Trip Start Dec 22, 2006
97Trip End Feb 10, 2008
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After all that, we finally hit the road. Before leaving town we stopped in at the grocery store for some milk and eggs....and as it turned out, some super cheap beer. We intended to only buy one six-pack, however when we realized that the six-pack only cost $22.95 pesos (roughly $2.30 CND), Geraldine was sent back in to get more while Michael unpacked the groceries. Unfortunately not being much of a beer drinker, she grabbed the wrong one, paid double the price and was forced to return it. Unlike back home, returns are not an everyday occurrence and two supervisors were needed to give permission before the return was accepted. The real treat came when Geraldine was handed a credit note rather than cash...and she was advised that you can only use the credit note on a purchase of equal or greater value. The credit note can only be used once and you must spend the entire amount of the credit note. Oh the dilemma, as of course we had already purchased all the groceries we needed. So we ended up with two flats of the 'cheap beer' to chew up the entire credit note. This was definitely the turning point to Michael's less than perfect day....48 cans of beer for $16 CDN. Even the cashier couldn't believe the price. We have a feeling something may have been off in their cash registers, but how were we going to explain that to them with our limited Spanish? Best to not make a scene. Now we were able to hit the road to La Paz.
Just outside La Paz we stopped at a coffee shop simply to check 'Nilla's fluids, when we were approached by a nice couple from Vancouver who informed us that just behind the coffee shop was the Campestre Maranatha (RV Park). It is a family run park that was started 51 years ago by missionaries and to this day hosts schools and summer camps of all varieties. Apparently up until a few years ago, the fifteen RV sites used to be the landing strip for the owner's small plane. The facilities were immaculate, the grounds well kept and everyone in the RV Park was extremely pleasant. We met several old folks that have travelled the Baja for the past thirty years and they had loads of tips to give us. Everything from which roads to take to where the free beach camping is. The coffee shop we initially stopped at is also owned and operated by family members of the RV Park and they offer free internet and calls to Canada or the US to anyone that purchases a coffee or homemade pastry. How can any traveler pass up such an opportunity?
The following day we headed into La Paz to see about having a mechanic look at our van and advise on whether or not to replace our link rods. They wasted no time in getting 'Nilla up on a hoist to see her underside. The link rods themselves are fine, but the rubber bushings need to be replaced. We also determined that it was the link rods / stabilizer bar that broke off one of the u-clamps that was supporting our suspension air bags. In order to prevent this from happening again and to ensure the stabilizer bar functions properly, we will need to have the entire stabilizer bar moved forward several inches. For this we will need a welder. The tour books do not lie when they say that mechanics are super helpful in the Baja. The English speaking mechanic we were talking to made a call for us to the welding shop and arranged an appointment for us at 9am the following morning. They also directed us to another mechanic shop where we could get our oil changed. They were very helpful and we were very grateful. The entire cost for all the work we will be getting done should come in at or under $90 CDN....we recall labour rates for a welder in Alberta were around $100 an hour. Thankfully 'Nilla needed the work done in the cheapest place in the Baja....she understands the budget as well....good girl 'Nilla!
Once that was all said and done, we headed just North- East of La Paz to Playa Tecolote for some free beach camping. We were rather surprised to see just how many other RV's were there to free-camp....and how many of those were Canadian. Our neighbour, Bill, seemed to be the token American who admittedly comes back every year to Playa Tecolote to see the Canadians. He even went on television for the Traveling Guys show to say so (the show just so happened to be filming at Playa Tecolote a couple of days ago). So if you happen to catch the episode, keep an eye out for Bill (aka Freddy the Freeloader). We sat and chatted with Bill for a while and he mentioned that during this trip he had hiked a mountain near the beach with some Canadians. Hours after their decent, he was presented with a plaque naming him an Honorary Canadian. It pays to hang out with the likes of us, eh!
We were only at Tecolote for a little while, but we also met Gabby & Bernie who now reside in Georgian Bay, Ontario. And apparently last week there was a couple from Nova Scotia down here. We thought we were far from home, but it appears we have not traveled the furthest yet.
In the morning we ventured back into La Paz to get the required welding work done on the van. We were a little late in arriving at our "9am" appointment as we decided to hit the ferry terminal first, to get our vehicle permit. The day prior, we were told by the security guard at the ferry gate that the office where vehicle permits are issued opens at 8am. Not wanting to wait in line, we arrived shortly before opening time. Upon arriving, the same guard was working the gate and told us that the permit office opens at 9am and that we needed to enter the hourly pay parking lot and wait. This seemed like a bit of a cash grab, but we also figured the vehicle needed to be close at hand for inspection. Following the confusing advice, we parked 'Nilla and settled in for an hour wait. We walked around the grounds to find the office which turned out to be the "bank". Is everything in Mexico run by the bank? We certainly think so.
