The Biggest Fish in the World

This was one of the many boat tours we were looking forward to. We love the water and marine life! And whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world, so we could not possibly pass up a chance to snorkel with them.

Juvenile whale sharks come to the La Paz bay to feed between the months of October and April. They are filter feeders and feed on plankton and very small fish.

La Paz Bay has designated an area that is protected by Conanp, Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (National Commission for Protected Natural Areas).

When we booked the reservation the tour company informed us that the tour might start at nine, eleven or later depending upon the allocation of boats. Only a certain number of boats are allowed entrance to the protected area at one time and for only an allotted period of time.

The tour companies are notified of which time slot they have been allocated in the morning. The boats have GPS devices that track their speed as well as their course. If they go beyond the speed limit, enter an area they are not supposed to enter, or stay beyond their allotted time they are fined.

We met at the tour companies’ office and found out that we had the 9a.m. slot. Excellent! Angel, our tour guide, gave us an orientation. The whale sharks in this area average about six meters (about 20 feet) in length. Adults, who are out in the open ocean can grow to 18 meters (59 feet)! Yikes.

There is a whale shark painting on the ground where he demonstrated how far we should stay from the fish – one meter (3+feet) from the front and three meters (about 10 feet) from the tail.

Of course, the fish don’t know this.

Angel mentioned during the briefing that some of the whale sharks are swimming slowly while feeding and others are swimming quite fast. We thought nothing of it at the time.

We walked the block or so to the dock and boarded our boat. After just a little while we spotted a whale shark, but when the captain and guide checked our location, we were not quite in the area where snorkeling was allowed so we continued cruising.

Once we entered the designated area, we all watched for a whale shark. Many times their fins are visible over the water like any other shark. Once the guide spotted one and determined its direction, the captain picked a course to intercept the fish from a distance.

What was surprising was that the guide then told everyone to sit on the edge of the boat and be prepared to jump in when he said “go”. Once we were in the water he yelled “face in the water” right when the fish was near. Ideally, we would then turn in the correct direction to swim alongside the fish. Not exactly the idyllic vision of lazily snorkeling with them!

I completely missed the first fish. He was a really fast one. I watched as the other two people in our boat, Karen and Dave swam away and wasn’t quite sure where Hector was. It was all a bit disorienting. Karen, a competitive swimmer, agreed that the whale shark was really fast, she even had a hard time keeping up.

We did this several times. It was all so fast that Hector and I disagree on the number of times we jumped out. I may have sat one out.

One of the times when Hector jumped in he looked up and the fish was coming right at him. We’d also been told that they don’t see well right in front because their eyes are on their sides. Hector had a slight panic moment when he wasn’t sure which way to go. Somehow, he figured it out. But because he had the GoPro he got some great shots!

Including one of the way too close tail wizzing right by him. Luckily he didn’t get swatted in spite of being on the wrong side of the 3 meter suggestion!

While all of this was going on, the captain quickly moved the boat out of the way of the whale shark (and us) and waited for us at an appropriate location. Once the fish swam away we swam back to the boat. Then we all climbed in and took our position on the side awaiting our next chance.

I started to worry that I would not be able to keep up with any of the whale sharks. The captain recommended to the guide that he have us enter one couple at a time. We took turns.

One couple went in first, came back and the guide yelled at us “go!” once again. More jumping in and paddling like crazy to keep up. I finally saw one.

The last whale shark was moving just a bit slower and all four of us were able to swim with him for a little while. I was holding up the rear pretty close to the tail but it was great fun. They are beautiful fish!

The guide later told us that he thought the last whale shark was about 7-8 meters long (about 24 feet)! Wow!

We were all ecstatic! What a rush!

 

 

 

Chilling at Playa El Tecolote

Our next stop was north of the city of La Paz, written up as the best boondocking spot in all of Baja California! Back to the Sea of Cortez, which is now one of our favorite bodies of water. It was time for chilling at Playa El Tecolote. Check out my review of  the  beach here.
This was another wide beautiful beach but with several beachfront restaurants in the middle. There were quite a few RVs parked on the east end of the beach but there was lots of open space. We parked about 100 yards away from the next RV in a nice private spot.

