This is the diary of our trip to Mexico starting on Thursday 22nd January 2004 and it was a different start for us because Simon drove us, in our car, to Blackwater to catch the train to Gatwick. This was because Simon and Laure were living with us at the moment, for a few weeks before they move back into Simon's house in Farnborough. He'd recently got a job at Camberley being unable to get one in France, which they'd hoped for after they got married last September.
We'd been down to visit Emma and the children at Paul's house on Monday and had spoken to Tom on the phone just before we left. He was in the middle of his teaching year in London. We'd spent Christmas in Devon with Emma and the family and New Year in Scotland at Jonny's with a lot of the Capes, so it was a very busy six weeks back in England seeing lots of friends and family.
So on the 22nd we were up at 4.30, neither of us had slept very well, and we left at 5 o'clock. It was quite chilly standing on the station at Blackwater but luckily we timed it just right so we didn't have to wait too long. It was very trouble-free getting to Gatwick and going from the South Terminal to the North on the free overhead rail connection and then checking in. We had coffee and tea and a pain au raisin looking out over the airport - even that was quite pleasant, but we had breakfasted before we left knowing that it would be a while before we got another meal. We went through to departure, where we managed to change our seats to window seats at the last minute, as just prior to leaving home Adrian had realised that we hadn't booked any and could only get aisle seats. We were over the wing but I much prefer a window seat. At 9.30 we left for Atlanta but it was very cloudy so we didn't see much anyway. Just as we neared the frozen wastes of Canada the sky did clear and from then on we could see quite often. There was a lot of snow, but it had cleared by the time we reached Atlanta. I was not at all impressed by the food on the flight. I don't like hot meals on planes but this time it was particularly bad and nothing good to say about it and no free booze either! [But the flight was £200 pounds each cheaper than the other airlines - Adrian]. I spent much of the time reading Lonely Planet of Mexico and Adrian was reading a computer magazine. At Atlanta we had to collect our luggage and book in again and being visa holders, [for the first time under their new ‘Homeland Protection’ act], we had to have our fingerprints and photograph taken. We got some US money from an ATM, ready for the taxi at the other end. I started reading ‘Tess of the d'Urbervilles’ as we sat looking out over the airport, waiting for our onward flight to San Diego, which was actually another 4½ hours. The only food we were given on this flight was a doggy bag with a revolting sweet bread roll with some cheese and meat in so I didn’t think much of that! Again we were able to get window seats but it was misty so we didn't see too much, but we did watch a film on this flight. We hadn't been impressed one bit at the way things were set up and what films were on. This one was called 'Under the Tuscan Sun' but we'd thought it said the ‘Tucson Sun’! It was quite a good fun film about an American woman in Italy. Just as we got near to descending into San Diego we had both just about dropped asleep when we realised that REM were on the video screen (which weren't personal ones), so as we came down to land at San Diego - which must be one of the most dramatic landings there is - we didn't know whether to watch and listen to REM, or look out of the window! It was a memorable landing. We landed at 6.30 local time, which was 2.30 in the morning to us! We collected our luggage, got a taxi to the Pacific Inn Hotel and by 7 o’clock we were in our room! The man had told us we were on the 1st floor, so we had carted our luggage up the stairs, when we remembered that 1st Floor in US is like our ground floor! By 7.45 we were in bed, and soon afterwards we were asleep!
Friday 23rd January 27 miles
We slept well, but I had woken first at 10 p.m., and then at 4 a.m. We were both up early, and I put yesterday’s diary on to the computer. This was with great difficulty, as, firstly, there was nowhere to sit at the computer, and secondly, Adrian was trying to input the computer directly from my dictaphone, which was worse than useless in my opinion, and just got me frustrated!
At 8 o’clock we went for our ‘continental breakfast’, which was better than expected. We had orange juice and tea/coffee, with toast (the bread was actually pleasant!) and even some nice cake. It was ‘help yourself’, and we sat outside on the small ‘patio’, next to the car park and the road.
It was quite chilly at this point, but the sky was blue, and the day became nicely warm.
We decided to walk out, and were pleased that we were right by the waterfront - about 2 minutes from the ‘maritime museum’, where the ‘Star of India’- apparently the oldest steel sailing ship in the world which still goes to sea - and several other ships were docked. Along the waterfront were lots of arty manmade trees in many bright colours.
We wandered on to the attractive Railway Station (built in 1915), where Adrian chatted for ages to the lady in the tourist office while I sat outside in the sunshine, and then on through ‘Downtown which seemed very clean and pleasant.
We got back to the hotel, where I had a very quick dip in the icy outdoor pool, before we got a taxi at 10.40 to AAAA storage place. Here we were reunited with the Bam, looking resplendent with its new windscreen, which Adrian had arranged to have replaced while we were away. There were also several packages of things that Adrian had ordered to be delivered there, including two books on camping in Mexico.
We drove on to Albertsons to stock up with supplies. Adrian had located this from the internet, but even so it was hard to find. We were surprised to see that employees were still picketing outside. We had a tea/coffee before embarking on our huge shop, trying to ensure that we bought all those things which might be difficult to get in Mexico. We came out and had lunch, then had a difficult time trying to find somewhere to have the brakes looked at, despite Adrian again having looked up addresses on the internet. We drove around for much of the afternoon, and finally found a place which said that he would do them in the morning. We also needed desperately to fill up with water, as we weren’t sure whether there was any at the camping place that we were heading for. This was Silver Strand, where we had stayed in December, and was an RV only place right on the beach. When we finally arrived there, we found that we could get water, so we needn’t have worried!
The site was busier than last time, but we did manage to pull in by the beach, squashed between 2 larger vehicles. We enjoyed a cup of tea, sitting on our seats on the sand, looking out to sea. We walked across the beach to the sea (which was as cool as the pool this morning), and watched the sun go down and then a tiny moon come up. All was wonderful until the generators started up, and then heaven became hell! We had 2 particularly noisy ones either side of us. We gradually tried to unpack our bags and put away today’s shopping, but jet lag and the dreadful noise was getting to us! Eventually we moved out to a central spot away from the beach, and slightly quieter, and I prepared supper of prawns, bacon, rice and broccoli. After 8 o’clock, the generators were switched off, and sanity returned! We retired for an early night!
Saturday 24th January Happy 18th Birthday Joe 33 miles
We didn’t wake early as we had expected, but still moved to the adjacent car park for breakfast, parking near the beach. Shortly after 8 o’clock, a whole stream of cars came in - we didn’t find out why. We had a short walk on the beach before leaving just after 9 o’clock.
We drove back up the peninsula and over the bridge and found our way, without trying, to the brake repairers, arriving just right at 9.30. However, things weren’t going to be that easy, as they found that their door just wasn’t high enough to get the Bam under! Fortunately, the man was able to send us on to an affiliated repairers in National City which was high enough, and could do the job for us today. We made our way there, and sat around for a while until they had sorted things.
Unfortunately, unlike the other place, which was fairly central, there was nowhere much to walk to from here, and it was going to be a long job. Also, the morning was grey and quite cool. I had seen that there was a library not far away, so we made our way there. The library was very busy, but there was still room in the large computer room, and the limit was 2 hours! Further on in our trip, this would have been wonderful news, but after only 2 days, there wasn’t much that we needed to do!
We read the email which had come from Simon, and sent one to our ‘kids’ to say that we had arrived OK. We then walked on round to Walmart, and put in the few photos that I had taken to be printed. We both wandered round for a while - I bought a pink T-shirt and Adrian bought a baseball bat! This was as a protection only, if needed! We ate some lunch in Walmart, which made the aeroplane food seem fantastic! I had a slice of microwave warmed pizza, and Adrian had 2 puny hot dogs with taco crisps covered in a synthetic cheese sauce. The best thing was the drink of Sprite - and I don’t like fizzy drinks! An unpleasant man in a wheelchair came up and almost devoured our food, and when he dropped his serviette called to Adrian to pick it up so that he could spit into it! Revolting! There were many oversized people in the shop, reminding us of the recent programme which we had watched on Texans, although these were mostly of Mexican descent.
We were pleased to get out and walk back up to the repairers, but we still had quite a wait, as they didn’t finish until 3 o’clock. We read a newspaper, and some of our books on Mexico while we waited. Once the job was finished - they also did an oil change - we got some petrol from the petrol station opposite before driving back over the long bridge to the Coronado peninsula again. It was too late in the day to try to get into Mexico, so we made our way back to Silver Strand parking area, stopping on the way at a park area near the end of the bridge. Although a lot of people were out enjoying themselves, I thought that it was cold.
Back at Silver Strand, we settled into the middle - there were no beach places left - and had a cup of tea. Afterwards we walked out and under the pedestrian tunnel to the lagoon side, and then back along the beach. By now the sky had broken up a bit, and it looked very attractive.
We ate chicken for supper and went to bed at 10 o’clock, having heard some heavy rain briefly.
Sunday 25th January 65 miles
There was more rain in the night and the morning was partly cloudy. We had breakfast and left at 8.15 and headed for the border at San Ysidro. We managed the formalities very easily, getting our migration forms, and then finding the place to get the vehicle permit. People were really helpful, particularly one chap who told us how to get to the ‘Banjecito’ for the permit, but we actually had to walk through a gate into Mexico to get there, and walking back to the Bam proved extremely long and taxing - including going back through immigration into the USA! Once back, Adrian changed some money into Mexican, and at 10 o’clock we drove into Tijuana. We found our way to the huge welcome arch and drove down Ave Revolucion - the main road, where it all happens.
Tijuana - welcome to Mexico
Despite what we had heard about Tijuana, it appeared a happy, pleasant and typically Mexican place as we drove around.
We found our way out to the road to the coast and stopped for coffee at Playa de Tijuana, sitting in the cab above the sea. Afterwards we walked out along the front, looking back towards San Diego and Adrian started videoing. The place was pleasant, but run down (or half built) - in fact a bit like Italy!
It was difficult to find our way back to the coast road south - there was only one way out, as it was a toll road. All along the coast were developments of quite smart houses. We turned off the toll road to drive through Rosarito. This was just one long slow and busy road through the town, with American style eating places and suchlike all along it.
We continued on the non-toll road, stopping at Puerto Nuevo, as we had read that this was the place to eat lobster. We nearly gave up, as parking was U.S. $3 to $3.50, but on driving on into the little town, we were ‘touted’ to eat at one of the little restaurants (‘Benny’s’), where parking was free if you ate there. It was an excellent move, as for $10 US each we had a wonderful meal of grilled lobster with refried beans, tortillas and rice. We each had clam chowder to start, and there were tacos and ceviche and Adrian had a beer and I had a margarita - all included! We sat outside on a little terrace, and the service was excellent and the people really nice.
Puerto Nuevo - excellent lobster
Afterwards we walked around this little beachside tourist town, where, being Sunday, it was busy and bustling. Musicians wandered the streets and played in the restaurants and stalls of merchandise lined the mostly unsurfaced streets. Altogether a great experience and in huge contrast to yesterdays lunch in WalMart!
We left here at 2.20 and continued south for a short way, stopping at a ‘minimal fee’ ($6 US) camping area right on a huge sandy beach at Rancho Mal Paso. Our new ‘Baja camping book’ had listed this, and told us of the unmarked access, which we would never have found otherwise. We walked along the beach in the last of the sun, watching hang gliders above the flat topped hills behind us. We were the only people here, with just a few sea gulls for company.
Monday 26th January 60 miles
We woke to a blue sky, so after an enjoyable breakfast of bacon pancakes we had a lovely walk along the beach. Adrian was able to get some water, so we didn’t leave until 10 o’clock. A few miles south, we pulled into a mirador (viewpoint) high above the splendid coast. However, it was closed! We stopped anyway, and walked into the area to admire the awe-inspiring view.
As we neared Ensenada we spotted a place to get propane. It was on the other side of the highway, so we got there with difficulty (like going on several miles and doing a ‘uee’), but were pleased to have got some.
Ensenada was much bigger than we had imagined. We attempted first to drive up to a viewpoint high above the town. We didn’t actually find the ‘mirador’, but we were able to see the vast town spread out below, beside a pleasant bit of coast and the port. Also, it gave Adrian the chance to try out the newly fixed brakes, as the road was very steep!
We drove along the main ‘busy’ street and towards the south of the town where we came to a large ‘Gigante’ supermarket. We thought that we ought to try out a Mexican supermarket, and buy a few more things before reaching the remoter areas of the Baja further south.
We decided after our shop against having lunch in the carpark, and headed south for a few miles, turning off to Estero beach. However, this seemed to comprise of various ‘resorts’, with no public beach areas where we could stop. Having tried several possibilities, all unsuccessful, we ended up eating our lunch sitting in the Bam at the side of an unsurfaced road! The rolls we had bought were excellent, and so were the radishes.
We continued for a few miles, before turning off to the Punta Banda peninsula. Apart from being a very scenic drive, the reason we came was to see the blowhole at la Bufadora. We weren’t sure what to expect, and almost didn’t stop, as parking appeared to be $2. Eventually we parked some way out, but still ended up giving $1 to a young lad, who was quite insistent (with the help of an older chap) that we had to pay!
We then had to walk through the miles of souvenir stalls, many of which weren’t open today. Those that were, of course pleasantly touted for business. Beyond all these stalls, we came to the blowhole. There were only a few locals around, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that it really was a superb spectacle. Water and foam spewed up from the sea far below, through a narrow cleft in the rocks.
We stood in the warm sunshine, enjoying the sight, before heading back past all the stalls to the Bam.
Just a short way up the road, we stopped at an ‘informal’ camping area (Camp #5) right above this dramatic coast. We were the only people there, and it cost us 50 pesos (£2.50). As the sun got low in the sky, we looked out to sea and saw whales spouting up water, as we walked around this beautiful spot above the coast.
A million dollar view!
At bedtime we went outside to look at the brilliant stars. It was very cold.
Tuesday 27th January 140 miles
It was a beautiful morning. Again we saw whales spouting up out to sea. We enjoyed breakfast with our wonderful view and left at 8.45. We drove the lovely drive back along the peninsula, high above the sea. After Punta Banda beach, which we didn’t seem to be able to get down to as the only access appeared to be through campsites and private land, we turned off on to a narrow road towards Punta Estero. The road led between areas of calm lagoons to a sandspit with a row of houses along it. Again, access didn’t appear to be public, so we returned and stopped to look out over the lagoons. It was beautifully peaceful, with just the sound of curlews. A long billed curlew was strutting along the water’s edge right near us, and we saw a godwit a little further away. It was a place to go down as a treasured memory.
A lone curlew at Punta Estero
We rejoined the road south at Maneadero and stopped at the Post office to buy stamps and for Adrian to use the telephone. He successfully spoke to the man about our ferry trip from further down the Baja, which had been booked for the wrong date, but wasn’t able to get hold of the person to talk to about our Mexican vehicle insurance.
We continued south now through the wine growing area of St Tomas and the town of San Vicente. The scenery was very dry but hilly, but where it was irrigated, it was very fertile and we saw many people out in the fields gathering crops and some beside the road picking olives. We stopped for lunch of the delicious reheated French loaf which we had bought yesterday.
We stopped to get fuel as we approached San Quintin, and Adrian phoned again about the insurance. We turned off on to an unsurfaced road towards ‘The old Mill’ campsite. We didn’t intend camping there, but had wanted to see it, as it was the site of a failed English attempt to start up an agricultural concern in the late 19th century. However, the road surface was so badly corrugated, that we gave up after 3 miles and braced ourselves for the return journey!
Back on the main road, we continued for a few miles, then turned off on to another unsurfaced road for about a mile to a campsite called ‘El Pabellon’. This was right beside a lovely sandy beach and only cost 50 pesos (£2.40), which included hot showers. We walked along the beach just before the sun set. The beach was humped into attractive dunes, with a few evocative boats lining the shore. The only bad thing was the strong, cool wind.
The humpy beach at El Pabellon
We came back and had supper of minced beef tacos followed by fresh fruit salad. Again the stars were good.
Wednesday 28th January 106 miles
It was a lovely morning again. We ate breakfast looking out over the humpy beach to the sea. Many of the little boats had gone out early to fish. Just as we were finishing breakfast, we were disconcerted to see a long line of RVs arriving. It was another ‘caravan’, and it turned out that they were pulling in for a ‘breakfast stop’.
Adrian went out to see where he could ‘dump’, and got chatting to another couple - from Oregon- (not on the ‘caravan’), and was gone a long time.
When he came back we walked along the beach in the opposite direction from last night. On the way back we got talking to a very pleasant couple from Indiana. They were on the ‘caravan’ - there were 23 ‘rigs’ - and had only been going for 2 days, so were still finding their feet. He had been looking out to sea at some dolphins, so we joined him. We also spoke to another couple with a Trail-lite caravan, from Fort Worth.
After ‘dumping’, we left just after the ‘caravan’, and were pleased not to be part of it! We fished out our CB radio and tried to listen in, but with no real success!
We drove on south, near to the coast, and through barren, hilly country to El Rosario. The ‘caravan’ had stopped here. We did too, as we had hoped to find the laundrette mentioned in Lonely Planet, but it didn’t appear to be there anymore. However, we had passed an Internet Café, and as we had received the beginnings of several messages on our phone, we stopped and sent our first email, and read those that had come. There was one from the insurance company which Adrian had phoned yesterday, saying that we weren’t fully insured for Mexico, as we had feared.
We had read of a good restaurant serving lobster burritos, so decided to give it a try, although it was only 11.00 am. The meal cost £6 each, but contained 3 filled ‘pancakes’, which were excellent, plus all the trimmings and accompaniments. Most of these were too hot for us, but the meal was nicely presented. The restaurant, called Mama Espinozas, had become popular after the road was built through in 1973 - until then, this was as far south in the peninsula as you could drive.
There were no petrol stations after this for 195 miles (plus a side trip we hope to do of 90 miles return), so we filled up again at the Pemex before leaving El Rosario just before midday.
We were now heading to the remote central desert, and drove through miles of beautiful wilderness containing a huge variety of cacti and desert plants. Most famous here is the boojum or cirios, looking like a huge upside down carrot - this is one of the few places that it grows.
Also there were saguaros, prickly pear, cholla and lovely red tinged barrel cactus. We stopped to photograph the plants set amongst the scattered rock landscape.
This was just before we reached Catavina, where we were to stop for tonight. There were 2 camping places here. The first contained a large number of RVs from another ‘caravan’. We continued to the second, Rancho Santa Inez, which was just off the road, and also contained a third ‘caravan’. However, there was plenty of space, so at 3 o’clock we pulled in. We sat outside in the really warm sunshine (for the first time) with a cup of tea and some strawberries and pineapple. We thought that we would have a little walk around this desert area, so proceeded along the dry river bed behind us, accompanied by an Alsatian dog from the site! We were surprised to see lupins growing wild. On our way back through the site we stopped to talk to a couple, Paul and Donna, who had been camping next to us last night. They were Canadian, from Osoyoos, and were really easy to talk to, so we chatted until the sun went down and it became cool, when we moved into their motorhome and chatted some more! It turned out that they had passed us when we were camped high above the sea at La Bufadora - they remembered seeing the Bam.
They had a tiny little dog, which wanted to be playful, but we weren’t the best playmates for it! We walked back to the Bam at about 5.45, noticing the moon and the first few stars in the sky, and there was also a bat flying around.
Thursday 29th January Happy Birthday Lena! 109 miles
Another morning of blue sky. We ate a very fruity breakfast and left at 9 o’clock. We continued on the winding road through wonderful remote wilderness scenery with a huge variety of cacti - we stopped to photograph. Flowers often lined the edge or the road, and there were trees like Joshua trees. We stopped for coffee just before what was called Valley of the Cirios (boojums).
Soon afterwards we turned off to the Bahia de los Angeles. We had read that the surface of this supposedly paved road was extremely bad, so were pleased to find that it had been resurfaced - for the first few miles at least! After that, we knew what was meant! However, the scenery was so wonderful that it made up for it.
The road to the Bay of Angels
When we first spied the ‘Bay of Angels’, we were overcome by the beauty of it, and thought it aptly named! We stopped twice to photograph, and then pulled in to a bluff above the bay at 12.30 and knew that we must have our lunch here! I made enchiladas, which we ate sitting outside on our seats in the warm sunshine, with the dreamlike view spread out before us.
Beautiful Bahia de los Angeles
We descended to the little ‘town’ of Bahia de los Angeles and it made us think of Nuka Hiva, or Ua Pou - just one paved street along the front, after driving through miles of wilderness. We passed an internet café, and went in, as we thought that there might be another message about the insurance. There was, but unfortunately we couldn’t download it to read! Very frustrating! We were able to read a few messages though - one from Simon saying that the paperwork on his car in France had finally been cleared, and also that the weather at home was awful. I would like to have sent one or two messages back, but the computer stopped working! The lady didn’t charge us anything - we get the impression that communication is very ‘iffy’ here! Adrian tried phoning, but that didn’t work either.
We drove on to Daggett’s Beach camping area, and parked ourselves near the sea. We were disappointed to find that there was a strong, cool wind here, but set off to walk along the shore. We walked as far as the turtle conservation project which we had read about. We viewed the turtles in the tanks before starting to walk back. This was also a camping area, and we passed a couple sitting in a sheltered position outside their large fifth wheeler. They were from 100 Mile House in Canada, which we had visited in 2002. He (Tony) was formerly English, and she (Ursula) was from Frankfurt, but had come to England in 1956. He told us of an amazing coincidence. He had been reading a book by a man who had walked right around the Baja. The book was on a seat, as it was now. A man had come along and started chatting, and said ‘Oh, I see you’ve got my book’. He was the author of it! We chatted for some time before walking back. When I returned to the Bam, Adrian was talking to a couple from Missouri, who said that they were really pleased to meet English people. (I think that the man thought that meeting English people was a bit like meeting Martians!) We had a cup of tea, but the sun went down early (4.40) behind the hill. It was still lovely looking out across the water to the islands though.
I cooked pork chops for supper, and we enjoyed listening to the recording of John Betjeman’s poems set to music and compiled by Mike Read. We had given the CD to Lena for her birthday, so it was appropriate.
We walked to the water’s edge and looked up at the stars - the wind had dropped now. We finished editing my 60th Birthday video, and enjoyed seeing what a good time everyone had as we watched through it.
Friday 30th January Happy Birthday Laure! 136 miles
It was a beautiful morning. We sat outside for breakfast in the warm sunshine.
While I was washing up outside a chap called Peter, with a huge white beard, came to say hello. He was Canadian (again), but his grandfather had been Scottish, called Macintosh, and his grandmother English. He was amazed at us being here from England.
We walked along the beach and back in the opposite direction from yesterday and didn’t leave until 10 o’clock. We drove along the bumpy road back to the ‘main road’, and drove back into the ‘town’ of Bahia de los Angeles to visit the local museum. This was crammed full of shells, whale skeletons and a lot of local stuff - impressive for such a small place (500 inhabitants). Afterwards we had our tea/ coffee sitting on a seat in the little grass-less park next door, looking across to the beautiful bay. Adrian attempted to phone once more, but it appeared that the phone there had never worked!
We left this magical Bay of Angels at 11.15 and set off on the 40 mile drive back through the desert to the Transpeninsular Highway (Mex1). After we had reached the better road surface, I drove the rest of the way back to the junction, which we reached at 12.15, having seen a total of 3 vehicles (on both journeys).
We continued south now, stopping soon for lunch, surrounded by desert scenery. We set off again, and hadn’t been travelling far when we had the first calamity of the trip - our wing mirror must have just clipped that of a van travelling in the opposite direction. The road is known to be narrow (18ft wide), with no ‘shoulders’, and often a steep drop off, but we hadn’t appeared to be any closer to this vehicle than to any other. Luckily, we had a spare mirror with us, but Adrian hoped that we would be able to find the small magnifying mirror. We returned to the scene, with great difficulty, as there was nowhere to pull off or turn around. The other vehicle (Mexican) had returned too, but as both of us had lost our mirrors, there was little to be said. We were eventually able to find a place to pull off and hunt for the little mirror, and after much searching, I did find it. However, when Adrian extricated the spare mirror (hidden well away, as we had hoped that it wouldn’t be needed) there was a spare little mirror there too! At least we now have a spare one of those! Also, I had trodden on a cactus spine while searching, and it had gone right through the sole of my sandal and into my foot!
Changing the mirror didn’t take Adrian long, then we set off again. Soon we came to a Military Checkpoint, which held us up for a while. After the small town of Jesus Maria (the next fuel station after El Rosaro, 200 miles back), the landscape became extremely flat and uninteresting. At Guerrero Negro we reached the border with Baja California South. Apart from being the boundary (the 28th parallel), and changing time zones (one hour on), there is an inspection for fruit and vegetables. I had hastily eaten the last orange, and we had hidden the lemons, but when the man asked if we had potatoes, I wasn’t too sorry to hand over our bag of potatoes, which we hadn’t been very impressed with anyway! I didn’t tell him about the few baking potatoes which we were keeping for barbecues!
We then had to have the tyres fumigated (10 pesos - 50p) and continued into the town. This is a company town, having been built for the salt extraction works which are here. Nearby though is a large lagoon where whales give birth and nurse their young before setting off back up the coast.
The town itself is not attractive, but we had read that there was a laundrette here (rare in Mexico!) so we made our way there. While the washing was doing, Adrian tried phoning again about the insurance. On his third attempt, he came back jubilant and said that all is well. After his enquiry, the agent had followed it up and found that for people based in Texas, the insurance did not automatically cover them in Mexico. Adrian thinks the agent panicked at that point as he knew he had a number of people covered who were also already in Mexico, so he had contacted the vice president of the insurance company and got it sorted. The agent had emailed to tell us, but that was the email we couldn’t get. What a relief it was, not because we were without insurance (it was only the comprehensive part as we had to have compulsory Mexican insurance as well), but the amount of time we were spending trying to find non-existent phones in this part of the Baja.
We put the washing into the drier, then drove on through the town, stopping to get some fuel on the way back.
We collected the washing, and went in search for somewhere to stay. The place that we were heading for didn’t seem to exist, but we had passed several RVs parked on a spare bit of land beside the road, opposite the police station, so we decided to join them. It was now 6.15 (previously 5.15), and the sun had just gone down over the salt flats.
Saturday 31st January Happy 31st Birthday Simon 23 miles
It was a grey morning, but the night had been milder. Neither of us had slept very well. We breakfasted and left soon after 9 o’clock, heading back a short way into the town to a large, poorly lit, barn-like supermarket, which stocked more Mexican things than western!
We now drove south for a few miles, turning off to drive the 16 miles across the salt flats on a track which was mostly OK, but gave us a feel of Gladstone Beach in places! We were heading for Laguna Ojo de Liebre, a major whale breeding site, where we were planning to take a trip. After a few miles, a young chap dressed up for the arctic came out of a small kiosk to take our names to register. He spoke no English, so we had to guess that we were filling in the right things. We continued to the edge of the lagoon, where we paid our $3 fee, but this included camping for the night. It was now 10.30, and we were told that the next trip was in an hour.
Ready to go whale watching
Back at the Bam, I made coffee, then we hung around for what seemed like ages before we left at about 11.45. The boat was very tiny, and there was just us and our pleasant Mexican boatman Leopoldo, who again spoke no English. Therefore, conversations consisted of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and other such exclamations!
I didn’t like the fast and bumpy ride out (and back), but the actual whale watching was great. We saw dozens and dozens of whales - often we didn’t know which way to look! Photographing, however, was extremely difficult, so I didn’t try too hard, although Adrian did take quite a bit of video.
Mind the whale!
As this was the place where the whales give birth, we saw mostly mother and baby whales. The clouds now cleared, but it became more windy. Another small whale watching boat with about 6 people in it drew up beside us (the only other vessel we saw). One chap, called Chris, climbed into our boat - he was taking photos for a brochure. After he had joined us, the whale watching seemed to become more scarce, and we were quite glad when he returned to the other boat, and we set off inland, as I had got quite chilly.
It was after 2 o’clock when we reached the shore, but by now the tide had gone out and Leopoldo had to climb out and push the boat in for the last few hundred yards.
We ate lunch of scrambled egg back in the Bam, then drove on to the camping area beside the shore. The ‘track’ was very rough, we hope that it doesn’t rain! We could see the whales spouting up water out in the lagoon, and dozens of birds along the shore. However, the clouds returned, and when we attempted to walk out later, it even rained a bit.
Sunday 1st February 102 miles
We couldn’t have hoped for a lovelier morning. I had slept late. After breakfast we walked along the shore, enjoying seeing the many shorebirds. Despite the lagoon being so calm, we didn’t see very much whale activity at first, but we came back to sit in the sand for our tea/coffee and could see whales in the distance.
Early morning walk beside Laguna Ojo de Liebre
It was after 11 o’clock when we left to drive the 15 miles back across the sandy salt flats to the Transpeninsular Highway. The colour of the lagoon matched that of the sky - we stopped to take a photo.
Sea, sky and a strip of land!
Once on the road south we continued through the salt flats, then came to more undulating land with saguaro cactus and Joshua trees. We had lunch in a litter-strewn pull-off, then continued to San Ignatio. This small town is an oasis of date palms in the desert. We drove on as far as the centre, where there is an attractive mission church.
San Ignatio mission church
The campsites here didn’t tie up with those in our books, but we returned to one called Don Chon (50 pesos), which lay alongside the palm fringed river. We really needed some water (and this site didn’t have any), but the site looked so nice that we decided to stop, and sort out the water problem tomorrow.
At this point another problem showed itself - Adrian noticed that we had a puncture. There was a tyre place close by - in fact llantera(tyre places) seem to be everywhere - but we thought that we would leave it until tomorrow. We sat beside the river with our cup of tea. I washed my hair, using water from the river. A chap from the only other camper here - a Canadian from Fort St John, called Merv - came to say hello. Later another camper, like Jack and Rose’s, pulled in, and the lady - from Colorado- came to ask about booking in.
We decided that this was the night to have a barbecue. The earlier wind, which had made everything dusty, had now dropped. Adrian lit the barbie at the water’s edge and we cooked excellent trout, potatoes and squash. While we were cooking, a young girl called Ellen came to use our tin opener. She had come to camp just near us with her boyfriend Matt (from Littlehampton). We soon realised that she was English (born in Hendon). They had been travelling for several months in Canada, USA, Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Mexico and were shortly flying out to New Zealand for a year. We realised that they were the couple that we had seen trying to hitch a lift near the town - they had given up, and decided to stay the night here. They had lit a fire, so after our excellent supper, we joined them and chatted until 9.30, when we returned by the bright light of the moon to the Bam.
Monday 2nd February 60 miles
I woke late to a fine morning and we breakfasted outside by the river.
Lovely early morning view
Just before 9.30 we left and drove the short distance to the tyre repairers. Here the young chap showed Adrian that something had split one of the ‘duallies’, and it was virtually irreparable. However, he patched it, with an expensive patch ($8), and put on the spare tyre (labour $2)! His young wife and 2 year old son watched. I photographed the little boy by his sit-in car (like Felix’s) and chickens.
The tyre repairer’s little boy by the chickens
His wife had been using the hose to keep down the dust, so Adrian asked if we could have some water - we had completely run out. Having given him a tip, we left at 10.15 and headed south on the Mex 1 for Santa Rosalia. We passed the volcano called ‘the 3 virgins’ then descended steeply to the coast.
Santa Rosalia developed at the end of the 19th century as a French copper mining town (mining finished in the 50’s). The buildings were of wood, and didn’t look Mexican at all. The thing to see here was the church, designed by Eiffel, of tower fame.
Eiffel’s steel church
We were able to park right outside the little church, but first walked along the road to what was reputed to be an excellent bakers. As expected, there were no baguettes left by now (usually gone by 10.00), and the rolls we bought were disappointingly sweet.
Adrian in Santa Rosalia
We returned to the Bam and had coffee/tea and fresh donuts before walking around the streets of this busy little town. Adrian was pleased to be able to buy a crimping tool in the second shop he tried. It was amusing that after his attempts to describe and draw it, the box had ‘crimping tool’ written on the side!
We left the town at 12.30 and drove on the few miles to San Lucas. There were 2 campsites here, but the access was difficult to find. The sites were adjacent, and both were on the shore, but one was much busier than the other. People came here mainly to fish. We settled on the quieter site, Camacho, and put our seats out under the palapa for lunch.
Evocative fishing boats at Camacho
As well as photogenic fishing boats, there were a lot of birds on the shore - pelicans, egrets and herons. Adrian had just pointed out some oyster catchers when a chap called Jim (looking like Wayne) from the other RV here, came over and said had we seen the oyster catchers, he had never seen them on this beach before. He and his wife had been coming here for 7 years. They came from Kelowna in British Columbia, and were very anti-American.
Later we walked along the shore until we came to the beach of the military establishment. We had just decided that we had walked far enough, when a soldier came over and said something like ‘who goes there?’ We returned to our site and had showers in the rather primitive shower rooms, then had a cup of tea, and a rather unexciting cake bought this morning, again sitting outside in our lovely position. Unfortunately it had become quite cloudy now, but when we looked outside later, despite it still being cloudy, there was a ring visible all around the moon.
Tuesday 3rd February 34 miles
We woke at 7.30 to see the sun streaming in over the water, which was now only a few feet from us, as the tide was in. This was the morning for Adrian to cook bacon and eggs outside and for us to enjoy our breakfast sitting outside with just the pelicans for company. We left reluctantly at 9.45, continuing the few miles down the coast to Mulege.
The ‘oasis’ of Mulege
The river here flows year round, so it is another oasis in the desert, with palm trees lining the waterside. We had wanted to drive to the Santa Rosalia mission church a mile or two upstream, so were really pleased to find that they had just tarmacked the road.
Santa Rosalia mission church
We were surprised to see that a coach had stopped outside the mission - the first of anything like that we had seen in the Baja. The group was all inside the church, so we made our way first to a little viewpoint up behind it, where we could look down over the river. Up above, frigate birds were circling, and occasionally diving down to the river. Also, there was a little lime kiln here - Adrian asked the pleasant tour guide about it - it seems that they used crushed shells in the kiln. After the coach had left, we looked into the simple little church before enjoying our tea and coffee and last cake that we had bought yesterday, sitting on the steps of the mission in the warm sunshine - a lovely spot.
We drove on into the village, which we knew was not suitable for RVs, and managed to park so that we could walk around. We had passed an Internet café, so went in to read our messages, which included one from Paul saying that he had been offered a job, which really pleased us.
Wandering on through the little streets, we finally located the museum, housed in the former prison. This was apparently an ‘Open Prison’, where inmates were able to go off and work during the day. It was started in the early 1900s and closed in the seventies. The museum was supposedly free, but a donation of 10 pesos each was expected. It was in a nice position set on a hill above the town, and the lady guide had enjoyed showing us some of the many things in it. The most unusual was part of a space craft engine which had landed in a ranch near here 4 years ago!
The museum, housed in the former prison
On our way back to the Bam, we went into a small supermarket, where we had difficulty in finding things to buy, but did get some frankfurter sausages for tonight, and some acceptable chocolate wafer biscuits!
We now took the main road through the town so that we could drive on out to the beach at the river mouth. On the way we passed a bakers, so went in to buy what looked like a brown French loaf ( there was very little in the shop), but when we ate it for lunch, it tasted as though it had been baked days ago! It was expensive too!
The road soon became a dirt road, but we continued to the end, where a lighthouse stood on top of a little hill called El Sobrerito. The sea was on one side of us, and a lagoon on the other. It was windy on the sea side, so we sat on the other side of the van to have our lunch. It seemed a nice spot to stay for the night, so after lunch we walked on past all the fishermen to climb up to the lighthouse.
From the lighthouse
From here we had good views back up the river. We spent a lazy afternoon, me sitting outside really enjoying the warm sunshine for the first time, and after a cup of tea we walked along the rocky shore in the other direction, before coming back to light the barbecue.
Wednesday 4th February 31 miles
A lovely morning, but with a cool offshore wind, so we had breakfast inside, with our wonderful view, and left before 9.00. We drove along the bumpy road back to Mulege and parked. We walked back to the Internet café, but found out that it was closed today! The lady next door (his mother?) said that he had had to go to Santa Rosalia. We knew that we had seen another internet café in the town, so made our way there. This one said that it didn’t open until 10.00, and it was now only 9.20. We walked back, and shopped in a little supermarket we had passed. We bought 6 eggs, and the man took such trouble in making up a box out of the flat egg container, then tying it up with string, that you might have thought that it was a present from Harrods!
We drove on to Internet 2, but this still wasn’t open, so at some time after 10.00 we walked along to a hotel which I had seen advertising Internet. No, they said, try Hotel Vieja Hacienda. We walked back to the Bam, where I found from our book that Hotel Vieja Hacienda was just along from the last hotel. Internet 2 still wasn’t open, so we set off again for Hotel Vieja Hacienda.
This time we were lucky - there was an internet! We soon got a computer, but were part way through sending things when all the computers crashed! A frequent occurrence in the Baja I think! Eventually all was well - we sent our emails and returned to the Bam. It was now 11.00, so coffee time. We didn’t bother with yesterday’s bakers, which we had passed, but had coffee sitting on a nearby seat before finally leaving Mulege. Internet 2 was now open, of course!
So at 11.20 we drove back on to the Transpeninsular Highway. We passed several campsites, one of which was supposed to have a good bakery. We drove in, but the ‘bakery’ sign was now covered up! Ah well, no fresh bread today! We stopped for fuel, then headed south towards the Bay of Conception.
We knew that this was a beautiful area, with several beach campsites. We had picked out one, so continued past the first lot until we came to the one we wanted - El Requeson. It certainly was lovely, set on a sand spit connected to a little island. We negotiated the entrance track and found ourselves a spot beside the water.
We put out the sunshade, although it wasn’t hot and ate our lunch outside. Afterwards we walked over to the little volcanic island, scrambling up to the top of it and then along the shore beside the mangroves. Frigate birds were again circling overhead. The island had lots of mounds of oyster shells, and was covered by different cacti.
Cacti at El Requeson
We returned to the Bam, and walked along the shore past another camping area and back.
While Adrian busied himself fitting a filter to the water system, I enjoyed the last of the sun before it went down behind the hill. We then lit the barbie and cooked some beef we had bought this morning, delighting in the beautiful peaceful situation we were in.
Idyllic spot to camp, El Requeson
Of course everything has to be spoilt - the people next to us started up the only generator here! We came inside to eat our meal!
We walked out at bedtime - the tide had come in and cut off the island.
Thursday 5th February 77 miles
It was another lovely morning. The wind had turned round, so we sat on the other side of the Bam for breakfast. A truck came in, with a young chap selling fruit and veg. It wasn’t cheap, but was of good quality, so we bought a few things - tomatoes, potatoes, pears, cucumber. Afterwards we walked along to the next pretty little cove and back, using what would appear to be the old road. Now another truck had come, this chap was selling large prawns. Again they weren’t cheap, but certainly seemed fresh, so we bought some. His wife was fascinated by my binoculars.
It was now nearly coffee time, so we had coffee enjoying this lovely situation, and did our ‘overnight ratings’. We left this idyll and headed south, stopping along the road to view and photograph this spot for the last time.
Looking back to beautiful El Requeson
The road followed the beautiful Bay of Conception for a few more miles before crossing undulating, cactus covered country with mountains to the side, to Lareto. We stopped for lunch just before Lareto, with views down to the sea.
We drove on into Loreto and parked so that we could walk around this attractive town, which for 130 years had been the capital of ‘TheCalifornias’ (both Baja and what is now US, from 1697 - 1829, when Loreto was destroyed by a hurricane).
Loreto - former capital of the Baja and its mission church
There was a mission here - the first built on the Baja, with a museum adjacent to it (costing 29 pesos!) A pedestrian street ran from the sea along past the mission. It was lined with topiary arches.
Topiary arches , Loreto
There were very few people about, and a strong wind blew in from the sea. However, it was very photogenic, so several more photos!
We found the museum rather heavy, with a lot of religious statues and paintings relating to the Jesuit missionaries, but the building and setting was nice.
Adrian had wanted to speak to the man in U.S. about our ferry booking again, as he had booked for the wrong vehicle size. At the third attempt he got through, to be told that today is a National Holiday (Constitution Day) in Mexico, which we had read, but forgotten!
Also, we found that our phone logged in, and we had the beginnings of messages from Tom, Simon and Val K.
We headed south, turning off after a couple of miles to somewhere called Nopolo. I had imagined this to be a small fishing village, but it was just a ‘Ravenscar’ - a failed tourist development, which has just one hotel!
A few miles further on was the beach that we were heading for to stay at tonight. The coastal scenery was beautiful as we looked down to the beach beside the little place of El Juncalito. We turned off at the signpost, but the rough track just went to the settlement itself. After trying each of the rougher than rough tracks and getting nowhere, we returned to the road for a short distance before turning off to the right (rough) track!
