Report One
to Mexican Border

Report Two
Tijuana to San Rosalia

Report Three
Bahia Concepcion to Cabo San Lucas
to La Paz

Report Four
El Fuerte to Copper Canyon to Creel

Report Five

Report Six
Puerto Vallarta, Melaque
Faro de Bucerias

Report Seven

Report Eight
Acapulco & Puerto Escondido

Report Nine

Report Ten

Report Eleven
The Long Road Home












Report #3
Bahia Concepcion to Cabo San Lucas to La PazMexico Route Map

March 22, 2007.

We are now camped on the beach at Bahia Concepcion. I don’t know whether the name (Bay of Conception) is a religious reference or a suggested activity. It is a beautiful place. Calm aquamarine waters with mountainous islands in close and further proximity. The beach goes on forever and except for the last few feet is hard-packed sand. Lots of very big rigs parked out here camping. There is a family whose job it is to keep things clean and tended. There are no facilities (water, electricity, etc) whatever except some ancient toilets with no doors that use that famous water bucket flush method. Still, welcome enough when nature moves.

We are parked beside our own palapa (palm frond covered shade covering) directly on the beach, just feet from the water. We are told that just a week ago this beach Bahia Concepcion was so full of snowbirds we would have been parked farther off the beach but they are all flying home at lightning speed now. We see them on the roads as we drive, all heading in the other direction so that is good for us. The draw for them is the fishing. Well, that and living on the beach for 70 pesos per day.

We arrived, put down our new patio mat, set up the chairs and tied up the hammock. Steve promptly set off to climb the local “mountain.” Must be a guy thing. Give me a hammock under a shady palapa and warm tropical breezes with waves lapping the shore in front of me and I sure don’t go Bahia Concepcion from top of local hilloff to hike in the afternoon sun.

March 23, 2007

It blew soooo hard all night long that when first light finally started coming through I’d had enough and set off for a long walk down the beach. The beach here is wide open and the hard-packed sand is easy to walk on. I found a couple of backpackers in sleeping bags tucked into a palapa when I walked by. The way that wind blew last night they must have had a very cold night. Tropical or not, we are still using the quilt at night.

Bahia ConcepcionBreakfast looking out over the bay. Lovely morning.

Took off and continued on to Loreto. Lots of Canadians are buying in at Loreto. It’s a very clean and spiffed up little town, what we’d call yuppified at home ...at least on the surface. There are lots of dusty, desperate back streets here too. We always seem to find them by way of getting lost on our way out of town.

Loreto MaleconSat on the malecon (walkway along the water) and enjoyed watching the pelicans and also a sleek white bird that was diving just like the pelicans.

Continued on to Ciudad Constitucion where we are camped at Manfred’s RV Park. Shower rooms are your usual “basic”. The “shower” is just a pipe coming out of the wall, but it had warm water and that was good enough for getting the dust off.

The main highway here is actually in very good condition, very few potholes. But every time you approach a town they have “topes” on the road. These bumps are topenothing to mess with. They can be HUGE. They are usually preceded by a series of smaller bumps and then a sign that says something to the effect of “Reducto Velocidad” which roughly translated means “Reduce Speed.”

These topes are installed in the road to slow you down and they are highly effective. In Costa Rica they had the same thing. Unfortunately there they were made of dirt and not usually marked so they scared the crap out of you when you hit one. Here they do give you lots of warning.

Today we also went through several construction zones where we actually had to leave the highway and bounce our way through the dirt. This was serious bouncing, not great with a little travel trailer. When we opened the trailer up again everything was on the floor. Cupboard doors that never open had opened. Cups broke, eyeglass cases hit the floor and lenses popped out, all our clothes were dumped out of their tubs and strewn around. Just one heck of a mess.

For some reason the electrical cord that connects us to electricity also developed a kink in it so when we arrived Steve had to empty out one of the cupboards and unkink and rewind it by hand. That was our drama for the night. There always seems to be something to keep the handyman busy for the first hour in camp each night.

This morning we set the alarm for 6:30 and headed out to Puerto Lôpez Mateos to see the grey whales. The migration north has already begun but we had been assured that there were still some whales to be seen. A woman we met at Cataviña had seen the mothers and calves at Guerrero Negro and described it as amazing. The mothers just bask in the sun, lying on top of the water and have no fear of the boats.

So we set off with high hopes. The price here in Puerto Lôpez Mateos is higher – 700 pangas at Puerto Lôpez Mateospeso ($70 US) for the two of us and that was only after I made a stink about it. The fellow at the dock here was insistent the price was 800 pesos but I insisted that the sign back at the campground had said 700. So he caved on that, but kept after us to “extend our tour” to 2 hours. We held fast at 1 hour for 700 pesos. Thank goodness, 2 hours might have done me in.