We took a walk on the beach and decided to have an early dinner. As we returned, the RV looked so close to the water that Hector kept checking to make sure that high tide wouldn’t reach us.

That evening we were treated to a spectacular sunset. And the next morning we awoke to a commanding view of the south end of the island of Espíritu Santo amidst beautiful turquoise water.

We hadn’t had much downtime and had covered many many miles so we decided to take it easy and relax and read for a couple of days.

The next afternoon a couple that we’d met at the RV park in Bahia de los Angeles drove in to spend the night.

We hung out with Chuck and Teri and their cute dog, Kokanee. They brought a little firepit and lit a nice fire that evening and we enjoyed another fabulous sunset.

Later that night Hector and I came back out to watch the stars which were beautiful.

The next day we walked over to one end of the beach where there’s a little trail up a hill and hiked up to a road that took us around the bend. And what was over the bend? Another beautiful little beach cove of course. That was the extent of our activity for the day.Some may have noticed that we’ve been wearing hoodies and coats. It’s been unusually cold in Baja but seeing the weather in the States we haven’t dared to complain. Here we finally found the warm weather! On a nice, calm and warm day we went for a paddle. 


There were fish jumping out of the water and of course pelicans and gulls. There were also a lot of frigate birds flying above us which are so interesting with their forked tails.

The water was a beautiful turquoise and swimming pool clear. Just like the pictures we’ve seen that made us want to come to Baja in the first place.

It was a relaxing paddle and a great way to end our restful stay at this lovely beach but  the time had come to hit the big city and their Carnaval celebration.

 

We’re off to Baja California!

Hi everyone!  We are back out on the road for a couple of months.

Ever since sometime in the 90’s, we dreamt about visiting Baja California. The peninsula is 1000 miles long, with remote deserts, lonely beaches, Pacific views, Sea of Cortez kayaking in crystal clear waters, whales, and more.

We planned to go around a business trip Hector had to San Diego while we lived in Miami but something came up and that trip never happened. 

So when we started fulltime RVing in 2012, I tried to add a trip to Baja California to our plans, but Hector did not want to drive our Class A motorhome down there. It turns out he was right, more on that later.

After selling Island Girl two years ago, we bought a nice Winnebago View on a Sprinter chassis from some friends of a friend. One key selling point was that it was “Baja ready” and could take the “dirty” diesel that is still sold in parts of Mexico which more modern diesel engines cannot.

In fact, this rig had already been down to Baja and to other parts of Mexico.  She is also a “skinny Winnie”, the nickname referring to this class C RV being narrower than most which would prove helpful on the narrow Baja roads.

We named her Island Time.

We went on some long and fun shakedown cruises which we did not blog about and then we planned our trip to Baja,  Now we were finally ready.

And we were off!

Our route plan was pretty simple, first an overnight boon docking stop in the Agua Caliente BLM area outside Phoenix, enjoying the always entertaining desert SW and Route 66 stuff along the way. Check out our review of the BLM area here.

And then down to Tecate, California to cross the border into Mexico.  It is a bit out of the way down a pretty windy road which makes it one of least busy crossing points. It is also a convenient place to take care of getting our tourist visas.

When you fly to Mexico your fee is included in the airfare and you fill out the little immigration paper on the plane. If you drive in, you need to go inside the immigration office at the border to fill out the FMM form and pay a small fee ($32pp).  Parking is very limited at the border crossing and doing this transaction in an RV can be complicated. So we camped on the US side, drove our car to the border and parked on the US side, walked across, got our papers in order and walked back that afternoon.   The US border agent asked how long we had been in Mexico, answer = about 6 minutes :-).

We had a fun dinner that night with friends who live in the mountains outside San Diego close to Tecate and stayed at Potrero County Park which is just a few miles from the border.  Check out our review of the park here. One last systems check and dropping off of produce with the park ranger the next morning and …

With our paperwork in order, crossing the border was pretty easy. We had one other RV in front of us, which the border patrol officer waved on. This made me think that they would stop the next one (us), and I was right. She boarded Island Time briefly, looked in a couple of cabinets and asked where we were going and where we came from. Then she poked around in the car and asked what was in our five gallon jug – water. That was it. She then waved us on.

My first experience in Mexico was some friendly construction workers waving and smiling at me.

And just like that we are back in Mexico and off on our next adventure!

Stay tuned.

Hector and Brenda

Life Marches On

Hi folks, Hector here … it has been just over a year since our sweet Angel passed away and we fell off the wagon of posting on this blog.  We still miss her every day.

Sorry to just stop cold like that but life marches on and we’ve been busy with new projects that we’ll post about soon.  We are doing well and sure do appreciate the “where the heck are you” inquiries we’ve received!

Strange to say that it has been two years since the end of our extraordinary “walkabout”.  We planned and saved for it for five years.  It was supposed to be a three year trip and we stretched it to almost four before we decided to settle into the next Casa Lopez.  Even two years on, we still marvel at the experiences we had and the people we met.  Many of whom we are still happy and fortunate to call our friends.  Here are just some of the treasured friends we made along the way.

A quick recap of our adventures of the recent past.  In July of 2016 (time flies!) we bought a little adobe house in Corrales, NM. A beautiful little village adjacent to Albuquerque with a rural feel.  There are lots of horses, chickens, organic farms, wineries and a quiet pace that we love. To say nothing of the coyotes and road runners … beep beep!  It is a big change for us as we’ve usually been in-town types.

Last year we sold our beloved Island Girl to a young couple with three cute kids from Phoenix.  As comfortable as she was for full-time RVing, she was simply too big for occasional use.  It was bittersweet to see her go.  SO many special memories were made in that RV!  But she went to a good home and we’ve enjoyed the occasional updates the new owners have shared.

We’ve since purchased a 2009 Winnebago View 24J that we’ve taken on a few outings so far.  We’ve christened her “Island Time” and are loving the simplicity and versatility of the smaller rig.  More on those adventures in “Island Time” in future posts.

Brenda has returned to the travel business and is a Travel Advisor affiliated with one of the largest travel agencies in ABQ, All World Travel.  I’ve been developing my photography business and am STILL digesting the zillion images we captured while on our epic road trip.  Our future posts will touch on these endeavors as well.

So that’s the high level update on whats cooking at Casa Lopez of late.  The interactions we had with our readers of this blog meant a lot to us and frankly we’ve missed it.  So we have no idea where this will ultimately go but we do intend to bring this blog back to life.

Thanks again to all for your participation in our walkabout.  Writing this blog and your comments and feedback were a big part of what made it so great.  More to come!

Hector and Brenda

 

 

Four Corners and Friends

Continuing our catch up posts of our tour last year around the four corners, we could not resist a couple of stops on our way to our next destination just east of Durango to visit our friends, Mike and Linda, and their adorable pup, Lucy.

First on the way was the Four Corners Monument, the only place in the United States where four states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah –  intersect at a single point. It had rained recently, so the parking lot and park area, which are not paved, were quite muddy.

Interesting

The monument is a tribal park in the Navajo Nation. There is a granite and brass marker and a Demonstration Center with Navajo artisans and vendors who sell handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional Navajo foods. We managed to take the obligatory touristy photo “touching” all four states.

The next much more interesting side trip was to Mesa Verde National Park. We visited this park years ago, before we became fulltime RVers and knew that we could only make a very brief stop this time around.

So we took the 6-mile driving tour. With short paved trails to views of the Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook and views of Cliff Palace, it was just enough to wet our appetite to return. Way too short a visit but fine for us at that moment.

There are several breathtaking overlooks of the various groups of ruins along the way.

Of course we ran quite late when arriving at Mike and Linda’s house, but they were completely unfazed (we do appreciate such flexibility!). This was our second experience “moochdocking” –  enjoying the comforts of the RV while parked at a friends’ house.

