Friday, 28 September 2012

Car Snorkelling???

Row, row, row your car,
Gently down the street,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

We've had a crazy couple of weather days! Rain, rain and more rain . . . which is extremely rare for Baja and which has made the desert a very green place.

Yesterday we spent most of the day in & around the hotel. It was actually quite lovely to have a nice relaxing day of reading and writing. And the rain cooled things off a bit which was also nice.
A watery street in Loreto.
Today we were scheduled to drive to La Paz though and away we went. All was fine for the first couple hours (while Andrew was driving!) but as we got further south the areas where water covered the road became more frequent. Most of them were quite manageable but I was happy to have cars in front of me test the waters (pun intended) first.

As we got within a few kilometres of La Paz traffic was backed up but still moving very slowly. We weren't sure if it was water or perhaps a traffic accident. It took us  an hour to drive 2 km and through a stretch of deep water about 150 meters long. I was very worried we weren't going to make it through as it was quite deep as well!

Typical of impatient drivers, especially the ones with big trucks that can negotiate ditches and curbs, a couple of them went into the lanes for northbound traffic, trying to get ahead of everyone. Not taking into consideration that the northbound traffic is still trying to get through -- and not really caring until the police came along and put a stop to it. But by then a whole bunch had followed their lead until there was a long, long lineup of vehicles in the wrong lane.

Big truck budging in line! Grrrrr . . . .
Police on the way to organize stupid drivers. 
Are we going to make it?
Through the worst of it.

Long story short, we made it to La Paz. We had a short respite but now it's pouring again and our hotel owner says she hasn't seen rain like this in 15 years!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Swimming with Sea Lions

Despite threat of a potential tropical storm, we had an absolutely stellar day yesterday! We'd met up with Andrew's sisters, Penny & Clare, in Loreto the day before, stashed all our scuba and camping gear with Joel (pronouncing the "J" the Spanish way, "Ho-el") who will be our kayaking guide later in the trip, and met up with Rafael at Dolphin Dive to arrange a snorkelling trip out to Coronado Island.

Again, we saw lots of birds along the way including several blue-footed boobies. I'd forgotten about them being around here!

The sea lions were out in abundance. Rafael says their population is growing over the years and they're becoming more playful. We certainly had fun snorkelling with them!

Our boat driver, Ramon, was on the lookout for dolphins for us and we first came upon a few female dolphins protecting their babies so we quickly left them alone. A little further along though, we came upon a whole pod of them. They are such graceful, elegant creatures!

The Boss!

Playful and curious 

This guy came straight at me and then ducked away at the last second. This is all I caught of him on camera! Filled my mask with water due to laughing at his teasing!
The McKinlay siblings . . . Andrew, Penny, Clare

The acrobats!

As always, photos taken with my little Lumix camera. I expect Andrew will have some good ones of the dolphins!

Just found out there was an earthquake yesterday not far from us! We had no clue! 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Stopover in Mulege

We just spent a very relaxing day in Mulege (on the Sea of Cortez side of the Baja Peninsula). We stayed at Cliff's Place, where Andrew had stayed on a previous stopover. It's a lovely spot right on the river that runs through much of the town and out to the Sea.

Cliff has some sit-on-top kayaks for guest use so we dug our snorkel gear out of the car and away we went  . . . early of course to avoid the hottest part of the day!

What a great morning! It was very calm on the water, clear blue skies, lots of birds to admire flying gracefully overhead (and playing in the water) and some colourful sea life as well.

My photos (with Lumix waterproof to 10m camera) from today day are below but of course Andrew is the photographer in the family and here's his photos from the previous few days.

Enroute to snorkeling
Frigate Birds
On the river, heading back to Cliff's Place
The outdoor kitchen at Cliff's Place

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Good Thing We're Not on The Amazing Race!

It took us an HOUR to get out of Prescott, AZ, this morning! All because we misunderstood a detour sign! It wasn't meant for the direction we were going but we drove round and round and round trying to find a way around what we thought was the detour!  Sigh . . .

We were barely out of that when Andrew asked me if I was up for listening to more of our Spanish language tapes. Ah, let me think . . . NO!!!

Despite this extremely minor setback, the trip has been great thus far with some absolutely amazing views and locations that we definitely have to come back and explore further.

We drove through Yellowstone National Park and went for a short hike while waiting to see Old Faithful erupt. It's been about 20 years since the last time we were there.

Old Faithful faithfully erupts.
Grand Teton looked soooo high . . . we summited it . . . also many years ago.

This was the first time I'd been through Flaming Gorge. Unfortunately the views were not the best due to hazy skies caused by forest fires and the salmon weren't running like they were when Andrew had previously been thru a couple years ago at this time of year.

