A Travellerspoint blog

February 2009

Baja California Sur, Mexico

Tacos n cervezas, cacti n dust, cervezas n tacos......

sunny 28 °C

WOW! Mexico! Although we may have missed a few things by not driving, we got some great views of the Sea of Cortez and the Baja peninsular during our flight from San Diego to Los Cabos (the Cabos, which are San Jose Del Cabo & Cabo San Lucas). The flight enabled us to see all the huge mountain ranges and delta systems in between, loads of islands on both coasts, and numerous windy roads weaving through the ranges. Stepping off the plane we shed layers of clothing that are no longer required. The sun is as warm as the dust is dry.

Customs¿?¿, what customs, olah y adios, too easy and in no time we found ourselves just walking along the side of the road in search of a bus station. We find a road worker near the airport exit and Steve has a first crack at spanish "Disculpe senor, donde esta una autobus el stacion San Jose Del Cabo". Woohoo yeah smashed it! The response from senor was anyones guess but luckily for us he threw in a few hand guestures and we figured it was somewhere over a thataway!!?!?!?! Siga? A la deracha? Izquierda?

About 2km, a few carcases, and hundreds of cacti later we arrive to what looked like a bus stop. Sweet. Now we just need the right bus and to hand over the right money. Everyone was a bit nervous slash excited slash exhausted from the walk.

We finally get ourselves into San Jose and walk around with lonely planet open searching for street names which would lead us to accom. Bugger, not many street names available. Unable to find the hotel recommended by the lonely planet and with bags and boards getting heavy and Steves hip injury flaring up (did we mention that steve did his hip showing off doing stretches drunk in Hawaii??) we stumble across una hotel Posada Terranova. This will do! The bags are quickly dumped and we stroll the streets down to the closest beach as the sun sets over the ocean.

TACOS and CERVEZAS!!!!!!!! we have our first Mexican dinner in a restaurant overlooking the main street next to the town square, it was a celebration we´d made it to mexico, and it was much much warmer than california!

San Jose was a nice quiet little town but we decided to move on to Cabo San Lucas - a larger town with more infrastructure and resorts spilling out onto the beach. Gringos, and gringas, are everywhere! Again the bus ride was too easy as we met more locals happy to help out by getting us off at the right bus stop. Muchos Gracias Amigos, Adios!

This time we find accom as recommended by the Lonely Planet - una Hotel Olas. We are greated by the friendly grandfatherly owner, Senor Carlos, who had a wealth of information about the Baja and spoke some english. He is 85yro but looks like and gets around like he is 70. The big purple sedan beastie car out the front just had to be his. What a dude!

Once settled in Cabo we just cruised on the beach, had a fish taco here, a swim over there, talked up surf breaks with locals and yeah the vibe of being on holidays kicked into another gear. But it was totally weird seeing this massive, and I mean MASSIVE cruiser in the bay next to the headland of the beach we were swimming, looked like someone had photo shopped the moment. The bay must have been deep as the next day there were two cruisers....

Time to explore, we decide to rent a car, a chrysler voyager van from thrifty. The next couple of days we did day trips to Playa Cerritos and Playa Pelican Pt. Well that is what we called this little beach after sharing it with a lone Pelican who was very interested in us to say the least. While the boys scored their fare share of waves and frothed over the warm water, Jess put Anita through some training on the beach. No one seemed to exercise here and the girls got some classic looks - wtf are they doing???

In the Cabo we ate at ultra cheap taco joints e.g. $1AUD (10 peso) tacos and cervezas at Vernados, and also at nice mid range restaurants like Mariscos Mocambo which served up an assortment of delicious pescado dishes for $11AUD. The equivilant at home would have been something in the order of $30-35. And to top it off we had the coolest Mariachis do their favourite number for us! They carved it up and I think they put a little extra into it to impress the girls....

Time to move on again, we say our farewells to Grandfather Carlos and head norte to Todos Santos. SHITE STEVE´S POCKET KNIFE NOT AGAIN YOU IDIOT! Nearly lost it in Hawaii going through customs and now he has left it back at Hotel Olas. He cops a grilling from everyone, especially the miss´s, and we drive back to get it, along with the cervezas and limes we also left behind (160km round trip!).

Todos Santos saw us stay at Hotel Guluarte WHICH HAD A POOL hahaha you should have seen the girls faces light up and in no time the bikinis were flying around the room and we were just doin what you do on holidays - pool side beers in the sunset. Holidays just keep getting better and better and our beer guts keep on getting bigger and bigger....

We meet Mick and Amy poolside. Mick is a trippy lookin solar power guru from the states, and Amy, well she could have been his daughter, and we wereñt really sure where she fitted into the scheme but apparently they were travelling together and working on solar power systems in the area.

Whilst in Todos we visit Playa San Pedritos and San Pedro. San Pedritos has this classic right hand reef set up. Scored it fun 2-3ft but on the last day it was firing 3-4ft.

Jess overcomes her bout with a cold which has lasted since Hawaii. Steve also overcomes his slightly less severe cold but still has a severly sore hip. Anita is struck down with the runs and Chris looks like coming down with the plague. Yep we have all had our fair share of it! Nonetheless cheap tacos and poolside cervezas are still on the menu and its one sunny day after another. Since turning up into Mexico every day seems the same. What day is it?? Sunny. Dusty. Light to no wind. Coolish nights and warm to hot days. Not like home where the temp and winds vary nearly every day.

Wait for it, hows this feed we have one night - 19 tacos and 4 drinks for 200 peso (yep 20 bucks) and these tacos were loaded!!

After a few days of reasonably good surf, cruising the local art/jewellry/gift shops, and munching tacos a unanimous decision was made. Todos was the nicest place to date, and as sad as it was to leave, we were keen to keep on choogalin onto La Paz where La Carnaval was taking place.

Apparently a 2hr drive we arrive to La Paz in 50 mins. How fast were you driving Steve?? No one knew as for nearly the whole trip everyone was asleep neck titled, mouths wide open, drible down their cheeks...... The HWY between Todos and La Paz had some very long really straight sections. Entering La Paz from the south you cruise through an industrial area and you get the feel that this is the biggest city we have come across. Loads of cars. Somehow again we navigate through the grid and find our way to the Pension California. WOW what a cheapie with heaps of character. Chris has got a fever so we opt for seperate rooms this time. A tiny bit more expensive but worth it to avoid the plague. He looked in a bit of pain.

La Paz was a bit crazier than the previous locations. Yep heaps of cars, and HEAPS of people at the La Paz Carnaval which was on the main drag habourside. While in La Paz we did la Carnaval of a night and explored during the day.

Playa Balandra was mind blowingly beautiful. The beach wrapped around an expansive tidal bay of turquise azure waters and was flanked by typical Baja landscape - undulating desert hills covered with cacti. The tour to Isla de Espiritu was also mind blowing and highly recommended. We paid $55 AUD each for a day trip which saw us snorkle with a sea lion colony, not to mention a very diverse range of fish species aswell, visit isolated beaches of cultural indigenous indian significance, cruise through rock arcs and past surreal formations. One formation resembled a masked face and was rumoured to whistle (scream) when the wind blew a certain way.. It was totally worth every peso. The company is Punta Baja, our tour guide was an 18yro called Migueal, and you leave from Playa Pichillingue which is the next beach around from the Ferry. Words cant explain the beauty we experienced that day, hopefully the fotos do!

We bump into Micheal and Amy again and share a 750ml bottle a Biccardi which I might add cost just $8AUD. The last night of the Carnaval was absolutely crazy and nearly out of hand when a local was not so friendly this time and tried to pick a fight with Steve. Steve´s ninja aquatic merecat skills had this guy bamboozled and in all sorts of trouble i.e. he kept asking for a fight and Steve ignored him and he walked way.

