24 Nov 2014

Stranded in Paradise

After a very cold night we all decided that the quickest route back to the coast was in order so we decided to go via the toll road, but as it was somewhat further and still took us 3 days to to get there. Both nights we headed for a lake and found camp sites at both (though the first was actually closed so did not cost us anything). The second was in a beautiful setting on the banks of a river leading into a lake. A few locals were there for the day and one large group were singing local songs to a guitar, a good setting for a couple of beers before the sun set. At this point we thought it would take another 2 days to get to the coast, but a superb new road with some fantastic bridges and tunnels meant we could make it in a day.

After a few days of hard driving we spent 4 days in Mazatlan, during which I spent birthday 63 on the beach. We also finally managed to replace the two tyres we tried to replace in San Diego, they still had to order the tyres, but this time they only took 40 minutes.

After this we moved slowly down the coast, spending one night among the palm trees on an empty camp site, one at The Little Rig RV site on a beach and 2 at the Boca de Iguanas. The latter was full of Mexicans in tents as this was a holiday weekend and we got lots of advice as to where was good to go (and where to avoid). A walk down the beach took us to a small 6 room Boutique Hotel and as we arrived for a beer so did the chef, returning from Toronto (-22) for the winter. He said his specialty was Sri Lankan curry so we decided to stay another night. The following day we walked down for lunch and discussed the curry with chef and after an afternoon in the sea (yes, even me!) the curry was superb. The Mexican owners also told us the story of how the Hotel came to be. From a large wealthy family in Guadalajara they fell on hard times and decided to make the family's seaside home a small Bouquet Hotel, it was finished 2 years ago and now have a thriving business.

As we were stopped I decided to check the front breaks and just as well as one of the pads was almost to the metal. Checking everything out whilst it was jacked up I found some play in one of the track rod ends.

Next day we headed for the nearest Toyota garage and found that unlike USA and Canada (where they only have petrol Land Cruisers) in Mexico they don't have Land Cruisers at all! They suggested we go to the main dealer at Gudalajara, which was just off our intended route so off we set.

As we wouldn't make Gudalajara in time we headed for Ajijic (Ahihic) on Lake Chapala (our intended stop anyway) about an hour south of Guad. We arrived in the dark, could not find a camp site, spoke to the local police who suggested there was an area by the peer where we would be OK. We stopped for a beer at a restaurant by the peer, they said it was fine to camp out in front of them (on the water front), so we stayed for dinner and camped outside.

The play in the track rod end was increasing, I was not happy about driving further and so contacted Specter Off Road in LA via Skype (we had met 2 of their guys on Harley's in Death Valley and visited them in LA to buy spare filters and break pads). They had single track rod ends or sets, so I ordered a set and according to the tracking info should arrive tomorrow and I have a recommended mechanic ready to fit when they arrive.

In the meantime, the day after we arrived a local 10 day festival started so the place is very lively. Each Day there are fireworks at 6 am, followed by church bells and the inevitable barking dogs. There are bands (of varying abilities) roving the streets at all times of day and night and on the first day there was a parade that ended on our corner and the band kept playing whilst the horses danced. We have met loads of people, made a few friends done a bit of cycling and had a good rest (still camped outside the restaurant) We have also listened to some superb music, including a Portuguese Fado singer in a bar down the road and a local string quartet practicing in the back of the restaurant (we had planned to eat in a different restaurant, but they were so good we ate there again).

 Camped by the river.
 Fabulous new toll road back to the coast
The beach at Mazatlan
 A beer in the sun at The Little Rig RV park
 The view from the bar at the Boca de Iguana, having a drink before our Sri Lankan Curry
Sunset on the Lake Chapala
The horses let off steam after the parade and before they start dancing

 Camped outside the restaurant
 Horse dancing in the street (the Tuba player is using the wall as an acoustic aid, the rest of the band is just out of shot)
Our dining room for the duration of our stay, there was a large choice of good food at a very reasonable price
 Allondra, our waitress, very pretty, very attentive and very shy. Joseph, the head water is American and we asked him if she speaks any English. He said she was so shy she hardly spoke Spanish
 The Peer just after the sun has gone.

