Exploring the East Cape
Upon leaving La Paz, we continued southeast along Mexico 1 and on the recommendation of our new friends, Margo & Tony, we checked out two little towns: El Triunfo and San Bartolo.
El Triunfo is a former gold and silver mining town which has captured the heart of the wife of the President of Walmart and a couple of other millionaires. They are sinking some money into restoring this town including redoing the cobblestone streets, fixing up the buildings and access to the old mine sites. One of these is a smokestack designed by, Gustav Eifel again. There is also a piano museum in this village. In times of revolution and battles, people would bury the valuables. A large number of these valuables were pianos and they are on display in one building called the Music Museum. We wanted to go in to see these but the guy manning the door did not have change for a 100 peso note for the 20 peso each entry fee so they lost out on our business. Making change is often a problem here in Mexico (sometimes we feel it’s so they can keep the change 🙂 ).
San Bartolo is a “sweets” village. They are known for their pastries and a kind of coconut fudge. The pastry is like a turnover filled with a caramel made from goat’s milk. The fudge was deadly sweet; made from milk, sugar and, of course, coconut. We stopped, had a Corona and tasted the treats.
We continued through some mountains back to the coast where we stopped at Los Barriles; a favourite spot of snowbirds and fisherman. We camped at Martin Verduga’s Hotel & RV Resort of which the former is right on the beach with the RV park in behind. We parked near the hotel to get the Wi-Fi signal and settled in for a couple of days. The hotel has a pool and a patio bar, both out front overlooking the beach. The rv park itself was okay, nothing special but it had all the hook ups and hot showers. The beach here is quite nice and the water was clean and warm. We walked into the town one morning and it’s rather small, however, it does have a holiday feel like San Felipe. We enjoyed a couple of hours in the ocean with our noodles that afternoon. When we went for a long walk along this stretch of beach, there were people to learning kite surf as the wind here is pretty good.
The next day, we entered the boundaries of the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park where we explored three different spots with beaches and reefs for lots of “endless snorkeling” over five days. You get off the paved highway before the park and it’s a good thing we have a vehicle that doesn’t mind bad roads. In many respects, we are glad they don’t pave these roads because that means not so many people and by no means did we encounter many people down here. We love that!
First stop was Los Arbolitos which is a lovely spot in the park but is privately owned. You pay 30 pesos for the day and another 10 to camp. You park in the sand lot near the beach. There are no hookups but they have proper toilets, warm fresh water shower and lots of thatched beach umbrellas on the beach as well as a small boardwalk (if you don’t want to walk in the sand) to a lookout tower.
We took the spot closest to the beach and we did attempt to snorkel but the water was a little rough that day and therefore murky. You are supposed to wear life jackets while snorkeling in the marine park to help prevent you from getting too close to the reef. They came in handy in the surf we encountered. While we can both swim, neither of are strong swimmers so they gave us some comfort to know we were more buoyant (there is no rip tide here).
We spent some time sitting on the beach later that afternoon in the shade of the umbrellas with a plan to read but ended up just staring at the water and rocks. We later took a hike over the dunes/coral hills passing a couple of small beaches to a third secluded beach about 25 minutes’ walk. We had it completely to ourselves. There were some lovely rock formations and tons and tons of hermit crabs both on the beach and on the trail.
Sunday morning, we did our yoga on the beach under an umbrella and then went snorkeling in the calm water for over an hour. The visibility was much better and we saw lots of fish including an eel fish. Then we went a few kilometres further down the road south to Los Frailes beach which had a much longer stretch of sand, no large rocks on shore and the water was calm and beautiful. We look a long walk along the beach that morning out to a point passing some pretty darn nice houses surrounded by palm trees. What great views they have!
We met a couple of Overlanders when we got back to Tigger on the beach in another camper: Toby and Chloe, who were on their way back from Argentina. We enjoyed talking with them and getting some tips. We ended up running into them a few more times on the East Cape.
Doug’s new snorkel mask was not a very good fit for him so he used Fran’s and he fared better and could see as his “spectacles” fit inside. However, Fran found this new Walmart one leaked for her as well and fogged up faster. We plan to return this one when we get to Cabo.
BTW we do not know many of the names of all the wonderful fish we are seeing so bear with us when you look at the photo galleries please!
At Los Frailes, we spent about two hours in the water snorkeling along the cliffs and the reef. We saw lots and lots of fish including many big schools. The water was pretty clear along the cliffs and even better away from them. On our way out to the beach, Fran saw a manta ray jump out of the water and so after we’d had enough snorkeling, (but really, can you ever have enough?) we followed the shoreline in the water rather than walking back to Tigger and saw an angel shark along the bottom and then a manta ray!
