Thursday, March 24, 2011

Baja Journey

I have had Baja on the brain for a while. Tales of remote beaches, epic fishing, beautiful desert sunsets, and thousands of miles of off-road trails criss-crossing the Peninsula sounded like heaven to me. I started doing research on the internet and found this great message board. www.bajanomad.com These guys were able to hook me up with all the info, spots, and maps to get me started in the right direction.



Lauren was a bit apprehensive about Mexico at first but I assured her there are hundreds of old white dudes driving fancy RVs around and no one is going to pay any mind to 2 kids in a beat-ass 4Runner.

Fast-forward 1 week later, We are headed down south towards San Diego. We crashed that night at a good friends house, woke up for an early morning oil change, a stop at Baja Adventures to pickup a Baja Alamanac, grabbed a temporary Mexican Visa and we were Tijuana bound.


Rolled up to the border itself, confused some immigration officers with our horrible spanish but got our 180-day visa stamp. Next we got back in the truck and rolled up the border gate. Here you have to push a little button at the customs booth, Light goes Green your off to Mexico, Light goes Red your getting searched. I press the button mumbling no whammys no whammys no whammys STOP! Green light! Were off! VIVA MEXICO!



We quickly pushed through Tijuana onto the MEX 1 highway and headed south towards Ensenada. We had no real plans or destinations, We cruised along the 1 taking in the coastal views. Eventually made our way into Ensesanda, it was still pretty light out so we pressed on. A quick glance at the map showed a nice looking spot on the Pacific by the name of "La Bufadora"

We got down to the little town which turned out to be a touristy spot surrounding a natural underwater cave that creates the largest blowhole in the world when the waves crash into the cave. Water shoots over 100ft into the sky and a thunderous roar fills the air. We learned Bufadora is spanish for buffalo, the noise reminds the locals of a Buffalo snort.



Spot was a bit touristy for us so we headed back up the road and found an old campo on a cliff overlooking the pacific that was abandoned and empty. Seemed like a great spot to setup for the night so we did.

A few locals rolled by and drank a few beers but paid us no mind. We unpacked the truck, setup our sleeping gear in the back and cracked open a bottle of Mexican wine.

The sound of the waves and the occasional cry from the Bufadora lulled us to sleep in no time. So this is Baja? Mi gusta

Woke up the next morning, boiled up some water for coffee, repacked the truck and said goodbye to the Pacific coast. Our destination was on the opposite side of the Baja peninsula. A place called "Baja de Los Angeles". Soon we were trekking through the hills and valleys of central Baja, once a barren desert new agricultural techniques have turned this area into rich farmland.

No laws regarding fencing in your cattle down here, it was common to have to stop and shoo cows and even some monster bulls out of the damn highway



Regrettably our camera was buried under tons of crap in the back of the truck so we did not get any pictures of this drive. We trucked about 10 hours or so and arrived at LA Bay just in time for sunset. Coming over the crest of the ridge down towards the beautiful LA Bay gave us our first glimpse of the Sea of Cortez.



We grabbed a few pescado tacos from a lovely senora at a roadside stand and headed down towards the water to find a campspot for the night.

Room with a view


Our home


Old boat on the bay


Slept like babies, I awoke early and started making casts out into the bay hoping to catch something but not really keen on what it might be. A few pangas were heading out as well, hopefully they had better luck than I.

We had heard about a backroad from Bahia Los Angeles that is used during the Baja 1000 that runs 75 miles through the desert and eventually links back up with MEX 1. We decided to take it of course



This road is pretty well graded at this point so Im hauling ass in the 4runner doing about 60 in 2wd. Well I ended up getting loose and see-sawing back and forth and eventually flew up and over the ditch and slammed HARD.

After taking a second to collect ourselves, I put it in 4LO and backed right out and kept on trucking. God I love this truck.




We came across this little abandon mine called Los Flores. It was used back in the 1800s to mine gold and silver from the surrounding mountains. The vault still stands. The sand surrounding the mine is a strange red color due to all the chemicals used to extract the minerals.






Baja is rough on vehicles







Now I need to take a time-out here to remind you guys that this truck does not have A/C so most of our adventuring takes place with the windows down, especially in the desert where the temps were getting pretty high up in the mercury. The baja desert receives little rain so there is tons of dust, silt, and sand blowing around everywhere on these unpaved backroads. We were soon covered in a nice layer of baja which dusted our hair to a fine wise gray color.



Baja backroads are sketch. There is usually no markers anywhere and there are hundreds of smaller side roads that you can easily wind up on driving off into the middle of balls ass nowhere.

