Of hurricanes, being stuck and feline rescue
If you're dying to know what happened to Mz KK, we're gonna make you wait a bit.
We had to cross the border, leaving the States behind, and with it our beloved travel companion.
Hannah has never been to any part of Mexico, but I explored Baja during the month of December 2021 the previous year and really wanted her to experience what we thought would be an easy introduction. On the last visit I decided to cross over in Tecate, and we decided to do the same this time for better or worse. The crossing is miniscule in comparison traffic and size-wise to other nearby locations like Mexicali and Tijuana, and we expected an easy quick crossing like previously. From my last experience I found it hard to park on the other side to get paperwork done, so this time I opted for us to park at a currency exchange on the US side. We walked up and got our FMM tourist visa, and temporary import permit (TIP) for truck and trailer. Maybe because the crossing is so small, or maybe it's standard procedure, but we had to find a copy shop on the other side to make copies of the toursit visa card for generating the actual TIP. Combining our horrible Español with an absolute absence of signs, we stuggled but ultimately completed the process but with Hannah having to stay on the Mexico side as I crossed back on foot via a different entrance for our truck and trailer. After driving through and waving me over, they did a brief search of most of our cabinets in the trailer, luckily nothing to intrusive or time consuming and sent us on our way!
We wasted no time seeking out our first fish tacos in Ensenada, and continued on to our first iOverlander spot we scoped out in advance, off the Highway 1 down a typical washboard road for quite some time to the Pacific ocean and landed at La Bocana, a very quiet and inviting hamlet (there are other La Bocana villages in Baja). We used the spot to recover a bit from the shock and loss of Mz KK, and took in the beach and ocean views. Dasher had tons of beach time, and made best furry friends with Max, a local rescue about Dasher's size and age, a real sweety. There were lots of expats living nearby, all very friendly and welcoming. The bay view revealed a pod of dolphins, a very nice surprise!
Moving further and further south meant getting further and further away from any possiblity of retrieving the lost member of our pack. After a intermediate stay at Fidel's El Pabellón RV-Park picked via iOverlander due to a promise of a fresh caught lobster dinner (we arrived on opening day of lobster season and nothing turned up in the lobster cages), we continued on towards the desert area called Cataviña, famous for amazing boulder-filled landscapes complete with Dr. Seuss plants like the cool Boojum tree. A night was spent stargazing amongst the cacti with a cozy fire to counter the chill and the emptiness of the desert.
Next, our goal was to hit a completely private beach I stayed at last year. This was probably one of the most beautiful and remote places I found, miles and miles of beautiful dunes and beaches and not a soul around.
A bit northwest of Santa Rosaliíta off Highway 1 near El Marron and Punta Prieta, it's only accessed by the usual unmaintained Baja-style rutty road, made 10 times worse by the recent rain from Hurricane Kay. It took a long time averaging less than 5 miles an hour, and the crazy conditions caused us to turn way too early toward the coast, getting into a spot that terminated onto loose sand with no easy way to turn around. We did take away one important fact from this experience. In deep sand going in reverse, with 4x4 and rear diff locker engaged, the trailer doesn't necesarily turn in a radius with the truck and instead pushes sideways, getting you much closer to crunching your bumper in a hurry which is exactly what happened to us. An hour and a half later with traction boards used every foot, we dug out and exited back to the main dirt road and set up camp there to sleep it off, exhausted. Lesson learned that we could not follow in the steps of my previous adventure with the extreme weight (5000+ lb truck and 6500 lb loaded trailer) we were dealing with.
We decided to motor onwards to Bahía Tortugas to the southwest, and plunked down at an iOverlander spot with an elevated view of the bay. We were graced by innumerable pods of dolphins swimming up and down the bay, being conscious breathers they have to be in constant motion and this seemed to be a resting sanctuary. Dasher found a new love of chasing hordes of birds on the beach, we would have stayed longer had we been further from the main dirt road.
Onwards to the tourist stop over in the iconic town of San Ignacio, famous for its palm tree filled Cochimi oasis and Mission Kadakaaman dating back to 1728. San Ignacio had a lot of visible damage from Hurricane Kay, flooding was evident due to the low lying nature of the town in sort of a bowl shaped valley.
After an ice cream treat to beat the heat at a popular Baja 1000 stop, we continued on southeast towards the Sea of Cortez and Santa Rosalía.
We next aimed for an intermediate stop over on the east coast to try and escape some of the heat, and set up just outside of Santa Rosalía, however it was miserable, still hot, and bug filled. Up and out of there the next morning, we did a quick stop at the town of Mulegé, for a cursory walk around and primarily a bite to eat at one of my favorite places discovered previously, El Kaluly. Last time I ordered aguachile mixto, not knowing how much seafood it was, and made a meal out of it for days to come. Think of the freshest raw scallops, octupus, shrimp, clams, and fish in a spicy lime tomato concoction, so damn good. Bellies full, we had a short drive down the beautiful coast towards one of my favorite spots, Playa Armenta.
We finally landed at a quiet tranquil beach that was recovering from hurricane damage and minor flooding. Palapas were in various stages of repair, and we had the place mostly to ourselves for 3 days minus some locals coming by to enjoy their Sunday on the beach along with travelling vendors peddling live almejas chocolatas (chocolate clams) that I savored. This quaint spot has so much charm, the beach is protected by the extensive Bahía Concepción, gentle waves and shallow clear water out to 100 yards, with the owner/manager keeping chickens, a blind cat, and a notable dog named Palomo, certain to melt your heart. We felt bad for Palomo, as his owner didn't live there and only came by every couple of days, so he was happy for the company and some special home cooked food of Dashers that we shared. Snorkeling, dolphin watching, and reading, we were sad to leave after 3 nights.
