If you missed my last post covering our drive and arrival at Puerto Peñasco, click here. In this segment I’ll try to encapsulate what we did during our nine days south of the border, without running too long.
Our destination was located where the Sonoran desert meets the Sea of Cortez, 65 miles south of the U.S./Mexican border at Lukeville, AZ. The name Puerto Peñasco derives from 19th century maps drafted by Lieutenant William Hardy, who visited the region to scout for potential pearl fisheries. Lt. Hardy dubbed the area “Rocky Point”, after the prominent rocky basaltic headland that pinpoints the town today.
The spot later became known in Spanish as Puerto Peñasco or “Rocky Port”, as the estuary at the base of the mountain gave natural refuge to mariners. It’s also known as Rocky Point or “Arizona Beach”, since many tourists visiting here for fishing, beach bumming and partying travel from Arizona just across the border.
It is also located in an arid desert environment, which means lots of sand – not only on the beaches but everywhere as far as the eye can see!
First on our agenda the day after we arrived was a car caravan to tour the town. With our event hosts leading and a map of the downtown area in hand, we learned where to shop, eat, and souvenir shop, and the best places to buy the incredible fresh seafood here.
We also learned the traffic rules – “topes” are speed bumps, “alto” is stop, and above all don’t speed through town! Of course, the locals had no trouble spotting us gringos as they sped by and ignored all signs. But hey, it’s their country! After the tour we were comfortable driving around town to get groceries and eat at the many wonderful restaurants.
Between potlucks, happy hours and group meals, we definitely satisfied the main goal of this event – meeting new friends – 67 of them! It was fun throwing together spur-of-the-moment carpools so everyone could do their favorite activities together. In short, the caravan allowed us to socialize to the max during our first-ever driving foray into Mexico.
We had lots of free time and many activities to enjoy under the sun. During the day everyone did their own thing; golfing, 4-wheeling in the sand dunes, fishing, whale watching, souvenir shopping, trips to the local Tequila Factory or just lazing around the RV’s or on the beach.
As for us, I checked out the El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, known for its unique physical and biological characteristics. The 1.7 million acre site comprises two distinct parts: the dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and in the west the Gran Altar Desert – the largest active dune field in North America. This area was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1993.
We visited the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO), where we learned about the Gulf of California’s extreme tides, the endangered Vaquita Porpoise and CEDO’s current projects. CEDO’s campus is outlined by an elegant sinuous wall and entry gate sculpture designed by artist Joseph P. McShane. The main edifice is constructed in the Greek Monastic architectural style with an open patio courtyard and a balcony overlooking the Sea of Cortez.
Having an excellent burrito or tamale for breakfast in the mornings and margarita in the afternoons gave us strong impetus to walk 4-5 miles along the beach every day!
We learned immediately upon arrival that a large group of mexican workers were available to perform many services on RV’s and cars. Everything from wash/wax to body/paint, and even interior cleaning. And these guys are good! Steve knows body and paint work, and he was impressed by what he saw. We had Betsy’s wheels polished and the car washed/waxed for $60! They did a great job and we wished we had gotten in line in time to get some minor paint work done.
One other highlight here was meeting up with friends Rick and Joanne. They were with a group of 60 rigs from the Escapees club that overlapped with our trip. We had a great time catching up with them.
When in Mexico it’s expected that Mariachi bands will come to serenade you while you’re dining in a restaurant, or if you’re at the Old Port locals will flag you down to get your attention and business. We observed that once we said “No, Gracias”, they didn’t continue to bother us. At our campground, vendors selling their crafts were limited to the beach area and not allowed inside the park. Some were vetted by our event hosts so we knew who to buy from and were able to bargain with them. We knew these talented folks were working very hard and we didn’t try to “lowball” them.
Puerto Peñasco is known for its fresh seafood, and on our last day we met up with friends Bob and Dee Dee to go downtown and bargain. Steve got carried away and bought 10 lbs. of gorgeous shrimp, 3 lbs. of scallops and 5 lbs. of grouper – all for $100! Needless to say our freezer will be full for a while.
This was our first caravan trip and first RV exploration into Mexico. We felt safe and secure during our entire stay. We didn’t mind being intimately parked next to our neighbors – that’s just the way they do it here. The knowledge and experience of our excellent hosts Jerry and Sue and Paul and Kathy helped allay any concerns we may have had about crossing the border. In fact, we would gladly do it again with some of our RV buddies – any takers?
The sunsets, great food, clean beaches and camaraderie made our stay terrific and memorable.
Next up: A quick visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument