The Daily Gusketeer

Baja Trek's daily blog.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Toy Run for Tots!

As you may well know, every year, we organize a Tot Program designed to bring Christmas out into the streets of Tecate and Tijuana and to give toys to the kids who deserve them (i.e. every kid).

This year went very well. We loaded up our friendly VW bus with toys, engaged Santa to join us, and hit the streets!

A very big "Thank You" to Santa and the Christmas Elves, as well as to everyone who helped assemble toys and make this Christmas Run happen. You've put so many new smiles on children's faces!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Capturing the In-Between

I was taken by these photographs by Frederic Lezmi, from the excellent online magazine Lens Culture. In the artist's words:
I have been searching for the "in between” – whatever lies geographically as well as culturally between my world here in the midst of Europe and my long term focus of interest in the Middle and Near East. 
They're my favourite kinds of photos, ones which hint at the beginnings to several different stories.The people in these images are all in that transitory space between destinations - such a common sensation that it's only recognizable when we see someone else experiencing it - just as the world around them seems to be in deep cultural transition.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Minute Shameless Plug

It's that time of year again. No not that time. It's a time where people fling money around. It's a time of love and caring. It's a time of thoughtfulness toward others. Even though, we should all strive to move in this direction in our daily actions, it's this time of year especially that you can help and support the things that you stand for and the vision you have for a better world. How? Glad you asked. Support the things you love by using your holiday spending dollars wisely. It's that simple. Well, you made it through this far so we won't let you down. Now for the Baja Trek shameless plug. Help support Gus and an earth friendly carbon neutral lifestyle by buying your gifts at the mighty Trek store. How does this help you ask? It helps us get the message out of a more sustainable and respectful way of moving people. It helps us buy the things needed to make raw waste vegetable oil a renewable form of fuel for Gus at Trek Headquarters. It helps all the little people, too. It helps us put together things like holiday Trek Toy Trots and purchase items for our partner orphanage. Do all those chain retailer's CEOs really need another bonus this year while our world is in the weeds? So how about changing the world this holiday season? Shop with a conscience!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mexico Works for an Image Makeover

We at Gus HQ have been seeing tourist numbers steadily rising in Baja for a while now, and it's very encouraging. That's why I was interested to read this article from the Globe and Mail: Mexico battles ‘sun, sea and severed heads’ image. It says that the Mexican government is now trying to change its image - highlighting the country's safety and wonderful travel opportunities and trying to shake the stigma of violence. From the article:
Of 5.1 million visits in the past four years, only 20 Canadians have died while in Mexico, and almost all were accidental deaths, with alcohol playing a role in many (seven, he says, were falls from balconies).
This is the kind of thing that never shows up in articles about Mexico. All of us at Gus HQ have spent a lot of time in Mexico without experiencing anything but an incredibly beautiful country and kind, friendly people. And we know many people whose experiences have been the same.

We've seen a lot of news reports about tragedies in this country. But such stories never point out that, statistically, the country is actually not much more violent than many places in the United States. Nor do such stories describe what percentage of the people who've been involved in violence were directly involved in the drug trade. Nor do they point out that violence is actually highly localized in a few key areas, with most parts of the country remaining quite safe.

These days, it seems as though the media has decided that Mexico is an extremely violent place, and any story which can support that theme is splashed across the front page, while the stories of Mexico's awesomeness tend to fade into the background.

Meanwhile, those of us in the know will keep trekking through this incredible country, learning about its rich history and its incredible cultures, and meeting the millions of kind, generous, happy people who call Mexico their home.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Weirdly Cute

oh my goodness
As 2010 draws to a close, the internet is about to get deluged with every kind of Top Ten year-in-review list imaginable, ranking everything from albums to celebrity couples toLink best-of lists, which would be easier to read if they were only aggregated into some kind of ranked list format. But over here at Gus HQ, there is only one list we care about: National Geographic's Ten Weirdest New Animals of 2010.

The clear winner: the purple octopus, pictured here. Runners-up included an armored, wood-eating catfish and a females-only lizard species which reproduces by cloning. But come on, look at that little guy. Why did those other animals even bother entering the contest in the first place?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cabo Bob's Definitive Mexican Slang 101

We've just received the most delightful package in the mail: a short stack of the hilarious book: Cabo Bob's Definitive Mexican Slang 101.

Besides sitting here in our offices reading each other passages and giggling furiously (AND learning things too, of course), we're also thinking of ways we can get these books out into the wide world, where they belong.

These little books are for sale for $5 "Gringo Dollars" apiece.  We certainly plan to keep Gus stacked with this required reading so that you can take one home with you if you wish to update your rusty high school Spanish to street-smart Baja slang.

We also hope to run a few down to our friends at the hostels down the Baja coast, from El Sauzal to Cuatro Casas, so they can show them to their guests.

In the meantime, let us know if you'd like one!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hanging with the Docile Whale Sharks in Baja California

The mighty Whale Shark is awesome. Known as the largest fish species in the world the docile Whale Sharks spends the hotter months in Baja California. Their conservation status and limited numbers in the wild places them on the "Threatened" species list. The largest specimen is known to have reached 36 tons. But, unlike other shark species the Whale Shark is a mellow filter feeding giant who allows divers and snorkelers to swim freely at it's side. Because of this the Whale Shark is also known as the "Puppy Shark" or "Teddy Bear Shark" by some of the locals. We were fortunate enough to be able to swim with them in the past two visits to Bahia de Los Angeles and they really do live up to their name.
Publish Post

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Gulf Between Us

The Gulf Between Us
"The oil is not gone. This story is not over. We smelled it in the air. We felt it in the water. People along the Gulf Coast are getting sick and sicker. Marshes are burned. Oysters are scarce and shrimp are tainted. Jobs are gone and stress is high. What is now hidden will surface over time."

You should probably read this article, even though it's long, because: "To bear witness is not a passive act."

Another Veggie Oil-Powered Adventure Bus!

Their bus may not be as beautiful and glorious-looking as our Gus, but it's pretty cool nonetheless that the funky "prog-metal" band Mose Giganticus is currently touring around in a lean, mean, veggie oil-powered machine, just like us! And look, they even have a star on their door...

Read about it out here!

Do you like prog-metal?  I sure don't, but I kind of wish I did so that I could support their cause.  I'm passing the baton of responsibility in this matter on to you!

Monday, October 18, 2010


When's the last time you saw stars like you should see them?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Baja Trek Meets Couchsurfing! - Thanks Lilia :-)

Hi Guys!!

I am inviting anyone out there on an eco-friendly trip I am going on down Baja.

These guys:

they have a bus...Gus the Nomad Bus, that runs on vegetable oil. Gus is leaving from the border, and heading down the peninsula for 8 days...beach camping, hiking, kayaking, hot springs, bar hopping, hostel stays, and backpacking random adventures etc...down the pacific side and over the land to the Sea of Cortez and its warm beautiful water and pristine beaches... ALL sustainably, without a carbon footprint, and all helping the local economies and communities. Responsibly.

Here is the info on the Trek, and the costs:

I recommend this to backpackers and adventurers ...most Couchsurfers would fall into these categories :P But if you cant camp or like to travel only to stay at resorts, etc...this is not the trip for you :P Lots of beach camping, good vibes and meeting new people!! Communal meals..

Couchsurfers in the past have gone on trips with Gus the bus, haha. Here is the facebook!
The price is still damn good for an 8 day trip all the way to Bahia de Los Angeles. I think the other company, green tortoise costs more than twice as much for something similar:

P. S. They have camping gear for you, you just need to bring a sleeping bag, clothes and a good attitude.

Hope some of you decide to come!!! Its going to be a blast!

Get in touch with me, I'd love to know if you're coming, we can get together beforehand.

Oh and one more thing, do not listen to the media's satanization of Baja. These guys have been doing this for years and never had an issue. I will be happy to show you this area for a day if that is the only thing holding you back!



yay sustainable tourism.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Riggy Named Official Baja Trek Mascot!

Riggy Wins!!!!

The tabulation of the ballots has been completed. No recount is needed even though several candidates have expressed concern that the election was rigged(no pun intended). After an unbiased official confirmed the election results today it was determined to be a landslide victory.

Yes Kids! You read that right A LANDSLIDE VICTORY!!

Baja Trek is proud to announce the new Mascot for 2010/2011 Trekking Season is (insert drum roll here) ...................... RIGGY (a.k.a. Riggy the Power Pup).

Riggy won on the merits. He's never in trouble, he's a teetotaler, quiet as a church mouse and a heck of a good driver :-) So Kids, you may not see Riggy on every Trek but when you do, know that Riggy rules the Mascot roost... Roof Roof

Friday, September 17, 2010

Protecting the Wild

It's infographic hour!

This infographic to the left compares all kinds of wilderness metrics in North America.

Mexico wins on the Ecological Footprint front, but loses on the Wildness front, surprisingly.

And that's something we've been concerned about over here at BT for years... We'd love to find a way to funnel some funds into supporting Protected Areas in Baja. We've got a few National Parks already, San Pedro Martir and Parque Constitucion being two you'll recognize if you've been on a few treks, and also some Marine protected areas, both in the Gulf of Californias and on the Pacific coast of Baja.

But that's not enough! Not for us. We know (and you've probably seen) some of the incredible wilderness areas that Baja has to offer, and we certainly think there needs to be more resources put towards protecting them. Don't you?

The map also highlights Mexico's water problems. Although we've got the smallest per capita consumption, we've also got the smallest availability and the least margin for error! That's why innovations like Cuatro Casas hostel's passive solar water distillation system count with every drop of water they help us save.

Anyway, check out the party responsible for this cool image, The Big Wild, which is based in and focused on Canada and has all kinds of fun ideas going on.

Next, check out this awesome new interactive map of Marine Protected Areas in North America, part of the North American Environmental Atlas. They also have this hilarious, soundtracked promotional video of their map. Look for Baja!

We can still eat tacos!

grazing calves at WareaWell, maybe.  Check out this article by George Monbiot, in which he boldly issues a retraction of his statement that veganism is the only ethical way to eat, due to the social (oh yes, it doesn't just affect the beasts) and animal justice issues that underlay our meat production systems. Monbiot goes on to review a new book by Simon Fairlie that serves as "an abattoir for misleading claims and dodgy figures, on both sides of the argument."

If you can excuse the awful, awful, and inappropriate slaughterhouse puns and get through to the meat of the article (Did I just say that?), you might clear up a few of your own misconceptions too. I certainly did!

Like, for example, you know how they always say it takes a huge amount of feed to produce a smaller amount of meat, to feed an even smaller amount of people? Comparatively, they say, eating the greens ourselves wastes a lot less energy and feeds more people.  Well, it turns out that's true only when talking about "concentrated feed", not about grass.  Actually, cows are terribly efficient at converting the energy in grass into edible energy for humans. Huh.

Also discussed is how pigs are excellent converters of grain waste and slop into food. Basically, in their natural eating habits, they turn things we can't eat into things we can.

Tons of other misconceptions are addressed, as well as some remaining ethical/environmental issues.

Overall, say Monbiot and Fairlie, the root problem isn't the very fact that we're raising animals for food, but the way we're raising them.  Feedlots and commercial slaughterhouses have got to go. But local production and low-energy and -waste farming could be an ethical way to go.

Here at Baja Trek we make most of our camp meals vegetarian. We also try to shop at our locally-owned grocery stores instead of the big commercial chains. When we eat seafood, we've usually bought it off a fisherman we know or dug it up (clams)/caught it ourselves. I'm interested to see if we can start chatting up our favorite taco stand-owners to see if they know where their meat comes from and under what conditions it's raised.

Perhaps it's time to get in touch with your sources of meat!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Up Some Road

Up Some Road

Jack Kerouac would have been proud. It wasn't long after the Baja California map was folded and placed in it's case that the decision was made to scout out a new beach landing for this winter's up coming Baja Trek.

The next day the backpacks were packed, loaded and away we went. Without a plan and limited supplies we carried mostly a general idea of where we wanted to end up. The best places aren't on the road map. They never are. So we thought we would explore an area that the map left off. Baja California maps are notoriously bad to begin with so we eased our scout vehicle to an interesting area and started exploring every dirt path that could possibly lead to the beach. In three hours we managed to get our scout vehicle stuck in the sand three different times. In Baja California getting your ride stuck to the axles requires more than just a shovel. It calls for special assistance. Thanks goes to the kind local rancher and his family dressed in their Sunday best that pulled us out with their pickup.

By the end of the day though, the reward would be ours. A road! Not a real road, but a hard packed dirt track that seemed to lead to the warm ocean. We slowly meandered through a small canyon to the waters edge on the beach of the Sea of Cortez. The hill crested to the sight of sandy beaches for miles in either direction. There wasn't a human soul in sight. Three coyotes walked the water line undisturbed by our presence. A warm breeze slid across the bay and our tents found their home in the beuach's deep sand that still held its warmth from the day's sun. We set up camp, started a glowing fire and marveled at the mountains across the bay that seemed to jut from the ocean herself. Home, Heaven and the ol' Kerouac spirit.

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” - Aldous Huxley

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mexico celebrates

bicentennial with

special performances

Reprinted from the Imperial Daily Press

CALEXICO — To commemorate Mexico’s bicentennial independence day, the Mexican consulate has planned five hours of music, dance and theater.

The celebration will feature performances from ranchero music singer Mary Carmen Reyes, folkloric ballet by the Instituto de Bellas Artes de Baja California, Mariachi Serenata and norteña music group Insignia.

Consulate representative Luis Delgado said throughout the event Mexican independence scenes will be performed by Mexicali group Tramoya. Actors will be dressed as independence heroes Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, the “corrector.”

This year’s celebration will have a 13-foot-tall Angel of the Independence replica onstage. The replica was constructed from wood and foam especially for the event, Delgado said. The actual monument, located on the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, is special to Mexico as it was ordered by President Porfirio Diaz for the centennial celebration.

Tacos, sopes and quesadillas will be sold by local vendors.


WHAT — Grito de independencia

WHEN — 6 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE — Crummett Park, Calexico


6 p.m. to 6:25 p.m. — Ranchero music singer Mary Carmen Reyes.

6:25 p.m. to 6:35 p.m. — Folkloric ballet by the Instituto Bellas Artes de California from the pre-Hispanic period.

6:35 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. — Ranchero music singer Mary Carmen Reyes.

6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. — Folkloric ballet by the Instituto Bellas Artes de California from Veracruz and Baja California.

7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. — Mariachi Serenata with folkloric ballet by the Instituto Bellas Artes de California from Jalisco.

8:35-9:00 — Ceremony of the grito de independencia.

9:00-9:30 — Mariachi Serenata.

9:30-10:30 — Grupo Insignia.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mexico`s Tourism Sector Sees Tremendous Growth Despite a Lagging World Economy

Reprinted from Travel Daily News
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The number of international tourists reaching Mexico by air experienced a 35.2 percent increase in June 2010 compared with the same month last year marking an impressive first half of the year for the Mexico tourism industry.

During the same period, 818,278 tourists from different nationalities visited Mexico, versus 605,435 who visited in June 2009. Of those, some 573,016 travelers arrived by air from the United States, representing a 23.7 percent growth over June 2009. Even more impressive are the 41,184 tourists that arrived from Canada; 21,322 more than in June 2009 - a whopping increase of 107.4 percent.

“We feel these numbers are evidence of the strength and quality of Mexico`s destinations,” said Mexico Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara. “Despite all that`s going on in the world today, the traveler knows he or she can come to Mexico and find unique vacation experiences offering not only our famous sun and beach destinations, but the chance for archeological, culinary and artistic experiences as well. Mexico is the only place on the earth where you can experience all that in a single trip.”

Increased Flights
This increased demand for Mexico by American travelers has been reflected in a handful of important new flights to Mexico. AeroMexico, Mexico`s largest transcontinental airline, announced the beginning of its new Monterrey-Miami service effective on June 28, and its new Monterrey-Houston route, which became effective on July 5.

The airline also included summer service between high-demand routes, such as Mexico City to Miami, New York, Orlando and San Antonio; Merida to Miami; Monterrey to San Antonio; Los Angeles to Aguascalientes and Bajio; Chicago to Durango and Guadalajara. In November 2010, British Airways is slated to begin operating the only direct flight between London and Cancun, for which it has already begun selling tickets. Meanwhile, China`s Hainan Airlines will begin flying directly to Mexico City. Other airlines such as US Airways and Frontier Airlines have also created new routes to Mexico, such as US Airways` Charlotte to Los Cabos and Charlotte to Puerto Vallarta; and Frontier`s San Francisco to Los Cabos; San Francisco to Cancun; and Los Angeles to Cancun. Meanwhile, Virgin America has announced their intent to launch new non-stop services from San Francisco to Los Cabos and Cancun, as well as from Los Angeles to Cancun.

More Hotel Rooms
Secretary of Tourism Gloria Gueva Manzo recently announced that hotels in Mexico have experienced substantial growth throughout the country. The number of available hotel rooms in Mexico has increased 4.6 percent during the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2009. According to the Datatur System, this growth was recorded in 56 of the 70 destinations that are monitored by this department.

Of those 70 destinations analyzed by Datatur, room availability jumped from 310,391 to 323,916, registering an increase of 13,525 rooms now available for foreign visitors. In these 70 destinations, the number of hotel rooms occupied during the first six months of 2010 was 11.3 percent higher than in the same period of 2009.

This increase in hotel rooms is widespread across Mexico. For example, from January - June 2010, Morelia saw a growth of 19.3 percent in hotel room availability and a 30.2 percent increase in hotel room occupancy compared to January - June of last year. Likewise, Huatulco saw a 9.6 percent growth in hotel room availability and 15.4 percent growth in hotel room occupancy, while Merida experienced a 5.9 percent growth in availability and 6.6 percent growth in occupancy during these same months.

Cruise Ship Passengers on the Rise
Cruise travel is also booming, witnessing the number of American cruise passengers in the first four months of 2010 increase 6 percent compared to 2009. The rise in Canadian cruise passengers was a healthy 9 percent compared to the same time last year. Today, Mexico has a repetition rate of 95 percent among cruise passengers arriving in Mexico.

Last year, Mexican ports received 5 million cruise passengers. This year, the ports expect to receive nearly 6 million. In fact, some carriers want to increase their presence in order to accommodate the larger demand of cruises into Mexico. In 2009, cruise tourism alone generated an economic spillover into Mexico of 500 million dollars, despite the economic crisis

Monday, August 23, 2010

Three Cheers for the California Condor in Baja

Near extinction in the 1980's these majestic creatures can still be seen flying over San Pedro de Martir National Park in Baja California. One of the few locations in the world where they are still visible. Like the Whale Shark, once you have seen one you will not soon forget the experience. With a wingspan of 10 feet these are some of the largest birds in the world and are revered by the locals and Native Americans alike. So rare are these birds that by 1987 only 27 existed in the world. Through conservation efforts there about 188 in the wild now with many living and breeding in the wild near the Observatory in the National Park of San Pedro de Martir in Central Baja California. Many local tribes have used the feathers of the condor in tribal ceromonies for generations. So thanks for hanging in there California Condor we'll see you in a few weeks.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"You're listening to... Radiolab"

If you aren't already listening to Radiolab, you probably should be.

We like to play installments of this fantastic and enlightening radio show in podcast-form through Gus's speakers as the sun sets over one of our favorite beaches and just before the air temperature drops so that cooking dinner doesn't seem like a chore.

Self-described: "Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. Big questions are investigated, tinkered with, and encouraged to grow. Bring your curiosity, and we'll feed it with possibility."

For your digestion, here's a short video that they just put out to supplement their most recent episode, called "Words":

Seriously, we're in love with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the hosts.

To listen to (or download) their podcasts, new and old, go to their website here. Don't forget to click on the "Shorts" tab for all the little supplementary goodies that belong to each episode. They add something new about once every two weeks, so you'll have to keep checking back. Or you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and have it update automatically on your computer/gadgety thing.

Some of our favorites:
-New Normal
-Memory and Forgetting

Happy listening!

(And if you need more listening material, check out our other favorite podcasts of radio shows: This American Life and Car Talk...)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Baja Time - On the road down Baja

Baja Time

On the road down Baja you get a glimpse into the every day life of people, what they do, how they live, where they live. To most it seems incredible that a different culture and way of life exists merely 50 feet from the international border. You cross it and you’re immediately plunged into a different world. Even the hustle and bustle feels different.

Then you go further south and wide stretches of nothing and nowhere keep getting even wider between towns that seem to get smaller and less populated. You get this feeling that you are being taken away from anything and everything that you’ve been accustomed to.

Then it may not happen that same day or the next, and sometimes it happens gradually not suddenly, but it eventually happens— you find that you don’t bother asking what time it is in the day or what day it is in the week. It just stops as there’s no need to know or care. There is no place you need to be, no appointments to attend to. It might happen when lounging at a deserted beach, sitting to eat at a taco stand, or watching the road loop lazily into the distance.

It’s Baja where time is measured by how many pelicans dived into the ocean since you began watching, how many shooting stars you counted more last night from the previous night, how the sunlight filters down through the palm trees in an oasis and shimmers on the white sand at the beach.

And when it feels that it’s too soon to leave or that time actually did fly faster it’s still all good. Baja will still be here when you come back.

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” - Aldous Huxley

Friday, August 6, 2010

Another Kind of Veggie-Powered Bus

Hey! Check out this other cool retro-fit for a school bus: Richmond, Virginia's got their own "mobile micro farmers market on wheels," which motors around town taking farm-fresh produce from local farms to households in town. Pretty cool! The effort is called Farm to Family and also hosts a CSA program in addition to the market-on-wheels.

My favorite part is how they rebuilt the bus interior to hold baskets of yummy-looking veggies.

In their words: "Farm to Family is about building personal relationships within the community and bringing people together." Wait a minute! That kind of sounds like something we would say! And hey, doesn't this guy (to the left) even kind of look like Nico?! 

Perhaps we have some soul-mates over in Richmond...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Baja - Why it's so different

Sunset at Baja Baja’s waters call in different ways depending on where you are.

On the Pacific side it demands your attention by spewing forth foam and spray, its endless waves crashing against rocks and stones. You can feel the salt in your hair and taste it on your lips when the wind hurls delicate droplets toward shore.

And when the night comes it roars rushing ever onward, still roaring in spite of the changing tides. But it isn’t loud and obtrusive, no, it gently lulls you to sleep, rocks you til you wake in the grey dawn to find that the mist rose from its waters and unfolded itself, spreading wide and blanketing all that you see. Then the sun rising higher scatters the damp mist away and lays bare the Pacific once more in its roiling, seething grandeur.

But this is not so with the waters of the Sea of Cortez. Far from demanding your attention, your eyes are inexorably drawn unconsciously to its deep dark blue stillness. Yes, compared to the Pacific the Sea of Cortez is still and quiet. It whispers; its waves curling dreamily over sandy flat shores, its warmth soothing and calm.

Two different coasts, one peninsula, a world to discover.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Baja Trek - The Idea

Baja Trek - The Idea

Ideas are powerful things. We often get asked about how the concept of Baja Trek came about. The mental wheels were actually set in motion a few years back.

After driving my old VW Bus through countless dirt tracks I came to a small village in the heart of Baja Mexico. Kids played Soccer on the dusty unpaved street they called the center of town. I clearly remember pulling up to the town's little park and getting out of my old Volkswagen to stretch. Children seemed to appear out of nowhere. They just stood, looked and smiled. For some strange reason I felt privileged to be in their company. One child ventured forward and said they were curious because they had never seen a person with blue eyes before. As they stared, an older women, a mother of one of the children, came out from her house and asked if I would like lodging for the evening. She said that her husband was the President of the village and they had a spare room they could give a wayward traveler. This unprompted invitation, took me aback. I have never experienced such outward kindness to a stranger in my life. This is Baja.

I accepted her kind invitation and we retreated to the President's house which was a very small 3 room home near the center of town. At sundown the president arrived and welcomed me to town while his wife lit lanterns to light the house. The town had never had electricity. I was still awed by the kindness of people who had so little to give. At this point I vividly remember asking myself "What can I do to help out"? Though they had very little, they gladly shared what they had. This is the reason for Baja Trek. The idea is to bring people together, through travel, to experience other cultures first hand, help the local economy of the places we visit and, hopefully, learn a little about ourselves along the way. Thanks for reading

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” - Aldous Huxley

Monday, August 2, 2010

Santa Monica Surfers Invade Baja!!

Greeting Mighty Road-Mo-Nauts,

Just a quick post to let you all know what has been going on with the Gus Crew and around Trek Hq. Busy, Busy, Busy. Just last week we went down to a couple of double secret surf locations in sunny Baja. Thanks to the Santa Monica Surfers and 310 Surf Chicks who commandeered Gus the Beach Bus for 3 days of surfing and partying in Ensenada. After a long ride down a raggedy old dirt road we had our own uncrowded waves. Baja style! Oh and by the way, we're breezin' out again Aug 14 for the Mother of all Treks. The one and only Beach Express. So get up and get on. The road is calling!!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Julio the Sewer Diver's Story

This story alternates between incredible and horrifying -- but either way you really have to read it... It's the story of one of only two sewer divers in Mexico City.

Check it out here!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gus Supports the Arts!

Today we'd like to draw your attention to some of our very own Gusketeers who have wowed us with their multiple artsy talents! Gus has been fortunate to host some incredible painters, knitters, jewelry and leather-workers, and musicians. We've loved getting to know these people on the bus, and we strongly suggest that you get to know them and their awesome art in the real world, too!

First up is our good friend Caroline Casey, who with her band of "Stringslingers", graces the Austin music scene.  She is a delightful person with a beautiful voice. And her music (honky tonk/classic country-style) is so fun! Listen for the Mexican influences on "Threshold of Heartache"... We love it! You can buy her record too.

Next up is our pal Anchi Howitz, who runs a thriving shoe-painting business, when she isn't busy managing a posh Los Angeles spa! Speaking from the perspective of a satisfied customer, I can say that her shoes are the best things ever to wear on your feet. She will make you a completely unique design based on whatever theme you choose, from dinosaurs to sea creatures! Check out her Etsy site to order a pair!  Also, she will be appearing alongside her fellow crafters and DIYers at this year's Renegade Craft Fair in Los Angeles, which runs July 24 & 25 at the LA State Historic Park. Don't miss her!

Our old Gusketeers Gwen and Eli are always up to new creative antics and are currently based up in Eugene, Oregon. The pair of them make beautiful things -- Gwen knits hats, bags, hand-warmers, earrings, and more, while Eli makes hand-crafted leather items. Check out Gwen's Etsy site to see more!

