Archive for March, 2012

Hotel Yeneka in a La Paz and Baja Ferries

After the minor mishap with the car, we made it safely into La Paz and found our hotel for the night, Hotel Yeneka. We found the hotel online as being one of the more cheaper hotels and being a little more backpacker friendly. When we arrived we were greeted by some very friendly gentleman and a museum-esque plaza area with anything you could possibly imagine decorating the hotel. Animal bones, car parts, plants, bells, antiquities, everything! It was quite the site to see and was a real treat to spend some time looking around. And one of the amenities of the hotel was 2 free shots of tequila per person per night! BONUS!

We got a room for two nights thinking we would be able to take care of our ticket stuff the following day and then board the ferry the next. While we were there we met a sweetheart of a little Manx kitten and she hung out with us most of the time we were there. She was a bit of a flea bag and I did get some bites, but it wasn’t anything terrible. I nicknamed her Minxy because she only had a little nub for a tail, but we later found out that her real name was Obama, haha. Anyway she ended up sleeping with us almost every night and we gave her some milk in the morning from our continental breakfasts, she loved it.

The following day we walked inland a while and found the Baja Ferries office to buy our tickets. Unfortunately we realised that we not only needed to get our vehicle import permit before we bought the tickets, we also needed our travel visas. I guess I confused Mexico’s need for a visa with another country when doing some research. The immigration office closed early on Fridays so we were unable to obtain the visa at all that day. We had to wait until Monday when the immigration office opened again before we could do anything about getting on the ferry.

Not a huge deal, the Yeneka hotel wasn’t terribly expensive so we stayed there all weekend and hung out in La Paz again for a bit. We ended up going back to Balandra and doing some swimming in the crystal clear shallow pools. The water had actually warmed up quite a bit since the few weeks prior. We had some fun wading around and relaxing. When Monday did finally come around we managed to get all our Visa needs taken care of. We then headed down to the ferry terminal and tried to get our vehicle import permit and found out we needed to pay the deposit with US dollars…wut. Anyway, we went back into town and got some American cash for the following day and ended up staying one more night in Yeneka. Lucky for the owner there, he accidentally undercharged us for our stay, so we ended up giving him the difference and he was very grateful. He gave us 2 extra shots of tequila each that night :)

Finally on Tuesday we made our way to the Baja Ferry terminal and got our import permit and our tickets and made our way to Topolobampo. We had originally planned to go to Mazatlan, but we found out Topolobampo was much closer to Copper Canyon. We got on the ferry and away we went! It was about 7-8 hours before we got to Topolobampo and it was dark, so instead of driving to El Fuerte, we stayed in a hotel right near the ferry terminal just to be safe. It was kinda pricey, but worth it for not having to drive at night. Finally we made it to mainland Mexico!

Our First Encounter With Car Trouble

As we were driving back to La Paz to eventually catch the ferry to the mainland we ran into our first car trouble of the trip.  I was driving, and as we just pulled into one of the main boulevards of La Paz, the engine just stopped.  While going about 30mph I no longer had any power over the car.  The batter didn’t die, the engine just stopped.  Yikes.  So using my ninja-like reflexes I managed to steer the car off onto a side street with the remaining momentum and park it to figure out what happened.

We tried numerous times to start the car, but the engine wouldn’t turn over.  We took a look at the engine and busted out the Chilton manual to see if we could diagnose the problem ourselves at all.  At first Steve thought it might have been the alternator, but we really couldn’t be sure.  Luckily we were in a dense enough area of the city that we were able to walk a few blocks down and find an auto parts store.  We poked in and asked if anyone knew where a mechanic was so we could get our car looked at.

Luckily we were pointed in a direction only a few blocks away.  We felt defeated, but determined to get back on the road.  We walked into the desolate, dirty, and unkempt mechanic shop to find a guy sleeping in a white van.  We excused ourselves and asked if he could help us.  He spoke no English whatsoever, but we managed to tell him our car was just a few blocks down and we needed help.  Him and a younger co-worker of his took us in their truck and they popped the hood and tried to visually and electronically diagnose the problem.