Here we joined the several hardy campers (fishers and boaters), and sat beside the Bam to have a cup of tea. We walked right along the beach to the far end, where a little boat was moored.
Another lovely camping spot - El Juncalito
We continued a bit further still to another rocky cove before walking back. The wind was cool, but the view up to the rugged mountains (5300 ft) behind was wonderful, even if the tops were shrouded in cloud. We came back and watched the full moon rise over the island beyond. Exquisite!
The full moon rises!
For supper we ate some of the giant prawns we had bought this morning, with hominy - funny sweetcorn.
Friday 6th February 89 miles
It was a fine morning. The mountains looked wonderful against the clear blue sky they reminded us of Ua Pou.
Mystic mountains at El Juncalito
It was windy, so we breakfasted inside then walked along the beach towards the ‘village’ and back. There were plovers at the water’s edge.
Yet another lovely overnight stop!
We left at 10 o’clock and drove back up the ‘river bed’ to the road. After a few miles we turned off to Puerto Escondido. This was the site of another failed resort scheme. The roads were laid out, but there were just a couple of half built decaying buildings, now looking as though they were being rebuilt. The setting was fantastic, with the same amazing mountains up behind, and beautiful islands and headlands out to sea.
We returned to the Transpeninsular Highway, and almost immediately started climbing the dramatic Sierra de la Gigante. We stopped for coffee beside the road, with views down to the water far below. We sat outside on some rocks - again the area was sadly litter strewn.
The descent on the other side of the mountain range to the Magdalena Plain was gradual and unimpressive, and the drive on towards CuidadInsurgentes through flattish cactus covered country was rather monotonous. Our phone had worked briefly and we got the beginning of a message from Trish, saying that they were heading south.
We drove through the small town, then turned off on a ‘Rainbow Beach’ road - i.e. all very much the same! - for 20 miles to Lopez Mateos. This tatty little town is on another lagoon where whales give birth to their young. We had unknowingly arrived at the start of their ‘Festival of the Baby Whales’, held every year in early February.
We paid our 10 pesos to enter the car park, and ate our lunch before walking around to find out what it was all about. We could see little boats taking people out whale watching, but apart from that there were a few stalls selling knick-knacks and others selling food. There was also a fairground being set up. Nothing here was what we wanted, so after chatting to a chap from Ketchikan, Alaska, we thought that we would move off to somewhere quieter. At this point we saw 2 other motorhomes, so followed them along the road and across an airstrip (!), waved through a gate by the guard, to a sandy area beyond. At this point, one of the other vehicles got stuck! The ground surface didn’t look too good, so we pulled in where we were. We had views out across the lagoon, so could see some whales, but there didn’t seem as many as we had seen at Guerrero Negro.
Camped beside the airstrip
We tried walking out along the shore, but couldn’t get far, as there was a long inlet. The ground was very sticky - we hope not from the tide coming in! We stopped to talk to one of the couples, from Summerland, BC.
I cooked omelette for supper, using the eggs that the man had packed up so carefully for us in Mulege.
Saturday 7th February 81 miles
Another fine morning! We ate our breakfast of poached egg, then prepared to leave. At that point, we saw a whale out in the lagoon, so watched it for a while. Then a plane came in to land on the little air strip, so we had to wait until it had landed before we could cross the runway ourselves! We came to the gate, where the man said that he would always be, to let us out, but he wasn’t there! Luckily we found that the gate wasn’t locked, just closed, so at 9.30 we drove out through the dusty little town of Lopez Mateus. Then it was back the 20 miles across the flat scrubland again, brightened only by the pretty purple desert verbena beside the road. This time though, we started listening to the recording of our travels, so time went much more quickly. We had just got to the bit that said we collected the Bam with its new windscreen, when a car passed us and threw up a stone, which hit us but luckily didn’t do any damage!
We drove through Cuidad Insurgentes again, then 15 miles south through more flat land to Cuidad Constitucion.
This is a large town, so we were hoping to see a big supermarket. We drove right through the town, although we were really turning off to San Carlos, and had almost given up on finding a large supermarket, and were going to settle for a ‘mini market’, when we spied Leys, a large western style store.
We pulled in to the car park, and were just about to have coffee when we were bombarded by a Peter Weeks type American who liked our van, and wanted to know all about it, including the price (as Americans do!) It turned out that he and his wife lived on a boat at the moment, but liked the idea of a van like ours when they stopped boating (he even gave us his card, in case we were selling!). He said that he came fromLuckenbach, Texas, a tiny place, which we have visited, and have a sticker on the back door saying so. He asked us several more questions as we bumped into him in the store, he certainly didn’t hold back!
We did a good, big shop - only ordinary tea bags were impossible to find - then when we came out we telephoned Emma. She told us that it had been really mild in England (64ºF), and that their mimosa bush was in full flower.
We drove out of the town and started on the 34 miles across the flats to San Carlos. We pulled in to have our lunch in a barren sandy football field, using one of the seats to sit on. The rolls we had bought were delicious. There was a breeze blowing, but when Adrian tried the temperature he found that it was 78ºF!
We continued on our flat journey to this remote little town on the edge of Bahia Magdalena, a large lagoon, and the third whale watching place on the Baja. We drove through the pleasant but dusty little fishing town and actually passed 2 internet places. The first wasn’t open today, but at the second we were able to read our recent emails. It was 50p for half an hour. The young chap’s wife was sitting with him, cuddling her young baby.
We drove just out of the town to camp beside the water. Like so many times, there was a strong wind, so we sat inside for our cup of tea and piece of gooey gateau bought this morning.
We thought that we ought to brave the wind and walk out across the wide sandy mud flats, where a few people were collecting things, maybe clams. At first, we tried to keep our feet and sandals dry, but soon gave up as we walked through increasingly damp areas in the beach. It made us think of Southend.
When we came back to the Bam, we watched the sun go down beautifully behind the islands out to sea.
Sunset at San Carlos
Adrian cooked fish outside, but we ate inside, although the wind had dropped by now. We just wish it had been a bit warmer, as it would have been a lovely place to have a fire, but it felt very cool. The stars were really good though.
Sunday 8th February 191 miles
I had been woken by noisy cars leaving a nearby bar in the night. The morning started cool and partly cloudy, and not quite warm enough to sit outside for breakfast, although it was calm. The tide was right in now, and it was sunny and warm by the time we left at 9.30.
We drove back the 34 miles across the flat land to Cuidad Constitucion. We got some fuel at a Pemex, and found that we could get water too. We now travelled across more flat country towards La Paz, then after a while it became more hilly and we stopped for lunch.
We ate inside, although it was now hot, but it didn’t seem very enticing to sit outside just here.
A few miles north of La Paz we came to a military control point. The young chap asked us where we were from and where we were going, then with a big smile he asked ‘No drugs?’ ‘No’, we said, so he said ‘OK’ and waved us on!
Soon after this there was a road northwards, which was supposed to be through nice country beside the coast. At first it just went through more flat cactus country, with no views, but as the country became hilly, and there were views out to sea, we found that the road had been washed away in many places, presumably as a result of the hurricane a few months ago. We negotiated several ‘diversions’, and Adrian had just remarked that the road wasn’t getting any better, and we should perhaps turn round, when we came to a big diversion - there was a seething great gap where the road should have been, and a dirt track went on a long detour into the hills!
What happened to the road?
We knew that this was the point to turn round! (We were going to have to turn round anyway in a few miles, as the road continued as a rough track.)
We drove back to the Mex 1, and then a bit further to El Centenario, where there was a small RV Park beside the sea. Although we now had water, we needed to dump, and also to do some washing.
Oasis RV was a tatty little park, but we were able to pull in right by the water’s edge (when the tide is in), with views across the bay to La Paz. There was a small swimming pool, but it was just too cool, and the wind was blowing in strongly across the water. We set about first in getting the washing going (£1), then went to have showers. Mine was not very successful, as the water was cold, and just trickled out. We were able to use our hairdryer though, as we had electricity!
When the washing was ready, we hung it out to dry in the strong wind, while we had a cup of tea. We walked out along the bay for a little while as the sun went down, and by now the washing was dry. In the dark the view to the lights of La Paz was really nice.
We ate some little ready made tortillas with fresh veg for supper, but the wine we had sorted turned out to be a sweet desert wine, so we had to get another! This one, a Californian white, was good.
