Staying Put (March 4 2016)

We’ve been in Mexico for exactly 4 weeks now. I am ready for a healthier (i.e., more vegetable-oriented) diet, for sure, and ready to put more time and effort into personal hygiene! But the “niceness” of the San Lucas people have kept us “trapped” here.

DSC05992After coffee, we take the kayak out again, this time to explore “mangrove cove.” It is super shallow, but with the muddier bottom, visibility is low. Mantas scurry, disturbed by our kayak. At the mouth of the mangrove cove, which is also the boat launch for the local fishermen and campers, there is a horde, an army of pelicans and gulls awaiting that fallen tidbit. The pelicans are giant, dog-sized birds and look quite comical with splayed webbed feet when landing. The gulls are very loud and chatty, with many different sounds, all sort of disturbingly human.

DSC05984Baja is birdwatcher’s paradise – there are so many cool looking birds here I wish I knew more about them. Not just the water birds, but all kinds. Today, I see a small one with an egg yolk yellow chest and black markings singing on a palm, as well as a vivid red one in flight.

Dave and The Dude are back from their morning fishing.

“Got you something,” they say. It’s a small-ish yellowtail. It was their only catch today and they are giving it to us! Thankfully, it is about half the size of any of yesterday’s catch, making it slightly easier for me to deal with. Since we are supposed to go to Eric’s to look at his Northwest Territories photos, I put the fish in a plastic bag, then into the collapsible bucket to deal with later.

DSC05994Eric shows us photos from his computer of the Nahimi Falls in the Northwest Territories. They are twice the height of Niagara and you have to fly in and fly out. One day we’ll get there.

Eric’s dogs are wacky and entertaining. Squeegie is a small fluffball that barks at everything. Perlita is a butt-ugly wire-haired chihuahua-like mutt who is absolutely addicted to fetch. She will put the object – if can be anything from a golf ball to a piece of bark – by your feet. If you ignore her, she will put it ON your feet and she will play until she drops dead. With that kind of single-mindedness, she could probably be trained to do just about anything.

DSC05998I take the yellowtail to the cleaning station and begin cleaning it, cutting it into fillets. Although in Japan I would keep the skin on since it is so tasty when grilled, I take it off. Yellowtail only have scales near the head and the rest of the body is slick, covered with a mucus so the whole cleaning process is not as messy.

Gulls and pelicans are drawn to the activity and wait for me to toss the guts to them. This yellowtail is female but young – the roe is finger-sized and orange. I carve off as much as I can, throwing skin, bones and fins to the waiting pelicans and gulls, then put the rest – chunks for sashimi, bits for ceviche and several fillets – into separate baggies. By then, I am smelling as fishy as the yellowtail.

We think we will move on tomorrow and Big Dog has been busy washing the kayak and drying it. When I am done dealing with the fish, I go to fold and put away the kayak. Yes, that’s the Origami Expert’s job.

In the afternoon, we make your rounds to say goodbye to the Samaritans of San Lucas but everyone is at Pig Man’s place, making pork tacos from last night’s leftovers. Since they are all gathered there, we take over the ceviche and roe dip for everyone. Not too many people try the roe dip but those who do seem to like it. We get to try the pork tacos and have some more of their smoked yellowtail which is pretty salty but tasty.



Discovering San Lucas Cove (March 3 2016)

Big Dog is happy to stay put here for a while. There is power, shade, WiFi, showers, toilets…

The morning starts with a kayak session out to the spit that forms the cove. The water in the cove is very shallow, but the kayak glides along just fine. The spit is rocky, with big round rocks. One of them looks just like Daenarys’ dragon egg from Game of Thrones. I pick it up and hold it over my head.

“I am Mother of Dragons!”

Shells crunch underfoot. There are bits of dead things, too. At one spot, we discover a dolphin skeleton. It hasn’t finished decomposing and part of the skin is still there. It’s beautiful in a macabre sort of way. Isn’t it strange how nature is beautiful in any state and really, the only ugly things on this planet are what man has made or destroyed. Humans are the ones with the Ugly Touch.

At Dave’s Happy Hour, a neighbor, Myron related the tale of the dead whale that came floating into the cove one year, stinking up the whole place but Dave went out every day to collect bones, clean and dry them. If I lived here, I’d do it, too. I’m sort of sorry that I can’t do the same with the dolphin skeleton. Or bird bones. Or that beautiful pelican skull.

As we come back in, we cross paths with Dave and his pal who are back from fishing.

“We have some for you, too! Take what you want!” Dave yells from his truck.

When I go to the cleaning station to do just that, I realize Dave’s pal is not as inclined. He gives me the collars of 2 of the 3 yellowtails. (One is too small to bother with.) He’s also got the roe of one of them. Being used to tarako, I am shocked at how big this set is. It is roughly twice the length and thickness of a regular tarako, and beige, looking like a big fat penis.

