Last Leg

So, the last lap is up the Pacific coast of California. I start in Ventura and basically follow Highway 1 all the way back to San Francisco. The weather is perfect.

Always start with a good breakfast! I love Denny’s.
Ventura.

The trip up Highway 1 is one of the greatest drives.

Yep!
Elephant Seals are taking over
Yep!
That will do Truck
Er, looking the other direction.
Poor photo from the traveling truck, but you get the idea.

Such a great drive. Between Carmel and Santa Cruz, the road is bordered by huge Mimosa trees covered in yellow blossom, so beautiful. The sun goes down very dramatically just after Santa Cruz.

Another poor photo, er but you get the idea.

I had lost my driving glasses somewhere down the road and the Tacoma’s lights are not the best. The twisty turny road back into San Francisco was pretty terrifying but around 8:00 I park right outside my house in the city!

Next morning I start the clean up.

So what a colossal trip, 5,000 miles through 2 amazing countries. Thank you USA, thank you Mexico, thank you all the wonderful people I met. Coming to think of it, I did not meet a single unsmiling, unhelpful person during the whole 7 weeks. Such a different world from that you read about in the media.

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Sayonara Mexico

So, this post will be even less coherent than the previous few. It is devoid of literary style or plot but only records events that I do not wish to forget when I am an old man. There has been a lag in posts due to much wilderness but now I am back in the USSR with fast internet.

I head North from Guerreo Negro after a morning of exquisite birding.

Read the poem.
They are everywhere.
Very long billed Curlew.
Brant Geese
Young Gull
Yellow Legged Gull. Ok you cannot see its legs but trust me. Super rare anywhere but here.

I camp in Catavina. The best camping er place in the world. Huge boulders are piled up at random and every kind of cactus thrives.

my camp. No-one in miles.
View from the bed
I love this stuff. You cannot see the stars but I could.

I drive North. I stop for lunch.

I drive up from sea level to nearly 3,000 meters to visit the National Astronomical Observatory. This was once proposed as the site of the LSST when I was at SLAC. It went to Chile.

I camp in snow! Coyotes stroll around. This is the second best camping er place in the world.

Gimme eat.
A very cold night. The camper’s heater does not work. Bad moon rising top left.

I make it to the Observatory after miles of super steep roads with vertiginous drops.

I was there.

North to Tecate. It is pouring with rain. First rain for 6 weeks. Suddenly I am back in the USSR.

Won’t somebody give me a cheeseburger!

Thank you Mexico for an outstanding stay.

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Wales

After the trauma of being stuck in the mud, I head North to Loreto and stay in a nice hotel on the beach. Here I shower and sleep a lot.

Dawn in Loreto

I trundle up to Mulege and camp in an orange orchard.

View from my bed

The place is buzzing with Hummingbirds and loads of other feathered friends.

Black-chinned Hummingbird on my feeder by the truck.
Black- chinned and White Eared Hummingbirds
Gila Woodpecker
Orange tree with truck hiding behind. “Take all the oranges you want.” says the owner.

I spend 2 days among the orange tress and then trundle up to San Ignacio to watch Wales.

The Road to Wales
I camp on the beach near the wale watching hot spot.

OK at last we get to the Wales.

Take me to your leader
We come in peace

The people sitting beside me in the boat were from Wales. His name was Geraint.

Post Wales, I camp by a lagoon.

Idyllic
View from my bed

More Wales, this time in Guerrero Negro. It is extraordinary. We are surrounded by Wales who are in no way afraid. Indeed they seem to like creeping up on the boat to erupt with much spray right alongside.

Cwm Rhonnda
My wife asked me if I was having an affair with a woman from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch.
I said: “How can you say such a thing?”
This is the tail of a Wale trying to get into the boat!
Bye bye

You have to do this!

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Stick In the Mud

On the road North from La Paz, I notice a sign to a town called Adolfo López Mateos. What kind of name is that? The sign featured whale watching. So I go there.

I get to the whale watching place early in the morning but it is drizzling and windy so I decide to go birdwatching instead. I had seen a sign at the entrance to the town that indicated birdwatching down a dirt road.

This should come with a safety warning

I end up on a flat dirt plain with lots of pools in the distance. I am a little wary of the condition of the road and decide to turn back. I should have reversed out but instead I swung around and 2 meters from the road sank into deep mud. Oh dear. This was a very bad decision.

One tiny wrong call results in this.

So I spend from 8:00 to 13:00 sprawling around in the mud trying to dig out and jack up the truck. This is really hard, dirty and tiring; not old man’s work. No good. In fact, with every attempt to drive out, the truck digs itself in deeper. I am coated in thick mud, my fingers are bleeding. I am so exhausted. With a strong feeling of inadequacy, I pack it in and walk off towards a small group of very run down houses about a mile away. Here I meet Martin, who is the man I need.

He was just standing in the dirt road. My luck holds strong, apart from getting stuck in the first place.

Martin is a hero He helped me so much.

We go back in his V6 Tacoma to try to drag out my truck. Martin’s truck gets stuck. He calls his friend Elio who shows up in a Ford F150 and succeeds in liberating Martin.

Elio liberates Martin. !3:00 fish

Martin then takes me to the post of an important Mexican government body.

The rest of this post will become a little incoherent as I am very wary about writing about people who would rather remain anonymous. But these people helped me beyond all expectation.

Because their own Hummer could not pull my truck out, they called upon a JCB digger to come to haul me out. The digger nearly gets stuck and apologetically leaves.

