27. MEXICO, Baja California, San Ignacio

We are in sunny Baja, generally heading south but not sure if we want to go all the way down to the southern tip of it. About half way, there’s a port town (Santa Rosalia) so might just jump onto a ferry and sail over to the mainland (shipping is also cheaper from here than from La Paz) But we have time to figure that out. There are a few things we want to see around here so definitely sticking around for a few more days.

On our 3rd day in Mexico, driving south from San Felipe (nothing much happened in San Felipe) towards Mex 1 was about 55 km nasty, rough road where we ended up with a punctured diesel tank. Now, that’s what definitely no one wants.
The first hundred or so Km of the road from San Felipe is beautifully paved (everyone said it’s rough all the way) So we had a great time enjoying the posh, smooth tarmac road, wild-camping on the beach at a couple of lovely places.

Baja California May 2013

Baja California
May 2013

Then we learnt that the last 55 or so km isn’t paved so that morning we let the tyres down by almost half to soften the impact of the road and moved on.

We saw a car by the side of the road and we stopped to asked if they needed help then realising that actually we were the ones needing help. John hopped out of the cab and immediately noticed the leak soaking the dry desert ground with horrible diesel oil. We spent the following 3 hours in the bleaching sun pumping the diesel out from this tank to our container tank so at least saved the pricey fuel.

Diesel pumping.

Diesel pumping.

When we were done, we cleaned up the mess as much as we could and heavy heartedly moved on, knowing that there’s still another 10K of this road. Surely, we know there are plenty of this kind of roads in Central-South America and Burt has been built to take the rough impact on these roads but after this experience we weren’t exactly in the “off roading” mood.

We finally reached the paved Mex1 highway, inflated our tyres and headed to Bahia de Los Angeles a small town where we heard there’s a mechanic who might be able to help with our tank. Bahia de L.A. is in a bay of turquoise water and with countless islands around it. It was pretty and felt good to see this beauty. Actually the road was very beautiful too with unusual, desert plants, cactuses, yuccas shining in various desert-colours in the sunset.

Desert view. Baja California May 2013

Desert view.
Baja California
May 2013

Once in town, we bumped into the same family+friend (Mark, Mary 2 kids, 2 dogs and friend Mark) for the 4th time. We had, once more, another good chat, a few tacos and a couple of beers with them, filled them up with drinking water, for return they suggested some great places to visit and for the 4th time, we said our goodbyes.
We found the suggested mechanic but he couldn’t (or didn’t want to) help so we moved on to find our spot for the night. Emotionally (also bit physically) drained we found our camp spot for the night (A little hippy-ish Campsite: Daggett’s Beach Camping) As we’re dry camping they let us park wherever we wanted (which is always right on the beach) + Johnny negotiated a bargain $10 for the night. (he still thought it was too much :)) We had a horrendously wind-storm throughout the night keeping us awake. I thought we’re going to end up in the water!
But we didn’t. After, finally a couple of hours sleep in the morning, as nothing happened, the calm water, the blue sky, sparkling sunshine and a few squabbling seagulls greeted us. The only reminder of the storm was the sand and dust that covered absolutely everything inside Burt that we tried cleaning up -almost impossible. We had more understanding for fellow travellers in the African desert. After our morning coffee we headed off keeping the broken tank in mind. How could we forget about that…

We were heading to San Ignacio (recommendation of Mark’s) a small midland town, an oasis in the desert that has a freshwater lake with lush date palms and a Mission church that’s apparently a must see.
After a good 6 hours drive (and a bit of a dramatic Mex1 experience involving a huge 40 tonne truck lying on its side across the highway -no one was hurt) we were only an hour away from San Ignacio driving through a small community, John had a good vibe about the place regarding to fixing our diesel tanks…. We pulled up at a run-by-father+son (+1 handy guy) workshop at about 4pm to ask if this is something they could fix, arranging a day and time etc. Of course there are language barriers but it’s amazing how one can actually have a conversation with anyone, anywhere in the world and generally understand pretty much everything. Anyhow this was one of those scenarios, Johnny couldn’t even finish the sentence the guy, Jose, was already under the truck unscrewing the tank bracket. Looking at John’s face…. I mean he’s built Burt with his bare hands, sweat and blood, it was his baby and now there’s someone unscrewing things, and disconnecting the fuel lines and all!! The concern on his face was….. priceless.
In no time the damaged tank was off. Turned out the three of them (Jose, Jose and Jose) were excellent thinkers and pretty creative to solve any issues throughout the whole process. This really suits how John operates so we can say it was a good match. Although John got himself involved just to make sure things were done his way (which is always a proper good way) Approx 3 hours in, by the time this tank was fixed and they moved on to the 2nd tank, (we wanted to strengthen this one too before disaster happens here as well) we were sitting around practicing our Spanish, their English, drinking a couple of cold Mexican beers and joke around, while the work was still progressing. And I think that suited their way of working. Even that Johnny’s got his hands dirty also made sure our super-duper aircraft glue was used to fix bits they didn’t mind his input at all -in fact I think they learnt a couple of tricks too.