Monday 9th February 71 miles
We awoke to a cloudy morning, but by the time we had eaten our bacon and mushroom breakfast the sky was clearing. We started off on a walk along the beach in the direction of La Paz. This would have been pleasant if it hadn’t been for the dozen or so different dogs which decided to join us! After a while we gave up, and returned to the Bam, where the dog from the next RV came up to us, and didn’t get much of a welcome!
We left at 9.15 and skirted the edge of La Paz (no signs anywhere!) and headed (we assumed) for Todos Santos. This is a very attractive arty/crafty little town.
This was the first place that I had seen postcards, so I bought a few, although they were expensive. There is also a large Mission Church. We passed the museum, and the man beckoned us in. He was jubilant that we were from England (the only one in his visitors book). After our look around, he tried to talk to us, but as he spoke no English, this was difficult! There were several rooms of old photographs, which were nice to see, but the captions were only in Spanish - surprising when this is a tourist town, with lots of Americans here. There was an art exhibition on at the moment, but none of the paintings really grabbed us.
We liked the two little reconstructed dwellings outside, but the difficulty in dusty places like this is that the exhibits, which were on open shelves, always look uncared for, although people were cleaning and sweeping.
We had read that ‘Hotel California’, of the Eagles song, is reputed to be the one here, in Todos Santos. Opposite the hotel is a gift shop selling T-shirts etc. Adrian was able to buy himself a T-shirt, with all the words of the song on the back, but I couldn’t get one to fit me.
Welcome to the Hotel California
We left Todos Santos, and a few miles south we took a bumpy sandy track to the beach at Punta Lobos. We stopped by a black and white lighthouse and sat outside to have our lunch before walking over the wide beach of coarse sand to the edge of the sea.
Black and white!
The beach shelved very steeply here - the first time that we have seen that in the Baja. We got quite splashed as Adrian endeavoured to take a photo of me paddling!
Paddling at Punta Lobos
We drove back on the bumpy track, noticing some nice wild flowers, but also noticing a great deal of litter, despite the many ‘don’t drop litter’ signs.
A few miles south of here there was another long sandy track to the beach, this time to a camping area at los Cerritos. There were already a lot of people camping here - it is really a surfing beach, but there is no surf today. This suited us, as we went for a longish walk along this beautiful big sandy beach, paddling in the sea as we went.
When we came back to where we had positioned the Bam, we got talking to an English chap called Mark, whose voice we had both noticed. He was originally from Blackpool, but now lived with his wife Wendy and 2 sons on a little island off Vancouver Is. (Gabriola). He was into boats and surfing, and had lived in many different places, including San Diego. He was very easy to chat to, and had a laugh like Chris Lane. He certainly seemed to get a lot out of life. We had been aware of a lot of flies here, but even more annoying were the mosquitoes (I had been bitten by one at Punta Lobos - the first we had seen). Mark said they never get mosquitoes here, so where did these come from?
We cooked fish for supper. We had been invited over to the communal campfire, where we spent a wonderful evening, not coming back until nearly midnight.
We chatted mostly to Mark, but also to a young English chap Rob, who had travelled down with them. He was nearly 21, and was mad on snowboarding, so has been spending time with them in Canada.
The other notable family there were Marilyn, originally from Auckland, New Zealand and her husband Doug, who had a huge grey ‘old father time’ beard. We didn’t really speak to him, but she was quite chatty. They had 8 children, the youngest 3 of whom were with them, plus 3 friends. Marilyn had long blond hair (matched by Doug’s long grey hair!) They had a small van, and several little tents, but had constructed a vast ‘gazebo’ out of sunshade material and a great many huge wooden poles which they had brought down with them - presumably in the boat which they towed. They had also dug a deep well, which gave them fresh(ish) water! There were several other people around, especially at the beginning, but it was difficult to see them in the dark!
Tuesday 10th February 128 miles
It was a mild night and morning but the sky was overcast. Nevertheless, we breakfasted outside, as there was no wind (so the surfers weren’t happy again!) There were still an annoying number of flies around though. After breakfast we walked over a little hill and down to a beautiful sandy cove, making us think of Cornish or Portuguese beaches.
A beautiful cove at Los Cerritos
We could see humpback whales out to sea. It became quite warm as we walked on up to the hill and back to the Bam.
Los Cerritos camping area
It was 11.00 as we set off to say our goodbyes. Mark had left with some others to go shopping in La Paz, one of whom had recently been toLuckenbach! We spoke to the young woman next to us, Astrid, who was camping with her husband and 2 year old son Seamus. They were neighbours of Marilyn in Grand Forks. Astrid was busy on an oil painting, having transported all her art things in the back of their car. They had a tiny East German looking caravan. We said goodbye to Marilyn and the others and finally left at 11.30! We had really enjoyed meeting these friendly folk, who all enjoyed a very simple type of camping.
We drove back on the sandy track to the road then continued south towards Cabo San Lucas. This is one of the 2 ‘Fly in’ tourist resorts of the Baja, and we weren’t looking forward to driving through it. But, as Adrian said, ‘I’ve seen worse’! Admittedly there were a lot of yachts in the harbour, which was surrounded by western type hotels, but there was still a Mexican feel to the place.
There was nowhere for us to stop though, so we drove on out towards San Jose, the other tourist town along the coast. We needed somewhere to stop for lunch, and after driving down an extremely uneven sandy track to a car park near the beach, only to find that someone was collecting money, we drove back up the track and stopped just beside the road. I cooked enchiladas for lunch.
Now we made our way into San Jose. Again there was nowhere for us to park, so we paid up 10 pesos and parked in a large gravel car park so that we could wander around this little town, which was much more pleasant that we had expected. We got some money from a cash machine, and on the way out we got some fuel.
We were now heading northwards on Mex 1, but the road wasn’t following the coast - the coast road is a sandy track. We turned off to a small town called Miraflores, supposedly noted for its leatherwork, but we didn’t see any sign of anything, so continued on our way.
We passed the sphere marking the Tropic of Cancer, having spent just one day in ‘the tropics’! Soon afterwards we turned off to another town, called Santiago. Almost immediately there was a diversion through the wide river bed, but a bit further on, the road was closed, with cars being diverted up some unknown track. At this point we decided to return to the road!
After a few more miles we turned off towards La Ribera, on the eastern coast. We had been aware of a large number of animals wandering in the road, mostly cattle, but also horses, goats and a donkey. Now we had other hazards - there were about 10 places where the road had been washed away, and Adrian had to negotiate the sandy substitutes!
We didn’t drive into La Ribera, but continued on this long and winding road towards Cabo Pulmo through wilderness country, hoping for somewhere to stop for the night, as it was now after 5 o’clock.
Before we reached the coast, the surface on the road stopped. We carried on a bit further on the sandy track, and near La Abundacia we spied a couple of RVs in a field to the side. We negotiated the difficult entrance and spoke to Loretta, a Canadian lady of about 70 who was camping there. She was very welcoming, and asked us to join them later round their campfire.
She was with her husband Frank. Their friends Don and Diane were both off fishing when we arrived, but we met them later. They were all from near Calgary.
We scrambled down to the beach, where we met Diane fishing. Don was much further along the beach, and didn’t come back until after dark, bringing with him 4 red snapper which he had caught.
We walked along the beach for a while, then came back and lit our own fire - the first one this trip - and cooked beef, baked potatoes and corn on the cob. We ate our meal outside, before joining the others round their campfire. Loretta and Frank went in quite early, but we chatted to Don and Diane until 11 o’clock.
Wednesday 11th February 127 miles
Another cloudy morning! We ate breakfast inside then walked along the beach in the other direction and back. The strong wind prevented us from walking further! We left at 9 o’clock, saying goodbye to Loretta (we don’t think the others were up!). We were surprised to see a gang of workers picking up litter and clearing stones from this gravel road.
We had to return now to the Mex 1, and stopped off to drive through the small town of La Ribera, but a lot of the roads were being dug up, and it didn’t have much to offer. We reached Mex 1 at 10 o’clock, having once more negotiated the 10 ‘washed away’ places.
We immediately had to cross a wide river bed, with an ‘oh my God’ bridge at the end of it. We reached the coast again at Bueno Vista, apparently a well known fishing place, but we couldn’t easily reach the beach. We drove into a sandy track and walked to the beach, where the wind was still blowing strongly. Just on from here was Los Barriles, a town well known for wind surfing. Again we couldn’t reach the beach, and again we drove down a sandy track before walking to another windswept beach. People seemed to be busy repairing properties after the storm damage, but the town didn’t appeal to me.
