While we were boondocking in the Tucson area we met a lovely family who had kiddos just a little bit older than our girls. The kids totally hit it off to the point where we didn’t see a whole lot of our oldest when we were camping there. Half of the time they were adventuring around the land and the other half of the time they were playing in a Palo Verde tree. It was pretty sweet and our oldest was able to sport a handful of new bandaids each day! Ah, the prickly desert. We learned that the family we met had a boat down in Mexico that they lived on for half of the year. They very kindly invited us to follow them down to Mexico to check out the area while they were preparing their boat.
Justin and I talked it over and we figured what better time to check out Mexico than now. We were so close to the border right then in our travels and we had a sweet family who not only had lovely playmates but who also knew the area and spoke fluent Spanish. We had another logistical talk with the family we met and decided we should go for it. Justin quickly got Mexican car insurance, got a phone plan that would work on his phone, contacted our banks letting them know of our travels and did one last grocery run for supplies for dry camping in Mexico.
We decided to break up the 3.5 hour drive (knowing that if Google Maps estimated 3.5 hours it would probably be more like 4-5 hours with the border and potty breaks). We chose to stay one night at Organ Pipe National Monument on the way down.
Day 1: Getting stuck on the beach
The following day we were driving to the border. None of us had ever been to Mexico and didn’t quite know what to expect. We read that often times. among other things, fruits, products that contain lactose, raw eggs and homemade goods are confiscated. The night before the border crossing, Justin hard boiled all our eggs. The morning of, Justin and I stuffed our faces full of opened cheeses and fruits for fear they would be wasted otherwise. Justin ate a total of 3 bananas and 7 oranges and all I know is I had probably way too much cheese for my system as well as too many oranges. Ha!
We drove up the border and were asked by signs to “Alto.” We did so while other cars were getting checked then proceeded to a woman standing by the side of the entrance tunnel. She didn’t say a word but just waved us on through. Okay, onto the real check where they would ask us why we were going to Mexico, how long we will stay, what location we were going to, ask if we are carrying any weapons, drugs or food we shouldn’t be, check our passports, etc… We were confused to enter a town next. That WAS the security border check! Hmm, interesting. I guess we gorged ourselves for nothing! Hahaha!
We went through the border town of Sonoyta. Throughout this town there were a lot of folks selling various goods, such as tortillas or fruit, in the middle of the road! I was afraid they were going to be hit just standing on the yellow line like they were. All seemed like nice folks but we didn’t buy anything.
The campground we chose to stay at, Concha Del Mar, is directly on the beach! We were a little nervous about parking on the sand without getting stuck but, as we drove up we saw much bigger/heavier riggs camping there with no apparent problem.
So, in we pulled with Dimes first so we would have a bedroom view of the sea! After pulling into a spot Justin wanted to adjust our position a bit. Into reverse he put Dimes, yet Dimes stood still! Okay, we’ll try forward. Nope! The wheels very quickly made deep holes in the soft sand! We were stuck!! Ha, and we had just arrived.
Our sweet neighbors came out to help our pathetic scene. First we tried putting our leveling blocks (which look similar to large legos) behind the back tires of Dimes in hopes that the wheels would take a bite out of them and gain some traction to back up. No luck.
Next, our neighbor hooked his jeep up to Dimes with a tow strap and tried to pull Dimes out of the ruts he had made. Still no luck. Finally, another gracious neighbor brought his big 4 wheel drive truck over. Justin unhitched Dimes and successfully got him out of the sand holes with a little help from our neighbors pushing.
The big truck was hitched up to the sad looking Wobbles and off he towed her, no problem. Poor old weak Dimes. Thank you neighbor!! They told us we weren’t the first saps they had to rescue!
On further inspection to the campsites, there was apparently harder packed rough sand that was brought in after the recent hurricane and THOSE were the spots to park a camper. Well, now we know. While all this was happening, our girls were having a blast playing on the beach which was conveniently located right next to our camping spot!
Justin was setting up camp while I was on the beach with the girls. During this time Justin was willingly had by the locals. Down on the beach there was a little food cart and, being good sales persons, they came right up to the line of RV’s asking campers what they could bring them. Well, apparently Justin ordered a piña colada among other things. The girls got a mango cut like a flower out of the deal and were thrilled.
Once we got settled we met up with the family who had led us to Mexico in the first place. The kiddos got to play for a bit again which our oldest had been asking about basically since we left them a few days ago. Unfortunately, Justin’s phone, though it had a plan compatible with Mexico, did not get service. Therefore Justin got a local sim card for his phone in order to get phone/internet while we are there (something we figured was fairly important in a foreign country we have never been to before). The store that sold sim cards just so happened to be very close to where our friends have their boat so the husband and kids gave Justin a ride and went to the store with Justin. I wasn’t there but Justin tells me it went something like this: Justin walked into the store, was nervous and in spanish said, “I want phone.” and pointed to his phone. The woman at the counter brought him a sim card so, it worked! By this time the husband of the family had come in from outside and saw that Justin needed a little help. He spoke rapid Spanish to the woman and Justin was able to get his phone working. Thank you friend! Boy are we lucky to have all these sweet people to help us?!
