Monthly Archives: August, 2013

Forty Shades Of Green

We managed to sleep through most of the Mexican disco and, after a short walk to the toilets, we headed back to the Basaseachi waterfall to see if we could get a better look from the foot of the waterfalls. As it turns out, it takes about 5 hours to get to the bottom of the waterfalls and back – so we skipped that. We got back to the car and drove to Creel to see the ‘Barrancas del Cobre’, a.k.a. the Copper Canyon!

_DSC9945
DSC_9947
_DSC9962
DSC_9977

The drive was much more relaxed than yesterday, with longer straight roads and not too much traffic (both cars and animals). We had a roadside picnic about an hour before arriving in Creel.

    _DSC9987

DSC_0001

DSC_0012

DSC_0020  

Creel is a small mountain town, with relatively few tourists (we spotted 2 – apart from us). Today apparently was payday for a lot of the poor people who live on benefits – so it was rather busy in the main street.

         _DSC0059
During our walk around town we had to find shelter for the anticipated rain showers.

_DSC0060

We are not yet very used to eating very late in the evening – as it the local custom – so Patrick already had a burrito in the small yellow shack on the right. As the guy running it did not have any change for 100 pesos (6 euro), we’ll go back for breakfast tomorrow and pay him then.

_DSC0063

Tonight we will be sleeping in the campground of the ‘Mexican Villa’, where we can use the shower and toilets of the hotel.

DSC_0049

28 days and 6,000 kilometers and still going strong!

Again I want to see and do the things we’ve done and seen

Where the breeze is sweet as Shalimar and there’s forty shades of green


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrbR1Jf2Ahc

Matarile Rile Rile

Yesterday we were so tired from the ride that we decided to take a short nap. At 1:00 am we woke up realising we slept 6 hours straight. As there was nothing else to do and we were both awake, we tested our new game ‘Gloom’. Patrick won two times in a row. That made us sleepy again so we went back to bed and only woke up at 6:00 am. Nature is probably telling us here to catch up on some sleep from the previous night…

Freshly awake we decided to take a shower, only to discover that there was no water anymore (we tried all the pipes, none were working). Wondering where the water went to (the sink also stopped dripping) and desperate for a morning wash-up, we used our back-up water from the car (this is a container of 5 gallon with water that we use to wash our clothes and do our dishes). Off course the water started working again by the time we were finished… but hey, at least we could take off.

As we were low on food supplies, we decided to stop in the local supermarket to get our stock back on minimum level. We discovered that food really doesn’t cost anything here. For a full cooler, we only had to pay 115 pesos (which is the equivalent of about 8 euro – for comparison, in the USA for the same we paid about 30 dollars).

With our new stock on hand, we headed back on the road, zig-zagging towards Basaseachi.

DSC_9827

_DSC9844

_DSC9846

_DSC9847

We also saw a lot of mules, horses, bulls and dogs along the way… loose that is… on the street.

DSC_9872

_DSC9874

When we arrived at the campground site, we were completely awed by the lack of organisation. People seemed to be parking anywhere they pleased, there was no reception to help you explain the campground and the campground places, well, they come with a lot of improvisation. Armed with our phrasebooks we started conversation with the closest available Mexican asking where we could park our car. This lead to a place on the mountain side. Rodrigo had his first challenge crawling up this very bumpy hill. Once the car was stable and secured, we went for a small walk to the water falls (270m high) adjacent to the camp site.

_DSC9892
_DSC9913

_DSC9919

_DSC9923 _DSC9916

We also saw this beautiful butterfly and eagle in close-up today.

_DSC9904

DSC_9926   

And then the heavens opened up again so we ran for shelter into the car and read up on some Meso-American history.

_DSC9940
_DSC9942
We think tonight might become challenging for sleeping again as a local Mexican, parked behind us, decided to turn his car into a disco bar… Everybody!…
Matarile-rile-rile,
Matarile-rile-rón

Karma Police, Arrest This Man

We spent the night in Guyamas, camping at the Totonaka RV Park. The park was completely empty – so we each had 2 showers and 2 toilets to ourselves. The park is located just by the ocean, but there was no cool breeze all night and the temperature stayed above 31°C. We slept for only 4 hours in total – after which our pillows were soaked in sweat. We got up at 6:00am to do some laundry, take a shower (pointless really) and then find a bank, a supermarket and a petrol station. We managed to do all of that and then headed out to ‘Basaseachi’ to see the waterfalls close to the ‘Copper Canyon’. As the laundry was not completely dry, we transformed the car to a dryer once more.

_DSC9684.jpg

As it would be a long drive today (more than 600 kilometres), Patrick though it would be great to have a cup of coffee in the car as part of the morning drive. Marijke got out of the car and got a coffee from ‘Oxxo’, the Mexican equivalent of ‘Café Bonjour’ next to a Total petrol station. The coffee was terrible – too sweet and creamy. In order to make that point, Marijke dropped the coffee (in a moving car) and blessed our paperwork and her own purse with bad coffee. At least that took care of the coffee. At this point, we knew it would be a strange day!

_DSC9686.JPG

Driving up to Hermosillo took us about an hour, after which we took highway 16 heading east to the ‘Copper Canyon’. After about 15 minutes, a police car pulled up next to us and told us to move to the side of the road. The police officer went on to explain in perfect Spanish that we were driving 80 miles per hour instead of 80 kilometres per hour. This is of course not true, as Rodrigo is only capable of those speeds downhill! Patrick gave the police officer a copy of his driving license – and Marijke began to call the officer’s bluff armed with her phrasebook! We were told to head down to the police station and pay the 1,000 pesos fine (about 60 euro)… or (after some time) to pay ‘something on the spot’. Now we were determined not to pay anything – and after we completely forgot how to speak any Spanish the officer got bored and let us go.

DSC_9690  

DSC_9727

DSC_9733

The rest of the drive was through beautiful green mountains – with sharp turns but not so many cars on the road. We crossed a military checkpoint where we had to get out of the car and a (very) young soldier searched the car for a few minutes. Everything was okay so we could continue. We started seeing some rain clouds as well at that point so we considered stopping in another town called ‘Yécora’. There was a security check at the town entrance, but no concern for us as we were waved through.

_DSC9746

We looked for a campsite but did not find anything – and at the petrol station they did not know of any camping. So we found a hotel with a secluded parking and stopped for the night. Half an hour after we arrived, the rain started pouring down! Luckily it wasn’t raining inside the hotel room although we do have a water leak from the sink which put the toilet in the middle of a water pool. Marijke cleaned it up and we put a bucket under the leak to avoid waking up in a swimming pool. Oh well, at least we have a place to stay for the night.

_DSC9816

Tomorrow we continue our way to Basaseachi!

Karma police, arrest this man,

He talks in mouth, he buzzes like a fridge

He’s like a detuned radio


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBH97ma9YiI

South Of The Border, Down Mexico Way

When we woke up this morning, there was a beautiful basket waiting on our doorstep with some delicious American breakfast (yoghurt, cheddar cheese, orange juice, bananas and muffins).

_DSC9485

With our tummies fully stuffed we started our single goal of the day: getting across the Mexican border. All in all it took us about 2 hours to go from the USA to Mexico. We first had to pass customs, where we voluntarily declared our fruit & vegetables. Then we drove for 15 kilometers to the ‘Migracion’ office for our tourist permits. We filled in the document and had it checked by the officer. Then we had to go to the ‘Banjercito’ to pay for the permits. Once paid, the officer gave us a Mexican border stamp in our passport. Patrick then also had to go a second time to the ‘Banjercito’ to get a vehicle permit. This provides you a sticker which you need to attach next to the rear view mirror and then you are able to drive over the ‘topes’ – more about those in later posts undoubtedly. The people at the border crossing were all very friendly. We’re just not sure if you’re supposed to tip the helpers or not so I hope we didn’t offend the fellow when we gave him (only) 1USD for washing our car. (note that all the above was done in Spanish – some of it with a loud tv in the background…)

We didn’t see any US border control posts along the border crossings so Marijke still has the green paper left in her passport… Google says that if this happens, we need to mail the paper with some other documentation to an office in Kentucky. If we don’t do this, Marijke might get into trouble when she accesses the USA again. We also got to keep all our fruit and vegetables so no custom victims this time. 🙂

At the Mexican side all seemed to look already a lot greener. The driving in the city is crazy though. It feels like everyone does whatever they please but so far we managed to get through without any scratches. There were also a lot of road works going on. Maybe the government is trying to improve on the infrastructure to lure more tourists.

DSC_9506  

After a very long drive we arrived in our new campground, Totonaka RV Park. It’s not really accustomed to tent camping but at least it is safe here as it has a night guard and they lock the gates at night.

DSC_9658

In order to stretch our legs, we went for a short walk across town and saw beautiful pelicans at the beach. Marijke also found some special shells. It was much too ‘caliente’ though to walk much further so we stepped into the first bar at the sea side and ordered some local beers, ice tea, tacos and a fresh sea breeze. We had a perfect view over the ocean watching the pelicans also enjoy their dinner. No need for windows in this area… 🙂

DSC_9547

DSC_9574

_DSC9564

DSC_9579

_DSC9600

Coming back to the campground, we also seem to have discovered the animal which looked like the flying spider. They seem to like this ‘bean tree’ a lot as there are a lot of them sitting on its leaves. I just hope one doesn’t fly in our tent or the car during an unobserved moment. 🙂 (they are quite big…)

DSC_9648

DSC_9653

Tomorrow we will start exploring Mexico. All that remains to do tonight is cool down, which is a challenge at 35°C still at nightfall… We took a shower and came out sweating even more! We’ll see what the night brings.

South of the border, down Mexico way

That’s where I fell in love, where stars above came out play

And now as I wonder, my thoughts ever stray

South of the border, down Mexico way


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZYPa6tI43Q

My Head Was Floating In The Sky

Today will be a day which we will not easily forget. This morning we went for a hike through the desert plants on a trail near our campground. On this trail we came across some beautiful creatures of nature amongst which this big dark blue butterfly. We also saw many lizards, different cacti, small flowers and also … a turtle! We drove over a snake (not killing it, it fitted between the wheels) on the way to the trail as well!

NMS_9392

DSC_9456  

_DSC9396

DSC_9404

DSC_9450

DSC_9410

DSC_9435

Patrick wanted to get our car key duplicated so we drove to a Toyota dealer in Tucson. Having to wait for 2 hours we were driven to the nearest mall where we bought a new card game called ‘Gloom’ which we can use to fill the dark evenings and we went for lunch in ‘The Cheesecake Factory’ (for all the Big Bang fans … Penny wasn’t working there but it was still very good food :)).

_DSC9479

Then we were taken back to the Toyota dealer where we waited for another hour while the paperwork was in progress.

_DSC9482

And then … we got lost looking for a campground nearby Naco. Unless you want to drive 8km on a non-paved road or want to drive through water pools 10cm deep, we didn’t seem to be able to get any closer to our goal. So whilst driving back to the highway we forgot to pay attention and got our first tourist experience. Patrick got a ticket from a police officer for ignoring a school bus arm sign staying ‘stop’ – thinking it was applicable to the people from the other direction as we don’t have these arms in Belgium, but apparently you are breaking a serious law in case you drive past the bus even if nobody is on the road. So now he has to go to court and pay a fine…. Tomorrow we want to drive out of the USA for Mexico so we wonder how that’s going to work… I suppose it’s a good thing that the court offices don’t work over the weekend so the border officers won’t know yet… I’ll guess we’ll see at the border line tomorrow.

As the nearest lodging option in the neighbourhood seems to be 70km away from here (according to the GPS at least), we just took the first option we came across. Luckily it’s a beautiful inn B&B so at least that gives us time to prepare for Mexico, read up on the Mexican road policy and have a good night sleep.

_DSC9483

I never meant to make you cry,

My head was floating in the sky,

And nothing looked to be out of place.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2UvF4q3svU

If You’re Going To San Francisco

Then this blog will not give you any helpful tips because we are not going there. You should check valenkoen.blogspot.be in 10 days for that.

We got up early again this morning to ensure we could still have breakfast with Val, Koen, Bernard, Pauline and Arthur. Today they are heading north while we want to get closer to the Mexican border near Tucson. So after breakfast our ways parted and we got back on the road. We will miss the witty comments such as “Is there popcorn with the movie?” when the tour guides explains we are going to watch a little film about the Grand Canyon.

_DSC9075

We made a first stop in Flagstaff at Montezuma Castle (which is not a castle and was built hundreds of years before Montezuma). It’s an old village carved in the mountains surrounded by beautiful nature.

DSC_9111

_DSC9092

DSC_9132

Then we got back in the car for a 3 hour drive past Phoenix towards Tucson. This is were we started to see the first real cactuses (cacti?).

DSC_9150

DSC_9190

DSC_9227

When we arrived at the camp site and unpacked for lunch we saw some pleasant surprise on the table cloth. 🙂 Thanks guys for the lovely souvenir! We’ll try to not wash it too much so we can keep the text as long as possible.

_DSC9254

_DSC9252

As the sun was going down, we thought we should take advantage of the light and go for a small hike near the campground. We are heading south so the sun starts going down at 7:15 pm already.

_DSC9267  _DSC9281   

DSC_9312

DSC_9289

_DSC9316 _DSC9279

Along the way we came across some funny looking creatures. I’m not sure if Area 51 with all the nuclear activity has some effect on the animals here in Arizona but all the animals seem to have doubled in size. We also saw something that looked like a flying spider but we didn’t capture that one on camera as it was too big and Marijke was too scared that it would fly in her hair.

