Archive for July, 2010

Day 14: San Carlos

Woke up and decided to get a bite before driving the shortest distance in a long time – 20km to San Carlos. We walked down the road 1 minute until we found a good looking restaurant. There was no one else there, and the man there looked rather confused when we asked for breakfast. He seated us all the same and it was then that we realized it was a seafood restaurant that didn’t have breakfast on the menu at all. He said we could have whatever we wanted, so we asked for eggs. Huevos rancheros for Katie and Huevos Mexicano for me. We weren’t expeting much. When it came, we were amazed. We started with the customary chips and salsa, then the plates of eggs were massive along with beans and freshly made hasbrowns on the side. Halfway through they brought out garlic bread and then the manager brought out freshly squeezed lemonade on-the-house as he saw he hadn’t ordered anything to drink. All this for 50 pesos a plate ($4.12 US). It was a great start to the morning.

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After some trouble getting US dollars from the HSBC, we drove the 20km to San Carlos and found the campground with no problems. We made coffee in the Bialetti and Katie had oatmeal as it had been a few hours since breakfast. We sunscreened up and walked the 1 minute to the ocean – waterfront that we had all to ourselves. (It seems that tourism is at a big low in Mexico at the moment. Maybe it’s not the season for it, maybe it’s Mexico’s bad rep.)

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After swimming, showering, and re-applying dollops of sunscreen we took a stroll down the main road of San Carlos looking for a restaurant. We walked about an hour and ended up going to a restaurant right across from the campsite.

We ordered the pescado frito (fried fish) as we’re still in fishing country so we figured the seafood would be very fresh. We had decided on this restaurant over one other because the amazing price on margaritas – 30 pesos ($2.40). It also had an amazing view – literally right on the waterfront. High tide probably hits the bottom of the building, but we were sitting a few stories above sea level. We ordered a pescado ceviche tostada as an appetizer (tostada refers to a toasted tortilla and I think ceviche is when the fish is “cooked” by steeping in an acidic marinade.) Katie was a bit sketched out, but I reminded her that we eat sushi all the time (raw fish – not even soaked in acid) so we decided to give the ceviche a go. It turned out not bad, though we probably wouldn’t get it again. The fish had a pickled-type taste to it. The entree turned out to be amazing. It was a massive fish just for the both of us. We realized half way through the meal that the fish actually had 2 sides and we were blown away by the amount of food it was. We ordered a strawberry margaritta “con dos popotes” (“with two straws”) for comparison to the lime. We decided that the strawberry was too sweet and we preferred the lime, though weren’t so keen on the salted rim.

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Our whole fish, before eating

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Only the skeleton and head remains!

We walked the one minute back to camp just after watching sunset from the restaurant. Now it’s bed time!

Day 13: Guaymas

Was woken up by a man today who knocked on our door to say good morning. He invited us to shower at his place, and though reluctant because he had just woken us up, we decided to go with him. We showered, he gave us a couple mini mangos from his tree (one of which I tried to eat whole… I asked “puedo comer en totalidad?” and he said “si”. So I put the whole thing in my mouth. Then he yelled at me “No!” and then I went “mrghhhhhhahhhh!” to which he replied “Get that out of your mouth!” and then I took it out. It was kind of funny….) And then he made Katie play guitar. And then we packed up the tent and left in search of Guaymas.

We found a nice little hotel at Guaymas, and parked/unpacked and had our first afternoon siesta of the trip. It was pretty nice with the AC.

The bus (I’m not sure if it’s autobus, bus, camion, or colectivo – the word seems to change in every city we go to) was 5 pesos each again ($0.42) – muy barato! Guaymas seemed a lot cleaner and secure than Hermosillo, so I had my camera bag slung around my neck. We found a churro stand (suggared, battered stick things. Basically a stick form of mini donut). I asked for 2 at 5 pesos each. Turns out each “churro” is actually a bag of churros so we got 2 bags of churros for 10 pesos! We were happy. After a few hours around the city we had dinner for 130 pesos in town – burritos for me, enchiladas for Katie.

Once home we made coffee with the stovetop espresso maker and the kicking horse coffee we bought and ground the night we left Vancouver. It was accompanied by a couple pastries we got at a “pasteleria” (literally cakery, but actually bakery). They were 2.5 pesos each – amazing! Note that the coffee was made using the butane stove inside a hotel room. I’m not sure if butane releases carbon monoxide, but since we don’t have windows open at all I decided to make the coffee in the bathroom. It turned out excellent and neither of us suffocated due to carbon monoxide – perfect!

