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Thread: Driven To Wander - Vancouver to Patagonia

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
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    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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    94

    Default A Drive to the Wild West




    After our lazy days in Bahia Los Angeles, we were ready to find some adventure. We thought of taking the road south along the Sea of Cortez, but we couldn’t find any information on how far it went, or it’s condition. Only one guy said he’d been down that way, but only for about 5 miles outside of town. I was secretly loving the idea of taking the road, thinking the road itself would be a great adventure, and we’d certainly get to finally test out the sand ladders. But taking that road also meant we were sure to get lost, and possibly spend hours stuck, and possibly be stuck in the middle of lord knows where at nightfall. So, our cautious side won out, and we headed back to the main highway, Mex 1, to continue our journey south.





    We set our target on San Ignacio, because our brains had been wired to think we had to stay on the Sea of Cortez, and that was about as far as we could drive in a day. We were stunned when we arrived after hours of desert landscape, to find ourselves in a jungle like Oasis. We obviously didn’t do our homework on this one, or even look at any photos, because the change in environment was a great surprise. San Ignacio is near a lagoon with amazing lush green foliage and palm trees. Because of recent rains, the campsite was extremely muddy, and we took an ungodly amount of time choosing our spot. I wanted a site that had the a perfect view, and Okan wanted a spot where our tires wouldn’t sink too far into the mud, and he didn’t have to deal with trying to level the camper. It would have been much easier for us to pull forward into the campsite, but there was no way I was going to be satisfied with our camper door opening out onto anything but that gorgeous lagoon.





    Indigo was oblivious to our struggle over how to park, because there were little black ducks everywhere that needed his immediate attention. I found some old bread for Indigo to feed them, and discovered they were rather aggressive and not so kind to each other. I immediately had to step in and try to make sure some of the outcasts could get in a bite or two. I don’t think Indigo noticed the social dynamic going on at all, he was just happy throwing bread.





    We really thought we’d be in and out of this campground and on our way back to the Sea of Cortez in the morning. But we realized the whale watching season was unfolding, and for not too long of a drive, we could head further west and might be able to see some Grey Whales. Another camper pulled in just after taking their own whale watching trip that day. After seeing their videos of them actually petting the whales, we were convinced and decided to go in the morning.
    Early in the morning, we stopped in town to make reservations with Ecoturismo Kuyima then set off for San Ignacio Lagoon. The road seemed really great, it was new and smooth, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t great at all. It turned into the most absurd bumpy washboard sand road just a stones throw from our final destination, and it had our insides and our nerves shattered before we arrived.





    We showed our reservation papers to the first person we saw, who ushered us into a waiting area where they told us about the whales, the lagoon, and what we could expect. We were thrilled that it would just be the 3 of us on a small boat. That would reduce my stress levels greatly as I had no idea how Indigo would do for 90 minutes on the water. He seemed really pumped up for the trip, couldn’t wait to get on his life jacket. But lots of our adventures start out great, but not all the endings turn out great.





    We had to wade out into the water to get into our boat, and then we were off. I don’t recall our captain speaking at all, he just smiled a lot. The 15 minutes to get to the viewing area were a treat for Indigo, and the rest was a treat for me and Okan. The whales were literally all around us. We would motor close to one and see if she wanted to stay around, or leave. Many of the whales actually push their babies towards the boats. The funniest part for me was watching the mother whales come straight up out of the water and stare at you with one eye, which is just beside the end of their mouth. She would sink back down quietly into the water, and after deciding you didn’t look suspicious I guess, would swim over with her baby beside her.





    We heard that these whales can sense good auras, and are especially attracted to boats with children. Stories about whales leaving as soon as couples started bickering were recounted to us from the guide. I kept thinking, “oh crap, the whale is going to know if I get annoyed on the boat, I won’t be able to hide that from the whale, but maybe Indigo’s aura can balance all that out.” I was painfully aware of bigger smile and perhaps over the top cheeriness, each time a whale was deciding to stay or go. Then I started to wonder if maybe they tell guests this so that people will try to get along really nicely on the boat. After all, I’m sure the captain doesn’t want to be around people bickering on in foul moods all day.
    We didn’t get to pet any whales, but it was still a fantastic day. Indigo got bored in about 20 minutes, so I had to keep him from trying to get close to the captain to steer the boat and check out the motor, while Okan snapped as many photos and videos as possible. When it became clear that Indigo wasn’t going to last much longer, as indicated by him trying to sleep on the floor of the boat, we asked the captain to cut the trip short and take us back.