DSC_9257

_DSC9270 - Version 2

DSC_9278

DSC_9286

DSC_9337

When we noticed this little fellow was also waking up and in search for food we decided to call it a night and go to bed before it started getting too dark.

DSC_9382
Tomorrow we will do some more hiking in the area (at daylight!) and get ready for Mexico.

_DSC9345
If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re going to meet some gentle people there


Don’t Be Afraid To Let Them Show

This morning the kids were already awake quite early. They came around to give us a wake-up call and then we all had some breakfast. Whilst we were waiting for our tour guide to arrive and were absorbing the morning air, they already released some energy on the camp ground’s go-carts.

DSC_8702

DSC_8721

At 9:00 am he arrived and we started driving to the National Forest of the Kaibab, the original name of the Grand Canyon. Meet our tour guide, Marvelous Marv 🙂 You can also find him on his website www.marvelousmarv.com.

DSC_8897

Driving through the Colorado Plateau and past Red Butte, the sacred mountain of the Havasupai Nation, we arrived at the park. The Grand Canyon really is very spectacular. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t all that great so we had a little bit of a fog over the mountains. Still, it was an amazing sight. If you can find a brown spot on the pictures, you found the Colorado river which was showing its true colours.

DSC_8782

NMS_8783

DSC_8837

_DSC8754

The trails are quite long but the natives used to climb the mountains with the aid of mules. We happen to come across some of these (the mules, not the natives) on our short way down on one of the oldest trails in the Grand Canyon.

_DSC9027

There will be some that will disagree but I also found the geology quite interesting. There are over 20 layers of rock to be identified and all of them are older than the dinosaur ages. The only artefacts ever found in these stones were from human descent.

_DSC8744

We also found the plants growing here very cool. You never know what’s growing next to you. There’s a tree for example which blossoms all year round and its flowers are used for making medicine and tea. The bast is used for making shoes, clothes and even baby diapers due to its softness. We were also lucky as we saw a Kaibab Century in full blossom which only happens every century (at least that’s what Marve said but Google disagrees). The Banana Yucca plant is used for its sharp ends and used as needle and treat. Then there was also the Fernbush which comes in handy when you have asthma – or if you just like the taste, as tea can be made from it.

_DSC8751
_DSC8745
_DSC8821

DSC_8795

And then there was also the wildlife. Some people spotted an elk when we drove through the entrance of the park but we missed that. We did manage to see a condor though (which was very tricky to get on camera) as well as some squirrels. These last ones were actually quite cheeky and tried to get very close to you in search for food. It was no problem at all getting these guys photographed.

NMS_8785 - Version 2

DSC_8891

And finally we found a real cactus. Although I’m expecting to see some much, much larger ones in the rest of Arizona or in Mexico, these ones were quite nice as a start.

DSC_8963

Tomorrow we say good-bye to Val & Koen and continue heading south. If you want to keep in touch with them or read the other side of the story, you can find them on their blog at valenkoen.blogspot.be


Don’t be afraid to let them show

Your true colours are beautiful like a rainbow


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPn0KFlbqX8

(Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For

The central theme of today was all about patience. In the morning we started the day by waiting for the taxi.

DSC_8349

When the cab was there we headed of to the RV dealer. As you can see, Koen was really excited about getting his big van 🙂

DSC_8363

Having arrived, we had to wait for the RV to be ready and mum and dad got a full instruction tour on how to use this new big toy. In the meantime we kept ourselves busy entertaining the kids. Well, some didn’t need to be entertained and kept themselves busy 🙂

DSC_8397

Then we got to see the RV for the first time. Everyone was happy about the size and content so we approved it and went shopping in the Walmart to stock on main supplies for the road; so we went for the big shop!

DSC_8410
_DSC8428

_DSC8425

Now that everything was settled, we headed for our first tourist stop of the day … the ‘Hoover Dam’. Before we even had the chance to take a glimpse of the dam we were asked to pass through security and we were held aside to get our roof tent checked. You know, you can never know if we’re hiding a bomb in there…. Having passed the test, we were able to go and have a look from up close.

_DSC8453

_DSC8450

_DSC8456  

Not being able anymore to take the 42°C, we went back to our car and started the long drive through Route 66 to Williams, Arizona where we had our campground booked. On the road we had different passengers to entertain each of them asking us ‘are we there yet’ which made us wonder if we need to build up on our entertainment skills… :).

_DSC8457

_DSC8532

_DSC8597

These are the pictures from the surroundings during the drive but for some reason there was always this annoying big RV on the road in front of us… 🙂

DSC_8461  

DSC_8565

DSC_8511

DSC_8615  
By the time we arrived at the campground, it was already dark. So we had dinner and went to bed straight afterwards!
So I’ve sat and watch an ice age thaw
Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

All You Need Is A Strong Heart And Nerves Of Steel

Perfect timing! We met Val & Koen and the kids in Las Vegas. They arrived at the hotel 15 minutes after us! It was great to see family on the other side of the Atlantic!

