Entering the tropics

In Todos Santos we enter the Tropico de Cancer and are officially in the Tropical latitudes . A town a little like our hometown Nevada City, old buildings , nice Town center,artsy, yoga studios , elaborate , community focused coffeeshops and restaurants. After we get stuck in the sand, trying to negotiate a beach access road outside town , we hang out at Punta Lobos,the beach closest to town . The local Fisher men have setup an impressive communal effort , to drop the boats down the Sandy Beach and pull them backup with trucks. They sell the fish right there or pass the the refrigerated trucks

The Tropical storm in September had weacked many beaches and access roads. We find a surfer beach with a palapa bar and negotiate an overnight there. But sand has mixed with dirt and piles of wood and debris had been brought on to the beach from the heavy rains.

La Paz , we love it!

The lovely lady managing our campground , Maria Louisa, tells us that when she moved here La Paz had 20000 inhabitants. We brought her flowers for her 85th birthday yesterday, so it has been a while that she moved. Now it’s over 200 thousand people , but still has a small town feel. The mix of Mexicans, Americans and Europeans does create a unique cultural experience. The Malecon is the boardwalk along the beach , and it seems like the mix of US state department travel advisories, drug kartell related killings and low between the seasons made it the perfect time to dig everything up. So don’t expect love at first sight in La Paz , you need to work it a bit . It’s a working town with some tourism, but that seems secondary. Most of all people are friendly and helpful and authentic. First night we made friends with Rachel and John, a couple from Canada, over drinks at a malecon bar. It turned out they attend the same language school, El Nopal, as we do for the week. El Nopal School We meet the Mexican owners of the language school,who have lived in germany and are happy to practice their fading german. The school is more like a community , we love to go before class and hang out in the yard and use the blazing fast wifi , a rare occurence during our travels. Then we meet a chilenean in his bagel shop, enjoying fresh Bagels and cappucino. And at El Nopal we heard about the Farmers market … The Italian lady making aged cheese, the German lady selling weisse bratwurst and lachs schinken (home made). Organic farmers with lettuce and veggies, and a baker with whole wheat bread…. we are in heaven. We came to town just in time for one of the major celebrations of the year. The Dia de Los Muertos celebration is a true community effort , free of charge, low key vendors but hight cred for the best altar or skeleton costume. Dia des los muertos We run into Dave and Nancy again at the celebration, a lovely couple riding their bikes from Fairbanks,Alaska to Patagonia, Argentinian . We had met them 200 miles earlier in a coffee shop and after 5 month pedelling have arrived here. They also plan to attend El Nopal, to learn more Spanish. Small Town …..

Switching  Coasts in Baja Sur

The Highway numero uno goes back and forth between Pacific and Sea of Cortez. And how different they are … but each with its own beauty.

Just before Guerrero Negro, a dusty agricultural town, we are crossing into Baja California Sur, through a military checkpoint, which marks  the peninsula’s  northern  and southern districts. We drive out onto a sandy spit and spend the night in the old harbor . Lala and her family are fishing and maintaining a small Restaurant out in the bay , where later in the year 1000+ Whales hang out. They come later in December  into the protected waters to have their babies and find mates, just to leave again north in March.

The next morning the road leads us back over the mountains to San Ignacio , with its old church back to the sea of cortez .

Mulege ,a lovely little town, sits at the entry of Bahia de conception, a protected bay with islands and lots of wildlife. A Canadian lady and her Mexican husband run a dive shop in town and she  is very helpful to set us up with snorkel gear and fish identification charts. Susanne spends hours snorkeling and identifying the colorful fish right of the hidden beach, Playa Escondido,  where we setup camp.

How do we find all these wonderful places ?

The secret is IOverlander.com , a website created by a few fellow overlanders, where travelers add places and checkin with the latest when they visit. So it’s the most uptodate info and you have a good chance to congregate with fellow overlanders at the most highly rated spots.

That’s how we also found our next spot , down past Loreto, which is  a  touristy town with some built up, gated  villages,  “where the americans live” (as mentioned by the tourist buro helper ,who advised us) . Juncalito , another beautiful beach ,enticed us to get up early and hike along the coast .




Then after the quiet,warm waters and  starry nights , back again to the pacific . Ioverlander promises a tucked away  surfer beachjust before the Highway turns towards La Paz . While the sandy , washboard road is a better  fit for the Baja 1000 racers (a long established race ,which will happen again in November )  it eventually brings us back to a few houses at the pacific and the most incredible sand dunes as far as the eye can see.


Down the Baja

             A ship is safe in the Harbor, but it was built to sail the seas.

Quoted by a lovely Irish lady

10/21: Dinner in the Palapa (a palm covered , shade providing open hut) , warm evenings at the sandy beach and some  soothing waves …. yes we have reached the Sea of Cortez  in Bahia de Los Angeles . And it’s all we had imagined Baja to be.

It has been only 4 days in Mexico and the multitude of impressions are hard to digest. The rough pacific coast with the same rugged beauty as big sur, the dusty villages along Highway 1  and the vast desert between the 2 coasts.


