May, 2014

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Southern California

So I’m back in the U.S. The contrast is striking after more than four weeks in Baja..!
After having taken care of Vivalavida who needed it after more than 1,500 miles of rough trails, I began my wy North towards San Francisco where I had to meet my twin brother who would travel with me a few weeks. This way began with a visit of Anza Borego desert, an arid region of southern California.
1. Chilly and windy Wake up above the desert.
2. In these mountains over 6,000 feet elevation, landscapes sometimes look like Nordic landscapes.
3. But once you go down behind the mountain barrier holding the rain, it’s a real desert.
4. The Salton Sea is a dead sea nestled in a valley at -213 feet elevation and is the scene of an unsolved mystery: quantities of birds die each year without anyone have clarified why…
5. But it remains photogenic! πŸ™‚
6. Making a detour to the south of Los Angeles to meet a member of the Sportsmobile forum, I went through the San Jacinto Mountains, southwest of Indio.
7. Beautiful sunset light on the small Hemet Lake…
8. … nice place for a boondocking.
I then decided to follow the coast North and explore the Big Sur, iconic place for the post Flower Power period…
9. South of Moro Bay, showers on Pismo Dunes…
10. Sand flowers…
11. Moro Bay harbor and its famous rock.
12. The beach north of Moro Bay…
13. … homes colonies of elephant seals. What they stink! πŸ˜€
14. Nice face!
15. Lighthouse on the coast…
16. … and pastures worthy of Ireland!
17. Another shower passing.
18. Dark horizon…
19. … but begins to get clearer.
20. One of the marvels of the Big Sur: the McWay Falls, a waterfall that flows directly on the beach. Gorgeous!
21. Clearer late afternoon on this beautiful coast.
Following of my way North in a few days… πŸ˜‰

Baja California (8 and end)

Last update about our trip in Baja. We continue heading North.
1. Beautiful Pacific coast Under the sun…
2. … with sometimes nice pink lagunas…
3. … that birds enjoy. Here, an american avocet.
4. The strong Pacific swell.
5. What a view!
6. Colorful pebbles…
7. … and plants that make one think of strawberries! πŸ˜‰
8. Another colored laguna…
9. VivaLaVida on the roadway, obviously little frequented…
10. Fishing camp where we bought good fish…
11. … and succulent lobster tails! πŸ˜€
12. This coast is really wild…
13. Baja Shaker accesses one of our camps…
14. … into the dunes.
15. quiteness of sunset on an island off shore looking like a sombrero…
16. … and a great fish for diner!
17. Finally the discovery of the peninsula, we have driven the highest mountains of the National Park of San Pedro Martir, the highest road almost 8100 feet elevation…
18. … we even found snow there!!
19. The view is amazing and quite unexpected here…
20. … with beautiful coniferous forests.
21. After going back down the coast, we took a last track on the Pacific coast, terribly rough. Here, a severe tilt, pretty impressive!
22. He was basking in the sun and refugde in the bush when we arrived, which didin’t not stop me going to photograph him. A big specimen about four feet long and as thick as my arm. Not bad for a rattlesnake!
23. Last camp on the Pacific coast…
24. … next to a spectacular blowing hole.
25. One bird in the morning light.
26. small Church in a rancho along the road.
27. We spend our last night near hot springs where we relaxed. Here, one of the baths letting regulate the temperature by alowing more or less cold water of the river.
That’s it for the story of our trip in Baja. Many thanks to Andrew for his friendly company and good times spent together. We will go back, he and I likely… πŸ˜€
Back in the States is coming soon…

Baja California (7)