We set out in a panga (small fibreglass boat) with Luis, our driver. At first it was very pleasant, speeding out over the calm bay, past amazing golden sand dunes, watching the pelicans and other shore birds catching fish and lazing about.

But when he could not find any whales in the bay, he headed out towards the surf line, then eventually into the surf. Holy cow, that boat rocked and banged and was swallowed into the troughs, then flung up on the swells. At first I was pretty scared but with time I got more confidence in Luis. He obviously knew what he was doing and on several occasions fishermen passed us in their own pangas, going very fast and looking not the least daunted by the ocean.

On several occasions we saw the spray of the whales surfacing to breathe and raced over but they were always gone by the time we got there. It was obvious that whatever whales still remained were now on the move, not lying about in the sun waiting for us to come by for a visit.

So the whole thing was a bit of bust, except we saw lots of dolphins and they are always gorgeous creatures to watch at play.

On the drive back we also enjoyed seeing more of the hawk/eagles (that’s what they look like to us but we are no birders) circling over the landscape. We’ve seen very little wildlife to date. Thought we’d see a lot of big lizards in the desert, but so far, nada. But there must be something out there because there are tons of these big predator birds. Someone has built nesting platforms on top of the telephone poles and the birds have taken advantage of that and have huge nests up there. You won’t be able to see it from the photos taken so far below, but some of the nests did have babies in them, peeking over the edge.

Speaking of telephone poles, saw men installing these today. Huge amount of work, digging the holes with a shovel then winching these exceedingly long and heavy cement poles into the ground by hand. Labour must be very cheap because we also saw gangs of men clearing brush at the side of the highway, with machetes.

On the highway they were filling potholes by hand, shovelling asphalt out of the back of a truck, filling the hole then walking away. They don’t even tamp it down, never mind using a roller. They depend on the vehicles to run over the stuff, compressing it. Seems to work.

Driving to La Paz today was very boring. I didn’t think I would say that about the Baja, but yes, today was boring. Fortunately it was only about 200 km, but felt like 500 for sure.

Arriving in town, we headed out to the ferry terminal at Pichilingüe. It’s about 30 orange flowersminutes out of La Paz. We wanted to pick up our vehicle permit and make a reservation to head over to the mainland next Thursday. Unfortunately the permit office was closed. We’ll give it another try tomorrow.

So we settled into the campground then went into town for some dinner. We’re feeling a little frazzled by the day so wimped out and headed for comfort food, an American chain restaurant, Applebees. That was expensive, $9.50 US each for a hamburger and fries. Very marginal quality and we had to jump up an down to get the attention of the waiter for a coffee refill.

La Paz is a tourist town, but don’t mistake that to mean it is full of North Americans. There appears to be a large Mexican middle class and they love these resort towns as much as the northerners. Applebees was full of Mexican families on holiday. In fact, saw very few white faces in La Paz.

Campground is attractive, with lots of foliage and flowers. Bathrooms and showers are better than passable ...almost 2-star. Lots of interesting people here. Met some Germans in 4WD Landcruises with customized campers on the back. Real flash rigs with nothing left to chance.

Tomorrow morning we will head back out to the ferry terminal at Pichilingüe to try and secure the vehicle importation permit and a reservation on the ferry. If we are successful we will proceed on to Cabos. If not, we will have to stick around and come back here to do it on Monday. Cannot get a reservation without the permit and have been warned not to just show up for the ferry as it fills up with big transport rigs.

March 25, 2007

Arrived at the ferry terminal before 9 am and surprise, it is unbelievably busy. So many big trucks lined up on the roadsides that we have to go some distance to find parking. We are parked beside the water, rows and rows of pangas and some squatter huts – actually, “huts” is a bit of an overstatement. This is more a case of black plastic bags thrown over some old cartons and such. I am aware of admonition in guide books to never leave your vehicle unattended, but have faith and walk on. We come back 2-3 hours later and everything is just fine. In fact, a boat load of pelicans have been keeping watch on the trailer. The fishermen must HATE these birds. Not only do they steal the fish but theyPelicans at Pichilingüe perch on the pangas ...and they are not polite about pointing their butts overboard when the urge overcomes them.

I’m sure there is crime here but so far we have been confronted with nothing but honesty. I am still having a little trouble getting my head around the peso thing and routinely give shop clerks 200 pesos when I should be giving them 20. They always giggle and give it back to me, extracting the smaller bill from the pile.

We finally find a sign that says the office should be open at 9.The fellow shows up at 10:30. Still, I was reassured by the gathering of truckers who were circling in front of the office. I figured that they needed to all get their paperwork done so the office must open sometime.

