Bahia Kino Album
Segment Two – Organ Pipe Cactus NM to Bahia Kino.
AZ-85 from the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to the border is a speed trap. I’ve seen a lot of cars pulled over. I’ve got no idea how the Smokey’s hide out here, you can see for miles.
The Lukeville/Sonoyta crossing was uneventful, they just waved my through. For future reference, there are Pemex stations all over the place on the Mexican side but the one at the junction of Mex 8 (which is what AZ-85 becomes) and Mex 2, also has an ATM. I didn’t stop because I didn’t need gas so wasn’t watching for it. I do need to pick up some pesos sooner or later, I’ve got about 600 Pesos left over from my last trip but that won’t fill my gas tank. I’ll find an ATM in Santa Ana , my first short stop (1 night) and gas up there.
At the customs and migration stop 7 miles east of Sonoyta; I spent about 1 1/2 hours trying to get all the paperwork done. I started out by getting in the wrong lane and found myself in the truck-holding yard. When I tried to go on through, a customs agent tried to tell me that I would have to turn around and go back out the way I came in. Well, I couldn’t do that because there wasn’t any place to turn around. I finally got a official that spoke English and he said that I should go all the way through, turn around after getting back on the highway and come through in the correct lane. Which I did, but then the agent there (same agent), after finding out where I was going and that I needed my FM-T stamped, said I needed to circle around one more time, but this time pull over in front of the migration office and get my FMT stamped; which is what I was trying to do in the first place. So I circled one more time and parked at the migration office. There they took about 5 minutes to figure out that my FMT was already paid for. Then they informed me I needed vehicle permits for both the RV and the toad. When I said I wasn’t going past San Carlos , which is in the free zone, they informed me that the free zone was only for vehicles crossing at Nogales ! That’s what I call a Mexican Gotcha!
I really didn’t care because I wanted to get the 10-year permit for the coach anyway. I was a little worried about the toad though. Yesterday when I was checking all my paperwork and making copies, I realized I didn’t have the current registration for the toad. The one I’ve got is last years. I must have thrown out the new one! I did have the computer receipt showing that I had renewed the registration and that the expiration date was October 2006. Believe it or not, they accepted that! But what with all the discussion with them about what was needed and what wasn’t (most of them didn’t speak English and my Spanish was worse) and running back and forth getting copies, stamps, etc, it was almost 2 hours before I got through. And I was their only customer the whole time I was there. I can imagine what it would be like if they were busy. I think they tolerated me because they had nothing else to do. Considering that I had already made copies of everything I could in advance, and they were just making copies of the paperwork they generated I can imagine what it would be like if there had been a bunch of unprepared people there with me! For more info on border crossing paperwork, check the “Border FAQ”page.
Oh, as a warning, the lanes going through are very narrow; I almost took a mirror off a couple of times, of course, after circling 3 times I got pretty good at it! Also, to turn around to make all those circles I had to pull off the pavement at a wide dirt spot obviously used for that purpose by other big rigs. The pavement drop-off is a couple of inches so be careful of your approach.
Just before the migration stop east of Sonoyta on Mex-2, the highway goes to shit until about mile 25. There it smoothes out and is in good condition.
After the migration stop, there is a small pass and from the top; you can see the road ahead of you, straight as a string, all the way to the horizon. But the speed limit is still 50, but I pushed it to 55. The locals were still passing me but they don’t have to worry about the cops.
At mile 87, the highway widens out with wide shoulders and the speed limit jumps to 65 (100 km)
Well, that nice highway didn’t last long, now I’m going through one little village after another with the speed limit at 25 (40 km).
I was wondering why I had been seeing surveyors all along the highway. Well, at mile 121 (km 58) there is a new two-lane road being built parallel to the one I’m on. So this stretch will be 4 lane divided…. And that’s exactly what happened, a couple of miles later. The strange thing is, even though I’m on new pavement, it’s still lumpy as hell! Goes to show what low-bid will get you.
Mile 133, SURPRISE! That divided highway is a toll road; I just found the tollbooth. $130 NP for RV and toad combined. The speed limit is 90 km (60 mph) and I wouldn’t want to go any faster, what with the lumpy pavement.
