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Cataviña and Cabañas Linda (NOT!)
February 2nd, 2014
Back in November, our little convoy of two vehicles (Ron in the lead and Mom and I following behind) left Ensenada in the cool of morning. The air conditioning was working in the Lincoln now, so Mom and I knew we would be comfortable as the day progressed and the heat of the desert intensified.
Driving the Baja can be extremely treacherous as shoulders don’t exist and the road is extremely narrow. Highway 1 is the only highway that connects the US to the southern tip of the Baja, so there is a lot of tractor/trailer traffic combined with passenger vehicles. Defensive driving is absolutely required as you take the winding roads and twist and climb through the mountains. We travel using walkie talkies, and there have been many situations when Ron has told me it is clear to pass when any sane person wouldn’t even consider it! Mom was a great sport and never showed any nervousness or concern – bless her for her faith and confidence in both of us. The many white crosses and memorials along the way are vivid reminders of the inherent danger this highway presents its travellers.
The beauty of this desert landscape is awe-inspiring. The variety of cacti and scenery will surprise anyone visiting this apparent “last frontier” for the first time and I am amazed and thrilled every time we have the opportunity to see it. There are so few people to have actually driven the Baja, and my precious Mom is now among them. It is an incredible experience and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with her.
One of the contests that Ron and I play when we drive the Baja is “Who Can Spot The First Boojum”. This is what CaboBob.com says about the boojum (otherwise known as cirio):
“The boojum looks like nothing else. It is often described as a giant carrot growing upside-down, with its root sticking up to fifty feet in the air. It has a trunk and leaves, but o branches until it’s at least a hundred years old, when the trunk divides into two of more whip-like tops. A fifty year-old specimen might be a foot thick at its base, and less than five feet tall. It’s one of the slowest growing plants in the world, at a rate of a foot every ten years, which means a mature fifty-footer may be more than 500 years old.
After plentiful rainfall, the boojum “candle” sprouts a flame of yellow blossoms at its tip, and its trunk is covered with small green leaves. When water is absent, it sheds all its leaves to preserve moisture within the trunk. The boojum is abundant in this two hundred mile strip of desert, but the only other place it grows is a small patch at the same latitude across the Sea of Cortez, in the State of Sonora.”
Ron sees people and families when he looks at boojums and I see dancers. They are rare and special and no two specimens look alike. Mom enjoyed them immensely as well as the elephant trees, the cardón (the largest cactus in the world that can grow to over sixty feet tall – often mistaken for its northern cousin, the saguaro), and the hundreds (literally hundreds!) of other cactus varieties found throughout the Baja.
We’d had a long day driving and it was starting to threaten sunset. We’d planned on getting to Cataviña by nightfall as the last thing you want to do is drive the Baja at night. We caught a glimpse in the twilight of the Boulder Field of Cataviña, sorry that we’d missed them in the last light of afternoon but excited to know that we would instead see it in the early morning light the next day.
There is a charming hotel, the Desert Inn, just off the highway that we’d planned on checking into. It is an identical twin to a hotel in San Ignacio to the south and both form part of a group of six hotels from Ensenada to Loreto that were formerly called La Pinta. We should have called ahead – the Desert Inn was fully booked as the Baja 1000 was well underway. Lots of racers, chase and support teams and had taken up all of the rooms. We quickly got back into our cars and raced back up the road to secure a room in the only other motel in this little town called Cabañas Linda (not the kind of place that you want as a namesake, believe me!).
The word “linda” in Spanish means beautiful and, believe me, this motel was FAR from that description! Other than driving on to Guerrero Negro, we really had no other choice unless we wanted to sleep in our cars. Since that wasn’t an option, we secured the last two rooms available.
The rooms were princess pink – from floor to ceiling – PINK! We were laughing with some racers that were staying in a room next to our two rooms – a double bed and bunk beds that were top to bottom princess pink. Hilarious! Doors that wouldn’t lock, furniture that was picked up, we’re sure, at roadside flea markets, bedding that you definitely wanted to keep your clothes on to lay upon, and bathrooms fixtures that you stood well away from!
Mom was a great sport about it all – in fact, far better than her daughter. It was her first truly authentic Mexican experience outside of the tourist destinations that my parents traveled to over the years. She said it reminded her of a story that my Dad told of staying somewhere once where he listened to the sound of beetles falling from the ceiling all night. Sometimes you’re tired enough that you can sleep anywhere – literally!
At eleven o’clock, the motel turned out the generator that ran the lights and power and I worried that Mom would have trouble finding the bathroom when she got up in the night. I thought knocking on her door to tell her what happened would scare her even more, so trusted that she would be careful and find her way safely. Lesson learned: always have a small flashlight in your travel bag!
The motel knew what they were doing as no one would stay there past day break and they had ample time to turn the rooms over. They had a café on site that only served instant coffee, so everyone staying at the motel headed south to the Desert Inn for our cup of java instead. We drove a short distance north again to take in the Boulder Field in the morning light. Boulders as big as large buildings and cacti growing out of nothing but rock – absolutely amazing!
January 15th, 2014
This is going to be a very short blog. I just wanted to acknowledge how grateful I am for the life I’m living here in Cabo with Ron. We wake up every morning to another perfect day and rarely with a set plan. After a lifetime of working , it is pure luxury to sleep until your body is rested and not to the annoying sound of an alarm clock.
It occurred to me tonight as I was preparing a marinade for some steaks we’ll be sharing with our friend, Angeles, tomorrow. I needed fresh lemon juice and grabbed my flashlight and headed behind the house to pick the lemon I needed from our tree. For the Spaghetti Olio y Aglio I was preparing a bit later, I needed fresh parsley and walked out the front door onto our deck and clipped the fresh herb from our Tower Garden.