The 3 Amigos; Jose, Jose and Jose.

The 3 Amigos; Jose, Jose and Jose (and their friend)

By 8pm both tanks were fixed and done. Hurrah! And we just had enough time to move on and get to San Ignacio before dark. Although the nice Tres Joses offered to park up at their workshop if we needed to. This was very nice of them but we were so close to our destination so after settling the deal we thanked their help and offer and we moved on.

By 9pm we were sitting on the patio of the restaurant of our RV park, enjoying a couple of nice cold beers, some fish tacos and listening to an amusing conversation about ice cream of folks from Birmingham (first time in 6 months hearing English people!)

In the next day or so we’ll be going to Santa Rosalia where there’s a port to find out prices and ferry time so we can make a decision to ferry over to the mainland or drive back up.


26. CALIFORNIA -Joshua Tree

Wow. Where do I start…?

OK, here we go; Joshua Tree is one and only place in Johnny’s world that has ever got the title “my favourite place on Earth” Now, Johnny doesn’t give these titles easily, the place has to earn it. (He’s been here 5 years ago for a few weeks, climbing, hiking and such so had a solid foundation of his statement)

We’ve been scooting around in the state for over 3 months and been to really great places and met wonderful people. We meant to cross the border for Mexico probably 2-3 weeks ago but we always thought we had to go to Joshua Tree before we leave the country and I guess, also conveniently as being right south, we wanted to leave the best for last 🙂

But before I get to telling you about Joshua Tree, here’s something life brought to us (again). We travelled across this area back in March (on our way to Arizona) so we knew a good spot for the night (BLM land along Hwy 274 south of Barstow), and a sweet little cafe (Cafe 274 in Lucerne) for breakfast before we get to Joshua Tree. In the morning we set off and headed to Cafe 274 for a homemade breakfast and coffee. Here we bumped in to the same man, Ray who we met back in March and thoroughly enjoyed his company. With a big cheer, we greeted each other as old friends and he sat down at our table. Ray is really a ray of sunshine in anyone’s life. He is a very good-hearted man with a kind smile and the most optimistic belief in life. He rescues horses’ lives from places where they’ve been badly treated or neglected. He runs his own business from his own strength and support on a land where water and vegetation is seldom but this old cowboy lives and breaths horses and this morning he just lost one. Through his kind smile we saw his long term fatigue pain and we let him talk. His positive view on life shone through the conversations and we were just happy sitting there and listening to him for a couple of hours. For some reason, we bumped in to Ray twice, though we only had a chance to enjoy his company for a short time on both occasions, he sure touched our hearts. After this pleasant two hours he said goodbye and drove off in his old Bronco.

Betti and Ray Lucerne, CA May 2013

Betti and Ray
Lucerne, CA
May 2013

We moved on as well after breakfast (which was more like lunch) and reached Joshua Tree in the mid afternoon hours.
Johnny found a pretty good sounding RV park in Joshua Tree (the town) We had some domestic duties (cleaning, washing sheets, filling up with water and stuff) so a couple of nights in an RV park is in order. Besides it really sounded brilliant -Peaceful sites, Mojave desert night sky, water, lake, ducks, facilities in good condition etc (Joshua Tree Lake RV Park) And on our arrival, everything was as promised + friendly owners. There were 3-4 RV’s already parked up there but the site was huge and we tucked ourselves away in the far corner so it was peaceful and quiet. We planned to stay a couple of nights here then one or two nights in the National Park then head south to the border.
On our first day, after being busy with cleaning and tidying I left Johnny touch up a few things on Burt while I went to hang out by the lake for a few hours. Just chilling out with the ducks.