You can see Belgium at night from outer space because of all the traffic lights but from Death Valley it’s even cooler as you can see outer space from Earth! As we didn’t bring our camera and you would probably need a special lens to capture the image we don’t have a picture unfortunately.

The sky in Las Vegas looks completely different though. Everywhere you look you see big, bigger and biggest.

_DSC8173
_DSC8305
_DSC8169

Whilst we were just checking in into our hotel, we came across some familiar faces. Together we explored the city and its burlesque inhabitants. It’s completely absurd the number of slots, roulettes, card tables, etc you can find just walking through this city. Luckily we kept our heads cool and did not get persuaded to throw away our money even though they really try everything possible to lure you.

Image

In search for our lunch location in ‘Planet Hollywood’ we walked through ‘Ceasar’s Palace’. Even at this time of the day, people were already hooked up on the slot machines, pushing away their pennies.

DSC_8166

Walking back via the Vegas strip in 40°C – even with the water sprinklers at the terraces – we had to cool down in the pool at the roof of the hotel.

_DSC8260
DSC_8199
DSC_8203

It’s amazing to see how many people walk around in Las Vegas. It gets even worse at nightfall. Val was luckily much more prepared than we were and had made a reservation for us all in the ‘Mon Ami Gabi’, a very nice French themed restaurant across the ‘Bellagio’.

_DSC8177

While Val and Koen went back to the hotel to put the kids to sleep, we explored the city of sin a little further. This is when we noticed that the real Las Vegas only truly shows itself at night.

_DSC8304

_DSC8161

_DSC8330

_DSC8323

It was certainly a day to remember. We’re still not sure whether to like it or hate it but Las Vegas is definitely the most extravagant city we’ve ever seen.

_DSC8342 _DSC8315

There’s poker and black jack and the roulette wheel

A fortune won and lost on every deal

All you need is a strong heart and nerves of steel

Viva Las Vegas!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFw5a5Bp_Pw

Colours In The Air

Another beautiful and warm day in Death Valley. First on the agenda, ‘Badwater basin’, a lake (dry when we went to see it) in the middle of Death Valley, 86m under sea level. In the winter it’s possible that the lake is full of water as the rain pours down the mountains and collects in this dip but in summer it all dries up leaving a special salty crust behind. On the way over we had a fabulous view on the salt lake from a distance.

_DSC7796

We also came across a small mine site where years ago borax (used in detergents) was excavated by the ‘Pacific Coast Borax Company‘. So we decided to have a quick look around.

NMS_7798

_DSC7807

Then we drove all the way to Badwater basin. We heard another Belgian family walking around there too. It’s funny sometimes to see how small the world has become. The lake was beautiful though so it’s only obvious why they came to visit it and surprisingly there was still some water available.

_DSC7810

_DSC7814  

_DSC7823

_DSC7817

The sun must have made us completely mad as we decided to go for a desert hike towards what was marked on the map as ‘Natural Bridge’. There was a lot more to see on the trail but after 500m we had to turn around. We didn’t expect 45°C to wear us out that easily even though we followed all rules (supply on water, cover yourself with enough clothes and wear a funny hat).

_DSC7825

_DSC7829

But in all honestly we liked the view coming down better then the actual tourist attraction point.

_DSC7833

_DSC7837

Being able to breathe again in the air-conditioned car (read more on Rodrigo in the tab “The Car”!), we continued our trip to the next trail, the ‘Artist Pallet’ (which could be viewed from the car). This road gave us the opportunity to see the mountains from up close (very close at some points) and to see the different colour layers.

_DSC7904  

DSC_7955  

This brought us close to Furnace Creek. Apart from the food there wasn’t much to see here but it’s known as the hottest place on earth (57°C in 1913).

DSC_8055

_DSC8064  

On the way back home we passed by ‘Zabrieski Point’ where we could look out over the huge mountain tops.

DSC_8078

_DSC8090

Oh, and there was also the cow 🙂 …. and this supermarket ….

_DSC8126

_DSC8131

Don’t ask me …. Maybe the Area 51 fumes have some effect on the people’s brains here… who knows? 🙂 The truth is out there.

To cool ourselves down, we had another lazy afternoon at the pool. Tonight we might go back to the desert to see the stars.

Coming, colours in the air

Oh, everywhere

She comes in colours

She’s like a rainbow

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya4R7ZswMwA