Monthly Archives: November 2007

Ensenada to San Quintin, Baja California

Driving from Ensenada to San Quintin (3 hours), and locating what has to be one of the most spectacular campsites so far on our entire trip – El Pabellon Rv Park , was different again. The small towns off the highway had no paved road at all. The streets looked like Serge Leone depictions of the wild west. Cars and trucks drove alongside the highway on the dirt roads and then jumped up the ledge to get back on the roads. Shops and houses were situated off the highway down desert roads which on this day had low visibility due to the winds that were whipping along the streets and the cars leaving dust trails. The air around us was at times quite dense with dust which looking at the locals seemed to be a normal occurrence as they had the hats and scarves wrapped around their faces for protection. This is the desert. Some of the land is farmed with an extensive looking tomato growing operation with greenhouses and a sea of plastic stretching out onto the horizon. Some of the land is left fallow due to the limitations on the water supply into Baja. Some of the water is sourced from the Colorado River in the US which is over a thousand miles away. The campsite was down a dirt road off the highway about 200 yards from the Pacific ocean set on the edge of some sand dunes. When we arrived there was only one other trailer which had about 8 OHV’s parked up next to it. These were promptly jumped on by a bunch of local teenagers and adults and ridden over some fantastic looking sand dunes. The beach itself was more like a road with vehicles driving through the campsite onto the beach and then alongside the ocean. So with the waves crashing, the sun setting and the full moon rising I cooked a surprising salty potato, lentil and split pea soup (saltiness came from the brackish water) which we ate whilst cooing at the various local dogs who came to sniff the strange soup.

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Driving Baja Highway One, Mexico

Driving in Baja has improved substantially over the years with access along the peninsular only being possible since 1973 on the opening of the trans-peninsular highway. The furtherest point that people could drive with anything other than off road vehicle was to San Quintin . The highway has opened up Baja to tourism but it seems concentrated in certain towns. Driving from Tecate to Ensenada took us through smaller villages along the way which consist of low rise settlements with the usual mixture of homes and brightly coloured one room shacks used by hairdressers, taco shops, garages and the like all with hand painted signs which gives the place a look that is so un-American looking is almost brings tears to my eyes. This road is relatively busy with many large trucks hurtling past us on this single lane highway which has just enough room for the trucks going in either direction but with no hard shoulder at all. The drop-offs vary from a few inches to a few feet so I am still adjusting to the fear of falling off the edge which is akin to how you feel walking along a precipice with a 100 foot drop as oppose to how steady you are on your feet and in your mind when the drop off is only one foot. Christopher suggested I sit a little more snugly beside him to ease the fear.

There is also a little trick which we have now mastered and that is the use of the left indicator. This is not used to indicate that you are turning left (well sometimes it is) it is mostly used to inform the car behind you that there is a clear road in front so that they can overtake you. Indicating with the right indicator means do not overtake and the uninitiated are in for a rough surprise when they make the silly assumptions that the car wants to turn right or pull in. Overtaking in this scenario is likely to lead to you being blocked until you learn the rules…

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Crossing into Mexico

The night before crossing from the US into Mexico at Tecate we camped about 15 miles from the border in Arizona so that we could get into Baja California first thing in the morning to sort out paperwork and get to our first destination which was Ensenada. Little did we know the crossing would take us less than 1/2 hour at the most. Most people seem to cross at the major crossings such as Tijuana or Juarez but this crossing is much more low key and a favoured crossing by the seasoned RV’ers. I found myself pretty nervous about crossing which seems to be the case recently, I was equally nervous crossing from Canada into US. I suspect it’s because we have our worldly possessions in the trailer and if we cannot cross for any reason then our travel plans and preparation would need a serious re-think as spending the winter in the trailer in the US or Canada is not on the agenda at all. So after re-reading the sections in the guidebooks about red tape a dozen times, we finally find ourselves at the border at 10am on Sat 17th Nov and we are first in the queue. The guidebooks cover border crossing in quite a detailed way which is very informative but tends to make you a little nervous. Many americans pay to join an RV Caravan group as they are nervous about driving solo across the border and around Mexico but it seems the fear factor is at play here.

Arriving at the border itself there is the scary spin the wheel traffic light which changes colour for each tourist that arrives in the queue ‘green’ means go through and don’t worry we won’t search you and ‘red’ means we’re going to search you. We get green but still fully expect a search. Instead we are pleasantly greeted by two border guards who tell us to drive down the street into the town and around the corner to park up. We park in the street behind the immigration office in an area called customs checking. Already this seems fairly relaxed as I have never been allowed over a border without someone at least having a quick peek at my passport.

