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1 - 31 March 2017 - Road Trip, Los Barriles to San Diego and Back

Wednesday 1st March

Today is the day we depart Los Barriles, after our five month stay, for the 1,000 mile journey north on the Baja peninsula to San Diego.

We are the last ones standing from our group at Playa Norte. Everyone has left over the past few days to make their way north for the summer. The RV looks very lonely standing on its own with no neighbours. After a final check around the camp, we are on the road

A last look at the Sea of Cortez from the bedroom window.

Sandy looking sad to be leaving the beach and her hunting ground.


We are soon on the sand road, or the by-pass as it is called around here, up to Mex 1 and our road north. First stop is La Paz and the Maranatha RV Park.

Thursday 2nd March

John and Judy arrived today at La Paz airport. It has been twelve months to the month since their last visit and we are looking forward to our road trip together up to San Diego.

First to Big Ruby’s Restaurant in El Centenario for dinner and complimentary tequila shots.

Friday 3rd March

On our way to Loreto 216 miles north through flatland and rolling hills until we turned east and climbed through the Sierra del la Giganta.

We pulled in at Rivera Del Mar RV Park in Loreto and took the short walk into the town centre. The origins of Loreto date back to the end of the 1600’s when a Jesuit mission was established here. Considered to be the first permanent mission and capital of Spanish California.

Mission Nuestra Senora. The origins of the mission church date back to 1699. The church has been enlarged and restored over the years and has survived a hurricane and an earthquake.

Met up with the Batey family for dinner at La Palapa Restaurant.

Saturday 4th March

Into town via the beach and the Malecon. Walked around the plaza and did a little shopping. Next to the church is the Museo de los Misiones where the history of the area is explained both before and after the Spanish arrived. There are plenty of exhibits and interesting ancient documents and maps.

Lunch at Mi Loreto Restaurant. Very welcoming staff. Fresh handmade tortillas, we could see a lady in a small kitchen busily making the tortillas to order.

In the evening, there was entertainment and food available in the town plaza.

Sunday 5th March

This morning our journey continued through the mountains to Bahia Conception, a long inlet on the Sea of Cortez. The bay has several sheltered white-sand beaches and small off shore islands. There are a series of spectacular views as we follow the bay north.

We reach our destination, Santispac Beach, a favourite place for us to stop on our journeys up and down Baja. A simply gorgeous bay with shallow turquoise water, perfect for swimming, kayaking and snorkeling.

This sheltered bay is also popular with the boating fraternity, as they make their way up and down the peninsula. On the beach are two small family owned restaurants. The Batey family joined us and we went to Armandos’s Restaurant for dinner.

Monday 6th March

Breakfast on the beach.

John and Judy went for a stroll after breakfast. It takes a long walk before the water is over your head in this bay.

Tuesday 7th March

After a couple of days rest on the beach, we continue along the coast road, past Mulege and Santa Rosalia where we turned west. Leaving the Sea of Cortez behind us, we climbed through the mountains towards San Ignacio.

Our overnight stop will be at Rice and Beans Oasis RV Park. Here there is a nice restaurant and a small swimming pool. Inside the restaurant there are many pictures and lots of memorabilia relating to off-road racing. Apparently, the place gets very busy when there is a race in progress.

Peter took John, Judy, Mel and Lyn into San Ignacio for a look around. The town has a large shady plaza, surrounded by old colonial style buildings and a restored 18th century mission church.

Wednesday 8th March

Back on Mex 1 we travel out of the Sierra San Francisco and across the Vizcaino Desert to our destination Guerrero Negro.

Spring flowers are showing around the cardon cactus.

Our camp for the night was in the town at Malarrimo RV Park. This is a small park that has a few motel rooms, a restaurant and shop. It is also the home to Malarrimo Eco-Tours where we have booked a whale watching tour.

Thursday 9th March

At 8am we waited excitedly outside the Malarrimo Eco-Tours office for our transport to Laguna Ojo de Liebre, where we would board a boat to take us into the lagoon.

During our journey to the lagoon a guide gave us some information on the background to the town and facts about the grey whale.

Grey whales spend the summer and autumn feeding in the cooler waters of the Bering Sea, Alaska, before making the long journey south down sthe Pacific coast to winter in Mexico. The pregnant females make their way to three sheltered lagoons situated along the Baja peninsula’s Pacific coast to give birth. Today we were heading to one of those three lagoons.

