reef on the west coast of North America is just offshore – a mecca for scuba divers. There’s not much to the town – a few houses and businesses catering to divers and snorkelers.

We camped just outside of town in a scrubby area behind a rocky beach.  This was the first night that we “boondocked” or “free camped” in Mexico. There wasn’t even a hint of a breeze.  We ran our 12v fan all night.

 Triunfo:

On the road to Cabo Pulmo:

Cabo Pulmo:

 

Adios, La Paz

FRIDAY, May 13

We finished the first week of our spanish class and decided not to stay for a second week.

We’re heading south tomorrow. We’re doing chores to get ready for the road.  Our laundry is at the llavaderia. 

I refilled a prescription for the first time in Mexico.  The listed price was over M$1,800, about $105 – muy caro (very expensive).  The out the door price was M$700, about $41. No explanation was given for the discrepancy in the price.

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Filtering tap water.

The camper’s water tank was low.  Our campsite has a faucet, but we were advised not to drink from it.  So we used our new 3-stage water filter for the first time.  The faucet had just enough pressure to push through the filter.

 

I had the truck’s oil changed at the Ford dealership.  The price was the same as where I used to have it done at an independent shop in Pacifica, AND they rotated the tires AND thoroughly cleaned the engine compartment.

We had a major disappointment yesterday.  We went to a well-reviewed costillas restaurante (BBQ ribs) but they were out of ribs!

Daytime temps are now routinely in the 90’s with low humidity (<30%).  Sitting in the shade with a breeze off the bay makes it comfortable.  But being out in the sun in the afternoons at this latitude is like being under a broiler – something we Pacificanos are not used to.

Yesterday evening the dueño (owner) of the RV park told us there would be no water in La Paz for 4 days.  She was upset because Ernesto, her employee, didn’t let her know about it for almost a day.  I found a story online in the local paper about the water shutdown.  The entire city will not be without water, just certain colonias (neighborhoods) in the southern part of the city. The water pipeline to the city is being upgraded.

La Paz photos:

Todos Santos photos: