Mexico City and around

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March 31 – April 11, 2016

After a wonderful week in San Miguel de Allende, we headed South to San Juan Teotihuacan located about an hours drive before Mexico City, to visit the Mayan Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon. We then left our rig securely parked at the Teotihuacan Trailer Park and took the bus to Mexico City for a few days of sightseeing.

Mexico City

Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and one of the most populated city in the world with 20+ million urban inhabitants and sits at 7,380 feet (2,250 m) of elevation. A lot of people skip the City when visiting Mexico but we had heard such good things about it, that we wanted to see it for ourselves. We were not disappointed.

Where Mexico city now sits, the Aztec built the City of Tenochtitlán in 1325. It was almost completely destroyed by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1521 and Mexico City was later built over the Aztec ruins by the Spaniards. After independence from Spain was achieved, the federal district was created in 1824.

Now Mexico is a vibrant and happening city with a perfect mix of old and new. Colonial, modern and Mayan architecture, a thriving Artistic and Cultural scene, all the museums you can imagine, ancient ruins, fabulous restaurants, neighborhoods waiting to be explored …

We took the bus from Teotihuacan and got dropped off at the Metro Station. We got a couple transfers and emerged in the historic center where we spent a lot of our time walking and visiting the main attractions. We felt safe and were impressed by the ease of going from one place to another either by walking, taxi or metro. We only spent four days but could have stayed a lot longer, there is so much to see and do.

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Historic Center of Mexico City
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The Zocalo is the common name of the main square, Plaza de la Constitution was the ideal spot to begin our sightseeing. Every day at either 6:00 AM or 6:00 PM the Army has the ceremony of raising and lowering of the giant Mexican flag.
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From our hotel room we had a great view of the Cathedral and the Zocalo (main square).
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Rear view of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Assumption consecrated in 1656. It’s the largest cathedral in the Americas and is situated atop the former Aztec sacred precinct near the Templo Mayor. 
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Templo Mayor (Great Temple).”Before the Spaniards demolished it, the Teocalli of Tenochtitlán covered the site where the cathedral now stands, as well as the blocks to its north and east. It wasn’t until 1978, after electricity workers happened on an 8-ton stone-disc carving of the Aztec goddess Coyolxauhqui, that the decision was taken to demolish colonial buildings and excavate the Templo Mayor.”

Excerpt From: Lonely Planet. “Lonely Planet Mexico.”

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The famous murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera inside the Palacio National
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Courtyard of the Palacio National
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Palacio de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum)

Edgar Degas , Ballerina 1876 and Alexander Calder, Evelyn 1970

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Diego Rivera’s murals
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Henri Matisse, Jazz 1947
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National Museum of Anthropology houses one of the worlds largest collections of archaeological artifacts from pre-hispanic civilizations. It takes a full day just to walk around the different exhibits.

 

 

 

 

The Voladores is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony up a 30 meter pole

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Renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was born in, lived in and died in, Casa Azul (Blue House), now the Fira Kahlo museum. Probably our favorite attraction we visited in Mexico.

 

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Frida’s studio. Wonderful light. Note the picture of her beloved Diego on her desk.
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Frida’s studio. Note her wheelchair in front of the painting.
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Frida’s traditional Mexican kitchen.
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Photo taken from Frida’s bedroom where she had a nice view of the courtyard from her bed.
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Another landmark of the historic district is the Baroque masterpiece Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles). Iron balconies and blue and white tiles from the nearby state of Puebla.
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Now, the 18th century palace is home to the Sanborns flagship restaurant.

Teotihuacan

We stayed at the Teotihuacan Trailer Park for a total of 8 night before and after visiting Mexico City. It was the perfect location to visit the Pyramids, meet other ovrlanders and leave our rig while we visited Mexico City. The owner Mina was so accommodating and helpful. I even got some dental work (two crowns) done by her dentist/daughter and one of her dentist colleague  from the City.

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Quite a line up of overland rigs. Hymer from Germany, DodgeRam/XPCamper from USA, Mercedes Sprinter Van from Portugal, Toyota Land Cruiser from Switzerland and another Mercedes Sprinter from Germany.

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Marc from The Happy Richters and Joe bonding!
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Marc and Connie Richter and their dogs Chilli and Pepper traveling the world in their Sprinter Van. The Happy Richters

 

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Two Mexican Ladies traveling solo in their respective rigs. They are part of the AMAAC La Asociacion Mexicana de Acampadores (Mexican camping Association)
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Fun evening with our new Mexican friends! Dutch Oven and grilling!
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We met this great family from Mexico City. Angelica, Pedro, Pedro Jr. and their black lab Stark. They were our tour guides for 2 days. They took us to some of the surrounding towns, the light show at the Pyramid of Sun, made us taste all kinds of different foods and guided us through the local food market. 

 

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We visited the Historical Cultural Center in the town of Otumba and made a quick stop in the town of Axapusco

Angie and Pedro made us taste Escamoles (Ant eggs) considered a delicacy and Jumiles (dried crispy worms) both are harvested from the Maguey (Agave) plant.

At the local market we discovered these tiny salty fresh water shrimps and Chicken Barbacoa cooked in Maguey (Agave) leaves.

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The St-Laurent Family, Pascal and Veronique and their three sons Arthur, Loïc and Thierry originally from Quebec now living in Whitehorse Yukon. They took a one year sabbatical to travel in their modified school bus. Quite an inspiration!

Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon

“Teotihuacan was Mexico’s biggest ancient city and the capital of what was probably Mexico’s largest pre-Hispanic empire.The city’s grid plan was plotted in the early part of the 1st century AD, and the Pirámide del Sol was completed – over an earlier cave shrine – by AD 150. The rest of the city was developed between about AD 250 and 600. Social, environmental and economic factors hastened its decline and eventual collapse in the 8th century.”

Excerpt From: Lonely Planet. “Lonely Planet Mexico.” iBooks.

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Sitting on the Pyramid of the Sun with the local pooch with the Pyramid of the Moon in the background.

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View of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun from the Pyramid of the Moon.
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Joe standing in front of the Pyramid of the Sun.The world’s third-largest pyramid, surpassed in size only by Egypt’s Cheops and the pyramid of Cholla. We had the place almost to ourselves, we were there at the opening before the tour groups arrive from Mexico City.

 

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What a view from the Pyramid of the Moon!
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Joe attempting to emulate Gunter a fellow Overlander and XPCamper owner who likes to do a handstand in front of landmarks. Not bad!

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The light show at the Pyramid of the Sun was a great experience! Experiencia Nocturna

Next, MEXICO, Veracruz and Puebla … stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexico, Guanajuato

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March 20-31,2016.

Our next stop after the state of Jalisco, was the state of Guanajuato where we spent time in the town of Guanajuato (same name as the state), a brief stop in Dolores Hidalgo and a week in San Miguel de Allende where we visited a friend.

Guanajuato

The Unesco World Heritage city of Guanajuato was founded in 1559. It was definitely one of our favorite cities in Mexico because of it’s colonial buildings, stunning plazas, brightly colored houses and the presence of Art everywhere.

The tunnel system in the center of town is quite impressive! In our research we had read that “what ever you do, don’t get into the tunnels because it’s a maze and you will never found your way out”. So what is the first thing we do? We get in a tunnel!! Thank God, our GPS led us directly to the campground through tiny tiny steep streets. Not to toot our own horn but Joe is a great driver and I am a pretty good navigator so besides the occasional arguing,screaming,wrong turns, bad directions, u-turns, application failures, backing up, we seem to always make it to our destination!

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Nice campsite overlooking the colorful city of Guanajuato! Morril RV Park, 140 Mexican Pesos (approx. $8) per night. It was more a parking lot than an RV Park but it had decent bathrooms and showers, walking distance to the center of town and an incredible view
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We met 3 other Overland couples. Pete and Natasha Here Until There, with their dog Malta. Chris and Jen The Globe Trol and Josh and Jenna Travel Amateurs. Had been there for a while so they gave us good info on where to go and what to see.
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One of our favorite thing to do on the road is cooking and sharing meals with the people we meet. Joe and Chris had two Dutch Ovens and the Cast Iron Hibachi grill going full swing! Pulled pork and Ribs! YUMMY!
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The downhill walk to the center of town! The tunnel system or underground roadway is quite impressive! They were originally constructed as a diversion for the Guanajuato River to prevent flooding.
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The tunnel system or underground roadway is quite impressive! It was originally constructed as a diversion for the Guanajuato River to prevent flooding.
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Art everywhere!
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The University of Guanajuato is one of the oldest Universities in Latin America. It first opened in the 18th Century as a Jesuit school for children. Now with it’s 113 stairs, it has become a landmark of the city, where tourists get their picture taken.

 

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We loved walking through Guanajuato and just getting lost in t’s tiny streets. You just never know what you will see!

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Don Quixote and Sancho Panza galloping down the hill!

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We visited the house/museum where the famous Mexican Artist Muralist Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was born.

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The Hildago Market clock Tower.
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The building housing the Hidalgo Market was suppose to be a Train Station but the Railway was never finalized. The iron work on the clock tower was design by non other than Gustave Eiffel.

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Dolores Hidalgo

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On our way from Guanajuato to San Miguel de Allende we stopped for lunch and a walk around the historical town of Dolores Hidalgo, Cradle of the Mexican Independence. The city was a small town known simply as Dolores until Father Miguel Hidalgo uttered his famous cry for the independence of Mexico, there in the early hours of September 16, 1810 in front this beautiful church. After Mexico achieved independence, the town was renamed Dolores Hidalgo in his honor.

San Miguel de Allende

Like the town of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was one of the first item on the list of places we wanted to see in Mexico. San Miguel’s main attraction is it’s well preserved historic center, filled with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some say it’s the prettiest town in Mexico and we may have to agree. Walking down the cobblestone streets admiring the striking Baroque and Neo-Gothic Architecture, the warm earthy colors, stoping for cocktails on a rooftop terrace or sipping coffee in one of the many courtyards filled with plants, is what San Miguel is all about.

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One of the many courtyards filled with plants.

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El Jardin (Central Plaza) and the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel (church) were busy on Easter Sunday.

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As early as the 1930’s, expatriates have moved to San Miguel to reinvent their lives. Now 15,000 of the city’s population of 80,000 are expatriates, roughly 70% of them are from the United States. Thanks to its somewhat remote location San Miguel has remained intimate and welcoming. With it’s vibrant Art and Cultural scene, incredible climate, great restaurants, shops, bakeries, cafés, boutique hotels, language schools, cooking and art classes, yoga, who would not want to live here? And for a fraction of the price it would cost in the US or Canada.

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There is a vast choice of restaurants from the more lavish…
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… to the more modest but just as delicious!
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The doors in San Miguel are all different. At first, doors served as protection and declaration of status but overtime they have become a cultural symbol.
You could spend weeks walking around town admiring them.
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I got a dried flower headband from a street vendor, a local tradition!
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Doors and door knockers are a big deal in San Miguel, books have been written about them and countless photos have been taken.

And to make our visit even more memorable, we had our own private tour guide. My friend Louise moved to San Miguel about 2 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Thanks to Facebook we had reconnected just before we started our journey. I had not seen her in close to 20 years but it felt like we had seen each other the week before. She is just that kind of a person! On our first night in San Miguel, Louise invited us to her beautiful apartment in one of the historic buildings with thick stone walls. We had cocktails on her incredible rooftop terrace overlooking the famous Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel and blooming Jacaranda trees, followed by homemade Chiles Relllenos and lots of wine! Louise and I caught up while Joe was lounging and watching Tennis on TV with his new friend Coco.  Throughout the week, Louise took us along a few of her social outings around town,  introduced us to some great restaurants, let us use her washer and dryer, found a technician to repair Joe’s cell phone screen and cooked us a great pasta dinner.  Thank you Louise for your hospitality, your are still the hostess with the mostest and a wonderful friend!

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My friend Louise’s amazing rooftop terrace. Rooftop terraces are another staple of San Miguel.
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The Parroquia at Sunset from Louise’s terrace.

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Jacaranda trees in bloom!
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More rooftops from the neighborhood.
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Cheers to Louise!
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Joe and Coco chilling and watching the Miami Open Tennis finals!
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Easter Brunch with Louise and friends! What a meal!
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We stayed at the San Miguel tennis club and RV Park. 12 sites with full hookups located just a few minute walk to the main Plaza “Jardin”. The second from us was a German couple who had been there for 8 years! We were there for 7 nights and met wonderful people from all over the world. Mexicans, Swiss, Germans, Canadians, Americans, Dutch even a couple from  Lichtenstein.
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I love SMA

Next, Mexico City and around … stay tuned!

Mexico, Jalisco

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February 25 – March 20, 2016.

After celebrating our birthdays in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta we drove through the mountains and crossed into the state of Jalisco on February 25, 2016.

When we started planning our trip to Mexico we contacted our friend John who is originally from Scotland but has been living in Guadalajara, Mexico for more than 15 years. We had made tentative plans to visit with them during the holidays. We ended up enjoying the Baja more than anticitpated and being “Overlanders”this was becoming the norm never knowing how long or short your journey would take you.

Pinar de la Venta…3 weeks with friends

Our friends John and Andrea live in the beautiful neighborhood of Pinar de la Venta located about 25km from the center of Guadalajara. They welcomed us into their amazing house like we were family and we immediately felt at home even though we had not seen John for more than 15 years and had just met Andi. We ended up spending 3 weeks with them and their pups Oxxo and Nina.

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A blast from the past. John had this picture framed in his house. Our honeymoon in 1999 on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship where John worked. So I took a picture of the picture!

We took this opportunity to have some maintenance done on the truck. We had the cracked windshield replaced and oil changed at the Dodge dealer, double layers of security film installed on all 4 windows, some guards welded to our front and rear lights…We received a part for the grey water sump pump being mailed from California by XPCamper.

But mostly we spent our days just lounging, cooking, reading, catching up on the blog, taking day trips by ourselves or with John and Andi. We love our life on the road but this was a very nice break thanks to John and Andi, we still miss Andi’s Moms brownies which she brought every week on Tuesday, to die for.

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The XP found a nice resting spot under the pines of John and Andi’s house.
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Oxxo is a rescued dog. He got his name from the store where he was found. Oxxo is a chain of convenience stores, the Mexican equivalent of our 7-Eleven, they are found everywhere throughout Mexico.
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Nina the sweet labrador and Oxxo the mischief and coddling Weimaraner. They kept us company while John and Andi were at work.

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This is where we spent most of our days. Sitting at the Equipale, handmade rustic leather furniture, crafted from tanned pigskin and cedar strips, another Mexican staple and so comfortable!
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Watching hummingbirds!

Andi showed me how to make Chile Rellenos, stuffed poblano peppers, accompanied by Agua de Jamaica, hibiscus water and Requeson, kind of like Ricotta cheese. Yummy!

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John is the most Mexican Scotsman we know. Every weekend he plays Futbol with two different teams and he is the only expat! It was fun to go see him play and cheer for his team. It was an hour and a half drive in the country side and we saw beautiful scenery,  horses, sugar cane fields, small villages and even lamas.

Guadalajara

Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco and the second most populous city after Mexico City with 4,4 million people (2010) in the metropolitan area. It is the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila, but also one of the country’s industrial and business centers, sometimes referred to as Mexico’s Silicon Valley.

The historic center is dotted with colonial plazas and many beautiful buildings, we were lucky to have our own tour guides.

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The Cathedral is the heart of the Centro Historico. The construction began in 1558 and was completed in 1618
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Another landmark is the Teatro Degollado

On Sundays it’s nice to walk around the historic center and take in the culture. There is so much life in the plazas with street performers, souvenir vendors, food stalls … Fruits and chips are the favorite snacks. Hard choice to make sometimes.

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Quinceanera dresses stores seemed to be everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hospicio Cabanas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is now a Cultural Institute where you can admirer the impressive frescoes painted in the 1930’s by Jose Clemente Orozco and many expositions by local and international artists.

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Good times with good friends. Thanks you John and Andi for being such gracious hosts!

Tortas Toño is known to have the best Tortas Ahogadas in Guadalajara! It is a typical dish, sandwich of chopped fried pork on a baguette and drenched in a chili sauce and topped with onions, cabbage and cilantro! On Sunday morning you have to wait in line! Great for hangovers!

 

Tlaquepaque

A suburb of Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque has narrow cobblestone streets with old mansions housing wonderful stores and galleries offering wood carvings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, jewelry and so many neat restaurants.

If you like interior design like I do, this place is heaven! Now that we live in our truck, it was just fun window shopping. But if we ever have a house again I would seriously consider coming back here to furnish it.

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There is a multitude of furniture stores offering unbelievably nice furniture and home accessories.

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John and Andi in one of the incredible furniture stores.

Ok enough with the chi-chi stores time to eat some Chapulines, grasshoppers!

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Tequila

The town of Tequila is located about 60 km from Guadalajara, so we decided to take a day trip with our truck, you can also take a train tour from the city. The drive through the Blue Agave fields was very scenic.

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Tequila’s Cathedral. Parroquia Santiago Apóstol.

 

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Many distilleries welcome visitors, we decided to visit the Jose Cuervo distillery, because they were the first to produce this fine beverage in 1795! Best selling tequila in the world with 35% market share!

The production of tequila is divided into seven steps: harvesting, cooking, fermentation, distillation, aging and botteling.

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The heart or pina of the blue agave plant is used to make tequila after 200 plus leaves have been trimmed.

 

 

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Since we’ve mostly only drank tequila in margaritas, the tasting was surprising. We tasted the Blanco unaged, Reposado aged in oak barrels from 2 to 12 months and the Anejo aged for at least one year, it becomes much darker and the flavor much smoother, it almost tasted like brandy.
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Then we headed for the private cellar to taste the Reserva de la Familia extra aged (3 years in oak barrels)
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Can’t drink tequila without Mariachis!

Chapala

After three weeks in Guadalajara it was time to move on, but not to far, only 35 miles (55 km) away. We made it to Lake Chapala on March 16, 2016 to visit Josée’s aunt and uncle who also, like John, had been waiting for us for a while.

The town of Chapala is located on the shore of Mexico’s largest freshwater lake and is a favorite weekend and holiday destination for Tapatios, as the people of Guadalajara are known. Unfortunately the lake seems to have issues with its water levels and pollution.

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The Chapala Malecon lined by blooming Jacaranda trees!

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Every year thousands of American White Pelicans fly 2500 miles (4000 km) south from their normal habitats from Central Canada to enjoy western Mexico’s warm winter.

Ajijic (ah-hee-heek)

The town of Ajijic located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, about 3 miles from the town of Chapala, it is a haven for retired expats from the US and Canada. Boutiques, galleries and restaurant galore, much of the town retained its charming colonial vibe with cobblestone streets but its far from the typical Mexico. English is almost has common as Spanish and the prices are relatively high.

The area is considered to have one of the best climate in the world. Cool nights and mornings, warm afternoons and no humidity. It also benefits from good medical care at extremely reasonable costs.

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Beautiful Tante Pierrette in front of one of the many murals of Ajijic.

Josée’s aunt and uncle have been coming to the area for more than 10 years and have a very busy social life. We met a few of their many friends and were able to get a glimpse at the expat lifestyle. Not sure its our thing but it was a lot of fun for a few days!

We also took the opportunity to get our teeth cleaned for a whopping 150 pesos (about $9.00 USD) and get a tire fixed and a rotation done on the truck (which Joe ended up doing himself) after they noticed our rig and tire size no biggy Joe’s tools worked better all he really wanted was their lift.

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Spending time with my aunt was such a treat, she reminds me so much of my mother who left us way to young.

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Uncle Oscar is unbeatable in the kitchen. He fed us unbelievable meals the four days we spent with them. Homemade Creton with french bread, steak frites, shrimp pasta, cheeses, his own salmon mousse… and we took all our meals on their beautiful terrace lined by bougainvilleas
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Lake Chapala.

Next, MEXICO, Guanajuato… stay tuned!

 

Mexico, Nayarit

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February 12 – 25, 2016.

We left Mazatlan on February 12th, 2016 and drove along the Pacific Coast into the state of Nayarit. We stayed on the coast also called Riviera Nayarit in Santa Cruz de Miramar, Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta. Mexico has 31 States plus Mexico City’s Federal District. Nayarit is our fifth state after Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Chihuahua.

Santa Cruz de Miramar

Our first stop in Nayarit was the village of Santa Cruz de Miramar located on the Pacific coast just south of San Blas. We found a little slice of heaven at the Paraiso Miramar Hotel & RV Park. We stayed four nights, the first couple of days were a bit busy because it was the weekend but the last two days we had the place to our selves and enjoyed the pools, the restaurant and the incredible views of the ocean, the sunsets and the magnificent gardens throughout the property. Perfect setting to celebrate Valentine’s Day . We paid $250 Mexican pesos (about $14 USD) per night.

We find ourselves so lucky to be able to experience an ocean front “resort” in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature and kind, discrete people and be able to sleep in our comfortable bed every night and cook our own food for $14 a night! This is why we chose this lifestyle and love it so much!

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Camped under a Carambola (starfruit) tree!

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On the road

From Santa Cruz we continued down the coast, stopped for lunch at a Taco Stand where they had handmade tortillas and freshly squeezed orange juice all prepared by a husband and wife team, right there on the street.  We drove through the small town of La Peñita then stopped along the road to buy some fruits and continued on to San Francisco aka San Pancho where we thought we would be camping. The town had a great artistic vibe but we did not really like the camping option so we decided to continue to Sayulita a few miles South.

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Cheese and Chorizo Tacos for Josée and Birria Tacos for Joe!
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La Penita

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San Francisco aka San Pancho

Sayulita, beach life!

We had heard a lot about Sayulita and were afraid to find it overcrowded and touristy but the campground was located on the North Beach which is a bit more quiet and we ended up loving the vibe and stayed six nights. Free yoga classes every morning and the rest of the day was spend enjoying beach life: walking, swimming, sunbathing, watching the surfers, getting food from the vendors or just day dreaming! Everything was walking distance: the many restaurants options, arts and crafts, farmers market…

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Puerto Vallarta

Next was the big Resort town of Puerto Vallarta where we celebrated our birthdays touring the city. We strolled down the Malecon (oceanfront promenade) then had an amazing lunch in an authentic, kind of upscale, Mexican Restaurant next to the Cathedral, then walked around exploring the different neighborhoods until we found a nice bar on the beach for happy hour, walked some more and had dinner in a little Italian restaurant, walked some more and finally jumped on the bus back to our campground completely exhausted but happy and full!

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Just like Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon has many beautiful sculptures!
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Impressive work!
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Music and water!
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One of PV’s landmark: the Church of our Lady of Guadalupe!
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Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana, Puerto Vallarta. Highly recommended! The salsa and guacamole are prepared tableside and the margaritas are just devine! Perfect to celebrate our birthdays!
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Lined with bougainvilleas the cobble stone streets of Old Puerto Vallarta are just beautiful!
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VWs rule in Mexico!

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Dinner on the beach? Los Muertos Pier in the background.

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Next, MEXICO, Jalisco… stay tuned!

Mexico, Sinaloa and Chihuahua

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February 3 – 12, 2016.

Mazatlan or Topolobampo?

After more than 2 months into the Baja, we arrived on Mexico’s mainland on February 3rd, 2016 via the TMC ferry from La Paz. For 2 adults and our truck camper the cost was $4,230 Mexican pesos ($235 USD). After much discussion and research we decided to go to the Port of Topolobampo instead of Mazatlan which is further south and apparently safer. We could not pass up the opportunity to see Copper Canyon, that consists of six distinct canyons, larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. So we took our chances.

We got off the ferry around 9:00am and were driving on the road to Los Mochis (Yes, where El Chapo was captured in January) when we experienced our first “shakedown” which is the term used when the authorities exercise intimidation tactics to get money from you. In our case it was the municipal police of Topolobampo. As we drove through a large intersection we made the mistake of making eye contact with a the police unit sitting in the middle of the intersection. They swing around and pulled us over just past the light, we were almost already stopped. The officer was insisting that we were speeding, he said he was going to keep Joe’s drivers license and kept on showing us his ticket pad. Joe even politely mentioned he was a retired Customs and showed his badge but we don’t know if it helped or not. We told him we were going to the police station. The officer was impatient and was receiving no help from his partner who remained at the rear of our rig. After 5-10 minutes of back and forth nonsense in broken spanglish he shoved back Joe’s license and gave us a warning and let us go. As we drove off we noticed him and his partner in a big heated discussion. It was our first but certainly not our last shakedown but at least the ice was broken.

El Fuerte, Sinaloa

El Fuerte is a beautiful colonial town, part of the *Pueblo Magico program. It was founded in 1563 by a Spanish conquistador and served as a trading post for silver miners and gold seekers from the mines in the nearby Sierra Madre.

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*Pueblos Mágicos or Magical Villages is an initiative led by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism, in conjunction with other federal and state agencies, to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance. (Source: Wikipedia)

So far we have visited a few of the one hundred plus Pueblos Magicos (Loreto, Todos Santos, Creel, Mascota) and were never disappointed.

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El Fuerte’s Central Plaza.
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El Fuerte’s Palacio Municipal (city hall).  A bit more grand than Blue Sea’s municipal office!
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The courtyard of the Palacio Municipal where all official business is conducted. Every door offers a different service.
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Apparently this Hacienda converted into a Boutique Hotel was the birthplace of the Legend of Zorro!!! He still shows up every night for happy hour!
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Joe got a Mexican cowboy hat in El Fuerte. Now he blends right in!!!
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We left our camper in the backyard of this wonderful old lady, Esperanza, while we took the train to Copper Canyon for a few days.
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Her house was across the street from El Fuerte’s train station. We slept there the night before we took the train and when we returned. $100 pesos per night.

Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon), Chihuahua

The most popular way to explore the Copper Canyon is by train. We took the train from El Fuerte to Creel where we stayed three nights and took the train back to El Fuerte where we had left our camper.

Land of the Tarahumara

The Tarahumara or Rarámuri how they called themselves are Indigenous people of northwestern Mexico, they are renowned for their long distance running ability. Originally inhabitants of much of the state of Chihuahua, they retreated to the high sierra and canyons such as Copper Canyon on the arrival of the Spanish explorers in the 16th century.  They have kept their traditional way of life but today they struggle to protect their land from being taken by the Mexican army, drug lords or corporations wanting to exploit their mineral resources. Tarahumara women wear the traditional brightly colored clothes and sell their crafts around the Canyons and the town of Creel. We saw a few men still waring the traditional Huaraches (car-tire-soled sandals) that inspired barefoot running.

 

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El Chepe or Chihuahua-Pacific Railway has been in operation since 1961 and runs every day between the town of Chihuahua and Los Mochis with many stops along the way.
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It’s 418 miles (673 km) of rails, 39 bridges, 86 tunnels and rises as high as 7,900 feet (2,400 m) above sea level near Divisadero (continental divide).
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Just taking in the spectacular landscape.
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Our first view of the Canyon in Divisadero.
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Gorditas on a wood burning fire. YUMMY!!!
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As you can tell by our clothing it was considerably colder than the coast!
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Parque Aventuras Barrancas del Cobre: We took the Cable Car halfway across Urique Canyon, the trill seekers can choose one of the zip lines or rappelling down.
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One of my favorite photos.
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We bought a shawl and bracelets from this Tarahumara lady and she let us take a photo. They usualy look away when they see tourists with cameras.

Creel, Chihuahua

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We got off the train and stayed one night at Villa Mexicana in this nice log cabin.
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They had a main lodge with a nice restaurant. We sat down for dinner thinking that our meals were included, that’s when we found out we were at the wrong hotel.
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The next day we moved to Plaza Mexicana, where we had made reservations, a bit more modest but quite charming.
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We got a nice clean compfortable room including breakfast and dinner for 2 for $600 Mexican pesos ($34USD).
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Walking dow the main street in Creel.
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They still use horses as a mode of transportation but he checks out his Facebook on his smart phone. Not so remote after all!
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This Tarahumara lady gave up the traditional colorful clothing but she still lives in a cave.

One of our most memorable experience was the day we rented mountain mikes to tour the main attractions on dirt roads/trails around Creel. A 20 km itinerary that was suppose to take about 4 hours. We were having a good old time until we realized we were lost. Somehow we had lost track of time and took a wrong turn that took us 15 km away from the trail. We went up and down mountains mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape and found ourselves in a dead end in a remote Tarahumara community. Darkness was coming and we did not have the stamina to go back up the mountain. Luckily we spotted an old pickup truck (the only vehicle in the community) parked near one of the huts and were able to negotiate a ride back to Creel. The young Tarahumara man who immediately offered his hand asked us to wait and went back inside. He came back out 15 minutes later with his young wife and their newborn baby wrapped in colorful blankets. We stowed our bikes in the truck bed and sat in the backseat. We were so thankful for their kindness we just could not believe it. The road was so bad that it took more than hour pushing his 1977 Chevy 2 wheel to make it back to Creel. We tried to initiate a friendly conversation, but to no avail. On the way we picked up an old man on the side of the road, he was also going to Creel and strangely enough they did not speak to each other! Once in Creel, we thank Ignacio profusely and gave him $500 Mexican pesos ($28 USD) and a bag of peanuts and said our goodbyes. Our four hour tour had turned into a seven hour journey! Joe even made it back to the hotel on time to watch the Super Bowl! WHAT A DAY!!!

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Rock formation of the Valley of the Monks.

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San Ignacio Mission.

Mazatlan, Sinaloa

We were a bit apprehensive about driving through the state of Sinaloa so we left early from El Fuerte to drive the 302 miles (486 km) to Mazatlan. We made it under five hours on the cuota (toll road) 15D with no incidents.

Mazatlan is a resort town on the Pacific coast where tourism and fishing are the main industries. It’s the birth place of the Pacifico beer and Señor Frog’s !!! It seems that it has past its prime but we still enjoyed long walks on the Malecon and exploring its restored Centro Historico (old town).

 

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The Malecon (ocean front promenade) is 13 miles (20.9 km) long, said to be one of the longest in the world! We arrived the last day of Carnaval, just in time for a picture by one of there many inflatable temporary culture!
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Dramatic cliff!
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One of the many beautiful sculptures lining the Malecon.

 

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Old town, Cathedral (1875).
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Old town, Parque Revolution.
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Old town, Plaza Mechado.
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Playa Olas Atlas. Are we there yet? I’m hungry!

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$199 Mexican pesos ($11 USD) for a BBQ Rib dinner for 2 in the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone). Can’t beat that!

Next, MEXICO, Nayarit … stay tuned!

 

 

Mexico, Baja California

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November 28, 2015 – February 2, 2016.

We entered Mexico via California through the border town of Tecate in Baja California 2  days after Thanksgiving on November 28, 2015. Our Baja adventures ended up lasting more than two months.

Before crossing we had agreed to meet another couple of Overlanders who were heading South at the same time. On the morning of the crossing we met John and Mandi in a parking lot just a few hundred yards before the border. It turned out that they were also from Florida and had left just a few days before we did back in early May 2015. They had visited almost all the same spots and National Parks in the Western US/Canada/Alaska. Our schedules were different so we had never met. We were very happy to be traveling with another couple for companionship and also for security reasons.

It was a very special day for us! We had heard so many wonderful things about the Baja Peninsula and crossing into Mexico was another milestone, it felt like it was really the beginning of our big adventure.

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Mexico, here we come! We got our tourist cards and the temporary import permit for our vehicle for 6 months!

Camp Sites…

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Our first camp site in Mexico: Camp 7 at La Bufadora just outside of Ensenada on the Pacific coast. Not to many amenities besides the view over the fish farms on the Pacific Ocean and a pit toilet but it was pretty cheap! (70 pesos)
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We spent three incredible nights at Rancho San Carlos hot springs in the mountains near Ensenada. It was a bit cold so we soaked all day in the pools!
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One of the many military check points. They ask a few questions, look around inside and you’re back on the road in no time. After a couple, you get use to it.
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Kiki’s RV Camp and Hotel in San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez. We ended up going there twice because we had to go back to the border town of Mexicali to get two fuel injectors replaced.
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Puertecitos Hot Springs campground. Reminded me of Greece for some reason!
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San Luis Gonzaga. Beautiful, but we experienced a terrible sand storm. Sand blew in the camper during the night from the smallest cracks it took three hours to clean up the next day. None the less we were able to enjoy the amazing sunsets and the dolphins swimming by.
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Coco’s Corner is just one of those mythical place in the middle of no where! You buy a beer or a Coca-Cola and you camp for free!
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Bahia de Los Angeles, La Gringa federal park. Free camping.
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Bahia de Los Angeles, La Gringa federal park.
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Los Petates Campground in San Ignacio an Oasis with date palms in the middle of the Baja desert.
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Playa El Coyote just south of Mulege in Bahia Concepcion. We spent five nights there (100 pesos per night). José would stop by every morning selling tamales, empanadas, fresh veggies, fruits and fish. It was very close to paradise if it wasn’t for the trucks coming down the hill during the night and using their engine brakes. Our neighbors Tom and Linda from San Diego let us use their kayaks. We spent our days just soaking in the beauty of our surroundings.
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Campground in the quaint town of Mulege. 100 pesos per night. Around 5 USD
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Another popular spot near Mulege is Playa Santispac but we did not stay there.
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We spent Christmas on the remote beach of Punta San Basilio on the Sea of Cortez. Thanks to our solar panels we have plenty of power and no need to hook up. It took us 1.5 hour to drive the 17 km of dirt road and river crossings, but no problem for our Mountain Ram!  Another paradise!
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Playa El Telecote near the City of La Paz. Free Camping. We camped here twice. It can be very windy, but when the wind dies down it’s a magical place where you can meet great people.
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Playa San Pedrito a surf spot just South of Todos Santos. Five great nights (free Camping). One of our favorite! Incredible vibe, people and scenery!
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Zacatito, another great spot on the East Cape north of San Jose del Cabo. John and Mandi in their Ford Van were already there and we joined them with Kevin and Dani in their Iveco. Whale watching, swimming and walking on the beach were our main activities! Horses and mules lived in an abandoned house near by.

 

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We spent three nights at the Rancho Ecologico Sol de Mayo in Santiago. We swam in the amazing cool waters of the water falls every day, enjoyed an extraordinary meal at Amalia’s restaurant and explore the surroundings with Justin and Roxanne.
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We spent a couple of nights in Los Barriles at Martin Verdugo Beach Resort doing laundry and enjoying the pool and restaurants near by. This area of the Sea of Cortez is very windy therefore very popular with Wind and Kite Surfers.

The people…

This journey is special because of the people we meet along the way. Locals or fellow travelers are the reason we decide to spend more or less time in a specific location. So far we have met incredible people that we hope we will have the opportunity to see again.

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John and Mandi our traveling companions for more than a month. Thanks for all your technical support and just being friends! Oh Ya John is the best dish washer in Mexico.
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Great bunch! So much fun with James and Kamala at Playa El Coyote.
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José would bring us tamales, empanadas, fresh fruits,veggies and fish every morning at Playa El Coyote.
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Wonderful couple of Overlanders, Kevin (Brit) and Dani (Swiss) and Mali the dog. These guy’s have been overloading for a long while together and taught Joe how to really think out here, simpler is better. Hope to go to the Sahara with them one day. They are the desert experts!
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Brunch in Loreto with John and Mandi.
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Carlos (Spain) and Barbara (Belgium). we needed to spent more time with this interesting well travelled pair.  Carlos has a huge stash of books crammed simply into their VW van while pulling the Casita trailer.  Hopefully we will meet them again along the PanAm. Loreto.
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Great time with Liz, Andy and Nina their dog.  An amazing pair of Brits living in British Columbia, Canada. We had so much fun drinking and laughing while lounging comfortably amongst Liz’s rugs and pillows, cooking on Andys wonderful pit fire.  The best lounge at Playa San Pedrito! If ever on the Sunshine coast of BC, visit their private island Airbnb.ca/rooms/2530939
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Irene and Simon, Swiss Overlanders gave us great tips on how to use our Dutch Oven. They were pros, even baking bread in it! Playa San Pedrito. Check out their rig!
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Kevin, Joe and Mali whale watching in Zacatito.
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Spent a day with Justin and Roxanne exploring Santiago. Thanks for the tunes!
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After 5 minutes talking to this young couple of Québécois, Pierre Étienne and Karine with  Kali their dog, we were in love! We ended up delaying our ferry crossing to spend more time with them! Playa El Tecolote.
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Patrick and Nicole (Québec). Great couple living their passions! Playa El Tecolote.
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Wish we could have spent more time with Renée (Solo Canadian Female Traveller). Great energy! Playa El Tecolote.
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The free spirited Cat! Todos Santos. Another great American Solo Female Traveller from Oregon.
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The Québécois hospitality at it’s best. Thank you Karine and Pierre Étienne for all the wonderful fish dinners! Playa El Tecolote.
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Reinhold, young German traveller just got a partner! We gave him our wicker bag for the gear he had to move to make room for the pup. Todos Santos.
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Braii (BBQ) with the South African Bell family a2aexpedition! La Bufadora.

The food…

Street Food!

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Baja is known for their Fish Tacos. It’s addictive! Fenix Taco, Ensenada. Our first stop in Mexico!
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Tamales for breakfast. Oh Yes!
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Pollo al Carbon, chicken on the grill with rice, beans, salad and tortillas for 4 people. 125 pesos, about 7 USD. Kikiriki, San Felipe.
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Birria is a beef or goat soup that is served in the morning with onions, cilantro, lime, radish and tortillas. Joe’s favorite!
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The panaderias (bakeries) are in every town! Santa Rosalia.
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José’s tamales, “the best on the beach”!

Home cooking, overland style…

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South African Braii (BBQ) with an Argentinean flair, thanks to the Bell Family. a2aexpedition
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Joe’s grilled chicken and Josée’s salad, always a winner!
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I could not resist buying a fruit and veggie hammock!
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Kamala doing the prep for her Indian Curry Chicken and John working on a batch of Margaritas. Can it get any better? Playa El Coyote.
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Indian Curry Chicken by Kamala. Thanks to Mandi’s spice rack! Playa El Coyote.
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Joe has mastered the art of grilling sitting in his Kermit chair! Christmas dinner, Punta San Basilio.
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Our new passion: the Dutch Oven! Ribs grilled and finished in the Dutch Oven! Playa El Tecolote.
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When the wind is blowing you have to improvise!
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Rib-Eye served in the skillet from Amalia’s restaurant at Rancho Ecologico Sol de Mayo in Santiago. A real treat!
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Catch of the day! Thanks to Pierre Etienne and Karine.

Fauna and Flora…

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A flock of Pelicans in Bahia de Los Angeles.
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The Boojum tree is a bizarre looking tree that grows only in the Sonora Desert of Baja and one small area of Sonora mainland. We were calling it the Dr. Seuss tree. IMG_9522

 

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That’s my favorite photo of the Baja Landscape. Desert, turquoise colored water and the mountain!

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I was lucky enough to get to swim with a Whale Shark in its natural habitat near La Paz. What an experience! Definitely checked that one off of the bucket list. Even though I was not suppose to, I had to touch it, that’s how close I was to it.
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Also swam with Sea Lions in a colony of 500 in Espiritu Santo Island a UNESCO World Heritage Site near the City of La Paz.

Towns and architectture…

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San Ignacio is a true Oasis that sits in sharp contrast to the Baja desert. The date palms and the citrus orchards were planted by the Jesuits who built a mission in 1728.
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Santa Rosalia, former mining village with a french influence because of the French owned Boleo Mining Company. The bakery (panaderia) and the Gustave Eiffel metal church are the main attractions. The French owners purchased the metal church that was stored in Brussels and it was reassembled in 1897 in Santa Rosalia.
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Loreto was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja California Peninsula. It was founded by the Jesuit missionaries in 1697.

 

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La Paz is the capital City of Baja California Sur and an important regional commercial center. The Malecon (promenade along the waterfront).
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Todos Santos is one of the most appealing towns in all of Baja, a mix of locals, fishers, surfers and Gringos and home of the Hotel California.

Dogs…

Everywhere you go in Baja there will be a dog wandering or following you.  Joe being a dog lover gets his heart broken in every town. You just want to take them with you. Here’s just a few of the many dogs we’ve encountered, including the hairless Mexican dog.

Rigs…

As an Overlander you are always curious to see other rigs. Here’s a few European rigs we’ve come across in Baja.

Ferry to mainland Mexico…

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On February 2, 2016 we boarded the San Guillermo from La Paz to Topolobampo in the State of Sinaloa in mainland Mexico with TMC Ferry, a 12 hour crossing from 9pm to 9am. We were allowed to sleep in our camper, it was a bit of a bumpy ride but it was a pleasant experience overall.

 

Next, MEXICO, Sinaloa and Chihuahua … stay tuned!

USA, Nevada and California

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November 1 – 28, 2015.

Nevada

We entered Nevada from Utah on November 1st, 2015 and camped at Elk Flat Campground (Cave Lake Sate Park) after watching the NFL football game at the Historic Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall in Ely, Nevada. I don’t care much about football but watching the scene at the Hotel Nevada was entertainment enough. Joe loves his Eagles and does not get to watch football as often has he would like… life on the road!

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This picture was downloaded from the Internet (Yelp)

While in Utah we had decided  to go back to XPCamper in Grass Valley, CA to get our Webasto Dual Top (hot water and heater) fixed and a few other items before heading South to Mexico. We drove Highway 50 through the whole state of Nevada from East to West without really stopping until we hit a snow storm in the little town of Austin, NV. We pulled along side of the road and settled for the night but not before having a shot or two of Honey Bourbon.

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Snow storm near Austin, Nevada
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We stopped for lunch in Historic Carson City, NV where these deers were just roaming through the neighborhood. We also visited the Nevada State Museum and tried their hot springs pool in operation since 1849!
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Another snow storm near Lake Tahoe, NV.

California

We had a few days to kill before XPCamper was ready for us so we headed to the California Coast for some sun and warmer climate.

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The cool town of Santa Cruz, CA. It’s amazing how a few hours of driving can bring such a different climate.
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West Cliff Drive along the Pacific Coast. Santa Cruz, CA
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Santa Cruz is the quintessential California beach town and it was here that surfing was first introduce to mainland USA by Hawaiians.
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We camped for four nights at New Brighton State Beach in the town of Capitola overlooking beautiful Monterey Bay.
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It was so nice to be back near water, sun and sand. Morning walks and just sitting and enjoying the Californian coastal lifestyle. Great to celebrate 6 months on the road. (We left Florida on May 5th, 2015)
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My new favorite breakfast: Banana French Toast with Honey made with love by my husband!

Back in Grass Valley for a few days (Nov. 10-16, 2015) XPCamper got everything in working order in our camper and Tom’s Car Care Center Dodge Ram Pro Derrick installed our new cryo treated brake rotors and pads, put a resonator on the pipes, tuned up the joints and corrected a few issues, the new work made El Capitan purr! Thanks Tom and Mr D!

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From Grass Valley we headed South for the Mexican Border  with a few stops along the way.

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McDonnell Sate Recreation Area near Modesto, CA.
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Like everyone says, it’s the incredible people you meet along the way that make traveling such a rewarding experience. Cathy, the Campground Host in a small campground in the middle of nowhere near Modesto, CA is one of these people.
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Cathy’s outlook on life and remarkable energy made us appreciate mankind “womankind” more than ever.

Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Tree National Park encompasses two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado.
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Hike to skull rock.
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The surreal geological features are what makes this park so special.
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Jumbo Rocks campground was great, it reminded us of the Flintstones.
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Enjoying the sunset.

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A little house in the desert?
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We spent Thanksgiving in Palm Springs, CA at the Happy Traveler RV Park  enjoying the pool and jacuzzi, doing laundry. They treated us to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.
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Palm Springs has been a popular destination since the 1900’s for its dry and sunny climate and a favorite of the Hollywood Scene since the 1950’s. It is famous it’s modern architecture and numerous golf courses.

Next, MEXICO … stay tuned!