This time we got lucky and found a "road sign"


We also spent a lot of time checking and backtracking our route. No girly GPS here just a copy of the Baja Almanac which are the best paper maps for Baja


Eventually we made our way back to the beach and had a few celebratory Tecates


After a bit of RR it was back on the dusty dusty dusty trail. Baja doesnt get much rain and the silt and dust invades every nook and cranny of your life.

The desert life started changing into more exotic cacti the further south we got.

Check out these giant cardon cacti




All these little vigils were scattered across the highways and backroads of Baja, Note the boat motor cover, we were by a small fishcamp so I assume it was one of them


Lots more of this



and a few of these


Eventually the sun started setting and with the sun and dust I could not see a thing out of the windshield, had to go Ace Ventura style out the window. I think I swallowed 3LBs of desert silt


Eventually we came to a fork in the road, and by fork I mean there was 5 different directions to choose from, Our map showed a fork (2 roads) A few wrong turns and backtracking took place but eventually we got back on the right track and evnentually came to pass El Arco and then back onto the paved road. It was nice to see pavement again after an entire day of desert backroad driving.

abuela Lauren showing her wisdom


We headed back north up the road a bit to a small town by the name of Guerrero Negro. We decided after hauling through the desert all day a shower and a bed were in order for the night, One of our guidebooks gave us the name of a place that had internet and a resturant. We found the place easy enough and came waltzing in covered head to toe in dirt and grime. It seemed the hotel clerk was used to lunatic gringos with bad spanish and we had a room in short-order. We washed about 20 Lbs of grit off our bodies, grabbed a crappy meal from the obviously tourist-slanted restaurant and passed out.

Next morning was spent removing everything from the truck and washing it off. We are going to have to come up with a better method for these desert crossings... While in town we noticed a bunch of signs advertising whale tours at the nearby site of Ojo De Liebres. Neither of us have ever seen a whale aside from SeaWorld. Rather than pay a bunch of extra money for a tour bus we decided to just drive on down there ourselves and check it out.

I tried to take some crazy backroad through the salt flats and ended up at a gate with a confused guard. Eventually we relaized we were in the wrong place and turned around (Notice a pattern here?)


Baja state bird: the Mexican eagle AKA The Osprey


We eventually arrived at Ojo De Liebres Wildlife reserve for Grey Whales. The bay here has a very high saline content which increases the buoyancy of the water allowing for easier births for mama whales. Immediately upon arriving we could see spouts from blowholes just offshore. They had exhibit up on the history of the area, American whale ships came down in the 1800's and completely wiped out the population of Grey whales. It took them over 200 years to repopulate to the numbers we see today. We spoke briefly with a guide who informed us there are currently over 700+ whales in this tiny bay, amazing!



We paid for a little panga to take us out to see these creatures.

Suited up!


I am telling you there were literally HUNDREDS of whales spouting and rolling all over the place. The boat was surrounded by whales.

Little known fact- Whale pics are hard to get. Looking back through our pictures I have about 400 shots of just the water and no whales.



Mom and baby


So Im up on the bow hanging out looking at whales when this GIANT bastard comes rolling up from out of nowhere under the boat. She scared the life outta me and I almost fell out the boat


3-hours of staring at whales is cool but eventually the trip came to an end. Tide was out so we had to hike it back to shore


We eyeballed a few nice camping palapas on the coast and the guide said we could use them no problemo. Score! new camp spot for the night.





The sound of mamma and baby whales permeated the night

Packed up the next morning and headed out for "Bahia de Asuncion". I heard about this spot from the Bajanomad.com site who said the fishing was great and there was a nice lady who would allow us to camp on her property on the cheap.

We arrive in town and see signs for the campsite but no one is home.





We cruise around for a bit when I spot a fellow young gringo couple down by the beach. I figure maybe they know where I can find this lady. Turns out they are actually just coming into town to grab a few beers before they head back out to their sailboat.
We instantly hit it off and share a few beach brews before they invite us back out to have dinner on their boat.

Our new friends and us


They have a small dinghy that they paddled out to the shore so we all pile in for the trek back to the boat, cooler full of beer in tow of course.


Lauren attempts to show off her crew skills but quickly gets overtaken by the strong winds blowing off the island.


