The town of Loreto was next for a restock and it was a lovely historic town! Sundays see the locals out in force to enjoy “Carnitas” – a once a week pork cook-up served with corn tortillas – Yum!!
As usual, if there is a cue of locals then you’re guaranteed to be in the right spot for a tasty treat.
We caught up with some Canadians that we had met earlier at La Gringa and camped with them just south of the town behind the beach where we managed to find a really protected although rather feral camping area. The wind was howling so we were quite pleased to find some shelter.
Headaches the following morning – what else do you do when you meet other travellers…
West toward the Pacific and away from the Sea of Cortez for a spell, we drove via the village of San Javier and it’s lovely 1699 Mission. We then continued onto a less used track which made the journey much slower and more interesting.
Dramatic would be the most apt description when trying to describe the differences between the east and west sides of the Baja Peninsula. Stunning beaches and a mountain crossing the previous day, we now find it’s as flat as a pancake on the west side. We picked our way south along the coast on waterlogged salty tracks between mangroves, which quickly became rather tiring but it’s all part of the adventure I guess!
Lots of animal tracks surrounded our campsites most evenings. On two occasions, we even spotted a bobcat as we made our way along the backroads. Their stealthy nature though makes them difficult to photograph unfortunately, but I do have a great photo of one courtesy of “Laurie the cat lady”
A really large bugbear for me, and it’s been a bugbear numerous times in numerous countries, is rubbish!
People, you don’t have to be wealthy to dispose of your garbage rather than live amongst it. Now I’m guessing there isn’t much in the way of refuse collection provided by the powers that be, but that excuse wears thin after a while! Clean it up and take some pride in your country and it’s wonderful landscape. Anyway I wont mention it again but I just had to get that out as it’s been annoying me for some time.
But with every down, there is always an up and after the dismal mangroves, we made our way out to Punta Conejo. It may help geographically to know that we are a little more than half way down the Peninsula at this point.
Most travellers seem to congregate in one area at the end of the main track – the area able to be reached by 4×2 vehicles. We opted to leave the crowds behind and found a stunning campsite only a few km south all on our own!
The serenading of Coyotes in the wee small hours added to the campsite’s appeal. A pack obviously did the rounds of the beach and camper as was noted by the tracks the following morning. It’s really nice hearing them singing to each other unless you’re a meal hiding in the grass I suppose!
La Paz was next and we were guaranteed to spot other travellers here as La Paz is the ferry-crossing terminal should you be crossing with your vehicle to mainland Mexico. La Paz doesn’t get the best write up but we thought it was nice enough…
Back on the east coast now, we were once again reminded of the difference between how a road is denoted on a Mexican map and what it’s like in reality! Expecting a relatively short 50km drive and a beach camp by mid afternoon, we ended up arriving at a suitable camp going on dusk! The track although marked as a good road was actually a rather challenging 4×4 track.
It’s true that we had the opportunity to retreat prior to committing to the drive, but this type of track is exactly what we like. I have to admit that I considered bailing at one stage as the possibility of finding somewhere to turn around further up the track looked slim if not impossible and reversing down the track, should it become any worse, was not appealing but we persevered and thoroughly enjoyed the drive! Quite challenging and the odd steep drop off into the sea! Who wouldn’t like that?
We met Christian and Chelsea at the beach. They had driven the same trail in a 6×6 Pinz Gauer with a full height camper body. I was impressed as that would have been pretty exciting! Turned out it was more terrifying and at one stage, Chelsea exited the vehicle with concern it was going to end up in the ocean on its lid! She suggested it’d be better if one of them could still use a phone and call for help! Her words exactly…
More beaches, more great camping and more corrugations were in order as we approached the bottom of the Peninsula. The coastal whale watching was incredible!
Another couple of avid travellers we’d met way back at Overland Expo were also in the process of wandering Baja! We’d been “whats-app”ing these guys which was becoming pretty amusing due to the lack of phone coverage. When we did get a message, they had always just moved on or we’d missed them by a day or 2! We often ran into other travellers that had met up with them and on a couple of occasions, these other travellers even knew that we were the Australians that couldn’t catch up!
We did finally run into them although we were now travelling around the bottom of the Peninsula in opposite directions! It was great seeing these guys again. Once more you feel a little bit more like you’re part of a travelling community rather than a solo wanderers.
Baja’s Tourism Capital of Cabo San Lucas is the most southerly point on the Baja Peninsula so it seemed appropriate to visit “Lands End”. Looking more like the south of France with it’s luxury yachts and tourist kitsch, we enjoyed the quick stop.
Time now to wander north with the intention of ticking off a few places on the west coast that we’d missed on our descent. The temperature was really getting up there too, 39 degrees C on our wander north at one stage – toasty!
Todos Santos was one of our favourite towns in Baja (Loreto being the other), a relaxed atmosphere with interesting buildings!
