Thursday, September 2, 2010

New House!

Home sweet home

I get home from skitrip at 4pm, rush to view property at 5pm, its going to auction the following morning at 12, decide instantly that we should buy it, call Nick to tell him, he's says ok (he's happily on a mountain skiing so very agreeable and trusting), we have 3 hours the following morning to organise money around the world, take Mathilda to her first day of nursery, work out what our highest bid should be and look over contracts etc... and by lunchtime we own the house! It was quite a shock. It happens to be a property I've always wanted, having driven past it every day most of my life, the site is gorgeous and it overlooks my favourite hills. I'd told Nick the week before when we drove past it together (before it came on the market) that I'd always wanted to live there. So I knew we had to have it. But there was people crawling all over it and I never thought we'd have a chance. There were 45 people at the auction, and not one of them bid. Just little ole me. So we got the house for much less than we were prepared to pay for it. Then we had an agonising week waiting for the vendor (the bank) to agree all the terms - it was a mortgagee sale and there were two mortgagees so it was complicated. Anyway today it went unconditional and we have been up there measuring up for the renovations. Its amazing!!! 3 acres of gorgeous sunny hillside, sea views, 3 dwellings (2 dodgy 1 bed cottages and 1 dodgy 3 bed house), and 5 free range chickens. We still plan to live in Melbourne, just maybe a bit later... If anyone wants a holiday in NZ we now have a spare cottage.

The cottage
The other cottage

The view - that is the sea way out there
The beautiful moutere hills (and our driveway)

The gorgeous NZ mountains

We got straight on to making the most of doting grandparents in the same country - leaving the kids behind we drove down to the mid-south, to ski Mount Hutt, Mt Cheeseman, and Porters Heights.

Was amazing, beautiful days and great snow 2 out of 3 days. Nick then continued further south to Wanaka on his own to do some heliskiing. In typical form he got the best weather for heliskiing they'd had all season on his one day there.

Nicks Heliski insert:

It takes some bottle to get into a tiny copter and fly over windswept peaks with turbulence that throws us around like a paper boat in a raging torent.

the first sight of the powder field and you know its going to be worth it
the landing site at the top of the ridge is a flat area the size of a london bathroom.. all respect to the pilot.

wide open and fresh tracks from top of the ridge all the way to the snowline [a 600m vertical drop].

Then the heli picks you up and you go somewhere else and do it all over again. We managed a respectable 5 drops before the weather [and our legs] drew the day to a close.
To say it was a spiritual experience would be to understate the day. If you like powder, there is nothing else. Daves, Rob, Rog - get over here.

Meanwhile I got home to discover there was a house on the market perfect for us, going to auction the next morning...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Its nice to be home

Our flight from LA to New Zealand was the best we've ever had - the kids passed out for 7 hours. That still left 5 to fill in, but we were happy. Landing in NZ was emotional as always. Amazing to see my family again, and for Clover to meet two of her aunties for the first time. We are now in Nelson, bit chilly after Mexico but gorgeous as ever.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

City of Angels

It was 37 degrees in Baja when we left this afternoon and a chilly 28 in Los Angeles when we landed - J had to put on a t-shirt. This evening it has dropped to a wintry 16 degrees so time for woolly jumpers. As I write I am looking up the runway of LAX from our immensely cool hotel room balcony, the kids are asleep next door and we have a chance to reflect on our month’s beach retreat.

It was totally perfect – all we expected and wanted. We emptied our heads and allowed life to ooze through us, as one of our new friends puts it – JUST BEING. The first time I have found the space to do that for 15 years or so and how refreshing it was. It took me 10 days to even start chilling out, and those days were tricky.. my mind was just not ready to do nothing and had moments of blind panic. If viewers wish to try this at home the symptoms are drumming fingers, inability to sit still, hot flushes when you can’t get online, continuous burning desire to go somewhere and do something. After about 10 days you realise that you can’t be arsed to go anywhere and the days start to slip by with increasing pace whilst beginning to relish life.

The girls, not having lived on an adrenaline rush for the last 15 years dropped into life on a remote beach in Baja within 24 hours. They acclimatised to the heat and Mathilda started picking up words of Spanish with no encouragement from us.

Apart from the primary achievement of actually chilling out which was our main goal, we also had some other wins which are huge to us [as we have done nothing for 4 weeks] although may seem rather small to others, these were:

Mathilda is (mostly) potty trained
Clover learned to crawl
J is a tanned bombshell babe
Nick relaxed
Mathilda speaks Spanish
Clover jumped in the pool unaided [possibly by mistake]
Mathilda swam unaided with armbands [before Baja she was petrified]
J and Nick saw huge amounts of marine life
We met some great people and made new friends

So now it’s back to reality in LA. Phone downstairs and have them bring up a perfect Angus steak and a bottle of Pinot Noir, and afterwards a phonecall from the kitchen to make sure we were happy and whether we needed anything else. America sucks.