Day 2: The Melecón
The second day we had a leisurely morning with our oldest’s schooling and playing on the beach. This was the day we were going to check out downtown (the Melecón). We unfortunately decided it would be best to take Dimes instead of walking the mile there. It sounds silly I know but we weren’t really sure what the town would be like and we didn’t feel comfortable bringing the stroller and then having to leave it outside businesses while we looked around. We had learned from the Phoenix trip that bringing little ones on foot to explore cities isn’t always a good idea.
Some things we have learned from exploring on the roads here is that traffic etiquette and laws are a bit different from the states. For instance, on a number of the roads we traveled it was unclear if there was more than one lane, passing occurs whenever a vehicle wants and seatbelts are optional for locals. We have heard that speed limits and no seat belts are things that local law inforcement like to get tourists for. We had been passed by many police but didn’t get a ticket so that’s a good thing.
On the way to the Melecón we stopped at the shipyard to visit our friends. We all had fun exploring and learning about our friend’s boat and the shipyard it is stored in. Boats are really quite complex, coming from a girl who doesn’t have much experience with boats. We were awed at how much can fit in a sail boat. It was so nice of them to show us around.
By this time we were getting very hungry so a restaurant is the first place we sought out in town. We hadn’t walked far when a nice gentleman from a local restaurant brought us out a menu and invited us into their place. He was trying to sell us on their hamburgers (“better than McDonalds”…my heavens! Is that the standard?!), fries and chicken fingers for the girls. I guess we were pegged as American’s who love their fried food and meat. Little did he know the girls wouldn’t touch any of that. I can’t blame him though, he was trying to appeal to his audience. The girls ordered a bean and cheese burrito and quesadilla and Justin and I ordered fish tacos with a margarita. The girls and I bit into the beans and felt our mouth turn to fire! Apparently no spice in Mexico is above what a low spice tolerant American can handle. Haha! We made due just fine with plenty of leftovers. It was delicious and more food than we needed. Bonus, lunch for the next day!
Next we walked down a total tourist trap street. It felt as if we were raw meat being pecked at by vultures. Quite exhausing! It’s too bad too because I wanted to look in a lot of their shops but I felt like I had to keep walking at a steady pace to avoid being hassled by the pushy sales persons. “No gracious!” Oy! We did end up getting the girls two little sweatshirts. However, haggling with little knowledge of what a good price was and knowing little Spanish proved challenging. Long story short, we were ripped off (we haggled them down to half of their original asking price, and then walked around the corner and saw the same shirts for less!). Surprise, surprise. Ah, well. You live, you learn.
Another beautiful sunset on the beach that night with the girls playing in the sand and finding lovely shells.
Day 3: The Bodega & Christmas Cheer
Shower day! Yes, these are always exciting days. The showers were large tiled stand up showers with good pressure and warm water. I give it a thumbs up! But I was glad I didn’t bring the girls with me as the shower leaked a lot which made walking on the tile floor messy and slippery.
We met some lovely neighbors where we were camping– two sweet older couples from Canada. They were headed to one of the markets in the late morning so I took the opportunity to walk and chat with them while Justin watched the girls back on the beach. It was really nice having time to chat and get some walking in. I was also relieved to have someone who knew their way around the town a little to lead me to the bodega. We got a little turned around but nothing too bad. The market was tiny but had a lot in it. All prices were written in Spanish as well as the name of the item. My Spanish is nearly non-existant so I wasn’t sure of prices. On top of this uncertainty I had pesos to spend and was nervous I wouldn’t have enough. I bought the bare minimum of what I thought we would need and headed back to the camper with the group. By the time we got back I was absolutely starving but I didn’t dare dip into the precious few groceries I bought. All said and done, the total cost of the groceries was a little over two dollars! Haha! It looks like so much more when the total is 45 pesos! We ate all the groceries I got at lunch. 🙂 The important part was that I bought the two ingredients I was looking for: ginger root and eggs.
The girls and I wanted to spread some Christmas cheer to the campground. So, we decided to make some ginerbread cookies! We made them by pressing the dough onto 3 pizza rounds and pre-cutting them into diamond shapes to then cooked them in a 3 tier arrangement in the oven.
It worked quite nicely! It took twice as long to bake them as it would have in our home oven, but that was to be expected. We were able to make enough to give some to all the campers in the campground. They each got a mini plate fully of cookies delivered to their camper doors by two little elves in santa hats and a mama. It was SO much fun and we made everyone so happy which made us even MORE happy! My girls know the rule to baking is that you always double or triple the batch and you must share with those around you. I was glad we could pull it off.
We spent the rest of the day taking it easy and playing on the beach, collecting shells and nibbling on cookies.
We ate dinner over at the shipyard around a fire meeting some new folks in the boating community and hearing their stories. It was so fun to hear that not one had a “typical” lifestyle of a 9-5 job and many didn’t have anything tying them to one place, such as owning their own house. Fairly obvious I guess if they own a large boat as most did but kind of inspiring to hear about the different life styles.