We just shared a wonderful week with our dear friends Peter and Sherry – one of the great perks of living in a tourist destination is that we always have lots of people visiting us. We have several more friends scheduled to arrive over the next few months and it is such a delight and privilege to share some of our life here with them.
It’s been a horrendous winter in Canada and parts of the United States, and here we are in Cabo in the middle of January living such a different and special life. I’m incredibly grateful for the love and life we share – thank you, Ron.
Happy New Year!
December 31st, 2013
The Twelve Grapes of Luck (“las doce uvas de la suerte”) is a Mexican tradition that originated in Spain in the late 1800′s. The tradition involves eating a grape with each bell strike at midnight on New Years Eve. According to legend, this tradition leads to a year of prosperity.
Another tradition in Mexico is wearing different colored underwear on New Years Eve for different wishes. People who want love and passion in the next year wear red underwear; for happiness and prosperity they wear yellow underwear; for health and well-being the choice is green underwear; for friendship and harmony they wear pink underwear; and they wear white underwear for hope and peace in the coming year.
I’m going to rush out today to buy panties that have red, yellow, green, pink and white AND I think I’ll wear a red bra with them tonight! Why not?
Here’s to a new year filled with love and passion, happiness and prosperity, health and well-being, friendship and harmony, as well as hope and peace!
Leaving A Mark
December 29th, 2013
Everywhere we travel, it seems that we are noticing more of something terribly out of place in nature and on man-made structures: people are “tagging” with graffiti. The graffiti shows up in many forms such as names, dates, political or religious statements, drawings, profanity or expressions of love, just to name a few.
I suppose that leaving a mark is in our nature as human beings. From the earliest cultures, we have found evidence of their stories and people left signs of their presence. These marks are part of our history and date back hundreds and thousands of years. The world is a different place now and it would be a much more beautiful world if members of society would chose to protect places of beauty and find an alternative way to leave their mark.
One of the most beautiful and amazing places we see on our trip up and down the Baja is the Cataviña Boulder Field. The Field runs for miles and miles and the hills and valleys are filled with tens of thousands of magnificent, building-sized boulders, gigantic rock formations and amazing cacti. This area, known as Baja’s rock garden, has unfortunately been “tagged” by people who feel they need to leave their mark.
On our way to California last year, we were delighted to see that someone attempted to cover the graffiti with beige paint to match the color of the boulders. By this year, however, many of the rocks were again “tagged”, but fewer than in years past. This entire region is under the protection of the Parque Natural del Desierto Central de Baja California, so perhaps they have been the party responsible for covering the defacement, or perhaps there are some dedicated good Samaritans who have taken that responsibility onto themselves. Whoever it is, we’re grateful.
There is a little white house across and down the street from us that we pass every time we drive to our home. Because the property is deserted, it is constantly defaced with graffiti. Every year, we purchase white paint and try to send a message that the “tagging” won’t be tolerated by painting over the graffiti with fresh white paint. My fear is that the “artists” just see us providing a new, blank canvas every time we do that. Oh well, perhaps more people will get the message.
I find it very sad that “tagging” has become such an accepted way for people to leave a mark. Make memories with photos when you’re travelling through places like Cataviña instead of defacing the boulders, write an editorial if you need to make a political statement, write a book, mentor someone, leave a legacy and just live your life as you’d like to be remembered and eulogized – that’s a much better way for each of us to leave evidence that we existed.
The Wine Route and Ensenada
December 28th, 2013
When we left San Diego, we decided to head east and cross the border at Tecate instead of Tijuana. We’ve had much better experiences crossing here, especially when we’re headed back to the US as I don’t think we’ve ever taken any less than three hours going north at Tijuana versus a half hour, at maximum, at Tecate.
We were hoping to get the air conditioning compressor changed on the Lincoln LS in Tecate, but were directed to the Ford dealership in Ensenada instead. Mom and I weren’t uncomfortably hot in the car, but we knew it was going to get much warmer as we continued south.
The road from Tecate to Ensenada is called the Wine Route or “Ruta del Vino” and connects over 50 wineries in the state of Baja California. Although few people think of wine in Mexico, it is actually the oldest wine-growing region in North America (and yes – Mexico IS part of North America!) and have produced wine since the sixteenth century when the Spaniards arrived with vine clippings from the old country. The Wine Route takes you through four different valleys (Guadalupe, Llano Colorado, Santo Tomas and San Vicente) and provides a Mediterranean microclimate that is in the midst of a tourism and winemaking renaissance that Napa Valley experienced in the 1970’s and that the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia in Canada has recently experienced.
Besides the stunning scenery, the Baja wine country offers a wide range of world-class restaurants, B&B’s, and luxury hotels and it’s developing more every year. If Mexico is able to get the drug war under control and make the border towns safe again, we expect the tourism in this area to expand tremendously over the next decade with visitors from the US and beyond. In the meantime, we’re savoring every trip though this region and realize the potential of what will continue to develop over time.
Unfortunately, because we were anxious to get the car repaired and the weekend was upon us (most businesses close at 1:00 on Saturday and don’t open again until Monday in Mexico), we had to hurry on to Ensenada on this trip and not explore what the wine country had to offer. I hope that we have more time the next drive down with Mom.
We checked into the Hotel Mision Santa Isabel, a once-beautiful property, but quickly realized that this hotel is a sad memory of its former self. It is perfectly situated, however, and provided close and safe access to good restaurants and shopping. Next time, however, we would stay at the Hotel Cortez across the street (www.bajainn.com) as it appeared very well cared for and they served us a delicious breakfast the next morning.
Mom loves horses and we took a horse drawn buggy down the main thoroughfare to the Telcel location to get our Mexican phones working, got the car fixed at the local Ford dealership and finally got our convoy on the road for the next leg of our Baja journey.