my guarding ducks Joshua Tree, CA May 2013

my guarding ducks
Joshua Tree, CA
May 2013

Later that evening John said that we had a visitor earlier, Bill -one of our neighbours, and he will pop over for a beer soon. And there he was, Bill From The Ville, with a larger than life personality, with energy of a golden retriever and with huge appetite for LIFE. He absolutely loved Burt -that was the thing attracted him in the first place, though not having much sense or interest in the mechanical background of the vehicle, it was actually a fresh breeze of air for a change not to explain and get into endless technical details (no offense :)) Bill had a wonderful sense of humour, a deep interest in us as humans, a generosity to share part of his life’s stories and a pair of eagle eyes for a photographer/ documentary filmmaker.
Bill is from Kentucky and is here to document the 11th Joshua Tree Music Festival that his childhood friend organises right here at this lovely spot in the Mojave Desert in about 10 days time. This year he came 2 weeks early to make sure he had good “making of” shots setting it up, and was staying in a “borrowed” RV. As a man from Kentucky in the Mojave, he had amusing stories about this experience such as; one windy night his RV was rocking so bad he rather spent the night sleeping in the men’s loo sitting upright on a camping chair!

He told us about the festival and about the people involved who are organising, designing and setting it up with such love and enthusiasm. He happened to mention that they could do with some help and they welcome volunteers. I could see the twinkles in John’s eyes who said “well we have tools, Betti likes painting, we also have a couple of days to spare so we could offer help…

And we did. OK, it wasn’t such a straightforward decision (we thought my visa was running out and have only a few days but that’s just one reason) Johnny and I love discussing everything, analysing, discussing more, sleep-on-it, and talk it over again. As almost everything in our lives this topic was like that too. “Shall we do this or shall we just move on as planned?” One minute we felt this way, the next that way. Some point I felt moving on and John the opposite then the other way round.

Before everything, as we planned already for the following day, after Bill’s visit we scooted into the Joshua Tree Park for hiking, climbing and general chilling. We found a sweet little spot in the furthest campground. The park, the trees, the boulder rocks, altogether the view and atmosphere was spectacular.

JT National Park, CA May 2013

JT National Park, CA
May 2013

JT National Park, CA May 2013

JT National Park, CA
May 2013

We love the desert plants. JT National Park, CA May 2013

We love the desert plants.
JT National Park, CA
May 2013

After a day hike we returned to our spot and found that we weren’t alone anymore. On one side we had a cheerful couple of families who we ended up sharing the campfire with and on the other side was a bunch of college kids arriving around midnight when as far as they concerned the start of the party time was and didn’t stop till laaaaaate…
Anyhow the following day we turned up at the work-in-progress festival site, introduced ourselves to Barnett (the main guy) and immediately we had duties.

Bill, John and Barnett

Bill, John and Barnett



We loved being involved and being busy, productive, helpful and all. It felt good. Johnny and I thought “let’s take this day by day, then we can decide if we still want to stick around for the actual festival” It is an experience itself just to get involved and we were already making friends which was fun. From this point, taking each day as a new decision saying each evening “Let’s turn up for 9AM and see if they still need us, if not we just move on” And each day was followed by another 9AM start. 6 days later we were offered 2 free tickets and a prime camp spot backstage in the hub of the organisers and all the new friends.
And guess what… the night before the festival, John and I were sitting in Burt at the supermarket’s carpark discussing if we should stay!! Eeeer…. how much signs and arrows pointing at the obvious direction did we need???

Finally John said “Something great is going to come out of this” I felt he was right. He turned the engine on and we made a left back to the festival site.

When we arrived at backstage taking our spot a huge cheer greeted us from Gareth, Chris, Travis, Al, Kali, Barnett, Lynn, Sarah and people who we didn’t even know but they heard about us. From that moment on we were part of the gang and as Bill said “and this, my friend, is the MOJAVE MAGIC

One of our finest decisions yet. Eventually I checked my passport, my visa was good for another month. We decided to stay for the tear-down and an extra 3 days with some of the guys who also weren’t in a rush so had some quality time with our new friends.
We came away from this experience with 2 things. 1; trusting our hearts, knowing it only brings GOOD. And 2; Friendships for LIFE.

Thanks Bill.

Bill Stark

Bill Stark


25. CALIFORNIA -Sequoia National Park and Forest

This post reflects on our leaving day from the Sequoias, May the 4th, after we spent a really amazing 6 days in the Sequoias.


The day started lovely. Got up at 9am which late for us although we both had a patchy night of sleep -John still has his cough that keeps him awake. We set off from our lovely campsite shortly after our coffees.