The Dude is preparing fillets for himself and friends. These North Americans do not clean fish as surgically as the Japanese and there is a lot of waste involved. The Dude tosses away tons of bits to the birds that have gathered and I look longingly at all the chunks being thrown away. They could be so good as tataki. Japan is not the land of plenty that North America is and we tend to use every little bit, creating ways to use almost every part of the fish or vegetable.

In Japan, yellowtail are known as shusse-uo and as they grow in size, their names keep changing. From inada to warasa to hamachi and buri. These here are about a meter long, so what does that make them in Japanese?

In the afternoon, I marinate the collars in a soy-ginger-honey sauce. The roe gets boiled lightly in salted ginger water, then mashed into a kind of taramo salata (without the potato, using a bit of mayo and cream, as well as salt and onion.) It turns out nicely!

There’s a Pig Feast going on at one of the sites. The guy who hosted last night’s Happy Hour has spent the whole day spit roasting a whole pig! He had is encased in chicken wire and when I went to look, it was nice and brown. Unfortunately, we have not been invited.

Instead, I get to fight ants again, who are all over our water jug, then have a dinner of yellowtail sashimi, taramo salata with tostadas, and an entrée of shrimp, fresh green peas and mashed potato.

“We’ve gone through almost everything,” I warn Big Dog. “The wine is gone, vodka… most of the food…”


Another Day in Friendly Town (Mar 2 2016)

DSC05986Last night I discovered another swarm of ants, all around the sliding door and in our sink, as well as the lower cabinets. And a mosquito kept me up all night. Now, before 7:30am, a man comes around to ask for last night’s camp fee. Guess it can’t be all chilled out.

We stroll over to Eric and Vi’s motorhome to get info on the Northwest Territories where they live half of the time. Eric and Vi are camp hosts at a place there. He is also the man who gave us shower tips yesterday and who told Big Dog to use his generator if Francisco can’t fix ours. While there, Dave pulls up saying that he is going to Francisco’s and will drive Big Dog.

They come back right away. Francisco has gone off to Ciudad C for parts and so we end up using Eric’s gennie after all. Not only does he let us use it, he drives it over to us in his truck! And it works real well.

Powered back up, we can turn on our laptop, and with the WiFI at the restaurant we are able to check email for the first time in a week. (Whew, no disasters.)

We wander back over to Eric’s in the afternoon to chat with them and thank them for the gennie again.

“It’s really just the fridge that drains the battery. We don’t use much else,” Big Dog tells them.

“But you could go on propane instead of electricity, right?”

“No, ours only runs on electricity.”

They can’t believe that.

“Doesn’t it have a switch?”

“Not that we’ve ever seen.”

It is so unbelievable, Eric and his neighbor, Carol, have to come and investigate. Carol is a DIY kind of RVer who can do all the rigging and installations herself. (“I used to be a machine operator at a pulp mill,” she explains.)

After looking over our fridge carefully, they can see no switch.

“Well, I’ll be darned.”

“First fridge I’ve ever seen that only runs on electricity!”

Big Dog and I later conclude that this must be why Sprockets never needs to be leveled. If we could stand to sleep in it, it could be on an incline.

The Friendliest Gringos in Baja (March 1 2016)

“It’s March.”

“Bummer,” answers Big Dog.

The water is not as placid as it was yesterday, but we take the kayak out again anyway, hoping to run into Mr. Whale Shark or Mrs. Sea Turtle. No luck. Every dark spot on the water turns out to be a bird. It’s also hard to see anything underwater because of the ripples.

The camp is nearly deserted today. Just one tent and The Intruders.

“Shall we go up to Escondida?”

“Or Playa Cocos?”

“Or onwards?”

“Or just stay here?”

“The battery is real low.”

“But with yesterday’s trip, we might squeeze in another day…”

I am leaning towards getting up to San Lucas where there were toilets and hot showers. Ahhh. The thought of a shower is too good.

In the end, that becomes the decision, so it’s onwards to Caleta San Lucas.

DSC05959At the San Lucas RV park, we drive into the main part and although there are a few waterfront spaces available, we find a spot underneath a big tree.

DSC05981Big Dog immediately hits the showers and I begin washing clothes. While I am doing that, “Dave,” a resident of the park rides down on his bicycle to invite us to Happy Hour at his place. It turns out to be that beautifully landscaped site on the waterfront which we admired when we were first here.

DSC05980They have built a “living room” in front of their rig and a “patio” next to it. He and his wife put in a lot of elaborate work to make a very cool beach home. There are dozens of North Americans there, including Royce and Susan whom we had met on your earlier stay here. The women are all dressed up. At least I’ve showered.

Dave has smoked yellowtail, which is delish, and others have brought all sorts of munchies.

“Have more! We’ve got all kinds of stuff to drink!”

DSC05977The “residents” here are all so friendly and welcoming. When we first arrived, one older resident tells us how the showers work. Now, Big Dog is talking about the battery situation and broken generator and they all jump in.