The road now became very hilly as it took its inland course to join the Mex 19 south of La Paz. We still had more wide river crossings to make, one actually had water in it.
We had wanted to take an unsurfaced road for about 13 miles, connecting with the road we wanted out of La Paz to the southeast, but couldn’t trust what it might be like, particularly as it crossed a river towards the end! Instead we drove the 60 miles north to the outskirts of la Paz, and then out again. By now it was past lunch time, but we didn’t find any where to stop until we had climbed about 15 miles into the hills towards San Juan. It was now 1.30.
This bit of road was surfaced, but was extremely pot-holed, so driving was like doing an obstacle course! The view down to the bay of La Ventura was beautiful. We were turning off to la Ventura, hoping to camp. The campsite here was very crowded with wind surfers, so we continued a bit further to where the surfaced road ran out at El Sargento, and found a lovely spot amongst some palm trees right by the sea.
Overnighting at El Sargenta
We walked along the beach, but again the strong wind prevented it from being as enjoyable as it should have been. The beach itself was not as nice as some, being partly made up of large stones, but there were lots of birds - pelicans, gulls, frigate birds and more.
Beautiful beside the water
We came back and later walked in the other direction along the beach, coming back to eat some more of the huge prawns for supper. The stars were really good tonight.
Thursday 12th February 55 miles
We were awoken by some bells chiming early in the morning but then woke to a partly cloudy morning which later turned into a beautiful day. We walked onto the beach before leaving at 9.40.
We drove back on the bumpy road to La Paz, stopping to have our coffee on the way, with views down to the lovely bay of La Paz, but sitting inside because of the litter.
We drove on into La Paz, stopping to shop in a huge Soriana hypermarket. We were able to buy a few bottles of wine - we were right out - and Adrian bought me a rose for Valentines Day.
At the Pemex opposite we were able to fill our water tank as well as get some fuel. We could now free camp tonight.
I navigated through the large grid of roads of La Paz to the Post Office, where we posted cards to our 3 boys before driving along the front of this pleasant seeming large but low-key town.
We now headed north along the coast, coming to the ferry at Pichilingue, where we will be leaving from tomorrow. We stopped to photograph the boat then continued a few miles to the beautiful bay of Balandra. We walked on the white sandy beach and I paddled a bit, then we drove on half a mile or so to the next beach, Tecolote. The tarmac runs out here, which is right at the top of the peninsula, looking across to attractive Isla Espiritu Santo from a long sandy beach. This was a free camping spot, and there were a great many RVs lined up along the shore. However, the wind was blowing strongly, and I much preferred Balandra Cove, so we returned there. After a cup of tea and fresh donut, sitting on the wall behind the Bam, on the edge of the beach, we walked along the sand again to a beautiful sheltered spot where I at last had my swim!
Lovely spot for a swim!
The water was just about deep enough, but being shallow, was warmer than elsewhere. It was certainly a lovely place for our last night on the Baja. We walked on around the cove, beside the conglomerate rock, which formed some strange shapes. We photographed ourselves by a beach palapa, reminding us of a similar photo taken 30 years ago in Majorca.
Us by the palapa
The stars were good tonight.
Friday 13th February 20 miles
Happy memories of the Baja!
It was a beautiful day for our day to leave the Baja. We sat on the little wall by the beach to have our breakfast. After this we started to walk along the beach the other way from yesterday, hoping to walk right around to the beaches opposite. This wasn’t possible, as we came to a rocky headland, which went on for a long way, and we realised that the bay was much bigger than we had thought. We then tried wading across, but after some way the water was up to the top of our legs and getting deeper, so we started to make our way back to the shore. The wind was often strong, so it was difficult to see the rocks amongst the sand under the water. We both knocked our toes a bit, but Adrian got something worse - a severe bite on the top of his toe. At first he thought that it was a large crab, but as the pain increased, he realised that it was something more serious. We made our way to the shore, and found that there was a track back to our beach. When we reached there, Adrian spoke to a couple of our neighbouring campers, who suggested soaking his foot in very hot water and also taking an antihistamine. This he did, and after a time of great discomfort, the pain subsided (most likely suggestion was a small stingray).
After a while, I tried wading across the bay from our beach, but didn’t quite get to the other side. I swam a bit, but the wind caused the water to be very choppy.
We had our lunch, then left this beautiful idyll at 1.45. At 2 o’clock, we were at the ferry terminal as required, ready to start the fun of getting aboard for our proposed 4 o’clock sailing at Pichilingue.
‘Mainland’ here we come!
As always with these places, it was difficult to know where we should go, but we ended up at the ticket office, where we presented our voucher. The pleasant woman said that she couldn’t give us our ticket, we’d have to go to the other office. For an awful moment we thought that we’d have to drive back into La Paz, but she made a phone call and all was well - she was able to make us out a ticket, it just all took time.
Next we had to go through customs (we’re not sure why, as we were already in Mexico). The man asked us one or two questions, like ‘had we anything to declare?’, then said ‘bring’. Adrian had to get out and press a button which was on my side, and a green sign lit up saying ‘go’! We were now able to drive on to the ‘California Star’, a new ferry, made in Italy.
We were directed to a little back corner, where the Bam was later surrounded by dozens of huge trucks.
We made our way upstairs, and looked around the ship. I wasn’t that impressed, as there only appeared to be one lounge, and that seemed dark, with all the curtains drawn across. We wandered this way and that, sitting for a short while in the bar, where the music vibrated, and a short while in the restaurant area. We had been told that a meal was included, but were surprised that this was to be between 3 and 5 o’clock! We went outside and watched the pelicans diving for fish, and at about 3.45 came in to eat our meal, although at that time we didn’t feel much like eating beef stew, rice and tortillas!
The boat didn’t sail until about 4.30. We went on deck to watch it leave. It was beautiful as we sailed out of the long inlet, but then we hit the wind! We tried to find a sheltered spot so that we could look across to Balandra, where we had spent our last day. We managed to pick it out, hidden away behind various headlands. We could also see Tecolote, beyond it. There were only 2 other RVs on board, Adrian chatted to one man, who we later discovered we had seen at El Requeson. He was from Montreal, but his wife had stayed down in their vehicle with their dog, as neither was feeling well. They had not enjoyed the Baja, as it was too windy, and said that they were glad to leave!
Adrian came in to sit in the lounge, where the effects of the travel pill and the antihistamine had made him dozy! He also thought that it was rough. I stayed on deck, sitting on the floor at the rear of the ship, and watching the sun as it descended over Isla Espiritu Santo. After it had gone down, I joined Adrian, and we were really glad of the flask of tea I had put in.
Various films had been shown on the screens, in English, with subtitles, but now there was a programme on athletes, in Spanish, which would have been quite good if we had been able to understand it. It was interesting to see people like Emil Zatopek and Olga Korbet. I dozed a bit too, then a programme came on which really lightened the last hour or so of this long journey. It was a type of ‘Ever been had’ film, made in South Africa, where the unwitting public were put into difficult situations by the actors, and their reactions filmed.
Soon, we were docking in Topolobampo - later than expected - we were the last off the boat at 10.30 pm. We had hoped to stay around the dock area for the night, but this wasn’t feasible, as we were ushered out of the dock area amongst all these huge trucks, and found ourselves on the road towards Los Mochis, 22 km away. In the dark as we know, it was impossible to find anywhere to pull off. In desperation, we pulled onto a side road in Los Mochis, and found that we were outside some sort of Police Station. Adrian spoke to a young guard, who seemed to think that it would be OK for us to stay, and we got into bed at 11.45.
Impressions of the Baja
Lots of lovely beaches - mostly sandy
Hilly, quite high country
All sorts of cacti
Very dry climate
Water a constant problem - not much of it!
Lots of whales - grey and humpback
Seabirds - pelicans, gulls, herons, but not much other wildlife (except cattle and horses)
Mostly blue sky
Very easy feel - ‘live and let live’
Lots of Canadian RVers
Quite easy to free camp
Most accommodation is camping
Only ‘the Capes’ was resorty, and they weren’t bad
Very few hypermarkets - mostly ‘minisupers’
The Transpeninsular was the only real paved road. It snaked from one coast to the other, with just a few side roads.