    Back at the same campsite, we decided to walk into town for a bite to eat. The main town square reminded us of Savannah Georgia with it’s huge trees outlining the centre square, across from an old mission church. I took Indigo into the church while they were having a service. He picked up right away that he needed to be quiet, and sat amazed looking around. He immediately and instinctively switched to whispering. For those who do not know Indigo, he is pretty much always talking, and always talking loudly. One of our friends in Vancouver has always teased us about what she calls Indigo’s only two volume settings: loud and louder. I guess if I would like some peace and quiet, we are going to have to visit a lot more churches.





    We had a lovely dinner while sitting at one of the restaurants in the main square. We enjoyed fish tacos again, while Indigo feasted on a hotdog that we got at a food stand next to the restaurant. We don’t get to relax much, or eat out at restaurants, so this was quite a treat and deserving of our first beer in what must have been weeks.
    We got an early start in the morning to head back to the sea of Cortez. After our beautiful sunny day in San Ignacio Lagoon, we were looking forward to seeing that sun at the beach, enough to perhaps even get in the water with Indigo. We thought we’d stop in Santa Rosalia, but just kept driving because even figuring out how to exit the main road into the town was too daunting. We were looking for a sunny beach, and we new we’d just get mired in the town, and probably get lost. Not to mention, Indigo was asleep as we passed through, and although he’s not a baby, we’ve learned to let sleeping boys sleep when we have the chance.





    Before it got too late, we pulled off at San Lucas RV Camp and I just didn’t feel “attached” to the place. I made Okan drive to the other two camps to the North and South of San Lucas RV Park, but I felt even less attached to those two places, so back we went.





    The campground is 95% Canadian snowbirds, some of which have been coming for over 10 years, some who never left to go back home. They were a friendly group and even had twice weekly poker games. This was a fishing spot, and most everyone had their own boat. One gentleman offered to take Okan out the following morning because our little inflatable boat was not large enough to handle the wind and waves outside of the lagoon area.
    We had sun here, but it was really windy, and the beach area was more of a muddy swamp and not that enjoyable. After San Ignacio, it just seemed rather boring with nothing for us to do. We only stayed a couple of days, enough to re-organize the camper and enjoy some hot showers. Indigo prefers bubble baths over showers, and we’ve found a way to accommodate him…for now.


    Last edited by Driven To Wander; 05-08-2017 at 03:07 AM.
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  2. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Grover Beach, CA
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    17
    Great trip so far. Love to read about your adventures.

  3. #13
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    Jan 2006
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    Sorry to hear that you didn't get a chance to pet the whales, it is truly an amazing experience, but overall it looks like you had a good time.
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  4. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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    94

    Default Monarch Butterflies

    We drove up 10,000 feet on a bumpy road and hiked up another mile on foot to see these beautiful creatures at Michoacán, an Unesco World Heritage Site in Mexico. Most of the butterflies started their migration to Canada but there were still millions all around us. Amazing experience.




















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  5. #15
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    Nov 2015
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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    Default The Epitome of Baja




    When people talk about traveling to Baja, the picture that comes to mind, and that is featured on many guidebooks, is from photos taken at the Bay of Concepcion. It has beautiful clear waters, miles of beaches, great kayaking and fishing, numerous coves, and is usually protected from the wind. It is also where “wild” camping for many begins, meaning no electric, showers, flush toilets, or services. We were eager to test out everything we had prepared for as “real” overlanders: our solar panels, cassette toilet, boat, fishing gear, and the ability to sit back and relax…





    But, the winds were so bad, that the thought of being whipped in the face with sand was definitely not something we were eager to experience. So we waited out the winds in Mulegé, just north of the bay. Mulegé was just a place to crash until our ultimate Baja destination, but Mulegé actually turned out to be one of our favorite places.





    Every campground has a personality, and the one in Mulegé had a great one for us. The campground was near the river, green, surrounded by fruit trees, and inhabited by a group of regulars that held bocce ball games at 4pm each day. Town was a short walk away. As per usual, there was a collection of Canadians, with some Americans sprinkled in, and several Mexican locals.





    We secured a spot under a great shade tree. It seemed like the perfect idea, but we didn’t account for the branches scraping against our rooftop, and nuts falling on our heads at night due to the strong wind. When you are just inches away from your bedroom ceiling, these things become important considerations! But no matter how many times I eyed the other campsites, I didn’t ask Okan to relocate us.





    Okan took out his fishing gear for the first time here. He caught a fish on his second cast, and things were looking optimistic! But for us, it seemed like that just meant there was nowhere to go but down. On a subsequent cast, Okan ended up hurling the entire pole into the air, which left me in a fit of laughter. But I faired no better, as I almost immediately managed to whack Indigo in the head with the lure during my own ill-timed and ill-aimed cast. After tending to some tears and checking for hook marks in Indigo’s head, I then proceeded to lose the lure in the river. I decided to retreat back to camp with Indigo, and when Okan returned he still had one fish, and was missing yet another lure. We shared the only catch of the day, and week, with enthusiasm that night.





    Another reason Mulegé was great for us, is that Indigo met another little boy who happily shared his toys. The two dug holes together for hours, but his favorite activity was taking turns riding the toy ATV. It was bittersweet for me to watch, as the full days of happy play with lots of laughter, turned into an evening of tears as Indigo didn’t want to leave and come back to the camper.





    Since winds died down and the fish disappeared, we packed up and headed off to experience all that was Bahia Concepcion. On the drive down we saw the first beach, it was huge and had beautiful water…but was lined with what seemed like bumper to bumper huge RVs, the entire length of the beach. That didn’t strike us as the atmosphere we wanted, so we continued down the road, looking down from the cliffs hoping to scout out the other beaches. The other beaches were smaller, but were also packed with campers, giving even less personal space. After inspecting all of the beaches, we turned back and chose the first one…there were two restaurants on either end of the beach which started to seem appealing after seeing some of the pit toilets at the other beaches. I guess we we going to take baby steps towards full-on “wild camping” after all.








    We parked next to a family of Canadians who Indigo adopted immediately. While we set up camp, Indigo was off on his first ATV ride with our new neighbours. Within 15 minutes, the fact that there were so many big RVs, lots of people and two restaurants behind us disappeared. For our entire stay we simply absorbed the beauty of the area, the wildlife, and enjoyed the epitome of Baja.





    The beach had a fair amount of broken seashells on the side we were on, and was rather hot for little bare feet, so I embarked on making a private path for Indigo from our campsite to the water. We spent an afternoon together working on the path, and I was quite pleased with the results.





    The wind was not as bad as the week prior, but was still plenty windy for playing with kites.





    We took the boat out hoping for good fishing, but mostly to enjoy a boat ride together. Okan rowed us the whole way around one of the islands in the bay, while Indigo and I relaxed. A fisherman stopped by and asked if we needed a tow back to shore, as the wind was still strong and Okan was going to have a challenging time getting us back to the shore. But Okan likes a challenge, and in lieu of going to the gym, he rowed and rowed and rowed us back to camp.





    Back at the campsite, trucks would roll up and down the beach selling pastries and fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruit. This really is the best way to ease into wild camping when you don’t like the looks of what is in your camper’s pantry!

    Seems like the only wild part of camping we tested, was that we were self-powered, and had brought enough water for drinking and washing. Although Indigo thought pit toilets were cool, exclaiming “wow, this is a fancy toilet” as I stood by him with tissue over my nose nodding my head, we generally popped over to the restaurant to use their facilities.





    On our last evening, we decided to walk down by the lagoon, where the clear water of the bay continues into the pristine mangroves. As we passed by a family’s evening campfire, one of the campers came running towards us with something in his hand, and I thought we must have dropped something. But it turned out the camper just wanted to offer Indigo a chance at roasting a marshmallow.





    Indigo had never seen the giant sized pink and white marshmallows that are a staple here in Mexico, and was in heaven as he reached into the bag to pick one of each color. He opted for raw instead of roasted and immediately stuffed them in his mouth, while yelling “gracias”.
    Our first wild camping adventure was now complete.
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  6. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Wyoming
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    3,423
    Hey Okon and family! We bumped into you a few times in Baja, last time being right before you jumped on the ferry. We didn't realize our threads were so close here on ExPo.

    How is the trip going in Mainland Mexico? Perhaps we will bump into you again.

