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.
The trip up Highway 1 is one of the greatest drives.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I trundle up to Mulege and camp in an orange orchard.
The place is buzzing with Hummingbirds and loads of other feathered friends.
I spend 2 days among the orange tress and then trundle up to San Ignacio to watch Wales.
OK at last we get to the Wales.
The people sitting beside me in the boat were from Wales. His name was Geraint.
Post Wales, I camp by a lagoon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The police have been incredibly helpful.
By the way, this town has more Ospreys than sparrows.
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.
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.
The trip is 14 hours overnight. I get a sleeping chair and free evening meal and breakfast .
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.
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.
La Paz is not er my cup of tea. Packed with confused US tourists. I head for the desert to cook some stew.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
So, this is his website: mexicanbirding.com. Forget your next vacation. Go to San Blas instead and hire Jose Antonio!