Last road trip

the main street of our local hood (very bagdhad cafe)

the road to town - Los Barrilles

I'm happy to say our car came back good as new the night before we were to leave, after a local panelbeater did some work on it, costing much less than the car hire company would have charged. It required a lot of trust in various strangers, there is always a chain of people involved, someones cousins brother, and mexicans are not renowned for getting things done on time (and timing was obviously critical). But it ended well, particularly when we delivered it back to Thrifty today and they didnt notice anything amiss. So we had our last road trip through the beautiful deserty roads, to San Jose airport to begin our next journey. I love these roads, they became so familiar, and despite the car being a lemon, it was always a joy to travel inside an air conditioned box.

Final luncheon at the taco stand

This is the taco stand at the top of our road. They are the finest tacos in Baja and the lady is our friend. She speaks not a word of English so we had to eat our way through the menu over the month to find out the real specialities. This shot is the last time we visited when the car was being repaired so we walked, the heat getting there nearly floored us [especially at Mathildas pace] but the lunch was worth it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adios mi amigas

Today was the last day the gorgeous Beatriz and her daughter Sofia looked after the girls. We were so lucky to have them, such a lovely family, they totally saved our holiday. Mathilda adored Sofia who played lego with her all day.

Today Beatriz's older daughter Luli came too, and brought her 1yr old son to play.

Deedee love

Clover is identical to Mathilda in her love for her deedee - in her case a rabbit from the same family as Mathilda's duck. After a tiring swim, its deedees all round.

Highlight of the Day

When an afternoon is dragging on a bit, we pass time with a walk to the shop for an icecream. In the heat it feels like a proper trek through the desert (its about 200m away), then we sit on the shop seat while Mathilda's icecream melts much faster than she can eat it.

Mathilda goes payaking

Finally Nick gets his dream - to take his child out on the waves. Not quite a surfboard yet, but a peaceful evening kayak. Clover and I watched from the house, it was a heartwarming sight. Mathilda came back saying 'i go in payak mummy!', she loved it

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Picnic no.27

This is one of the nicest times of the day, it starts to cool down and the girls are occupied on the step fighting over their food. Soon the sky will turn pink, the kids will go to bed, and at last it will be time to relax, ahhh.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Game fishing on the Sea of Cortez

They call it ‘the big fish trap’ because it has the highest concentration of game fish in the world. Having been here for nearly a month we thought we'd do as the Americans do, we hired a fisherman and went in pursuit of some cheesy photos of 'me and my big fish'.

You start by fishing for squid which you then cut up and use for bait.

You also visit smaller Mexican fishing boats to buy live sardines which you keep in a tank on board and use to fish for Tuna.

The Tuna when we found them were amazing – absolutely incredible fish and fought like Atlantic salmon. We lost a few and broke a line but still managed to haul in about 14 decent sized (10-20lbs. whilst we were out someone got a 200 lb).

We then went looking for marlin, the king of game fish. We sighted a couple close to the boat which made for some exciting manouvers although in vain. However we did see amazing flying fish, a giant turtle, a shoal of 50 jumping mantas and a school of dolphins so a fabulous day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Moon rise over El Cardonel

A stunning dusk view from our house as the full moon rises

Our day out at the Rodeo

We told Mathilda all morning that she would see lots of horses in the afternoon, she was super excited. We got to Santiago, about an hours drive away just in time to see them packing up. We tried explaining to Mathilda that we had screwed up but she just kept repeating, I wan see horsees, all the way home.

So we stopped for an ice cream.

my gorgeous girl

just look at her!! incredible.

J's Birthday dinner

We chanced upon this hotel - Los Pescadores, on the outskirts of Los Barriles last week and spontaneously booked dinner here which was a complete result. Its been open for a year and is unlike anything else around; boutique vibe with lots of attention to detail. The people that run it, Paddy and Sean are fabulous hosts and the evening was very special. We started with a quick dip in their pool before sitting down to a beautifully dressed table with lanterns flowers and tea lights. Behind us the bar, beyond us the desert.

They served Maco shark with a mango salsa which was fabulous, and quite the best thing we have eaten since leaving London.

A cake arrived after dinner, heralded by a choir of some of the guests.

Our first night on the booze since our detox !

Sasha, Emma, this is a great base for a shoot - Mexicos best kept secret.


We have a friendly lizard that sits on the flag pole on the lower terrace. It gets out there about 10am, and one of us will say 'lizards out'. Around lunchtime it goes inside the tube for an afternoon sauna, and one of us will say 'lizards gone'. I no longer wear a watch ...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Clover has a new tooth

A lovely big top tooth, and she cleverly delivered it on my birthday. All the better for eating bugs off the floor with...

A family portrait

Mathilda has chosen this (least lovely) spot outside the back door as her special picnic place. I think the step is just her size, and its in the shade. We all ended up out there and managed a rare (kinda funny) group shot.