Since Ramsey spoke us about the Mission San Miguel, we decided to reach it the next day, leaving the group which pamed to cross the border the same day. Little backway to Rosarito where we took the trail to San Miguel. In places, the track remained quite muddy after the heavy rains that hit the region a week earlier.
1. It looks like a volcano…
2. “Baja Shaker” driving through some muddy puddles.
3. Mission San Miguel is quite different from those we previously visited.
4. Decorated door.
5. The interior is sober.
6. The main door from the interior.
7. It’s a large mission, with many rooms…
8. … and a pretty staircase to access to the roof.
9. Gardens.
10. On the road through the mountains…
11. And since it’s cold on the Pacific coast, we decided to push up to Baya Los Angeles for the night.
12. VivaLaVida on a natural peninsula…
13. … more visible from above!
14. The next morning, while Andrew bathes, VivaLaVida explores the area… πŸ˜€
15. … before to take the road to Pacific coast again.
16. Another giant beside the track. Undoubtedly one of the largest we have seen throughout the trip!
17. We follow a road sometimes badly damaged by recent rains…
18. … but the nature around is beautiful.
19. Here, 4WD where necessary to go through..! πŸ˜‰
And…! At one point on the trail, the water dug nearly a four feet deep, leaving only a narrow passage against the hill. Vivalavida engages therein while Andrew guided me… but the road collapsed under the weight of VLV missing to fall on the right side! Luckily, he landed on the rear differential, the right rear wheel in vacuo! I was lucky on this one ..!
20. Bad posture…
21. A little more and VLV would lye on the side…
It took us three hours to get him out of this trouble. We first secured VLV at the roof rack with a strap at the foot of a large cactus to prevent it tipping if the road continued to collapse. We backfilled under the rear wheel with stones and sand, creating a ramp to the rear. Baja Shaker positioned on the hill as a fixed point and the winch Vivalavida at the rear, it was slowly winched on this ramp. All that was at night because the collapse occurred in the late afternoon.
22. Baja Shaker as a fixed point to winch from the rear..!
23. Almost bailed. Andrew gives the depth scale..! πŸ˜€
It was not until around 21:30 that we finally got it right and had our meals, camping a few hundred yards away.
24. The next morning we made a ramp down into the wash and back on the road further.
25. But the wash was very soft. I had to take out the shovel again…
26. Finall ythe obstacle has been crossed!
A final update on the Baja is to come soon…

Baja California (6)

As stated at the beginning of the report, we favored the Pacific coast for our ascent.
1. Osprey, common in the Baja.
2. To the west, the climate is very different, oceanic, humid and cold.
3. Therefore the vegetation also changes.
4. Nice inhabitant of the beach…
5. … as those big funny crustaceans.
6. Nice camp on the beach next to the waves of Pacific Ocean.
7. Wonderfull sunset at our boondocking.
8. A beautiful caracara…
9. Herd of goats on the road.
10. Sometimes, there is some water…
11. And still these arid mountains dotted with many cactus.
12. The Conception Bay in late afternoon and in strong wind.
13. Anchorage south of Santa Rosalia
14. Dusk on the Laguna San Ignacio.
This is where we meet Ramsey, another 4×4 van owner who had organized a trip to Baja via the Sportsmobile forum. He was travelling since one week traveling with a small group of van. He had organized an outing to go seeing the gray whales, which will remain one of the highlights of our trip. So the next day aboard small boats, we met the wales. There has indeed approx. 65 mothers with their jungs and 80 solitary individuals who are spending part of spring in this lagoon.
15. A mother and her young.
16. She support him at the surface of water…
17. A male shows…
18. … then waved…
19. … while the mother and her little recede.
20. Breath…
21. Later, another mother presents her jung, supporting him close of the boat. This jung seems to enjoy being petted on the nose.
22. Andrew says hello…
23. Candle to say good bye…
24. After this moment of intense emotions, we camped with the little group in Santa Rosalita, on the Pacific coast under a dark sky. The campfire was really nice, Andrew had even prepared a fondue on the beach! It was a nice evening which allowed us to meet several members of the sportsmobile forum.
To be continued…

Baja California (5)

I continue with fairly close updates to try to catch the little backlog.
We are now almost in the South and the climate is summer.
1. Baya San Evaristo, a nice anchorage for yachts traveling.
2. Saline behind the promontory.
3. We decided to stop for the day on a beautiful beach where we were completely alone.
4. Nice camp, isn’t it?
5. The weather was not great but it’s nice for taking photos… πŸ˜‰
6. I took the opportunity to photograph some birds. Here a brown pelican.
7. A blue heron.
8. A couple of American heating small crustaceans.
9. Sorry, I don’t rememebr the English name of this one. Will complete it later. πŸ˜‰
10. Grooming…
11. I also test my folding kayak that proves efficient!
12. The next day, the light is brighter before our departure.
13. The road to La Paz delivers nice views…
14. … with some cliffs.
15. Fishing camp…
16. Still the desert…
An incident will slow our progress. While we have just La Paz, I see Baja Shaker that puts headlights in my rearview mirror. I stop and Andrew said: “You’re losing all your diesel”. I lean in and discovers a slot of ten inches in one tank welds. The vibrations of the trail broke this weld aluminum. Using plastic bottles cut, we managed recover about five gallonsto fill the only can we had, the rest of 40 gallons accidentally ending on the side. Baja Shaker then tow me to La Ventana where we find an old man, Adan, who made a nice weld on the tank previously took apart. As it was Sunday, it’s Baja Shaker who took me discovering the coast towards Los Barilles.
17. Seashore North of Los Barilles.
18. Sunset on Baya La Ventana.
19. From the other side of the bay the next morning, a beautiful sunrise with the sound of whales blowing.
After the forced stop, we will head north to join a small group of vans in San Ignacio and go alltogheter see the whales in the Laguna San Ignacio. To be continued in a few days… πŸ˜€