Julie takes the reigns and has us onboard their 27' Ft boat "The Arcturus" in no time.
Beautiful view from the Arc back towards Bahia Asuncion


Many beers, tequila, and stories are consumed. Its getting late and the wind was blowing pretty hard, we all agreed it would be "dangerous" to get back to shore so we got to spend the night on their kickass sailboat. We got into a few drunken adventures during our sleepover involving some lightbulb changes.Lauren and Julie had a blast putting together beautiful jewelry and even let Lauren keep the necklace they made together. They were a super sweet couple and inspired us that we aren't alone with our desires to travel full-time. They are currently cruising Baja and eventually cutting over to the mainland to continue their adventures south. They are my heroes. You can follow their story over here at http://followthearc.wordpress.com

Another cool part about Asuncion was the miles of nicely packed sand that you can cruise on in the middle of nowhere down the Pacific ocean





Headed out of town down another dirtroad the next day, tried some more fishing, no luck still.



Made a nice camp up on a bluff overlooking the ocean


Views from the back of the truck




Adios Bahia Asuncion, We loved you


Pushing deeper south into Baja we came across a strange sight in the brown lifeless desert. GREEN! and lots of it. This town is located smack dab in the middle of the desert. Nothing but sand and cactus for hundreds of miles around this tiny oasis.



A welcome site for travelers of baja there is a huge natural spring here that feeds a rather large river that runs through the town. Back in the 1700's Jesuit missionaries planted Date palms here and they have thrived ever since.





Lauren snapped this quick pic of a girl walking her goat



Pushing further on we came across an amazing row of volcanos out in the middle of the desert




The Tres Virgenes, a line of three connected volcanoes, collectively known by that name, are west of La Reforma Caldera. La Vírgen, in the southwest, El Azufre in the center, and El Viejo in the northeast. The volcanoes get larger and younger from northeast to southwest. As recently as 6,500 years ago, La Vírgen experienced a Plinian eruption — a huge, explosive event that produces an enormous column of volcanic rock fragments and gas that reaches into the stratosphere. The eruption produced a column that reached at least 18 kilometers into the air and deposited ash and rock fragments over 500 square kilometers. In later stages of the eruption, pyroclastic flows (pinkish rocks) and lahars (mudflows, grayish rocks) from El Azufre Volcano paved the plain to the north all the way to the Gulf of California.

The scenery started changing as we moved further south into Sandstone/limestone mountains and cliffs



Looking for a place to stay we cut towards the coast to an area called Punta Chuvato

Spied this nice cabin/palapa for our friends back in San Francisco.


Wound our way down the point and camped right next the lighthouse. A beautiful night on the Sea of Cortez.




Still havent caught a damn thing, Lauren was up at sunrise and I soon followed trying to shake the skunk. Still no fishes though.


One thing we learned was to stop buying water from the store, They have refill stations down here you take your 3L jug or whatever random container you have to these stations and they will refill your jugs for a few pesos. Much cheaper than buying at the store. They also sell beer and ice.



Pushing further south reveals more beautiful bays and moutains, Down around Bahia Concepsion one of the most beautiful (and crowded with RV'ers) bays in all of Baja.







We decided to stay at a motel in a small town to take a shower and use a real bed. I finally was able to break the skunk!



Had a nice ceviche dinner with some drinks, washed up and passed out


Headed out of town the next morning and an even skinnier 2-track road, this one we werent really even sure where it would go.



Well we took that road down and it turned into horrible whoops that slowed us down to a crawl. We were doing about 5MPH cutting through the middle of nowhere desert with no end in sight. After about 45 mins of this we took the first turnoff we found which led to a little fishcamp





Didnt seem like anyone was home so we snooped around a bit and discovered....


A TREASURE TROVE OF PUPPIES!!!!!!11111



They were sketched out so I used some peanut butter to lure them to me, eventually they were cool and we could play with them





Puppies with peanut butter tongues. pretty much the cutest thing in the entire world



So we played with them forever of course





Never did see any fisherman roll back up so we filled up the pot with water and said goodbye. They looked pretty healthy so Im sure the fisherman were still around.

Winding through the desert with no clue where we were going for about another 3 hours we hit a clue. Trash and lots of it. We followed a sidetraill full of trash assuming it would lead us to a dump which would lead to a city.

Sure enough, it did

Sight for soreeyes


More perros at the cantina


Had a few more beers and then drove off into the desert to find camp for the night


Plenty of wood to burn out here, dead cactus goes up easy. You can see Lauren manning the stove. We have a single plate burner and 1 pan. Mostly we cook up peppers, onions, garlic, and some sort of canned/bagged fish if we cant find anything fresh. And of course Tortillas.