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Day 12: Bahia Kino

Slept in for the first time in a while. Changed money at the rate of 12.15 pesos per US dollar at a currency exchange (a better rate than HSBC) so that we’d be able to continue paying for meals, gas, etc. Ate the remaining mango and avacado from the market the day before as a quite breakfast.

After asking quite a few people how to get to Bahia Kino, we finally got some great help from the manager of an RV park outside Hermosillo. She gave us a map and really detailed directions – it would have been pretty hard to find on our own. It’s amazing how such a small thing made such a big difference to us and saved us what could have been hours of hassle.

It was about 120km with a 100km/h speed limit. We decided to pull over at a great looking thatched-roof restaurant that looked very enticing. It was about 11am or so – we called it brunch. It was funny to see all the workers sitting down talking when we arrived, as the restaurant was empty. As soon as we arrived everyone got to work. It ended up being an awesome meal. For 100 pesos ($8.23 US) we got a huge carne asada burrito, huevos rancheros, a soda, and corn chips with salsa.

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Upon arrivign at Bahia Kino we spent quite a while looking for somewhere to set up a tent. We asked lots of people, but without much useful advice. Finally we happened upon an RV park with an amazing manager who gave us lots of help. He said we could put up a tent in one of the RV spots for $20 US a night or we could go down and put up our tent on the beach, a 3 minute walk and he’d let us use the bathrooms and showers for free. It actually took us a while to find a good spot on the beach, but eventually we had the tent erected, the car parked, and were all set.

We had quite a bit of trouble putting sunscreen on in the tent. It was an absolute sauna – absorbing all the heat from the sun without any breeze at all. We were sweating so much that the sunscreen would just sweat back out as soon as we put it on. After a refreshing dip in the ocean, we walked down the street and grabbed coco helado (iced coconut) for 30 pesos.

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Did some more swimming, had a shower, and had a great dinner at a restaurant recommended to us called Pargo Rojo. It was a fantastic meal – I had a fish fillet stuffed with octopus and shrimp, while Katie had “Swiss shrimp” – shrimp, mushrooms, and other vegetables in a rich, cheesy/buttery sauce. Along with a crab taco appetizer the bill came to 308 pesos ($25.35).

Now we’re back at the tent looking out throw the tent window at a beautiful ocean view, listening to the waves crash around us. We’re planning on heading to Guaymas tomorrow.

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Day 11: Hermosillo

We woke up with the sun this morning at 6:30am in the Best Western parking lot. After a quick freshen up we headed back through the Mexican border, past Nogales, and to “Kilometer 21″ where the checkpoint and vehicle inspection area is. After a somewhat easier time with paperwork today thanks to my birth certificate, we were issued 6 month vehicle and tourist permits for about $80 total.

We made it to Hermosillo around 2pm and decided to stay at a hotel for $28 US. It was on the drive into town and we were rather pooped from our lack of sleep and decided it would be easier this way instead of looking for a place to park. The city is very run-down compared to the western world and my impression of Mexico has changed quite dramatically. It’s a very different world over here compared to Baja.

The bus ride to downtown (not “autobus”, as I thought, but “colectivo”) was 5 pesos each (about $0.50). We found out where to get the bus back, wrote down the crossroads and route number, and perused the town. There were tons of small stores and street vendors spralled about. Unfortunately food isn’t quite as cheap as I thought it would be, but it’s still a great deal compared to western standards.

We started by walking through the market – an indoor area of fruit, meat, and various unknown food vendors. We then headed back into the streets to take in Mexican life and culture. We went to a restaurant to get a snack of chivichangas (tortillas with a bean/potato/meat mixture) which were quite delicious. We walked around some more – saw the palace and cathedral, and walked some more. We were rather hesitant to take photos in the city out of fear of being robbed of our expensive camera equipment. I guess that’s the downfall of a DSLR in an impoverished country.

Grabbed dinner in the market – 4 tacos and a bottle of coke between us for a total of 44 pesos (about $3.60 US). Katie ventured to try the “cabeza de res” taco which translates directly to “head of animal”. Though normally res refers to beef. I’m kind of bewildered about how they manage to get so much cow head meat since it seems like every Tacqueria in town sells the cabeza de res variety.

Back at the hotel now, enjoying Tecate beer and about to head to bed. We’re planning on heading to the beach tomorrow – Bahia Kino. Hopefully we’ll find a campground and set up the tent by the beach. Though I doubt we’ll have internet.

Good moments of today:

1. When we bought some meat tacos for lunch on the side of the road a squeegee man started washing the car. I ran back to the car and said to him “SENOR, NO TOCQUE, NO TOCQUES!” and he looked pretty bewildered.

2. When we got ice cream in Ley (supermarket) and I was describing that I wanted vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. “Puedo chocolate (choc-oh-latte) sobre mi vanilla (van-E-ya)” which translates to “can I chocolate over my vanilla”

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Day 10: Drive 850 miles from SF to Nogales

Left 10pm from Kara’s – full to the brim after our dinner at the A & O Trading Company. Katie caught up and some sleep and I drove through the night untill the sun came up at 6am the next day. It was pretty crazy driving through LA. Even at 4am the 4-7 lanes going my direction were very full.

We stopped for a quick bite and a switchover as I was in need of sleep after the all-nighter. I slept till around 9am – not much because the sun made it pretty stiffling in the bed, even that early in the morning.

We passed Tucson and ran into a massive storm. From brilliant sun in the morning, to clouded over, to lightening and torrential rain. We had to make a few stops because the rain made driving impossible a few times, but eventually made it to the Mexican Nogales border crossing around 4pm.

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Made it through the border easily. We got a green light – meaning no check at all. Didn’t even show passports or anything. The rain continued, though not so torrential, and we headed to “Kilometer 21″ – about 30 minutes out of Nogales where vehicle permits are issued. We had a huge fiasco with customs, spending ages trying to get our way, but were eventually turned around because the car is licensed to my mum and I didn’t have a birth certificate to prove that she was my mother. Even though our last names are the same…. – a nightmare!

We headed back to the US – waiting in a 1h15m lineup to get back. Got a full car search in a separate lot. My parents bailed me out and fortunately I got a scan of my birth certificate emailed from my dad. Printed it out at a Best Western and now we’re staying in the parking lot tonight – stealth style. Curtains and all.

 

Day 9: Last day in SF

Did a last minute wash of clothes in the morning and packed everything back into the car so we wouldn’t have to worry about it later on. Kara was working again so the four of us went into town to do some last tourism things on our list.

Went up to Telegraph Hill to get a great view of the city. Didn’t go up the tower, but it was nice to see it and to see the view.

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Next moved down to Fisherman’s Wharf – a great touristy market full of seafood and the like. We stopped to grab some SF’s famous sourdough bread in Boudin.

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Finally, went up to the Ghirardelli chocolate factory to get some free chocolate samples and gaze longingly at all the different chocolates on offer

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Met Kara and went for dinner at the A & O Trading Company – an Asian restaurant raved about by Kara. Everything was great – we did it family style with a whole bunch of small plates that we all shared. I would definitely go back!

Then headed out for the start of our 850 miles journey through Tucscon to Nogales and across the Mexican border.

Day 8: Nick’s Crispy Tacos

Kara had the day off again so we drove into town. Bought spices for curry and went to Nick’s Crispy Tacos to have some excellent tacos de pescado (actually they were burritos).

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Finished off with an excellent curry – even though we had no mortar and pestle or spice grinder. We got the spices from a shady looking middle eastern bulk store in the “tenderknob” (area of town).

Day 7: Yerba Buena Island

Late start as always. Katie and I went to a beach on Treasure Island while Yelena and Jonny went back to Haight and Ashbury to look around some more.

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After we’d had enough of the beach, we hiked up Yerba Buena and had a great lookout over the city and over the Bay Bridge.

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We finished the day at Kelly’s house with Kelly and Aiden for a rib barbecue. Aiden was pretty wild, but no more than expected.

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Day 6: Conservatory of Flowers & Haight Ashbury

Late start as always. Took a few busses (successfully using the Upass again) that took us to Park Presidio and we walked to Golden Gate Park, where we had been the night before.

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Then went to Haight Ashbury – the hippy district of SF. Luckily it was warmer and we weren’t cowering from the wind like at Pier 39.

Finished off with rotini/pasta sauce/sausage/cheese at Kara’s and watched the Breakfast Club.

Day 5: Golden Gate Bridge

Started off by walking around Treasure Island and spent some time by the beach. Chasing Canadian geese, taking pictures, etc

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Took a few busses to get to the Golden Gate Bridge and, no big deal, but I got my Upass to work on SF public transit. Lol.

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Got a text from Mum with phone numbers of a bunch of relatives and we ended up getting through to John Finbar. We planned to meet up with him at 5:30pm. In the meantime we walked along the beach away from the bridge.

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We were picked up by John Finbar at the Palace of Fine Arts and he gave us a great road tour around the city. We went across the Golden Gate Bridge, had some excellent views, and were blown around by crazy strong wind.

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Our next stop was Golden Gate Park, where we walked around Stow Lake – a circular donut lake encircling the park.

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Last stop was Yerba Buena – the natural part of Treasure Island (the rest is man-made). We had a great view of the Bay Bridge and downtown SF around sunset.

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