So, with the sea lion snorkle, Playa Balandra beauty and craziness of La Paz Carnaval under our belts, it was time to move on. We hand the voyager back into thrifty, oops sorry about the scratches aahhh insurance will cover that sweet as, and hop onto TMC Ferrys, destination Mazatlan.

Posted by jessnsteve 10:59 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Californian Dreaming

I wish the freezing cold temps were just a dream!

semi-overcast 13 °C

After our Hawaii fun in the sun we arrive in LAX Airport, Los Angeles at 3.00pmish and what a temperature shock! Daily highs of 14 to 16° and lows of around 6° which is freezing by our Aussie standards. We catch a bus to Venice Beach and a friendly local who had just finished up at the "Shooting Range" gave us directions to the Venice Beach Cotel. We check in and share a room with an American, Aiden from Arizona, who is looking for work in LA and playing around on the stock market since just turning 18. The previous day he made $400, too easy. The room was simple and clean and had the newest and cleanest bathroom we had seen on the trip! We take advantage of the free tea and coffee, buzz up, and explore.

We go for a wander from Venice Beach to Santa Monica along the boardwalk. In Venice it was a little scary. There are homeless people and weirdo "performers" (carnies) everywhere. First taste of America and it felt like everyone was hurting pretty bad from the economic crisis. We saw alot of people camping in their cars in carparks and from conversation heard that it was pretty hard to find a job and the cost of living was rising.

As soon as we walk out of Venice and into Santa Monica the sceanery, and vibe, changes dramaticaly, like from night to day. There are these awsome walking only, bike only sections with work out exercise areas that inlcuded bars and swing rings and grassy bits to work your bits. Santa Monica is very clean and upmarket with beautiful waterfront parks similar to Bondi (known by Americans as Boon-dye). The SM pier is HUGE! We bump into a police officer who was really friendly and advised us to get out of Venice because it is "crazy" and look for accom in Santa Monica. He had these 2 big f-off guns positioned between his seat and the front passenger which we got mighty close to when shaking his hand in return for his advice. Steve talked to a surfer on the beach who was running to the water to surf 1 ft slop and he said that the water temp was 10°, crazy over enthusiam for freezing lame surf! GET OUT THERE, not...Steve decides to wait it out for either bigger or warmer surf.

Taking onboard the advice received from the policeman we move on and check into the Santa Monica Hostel International, a very nice hostel with great kitchen and communal chill out areas and best of all, you can eat free breaky for 2hrs which included eggs, toast, juice, cereal, bagels, jelly (jam), tea and coffee. The next day we jumped on a bus and headed for down town LA to visit the Natural History Museum. LA is very grimey and not a particularly appealing place. However the Museum was fantastic. The building was orignially built in the 1920´s and was very grand - marble floors, hardwood and brass fittings with a spectaular main hall with a carved wooden cieling that featured the skeletons of T-Rex and Triceretops having a showdown! The Museum has the largest collection of Dinosaurs in the world. They also had exhibitions of stuffed animals in created habitats from all over the world, mainly northern America and Africa-Strange and amazing to look at. They also had a very comprehensive display of Minerals.

We had lunch outside of the museum in the sun overlooking a field where school kids were playing Gridiron. Hilarious to watch, the kids were only aged 8 to 12 and were pretty talented, weaving in and out of each other with it all to often ending with a dirt sandwich. The gun kids were smashing each other.

From Down Town LA we catch a Greyhound bus to San Diego which took a couple of hours. The bus was rank! It smelt like 1000 rotting greyhounds.....When we arrived we had already sorted where we were going to stay and how to get there but we spotted a couple with a surfboard that were looking as dazed as us so we went and had a chat to them. Turns out they are from, wait for it.... Newcastle Australia.... more specifically.... REDHEAD! So hows that, you cant go anywhere in the world without running into a fellow Redn. Chris and Anita join us and we head to the Ocean Beach Hostel, San Diego (about 30 mins by bus from Central San Diego).