Day 4: Rodeo Drive
Rodeo Drive is a shopping street near where we were camping and we were told on this street were store fronts rather than pop up tourist shops. I was hoping to have a different and more positive experience than the dozens of salesmen/women pouncing on our every move to make a sale down at the waterfront. It was a bit intense! We decided to walk and pop the girls in the stroller to get there. Something we quickly learned is that most streets in Puerto Penasco are sand covered. This proved to be quite challenging with the double stroller.
What we also learned was that there are many not-so-friendly stray dogs guarding their territory that apparently we encroached upon. It was actually quite frightening! I fully expected to have a bite out of the back of my calf by the time we got back from our day’s adventure. It also made me nervous having the girls so low to the ground in the stroller with those dogs around. I carried my metal tea mug in my hand so I could wack one if I needed to. I had to do that once when I was pregnant and a nasty dog went for my tummy. So, I know it works well!
By some grace we ended up arriving at the shopping strip in one piece, thank goodness! The shops were very nice, the store owners were very friendly and nobody was pushy. If we had more space to spare in Wobbles, I would have bought more things. There were really unique items that expressed the Mexican culture so well.
For lunch we followed our ears to some great Mexican music at a great little restaurant, Mariachis Tequilla. It was a fancy and delicious place! Their salsa was amazing! It was so good that we bought some to go home with us. It was my little sister’s birthday so we celebrated by eating some fried Mexican ice cream which was absolutely phenomenal (I wish we could have brought some home for you Gracie Lynn!).
After lunch, we chose to take some different streets home in hopes that the dogs were less vicious! We must have chosen the right roads because we got back without being chased.
The girls then spent the afternoon playing dress-up and putting on shows for us in Wobbles. They were excited to be able to wear their costumes without freezing! The evening was spent hunting for shells on the beach, climbing the sand dunes and drawing in the sand.
Day 5: Rain & La Cholla
It rained!! Some of our camping neighbors had been at the campground for over a month and they hadn’t seen a drop of rain on their trip. We had been told that when hurricane Rosa had hit Puerto Pinyasco a couple months back, the town had flooded! The towns around here are not made for rain. Many roofs are simply made of palms, windows in houses and businesses are not seald therefore when it rains, the water comes right in, and there is no drainage on city streets. Given that the streets are either sand or pavement, this does not give the water anywhere to go. We saw that this was true. Buildings aren’t exactly built to be weatherproof here, which normally isn’t an issue, except for when it rains. At the office building near our camp spot they piled sand in all the door thresholds to help block the water from pouring into the building.
We played outside until the sand became so saturated and sticky it was too much for us. We struggled to find any rainy day activities as this town rarely sees rain.
We ended up driving to the next town over, La Cholla to see what it was like. Camping neighbors had told us this is a town mostly filled with American snow birds who own the homes. Driving in we could tell right away it was a wealthier neighborhood for sure. Though homes were built on sand streets and were close together, houses were much more ornate and large than the places we had seen so far. It also was guarded by police officers at the gate.
Some things we noticed while driving around: the stop signs in Mexico are not regulated as they are in the states. Some are simply set on the ground next to a road for the driver to hopefully see while others are placed a dozen or more feet prior to an intersection due to convenience of a pole. We even saw one stop sign tied to a fence parallel to the road. Who knows who was supposed to stop for that one. This being said, we had been warned that police like to catch tourists for infractions such as not obeying speed limits or stop signs. So, even though the signage didn’t always make sense, we always erred on the side of caution.
Lucky for all of us, the girls had an earned movie night stored up which was cashed in on the rainy day. There was some nice hygge going on in our camper as we all snuggled in for some relaxing time together.
We even got in some craft time in the evening which is always such a treat and so fun for the girls and me. As expected wet sand was caked onto our entrance mat. Poor Justin was vaccuming every morning to have the sand be tracked right back in by the evening. Once we are off the beach we’ll be due for a deep cleaning.
Day 6: Tortillas
Our plan was to stay for one more day but since the following day was calling for a bit of rain we chose to leave a day early. Our last day was full of goodbyes. We had met so many sweet people this past week and now it was time to say goodbye. The girls were given many very heart felt gifts from our campsite neighbors upon departure. They told the girls it had made them so happy to see them play and to have been given some Christmas cheer. It was so very kind and I hope our paths cross again with these sweet folks!
The girls got one more blip of time to play with their friends over on their boat. Being a kid on a boat looks like a dream! The entire boat is basically a play gym! We will miss our new friends that we have made but hope to meet up at some point along our journeys.
Our last stop before heading out of Mexico was going to gather some fresh tortillas at the “tortilla factory.” I put this in quotes only because the lovely place we went would not have been considered a big business in the States. It was simply a family cooking delicious fresh tortillas for the town. Justin and I were amazed and delighted that a person could make a good living for themselves doing something fairly simple without all the red tape that a person might have to jump through in the US. The shop had a roof over it’s head, a griddle, a press, some dough and a wire drying rack. Simplicity.