Baja Trip report (At the request of Dan Cronin, for those going next summer) Me, my wife, Boy14, and Girl11 just got back from a 21 day expedition thru Baja California. I was quite nervous about it as I have never camped in a foreign country. (Canada doesn’t count!) And try as I might I am surrounded by our lame main stream media who wants Gringos to be afraid of Mexicans. (Watch the news and see the spin they put on everything!) Our trip showed me that Mexico is one of the nicest, chilliest places to visit. We felt totally safe, and cared for. The people and the food are amazing as well! Actually the food was off-the-charts amazing!!!! We had a hard time researching this trip. There is so much info on so many places, for so many different kinds of visitors that it’s hard to compile it all. So we ended up just going a day at a time, learning along the way.
One of the things that surprised me the most is how extremely mountainous and rugged the Baja peninsula is. They even have one peak, Mt. Diablo, that is over 10,000ft. Baja is very big. I’m not sure why but this kinda surprised me. It was also enhanced by the fact that travel is very slow down there. We averaged about 40mph on the “highway”. (Think crappy country road) To me Baja was about long stretches of boring accentuated by points of shear WOW. Generally speaking the northern 1/3 of the peninsula is not as interesting as the rest. Same for the Pacific Coast side; much less interesting than the Gulf of California side. If you go I would recommend getting about 10 hrs south before you really slow down and enjoy things. Otherwise you’ll waste some precious time with lackluster spots.
I don’t want to bore you with a day to day itinerary but instead would like to share some stories and some pointers.
We heeded the advice not to cross at Tijuana due to the extremely long border crossing lines. (up to 3-4hrs) We crossed at Tecate further east. Very easy. In fact we literally did not stop the vehicle, we just rolled right on thru and no one asked us for a single document! Didn’t even see anyone. The lane light stayed green so we kept driving… We decided to go to Ensenada to get stocked up on groceries and gas and “break ourselves in” since there was a trailer park south of town on the beach that was very protected. BTW they have great grocery stores there. They even have Walmart and Costco. You can get everything you’ll need there.
We were able to find ice everywhere, and there were water purification centers in many places as well. We tent camped too. I say this because I want you to be aware that you do not need a RTT, or an ARB fridge to make this (or any other) trip.
We then took 8 days traveling down the Pacific Coast side. There were a few nice highlights like the desert oasis of San Ignacio and then out to the bay of the same name to see the mama and baby Humpback Whales. (Tip: late February is when the migration is at its peak with anywhere from 2-4,000 whales! And the mamas WANT their babies to meet you! Unlike the 12 whales that were there who did not want us to see the babies….)
After that we ran a section of the Baja1000 course on which I blew out a front strut and had to drive very carefully for the next 2 days till we could get to civilization. (side note: much, nay, most of Baja does not have cell signal. An InReach would’ve made me feel better) With the busted strut we consulted iOverlander (which is absolute gold!!!) to find a small town to get to. We found the quaint pueblo of La Purisima. A hotel allowed us to camp in their inner parking lot for $3. And we had one of the best meals in all of the trip at a dirt-floored, single lightbulb restaurant run by a chef who just loves his small town and chooses to work there. It was excellent.
Some other places you will want to see are Catavina, Mision San Borja, and Mision San Javier.
We carefully made our way to the gulf town of Loreto and rented a condo for 5 days of showers, real beds, restaurants, and sightseeing. If Loreto was in the US it and its surrounding mountains would be a national park! The place is stunning, you’ll want to spend at some time here. And the food is to die for. (Tip: go to Asadero Super Burro for amazing tacos and humongous burritos)
Then we set off for 8 more days of camping along the Gulf of California side. I wish we would have known how much more interesting it was on that side than the Pacific! There are so many great camp spots on the beach! Palm trees, tacos, moon rises over the sea! (tip: firewood can be hard to come by. Expensive when it’s at the beach. Scavenge some if you can. But if you do buy wood you’re in for the treat of it being predominantly mesquite wood, which makes for a beautiful smelling campfire) One beach we stayed at was El Coyote. You had to share it with others, but it was very nice. After cooking on the fire I went to see how the water was. To my surprise the water lit up with green, glowing light as I kicked it; bio-luminescent algae. We all spent the next 45 minutes around mid-night splashing and playing in the dark.
We then traveled a bit further north till we could access a tougher section of the Baja course. It was a 4Lo type scenario. But it led us to a really neat deep rock canyon where we spent the night on a nice sandy spot. Around 9pm we heard a truck coming down the trail, which was odd since it was in the middle of BFE. I killed the light to camp as I’d just as soon they pass on by without notice. Well they stopped, so I turned my camp lights on, then decided to hold my machete at my side, then flipped on my side flood lights at which point I found a guy quickly walking from his truck towards us. The flood light surprised him! I asked what he needed (I’m full-fluent Spanish speaker) he then said (made up? I dunno) that people had been stealing his cows and he was just checking on us. I assured him there were no cows here and he went on his way. But it left my Spidey senses tingling for quite a while! This was the only time in the cumulative 13 weeks I’ve stayed in Mexico that I have ever questioned my safety.
One thing to remember is that Baja is part of the Sonoran desert, deserts can get very cold at night. One night it got down to 39 degrees! It took all the blankets we had to not freeze. Not stay warm, just not freeze.
We finished out the trail the next day. Passed by Coco’s Corner. (Didn’t stop, not interested in visiting a dirty old man with a panty collection!)
On our last day we did some grocery shopping in Mexicali for some of the good foods that you can’t get here. Had THE best tacos of the whole trip (Asadero Acatlan de Juarez) and then crossed over and went to Yuma.
I admit that I was sad to leave Baja, throat might have tightened up just a bit. What a neat place! Accessible, welcoming and enjoyable to all who dare strike out on their own adventure and see that the people of the world are generally good, caring souls who want to live in peace, just as you do. Don’t listen to the media!