One of our favourite camp spots. Sequoia Nat. Forest May 2013

One of our favourite camp spots.
Sequoia Nat. Forest
May 2013

Then within 10 minutes at our first quick toilet stop we bumped into Eric and Chris! We met them and spent a very pleasant evening a few days ago. They are a brilliant, outdoor-y, open minded couple from San Diego and it was great to see them again on our leaving day!

They were just as pleasantly surprised to see us as we were to see them. We had another nice long chat. Changing suggestions on campsites in the area -Eric was giving us a few good tips on camps on our way.  We said goodbyes again and finally set off. We were a bit behind already and then we didn’t know yet how focus-demanding and windy the road will be ahead of us.

After a while we decided to stop by another giant forest. It was a tiny bit of a “waste” of time. I mean the forest was wonderful but it was Saturday and was absolutely packed with people, the path all the way paved which takes away the nature feeling of a walk in the forest so we didn’t enjoy it as much as our other hikes in the past few days. Anyhow we jumped back in to the cab feeling a little more pressure about time. As we were driving down the windy road at one of another trailhead we spotted (and them us too at the same time) the Argentinean couple! It was such a happy treat to see them again -and strangely, I thought of them earlier to check their blog to see where they are.And there they were!

Meeting the Argentinian couple the 3rd time. Sequoia National Park May 2013

Meeting the Argentinian couple the 3rd time.
Sequoia National Park
May 2013

How strange and wonderful. Again, an unplanned hour talk -sharing ideas on places to visit, camp, buy food etc then we were even more behind! We took off at about 3.40!

As John didn’t have breakfast or anything to eat at all so I suggested to stop and fix up a quick late lunch which we did.  It was quick and soon we were back on the windy road again.

Leaving Sequoia National Park May 2013

Leaving Sequoia National Park
May 2013

Leaving Sequoia National Park May 2013

Leaving Sequoia National Park
May 2013

We were a few miles away from the end of the road (effectively the park exit/entrance) where we saw a dump station which was perfect. We needed empty our waste tank and rinse it out. It didn’t take longer than 20 minutes but we had to do it. Jump back in a cab, making our way and enjoying the view as the river winding with the road down in the canyon. Then suddenly we saw red-blue flashing lights and a few cars -one of them upside down in front of us. We stopped there and the line behind us quickly got longer and longer. The ranger advised us that it will take long and appreciate our cooperation.

Leaving Sequoia National Park May 2013

Leaving Sequoia National Park
May 2013

As we found out later no one was seriously injured and the driver -young guy, was arrested for drink driving. There was a little club-afternoon gathering at our vehicle and we all. Chattering away for about an hour when they finally let us through.

So we were moving again. A few minutes later we reached the Park entrance/ exit and then we were on flat roads. There were still a fair amount of mileage had to be done still but needed food so stopped at a supermarket to fill up. I think at that point John thought it will take a long few hours till we reach our camp tonight so he suggested to eat there in a restaurant. We found one overlooking the river so we treated ourselves with an eat-out dinner. Actually the food was forgettable but it was nice to sit on the terrace, people watching and hook up to their wifi.

Straight after this at around 7pm we were back on the road, this time knowing that we didn’t need anything and all we have to do is plough on and get to the southern Sequoia Nat. Forest as soon as we can. We knew -from our map that there’s a couple of campsites right after the entrance but before that we had a long drive ahead of us through farming roads. The sun was going down fast and soon it was dusk just when the road became quite focus-demanding again.

Leaving Sequoia National Park May 2013

Leaving Sequoia National Park
May 2013


The flat farm land turned to hills and the road became narrow, windy and steep then finally we reached the forest.  It was dark and around 9pm when we crossed to the National Forest border -where we know, we can park freely and it is usually full of camp opportunities and I thought we are just minutes away from stop and settle for the night.

Well, this forest wasn’t giving us any chance. We had those two ‘campsites’ way behind us (never found them-the map must be way out of date) and all side roads -usually where we find good sites were all closed so we didn’t have a chance but keep moving on.

I was getting tired and cranky. John was pretty amazing driving all day on challenging roads, driving in the dark on the equally challenging road here and trying to keep my spirit up. Strangely this National Forest was full of private lands so parking rules were strict and overnight parking was prohibited.

It was nearly 10pm when found one side road and a big gravel area by the road. I would’ve been ok to stop there but John didn’t feel comfortable.