South of Ensenada the remoteness of this peninsula became obvious . Just a few dirt roads of Hwy 1 to the pacific ocean ,  mostly if there are agricultural villages to get to.   We found an expats place named CoyoteCal , at Punta Cabras , nicely perched above the roaring waves.

Before arriving in Bahia de LA , we had spent a night on Punta Baja, a small fishing village with picturesque beaches ,but also strong winds. Bundled up in our warm jackets we cooked dinner inside Esmeralda and hoped the roof does not blow away.

Bento, a local fishermen allowed us to park our rig for 50 pesos on his property.

The next day we made sure to fill up in Rosar

io, the last gas station for 200 km  and made our way through the dessert and mountains across the peninsula.

Then the drive down from the mountains to the blue waters and bare islands of the Bahia de Los Angeles and the Gulf of California.

Sitting in the Palapa for dinner, I am not just digesting the dinner I cooked , but also the many impressions taken in for the last few days.

10/22   Getting up early when the water is calm . One of the neighbors in the next Palapa told us about Whale sharks hanging out in the Bay. We hired a boat together and left early to see the abundant wildlife. At the dive shop we all climb in the boat, including the captain, and pulled by the truck driven by another dive shop employee ,  drive through town to the boat launch and straight into the waters.  Very efficient…

Out in the Bay we see a small pod of   bottlenose Dolphins. Many Pelikans , Frigatte birds, Egrets and naturally Seagulls  are entertaining us. Then we scan the calmer waters at the end of the Bay for a while . Until we see the first dorsal fin of a whale shark . These majestic animals, up to 35 feet long, eat like whales , but are not mammal’s , they breath like fish.   We put the snorkel ,mask and fins on and jump in the water between them .



Now back at the Palapa writing this ,    I look out at

the ocean and see fish jumping in the air . What a magical place nature provides!

Over the Border into Mexico

After all the stories we heard about Mexican Borders, we had anticipated some waiting and negotiations at the border. Instead of the busy Tijuana crossing , we  took the small crossing at Tecate , a little inland from San Diego and through the mountains.

When we suddenly arrived at the Border , the Customs officer waved us to stop . He looked into the back of the camper and told us to pass , didn’t want to see our prepared passports and papers .  Suddenly we are in Tecate , a buzzing town and no available parking spaces.  And we had a list of items left to accomplish to be legal in Mexico.

So we left our truck in a residential neighborhood  and walked back into   the border offices . We seemed to be the only tourists crossing , no lines and the  customs officer ready to instruct us how to fill out the forms for the Tourist visa .  I didn’t understand why he kept  showing me his Honey and Taco sauce from under his desk and emphasizing the quality . He leaned forward and indicated he would sell it to us for 2 $  each , but pssst … quiet please his supervisor can’t know. All i could express was a nervous laugh (not so sure if the purchase was a required bribe to get the visa )  , but luckily the papers had been ready to send us to the Bancejero around the corner to  make payments.

When we came back to him for the final stamps and immigration papers ,the supervising ladies where standing close enough that he did not mention the Honey and hot sauce any longer and stamped our visa and passports with a 180 day permit . Then we had to get the vehicle import permit and pay a deposit , to assure we are not trying to sell  our vehicle in Mexico. That time , i even got presented with a evaluation form for the customs officer who helped me with the transactions … that is definitely progress  .

From Tecate the Highway #3 leads through the wine country and Guadeloupe valley towards Ensenada . There are some fancy wineries now , and we stopped for a tasting.  While impressed by the quality of the wine and the Napa type prices, we only bought one bottle .

As we arrived at a campground south of Ensenada, the ground keeper was delighted to finnaly have a first guest for the day. We enjoyed a long walk at the beach and planned our destinations  for the next few days  down the Baja peninsula.

On the road south !

We started October 7th from our cohousing parking lot after a send off by the community the night before. Coincidentally our sons birthday was coming up . So our first stop was in the Bayarea. Our son Ben showed us the newly converted salt ponds at Eden landing near Hayward. Its a nice hike out into the bay now, even if its  almost  15 years since it was sold to the state. Those familiar with flying into San Francisco remember the red and brown ponds, like a colorful puzzle….not anymore its flooded by the tides now and wild live is coming back .

Then we crossed back over the Sacramento  valley  to Yosemite. What a great time of the year to visit ! We spent the first night right outside the park and left just after 6 am next morning . The last few miles before the gate  both sides  the road was  filled with campers, vans and Suv’s. We assumed its a mix of seasonal workers and park visitors . And as we started our drive to Tuolumne meadows ,our favorite spot in the park , we confirmed that almost all campgrounds had been closed and gates locked. Nevertheless we did a great hike to Glen Aulin ,the northern part of the Pacific Crest trail.

We had targeted the campground on top of Tioga pass , but that was also closed and looking at the fresh snow on the Mountain tops ,we didn’t mind to drive down into the Mono lake area.

We found one campground still open amid the Aspen trees and bundled up in the camper. When we turned off the heater , a small layer of ice formed from our breath, but kept warm under the blankies.

Susanne was distressed that her spanish language program , duolingo , had lost her login and her previous score of 26% fluent went back to 0 %. The phone app is free and a great way to learn a language. check it out! Here she is learning…..