16 - 30 September 2016 Baja, Mexico

Friday 16th September - Day 9

An exciting day as we started our nearly thousand mile journey down the Baja peninsula to Los Barriles.

We departed Chula Vista to make the 38 mile journey to the border town of Tecate. Travelling on Highway 94 east we went through some lovely countryside with lingering morning mist around the mountains. At Tecate we went to the Mexican border office to get our tourist cards. The same border officer was on duty as the last time we crossed the border in January. He was still selling his bottles of hot chilli sauce. We walked back through the US border control office and handed in our permit to stay in the US card so that they have a record of us leaving the country. The border control officer here wanted to know if we were related to Benny Hill. We got back in the RV’s and entered the Mexican Customs control. After a look at our vehicle registration documents we were soon on our way.

It is Mexican Independence Day and some of the roads in town were closed for processions. There was traffic and lots of people on horseback, quite a lively scene. We eventually made it through town and headed south on Mex 3.

By early afternoon we were in the Guadalupe Valley, the wine growing area. Our campsite for the night was Rancho Sordomudo. The camp is owned by a home and school for Mexican deaf children. The home is run by volunteers and all camping fees go to the school.

Next door was L.A Cetto winery, the largest in Mexico where we went for wine tasting. Being a Mexican holiday the vineyard was very busy.

Saturday 17th September – Day 10

We woke to a misty morning with low cloud over the vineyards.

We set off south to the large town of Ensenada where we threaded our way through the town past numerous traffic lights. Passing the harbor, with a large cruise ship in port, the road ran along a sandy beach. Soon we were on Mex 1 making our way through the suburbs and out of town. The first town we came to was Maneadero, from there we started to climb and had good views of fertile Santa Thomas Valley. We climbed out of the valley and came to our first military check point near the town of San Vincente. We were asked where we were travelling from and to and after a quick look inside the RV we were sent on our way. Peter and Suzy took a little longer as the whole crew of guards had a look inside the RV, just curious.

Further south we went through two lots of very bumpy and very dusty road works.

As we headed for San Quintin the area had large scale agricultural units. We were now running along near to the Pacific coast and caught occasional glimpses of sea.

Fifteen miles south of San Quintin we turned off the road along a sand track to El Pabellon RV Park our campsite for the night. The charge was about 8 dollars or 11 dollars with electricity. We parked next to the beach behind the sand dunes.

There were no other RV’s on the site, just some tent campers. The dogs can be off the leash here and they were loving the freedom. We took a walk on the wide sandy beach with the Pacific rollers coming in.

The day finished with a beautiful sunset.

Sunday 18th September – Day 11

It was a misty morning as we continued along the coastal plain before heading inland into a canyon and then climbing up to Rosario Mesa. Here we went through a military inspection before descending down a steep gradient into the town of El Rosario.

By now Mex 1 had become a narrow two lane highway, 19.5 feet wide, mostly with no shoulder lane and a drop off into the desert. We were reminded of our experience coming back to the US in March. We nearly came off road when our trailer wheel went off the edge and tried to pull the RV with it. Trying to correct this and pull the trailer back on the road caused the RV to sway and it wavered back and forth across the road for some time until Tony got it under control. It was very nearly a terrible disaster. Mindful of this we kept our speed down and stopped or slowed right down when 18 wheeler trucks were approaching. Most of them don’t slow down and only move further aside at the last moment.

Moving into central Baja we motored through uninhabited mountain and desert countryside with some breath taking scenery but definitely no cell phone signal.

On entering the Valle de Los Cirios the landscape changed to large boulder fields with rare cactus plants that are not found anywhere else but here. This is a protected area that feels very un-spoilt with a most unusual landscape, nature’s own cactus garden centre. It reminds me of a set from one of the early Startrek programmes of an alien but strangely beautiful planet.

Our destination was the small town of Catavina and Rancho Santa Ynez. Just past the town we turned off Mex 1 onto a sand track and travelled for just under a mile. The Rancho has a large parking area for RV’s with some shade trees dotted about.

Matilda, our host, cooked a simple meal for us which we eat on a small patio outside the ranch house. I had tacos and beans. We were the only campers and had the place to ourselves.

The rest of the afternoon we sat outside under the shade of the branches of a large old gnarled tree which Sandy decided to climb up to check if there were any critters in the branches.

After a while we heard the thunder of horses hooves. Next thing four cowboys, or caballeros, on horseback came galloping out of the desert brush chasing a steer. They eventually roped it but it was not co-operating and decided to lie down. It was exciting to see some real working cowboys in action.

This is quite an isolated rural spot and there is no electricity in the town or at the Rancho. This means there is no light pollution and we have a clear night sky. However, there was a full moon which reflected off the sand and lit up the camping area like daylight.