Toby and Chloe suggested that we turn back up the road about 5 km and go into the actual town of Cabo Pulmo itself and snorkel the reefs there so we did that on Monday. After Doug finished a conference call, off into the water we went. This is a world famous diving site as there are a number of reefs. I think our expectations were too high and although the water was pretty clear and there were plenty of small fish and we did swim over three different reefs, the snorkeling gods were not on our side and we saw not much new. AND to make matters sadder, our waterproof camera turned out to be not so waterproof as when Fran went to take the first picture, the LCD screen went all cloudy so she took it back to Tigger and put it in some rice that Toby & Chloe kindly gave us (they too had decided to check out the snorkeling here). So no photos for a couple of days if not longer while it dries out. This was quite disappointing as we bought this brand new last year and it’s an Olympus Tough version for which we had high hopes. Naturally, it’s past the one year warranty. 🙁
Since we did not know where Pepe’s was, we found a spot near the rocky beach and figured someone would come by later. Lucky for our budget, no one did and we had a quiet night with only the sound of the surf.
As it was Tuesday, Doug had a conference call to participate in but despite there being great cell service the day before; there was no signal this morning. We drove into Cabo Pulmo to see if it was any better but nada. We decided to head back to Los Frailes where we’d had a signal a couple of days before, but it too had nothing. Since we wanted to have a shower, we went back to Los Arbolitos where it turned out Toby & Chloe were and we were all told by Carlos, the caretaker, that the cell tower was being repaired and may come back up by late afternoon.
Seeing how we were stuck without cellular, we decided to go snorkeling; how tragic! Toby and Chloe told us they’d seen turtles and suggested we take that hike we’d take the other day to the further beach and swim back. So we did this and saw so many colourful fish and Fran did see a turtle in the cove they mentioned but it swam into deeper water before Doug made it to her. We stayed in the water for about two hours without too many minutes of not seeing something. There were many large schools of fish, some eels, needle fish, stone fish and star fish. It was wonderful; a tough way to spend the day when you can’t connect. We enjoyed some beer and drinks with Toby & Chloe that afternoon.
Cell service did return in the early evening if you stood right on the beach at the water’s edge and Doug checked in advising why he’d miss that morning’s call and also learned he did not have a different call the next day so next morning we headed back to Los Frailes for a few more hours of snorkeling where we met up with some sea lions past the far point of the rocks (they were not interested in coming in to swim though) and we saw a pair of spotted eagle rays a few times and many, many schools of fish.
Doug later received an email that his presence was requested in Austin for the week of November 16th so we had to find Wi-Fi so he could book his flights. We spent the rest of Wednesday, driving down the coast on the dirt roads checking out beaches and views enroute to San Jose del Cabo. The weather was perfect and the drive, while slow, was quite scenic. There are a couple of surfer towns along this stretch of coast with many vehicles with South Dakota plates like ours. (they say Baja is south South Dakota!) We do see the odd Texas plate, many British Columbia ones and a few from Alberta and Colorado.
We arrived in San Jose after airing up the tires again once we hit the pavement and had the Garmin take us to a McDonalds to get Wi-Fi. Turns out the McDonald’s did not reopen after the hurricane last year so we found and sat at a table outside the Subway in the open air mall and used our cell devices to access the internet.
After over three hours of frustration, Doug couldn’t get the flights sorted and resorted to using the phone and finally got flights out of La Paz. As it was now dark we had some dinner at Subway, went for a short walk and just spent the night outside the mall in the parking lot. No one bothered us and it was pretty quiet most of the night.
As there are no RV parks in San Jose, on Thursday we took the highway to Cabo San Lucas and found a place for the night where we could get full hook ups and showers. Turns out it was called “Villa Serena” and not quite open for the season and there was no one in the office. There was a couple who have a house beside/in the park from British Columbia who came out and greeted us when they saw us looking around. Diane & Al told us that Juan was not around but that the services should be up and running although they did not know the Wi-Fi password nor were they sure there was hot water in the showers. Doug checked on the latter and there was. Then they kindly offered us the use of their Wi-Fi if we could access it and invited us into their home for a cold beer before we set up camp. Thanks so much Diane & Al. We parked in the site next to their house and got Wi-Fi just fine.
Next morning while we were closing up Tigger, Juan showed up and we paid him, said farewell to Diane & Al before heading into town. We took advantage of the amenities offered in such a touristy place on the Baja and hit the Home Depot, Costco and Walmart before checking into our resort for the week.
UPDATE: Camera never revived so we ordered a new one on Amazon and Doug will pick it up next week from a friend in Austin. Thanks Merrell & Kris.