I had assumed, Mexico being such a Catholic country, that everything would be closed on Sundays, but not so. Apparently the ferry and it’s offices are open 365 days of the year. Maybe only for as long as the clerk cares to be there, but officially, open every day.

Got it all done and tickets bought. That was a bit of a drama – for them, not us. Apparently the lock in the door to the ticket office broke so the woman could not get in to sell people tickets and there were a lot of people gathering. About two hours late, three men with crowbars finally took it on and ticket sales proceeded.

The vehicle important permit cost us $27 US plus 20 pesos for photocopies of everything. The ticket for the crossing, as long as we are allowed on as being under 9 metres, with one passenger, me, was $517. We are actually 9.5 metres but the next ticket level up is for vehicles and trailers from 9 to 17 metres and costs an additional $300. So Steve is going to take the spare tire off the back of the trailer and hope no one measures.

After all that we drive back into La Paz for a good breakfast at a local restaurant. First a basket of toasted buns arrived with amazing mango or papaya preserves. Steve has bacon and eggs which arrive with amazing savoury potatoes as well as a big basket of hot tortillas. I had enchiladas. They were filled with cheese and chicken and smothered in melted cheese and a red sauce. Also served with same savoury potatoes and refried beans.

Watched the fellow across from us eat his tortillas. He would place one on the palm of his hand (they were about that size) then with a flick of this thumb, it would roll it into a tube like a cigar. He’d dip this into his omelette etc. like Steve does toast points.

Walked around town for a while again. We really like this place. The front end of town, La Paz Maleconalong the water, is bordered by a “malecon” which is a sea wall. It’s really beautifully done – creamy coloured stone bricks, benches, beautiful statues, several piers and some plaza type areas with bandstands and such. Lots of kids playing in these areas.

Lots of gelado shops too, so people walking around licking ice ceam cones – and lots of beautiful, colourful, fruity flavours. I’ve already indulged twice since we got here.

But the front door there, really is for tourists, whether that be gringos or their own in-house Mexicans on holiday.

Once you get off the main drag and into the back streets, the world comes alive with stalls and balloon sellers, and sidewalk vendors. There are food stalls and toys and flowers and clothes and shoes. And such a hubub of activity. It’s a different world. A noisier, more colourful world.

Tropic of CancerCarried on down the MEX 1 to Cabo San Lucas. It’s a fairly uninteresting drive. Nothing spectacular. Did pass the Tropic of Cancer though ...marked by a big white ball and shrine.

Tried our first choice RV park and it was permanently closed. Too bad because it was right down on the beach. But I guess the lure of selling out to the big hotels became too much. This stretch of ocean frontage down here is pretty spectacular and it is crowded with fancy big hotel resort complexes. At least the front gates are extraordinarily ornate. But that is something we noticed gets a lot of attention. We have seen so many abandoned construction projects, with these extremely elaborate front gates – just standing there all by themselves, with rusting re-bar poking out of crumbling cement behind them. Lots of dashed dreams here.

Went to second choice RV Park and it looked really run down. It seemed to have been settled by squatting families in tents. They all looked somewhat surprised to see us. We decided to move on.

Our third choice was Villas Serena at mile 7 on the MEX 1. It is okay. Built recently so not much shade or anything. Very few people here. Don’t really understand why the North Americans desert Mexico at this time of year because it is still very pleasant. Surprised at how cool it is at night though. Here we are in Cabo San Lucas, resort capital of Mexico and I am out here wearing my fleece jacket. High 80s during the day, but still sleeping under the quilt at night and sometimes even pulling up the extra blanket.

March 27, 2007

Yesterday we headed back east and did the loop of the eastern cape. That was a long road, most of it dirt and sand. There was only one place Steve had to lock it up and go 4WD but it was a very rough road.

church of the poinsettaWe started the morning by taking the highway and came on this little town with the cutest church with a big poinsetta decorating it.. Wish I knew what the town was called, but they are not big on posting place names here.

Headed down to the ocean where we hit dirt and sand. The guidebooks say this road is supposed to offer incredible views of the ocean and magnificent beaches. Not so much of either.

Most of the time the road runs inland and it is the usual view of thorny hoary old cacti and rack-thin cows trying to survive on burnt-out scrubland. Looking at those tough old cows everywhere I couldn’t help thinking of the East Capecows that are raised on our friend Dave’s New Zealand farm. How he moves them every few days to “greener pastures” and how they bawl and carry on if they think they should be moved a day earlier. Right guys ...holiday in Cabo and see how the other half of the world lives.

Did pass through Parque Nacional Cabo Pulmo and there were lots of divers there heading out but in terms of tourist infrastructure not even an outhouse. I think the only reason we were able to access the beach there was because the dive shop had carved out a parking lot.