Monday 19th September – Day 12

Cloudy morning as we continued on our journey south to Guerrero Negro. It was a bumpy ride on the potholed two lane narrow road but thankfully there was very little traffic and hardly any trucks.

There is very little habitation here, just signs to a few Ranchos. After travelling through dramatic desert scenery we came to the land mark pile of rocks called Cerro Pedregoso.

The road then runs along Laguna Chapala, a large sandy dry lake bed. To the east was the Sierra La Asamblea.

Military inspection.

Around this area the desert has very little greenery but the good news was that the roads were wider through this section.

We pulled in at the Pemex gas station in Jesus Maria for gas and diesel. A few miles down the road we came to the border and crossed over into Baja Sur. Here we put our watches forward one hour because Baja Sur is on Mountain Time. There is quite a large military base on the border but we were not stopped. We did stop at the agricultural inspection point where we were asked if we were carrying any fruit or vegetables. Next we drove over an auto under vehical spray system to help kill any unwanted pests that could endanger agriculture in South Baja.

Just past the check point we turned off the road into the town of Guerrero Negro. The town is not far from the Pacific coast where there is a sheltered lagoon that grey whales use in the winter to give birth. This generates quite a tourist trade for tours out into the lagoon to see the whales. However, the main employment here is at the salt works, extracting salt from the large salt flats near the town.

Our stop for the night is at Malarrimo RV Park which is in the town and has a small Hotel and RV parking area. The restaurant here is excellent and very reminiscent of a Spanish restaurant in décor and pretty outdoor patio areas.

Tuesday 20th September – Day 13

Before leaving this morning Tony did some diy on the propane tank. It had developed a leak after having a new fitment put in back in Wellington, Kansas. Now that the tank was empty Tony unscrewed the valve from the tank, put some tape around the thread on the valve and fitted it back securely to the tank. Just outside town was a large propane station where we filled the tank with a small amount of propane and checked for a leak. Sigh of relief, all was well and we filled the tank.

From Guerrero Negro we crossed the Vizcaino Desert heading east and inland to the town of San Ignacio. The desert in this area is protected and home to the few remaining desert Pronghorn Antelope. There was a warm wind causing the sand to blow across the road.

We came to a standstill at one point. The federal police were stopping commercial traffic and what looked like a troop of fairground vehicles ahead of us, they waved us through.

The desert started to look more fertile as we went through the town of Vizcaino. Here the fairground troop pulled off the road.

We started to climb into the Sierra San Francisco and soon arrived at our campsite for the night called Rice and Beans which is in the outskirts of San Ignacio. From the campsite there is a nice view of the date palms that are around the lagoons near the oasis town of San Ignacio.

We had a cooling dip in the small swimming pool before dinner at the on-site restaurant.

They make superb margaritas and have a good food menu. I had fresh halibut with plenty of trimmings which included flour tortillas and of course ‘rice and beans’. The waiter remembered us from our last visit in February, we both have 1990’s Toyota Celica’s.

Wednesday 21st September – Day 14

Before getting back on the road this morning we went into San Ignacio. Travelling into the town through the date palms plantations we noticed quite a bit of hurricane damage.

This picturesque mission town has a town square overlooked by the 18th century church and shaded by large ficus trees. The square is surrounded by old adobe style buildings.

Continuing our journey through the mountains, past fertile plains filled with saguaro cactus and mesquite, we approached the Las Volcan de Tres Virgenes. Here we passed lava fields with debris from the big volcano.

We got our first glimpse of the Sea of Cortez before descending down our steepest gradient yet, the Cuesta del Infierno.

Once out of the mountains and on the coast road we came to the town of Santa Rosalia. This is an old copper mining town and ferry port. The coast road is roughly paved and unfortunately, the first thing we saw on reaching the sea was the town dump and blowing litter about the place. Further along we saw signs of renewed copper mining and new infrasture but also old derelict rusting buildings and general industrial mess.

Mex 1 doesn’t go through the town centre which, apparently, is very nice. Built by a French mining company in the 1880’s it has French colonial buildings and a French bakery. Passing the harbour and ferry port we went through a nice but small malecon before getting out again into the cactus filled countryside.

In several places along the highway it looked like parts of the road had been washed away, presumably by hurricane damage. Road and electrical repairs were taking place but it was hard and slow going driving the RV and trailer across some of the damaged road. Hurricane season doesn’t finish until the end of October!

Passed the town of Mulege

and the Rio Santa Rosalia we soon came to the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortex and Santispac Beach in Bahia Concepcion.

Thursday 22nd September – Friday 23rd September - Day 15 & 16

Spent three nights on lovely Santispac Beach. This is our third visit and we still find it an idyllic spot. This visit we had the beach to ourselves much of the time. We had a palapa for shade and swam in the shallow waters and the dogs ran free. We drank margaritas and eat delicious seafood at Ana’s restaurant on the beach - watching Mexican soap opera on TV with the rest of the family.