Wildlife and birdlife are abundant on this peninsula and as we made our way north where we spotted many examples…
Ojo de Liebre, south of Guererro Negro, is an inlet by the sea and has become world famous for whale watching. It’s estimated that 2000+ California Grey Whales spend their winter months here calving, mating and preparing for the journey north. It really is a spectacle with spurts of misty water in every direction giving credence to the numbers of whales here.
Heading north along the west coast, we were engulfed in sea fog regularly and often several times a day! Really strange for us, we would watch the wall of gloom wandering in from the sea and then find ourselves completely enveloped in mist! Obviously the warm weather and humidity are in just the right proportions to create this weird atmospheric event.
The intention was to stick more to the west coast on our return north giving us a real feel for the differences between east and west along the long Peninsula. Frequent fishing villages and the odd historic building were dotted along the journey.
Further north, California was in the midst of being hammered by the heaviest rainfall in history as we were planning our exit from Baja. We’d intended returning to the US via Tecate but with the edge of LA’s nasty little weather system beginning to make our lives rather unpleasant, even a couple of hundred km’s south, we had to rethink our plans.
Hmmm… “There is a road marked on the map up and over the mountains” says Jen “and its not raining at the moment! How about we go east and up through Mexicali instead?” OK… Mexican maps have proved so very accurate to date so that’s a great idea!
Well fortunately it didn’t rain that day for the road we chose deteriorated considerably with heavy erosion in sections and the usual slide to your death if you misplace a wheel! All in all it was an excellent and straightforward drive with only the odd low range section due in no small part to the lack of precipitation at the time.
After cresting the mountain passes, the map indicated flat contours and no real steep terrain to contend with, so we decided to camp for the night. We felt a bit more relaxed as we really didn’t want to be on the steep passes should it bucket down.
Finding a camp was tricky and took a bit of effort. We ended up parking in an arroyo (shallow creek bed) and no we didn’t get washed away but we might have.
In came the torrential rain and howling wind, abysmal conditions and they persisted all night. The following day was more akin to driving the Amazon than how we had found travelling Baja to date. Silly me hadn’t put a lot of thought into the fact that the map contours had eased apart reducing the possibility of slippery mountain passes only to be replaced by flat ground perfect for water to pool in.
I was just happy to be past the mountain terrain before camping and now we found ourselves in sloppy mud with bulbar deep pools of water to contend with. Normally I’d be overcome with joy at the sight of slimy tracks but, on this occasion, I was not enthralled. I just wanted to get to the highway and a U-turn after a rather bad section reduced the chatter in the cab considerably!
Back on the tarmac, we were pushing along a little now, wanting to be back in the US by late afternoon to avoid camping near the border on the Mexican side.
Mexicali, a busy Border crossing without doubt! The road north terminates at the current border wall before turning west where you drive along said wall for a few kms to the actual crossing. Well you idle along in the queue really, whilst locals walk the gaps between cars selling all sorts of refreshments, snacks and anything else really.
It was an odd experience, from an Australian perspective with ours being a country without shared land borders.
I think the last time that I saw an actual border wall was along China’s territorial boundary with Tajikistan albeit a ring lock fence suffering disrepair in places.
Prior to that it was Russia’s border with Mongolia where a fence only exists in sections! So I guess there are a few walls around the globe, not forgetting the infamous Berlin Wall and the Great Wall, although that didn’t keep Ghengis out for long!
I find the whole complex situation is made even harder to unwrap given the thousands of Mexicans that are bussed back and forth across the border daily, finding work on the massive acreage of farms along Southern California that need pickers. I guess someone has to pick those veggies for Walmart and Costco… haha
Our turn eventually arrived and given our previous experience crossing in from Canada, I’d have to say that we weren’t looking forward to the crossing even remotely. I’m happy to report however that our faith was renewed and our crossing fast and very efficient – possibly helped by the fact that we were still on an active 6-month entry and not requesting a new one.
We were quite sad to leave Mexico as we’d thoroughly enjoyed our time in Baja. The whole experience made so nice by the lovely locals and travellers we’d met along the way and I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – a great part of the whole journey and how it’s enriched our lives has been a reflection of the hospitality shown to us and the friendships forged during our adventure.
It was early evening by the time we found ourselves a nice campsite on BLM land. As is common in the US, it was a haven for ATV and motorbike riders with the area loaded with 5th wheels and campers. They even have their own little fenced off areas, sort of like private little RV communes I guess. Mexico was still readily in sight…
The big indicator for us that we’d returned to the USA however, was the moment I turned off the Patrol at our chosen campsite the first thing I heard was the sound of rifle fire! That really had us laughing and shaking our heads a little… We didn’t need an alarm clock the following morning either as a shortage of ammo wasn’t an issue for the locals– eyes open and safety off!
A big change of plans, a voyage and a volcano next up on Globatrol’s travels.