Flaming Gorge
Monument Valley
I would highly recommend the drive from Flagstaff, through Sedona, to Prescott on Highway 89A and then Iron Spring Road through the Prescott National Forest. Very scenic, windy steep mountain roads. The town of Jerome was especially interesting as it has one road through it, many switchbacks, and all the buildings are built into the mountainside. It's an old mining town but now appears to have lots of artsy/tourist shops, a couple wineries and a few nice places to stay. In some ways (the one road and hillside buildings) reminded me of Zhangmu (on the Nepal/Tibet border) only much, much nicer!

Cactus at campsite in Prescott, AZ
Sand dunes near Brawley, CA
We're now in El Centro, CA, and it's 42 degrees Celsius. Hopefully we get used to the heat again.  Tomorrow we cross the border into Mexico. Hope all goes well!

Here's Andrew's blog post with much better photos. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

East Coast Trail

I was heading to St. John's, Newfoundland, for a conference so decided I'd like to take a few extra days and do some hiking on the East Coast Trail (ECT).  The ECT is 540 km long, running along the coastline running north and south of St. John's.

My route took me from Cape Spear to Cape Broyle, approximately 102 km over 4 1/2 days. The weather forecast couldn't have looked better for the first week of September! I took a taxi out to Cape Spear and, with it being the holiday Monday of the Labour Day Weekend, it was somewhat busy with day hikers around the Cape and on the trail. The only other over-night hikers I came across was a young dad, with a boy about 8 years and a girl about 6 years old. Dad was loaded down with a huge pack and the little ones with very little packs. It was great to see them out!

Some of the day hikers were also picking wild blueberries and I enjoyed a few handfuls every day!

My second day was much different, not seeing a single person on the trail until I got to Bay Bulls. This section was a bit harder (rated "difficult to strenuous") with lots of up & down and fighting through knee-high shrubs. Awesome, rugged coastline though which was definitely worth the extra effort of the day!

The highlights of the trip were seeing "the spout" and the La Manche suspension bridge.

It's okay to camp anywhere just off the trail and that's what I did the first three nights. Luckily I stayed at the Roaring Cove Campsite on the fourth night as it had raised tent platforms which I think saved me from getting flooded out in the massive rain storm that evening! The following day was windy but warm and, although it didn't rain, I got totally soaked (i.e. wringing the water out of my socks!) due to the very wet vegetation.

In Cape Broyle, my final destination, the Riverside Restaurant staff were amazingly friendly and helpful in finding a place for me to stay and the Icehouse Meadow Cottage was perfect for drying out gear and getting cleaned up before heading back to St. John's.

I would highly recommend this hike!

  • St. John's city taxi to Cape Spear (about $40)
  • ECT Association maps (Don't bother with the guidebooks unless you want history and flora/fauna info. The maps have great written route descriptions on the back and the trail is very easy to follow.) 
  • Southern Shore Taxi to pick up anywhere south of St. John's ($130 from Cape Broyle back to St. John's)
  • Restaurants along the route which I stopped at : O'Briens in Bay Bulls, Irish Loop Coffee House in Witless Bay, Riverside Restaurant in Cape Broyle. 
(Click on photo to see slide show.)

Cape Spear Lighthouse . . . love the sky!

Friday, 14 September 2012

East Coast Trail - Flora & Fauna

The East Coast Trail has interesting flora & fauna along the route. I saw a lot of moose tracks and several people asked if I saw any moose, but alas, I didn't! 

The highlight was definitely the wild blueberries every day!

I just about stepped on this little guy who was sitting in the middle of the trail but luckily he quickly jumped in the water. I saw a few other frogs but they were too quick for photos! 

Slugs are prolific in the wet coastal weather. 

Water skippers in a small fresh water pond. 

Evidence of all the bird life. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

By the Label . . . Again

While in Newfoundland . . .

As per a previous post, I like "different" wine labels and often purchase wine because I get a laugh from the label or simply like the design. Yes, I know . . . it's the BEST way to choose a wine!  :-)

Needless to say, I couldn't resist these cuties from Auk Island Winery in Twillingate, Newfoundland.

From left to right: Funky Puffin (blueberry & rhubarb), Moose Joose (blueberry & partridgeberry), Jelly Bean Row (strawberry & partridgeberry) and Krooked Cod (blueberry & raspberry).  They come in a handy little Auk Box carrying case and it was ok to mix & match! 

For more immediate consumption I picked up a bottle of 20 Bees pinot grigio. Again, chosen for the great label! But it was also a very nice wine made by Diamond Estates Winery, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

I had to give the local beer a try as well. The Quidi Vidi Brewery in St. John's is well known in the area and I really enjoyed their Iceberg ale. The blue bottles are unique!