When the bank opened we were greeted by a friendly guy that was most cooperative. Again, we believe that is because we were handing over money. We provided the appropriate paperwork and were told to return in 20 minutes. Not sure why and already used to waiting we returned to 'Nilla to kill time with a morning snack. The 20 minute wait passed by quickly as opposed to our previous 1 hour wait. Back at the bank, we answered a few basic questions about 'Nilla, but the best part was the inspection. The bank "teller" literally glanced for a millisecond out the window toward the van before promptly stamping our permit and collecting our cash. Priceless!
Now, at 10:30am, we were set to make our way to the 9am welding appointment. The shop owner, Roberto, was not phased in the least by our late arrival and agreed to get down to work on 'Nilla's belly. The scope of the work was hashed out and the price was agreed upon at $70 CDN. We could not argue much as the job was scheduled to take 3 hours. The rate was decent. Thankfully, there was a Laundromat (aka Lavamatic) around the corner. We passed the first hour on laundry and while the clothes were drying on the line (no need to spend money on a dryer when we had plenty of time to burn) we headed for a walk around town. We sampled a quite tasty local taco on the way to the bakery....oh yeah, we have become addicted to the great baguettes down here. We also passed a local fruit vendor on the way back to the Lavamatic to finish up the rest of our grocery shopping.
We waited as long as we could for the laundry to dry, but we were both anxious to get back to our 'Nilla...we figured she might be a bit lonely without us. So we took the damp articles of clothing of the line and headed back to the shop. When we showed up, we were surprised to see that the hood was up! Having recently watched 'Herbie the Love Bug' and having decided that 'Nilla is the 'Herbie' of the RV World, we immediately assumed that she had been giving the guys a hard time because they had pulled, prodded and scorched her underside. Roberto was quick to correct us and informed us that the hood was up to disconnect power and ground the vehicle. We need to learn more about mechanical things....and perhaps stop believing in Hollywood movies!
The welder told us that everything would be done in a "few minutes". Mike thought that this was a perfect time to have a nice afternoon cerveza. After a six pack, we were getting the picture that a "few minutes" does not actually mean that! Geraldine remained sober as someone had to drive the van from the shop. It was late in the afternoon by the time the work was done and we finished a few more errands around La Paz, so we decided to go back and camp at Playa Tecolote. Check out this picture of the bolt that the stabilizer bar had been banging into for the past 5000km.
On the way to camp, we approached a rather muddy section of the road. Normally, we would have gone around, but in Mike's 'tipsy' state he advised Geraldine to go directly through. Apparently the odour of Mike's cerveza's must have affected Geraldine as she agreed to do it. Half way through the mud, 'Nilla started to slow down and almost settled in for the night. It required quite a bit of prodding to get her through. We did make it through, but now 'Nilla was covered in mud. Not the worst thing to happen you might say. However when Michael started to drape our clean, yet still damp, clothes all over the exterior of the van, it was kind of a bad thing that 'Nilla was so muddy. There's nothing quite like soiling your clean clothes without even wearing them.
Since "happy hour" was in full swing for at least one of us, we decided to stretch out the "hour" and invite a few neighbouring campers over. We busted out some homemade guacamole and chips and everyone had a full cold beverage in hand. Of course our friend from the night before, Bill, was over to share even more stories about the Baja and the handfuls of Canadians he has met. We were also honoured by a visit from the camper on the other side of us named Ben. Ben and Mike stayed up the latest swilling beers and chatting by the moonlight.
The next morning we were finally able to head further sound to Todos Santos. We had a bit of trouble getting out of La Paz, as yet again, neither of us was paying much attention to road signs or the map. There is so much to see and look at. After a while of traveling around La Paz, we discovered the highway and put the pedal to the medal....not really, as we now call 40km/hr fast.
Todos Santos is not far from La Paz, around 80km or so. It did not take long before we were walking around yet another new town. Since the day was nice and hot with clear skies, we aborted the tour of Todos Santos and decided to hit a free beach camp early and lounge. There are a wealth of options for free beach camping just south of town. Not having any first hand experience, we followed Bill's advice and turned off at kilometre mark 67. This worked our perfectly! The beach was long, clean and undeveloped. There were a wealth of campers scattered around the land leading up to the beach. Parked now, we decided to relax.
Follow the photo link...http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?mode=fromshare&Uc=16xvaj2z.2pl49rfj&Uy=-krsqp4&Ux=0