After getting our fix of sand and sun, we decided our best bet for avoiding the Semana Santa crowds was to stay away from the beaches. We'd heard really good things about Loreto and it sounded right up our alley. Even though it's a city on the water, it would be easy to distract ourselves in town.
While trying to find a place to camp we got lost for a minute, but eventually we found a good spot close to all the action. Once I had the BorderRunner tucked into some shade I busted out the laptop to see what I could find out about my sister. Internet...dead. Oh well that's Mexico for you...
Searching for dinner, we walked a couple blocks and saw this setup straight out of a horror movie...looks like they were making homemade pork rinds? Eventually we found a stand with a little sign that read "mariscos". I was sold. Me being a sucker for clams, I shrilled like a little girl when I saw almejas on the menu. Well, this was our first big menu misunderstanding of the trip...
While "almejas fresca" obviously meant fresh clams, I ASSumed that they would be steamed. That's the only way to prepare clams, right? I couldn't have been more wrong. They arrived raw, and we laughed for a minute over the misunderstanding. "No biggie", I've had raw oysters before.
Before I dig in, Shannon is shrieking in horror. As she squirted lime on the clam she noticed that the clam actually did the hokey pokie in protest. We tried a few more times, just to make sure we were on PETA's radar. Sure thing, these suckers were ALIVE and not happy. Our waiters watched and laughed at the silly gringos for a minute, then they gave us a crash course on eating LIVE clams, Mexican style.
First you squirt lime in the clam's eyeballs, then you throw some soy sauce on there to confuse the little guy (are we in Japan?), then add a little picante sauce and lime in case the lime didn't piss off the clam enough. I really didn't like the flavor, but I can fake anything fairly well (how do you think I became a firefighter?)...so I painfully choked down my share with a smile. Unfortunately Shannon isn't as good at faking (or so she claims), so I end up having to eat most of her share too. Thanks honey.
Eventually we made up for the live clam experience and ordered something right for a change. Later that week we had a fisherman come up to our campsite selling fresh lobster. 100 pesos later I had two plump lobster tails and we were ready for some langosta! I've never cooked lobster before but I didn't let that stop me. I figured I can't screw up as long as I use two sticks of butter, right?
Aside from stuffing our faces, we finally managed to get the interwebs to work again...we were happy to hear that my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! Eventually we caught the happy family on Skype and it was great to see the little guy on camera.
Loreto was a great place to spend Semana Santa. We were expecting to see tons of foreigners come into town that week, escaping the beaches, but it was mostly quiet around our campsite. Luckily there was a real friendly group of "locals" to keep us company.
Maybe it'll be my job (Shannon) to bring the audience up to speed when we've had a lack of blog writing. It's been a while so I'll have to thumb through some pictures and journal entries to remember it all.
Fellow travelers mentioned that when you're on a trip like this, time really slows down. Sure, I thought, I can see that. You're moving at a slower pace, not paying attention to that almighty clock that everyone is chasing. Well, I had no idea just how much time would slow down.
I keep a handwritten journal that I write in almost every night. For some reason I was looking back at my old entries. I read something about the couple of days we spent in La Paz, BCS, and then I looked at the date. In my head these days spent in La Paz had surely happened a few weeks ago maybe even a full month ago, but no. Six days! That's how long ago it had been. I said to Brenton, "Hey, do you realize it was only six days ago that we were in La Paz?" He didn't believe me either. I had to retrace our step even further back to prove I hadn't just written the wrong date.
So does time slow down? More than I ever imagined. It made me think a lot about how we live our lives. I'm not trying to get too deep here, but think about it. How many times have you thought to yourself, Man, I can't believe another year has passed by. Where did the time go? I know for me each year always seems to go by faster.
What if we could all slow down? Maybe it's not possible to live every day in this way, but what if we took more time, longer periods of time, to just slow down? If even a fraction of my life I was able to live in the way we are now, shoot even if it's just this trip (though I don't think this will be the last) I would be so much more satisfied with my time on this earth. In the end, I don't think I would feel that life passed too quickly, that I didn't do the things I really wanted to do. How great would that be? I am so happy to have the opportunity to have these experiences.
Now, on to what's been going on with Ruined Adventures. After Gettin' Raw in Loreto we headed off to La Paz. We only stayed in La Paz for the night to check on the ferry situation. This would be where we ship from Baja to Mexico's mainland. Unfortunately, the ferry offices were closed the day we went so onward we moved to Todos Santos and Pescadero.
