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La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

Final Flurry in San Ignacio and Diego

MEXICO | Monday, 13 January 2014 | Views [512]

Desert jewels

Desert jewels

who put those SUVs there?

Nice Beach - who put those SUVs there?

After another breakfast watching small birds doing their Sisyphean nest-building task (poor things) we got the bus up to San Ignacio some 270km north which is known as a base for seeing the breeding grey whales that Baja is famous for.  The bus journey took six hours winding up through barren hills and past beautiful sandy bays on the Sea of Cortez – unfortunately marred by uncontrolled motor-homes parked and huts built on seemingly every beach.  We arrived at a truck-stop outside the town and managed to share a lift in a taxi with a local into the centre – what there is of it, which is not much and it turned out we arrived in the very-much low season.  Most of the tour operators were closed, with just a couple of bars/cafes open.  On top of that some of the few guesthouses had closed their doors because of fear of the pox.  This was tumble-weed-one-horse-town-ville.  Half the families are descended from a German shipwrecked sailor from the 19th C, which shows in the shop signs.  We had great trouble trying to use a 200 peso note – no one had change!

As we suspected, we’d missed the grey whales by a couple of weeks (add that to the turtles in Nicaragua and the monarch butterflies in central Mexico – a year of missing natural spectacles - doh!).  We spent the next few days mooching in cafes and walking around the environs – the town (if you can call it that) is set in a natural oasis amongst a large palm plantation which is the only greenery – once you climb above it you’re straight back into the quiet desert scrub, with gnarled dead wood bleached by the sun, little lizards scurrying round and the jewel-like flowers of tiny succulents that hang onto existence in shady spots.  The only other feature is a river winding languidly through the palms with minnows in its murky shallows.  We got talking to a retired American expat (‘CV’) who showed us round her house, and introduced us to another expat lady who runs one of the town’s (closed) guesthouses – we had a couple of meals with her, exchanged books and she even offered to drive us to the bus station the next day, which was very good of her. 

 San Ignacio Palms

Looking down over the palms of San Ignacio from the surrounding desert

That evening after saying our goodbyes we got on the bus headed for Tijuana – Mexican border town and violent crime capital (well, ok, Cuidad Juarez on the east is probably worse) to try our luck at the American border.  A (relatively) uneventful night journey later (only 2 check-points), we piled off the bus and got a taxi to the San Isidro border crossing with huge lines of Mexican day workers, and US OAPs getting cheap meds trying to cross over.  After 30 minutes queuing we worked out we hadn’t filled out our visa-waiver forms, so had to get out of the queue to get them filled in. A couple of mal-filled out forms later (to the chagrin of a humourless immigration official), and Rachel turning into a random Chinese bloke on their computers, we were given the all clear and managed to pass through the border.

The first thing to strike us was the great, spotless trolley bus linking the border with the centre of San Diego.  Everything was..well.. so clean, and organised, and relatively quiet.  After getting some info from the lovely Amtrak station in the centre of the old town, we got a taxi to our chosen motel – on the coast further north.  We had some trouble finding a driver who knew where it was, and when we eventually got a Somali guy with a sat-nav he took us on a massive detour and charged us $25 for the privilege – just shows, there are Somali pirates everywhere!  Saying that, the motel was great for the price, with uber-helpful staff (they let us borrow a laptop), a nice breakfast and large signs saying ‘no fish in rooms!’  The nearby marina had good restaurants too - Italian pizza made with fresh ingredients - yum! (although a different set of prices to over the border..).  Another novelty was potable tap water... We spent the next day getting the (really good!) public transport into town and did some shopping at ‘fashion valley’.  Well, what to do in an American city, than go to the mall?  Plus we needed some new clothes and shoes for our imminent return home and job interviews – all our stuff being in storage.  In the afternoon we visited the maritime museum with its Isle-of-Man-built cutter and replica British man-o-war used in the ‘Master and Commander’ film – some odd links to back home on this far Pacific shore. 

no fish!


Our final day we got a lift off our motel owner (soo friendly!) into town and walked the central boulevards of the ‘gas lamp district’, which have some nice oldish buildings, but suffer from the prevalence of the car and the grid-iron system, which doesn’t make it a very nice experience for pedestrians.  We headed downtown and as it was quite nippy, and we did another all-American experience - Rachel bought a $2.25 jumper in a thrift shop!  We ended up in the lovely Balboa park with its Italianate buildings and lovely African thorn trees in red bloom, and visited the ‘Bodyworks’ exhibition of Gunther Von Hagens – lots of striking plasticised cadavers in various poses and states of dissection – different.

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by San Diego – nice parks, lovely marinas, decent public transport and very friendly people – a much more manageable (and pleasant) place than the megalopolis of Los Angeles which i’d experienced previously.

We had originally intended to travel up the pacific coast to Seattle – but itineraries slipped and so that trip will have to wait until another time.  Instead, our flight back to blighty was calling, so we got an internal flight to Miami, where we stayed out of town in a hotel near the airport, and then got on an uneventful return trans-Atlantic flight back to England, exactly a year after we had left.

african thorn

Tags: san diego, san ignacio


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Argh!  Well, maybe not pirates this time, but dig the colour-coordinated bandanas!

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