Linda had cooked a Cuban dish, picadillo, for dinner in honor of Hector and it was delicious. We met these two wonderful people while we were all fulltime RVers. They had sailed around the world prior to that and now they live in a lovely cabin in Colorado. It is a very pretty spot surrounded by big trees and frequented by lots of wildlife. Our kind of place.

We woke up the next morning to a big surprise: SNOW! One of those late spring snows that happens in Colorado. Big, fat, kind of wet snowflakes and just beautiful. Angel particularly appreciated the snow, although she slid around a bit on the wet porch.

If we had to encounter snow while RVing, this was the day to do it. With friends and a warm wood stove to sit by. We had a fun and relaxing time catching up and took a couple of drives including a drive out to dinner in Durango.

Durango is a fabulous town and the area has every possible outdoor activity opportunity (except the ocean). Mining and the railroad made this an important commercial center in the late 1800’s and the discovery and subsequent creation of a National Park at Mesa Verde made it an even more desirable location.

Nowadays, with Purgatory Ski Resort nearby, the town is a combination of a ski town with lots of restaurants and shops and a charming historic town with historic buildings and landmarks. And, nearby, the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a really cool experience to another historic mining town.

But the focus of this trip was spending time with friends.  It was a perfect stop before our next stop in Albuquerque to look for a house once again.

~ Brenda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Friends in Moab, Utah

We made a few more stops after Bryce Canyon and before the end of our walkabout…After leaving the beautiful canyon, we headed east across the dramatic Utah landscape where we planned a brief stop for some fun with friends in Moab, Utah.

As was the case in many of our later travels, our route to Albuquerque from Tucson was turning out to be quite loopy. But since these were the last weeks of our walkabout, we could not pass up the opportunity to see some of our RVer friends once again.

We wanted to boondock in Moab, but weren’t sure about our options, so we reached out to our friend Amanda (WatsonsWander). She told us that several of the better known boondocking areas were pretty full, but suggested Klondike Bluff Road just up a couple of roads from where they were boondocking.

We found a great spot, with 360 degree views and 4 bars LTE signal no less. Check out my review of Klondike Bluff Road here.

Having contacts sure helps when looking for these special out of the way places.

We’ve been turned onto more than one killer (and FREE) campsite through the kindness of fellow RVers.

Thanks Amanda!

Our friend Mona Liza (The Lowe’s RV Adventures) had planned a get together with several folks that were staying in the area on the day after we were due to arrive, and since she knew we were on our way, invited us as well. So that evening we met up with friends for dinner at a restaurant in town.

Amanda and Tim were there with their parents, along with our friends Pam and John (Oh, the Places They Go!). And we met Susan and David (Beluga’s excellent adventure), whom we had heard about from several other RVer friends.  It was a fun time, as it always is with our RVer buddies.

The next day Hector and I took one of our sunrise drives over to Arches National Park. We visited this beautiful park a number of times when we lived in Colorado, but it is another of those places that you never get tired of.

Hector’s ankle was still not doing so well, so we just drove on the park road and stopped for short walks along the way.

Later that afternoon we returned to the park with Angel for a slightly longer drive. This time we drove over to Salt Valley Road which goes to a more remote area of the park. It’s a dirt road with very little traffic, so we had the place virtually to ourselves.

After we had driven for quite awhile, Hector spotted some burrowing owls. Shortly after we realized that this area was also a prairie dog colony. Burrowing owls frequently live amongst prairie dog colonies due to the abundance of insects, one of their preferred foods. They also modify unoccupied prairie dog burrows to lay their eggs.


The burrowing owl are sometimes alerted to predators by the prairie dogs alarm calls. Another one of those very interesting symbiotic relationships in nature. These owls are declining in some areas partially due to prairie dog control factors, as well as habitat loss and car accidents. They are considered endangered in Canada.

We spent a lot of time watching the owls, they are so incredibly cute as they peek out of their burrows! These little guys provided our entertainment for the afternoon. 

Angel got a few walks alongside the road, since there was no traffic.  It was a fun afternoon for all of us, especially the photographer.

The following day Mona Liza and Steve had a little dinner party at their campsite. She made her literally world-famous lumpia (Philippine eggrolls) as well as some pancet, a noodle dish. We had never tried either of these before. Delish!