Chico took us out snorkeling in his boat to one of the small islands. We went diving for clams and swam through crystal clear waters to a small beach. Chico opened and cleaned the clams, covered them in lime juice and salsa and we eat them. Can’t get fresher than that.

Later, we barbequed prawns and looked at the magnificent display of stars in the night sky. After being on the road for a while it was nice to relax and do nothing.

Saturday 24th September - Monday 26th September - Day 17 – Day 19

Departed Santispac Beach and followed Mex 1 with the sea and Bahia Concepcion to the east and a wide green valley running along to the west. We noted how green the valley was with white flowers on many of the shrubs. September is a rainy month here, plus the hurricane came through a couple of weeks ago.

We continued south for about 70 miles before coming to the coastal town of Loreto, one of the oldest mission towns in Baja.

Our camp for the next three nights is Rivera Del Mar RV Park. This park is in the town and an easy walk to the town centre.

There is a nice plaza and plenty of bars, shops and restaurants.

We had drinks in the La Palapa bar and then on to the Mediterrano Restaurant for dinner and a view over the bay.

We strolled around town and watched the parade of vehicles that would be taking part in the Baja 400 race the following day.

The campsite has nicely planted gardens with fruit trees – a particularly good lime tree with lots of fruit – and a palapa style under cover area that we used for barbequing.

We had some heavy rain during our stay which did cool things down for a short while.

La Palapa Bar

Tuesday 27th September – Day 20

We continued our travels along Mex 1, following Loreto Bay and the coast road south. There was a haze over the sea and the mountains ahead were draped in cloud. A few miles on we turned west, leaving the coast behind and climbed into the Sierra de la Giganta.

Again, it was noticeable how green the desert landscape was, scattered with red flowering shrubs and yellow butterflies everywhere. The roads were good, with little traffic as we twisted and turned our way through the mountains.

Once through the mountains we approached flat agricultural land in the centre of Baja. Passing through the large town of Ciudad Constitucion, we stopped at Palapa 206 RV Park our stop for the night, named after KM mark 206 where it was positioned.

Mike and Bertha own this RV Park and Motel. Mike is from the UK and has lived here for twenty years, the couple have two children and three dogs. We remember the youngest son who must be about eight from our visit here in February. He was very keen for us to play football (soccer) with him. The dogs are all rescues, the latest being a delightful puppy, that was nicknamed ‘nearly dead’ so you can imagine the condition he was in but he’s bouncing with health now.

It is a large park and we had the place to ourselves. We barbequed for dinner and sat on a small patio shaded by a tree to eat.

Quite a sunset tonight, very fierce looking.

Wednesday 28th September – Day 21

After departing our camp this morning, it wasn’t long before we hit 6 miles of road works, a long bumpy and dusty ride.

Continued on along through small towns until we reached an area of hills and more road works. Up and down dusty uneven sand tracks for about ten miles. It was a relief when we got back onto tarmac road and spotted the Sea of Cortez and the capital city of La Paz.

Booked in at Campestre Maranatha just off Mex 1 about 5 miles north of the city.

Went into town and had a margarita at one of the bars on the Malecon, overlooking the bay. We then went off in search of some craft beers and found the The BeerBox in a side road off the Malecon. A small but neat looking bar that had walls lined with bottles of craft beer from Mexico and beyond. Guillermo, one of the owners was so welcoming, polite and knowledgeable about the products and advised us what to drink according to our taste. We all agreed, the choice was excellent, some of the best beer we have had in Baja.

On recommendation from Guillermo we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner, passing the Cathedral church on our way.

We sat outside in a large courtyard, under cooling fans at the delightful Sorstis Restaurant. It was still relatively early and the restaurant was quiet. The menu was extensive and difficult to choose from, we liked everything. Our waiter was attentive and had a good sense of humour. The place soon filled up creating a nice ambience.

After a tasty meal and good wine we walked back to the Malecon, passing interesting looking bars and restaurants. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Thursday 29th September – Day 22

Went to Walmart with Suzan this morning to do some more stocking up of freezers and store cupboards before moving on to Los Barriles.

This evening we watched the sunset over the Bay of Le Paz from the third floor of the Tailhunter Restaurant. We had a nice sea breeze as we eat fish, prawns and enchiladas.

Friday 30th September – Day 23

Temperatures are in the 30’s centigrade and the air-con in the RV keeps cutting out. Phew!

There is a roadrunner that comes through the camp every day and wanders right up to the RV

We are having continuing problems with a leaky propane gas valve. Two guys from a local gas company came to our rescue and hopefully have cured the problem.

Barbeque for dinner, Peter and Suzan did the meat and we cooked the vegetables.