Saw a funny little scenario where they used an old yellow truck to pull a panga Yellow Truck at Cabo Pulmo(fibreglass shell boat) down into the water. Then something happened to the truck’s gears or something because they had to get another truck to pull the yellow truck out. They left yellow truck up on the beach with its hood up. I fully expect we could come back in five years and it would still be there.

Walked there for a while and collected some pretty small rocks to take home. I’m a cheap date in the souvenir department – rocks, shells, and sand.

Later on we came to another beach. Most of the land here is privately owned and there are lots of really beautiful and very expensive homes.Prohibito Privaedo signs and fences everywhere. In theory, the beaches in Mexico are public, but the sticky wicket is getting access through the private land. But where East Cape Housethere are dry arroyos or creek beds the fences have usually been swept away and you can follow the arroyo out to the ocean. We came on one such wonderful beach with huge, beautiful rocks, looked volcanic, and lots of pelicans on the rocks, swimming and diving. There were a series of attractive homes up on the bluff above us.

The whole trip took us about 5 hours.

In the evening we checked out Costco and Home Depot. NO difference to home. Exact same products.

March 28, 2007

Headed out to play tourist in Cabo for the day. First off we rented a panga to take us out to Lands End and Lovers Beach and Divorce Beach. The waters are exceedingly clear and a beautiful green colour. Lots of fish.

Panga at CaboThe trip cost $20 for the two of us. The rock formations out of Cabos are just stunningly beautiful. The driver makes a point of pointing out the pelican colony (about 6 birds) and the sea lion colony (about 20). There is a “window on the Pacific” in the rocks that are continuing to erode. Magnificent, really.

The water is so clear and clean and warm (80 degrees on average) that you are tempted to just jump right in but there are so many boats in the water it would be hazardous. A few people were snorkeling or diving, but too many boats.

Came back and had lunch at a restaurant on the marina walkway. Very good Cabo San Lucasquesadillas with fresh salsa and guacamole for $14 for the two of us. Interesting people watching. There are tons of vendors, all selling the same thing. Embroidered shawls, clay whistles, shell necklaces, “silver” bangles for $1 (yeah, right, green by evening). There are a couple guys with big iguanas wanting you to take their photos (for a price). There were two cruise ships in port and hordes of people walking around. The tourists look through the vendors like they are invisible. We smile at them and just say, “Gracias, nada.” (Thank you, nothing.) Or “No compro.” (No buy.) They smile and walk away. Do not continue to bother us at all. But the tourists as so rude.

Were about to start walking around town when a fellow approached us to take a bike Cabo shoppingtour. We settled on $20 for an hour and he pedalled us all over town in his bike cart. Took us to some markets and to a bookstore so we could buy a dictionary. Enjoyed an ice cream cone.

Tomorrow we are on the road again, to Todas Santos then back to La Paz to take the ferry on Thursday morning.

March 28, 2007

The trailer was really heating up already by 6:30 am so got up and got the day underway. The RV park we are in, Villa Serena has nice washrooms and showers and very clean facilities all around. The only downside of this place is that there are no trees or shade, few plants. But we are backed onto a ravine full of foliage so its not bad.

Took off for La Paz, this time taking the road up the west coast through Todas Santos which is supposed to be a haven for artists and craftspeople. Perhaps, but we didn’t see it. I think guide book writers just get desperate to say something, anything, about these towns. The most promising looking restaurant/bar looks pretty rough but it is the usual thing. Nothing is spent on maintenance or updating so the premises always look filthy on first viewing but when you look closer ...well, no don’t look closer, actually. But the food is excellent and comes wrapped in clean paper. I am discovering that things often look really bad in Mexico but the food is good and we never seem to get sick so I have faith. The hamburgers were juicy with fresh tomatoes and veggies. Good fries too.

Continued on to La Paz. The terrain is standard Baja ...rolling hills of burnt out scrub Cabo Cowsand cacti. We keep coming on animals grazing at the sides of the roads, cows and goats. There does not seem to be anything there for them to eat but they all look healthy enough.

Came into La Paz in early afternoon and enjoyed vegging out at campsite. We are back at Aquamarina. The lady tells me that they will be closing down for good in a few weeks. They have sold the marina and it is too hard to make a living when you only have customers for five months of the year.

We leave for the mainland on the ferry tomorrow. Some trepidation since we make land sometime after 11 pm and there are so many admonitions to never drive after dark in Mexico. But what to do? We can’t sleep on the dock. Have faith. These things always work out.

Carolyn Usher

Report #4 - La Paz, Copper Canyon Railroad to Creel


Unless otherwise noted all prices are quoted in US$ or Mexican Pesos. At time of writing, 10 pesos = $1 US or CDN.