The sea that delivered (a long story but a good story)

This morning I woke up early, too hot to sleep, had tried to manoeuvre into the bottom metre of bed where the slightly cooler air from the ceiling fan hits, but it wasnt very comfortable. The bay was calm and looking promising. I saw Urmas on the early morning water as we always do, told him I was determined to see a flying manta ray today as its my birthday and the sea owed me. Urmas said I needed to go a lot further out, beyond the fisherman in a boat on the horizon, be still and listen for the oomba (or something). I thought the whale whisperer would know, so I followed his advice. I paddled and paddled, past the fisherman who waved, straight into the nothingness, the water glassy, it was like gliding through air. A turtle swam around me, popped its head up, got a shock at how close I was, took a quick gasp and dived. That was cool and I thought perhaps the turtle was my birthday present and I tried to be satisfied. But I really wanted a manta (spoilt brat). I paddled further still, and stopped, and listened to the silence. I started to hear little watery pattery noises every now and then. I wondered if that was the oomba. I could see slight ripples and bubbles around me, spooky, the water out there is like ink. I was getting a tiny bit nervous. A long way from land, in a little plastic boat wearing next to nothing. Didnt Steve thingy die by manta? What if one lands on the kayak? I waited. Then I saw lots of fins making a commotion not far away, it looked exactly like sharks attacking something, I thought SHIT but remembered Nick saying he thought the same thing, that is what the groups of manta's look like. So I tentatively paddled quietly towards it. Soon I heard the loud SLAP of a manta landing on the water and I knew I was going to see my manta today! But hearing them is much easier than seeing them. I waited and watched, my eyes flicking all around with every little sound. Come on manta, jump, jump.. Finally I was rewarded. It flew into the air about 2 metres, right in front of me, it looked exactly like the photo on the wildlife blog, beautiful. They are big! and they jump so high. Seeing one makes you want to see another one, maybe you could get a little bit closer... I saw 3 in the end, and thought I'd better call it a day. I'd been out there for hours, being lured further and further out to sea by the dancing mantas. So I turned reluctantly to go home, had been paddling for about 5 minutes when I saw a big fin pop up about 50 metres ahead. I thought that is definately NOT a manta, and my heart skipped a beat. Then a few more fins rose on the backs of some breaching dolphins, phew, and amazing! They disappeared, and I paddled quickly to try and intercept their path. Suddenly they were breaching again, they had turned to come directly in a straight line towards me, about 10m away. My heart was in my mouth, I sat stock still, a little bit terrified (again). I thought stupidly they're going to tip me out! But they glided past me, about 1 metre from my boat, I could almost have touched them. The were INCREDIBLE. Blowing, big in-breaths then big deep sighs as they went down, like yoga breaths, almost human, an amazing sound, and so close. I have never seen or heard anything like it. I had to sit in silent reverence for a while after. Then I had to paddle all the way home, a rather long way I came to realise, and I collapsed on the beach, my arms like jelly, a very grateful birthday girl. A turtle, some mantas and some dolphins, thank you big scarey ocean, that was a magic morning.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our friend Urmas

We have made a friend, he's an old guy from California who lives down the road in a cool Airstream caravan. He's 70 but you'd never guess it. A biologist who loves the sea, he's a whale expert, and knows everything there is to know about the fish around here (and the people). He's been coming here for 20 years, and lived here for 2. He kayaks out two miles offshore in the whale season and observes and photographs them. He's a lovely interesting old hippie, his caravan is super cool and he is a good example of a man at peace with himself. He's got some amazing stories of swimming with whales, was one of the first men in California to be granted custody of his children (was a single dad), has had 3 wives, talks to the serpent people and paints rocks. We got on very well. He is making us tuna sashimi for dinner on Saturday night, and taking us to the Mexican Rodeo on Sunday, cant wait for that. Mathilda was pretty comfortable there, she took all her clothes off and wee'd in his garden.

check out his blog at

Amazing wildlife

Today we chased a real live roadrunner down a dirt road in our wylie coyote tin car, it eventually outwitted us.

Yesterday we found this sad little scorpion in our bathroom - it was stuck in the shagpile rug so we caught it (the second one in the house so far). Apparently they come out as it gets hotter so we can look forward to some more.

Most amazing sighting so far was by Nick whilst out kayaking - a group of manta rays (10-15) jumping out of the water around him, incredible. No one knows why they jump. I have been going out every day on a mission to find them but they have never showed up again (but I have seen thousands of lovely fish, many leaping into the air, including a baby swordfish).
Also seen by the adventurer - a tarantula whilst hiking in the Guanajuato hills, saucer size, it was ambling slowly across his path and he nearly landed on it. Couldnt bring myself to put the picture up.

The birdlife is gorgeous, little bright red ones, little bright yellow ones, doves, hummingbirds, birds of prey, big prehistoric looking pelicans that hang around the beach all day in front of the house. And theres lots of dolphins. And huge black butterflies, and bats, and wild horses, and meandering cows, the most beautiful cows I've ever seen. And lizards! so many lizards. and ants, even more ants.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Truck Envy

This ancient dusty land requires an ancient dusty truck. Mexico and Baja in particluar is where the coolest beat up old trucks can be found. The truck maketh the man. The bigger the better. We feel pretty feeble in our little tin hire car (although its also a bit beat up now which definately helps).