Last but not least, Holly Webb hand-makes her own beautiful jewelry. She also offers a lifetime replacement warranty on all her stuff! Now that's cool. Here are some of her words about her work: "Flathead Jewelry is a labor of love. Each piece is handmade, totally original, and crafted with love and attention to detail. I actually have a bond with each of my pieces! I seek out special beads -- beads with a history or beads made with great care and workmanship. I have found these in such items as Bali glass beads, Czech Beads, Japanese seed beads, and of course what I use the most of is gemstones, all of which have a special purpose and energy." Check out her site, Flathead Jewelery Creations, to see her collection or order a custom necklace!

Let us know if you have friends who create so that we can add them to our growing community of creative Gusketeers!

Viva la Vaquita!

Though you may never have heard of them, the little white Vaquitas are one of the rarest and certainly the smallest of all whale species. And guess what? They're endemic to Baja's Gulf of California (that means this is their only habitat in the world)!

They live in the northern part of the Gulf, where the waters are warm and the small fish are plenty. They have always been a rare species, with a low population and rather elusive behavior, so much so that to this day, some Baja fishermen claim they're only legend! This, however, is quite untrue. They have been around for quite a while, and in fact are now in trouble due to overfishing in the Gulf, water pollution, and reduction of water flow in the Colorado River. They also occasionally get caught in fishermens' gill nets.

The last survey in 2008 put their numbers at just 250 individuals, which is hardly enough to maintain a stable population. It looks like the Vaquitas are once again on the decline...

There are a few organizations which are working to protect the Vaquitas, one of which is Sonora's Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO), a non-profit research institute. We know these people personally and they're doing good work not just for the Vaquita, but also for the fisheries and ecosystems of the northern Gulf, from conducting coastal estuary conservation to working with cooperatives of fishermen to rotate their fishing grounds and manage the fisheries in a more holistic way. (You can visit CEDO in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, for a tour of their visitor center and to get more info about the local Gulf ecosystems!)

The Mexican government has also created a protected area where the highest concentration of Vaquitas is supposed to be, so that fishing is prohibited within this area.  You can also visit Viva Vaquita, a non-profit website dedicated to raising awareness about the Vaquita's situation!

Here's a sighting of the Vaquita from 2008:

An Encounter with Vaquita. from Chris Johnson on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Article Roundup!

As much as we love turning off our computers and heading out into Baja's wildernesses, you have to admit that the Internet has some pretty interesting things to say, sometimes.  Here's a small roundup of a few items that have caught my interest lately!
  • Towards Sustainable Travel: Breaking the Flying Addiction
    • I totally sympathize with the author (Elisabeth Rosenthal) of this article! I do everything I can on a daily basis to make sure my Carbon footprint corresponds to the shoe-size of a newborn baby. And here at Gus Headquarters, we're always trying to think up new and old ways to keep our travel style Carbon neutral. But flying is one of the hardest habits to kick. How do you beat that kind of convenience? 
  • Tracking the Ancestry of Corn Back 9000 Years
    • Did you know that corn came from a Mexican grass called Teosinte? Apparently the early indigenous Mexicans were doing some pretty sophisticated breeding and domestication of the grass to get corn to the state it is today. 
  • Bryant Austen's Studio Cosmos
    • Okay, so this isn't technically an article, but check out these "high-resolution, life-size photographs of endangered whale species." Holy crap awesome. Make sure you read his "Bio" page. What a cool dude!
  • Dirt Makes Us Smarter
    • The article's a little dry, but the point comes through loud and clear: playing in dirt makes you happier, healthier, and even smarter! All right!   
  • Amazing Jellies
    • "As elegant as they are squishy." A cool educational video (in hd!) about jellies.
Happy reading!

A Saturday at El Faro

Just last weekend, the Baja Trek crew packed into Gus, picked up a bunch of our most dedicated Gusketeers, and rumbled over to El Faro Orphanage in Tijuana for a volunteer run! A great time was had by all. The kids at El Faro are hungry for love and attention and gobbled up our gift bags, toys, and hearts all in one go... They are an awesome and beautiful group of kids!

If you're interested in helping out at El Faro, drop us a line and we'll tell you when our next volunteer run will be. You can also volunteer on your own time. Just let us know and we'll connect you with the right people who can tell you what supplies are needed and when to come!

In the meantime, here are a few of our best pics from last weekend's trip:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Oaxaca Project

Our friend and fellow Gusketeer Beth just told us about this awesome project down in Oaxaca that is the brainchild of her colleague Deborah Miller.

As an EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) practictioner, Deborah works with kids in a hospital cancer wing in Oaxaca to help them tap into their emotions and create a positive frame of mind. She uses teddy bears called Tappy Bears as confidants for the childrens' worries and emotions.