The Ocean Beach Hostel has a nice charm. We stay in a double bed couples room which consited of 4 bunk beds pushed together to create double beds. After meeting a few of the inhabitants we quickly realise that the place is a bit of a nut house with several slightly crazy people, not the typical backpacker types you find in hostels. The Hostel is located on the main street of Ocean Beach San Diego´and it also provides free breaky every morn and also free dinner 2 nights of the week. We scored spag bol the night we arrived! Ocean Beach is a crusty tripped out surfing villiage right next to the beach complete with resident homeless, locally run shops, antique stores, many surf shops and tons of bars.

We checked out the Sunset Cliffs, a 20 min walk south from the Hostel. The coastline comprised of rocky cliffs of up to 50 metres high, lined with mexican style mansions. Large grey pelicans and gulls glided close to the coast line and fed on schools of fish in the ocean below. Squirrells played on the cliffs darting in and out of low lying shrubs. Steve was amazed at the amount of surf breaks along this stretch. There were reefs every 100 to 200 metres with many different lefts and rights to choose from if you were brave enough to climb down the rocky cliffs to get to the cold water! We were also told that it is not wise to surf until 72 hours after rain due to the contaminated run off from San Diego.

The next day Steve bared the cold and went for the dawn patrol out Sunset Cliffs, ambient temps were about 8° with the water temp only slightly warmer at 13 to 14°. He said it was as easy as just walk along, pick ya reef break, some more crowded than others, then find your own access path or follow a local down the cliff!

Other things that come to mind whilst writing were the bus services in CA were very easy to use and efficient. Maps of all routes were available on the bus via handout brochures. AND there were voice automated announcements of all stops which made it very usefull for out of towners!

Anyway, we have enough of the Ocean Beach Hostel nut house and cold temps after 3 days and plan with Anita and Chris the best way to get into sunny warm Mexico. A trip to the airport and back, several hrs on the internet, and several discussions with locals, we book a flight with Alaskan Airlines from San Diego to Los Cabos for around $160 USD each plus $50 for boards. With limited spanish, and limited info on the border crossing at Tijuana and transport down the Baja, we decided it was safer to fly than drive or bus it. Plus it is around 26hrs non stop travelling bus from Tijuana to Los Cabos and cost about the same as flying. BAJA HERE WE COME!!!

Posted by jessnsteve 11:11 Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Aloha Hawaii

01.02.2009 to 09.02.2009

sunny 25 °C

It all started sitting under a palm tree waiting for our shuttle from Honolulu airport to the Backpackers Inn and Plantation Villiage, North Shore Oahu. The weather was everything you imagined Hawaii to be - warm, sunny, light breeze.......

We arrived and settled in to the Plantation Villiage in a two bedroom, shared bathroom and kitchen free standing cabin. Our house mates (4 others) were all really nice and we realised later that the staff gauged which cabin we would fit into best. Sweet. The Plantation Villiage has heaps of character and is a group of freestanding cabins opposite the beach just east of Waimea Bay - so to get to Pipe and Sunset etc you need to ride a bike or walk 20-30 mins. With `Foodland`just a stones throw away it is too easy for groceries etc.

We stayed a couple of days on the north shore, not much swell but beautifull weather and lots of Plantation Villiage cabin partying!!! The bike path along the north shore made for easy access to all the beaches. The swell picked up, with the wind out of the ENE so it was sideshore. Nonetheless Steve got his first taste of Hawaiian power and surfed a messy off the wall. With the weather turning a bit fowl, and looking like hanging around for a couple of days, we decide to make a move and head to Kauaii - the oldest of the Hawaiian islands. NOTE - we flew with GO airlines and they do not accept surfboards, shite....

Buses are not as regular and reliable in Kauaii so we rented a Wrangler to get around in....and sleep in. Yep apparently there were some conferences on in Kauaii and it was either a Wrangler, convertable Mustang or some Chrysler PT cruiser thing.