    Cheers

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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    94
    Quote Originally Posted by RMP&O View Post
    Hey Okon and family! We bumped into you a few times in Baja, last time being right before you jumped on the ferry. We didn't realize our threads were so close here on ExPo.

    How is the trip going in Mainland Mexico? Perhaps we will bump into you again.

    Cheers
    Hey Guys!

    Nice to meet you again, this time online. We are in Mexico City, getting our travel shots. Much much cheaper here then USA or Canada. Mainland Mexico is different then Baja and equally beautiful. We will go to Pueblo then Oaxaca next. See you on the road....
    Best,

    Okan, Donna & Indigo
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  8. #18
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    Nov 2015
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    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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    Default Treacherous Roads to Magical Places




    After hanging out at the beach in Bahia Concepcíon, we headed for another new camping experience…city camping!





    Loreto, the first Spanish colonial settlement of the New Spain on the Baja California Peninsula is close to the beach, has a marina and easily accessible tours to the nearby islands, but there is no beach camping around. We checked out one campground that was secluded, green and lush, but no others campers were there. We realized we really do like to be around people, so we headed over to the more popular RV Park that we passed on the drive through town.





    Loreto was a sweet surprise in so many ways. I wasn’t thrilled with the RV Park at first, but after setting up I quickly settled in and felt very at home. We met great new neighbours from Canada again, Alex and Dollie, and had a great time chatting with them throughout our stay. As a bonus, the campground owners had a son who loved to dig in the dirt as much as Indigo, and this gave Okan and I needed time to regroup, clean, do laundry, and re-organize the camper (again).

    We also unhitched the camper for the first time here to take a side trip to an old mission church up in the hills west of Loreto in San Javier. To get to San Javier, we had to wind our ways through a narrow mountain road, high above the sea. It was fun to be in the truck without the camper attached, but we still managed to scare ourselves during the drive.





    We passed several streams with water, which was a novelty since most stream beds are dry throughout Baja. We crossed one that seemed fairly shallow, so we gunned it to make a splash for Indigo. Whoops! We ended up hydroplaning across the small bridge over which the water was running. We also ran into construction on the road, that had us weaving in an out of diggers and heavy equipment, dodging swinging buckets while going over ruts and dirt piles deserving of our 4WD. But in the end, we were rewarded with a visit to a great Mission where we could relax, and wander around the grounds. Indigo was interested in the church, but decided to spend the majority of our visit on the city street hanging out with one of the local dogs.








    It was also here that I had pangs of remorse for taking Indigo away from his friends back in Vancouver, as I watched him chase after 3 kids in the church square shouting “Hey! Stop! I want to play with you.” They didn’t want to play, and kept running away from him. But I suppose that could also happen in Vancouver too.

    Back in town, we went searching for someplace to eat. Okan always wants to eat local foods, especially from the food trucks or cafes, and avoids touristy places as much as possible. But in the centre of town, there was a secluded, very touristy, eatery that looked great to me, and he finally succumbed to my wishes (but not before he made us check out 4 other places). Okan is to eateries, as I am to campsites. He needs to check out all his options before making his choice. I am happy to say, we both enjoyed the meal.







    We had wanted to do so many things in Loreto, the boat ride to the islands, hikes to inland waterfalls, but a single trip to the mission was the most we accomplished. We just enjoyed the downtime, being comfortable in a nice campground with good people, great showers, and the conveniences of town with good markets and restaurants a short walk away. And the fact that Indigo and the owners’ son played all day without complaint, was a great reprieve as well.

    The desire to try to “do everything” as we would do while on vacation, is slowly subsiding. I still wish we had seen the islands and perhaps the whale sharks while at Loreto, but I’m learning…slowing…to just let life be what it is for the day. Somedays we have lazy weekends in suburbia where nothing gets done and no adventures are had, and this is something I’m working on being ok with while we travel.





    We packed up in Loreto and headed off Agua Verde which was not on our radar until a fellow camper recommended it to us. He said it was a beautiful little fishing beach and worth the drive. The map showed a fairly straight route to the coast, but then there was this place where there road curved off to the left in a huge semi-circle. Okan asked why on earth didn’t they just continue the road straight, and I guessed it was going around a huge parcel of private property. And then we came around the corner and saw the reason. There was this huge canyon between us and the beach, with the most treacherous road curving around it’s edges.