Baja California (4)

The road down the Baja continues.
1. We passed by the Mission San Luis Gonzaga, simpler but no less lovely.
2. Stripped interior.
3. Bell tower…
4. Decorated door.
5. … and amazing knocker.
6. Detail…
7. Some other buildings probably built in the 19th century remain. These are the only of its kind we saw during our trip.
8. It wasn’t possible to drive faster than 5-10 mph on that kind of roads.
9. Small Church in a very small village along our road…
10. Some “aroyos” have water during the winter.
11. Another mission that we couldn’t visit since it’s private property and we should have had an appointment.
12. Mountain oasis…
13. Another small isolated church.
14. Vivalavida and Baja Shaker then borrow a beautiful canyon to reach the coast about 140 km north of La Paz.
15. Stony descent.
16. Ascent to the pass accessing the coast. Here, a spring creates a small oasis.
17. There are some river crossings…
18. While Andrew went to see the village of San Evaristo, I climbed a peak to look for a point of view. Vivalavida looks very small from up there!
19. What a view!
20. San Evaristo not far away…
21. In one word: superb.
To be continued… πŸ˜‰

Baja California (3)

More than towna I announced, I should have said villages because of their small size.
The first our route met was the well-known San Ignacio. It is a beautiful palm grove that has developed around a source maintaining a small lake year round.
1. A village square that might remind some squares in south of France.
2. The famous church of San Ignacio, one of the best preserved of Baja.
3. Awseome frontage…
4. Typical interior of Jesuit churches from mid 19th century.
5. The streets are colorful.
6. The lake and the palm grove.
We continued south with a stop in Santa Rosalia, a small really pleasant town.
7. Lively streets…
8. Point of interest, a church built by Gustave Eiffel for an International Exhibition and reassembled a few decades later.
9. The interior reveals the typical metal frame of this designer.
10. Back street…
11. We stopped for the night and the following day in a little paradise…
12. Panoramic at sunset…
13. This sand spit is unique…
14. A frigate, an incredible sailing (approx. 7 feet wide) which almost never beats wings as he knows how to exploit thermal and dynamic…
15. Continuing our discovery, we joined the mission of San Javier, in the central highlands.
16. White domes…
17. A tree in the garden…
18. Openings are small…
19. … but the architecture is powerfull.
20. Following the trail to South, a Virgin in an exposed passage of the trail.
To be continued… πŸ˜‰

Baja California (2)

It continues down the Baja, along the Sea of ​​Cortez.
1. First sun rays on Baya de Las Animas, at low tide.
2. Our campsite on the beach.
3. Read turkey vultures warming after the quite cool night.
4. Vivalavida leaving Las Animas through salt fields.
5. The track is very rocky, sometimes really rough too.
6. We approach the beautiful beach of San Rafael…
7. … of dazzling white sand. First bath for Andrew who is a man of water! πŸ˜€
8. Also the first Heerman gull, a very pretty bird really common here.
9. Lagoon behind the dunes…
10. Still beautiful cactus.
11. Baja Shaker climbs a small pass in the light of late afternoon…
12. New camp on the beach in the bay of San Francisquito. We saw our first whales of the trip that evening.
13. Unikely glimmers…
14. … of this especially quite sunset.
15. Dawn will be nice too.
16. An attentive inhabitant of the desert!
17. The trail winds through the cactus.
18. Parasitic plant forming small aesthetic balls on a cactus.
19. You said staight..? πŸ˜€
The next update will take you in some towns in central Baja and will continue down the east coast. To be continued…