Arrived at Punta Vista RV Park in Santa Ana . The park was empty; even the owners were absent. So I picked a spot and hooked up power. I didn’t need water or sewer so, other than leveling, that was it. Punta Vista is a small park (6-9 RV's) on the west side of Mex-15. It has full hookups and is almost all grass. The dog is friendly. It is on the south outskirts of town, immediately before a yellow pedestrian overpass.
I took the toad to scout the area; I knew I would need gas for the next leg so I drove in the direction of Hermosillo to look for a Pemex. About 2 miles down the road I found one. So that took care of the fuel question, now I needed an ATM. I drove back to the RV Park and, just past it, I found one. Unfortunately, it was out of cash. I found my way to the town square (I just headed for the church spires, a trick I picked up in Baja) and found two more ATM’s. But, would you believe, both of them were empty also. Since it was Sunday, the banks were closed; so I abandoned my search for cash until Monday. There were a few things going on around the square, a fundraiser for something or other. They had some games set up, a Mexican jam session going, and a couple of food booths, one serving steaks and baked potatoes (of all things). There was also a Super Mercado on the square so I shopped, dined, and did a lot of people watching.
When I got back to the RV park, the owner was back (he had been to a trade convention in Hermosillo). After I paid for the night, I mentioned my problem with getting some cash and asked about an internet café (I didn’t want to set up the dish for just one night). He insisted that I jump into his truck and he took me to the ATM that he uses. What do you know! It was at the square, across the street from one that I had already tried. I had walked past this one twice! This one worked, so I had my cash. He also gave me a tour of the town and showed me where everything that I might want was located. He also gave me a map showing the Hermosillo bypass and a brochure for my trip back from US customs showing what they are allowing and what is barred. I’ll definitely stop here on my way back. But now I’m ready for the next leg.
Segment Three - Santa Ana to Bahia de Kino
I’m now out of the cactus, just Ironwood, Creosote trees, saltbush and other desert scrub, but no cactus.
Well, I just saw my first dead animal on the roadside; it was a very large bull. Welcome to Mexico !!!
There is a truck/bus inspection station at km 119 for northbound traffic. The trucks are backed up for about 1/2 mile. Luckily for the northbound passenger cars, there is a second northbound lane for them.
Police roadblock for traffic in both directions just before km 68, I was waved through so they must be looking for someone in particular.
For about the last 45 minutes I’ve been seeing a lot of RV’s heading north; mostly truck campers and 5er’s but a few Class A’s mixed in. The fact that it’s Monday may have something to do with it. I haven’t seen any RV’ers heading my way, but that just means they may be doing the same speed as me.
This part of the country is primarily grassland with some desert scrub and the occasional Organ Pipe Cactus, the only cactus I’ve seen here. The area hasn’t had any rain for awhile so everything is brown, with the exception of some of the Palo Verde trees that are in bloom with a yellow flower. On the east side of Mex-15, starting at km 44, there are produce farms and grape orchards. On some of the grape orchards, they have planted flowers in the first row. Makes for a pretty sight. West of the highway is still scrub with a few cattle wandering around.
There is a tollbooth just north of Hermosillo , toll for me was 147 pesos. As soon as I passed through the tollbooth, I made a right onto Mina Pilares. This is a detour around the main part of the city that was recommended by people that know the area. I followed this road for a few KM. It is very windy but a nice road. It was built by the Canadian mine company and is like most Mexico roads, very narrow.
I was supposed to make a left at a power sub station but I missed it. I realized my mistake and started looking for a place to turn around. I also noticed that most the traffic on this road was garbage trucks! Guess where the road was going!! You got it, the dump!! While looking for a wide spot, a VW beetle heading the other way flashed it’s lights at me. This normally means there is a problem ahead. I didn’t see a problem but did find a wide spot. When I pulled off to turn around, I discovered the VW was behind me.
The driver asked if I was going to Kino and when I said Si, told me to follow him. This guy had figured out that a big RV like mine shouldn’t be heading for the local dump, and turned around to chase me down! Eve n though I knew where I had missed my turn, I followed the good Samaritan back to the intersection and waved goodbye. I doubt if you’d find someone doing that in the States!
There is more to this detour but I knew if I just stayed on this road I’d go right past the local Wal-Mart and hit the Kino highway (Mex-16). I thought I’d stop at Wal-Mart and pick up a few things but when I got there, I found that the parking lot had a metal roof over all the stalls, and that it was too low for my coach. So there was no place to park a rig. Oh well, I’ll just have to come back later in my toad.
