Rather than retracing our steps through the San Diego area, we headed east and took the new toll road that parallels the border and goes through Mexicali, where we re-loaded;(Costco) and headed south into the state of Sonora. First stop was the coastal community of El Golfo do Santa Clara which is very quaint and which had just experienced a massive storm the day before. We were forced into a hotel for the night as roads to the RV parks were washed out. On the flip side, we had an awesome hand-made pizza and beer for less than $10 provided by an American lady from California who moved to this little village 8 years ago for a “better quality of life.”
El Golfo de Santa Clara
Then on to Puerto Penasco/Rocky Point. This area is blessed with some good roads (built by the USA in WW2 in the event of a Japanese invasion) and is only 100km from the Arizona border and so has a large gringo presence, especially on weekends. However, it is more built up every year (hotels and condos along the beach where people just beach camped 20 years ago), and is facing another massive development with the impending cruise ship port and resort construction.
One of the last RV parks on the beach
View from the Old Port malecón across the bay to the developments
So is this the ‘real’ Mexico? In many ways it still is: only main roads are paved, groceries and beer are cheap, only locals directly in the service industry speak English, and generally the vibe is laid-back. In some ways less so: more pricing in US$, more aggressive street solicitation by merchants and those who want to wash my just washed-and-waxed rig, more American license plates, etc.
We decided this would be a good place to rest up after our active last weeks in Baja, and got settled in. We got Van Gogh washed and waxed for a bargain price. Amazing how much grime can build up over 4 months and 20k kilometers. We made a pledge (which lasted all of two days) to avoid dirt roads. We got propane delivered at our site. We hiked around Rocky Point to La Cholla Bay and ended up at a cantina/bar for lunch. While the scenery is beautiful, the cantina had the vibe that we’ve only experienced once or twice on this trip – almost like it’s a private club. An interesting dynamic occurs among ex-pats or semi-permanent residents both here and in Asia – most remain very friendly to visitors and respectful to the local culture – but a few lose their social graces and become insular in their relations with ‘outsiders’ and rude to the ‘locals.’ They used to call this phenomena the “ugly american” but by no means are Canadians exempt.
We did a fair bit of cycling – still somewhat white-knuckling on the roads but thankfully the traffic was light. Our skills at sand road riding have improved. One ride was a 40km day-long excursion to a beach area south of our location, culminating in a beautiful walk along a beach where we seemed to be the only people around. Other rides saw us cycling into town for shopping and checking out the old town sites, etc. We went to a dentist for teeth cleaning. $45US provides a 30 minute cleaning by a dentist – less than half of the cost back home. Of course, there is no herbal tea or fishtanks in the waiting room, tv in the chairs, or relaxing music, but it is fast and effective.
Stuart rented an ATV and went charging around. Great fun in an entirely non PC way. But dune buggies are a very popular here and many bring their off-road vehicles for this very purpose. Michaela’s favourite activity was shell collecting which she claims is meditative.
We took in the beach bar/nightclub adjacent to our RV park several times………….for sunset appetizers, late-night dancing to a talented Mexican band, and watching the same band perform for the a mix of gringos and locals during the afternoon. All great fun.
And, there’s the fabulous sunsets that are different each day:
So ultimately, how does Mexico lite compare to Baja? Baja is beautiful. It is more difficult to drive to. Most of it is absolutely as it was 25 or even 50 years ago. Maybe that is part of its charm. Sonora is scenic. It easy to get to. Gringos are plentiful, especially on weekends. Maybe the best thing is not to compare them at all, but treat them as the different states that they are, and enjoy them both.
Next post will be Stateside. Salut!