Pam and John and Susan and Dave were there, and we met two more RVers, Joe and Gay (good-times-rollin) All wonderful people and we truly enjoyed spending time with all of them.  These impromptu gatherings were one of the very best parts of the RV life.

We entered the park one last time for a sunset drive. So beautiful.

The weather had been touch and go and it rained all night the night before we left. This made for quite an exciting exit from our perfect boondocking spot. One of the scariest drives from our entire walkabout. VERY wet and muddy as in – whatever you do, don’t stop! But we made it.

Stay tuned for a few more posts, as we explored a couple of new places on our wandering route before our landing in Albuquerque.

~ Brenda

 

 

Zion National Park

zion-56zion-54I was finally on my way to Zion National Park, a place I tried to visit a couple of times previously without success. I love all of the National Parks and felt very fortunate to be visiting my 37th!zion-4

zion-5Zion National Park protects 229 square miles and is known for its steep Navajo Sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons. It is hard to believe that 250 million years ago those same cliffs were sand dunes in a vast desert.

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The Grand Canyon in One Day

GC Conspiracy-64

In the early part of the year, we realized that our planned four day visit to the Grand Canyon was going to coincide with our friends Katherine’s and Erik’s arrival in the canyon. They live in Atlanta, and every year they travel to the Grand Canyon to join a group of their friends and backpack into the canyon for a week.

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Williams is home to the Grand Canyon railway

GC Conspiracy-3Our plan was to drive to the Grand Canyon immediately after we left Tucson and meet them the night before they began their hike into the canyon. Hector was especially eager to see them, as he was not able to make their daughter’s wedding in Puerto Rico, which I attended.

As time went by our schedules shifted a bit, but it still looked as though we would have a chance to meet. Then we realized that we needed to make a slight detour after Tucson.GC Conspiracy-7

Our detour was to Congress, Arizona, where Vern, of Penner’s Mobile RV Repair resides in the winter. We needed to replace an intake valve on Island Girl. Vern worked on Island Girl in February and we were happy with his work so we decided to have him handle the install.

GC Conspiracy-2 Continue reading

The Sonoran Desert Garden

sonoran desert-114sonoran desert-25In addition to checking out the city of Tucson, we made sure to get out into the Sonoran desert garden. Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert and is surrounded by mighty saguaros and many other fabulous desert plants. During this visit,we were super excited that we were going to be in the desert during the springtime bloom for the first time ever.sonoran desert-100

sonoran desert-18sonoran desert-19Tucson Mountain Park is a 20,000-acre county park that is adjacent to Saguaro National Park West (there is a Saguaro National Park East on the other side of town). Offering many outdoor opportunities on the West side of town. Hiking and biking are popular.sonoran desert-20
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sonoran desert-40Our friend Jean knows a TON about the native plants and we always learn new things from her about the diverse vegetation that is everywhere.  Our problem is we can’t remember it all!  But we are getting better at it. sonoran desert-38sonoran desert-51
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Touring Tucson

Tucson-90sonoran desert-29Tucson, Arizona marks the beginning of a transition for us, this is one of the towns that we are considering as our next home. Many people know that we planned our walkabout for three years and that last year we extended it for one more year. Well we are now well into that fourth year. So in the month of March, we will be touring Tucson.

We fell in love with Tucson and the Sonoran Desert three years ago when we approached the city from the West and were greeted by so many beautiful Saguaros. I wrote about them in my post Tucson and the Sentinels of the Desert.

Tucson-66Tucson-1So we are here to check out the town once again and compare it to our other final choice. I will write more about how we came up with our “finalists” in later posts.

But back to Tucson – we stayed in the center of town at Sentinel Peak RV Park, so that we could have easy access to the city. Check out my review of the park here.

Our plan was to enjoy some of what the city has to offer, select a realtor, look at some houses, and best of all visit friends.Tucson-6

We began by finding out about the local happenings, and the biggest one was the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona. In its eighth year, the festival attracts over 100,000 people. Continue reading