So we moved back on the main road where we found a baby owl sitting in the middle of the road. Luckily John saw it in time and went around it then we turned around and drove back. We don’t want to leave him on the road. Poor little bird, must’ve been hit, looked confused and clearly distressed (though no signs of physical damage) He let Johnny pick him up with a soft scarf and move him onto the grass. Of course there are numbers of danger there for him too but at least he was clear of the road. We felt terrible for him and I like to believe that he will recovered safely.

This event took the edge of my worry of finding the campsite and within a few minutes an open road offered us opportunities. We turned down on it heading to the woods where we saw a levelled ground with fire pit and we knew this was our home for the night.

It was really wonderful, the forest was perfectly silent and the stars above us couldn’t been sparklier. We stood outside for a while and admired them. Then all of a sudden the Universe signalled us with two amazing shooting stars for two wishes, and we hoped the baby owl sees the morning.


24. CALIFORNIA -Monterey

Slowly but surely we were making our way north, visually embracing the spectacular view of the Sur, taking our time for lunch at a great spot and stopping for sea lion watching. So it was, again, the early hours of the evening when we arrived at the campsite where the Airstream rally was held.
A bunch of jolly Airstreamers, including our friends Lianne and Kevin were gathering with glasses of wine and beers in their hands as we pulled up at our given site though it turned out it was too low for us so John and Lianne quickly sorted this out and within a few minutes we finally took our spot for the weekend, right next to Barbie and Bart.

Bart and Barbie entertaining John

Bart and Barbie entertaining John

Barbie and Bart is a delightfully eccentric couple from Manolo Park who are very in to generally supporting Earth’s good health in anyway they can. Bart is a steam engineer and Barbie is an art teacher -being very arty herself as well as being an excellent photographer. We had the good fortune to flick through their 3 picture books she made of her photos she took at Burning Man where they are being volunteers for years! (Burning Man festival was one our dream to go to, although we know that it won’t happen as we are here at the wrong time. doh.) They were wonderful neighbours to have, never stopped smiling, joking, laughing or being generous with their wine, beer and lemon supply plus with their complimentary guests’ tickets for the Monterey Aquarium.
We had more friends arrived later that evening; Nick, Desiree and their little boy Scott. Who was a delightful kid quietly sitting and absorbing life and whatever is happening. Everyone, throughout the weekend, was constantly complimenting on the unusually chilled behaviour of Scott’s which I’m sure partly gets from his cool and laid-back parents.

The next morning a few of us decided to hit the Monterey Aquarium. We all squeezed into two cars and off we went. We had a wonderful time. Barbie has been there numerous times so she knew her way, also she proved to be an excellent source of knowledge just about every species in the aquarium.

IMG_5418 IMG_9485 IMG_9575

John and I could spent the whole day there and perhaps we took our time way slower than everyone else only just at the end realising that no one had anything to eat yet and it was already 3PM! Being a huge fan of Forrest Gump I was keen to try the Bubba Gump restaurant 🙂 where we were up for a quiz about the film. I think we answered 12/12 at the end. It was fun.

Lianne discovered that there was an English brewery not far from our RV site. This was something everyone was up for! So before we headed back home for the Airstream evening gathering we thought we could swing by for a couple of pints of homemade ale.
Feeling jolly after the our “tasters”, we got back to the gathering meeting more delightful people which is exactly the receipt for an excellent evening.
We were mostly chilling the next day. I enjoyed the free wifi so could catch up sorting and uploading photos, stories and so on. Johnny was enjoying a potter-around Burt. Then we were invited for a sea otter and sea lion watching by Barbie and Bart. Took some nice pictures, had a few good laughs, bought fresh artichokes and strawberries.


Then we returned to the site for the main event of the weekend which was the potluck (I made Italian bolognese earlier) This was a slightly quieter but very nice, chatty evening.
Lianne and Kevin have been wonderful to invite us, not only here but into their lives and introduce us to their friends. They were, as always have been, generous with their time, kindness and their delicious homemade ale that we had the good fortune enjoying many times throughout our time together. We were sad to say goodbye to them after a (short yet) long relationship with them. They are the true and living proof of the fact that no matter what, you can deeply enjoy every minute of life. And they really can.

Lianne and Kevin with us and with the rigs.

Lianne and Kevin with us and with the rigs.

As the rally ended on Sunday, our good friends and new-made friends were packing up for their journey home. Some needed to leave early morning for a longer trip, and some had time to enjoy a few more hours in the day. But eventually by the early hours of the afternoon we said goodbye to the last people standing; Barbie and Bart and we left to find our next camp spot.



Next The Sequoia National Park.