One of the many tourist attractions that has capitalized on the famous song.
Todos Santos was a total gringo town, and not really my cup of tea, even though it was a nice place. I know some people love it, but it was pricey and you couldn't get someone to speak Spanish to you, even if you paid them. Pescadero was in the start of Reggae Fest Baja so beach camping was out of the question. Apparently they had the whole beach reserved for the event. We considered parking in a nearby parking lot since the reggae was relaxing, but then they started playing some horrible hip-hop so we were on our way. Luckily a local pointed us in the direction of a really nice surf camp off the beach and we stayed there for the night.
My good friends Michael & Jaime hooked us up with their friends Mac & Kate who live outside of La Paz in El Sargento. We stayed with them for two nights in their beautiful home. Both nights we were spoiled with delicious, fresh, homemade dinners. We really enjoyed Mac, Kate, their neighbor Steve and their cute pup, Paco.
After two relaxing days in El Sargento we headed back to La Paz to give the ferry a second shot. Being it was the end of Semana Santa, we were worried the ferries service would be backed-up and trying to recover. We were afraid we'd end up having to stay in La Paz for another couple of weeks just waiting for our ride to the mainland. Well, we got lucky. We arrived at the terminal ferry around 11:30am and we soon had tickets for the ferry departing at 4pm that same day.
Since we had traveled through Baja, this is where we would take care of importing our vehicle and paying for our tourist visas. We chose to ride on TMC Ferry so that we could have access the our vehicle during the trip. The ferry actually departed at 5:10pm and we were on our way to Mazatlan, a 14 hour journey.
For more Baja Sur pictures, click here: Baja Sur
Our ferry arrived in Mazatlan early the next morning and we spent about half a day exploring the city before heading south to San Blas, Nayarit. It was nice to finally make it to mainland Mexico and switch from desert to lush coastline.
San Blas was one of Brenton's favorite places from when he and his sister backpacked Mexico in 2004 and he really wanted to bring me there to share in some of his nostalgia.
San Blas is known for it's laid-back demeanor and easy surf break for beginners. We were greeted by "Pompis" Cano, the national longboard surf campion who owns Stoner's Surf Camp and offers private lessons and we quickly settled in.
We spent several days in San Blas, jogging on the beach, riding bicycles through town, and hanging out in the plaza at night. We also met Diana and Stephane, a very nice couple on vacation. Diana is from Monterrey and Stephane is from France, though he is currently living in Monterrey too. We spent time with them and a friendly group of mexican bikers on the beach. It was great Spanish practice for a while, as we explained our route to the bikers...until their drunk buddies pulled up and drove their Harleys up THROUGH the restaurant and onto the beach, getting stuck in the sand and blaring "Hot For Teacher" while the old caretaker was trying to sleep. It was bizarre for a second but our new friends managed to shoo them away. The next night the four of us had dinner and drinks together (no rowdy bikers in attendance).
Next we moved on to Tepic where we explored for half a day before heading to Jalisco and settling down at Laguna Santa Maria del Oro for a couple of nights. For me, it was a breath of fresh air. Finally, we were surrounded by grass, big green trees, and mountains. Laguna Santa Maria del Oro is actually an old volcanic crater that is now filled with water. It's incredibly beautiful and our campground was right on the water's edge. Our second night there we were treated to a live mariachi band while overlooking the lake. Each night we entertained ourselves by watching the industrious ant colonies that surrounded our camp, and playing cards. It really doesn't get much better than that. We left the next morning feeling refreshed and ready for some Tequila.
We got to the small town of Tequila just a little too late for a tour at Jose Cuervo, but not to worry, we just happened to arrive on the 482nd Anniversario de la Fundacion de la Villa de Santiago de Tequila, and Tequila know's how to party. The plaza was filled with vendors, musicians, carnival rides, and fireworks. We enjoyed some delicious margaritas, micheladas, and pastor tacos while taking in the celebration. We slept in a locked parking lot that night and the next morning, rather than waiting till late afternoon for a Jose Cuervo tour in English, we headed to Casa Herradura in the next town of Amatitan. I had read that though this operation is slightly smaller than Jose Cuervo, the grounds themselves are much more beautiful. We were happy with our decision. We got an English tour just ten minutes after we arrived with a small group of seven. The distillery was beautiful and at the end we all sampled tequila together, my personal favorite being the "plata", although Brenton had to finish most of the tequila for me.
