February 12, 2009 GMT
to the Nativity

The next day we were picked up again by Voni and Paul, driven over to Ara’s camp, and treated to some of Ara’s amazing “Campfire stew”, before we all headed off to the “Swimming Hole

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Ara's dining room in Big Bend
The next day we were picked up again by Voni and Paul, driven over to Ara’s camp, and treated to some of Ara’s amazing “Campfire stew”, before we all headed off to the “Swimming Hole” one of Big Bend’s hidden secrets. We bounced along in Paul’s 4x4 for a good few off road miles, before we found the track that led down to the creek and the swimming hole. We all hiked around the place, snapping pics of each other and the “hole”, collected a few rocks for Ara’s garden, then headed back once more in time to change for the Alpine Nativity.
swimhole.jpg
As we were in the car on the way to Alpine, the conversation turned to ID, seeing as we were just about to pass the Border Patrol checkpoint. We joked that we could get deported if we were pulled over, as neither Jacquie nor I had our passports with us. Sure enough, we were pulled over at the checkpoint, and yes, we were both then asked for ID. Oh. Woops.
We had to write down our names and address as the German border patrolman went to check we weren’t terrorists. A line of cars started to build up behind us, and finally the guard re-emerged, and after issuing us with a stern warning , let us up to Alpine , to see our Nativity.
nativity.jpg
The Nativity was an experience.The live animals in the cast, donkeys, camels and children, did a good job. It was a freezing cold, clear night, the sky was bight with stars, and the coffee and hot chocolate struggled to keep the audience warmed up.
The Nativity was charming, but at the end of the night we were ready to jump back into the 4x4 and turn the heating on.

Posted by Dan Shell at 05:17 AM GMT
Baja, Mexico

TO MEXICO
A couple of days before we we due to head south for the final break for the border, I went on the internet to check once more what papers we would need to enter into Mexico with the bike. I found no more info than I already knew, but I did come across a post from a couple of Aussie’s who were looking for a riding partner to ride through Mexico with.
I talked it over with Jacquie and we decided it would be cool to have some company, even if it was just for crossing the border.
We sent a reply to the Aussie’s post and waited. A couple of days passed and nothing, we were ready to cross the border solo, and had decided to cross on the 1st of Feb, which would give us 2 days grace if everything was not in order. Our US visas ran out on the 3rd.The Friday before that, we received a reply from the Aussie’s. We spoke on skype and e.mailed each other, and agreed to all meet up in San Diego to cross over together.
I immediately liked Dan , who reminded me hugely of an old mate back home, and Jacquie and Stacey gelled too, excellent.
We rode off together, hit Tijuana a few miles down the road, and before you knew it, we were in Mexico. 1.jpgStraight through the border, no worries. We rode down to our first stop, the fishing town of Ensenada, where we found a cheap motel, and went out for a stroll. I was dying to try my first authentic fish taco-Taco di Pescado, and I wasn’t disappointed. Coming in at just under $1, the street Tacos were delicious.eat taco.jpg We went out that night and got slightly buzzed on Margaritas and beer while we watched the superbowl on TV.
The next day , bright and early we set off together for the small town of San Felipe, on the other side of the Peninsula, and again, checked into a cheap hotel before heading out to explore the town, and dining on Tacos and Tecate beer. We sat in our room that night and looked st maps, and decided that the next day we would try the little dirt road from San Felipe to Porto Cintas.That was a mistake.
We got an early start again, knowing that if this dirt road was too much for my fat hog, we would have to double back and start again from Ensenada, which we did have to do. We followed the road until the hard top ran out, end of road.jpg
our Aussie mates, Dan and Stacey, went on a little to see how the road was on their dirt bike, and almost immediately they got stuck! This was not a good sign. I went on the back of the other Dan’s KLR and concurred that we wouldn’t have much chance on the Harley, so , round we turned , and off we went, back to Ensenada. Even though we were going back on ourselves, this was a superb ride, no traffic at all, good road surface, lots of twists and turns, and gorgeous, lush green scenery.
After another night in Ensenada, and more beer and fish Tacos, we were really ready to get off again and head south, this time , the point on the map we were looking for was called Bahia de Los Angeles. My GPS didn’t believe that it even existed, but it was on our map, so we went for it. We were rewarded with another great ride, on which we hit our 10,000mile mark, followed by a small, pretty town on the shores of a bay clustered with islands.
Another quick ride through the town provided us with some more cheap digs which we settled into before once more heading out looking for a busy taco stand.
We decided it was time for some rest from the bikes, and s we were in such a cute place, right on the beach, this would be a great stop for some r&r, beach time, volleyball, maybe a swim and some Kayaking. We switched hotels when we were offered a $165/night “presidential” suite for $45 , but by the time we had packed and unpacked, moved hotel and signed in, it was nearly 2pm, so, we may as well stay another night, we thought, and have a full day on the beach the next day. This would have been great, had the weather not changed. We sat in our “suite” -which was a great room , except for the lack of hot water, the unflushable toilet, no heating and 1 English Language TV channel-and played round after round of cards, with the boys utterly thrashing the girls once more..
The next day was still wet, but we were all ready to get out of Los Angeles, so we put all our wet weather gear on, and headed out. The sky got greyer and greyer, darker and darker as we rode on, until the clouds burst and the rain fell down on us, fortunately, we only had 30 minutes or so of rain before the sky began to clear again. We negotiated a couple flooded roads, the water up to my ankles on one, and stopped at Guerrero Negro, which is a well known spot for Whale watching, and we were right at the peak of the season.
Our guide book had told us to “book early” and not to turn up expecting to get any room in any hotel….well, things looked like they had maybe taken a turn for the worse recently. All the hotels were practically empty, and we got a room for 300pesos, about $28. Then the rain came down again. At that point I had had enough. I parked the bike, covered it with the bike cover and went to bed!
Jacquie and other Dan went off on his bike to see about whale watching tours for the following morning, and scout about. They got back after an hour or so with the info on the tours. The news wasn’t good. Rain was forecast for the next day, all the boats were small, open boats, and the whales apparently didn’t like the rain. There was nothing to do but pop out for a cheeky taco and some beers, and see what the weather did. True to form, the early rise to catch the whales was wasted, as the morning was wet, dull and grey. We went back to sleep for another hour or so before heading out for a hearty breakfast burrito and some warming coffee. We hit the road around midday, caught a few sprinkles, but missed the real rain. The ride to the next town, San Ignacio, another Whale watching destination, was flat, straight and uninspiring, which made our arrival into the town even more of a surprise. In the middle of a desert landscape, San Ignacio was a small oasis town, surrounded by tall, swinging palm trees.san ig .jpg
We rode past two bright green lakes our way to the old town centre, which surrounded a colonial style, laurel shaded square, presided over by a beautiful 18th century mission. We promptly, perhaps too promptly, agreed a price of 300pesos ($16) for two rooms, right in front of the Plaza and then went out looking for the usual Taco stall, bottle shop, and , as last night, a whale watching tour. The first two, as always , were easy, the whale watching was quickly turning into a proper mission. The lake was 75km down a dirt road, and we were told, by several sources
, that our Harley wouldn’t be able to make it due to the sand, the ruts and the general lack of recognisable road, so we had to find a van to take us. This would normally be straightforward, as there was always lots of people looking to go whale watching, however, in the recession, tourism was down, and there were not enough people to justify the tour operator putting on a bus. We went to a bunch of tour operators and hotels, but no luck. The problem was that the 12 seater buses charged the tour operators $120 , so for 12 people, that was an easy $10, but for just the 2 of us, it was way too much money.
As always, things worked themselves out, and sure enough, the next dat at 7am, we were up ,ready and waiting for our bus with a stray American biker who had broken his leg a few day earlier.
Stacy and Aussie Dan took their KLR down the dirt track, following us in the 4 wheel drive van. The trip to the lagoon was a 2hour run over quite possibly the bumpiest road ever, spattered with the occasional sand trap, rocks, boulders and deep potholes.
We arrived at the lagoon shaken but not stirred, and were welcomed by Maggie to the whale watching camp.

