Back in December, I had just about come to the end of my tether with boredom and loneliness. I started yet another course to keep my brain working on something other than depression. Then out of the blue, I decided to follow through with a road trip I had wanted to do for a long time to search for locations and gather information ….. to the tip of Baja, Mexico and back!
Once I made the decision it all fell into place easily. I found a friend who travels to Baja every winter to surf, and I asked if he’d be willing to caravan with me across the border and part of the way until I felt comfortable traveling in Mexico on my own. He gladly agreed and we set off, him in his van and me in mine. I was excited to be on the road with a mission.
When crossing the border at Tijuana, I’ll never forget seeing The Wall that separates Mexico from the US. It snakes its ugly way as far as the eye can see……
We drove as far south as we could from San Diego in one day, which turned out to be El Rosario. After dinner at Mama Espinosa’s and a good night’s sleep at Baja Cactus Motel, we were on the road early heading further South. This is where the scenery really started to change and get interesting with huge boulders and large cactus covering the landscape. Cataviña is a gem of a place to stop and snap a few pics! It reminded me of Joshua Tree….
Baja is arid desert in most parts with pockets of diverse landscape and oases that are welcome pit stops along the way. Pemex petrol stations offer clean and well maintained bathrooms, which is always appreciated when traveling in a van! There are very long stretches between them, so, it’s a good idea to fill up often, even if you aren’t empty! It’s also wise to follow the speed limit which is in km not miles, as there are unexpected deep pot holes and “Topes” (tall speed bumps) at the beginning and end of every town. I swore silently each time I missed seeing these until it was too late!!
The second night was spent at a rustic campsite on a little laguna in San Ignacio. Falling asleep while listening to the frogs and at $10 a night, you can’t go wrong! This is a lush little town with loads of palm trees and friendly faces. Shortly before San Ignacio we passed through a check point where I was politely asked where I was going and what I was doing. By the time I got to the third checkpoint, they knew I was coming and where I was going!
After brunch the next day in the charming town of Heroica Mulegé, we set off for the coast. I then continued the journey alone! I was ready!
There are places that take your breath away, like seeing Lake Tahoe in California on Highway 50 for the first time, and Bahia de Concepcion is one of them! As I drove down the mountain pass and perilous curves of Route 1 to the little bay of Santispec and the turquoise blue sea, I let out an audible, Ahhh!
All of the little beaches in this area are beautiful and worth a visit. The only setback if you’re a kayaker or on an SUP is the wind! It can kick in for days! I was lucky enough to get a few calm and wonderful days here. Foraging for clams in the low tide provided deliciously fresh appetizers. There’s a great family owned restaurant on the side of the road by El Burro beach if you get bored of the two restaurants at Santispec. Their tacos were great at 25 pesos each washed down with an ice cold Tecate. They were also happy for me to use their WiFi, too! Another favorite spot in this area, with good food, good company and full bar, (especially on Taco Tuesdays) is at Playa Buenaventura!
Traveling alone is the best way to meet new people. I made new friends wherever I went and ended up meeting them again at different points throughout my journey.
There are dogs everywhere in Baja. They are some of the friendliest I’ve met. I was offered a dog four or five times while there, and I very nearly came home with one! It is a battle to get them spayed and neutered, so they proliferate easily, even though there are agencies in a few towns that offer these services for free. Here is one of those clinics Baja Exiles to donate to if you feel inspired to help with this ongoing situation. Just $20 donation will pay for a spay surgery.
I was told several times not to drive at night as the cattle wonder onto the road and like to lie down on the warm tarmac. They also just meander along the sides of the roads in daylight, so, being alert is important.
Sadly, I did see the occasional dead cow or goat that had been hit and left beside the road, all swollen in rigor mortis.
You feel the vastness of the desert in the open empty spaces on Route 1. Sometimes I drove for an hour or more without seeing another vehicle. I felt safe though and had ample water, food and petrol on these long remote stretches. When I did see another vehicle, I’d wave and get a joyful response from the other driver. There’s a special camaraderie with others ‘on the road’ in Baja.
To be continued……… with my next stop in Loreto!