Morning mist in the desert. The amount of moisture that comes into the desert in the early morning suprised me. Its dry as hell out come 10AM


By this point we are pretty far south in Baja, almost to La Paz. You can sort of feel a shift in the air as you come closer. Things start to get cleaner and nicer, roads are paved, farms are fenced in. We felt like we were coming out of the desert and into a nice coastal mexican city.

Whale tail? Entryway to La Paz


Boardwalk at La Paz




Just so happened that a buddy of mine from San Francisco was meeting up with some friends in La Paz the very same week that we were there. He extended the invitation for us to come by and crash for a night at their fancy resort condo. We of course took him up on the offer.





Him and his friends/family turned out to be super cool dudes. We went kayaking, whale watching on their boat, drank lots of beers, the list goes on. And then! Matt offers up the master bedroom of their suite with a ginormous california king bed and balcony view out over the water. A standup guy indeed.

View from the room


Us and Matt


Pushing even further south of La Paz we take another backroad up a mountain pass. The pass was sketchy, steep and narrow and full of skree. Had to use 4LO alot. It was a gorgeous drive through the canyon and it ended up taking us out to the coast.

Top of the pass




This spot was for sale, didnt list a price though :(


Pushed further down the backroad and it ended up running next to the beach, drove down the sand about a mile and setup camp again. This time using driftwood instead of cactus to light the fire.



Whats the difference between an idiot standing on a shore and a fisherman?

Not much!

Wake up in the morning and keep pressing south, Eventually arrive in Cabo San Lucas, look around for about 30 seconds at all the disgusting white tourists and cruise ships, Johnny Rockets, Fridays, everything that I hate about America. Hear one New Yorker lady bitching to the clerk at a gas station about how "she doesnt trust mexican green tea (It was Lipton Green Tea in a sealed bottle with spanish writing) and got THE HELL OUTTA THERE

More cliffs outside of Cabo


Eventually made another desert camp that night


One good thing that came outta of our short Cabo stop, delicious wine


Many more dirt roads were taken but we had hit the bottom of the coast and we both needed to back in time to catch a plane in San Francisco in about 5 days. We basically jetted back up the MEX 1 as fast as we could and did not get many pictures.





So alas my friends our adventure ends here.

Baja, Mexico is safe, beautiful, fairly inexpensive, and accessible. All you need is an American drivers license and a birth certificate and your golden. If you plan to travel further south than Ensenada or plan to stay longer than 7 days then I suggest getting a temporary travel visa. They are like $30 and allow to stay for 180 days.

Oh and one more thing, about every 150 miles or so along the MEX 1 you come across a military checkpoint. These are routine checks they are looking for drugs or weapons. They dont really give a crap about gringos and your on your way in about 2 minutes of them pretending to look at your stuff. Our truck was packed to the gills and we could have had 80 AK47s underneath everything but they didnt give it much of a look.



Any other questions ask away in the comments. We are now officially in love with Baja.

13 comments:

  1. Wow so exciting...your pictures are great it feels like i was there. But i will most likely never do any of this without a tour guide :). I cant wait to see you alls next adventure :D


    xoxo Crystal

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  2. hell yea man. once i start to put a dent in my 140k debt ill be down there. in portland right now, gonna move here for good in june. we should do a canada trip this summer.

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  3. Thanks Crystal, we'll be your tour guide anytime

    Danny, Justins still up in Alaska we should do a Canada+Alaska combo trip. Hows OR?

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  4. DUDE!!! This is awesome. Funny and great sharing! Great photos too - WOW! So cool you guys have this. Hopefully you are getting the plans together for another adventure soon. Oh, I love the one of Lauren in the old truck! HA! That is awesome. And also that she allows this elicit use of her in photos. Andrew is pissed all the time for even getting his shadow near the lens - Julie and Andrew

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  5. wow that sounds like a lot of fun! thanks for the pictures

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  6. tight documenting of your trip. i wish i could put up an entire trip that i took to somewhere. adding it to my todo list.

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  7. Jesus christ thats a lot of photos, looks like an awesome time though :D

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  8. Wow nice pics, I've always wanted to go on a trip like this :) Followed!

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  9. Looks like a lot of fun! Those puppies were really cute :)

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  10. simply awesome!

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  11. Baja trip looks awesome, James. Looks like you had a great time. Still working on the plan to continue south?

    Dave and Ann
    http://advodna.com

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  12. Ya buddy, truck is going into the shop next week for some much needed TLC and upgrades for the trip. Still looking at 9-12 months out though unless we win the lottery. heres hoping!

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