We were whisked off into a small boat, and were soon blasting over the waves, banging our arses on the hard benches, and off into the big blue to find us some whales. Sure enough, the operators motto-“Whales guaranteed to see” was bang on the money.10minutes out to sea our skipper slowed down and we saw, in the not to distant water, the spray of the grey whales. We got nearer and soon were rewarded with a huge whale popping his head about 8ft out of the water; Spy hopping. It was an awesome sight. For two more hours we were treated to dozens of close encounters. The whales would come right up to the boat, we saw huge splashes as some jumped half way out of the water, then crashed back down again. They were everywhere. Sadly, our time was up, and we headed back to the shore, and jumped on the bus back to sleepy San Ignacio for some more tacos and a game of cards with the Aussies.Once again, we were on the move. We stopped off on route at the old mining town of Santa Rosalia, where we had a gorgeous fruit smoothie and a walk around the very pretty streets, then onwards towards Mulege, then next town on the only main road through the peninsula. We had a quick ride through Mulege and decided to push on to Loretto. We road took us past the Bay of Conception,conception.jpg
a beautiful bay, only spoilt by the RVs crammed along the shoreline. This part of the road was the best riding we had encountered since entering Mexico. Winding roads along the bay, cutting into the hills and mountains, twisting and turning, in gorgeous sunshine.twisty.jpg

It was a beautiful ride, and we were all sad to leave the bay behind. Our next stop, Loretto, was a bit of a disappointment. There was evidence of this once being a popular stop with the Gringos, but the sports bars and Pizzerias were all but empty. The town had a beautiful old church, but not much else to offer. We found ourselves a cheap American style motel, and settled down to rest for the next leg to La Paz.
Another bright and sunny morning greeted us and we set off early for the La Paz run. The Baja scenery dulled down a tad as we hit the desert areas, dead straight roads, with the odd tope (evil speed bumps) to keep our speed down. There were no towns or villages to stop at, just the MX1, our old friend, taking us south.
I was getting bored, and so, when we saw a sign for San Carlos, a smallish looking village on the map, next to the water of Magdalena Bay, we decided to take a detour. We rode 45 minutes west until we came across the town. The roads were sand, which meant that Jacquie had to get off the bike while I rode at 3mph with my feet off the floorboards, dangling an inch above ground in case I needed stabilising! sandcarlos.jpgWe found the centre, a tree lined plaza with a playground behind it, had our usual “ shall we stay or shall we go” discussion, and after a minute or two, split up and went hunting for a cheap room.
Digs sorted, we went out into the town for some dinner and a beer or two. Come nightfall, the plaza turned into a mini cruising arena. Dilapidated pick ups and saloons drove round and round, stereos blasting out everything from Ricky Martin to Flo Rider, latin music, American Hip Hop, even some good old rock, came blaring out of the open windows of the cars, most had a neon light or two either underneath, lighting up the sand roads under the cars in an alien blue colour, or dotted around the body of the car.
There was an under age disco in the civic centre, and the young teenagers were out in force, hanging around the bandstand, swinging on the swings, and chatting with each other. It was the most life we had seen so far anywhere in Baja!
With not much to stay up for, being about 20 years older than everyone that was out, we headed back to our motel, had another game of cards, and hit the sack.

Posted by Dan Shell at 05:40 AM GMT
 
 

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