    Being on the side of the truck that looks over the edge that plummets hundreds of feet down, I found myself in a hard lean over to the driver’s side, as if that was going to somehow keep the truck on the road. There seems to be only one couple that has chanced this road with a 5th wheel, the kind of camper you pull with a large truck, and they’ve been coming for well over a decade every year. They said the road has actually gotten better in recent years.

    When we got to the beach and parked, the very first thing I did, was head to the water with Indigo while Okan started to unpack. I was welcomed by Francesca, the owner of the 5th-wheel on the far side of the beach, when Indigo simply stripped down and jumped in to the water to play with her dog. This would be the first of many times Indigo felt a need to strip and jump in the water at Agua Verde. When the sun had almost set, and Indigo was back on dry land, we took the time to look around and realized that this was truly the wild camping we had been looking forward to. I didn’t even care where or how Okan positioned the camper, I was loving everything about this place.







    My obsession with Pelicans continued full force here in Agua Verde. I took literally hundreds of pictures and videos of them, trolling up and down the beach, trying to capture their synchronized flying and diving skills. I was convinced they thought I was stalking them with a weapon, because they kept moving to the other side of the beach every time I got close. When I finally did get close, I couldn’t believe just how huge these birds are, and that makes watching them fly all the more impressive.







    Okan’s obsession with fishing was also in full force, and he immediately had the boat out, ready to launch first thing in the morning. He disappeared for an hour around a small island in the bay, and came back with a trigger fish, which locals call Cochino, and a big smile on his face. But the main fishing event was yet to come. The locals directed him to fish off the point, and we all headed out together to watch Okan cast. I thought he immediately got his hook caught on a rock with his first cast, but he actually pulled out fish. In less than an hour he pulled out 7 more trigger fish, and I’ve never seen him smile so big, for such a sustained length of time. We were going to be eating a lot of fish!





    Unfortunately, we had no idea how to cut up these fish. Thankfully an elderly fisherman was watching Okan puzzle over what to do, and offered some help. He gave Okan a quick demonstration on how to cut the fish, then handed the knife to Okan motioning for him to give it a try. Something perhaps in how Okan held the fish by only his fingertips when maneuvering the fish must have spoken volumes, because once Okan finished, the fisherman promptly took the knife back and made quick work of the remaining fish.

    With enough fish fillets in the fridge, we decided to do some hiking. Indigo always wants us to carry him everywhere, so we hyped up this hike to the “secret beach” talking about how it would be his first real hike, and bribed him with sweet rewards should he do the whole hike himself. He started off very motivated, with backpack and hiking stick. We had to scramble over lots of rocks, as the tide was coming in, and he became quite the rock hopper. The secret beach was beautiful, but had no shade, so we hastily returned. Indigo didn’t do quite so well on the return trip, but I held strong through 5 individual mini-tantrums, where I patiently waiting for him to rest, and he eventually walked the whole way back. But this was also the start of Indigo expecting treats as rewards for hiking…and here we are months later, still trying to break the expectation. It’s an uphill battle, as hiking for accomplishment doesn’t seem to motivate him very much.





    Our days here were simply great, and we still wistfully say “remember Agua Verde” when we think back on all the places we’ve been so far. Fishing, hiking, reading, making fires, and chasing a sometimes naked boy around the beach.









    I was a bit sad to pack up and leave Aqua Verde. I was the most relaxed here. We felt so much freedom to do or not do anything all day long. No churches to see, markets to visit, or tours to reserve. But we finally packed up and left our great campsite, feeling very proud of ourselves for being in the near-wild for almost a week, and having it go so well. I say near wild, because we still could buy basic groceries and drinking water in the village, and walk next door to get a fish taco if we didn’t want to cook.





    The drive back was rough, not just mentally, but because of the steep mountain road which had the transmission reaching its maximum safe temperature limit every ten minutes or so. Never before had we actually looked forward to meeting up with a washboard road. We had to stop on that treacherous road numerous times waiting for it to cool down, before we could go a little further. Several passing vehicles checked in with us and make sure we were ok. It’s so nice to experience neighbourly people no matter how remote we venture in Mexico.


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  9. #19
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    TX
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    Loving your Baja adventures! It's a lot of good information for my future plans, I want to spend at least two weeks exploring there! Safe travels!
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  10. #20
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Just wanted to say the way you've done your photos and layout, and the way you show where you went in Google maps is AWESOME!. Thanks for being so smart and awesome

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