“Francisco’s the guy to fix it.”

“I’ll take you to see him tomorrow.”

“You can borrow my battery.”

“You can use my generator.”

Have we just entered Bizarro World where everyone is Mexican Friendly and Super Helpful? What IS this place? Land of the Good Samaritans? Did Posada Concepcion Ivan come from here??

End of Day Miles: 2155.4 mi


San Lucas Cove (Feb 10 2016)

DSC05516Caleta San Lucas is a calm, pretty cove circled by a long, narrow finger of land from the north making an OK sign with the sandbar from the south. We’ve read that there’s a shipwreck near the mouth that’s become a reef for many fish.

I wake up before sunrise and peak out to see the sky lit up in a soft lavender glow. Fishermen with boats have parked next to us, getting their gear ready to go out. The water is super calm in this cove but the fishing must be outside, in the Sea of Cortez.

The bright sunny day begins with the hassle of doing last night’s dishes in the collapsible blue bucket. It’s not a fun thing when the dishes are greasy, there is no running water and the water you have is not hot enough to cut the grease. While I are doing this, Big Dog goes to take a shower.

“Wow, the hot water is really hot!” he announces. I wish the water for doing dishes was as hot, but pleased to hear about the shower. Plus the toilets are real flush toilets! And there’s a sink outside! Plus a water tap! Whoo hoo!

DSC05522After dishes, I am finally ready to make coffee to go with the pastries we bought at El Boleo yesterday.

“How are they?” I ask Big Dog.

“They suck.”

“Like every pastry from every panaderia?”

“Uh huh.”

“I’m not holding my breath for the baguette.”

Three groups of campers are moving out today. One guy has a camper truck that pops up and folds out. Another has something that looks homemade. The good thing about truck campers is that they all have high clearance – perfect for Mexico, especially Baja. In the RV camp next door, there are many rigs but on our side of the chain link fence, it is now just us and the two big rigs parked oceanfront. They look like they are here for the season, with palapas done up with lights and hummingbird feeders.

“Royce” who collected your camping fee yesterday is in one of those big rigs. He tells us that there is decent WiFi at the “restaurant” in the park next door. The restaurant only operates on weekends but they keep the modem on all the time. I quickly do a small load of laundry, hanging it up on the rope I tie to the palapa posts, and then we walk along the beach to the restaurant with our laptops.

DSC05531There are a lot of permanent-looking RVs here. The residents have put in little gardens, landscaped with shells, whale bones and turtle shells. Some have locked sheds. And there are, surprisingly, a few open beachfront spaces.

DSC05532Although the signal is decent and we are able to check emails for the first time in days, there is no electricity at the restaurant and my laptop quickly goes down to 40% power but when we return to our site, Royce lets us recharge at their RV. They have solar, something that would have been very nice for us to have on this trip.

Lunch is ham and tomatoes on the El Boleo “baguette.” Tasty enough, but hardly a baguette. In fact, the “dorado” type bolillos you get on the mainland might be more baguette-y.

“It’s just like pan de sal in a different shape! The French bread I make at the ranch is more like French bread than this!”

Winds have picked up, nixing the idea of an afternoon kayak trip. Instead, we look at maps and info, watch birds and go on a long walk around the cove. The beach is crunchy with shells. There are lots of little pieces of driftwood and a few larger pieces. Birds are everywhere, especially the big pelicans and the very vocal seagulls whose cackle sounds like the laughter from those mechanical laughter devices.

DSC05533There’s a house or two beyond the camp, then the military base. A soldier stops us and makes us turn around but it is all low-key and mellow.

DSC05524Fishermen have brought in a huge haul and are still dealing with it. Royce tells us that it’s “sábado” a “garbage fish” that they grind up for dog food.

“Too many small bones,” he says. “They sell it for something like 4 pesos per kilo so they’re not making much.”

DSC05527Hardly seems worth the effort. The fish look like mackerel, making me think it might be good as a shio-yaki, but if the Mexicans don’t eat it, maybe it really is bad.

DSC05534Just about the time we get back to our rig, an enormous one pulls in. From a distance it looks like a big orange garbage truck. Now, close up, we can see that it is a “Unimog,” a MAN-like vehicle. The top pops up to become a huge house — like a big 2-storey house! Brad and his Russian wife, Oksana, are friends of Royce and his British wife, Susan, and so they have a get-together in the afternoon which we are also invited to join. Their neighbors, Joanne and Ken are also there and Joanne asks Oksana if she could see the inside of their rig. Everyone is curious and we all go to peek inside.

DSC05535The kitchen area is not that spacious but they have a huge high ceilinged living room, with real stairs (not ladder) leading up to their sleeping loft. The place is as big, and as modern looking as a Tokyo apartment. And it’s on wheels!

Much later, the Giant Mercedes we crossed paths with at Whale Camp pulls in. It looked so big back then, but now it looks “normal” next to Big Orange. Poor Sprockets is as small as a flea.