I continued to the intersection and turned onto Mex-16; next stop is Bahia Kino. Mex-16 is being rebuilt and is still torn up in 2 places. The first is about .5 miles long and the dirt detour is/was a village's (Miguel Alemán) main drag parallel to the highway. Consequently, you're driving on a washboarded, potholed, dirt road and contending with the local 2 way traffic and people parking in front of local businesses. Best speed, 10 mph.
The second one is about 11 miles long (if I remember right, I checked my odometer, but didn't stop to write it down). It is a combination of the dirt road detour parallel with the highway (one-way except for the heavy construction equipment) and stretches of the highway that has been dug up on both sides. The pavement through these stretches is narrow, even for Mexico , and crumbling on the edges. You have a 2-5 foot drop at the edges. In a couple of places, I pulled over as close as I could to the edge and stopped to allow large trucks to pass. I've got one of my right-side mirrors set so I can see the edge, which helps. But, all in all, it wasn’t all that bad. I’ve been on worse roads. I arrived at Islandia RV Park with no further problems.
The Islandia is the only RV park located in old Kino Bay. This old town location gives it an entirely different feel than any other campground in Kino Bay. The waterfront campground has about 30 spaces with 30 amp power, sewer, and water. 12 are back-ins while the rest are pull-thrus. The larger ones are set up in two rows facing the ocean. Restrooms are in good condition and have hot showers. There is a self service laundry with two washers (and lots of clotheslines and sun for drying). A small stone boat ramp is also available for guests. The park doesn’t accept plastic. Cash or checks only, but they do accept US checks.
The park is separated from the beach by a sea-wall ( a favorite gathering place in the evening for sunset happy-hour). There is a gated foot-ramp through the sea-wall for guest access. Numerous rental bungalow are scattered around the park.
You are within walking distance of everything in the town, which has many shops and restaurants. The restaurants range from dirt-floored palapas set up in the front yard of someone’s home to full blown restaurants.
The day I pulled in, I was invited to a potluck & fish-fry before I was finished setting up. Right then, I knew I was at the right park. A couple of the regulars were supplying the fish and everyone was told to bring a side dish or desert. The whole park was there, about 40 people, and there was plenty of fish and food for everyone.
There is a Italian restaurant on the premises that is kinda pricy but the food is excellent. They are open every day except Monday and Tuesday, for breakfast and then again for dinner (no lunch). They also have an espresso machine for those that need their Latte fix. I had the lobster in garlic sauce and it was excellent. The park also has a couple of cabins and a place for potlucks and other functions.
Various vendors come through the park, but they all have been cleared by the park owners. So you don’t have a bunch of beggars, just (extremely) small business people. There are water trucks, propane trucks, veggie vendors, fish vendors, and artists selling their carvings and woven baskets. There is even a car/RV wash crew that comes through about twice a week. I got the RV and toad washed and waxed for $40 US.
There is another area up the coast called Nuevo Kino (New Kino) that looks a lot like Malibu with all the private homes lining the low bank beach and the road running behind them. It has some restaurants and RV parks but it’s what I refer to as a “Gringo Enclave”. I prefer the local flavor of old Kino.
Like all villages, Kino has a square where they hold fiestas, Sunday flea-markets and sporting events. They are in the process of building an outdoor theater that, so far, looks pretty impressive. It will replace the old stage that they currently use for plays and concerts. The town is also paving (with bricks) a couple of the downtown streets; which will look nice but I’m not sure about driving on. There’s no bank or ATM’s in either Old or New Kino, so make sure you bring plenty of cash. On the subject of shopping, most of the tourist shops and all the street vendors expect you to haggle over prices. This is NOT true of the grocery stores, meat and fish markets, restaurants, or the one and only lumber/hardware/automotive store.
The restaurants in Kino aren’t exactly what you would expect in the US (or even in Nuevo Kino). Some are regular buildings with a solid roof, walls and even a wood or concrete floor, but most are just a palapa (palm frond roof) with a pounded dirt floor and a shack for cooking. They may or may not have running water or even a flush toilet ( baño) but the food is outstanding and cheap. One of these places was actually the front yard of a home. The family had cut a hole in the wall into the kitchen to serve through, put up a palapa over the yard for shade, built some tables by nailing small sheets of plywood to sections of tree trunks, and picked up some plastic chairs with the “Tecate” beer logo on them (these chairs are all over the place, I think Tecate gives them away), and they were in business. This place served one of the best Ranchero Huevos I’ve ever had. Their Chili Rellenos were also outstanding.
Another one, Restaurant San Diego, was on the beach and consisted of a large palapa, some concrete block BBQ’s and some tables and chairs. They served only one thing; BBQed fish. The fish is gutted, butterflied, and covered with a salsa BBQ sauce and then cooked on the BBQ grills. You buy the whole fish and get some chips and warm tortillas to go with it. Of course, there is cerveza and Coca-Cola to go with it. Outstanding; I even bought a fish from the pescadero ( fish market) and some salsa (with limon) from the Super Mercado (grocery store) and tried it in my broiler. It came out great!
Then there was the oyster camp! This place serves some of the best crab tostados and shrimp cocktails I’ve ever had. And you can’t beat the price; $15 pesos for either. The first time I had 3 tostados, the second time I had a shrimp cocktail. Luckily, I was forewarned because a single cocktail filled me up. The camp is exactly that, an oyster camp. It is situated on the estuary where there are oyster pots all up and down the flats. These are square wood slat pots, similar to the Maine lobster pots, which the oysters are grown in. This is also where the local crab and shrimp pangas bring their catch in. Various fishing families have set up palapa covered seafood bars and went into the restaurant business. The health inspectors would have a heart attack down here. They do have running water, but no flush toilets.
I was planning on only spending about 2 weeks here and another 2 weeks on San Carlos; but I met a couple here that were heading for San Carlos and Alamos. They e-mailed me from Alamos and said that they hated San Carlos so only spent 2 nights there. They said San Carlos was looking like a suburb of Tucson. All the signs were in English, the prices were higher than in the US, the snowbirds were stuck-up and very unfriendly, and the RV parks were cramped. They didn’t think I’d have room to open my awning in any of the parks they looked at. So I decided to spend the rest of my limited time right here.
Some of the people I’ve met here have been coming down for over 10 years and two of them have permanent sites here with travel trailers that they leave here year round. One of them has a 27ft cabin cruiser stored in dry-storage over at New Kino. This group sort of adopted me and were the ones that showed me around, invited me to their dinner parties and took me fishing. I had a ball. We spent one day bank fishing and one day ocean fishing, didn’t have much luck with either but got enough fish for a fish-fry.
They also introduced me to a very unique restaurant in town (old Kino). It’s called Taovenia Restaurant, (see photos) it’s only open once or twice a week, and you have to have reservations to get in. The restaurant is the front yard and porch of someone’s home, the kitchen is a couple of 55 gal drums converted to cooking duty, a table made by laying some 1x6 across some sawhorses and covered with an oilcloth, a cutting board, and some Styrofoam coolers. The tables and chairs are the ubiquitous Tecate plastic ones. They have seating for about 20 people. The menu only has one item, twice baked potatoes. These are stuffed with meat, shrimp, fish, oysters, etc. and come with all the condiments you can think of. They also bake small white onions as a side dish. Of course there’s plenty of Tecate and "Coka" to wash everything down. The patriarch is the cook and the wife and kids wait tables. Since the husband is also the day chef at a local, more formal restaurant, nothing happens until he walks home. I’ve no idea what a meal costs there because someone else in our party of 8 picked up the tab, but it’s very cheap. It’s popular with both the locals and the gringos and they normally have two seattings, 6 pm and 9 pm.
The park has Wif iin the office so I didn’t plan on setting up my internet satellite dish. But the 3rd day I was there the local ISP crashed. The office people say that it’s a common occurrence and can be down for days. So I broke out the big dish and set up my own free Wifi hotspot. I couldn’t find the mount for my big whip but I was still able to provide internet access to all the RV’s around me. I set up the hotspot so that people would know to come to my coach to get the access code. I even printed up some cards with my access code on it so people could get on-line. I was a very popular guy.
If you fish off the beach, beware of the Bulls-eye Puffer fish. It’s easy to catch but supposed to be poisonous to eat (although a couple of park residents said that they have been eating them for years). I caught a bunch of them and threw them all back.
If you’re riding your bike around town, watch out for the soft sand. I went right over my handlebars! Only a handful of the roads are paved and the closer you get to the beach, the more sand the roads have.