Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Beautiful Baja

There is something incredibly beautiful about the sharp contrast of desert landscape meeting azure blue waters that roll across endless white sand beaches.  This is the Baja.

When we first began talking about driving our motorhome down to Mexico three years ago, the Baja was an area that I was drawn to.   Unfortunately,  stories of the narrow, rough roads and long stretches of nothing had us instead traveling south through the mainland and away from the Baja.  So when the opportunity opened up for Terry and I to fly down and stay with friends, we jumped on it.  I wasn't disappointed.

Now, coming from Phoenix, a mere 2-hour flight away, we wondered if there would be any significant differences in weather.  Things were already heating up quite nicely there.  We were pleasantly surprised, however, to step off the plane and be greeted with the heat we were hoping for, and the bonus of a more humid climate (60-70% humidity vs. 35% in Arizona). Like Arizona, however, the Baja desert climate also brings cooler evenings and the mandatory sweaters!

The first leg of our journey had us staying with friends in their palatial condo, which was located within the beautifully landscaped grounds of the Esperanza Resort near Cabo San Lucas.

They had made arrangements for a car to pick us up at the airport, so we relaxed and enjoyed our first views of the region.  We quickly noted the impressive state of the highway, and the modern buildings and new retail structures, including high end auto dealerships, that we saw along the way.

The 2012 G20 Summit is being hosted in Los Cabos.  We drove by the construction site of the massive new conference centre that is being built to accommodate the event.  The summit is being held in June, and based on what we saw, they have a lot of work to do to meet that construction deadline!

After arriving at the condo, we finalized a shopping list, and headed into the Costco in Cabo to pick up our supplies for the week.  As we have found in our travels, Costcos are virtually the same everywhere with only some small differences.  For example, we were surprised to find that - in Cabo, Mexico of all places - Costco didn't stock salsa.

So, after filling the larder, we settled in for a week of sun and relaxation.

Our 2nd floor condo opened out to an expansive view of the Sea of Cortez, which provided endless opportunities for whale and cruise ship watching - both of which we saw quite a few of during the week.


With facilities like these, we enjoyed leisure-filled days of lazing by our (seemingly) private pool and hot tub ....

Exploring the lush grounds and (attempting) a challenging yoga class in their lovely studio ....

Jogging the trail and paths through the resort ....

Taking turns preparing some fabulous group meals ...

Terry's niece Jocelyn was competing in the Canadian Junior Women's Curling championship while we were there, and with the final game being televised on TSN, we absolutely wanted to locate a sports bar in Cabo with a Canadian satellite feed so we could watch.

Our buddy Adrian picked us up and drove us to the Tanga Tanga Sports Bar in Cabo, where we were finally able to pick up the game from the 7th end, and soon had half the bar cheering on Team Alberta for the win!

We spent one afternoon exploring Cabo San Lucas, wandering along the pier to check out the beautiful boats of all shapes and sizes, and shopping for vanilla in the markets.  And of course a trip into Cabo isn't complete without a visit to the Cabo Wabo Cantina!

Great margaritas, but no sighting of Sammy Hagar :(

We also spent one afternoon at Chileno Bay, which is a popular snorkeling spot.

Surprisingly, the beach was not overly crowded.  A good number of tour boats pulled in throughout the day and discharged their crowds of tourists into the water.  Fortunately, they limited their time to the water only, and left the beach to us.  

The water was colder than I had hoped, so was quite happy that we brought wetsuits for this purpose.  We braved the chill and enjoyed our time snorkeling.  We were also treated to a number of whale sightings not too far off shore.

The time quickly passed, and we had to bid adieu to our buddies, and to the lovely condo.  Thanks to Jon and Mary, Kevin and Tomoko for a lovely time, complete with sun, fun, great conversations, wonderful meals and lots of laughs.

On to the next portion of our journey - San Jose del Cabo.  Our buddy Adrian picked us up, and off we headed to the Posada Real, which would be our home for the next 3 nights.