At first it was very difficult to communicate with the mechanics, especially with tons of verbs we had no idea how to say relating to car parts and such.  Luckily one of the mechanics called his friend across the street from the shop who owned a car stereo store who spoke a little English and he managed to tell us the mechanics wanted to tow the car to their shop to check it out.  They pulled a short chain out of the back of their truck and hooked it up to the front of our car and carefully pulled the car over a couple blocks to their shop.

We hung around in the shop and watched longingly and (mostly) silently while they poked around and tried to find the problem.  After a while they were able to figure it out, one of the parts in the ignition coil was bad.  They sent another mechanic off into La Paz to find the part we needed for us.  It took him about 1.5 hours before he finally returned as the afternoon continued to drag on and on.  In the meantime, Steve went to a mini-mart and got some Tecate Light as a peace offering to the mechanics for all of their wonderful help.  They were gracious and it helped lighten the mood in the shop.

When the mechanic returned with the part we crossed our fingers as they installed it and tried starting the car once again and we heard the wonderful sound of the engine starting in our little Honda!  YAY!  It was like music to our ears and we all cheered.  They put the car back together and charged us about $1200 pesos ($100) for the part and labor…wow.  We made some new friends and thanked them profusely and they sent us on our way 4-5 hours later that day.  Unfortunatly we missed our chance to hit the ferry terminal to get any documents and tickets we needed for the following day, so we went straight to our hotel and decided to take care of that stuff the next day, Friday.

All in all, for what it was, the experience couldn’t have gone any better and now our car is fully functional again and we are back on the road.  For all the negativity we had heard about driving in Mexico and dealing with mechanics and such, it made us wonder…would breaking down in the US be any better?  I mean, instead of hooking a chain up to the car we probably would have had to call a tow truck and paid for a 2 block tow, then pay at least $80 for a diagnostic on the car, $45-$70 an hour on labor and THEN the part probably would have cost an arm and a leg not to mention they might have had to order it in and we would have been stuck for a day or two while the car was being worked on.  I don’t know, but like I mentioned, it all worked out great in the end for what happened.  We are just glad to be on the road again :)

Cabo Pulmo, Hot Springs, and Cascadas

We found a cute little place called Baja Bungalows online located in Cabo Pulmo, our next destination after San José del Cabo. We drove north quite a ways until we veered off toward the East Cape and after kilometers of paved road, were faced with even more kilometers of dirt road to finally reach Cabo Pulmo. The town itself was small but cute and the views of the ocean were spectacular. We met Kent who owned the Baja Bungalows and settled into a small room with a bed which also had access to a cool palm-walled bathroom with a hot shower and an outdoor kitchen. And the room we were staying in was named “The Boots!”

We weren’t sure if we wanted to do any diving quite yet because of the coder water temperatures so we got some info and maps from Kent and decided to do some other activities for the next day. In the morning we woke up early and had a yummy breakfast and then headed out on a morning hike. As we began the hike we ran into some older ladies on their way in from the desert and we stopped to talk with them for a bit. They told us where we might be able to find a new “Eco” trail that has little signs and info along the way about the desert in Cabo Pulmo. We thought it might be cool to check out and see if any of the signs were in English.

We did end up finding it eventually and there were signs in English! The trail also took us up to a high point where there were strange rock formations in the hillside. Apparently the holes in the cliff and rocks were ancient burial tombs where indigenous tribes would carve out the rock and hide the remains of their people. They would wrap up the bodies in deer skin and place them in the cliff sides then would later dig the remains up and paint the bones red. Really cool.

After seeing some spectacular views at the tops of the rocky hills, we headed back to our bungalow and had a quick lunch before heading off toward the town of Santiago, which we passed on the way to Cabo Pulmo, to see some natural hot springs (agua caliente) and a cascada (waterfall.) The first stop was visiting the hot springs. We had a huge wall of text on a sheet of paper telling us the directions. We drove down a long dirt road (Mexico loves dirt roads) and then over some washes (I guess a wash is a dried up river bed…but I thought they were called arroyos) and then through a tiny little town up a hill, then we zig zaged up a steep cliff and then drove past a dozen cows just hanging out next to the road and finally came to a sign that pointed to the hot springs area. There was a gentleman there who came out of his home and collected 100 pesos to see the hot springs. Then we walked down for a few minutes until we reached a beautiful oasis of palms and bamboo and reeds and spring water flowing through some incredible rock formations.