Here are some of her words: "I’ve felt absolute joy, delight, pleasure, peace and pure love as I interact with these children on a daily basis. We have FUN feeling better, while learning how to feel better, learning that it’s ok to feel better, while choosing to feel good and to heal. The peels of laughter that come as we tap, visualize and joke around fill the hospital room with the delight of life. That is pure healing in my eyes."

Beyond helping the individual children in her hospital wing, Deborah has reached out to the doctors and hospital community and his helping to raise awareness about the benefits of practicing EFT: "Although Dr Quero, the head oncologist, has from the very beginning been very open to the work I do with EFT, usually the doctors are a little reserved or skeptical. Even though Dr Quero was observing results in the children and parents it was months before he actually tried EFT with me. When he did try it, he found it very relaxing and refreshing. He recommends that the use of EFT be continued in the hospital and hopes that other hospitals will do the same soon."

How cool! Way to go Deborah. We believe in what you're doing!

Check out her website here for more info:

Monday, May 31, 2010

Glasses for Mexican Children

I just heard that Yves Behar, a fancy-pants designer and a partner with the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project, is beginning a new project that is surprisingly down-to-earth! It's goal: to provide a solution to the need for glasses among low-income kids in Mexico. Apparently about a half million children entering school down here in Mexico each year need glasses, and few of them get a pair. Even fewer get cool ones...

Fuseproject says: "Currently, the percentage of children in need of lenses at or above .75 correction [...] can be as high as 60-70% in some schools in states like Morelos, Sonora and Chiapas. The average classroom need percentage is 11%. Additionally, the wearing of glasses is looked at as a handicap, this social stigma adds to the resistance to correct the problem," (taken from here).

Behar's group has apparently gotten the manufacturing cost of a pair of these glasses down to 10 bucks.  The glasses come in five styles, three sizes and seven colors and apparently are designed to look cool.  The project, called "Ver Bien para Aprender Mejor", is being co-funded by the Mexican government, Augen Optics, and the non-profit created for this program. Their aim is to produce and give out 300,000 pairs of glasses a year.

The idea is that school children will receive eye exams from their local optometrist, or from a visiting one if none is available, and their prescriptions will be sent off to create the glasses, which should arrive back to the children within a few weeks.  The coolest part is the design of the glasses, which pop apart hot dog-style when you need to replace the lenses with a new prescription. Behar talks a lot about valuable design: "What I'm always trying to demonstrate is that you can get high-quality design at a low price point when a low price is just one of the criteria you are using in creating the design," (taken from here). He's an interesting guy!

Learn more about the project here.

Since I mentioned the OLPC project in passing, I'm going to indulge and include it in today's post! If you've done some traveling/volunteering around Latin America, you may have run across one of the signature little green laptops that OLPC distributes (at left).

Their mission: "To create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning." Yeah! Joyful, self-empowered learning is something we can all get behind, right?

The OLPC Mexico wiki is a good source of info on what's happening with the program within Mexico. Check it out! Contribute or just feel good about it!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Moon Zoo

Put on your space suits! The Moon needs you!

Check out this NPR article, which explains about how our new Moon-Cam, a.k.a. the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), is sending back far more images than can be processed by the researchers on hand. So Chris Lintott of Oxford has set up a new site called Moon Zoo, designed for people like us to help sift through the images! We can help identify craters, rocks, leftover space junk, and other cool features.

The best part is that this isn't just grunt-work that some computer could do, but tasks specifically requiring a human brain, hopefully yours, which can pick out strange things on the Moon's surface, and get its curiosity piqued by unusual features that don't belong. They're counting on us to help!

Get started now! I know I'm going to. Here's an intro video they suggest watching to get "trained" on how to help:

Moon Zoo: Crater Survey from The Zooniverse on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Save the Whales!

Sure, it's a lot easier to campaign to save the big, huggable beasts than the little grubs that are equally important to sustaining the health of our world's ecosystems, but if we're having trouble keeping even the largest, most campained-about animal species protected, then you know that we're really in trouble!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fish Tacos!

I had the good fortune to chance upon this incredible-looking recipe for the Ultimate Baja Fish Taco today, over on The Paupered Chef. (I love their moto: "Shallow pockets, rich feasts.")

They'll have you prepare tortillas from scratch (flour ones), then make the creamy white sauce based on yogurt, mayo, and a whole bunch of yummy spices, and then fry your fish in batter. Looks pretty authentic to me!

So if you're sitting at home missing Baja and its tasty tacos, you should probably this recipe a try and see if it helps or hurts the nostalgia.

And then you should get on the bus for our upcoming Beach Break Trek down to Cuatros Casas this weekend! :)