The Posada Real is a modest all-inclusive resort situated along hotel strip in San Jose del Cabo.  Our plan included breakfast and drinks.  It is a smaller resort; low-key but a comfortable stay.  

The beach there is incredible - miles and miles and miles and miles of walking in either direction.  It reminded us quite a bit of the Bay of Banderas in Bucerias.  However, the sand here is brilliant white, compared to the golden beaches of the mainland.

There was minimal swimming; you could hear the crashing of the waves from as far back as our room.  However, walking along the hard packed sand was wonderful.  We strolled as far as the Estuary, a marshy fresh water lagoon that is home to hundreds of tropical and migratory birds, reptiles, and other assorted wild life.

We managed to fit in a run from our hotel and around the estuary one day.  It is a popular area for walkers and runners, as well as bird watchers.

One of the reasons for our visit was to spend some time with our good buddies, Brenda and Adrian.  We first met them on our RV travels three years ago, and have kept in contact ever since.  

Brenda and Adrian spent a good portion of the winter down in San Jose del Cabo last year, and made the decision to extend their visit to a full year.  They arrived in October of 2011, and have not regretted their decision to make this their home.  San Jose del Cabo is proving to be a safe haven, with a great climate, good amenities, and lots to do and see. They are renting a lovely condo located along a golf course, and have settled in to home.

Cabo is more recognized as an American haunt, while San Jose del Cabo, its more "sleepy" neighbour, is preferred by Canadians. This was backed up by the large number of B.C. license plates we noticed.

San Jose del Cabo is a quaint little town, filled with art galleries and restaurants of all shapes, sizes, and genre.  While Cabo is the place to go for your night life, San Jose del Cabo is the place to find your culture.  Artisans abound, and word is this elegant little town is a place in which they find their muse.

The local eateries are great, and prices vary from very inexpensive, local style Mexican food, to the more upscale.  You can easily find your rooftop hangouts which serve $1 beer all day. 

Grocery shopping is wonderful, with access to an amazing Mega store, Walmart and more, and the nearest Costco is closeby in Cabo san Lucas.  Prices are comparable to home.

Brenda and Adrian introduced us to their little rescue dog, Olivia.  They rescued her from the streets of Los Barilles, and had her placed in a rescue society waiting for a forever home.  While we were there they were babysitting, as her foster parent was away for a few days.  She is a wonderful little dog - very bright and obedient, and would make a lovely pet.  Thought about it for a few minutes, but realized my cats would never forgive me ......

A couple of weeks after we returned to Arizona, Brenda sent an e-mail advising us that Olivia had found a new home in Calgary, Alberta.  We're hoping she has a wonderful life, and can make the transition from Baja beaches to snowy prairies!

The highlight of our trip, however, was our ATV excursion.   With access to miles of beach that run along the coastline forever, Brenda and Adrian realized that an investment in ATVs was a terrific way to explore the region.  They regularly venture out for short day trips up the coast, and have taken extended trips up to Los Barriles.

We joined Adrian (and Olivia!) for a day trip up to Los Zacatitos, a beach side community along the East Cape.  It was amazing - stunningly beautiful deserted beaches and unique rock formations.  We saw so many whales we stopped counting.  And the most wonderful thing was seeing the whales without the omnipresent flotilla of whale watching boats.  

We roared up the beach, stopping for the occasional beer break and to admire the vista, and the odd palatial residence (entirely off the grid). 

Of course we had to stop at the (only) restaurant/bar in Los Zacatitos for lunch and a few margaritas, and to chat with some of the locals.  Los Zacatitos is a very small community, but home to a number of incredibly beautiful houses. 

It was a perfect day, and I would love to travel even further up the coast next time.

Sadly, our time had come to an end.  There were so many places that I would like to have seen - Los Barriles, La Paz, Todos Santos, Loreto.  Based on our experience here, we'd gladly come back, and possibly for an extended visit of 1-2 months.  We toured some potential housings opportunities, and were impressed with the weather, scenery, shopping, activities, and overall ambiance.  Thanks so much to Brenda and Adrian for their great tour guiding!

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