Volcanoes and oysters
We’d seen the silhouettes of the volcanoes to the north and thought we should explore a little bit before heading south. So we went north again to Lázaro Cárdenas, where there is a road down to the volcano “park” area, which forms two bays: San Quintín and Falsa.
The road was long and difficult in the van. But the landscape was certainly unique. Large sections contained bright green wetlands, which brightened the grey sky. You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking you were in Ireland or something. The government had installed several interpretive signs, which was a nice touch.
The bays are dotted with several oyster farms, which grow a species of oyster known as ostión. One place on Bahía Falsa looked like it was also a restaurant. Edd’s belly was aching and he had been driving on a shit road for an hour. We couldn’t pass it up.
The place was called La Ostionera. It was clean and looked new and had other Mexican customers.
We ordered two fish tacos each and a half dozen oysters. Ermelinda, the cook, chopped all the veggies fresh right there. Then she left and fetched six enormous oysters. Edd preferred the tacos but ate his share of oysters like a champ. All in all it set us back about 100 pesos ($6 USD).
Ron, the part-owner of the restaurant explained how they “seed” the oysters by placing a string of shells into the water. Thousands of oyster larvae will eventually cling to the shells and grow. I had asked because another oyster farmer had placed signposts on the road listing a reward of 29,000 pesos (about $1500 USD) for information on stolen oysters and “seeds”. It shows you how much money is in this business! Imagine nicking a bunch of baby oysters!
We followed the bays around to a village called Chorrera, right on the Pacific. An older gentleman allows you to park in his lot, and told us to “pay what we wanted”.
Then we sat on the beach. Edd played in the colorful volcanic rock pools and found sea slugs the size of my foot. I know because I almost stepped on one.
We had a lazy morning. And while I took ages preparing crepes, Edd spotted dolphins in the ocean! Nice breakfast!
We drove back on the long bumpy road the next day at an average of 5mph, the van squeaking and rattling the whole way. So we weren’t really in the mood to drive on another long rocky road to a cove where apparently a ton of sea lions hang out (La Lobera). We felt bad.
And “paved” Highway 1 really wasn’t much better. So when we got into Rosario, the only one-horse town for miles, you might (might) forgive Edd for parking in the disabled spot in front of the OXXO convenience store because it was the only spot that was open, despite me telling him not to.
When we came out of the shop, we heard a “wa wa wa”. A cop truck pulled up and two officers asked Edd if he saw the blue wheelchair sign and if the van had a disabled sticker. Edd said yes and then no and the men asked us to follow them to the police station. I was really embarrassed.
Edd walked into the station and I tried to find out how much the fine should be. But of course there was no cell signal. Great.
I went in. One of the officers kept asking Edd if he had been drinking or if he was tired. It seemed like the officer was being sarcastic to get a rise out of Edd. Or maybe even to trick Edd into saying he’d been drinking or something, because that would indeed help their cause. Of course Edd hadn’t been. I lied and said Edd was going to move if someone else actually needed the spot.
Edd admitted he’d done wrong and said he’d pay the fine. A third officer looked up the infraction on a list and wrote the fine down for Edd on a scrap piece of paper: 1500 pesos-nearly 100 dollars. I asked to see the list, and also noticed that the fine twice the price of all the other infractions. Parking in a disabled spot is pretty bad, so the fine seemed fair.
But when Edd got out his debit card the officer said they’d only accept cash. They said the precinct didn’t have a card reader. I told them politely how strange that sounded, and asked them how the supermarkets and convenience stores in town could take card payments but not the police station. Especially with the nearest ATM two hours away. Smelled of shit to me.
Also, cash or credit, of course we wouldn’t leave without something official, like a receipt. You have a right to a written infraction with the officer’s name and badge number and the government says to always insist on this. We also read that you can pay fines at several main police stations, or in some cases, a bank. So I asked if we could get the infraction written on an official form to pay it somewhere else that accepted debit cards, but the officer said “this town doesn’t allow that”. He said that fines had to be paid right there in the station or they impound your vehicle until you come up with the money, of course in cash. We told them it was impossible to do that.
After this little stalemate, the police officers left for a minute and then came back and told us we didn’t need to pay anything but to let this be a lesson to us not park in the disabled spots. We thanked them and apologized. Parking where we did definitely can’t be justified. But we left wondering if they were up to something. How nicely 1500 pesos in cash would be divided among three officers!
Bahía de los Angeles
We slowly made our way down Highway 1 into the Baja’s great Biopshere Reserve, stopping for one night near the cave paintings in the Valle de los Cirios. The desert was full of such cool plants.
We took the turnoff to Bahía de los Ángeles on the Sea of Cortez side. We started to relax again. The road was smooth. We listened to an audiobook by Amy Tan called The Bonesetter’s Daughter hich Kelly’s mom had given us in Kansas. Then we arrived at the beautiful government-protected camping area at Playa la Gringa.
The water is calm because Edd said it was like “a bay inside a bay inside a bay”. The water was also really clear and there were many spots to snorkel. We put on our flippers and masks and saw brown and yellow Cortez Angelfish, red Pyramid Starfish, small spotted stingrays, striped Sargeant Majors and a super vibrant bluey purple fish I must find the name of.
Behind our site there were wetlands and a small inlet which filled and emptied with the tides. This was a great time for birdwatching and listening for the tinkling of some quarter-sized crabs making their escape.
The only problem? It was too darn hot, especially at night, when temps floated around 29°C (85°F).
In addition to being in the Biosphere Reserve, the natural areas of Bahía de los Ángeles are protected by other agencies and conventions. So maybe that’s why resources are scarce in town. It’s understandable, but it also made it difficult for us. There is no cell phone signal, slow (and hardly ever free) wifi, but worst, little tap water, which we needed for our tank. The gas station where we filled up the first day had run out. Dagget’s RV park didn’t have any to sell us either. We ended up putting in a few gallons of purified drinking water.
Residents must be used to this because they conserve water by storing it in tanks and barrels. This probably also leads to high prices. We wanted to wash our sweaty sheets and a laundry woman told us she’d charge us $7 USD for one machine load–an outrageous price anywhere.
We looked into doing whale shark tours from here with Ricardo’s dive shop, but they wanted $200 USD for a boat and there weren’t any other people around we could share with. We were going to wait for a couple days, The heat and humidity was too tough for us.
We agreed to go back to the Pacific side of the peninsula, which was averaging about 22°C, and getting cooler at night.
Our advice from this week? If you get a chance to go to live off the grid in Bahía de los Ángeles, take it. But go in winter! And keep your eyes peeled for dolphins but also slugs and sting rays! Most importantly, remember that the policía are keeping their eyes peeled for you, so don’t give them any reason to stop you!