Another very well known tourist and expat destination, we continued south down the coast to Loreto. Still hot and in the mid-nineties, we set up at a nice sparsely populated RV park close to the center of town, taking advantage of electricity plugins to run our AC. Too hot to do anything during the day, we walked around mostly at night taking in the beauty and quaintness, had some excellent dinner and margs, and got some errands done.
If you made it this far then you deserve to hear about Mission Save Mz KK!
After arriving in La Paz we stored our trailer in the Calafia area with a nice Swiss and German couple who own land and specialize in storing and eventually building overlanders. Our plan was to sort of decompress here and treat ourselves to an air conditioned Airbnb. Shortly after checking in, my phone sprang alive with an incredulous text saying Mz KK was definetly spotted outside our Harvest Host's office window near San Diego! Hannah had been obsessively checking every shelter and local Facebook group sites for lost pets, hoping for some clue or sighting. We had already agreed that if at any point she was found we would go back to get her, so we contemplated the best options for returning and decided driving without the trailer would make the most sense. We were not sure Hannah could so quickly re-enter the US after her visa expired, but applied online for the ESTA tourist visa and was approved. After two long days of driving, we made it to Mexicali (had amazing asian fusion at MOMO while there), crossed the next morning without much drama, and got to Pauma Valley around noon-time. We had just received an actual photo the night before confirming it was her, but were unsure of how long it would take to actually find her. As it turned out, she heard our voices and almost immediately started meowing under the decking of their house which apparently served as a safe haven for her. Back in her carrier, much skinnier but also happy to see us, we gave our hosts some wine and chocolate as a small token of our appreciation and went for the second border crossing of the day, going through Tijuana and staying in Rosarito on the coast. What a crazy day......
Having made it back to La Paz, we really needed some downtime and crashed at a nice, modern, and cheap Airbnb. We took time to recuperate from the massive amount of driving but also set aside time for some much needed trailer repairs. The sink had been sagging and had a large gap between the counter top and sink top letting water get through that area. We fixed the support and resealed the junction with success. Since our eventual plan is to cross the Sea of Cortez to mainland Mexico, we made a visit to the office of the preferred ferry company that was supposedly cheaper and more oriented towards cargo, allowing you to stay in your vehicle and not requiring crating your pets. We already knew that one of their ferries was out of comission to Mazatlán, which probably impacted the other ferry to Topolobampo making it booked out in advance and impossible to secure a guaranteed ticket. They advised us of some dates that might be less busy and we were placed on a waiting list for about a week and a half later.
With some time to kill, we wanted to explore some of the southern coast between Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, and back north. Our first stop was picked for access and good reviews posted on iOverlander, just south of Todos Santos. The spot named Secret Rocks Beach was very pretty but had violent waves making it too dangerous for swimming. It was during the first day here that we discovered our fridge stopped working. We did a bunch of power cycling and got it to work all night into the morning where it died for good. Luckily we were close enough to Cabo San Lucas to run down and get parts. The fridge had a well known issue that we had read about through our Facebook group dedicated to our trailer. With the basic premise in mind on how to execute the repair, and with a few improvisions, we sucessfully fixed the cause of the issue. Unfortunately this required removing the bathroom door and whole fridge within extremely tight confines. The manufacturer, Furrion, made a horrible engineering choice in sourcing a cheap glass style fuse to start with, compounded by the fact that it is burried deep in the rear of the unit. Following in the footsteps of other fellow Furrion owners, we re-wired the fridge with an automotive blade style fuse to the front of the fridge so we won't have to go through this fiasco again. Happily we lost no food by getting the fix done within 3 hours and putting some stuff in a cooler bag. Even though we weren't able to dip in the ocean, we were rewarded by the sighting of whales during what should be the off season. They tend to pass by the Pacific coast much later in in the year.
Dropping the trailer at the beach, we ventured into Todos Santos for a day trip to take in the sights and grab some food. After walking around, checking out markets, landmarks, and getting an appetitie for seafood, we found a great joint on the edge of the city. Bellies full, we did a resupply run at a few places, sustenance for a few days until reaching Cabo San Lucas.
We slowly made our way circumventing the southern tip and back up the Sea of Cortez side, picking various stop over spots at beach areas. We found a great spot worth staying at, marking our first time in one place for 4 nights in row. On the northern edge of Cabo Pulmo National Park, we had calm waters for swimming including Dasher, who had freedom to roam and play with other dogs for the duration of the stay. Besides a random birthday party the first night 40 ft away from us, the place was tranquil and extremely relaxing.
Saying farewell to La Paz
For our return to La Paz, being our third and final stay, we chose an RV Camp spot on the edge of town that was very enjoyable due to the spacious grounds, clean showers, pool, and laundry among other things. The owners/hosts seem to be American expats and were super gracious and friendly. They are investing a lot into the property building out or replacing much of the RV spots with new electrical and water hookups. We took advantage of hookups for one day to replenish our battery storage, also run the AC on one of the hotter days, and fill up our water tank.
In our final days waiting for our ferry departure date to arrive, we had time to do more exploration of the city. Two attractions we wanted to check out were the indoor market and the Museo de Arte de Baja California. The market, although small had great food vendors and fresh produce and seafood stalls. We stocked up on veggies, shrimp, and surprisingly scored fresh whole wheat tortillas from the attached tortilleria. After some lunch time sustenance we headed to the museum.
The museum is small, but housed several exhibits of modern art. They were also preparing a soon to come Día de los Muertos exhibit. We were very impressed with the photo contest 'Cuartoscuro Latinoamericano 2022- Nuerstra huella en la planeta', which showed photographs of the human impact on the planet by artists from all over Latin America.