There was only one pool that had hot water, and it was hot! If it had been later in the evening I think we might have soaked in it for a while, but during the blazing Mexican sun that day it didn’t feel as refreshing. We hiked around near the water and followed the stream back quite a ways taking pictures and crossing little bridges and seeing some really fantastic geography. Who knew such a little gem of an oasis could be sitting right in the middle of the harsh Mexican desert! Then we found a dead cow. An entire dead dried up cow. It was pretty interesting and Steve was having a field day checking it out.

We decided to leave after spending a few hours there and drive back to Santiago and take a new road to see the cascada. But on our way out we were greeted by the same cows as before and also a mama pig and some little babies. The babies were suckling milk from the mama as we slowly drove by as to not disturb the farm animal sanctuary.

We finally managed to dodge the animals and head toward the cascada. It cost a little more than the hot springs to see and there was even a small restaurant and campground there. We paid our pesos and took a short cliff side hike down toward the sound of flowing water. After passing a bend in the cliff you could see the dinky little cascada in the distance and I distinctly remember saying “We paid money to see this?” but that was before we got closer and closer to the cascada. The trail began to turn into extremely steep carved stone steps leading down to a clear pool of water. And even though the waterfall itself was indeed small, the pool it fell into and the surrounding rock formations and streams made it well worth it.

We spent a good couple hours as the sun started to wane swimming and jumping from the rocks into the water and drinking some Pacifico. Another couple traveled down to the pools and hung out on the rocks with us before the sun was far gone enough to get us a little chilly. The water was perfect and the environment was just amazing. I thought the potholes were fun, this place was a haven!

After swimming at the cascada we made the drive back to the bungalow to get cleaned up and find a place to have some dinner. Kent had recommended a few restaurants in the tiny town to try out and we decided to try the place above a local dive shop. It was great and we even managed to talk to some other folks who were staying in Cabo Pulmo. We found out from one gentleman who had flown in from the Netherlands that the visibility was crappy and the water was cold. I guess it was a good thing we decided to wait on the diving until we got further south.

Next stop is back to La Paz to catch the ferry to Topolobampo!

Camping on the Beaches of San José del Cabo

After leaving the craziness of Cabo San Lucas it was nice to arrive in San José Del Cabo’s cute yet sophisticated town.  The town center was older and cute and the surrounding areas reminded us a lot of a ritzy San Diego with large hotel resorts and condo complexes on the beach, but at least it was quiet :)
We arrived and drove around for what seemed like forever before finally finding the right road we needed to get to the beach where we could camp for free.  We couldn’t get our car up near the beach as the sand would have gotten us stuck, but we carried our things up the sandy hill toward the beach and set up camp.  The ocean here was very powerful and the waves had a very strong under current and were very unpredictable.  No swimming for us.  Nevertheless it was very beautiful.  That night we had a campfire on the beach and stargazed with the faint glow of San José Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas in the far distance.

The next day we had a relaxing beach day!  We woke up and made some breakfast.  I made my little shelter again on the sand near the water and we both laid out there most of the day.  I did a little bit of painting and Steve did lots of reading.  We also saw some jumping manta rays near the shore!  They just shot out of the water every so often.  Some Hispanic kids who were camping with their family in an RV who spent the night before on the beach came over and asked us in very well spoken English if we wanted their leftover firewood to make a fire tonight and we gladly accepted.

Later other folks came and went from the beach.  A father took his two young sons fishing on the shoreline, a young couple and their baby came to spend a beach day, and many people cruising past in their quads on their way to and from someplace.  As the day got older we started to build a fire and have some dinner.  Up until this point we are still on our first canister full of white gas for our Whisperlite which is awesome!  It is starting to get a bit low, but I am impressed it has lasted for about a month without needing a refill.  The stars were amazing as usual and we settled down in the tent with some sun kissed skin in our sleeping bags to the sound of the crashing waves while we played The Curse Of Monkey Island on our laptop before falling asleep.  Sometimes we just can’t get away from our games :)

The next morning we were feeling pretty greasy from not having a shower in a while so we decided to head to a Starbucks in town to find a nice place to stay in Cabo Pulmo.  Then we headed up north!

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