 Surfing Pelicans
There are apparently lots of crocodiles around, but this is the nearest we have got! so far!!

7 Nov 2014

The Adventure Starts and the Plan Changes

After the madness of Tijuana the solitude of the Baja. The next few days were a mix of coast and cactus covered desert, some winding through the hills and others dead straight across the desert with for the most part very little other traffic on the road and the temperature slowly increased as we moved south (up to 40 at times).

The camp sites varied from run down to very run down, some showing signs of the hurricane a few weeks ago (the worst in 100 years - but hurricane season is over now), but the best was a beach south of Loreto. We spent one night in Loreto (where the Spanish first landed and built the first Mission) and got the bikes off for a change for a tour round and then moved 25 miles south, the site we were aiming for was closed, but we were told of a beach we could camp at (free) about a mile down a track. When we arrived there were more R.V's than we had seen in Mexico so far and found a good spot on the beach. Chatting to the neighbors it appeared that they were all from Canada or USA and many of them had been spending the winter there for many years. Next day, as we packed up to move on, another RV arrived to take up his 'normal' spot.

From there we moved down to La Paz (at the bottom of Baja) and the port to get the ferry to the main land and stopped at a beach for a beer, they told us we could camp on the beach and we found 2 other overland Land Cruisers there already (1 Swiss and 1 German). The Swiss couple left next morning but the Germans (Hans and Bente) were staying another night before taking the ferry.

The next day we booked on the ferry to Los Mochis, the next day (we intended to book for Mazatlan but we would have had to wait 4 days and at this point we were still thinking of making the bottom of Argentina for February) and accidentally booked a cabin, but this turned out to be a good move as the ferry was supposed to leave at 1600 and arrive at 2200, but actually left at 18.30 and arrived at 02.30 the next morning.

When we got back to our pitch on the beach we found we had booked on the same ferry as Hans and Bente  so we went together. They have been in the Americas for 6 to 9 months for the last 7 years, leaving their vehicle to fly home (to Turkey) so have a wealth of knowledge (and good 4x4 tracks).

The ferry terminal was absolutely chaotic, going from queue to the next to check vehicle permit, security check, port taxes, weigh bridge, army check, fruit and vegetable check, pesticide spray and then found ourselves back out of the port and having to start again!. Finally they formed us up in a queue on the opposite side of the harbor and eventually started to load about 30 minutes before the boat was due to leave. 2 hours later we were actually on the boat, but was still another hour before it finally set off.

The crossing was very calm so after a couple of beers we had dinner and found that our cabin had 4 bunks so we all had a few hours sleep. Unloading was less chaotic, but still took a couple of hours, so was 04.30 by the time we set off! A few miles down the road we found somewhere off the road to stop for a few more hours sleep.

Next day Hans and Bente were setting off for the Copper Canyon on about 300 miles of mostly 4x4 tracks, Bente showed us photos of the route off someone else' blog and we (or at least I) couldn't resist. We had been debating for some time whether the original plan was too much as we were now 3 weeks behind schedule and Hans saying 'you are retired, why spend all day driving' finally sealed it, so off we set to the Copper Canyon and for the next 4 days we did exactly that 'spent all day driving'.

The first 2 days we did 52 miles per day at an average of 8 miles an hour , but was good fun, except that the altitude was up to 2,400 m and the temperature down to 12 c in the day time (and on the last day -4 at night!). 3rd day we did over 60 and on the 5th the road turned into Tarmac for the last 60 miles.

We finally made the Canyon today and tomorrow plan to take the motorway back to the coast (which should be back to 30 and sunny).

We still plan fly home from Buenos in April, but will take a more direct route so we don't have to rush and will have more time to go further south on the next phase.

Camping on the beach at La Paz

On the way to the Copper Canyon
A decent road at last!

Camping in the wild at the side of the road.

The Copper Canyon

The Landing Point of the Longest Zip wire in the world, 2600 m

One of the jumps on a mountain bike track!

 Hans and Bente

The Cable car (taken from the car going the other way)
Takes the same route as the Zip Wire

Frozen solid! -4 at 2400 m, time to head back to the coast and 30+