The agave pulp...sweet and tasty to chew on
Our next destination was Guanajuato. Another place that had been a favorite of Brenton and his sister's on their previous trip. It didn't take me long to see why. It's hard to explain other than the city just has a feel about it and an attraction. It's a small town with lots of history and plenty to see and do. We camped the first night on the panoramica then explored around town until we found a hotel with hot water at a decent price. Since we already knew we wanted to spend some time here, we arranged to stay for a full week at Hostel Cantarranas in the Centro Historico. This would be our first time staying in a hotel on this trip. The couple of campgrounds in the area are all outside of town and we wanted to be close to the action. Guanajuato is full of steep, narrow & winding alleys and each one is different from the next. The architecture is beautiful and colorful and the city never seems to sleep. We made two hikes up to the statue of Pipila, one for sunset and one for sunrise. The view was breathtaking.
One of many rooftop dogs in Guanajuato
After Guanajuato, we headed to San Miguel de Allende where we paid way too much to camp for two nights. We can't complain (too much) though, we met some really nice overlanders from Germany and Belgium. Joachim & Barbel have been camped out in San Miguel for three years! They are a very nice couple, and they gave us some great information and campground GPS coordinates for our drive south. Bernard & Alexandra are traveling with their three young girls, ages ten, five, & three in a 2002 Land Rover Defender. We spent a night exchanging stories and information with Bernard & Alexandra.
The architecture in San Miguel is similar to that of Guanajuato but more monochromatic and minus the steep hills. San Miguel in general is a pricey area and is filled with retired North-Americans and European ex-pats. The city is incredibly clean and the plazas are beautiful and well kept. For our third and last night in SM, we ninja camped near the plaza principal and the next morning headed to the incredible church of Antotonilco.
The Santuario de Atotonilco is an amazing church just outside of San Miguel de Allende. Pilgrimage to Atotonilco is a goal of many Mexicans as it has a significant role in Mexico's independence and is viewed as a very important sanctuary. The walls inside the church are covered with beautiful murals and different stories from the Bible. Only a visit would do it justice, but it is worth a mention and a couple of pictures. From here we made our way to Dolores Hidalgo.
Dolores Hidalgo is a small town with a nice plaza, beautiful pottery, and some interesting hand spun ice cream flavors. One of our first stops was at one of the many ice cream vendors in the plaza. We were given samples of every flavor they made. Some were great, some I don't know why they ever thought it'd be a good idea to turn it into ice cream. Brenton tried all of the bizarre ones, including the shrimp flavored ice cream. I couldn't bring myself to try the shrimp; avocado and beer were adventurous enough for me! As we were strolling around the plaza that night, out of no where all of the lights in the plaza and the church went out. We thought they must have had some sort of power outage; and then the loud music began to play. On the entire face of the church they began to show pictures telling the story of the town's past and it's role in the fight for independence. It was a really neat experience that we happened to randomly stumble upon.
Next stop, Guanajuato round two.
For more pictures from Mazatlan to Santa Maria del Oro, click here: Mazatlan to Santa Maria del Oro
For more pictures from Tequila to Guanajuato, click here: Tequila to Guanajuato
1993 Land Cruiser, triple locked, Cummins 4BT.
Lots of other outdoor gear.
Why NOT get too deep? A trip like this SHOULD make you think and ponder and maybe even make a few changes? I have been to Mexico, Baja CA, and other places to feed my exploring bug....it has changed my life in amazing ways! Living life by the rising and setting of the sun is the onyl way to go in my humble opinion. Great trip! Enjoy....I'll check out your blog as well. This is inspiring me to hit the dirt road again, BUT....no laptop for me
1997 F-350 CC Dually, 7.3 PSD, Steel and Rubber meets the road
2011 34' Sundance by Heartland TT
Thanks for the kind words. It's certainly a trade-off having a laptop, frequent internet access, and terabytes of memory storage, but it's been great because we feel like we can watch our nieces and nephews grow up while we're away. If we were on a shorter time-frame we'd spend less time editing photos or Skype-ing, but since we're going slow, we're still able to enjoy the moment and occasionally connect back home.
Terrific read and wonderful photos, Thanks!!
1998 K2500 Suburban, 9" lift, 37" Baja TA's, 4.56's, 16k Winch, Lots of mods