As soon as you cross the border from the US which is mostly arid burnt out desert, a couple of one horse towns with railroad and agricultural museums plus an Indian reservation which has both casino and health care facilities but no real town to speak of you, you immediately hit a colorful, messy little town called Tecate home of a famous Mexican beer . It sounds corny but you feel like you are in a different country. I am used to flying to countries or passing through countries that have a similar feel as in Europe but to drive 100 yards from one country to another and to instantly have that feeling is a pleasant and welcome surprise. The streets were full of little shops, shacks, houses, rubbish, dogs, people and the smells of cooking and at this point no-one had yet even stamped our passport!

So we amble down the street and back around the corner into the the passport control office where there is a retired Canada couple filling out their forms and stand like well behaved children in the corner of the room. The room is quite small and has a large wooden desk with a large Mexican immigration man on a cell phone which in his giant paws looked like a child’s play phone. After a few minutes of us standing there awkwardly wanting to be like well behaved little patient children happy for him to talk as long as he wanted, he finished his call and then looked and us, smiled and said, “I am sorry about that”.

OK – that early floored me as an apology was the last words I had expected out of a immigration officials mouth. He then proceeded to hand us our forms, offer us a seat. I stated to him that we had a trailer thinking that this was relevant in terms of him needing to have a look at this 24ft beast stuffed with all our treasures which we were taking over the border from the US into Mexico. To which he replied, “So – what are you saying”.

Stumped again I just looked at him puzzled. There was an awkward few seconds where I was kicking myself knowing that the rules when crossing border is not to provide information voluntarily but to wait until you are asked something as otherwise the babbling arouses suspicion in the immigration officers mind. To my relief, Christopher stepped in and said, “ We were just wondering if we parked it in the right place just out the back?”

“Oh” He said, “Yes, that’s fine just take a seat”.

So, we sat down and filled out our forms and to help us in this process he gently held the passports open for us next to the forms so that we could get the details copied over without straining to hold the passport, pen and form. Now for any of you that have traveled into a country like, mmm what would be a good example…ah yes, the US of A can you imagine a similar scenario? Having crossed the US border at many different cities by truck/trailer once and at airports at least 60 times I can inform you that the chances of you having that kind of friendly border crossing are a million to 1. So we are now proud owners of a 6 month tourist visa for Mexico.

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Stupid White Men – Elephant on Acid

elephant3 227871aI have a great idea, why don’t we study the impact of administering a dosage of mind altering substances so vast in quantity that it might kill an elephant. I know why don’t we give this to an elephant called Tusko.

Oh shit – what a surprise it has killed the elephant.

If a human model had been used to determine the dose of LSD, the calculated dose for an elephant of Tusko’s size (3000 kg) would be about 9mg of LSD. The “jolly” doctor decided to inject Tusko with 297mg – more than 30 times the effective oral dose for a human of Tusko’s weight.

Check out Dr. Louis Jolyon (“Jolly”) Wests’ escapades for the betterment of US warfare capabilities and other strange experiments conducted over the years.

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Camping Hints for WIFI Pirates

camper600OK I’ve got 10 minutes to blog. Why 10 minutes? Because that’s all the time I can get on this dodgy internet connection in the trailer. One minute it is up and the next it is down, so I have to choose my moment carefully when the little the green bars indicating connectivity flash at me and then conduct a stealth-like internet mission.

It’s interesting to feel your priorities shift when you are camping for an extended period. For the first couple of weeks I was totally focused on how nice the camping spot was and not the facilities. I can cope very well with pit toilets and no showers thank-you very much, WIFI was not even on the horizon. I was happy with primitive camping, none of that full-hookup malarkey for me. Give me the mountain or lake view, a south west facing aspect and privacy and I was as happy as Larry.Alas, 3 months on the road and priorities have changed.

I have finally succumbed to the lure of the power and water hook-ups, in fact this week we have gone as far as using the full-hookups – power, water and poo. Showers are at absolute must and above all there’s the WIFI. Sod the view – how is the bloody WIFI connection. Somehow having internet in the trailer makes us feel instantly at home as we can go out each day and get the views but when we get home we love a little bit of WIFI. So for you pirate travelers out there here is my essential travel accessory that increases the WIFI range. We use Netgear Rangemax which is a cheap little device that you plug into your laptop and it goes finding all the WIFI links around or will just boost the link at your campsite. In fact you can go back to primitive camping and be a smelly WIFI pirate.

In Mexico you can get internet. There are internet cafes in most towns, hotels and most campsites in fact I have found more consistent internet availability than in the US.

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Filed under Camping, Mexico, Travel Hints