The rent a car allowed us to explore allot of ground the bus didn`t cover. Kauaii has these awesome beach parks that are complete with parking area, shower and toilet and bbq facilities, and of course, the palm trees and complimentary chickens, roosters and cats. YES Hawaii has pests. The chickens and roosters are everywhere and have no natural predators.

We scaled the Waimea Canyon in the safety of the Wrangler. WOW the views on the way up nearly saw us tumble off the side a couple of times WATCH THE ROAD STEVE!!!!

Koke information centre provided all the information you need for all the hikes and trails in Koke National Park. We chose the Pihea and Alakai trails. The Pihea trail (very very muddy and semi difficult trail) gave us views of the Na Pali coastline which was absolutely breath taking. With valleys full of lush forest, this trail then connected to the Alakai trail which lead us to the Alakai Swamp - the wettest place in the world (well tied with some joint in India actually..). Once up in the swamp (which is really a bog) we were amazed at how misty, wet and wonderful this place is. Yes it is wet! With no one around, no tour guide, the Alakai swamp had to be the most bizzare ecosytem we have ever visited. And did we mention we found half a case of Hieniken near the end of the trail!? Well as Australians we felt it was our duty to drink the remaining beers, which were cold from ambient temps, and take the rubbish back to the car park some 4.5 miles away...

One day of hiking down, one to go. The next day we hit the north shore of Kauaii and trecked the Na Pali Coast. On the way we notice the cute little townships of Kapaa and Hanalei. We parked the Wrangler at Kee beach and embarked on the Kalalau trail. This trail was even more muddy and testing than the previous days hike. Ankle deep in mud clambering over boulders weaving in and out of valleys and headlands. We take a left at Hanakapiai beach and head towards Hanakapaiai Falls. Several hours later through lush rainforest and bamboo fields we reach the falls which stood some 400m tall or so. Yep Steve had to jump in, just had to, and screamed like a banchi as he swam through the 12-13 degree water into the tumbling falls. Unforgetable.

We came, we saw, we smoked some trails!!! We fly back to Oahu just in time for a big swell to hit the north shore. Cruising over the hill you could see the waves breaking IT MUST BE MASSIVE!?!?!?! And it was..

We watch Pipe which had the Pipe trials on for locals etc that were not in the top 44. It was at least 12, maybe 14 ft breaking on 3rd reef and heavy as all hell. Not perfect either, had the willy wonka in it. Guys were pulling into unmakable sections and getting fully worked. It was like watching a blood sport! We heard emergency sirens every couple of hrs. We also watched Sunset with 15ft sets. Velzyland at 4ft was more Steves size, considering he only had a 6`6...

The next day it had dropped a couple of feet. Trials had finished and Pipe was unbelievably crowded. Steve surfed log cabins 4-5ft for the early with no one out. Later on, a couple of mates from Aus turned up to the plantation villiage. The Yazbeck brothers, who were staying with Jeff Bushman. They invited Steve to come surf backyards - a reef out further than sunset, and asked what size board he was going to take out next. Like a little pussy cat, meow, Steve goes `will a 6`6 be ok`, the Yazzy brothers look at each other, pause, look at Steve, and say `well we`ve got a 7`4 and 8`0, but you usually ride short boards yeah????Anyway, luckily the surf had dropped to a more managable 6ft¨with maybe the odd 8. Backyards was fun. Crazy wave as you are pumping down the line towards the crew at Sunset....

The weather remained perfecto. The Plantation Villiage cabin parties continued. Jess snorkled shark cove and went shopping with Nadine and Alex in at Haleiwa. We delayed our flight for a day and then headed to Waikiki for Kaluha on the beach while watching the sunset. We stayed at Polynesian Hostel. Up early the next day we flew out at 8:20am. And that was Hawaii. Freindly, sunny, fun, holy shite waves and all the rest......

Posted by jessnsteve 18:31 Archived in USA Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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