He doesn’t like it

A crane is called but it is now pitch black. No one knows what time the crane will come. At about 8:00, Martin takes me to a hotel, which is actually his friend’s house that has a couple of rooms. I am showering off the mud when there is a rap at the door. Lo, it is the Chief of Police who says the crane has turned up and can now drag out my truck. His name is Marcello and again is super helpful.

Off we go to the disaster area through sandy tracks. The crane turns out to be a car haul away truck that has a big winch. I wait my turn. It is suprisingly very cold. Covered in mud, I doze in the camper for a couple of hours. At 03:00 the Police Chief, Marcello, explains that the crane is not going to work, so let’s go back to the hotel and like, see what happens tomorrow.

I get 3 hours sleep and then the Police Chief, Marcello, takes me back to the dreadfulness.

Situation at 8:00 the next day

Six men from the Mexican authority dig out my truck. They have been up all night.

A line is rigged between my truck and a Hummer. There are multiple rope breaks as the Hummer takes the strain. I have absolutely no confidence that what we are doing will get the truck out.

Yet, lo and behold, with six people pushing and the Hummer heaving, she pops out of her muddy sargophagus. I am driving. We hurtle off over the mud. Few moments of elation have equalled this.

She is out! I really thought it would take days of digging. Mexico came to my aid.
Jefe Jose gives the thumbs up. We are all electrified

The police have been incredibly helpful.

By the way, this town has more Ospreys than sparrows.

Tweet,tweet.
Lunch

What an adventure! I meet so many good people.

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Long Kesh

There has been a lot of Long Kesh imagery on this last part of the trip. I stayed in a very cheap hotel in Playa Novillero on my way to Mazatplan to catch the boat to La Paz in Baja California. The person who painted the walls of the room had clearly been strongly influenced by the Long Kesh school.

Those were the days.

So I embark on the next part of the trip. Ferry to Baja California and the long drive back to San Francisco. The reason I took such care to obtain all the correct paperwork for travel in Mexico, is that I was told by the web that you are not allowed on the ferries without it. I was also told that the ferries are chaotic with long waits for embarkation.

All wrong of course. I turn up at the port. I buy a ticket. drive onto the boat when told and no-one asked me for anything other than my credit card. Super easy.

Back on a boat.

The trip is 14 hours overnight. I get a sleeping chair and free evening meal and breakfast .

Tacos a la Long Kesh.

After the meal, there is entertainment by comedians and magicians. All the crowd join in every song and clap along to anything rhythmic. They have such fun. So different from my reserved British instincts.

Sing along with me!
My chair. Luis is truck driver from Guadalahara. Super nice guy.
Dawn breaks over Baja California.

When I get to La Paz, I have only one thing in mind; propane. All my propane bottles for the camping stove and lantern ran out in San Blas. I track them down in a paint shop. Yay, I can start camping properly again.

Hooray!

La Paz is not er my cup of tea. Packed with confused US tourists. I head for the desert to cook some stew.

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Safe Boot

What a strange combination of words.

I start up my brand new MacBook to upload lots more amazing bird photos but something is seriously wrong. Two words, in suitable blood red, appear in the top right corner of the screen. “Safe Boot” they taunt. I have never seen this before. I enter my password to get access to the machine but it is refused! My Mac is FUBAR.

What!!

I do everything I can think of. Nothing works. I cannot write blogs, I cannot upload photos, I cannot browse the web. Very bad news.

Won’t let me in.

From my phone, I post a plea for help on my Instagram feed, @ryutaro_higa. I am on a desolate beach some way North of San Blas on my way to Mazatplan.

10 minutes later, the learned Robert Mallon from Okinawa, gets back to me. He explains what to do. I do it. Safe Boot is vanquished and I am back in action.

Two conclusions: first Instagram is amazing, post a message from a beach and hundreds of people get it immediately; second Robert Mallon is a hero!

Cooper’s hawk

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Jose Antonio

So as you know the principal goal of my trip to San Blas was to see lots of birds. I realize that to do so effectively I am going to need help. I go to the Tourist Office. Er, this sounds very chrome and glossy. Not so, it is a room with a delightful lady in it. I mime birdwatching guide. The smiling lady gets it and 10 minutes later a young man shows up. This is Jose Antonio. He explains  that he is busy for the next few days but, as of 20th, we can go birding.

I look at a clump of undergrowth and maybe see a warbler, which one I have no idea. Jose Antonio, before even looking at the clump of undergrowth,  knows what birds are there just through the songs. He then points out masses of birds, hardly any of which I would have seen alone, and of course he knows exactly which obscure warbler or humming bird is which. He is amazing.

Northern Potoo. Amazing photo seeing as what it was very dark. Click on all these photos
Boat Billed Heron
The very rare, except in San Blas, Common Black Hawk.
Great Blue Heron
Golden Cheeked Woodpeckers. Super rare
Wide winged Butterfly . Makes a change
Black necked Stilt, Blue winged Teal, Tri colored Heron

What is more, he is a really nice guy and speaks excellent English. We spend 3 days together and see a vast number of birds, the majority of which I have never seen before. 

Black bellied whistling ducks
Limpkin
Northern Jacana
Juvenile Northern Jacana

We cruise through swamps as the sun goes down. We are high in the mountains as the sun comes up. In between we are in fields, lakes, even Tepic city park.  So many birds! What joy!

The photos represent a small percentage of the species we saw. Importantly missing are all the Warblers, Humming Birds, Trogons, Flycatchers, Sparrows, which are very difficult to photograph.

Crocodile. Very easy to photograph. Apparently they can go for years without eating.
Wood Stork with Great White Egret
Roseate Spoonbill with White Ibis
For it is he.

So, this is his website: mexicanbirding.com. Forget your next vacation. Go to San Blas instead and hire Jose Antonio!

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