We arrived at the mouth of the lagoon and boarded our 23 feet boat. With eleven on board we had plenty of room.

We were escorted by a pod of dolphins as we made our way out into the bay.

It wasn’t long before we saw our first whale tail.

The mothers and babies came close to the boats without any encouragement, there was no feeding or enticements. The babies were very happy to be stroked and petted.

The babies seem to respond if we splashed sea water One particular, mature new born, took great delight in surfacing at the side of the boat and spraying us with water from his blow holes. It was like a game of, I can splash higher than you can.

When the babies are born, they can be 4.5 m. long and weigh a ton. At maturity, they will be 12-15 m. long and weigh 35-40 tons. The colour at birth is usually black. The whale gets its name from the grey blotchy pattern caused by barnacles that have attached to the skin, or where they have been and left behind grey pigmented skin.

Whale Watching the movie ......

The clarity of the water was good. It was quite a sight to see the adult females slowly swim under the boat and emerge on the other side, keeping a close eye on their offspring.

Grey whales feed on the ocean floor. They eat shrimp like crustaceans by diving to the bottom, rolling on their sides and gulping sand into their mouths. They filter the food from the sand using baleen plates that hang from their upper jaw. The plates are cream coloured and made out of keratin.

By the 1930’s commercial whaling almost wiped the grey whales out on the Pacific coast. Grey whales have been a protected species since the 1940’s and it is estimated that the population is now between 23,000-26,000. . We certainly saw several sets of mother and baby during our short visit, all thriving in this protected bay. The only natural predator of the grey whale now is the killer whale (orcas)

By the end of March the grey whales are migrating back up the Pacific coast to the feeding grounds in the north. The round trip from Bering Sea to Baja California and back is 16,000 km.

All too soon we were speeding back to the dock. It had been a fascinating and absolutely amazing experience. It was such a privilege to be near and closely interacting with these playful and intelligent animals. Truly the gentle giants of the sea.

Mel and Lyn

Sea Lions are just sun worshipers.

Ospreys, also called the fish eagle and sea hawk, have over the years taken to making their nests on man-made structures in the Guerrero Negro area. Since the salt company came here in the 1950’s and put in structures like, channel markers and utility and electrical poles, the birds have utilised them for nests. At first, the power and utility companies would take down the nests from the poles. This caused a problem because the birds returned each year to the same nest. The solution was to put a platform on top of the pole for the birds to use, keeping them well away from electrical cables. This seems to have been a roaring success, judging by the number of nests on top of poles we saw around the town. It looks like the Osprey population is doing very nicely.

Friday 10th March

Leaving Guerrero Negro this morning through the sea fog.

Once the fog cleared we were treated to a riot of spring flowers. The desert was definitely blooming.

Crossing the border into Baja California Norte just outside Guerrero Negro and putting our watches back to Pacific Time, we moved into the centre of the peninsula. There are very few people in this area of unspoilt, pristine desert, boulder fields and rare, diverse desert plants and cacti. Parque Del Desierto Central and the Valle de los Cirios are protected areas and government funding projects have built eco-friendly cabanas on ranches in the area providing tourists with a low impact way of experiencing the region. The ranchers act as hosts and guides, preserving the delicate eco system and allowing the local people to look after their environment.

Peter leading the way along the narrow road.

Barbeque on the beach at Fidel’s RV Park just south of San Quinten. The Pacific Ocean behind in the mist.

Saturday 11th March

Today we made our way through the agricultural area of San Quinten and into the wine regions of Santo Thomas and the Guadalupe Valley. It was Johns birthday and we were heading to one of the bodegas for wine tasting.

The first part of the journey took us through several farming towns. Lazaro Gardenas, the first town we passed through, is also home to Mexico’s 67th Infantry battalion camp. The agriculture is large scale here, many of the fields being covered by canopies. Various fruit and vegetables are grown with tomatoes being the biggest crop.

After a couple of hours on the road we started to climb into rolling hills. We soon had views over the Santo Tomas valley where olives and grapes are grown. After a few miles travelling along the valley floor, we started to climb into the hills. Once back at sea level we continued on to the west coast town of Ensenada.

At Ensenada we turned east onto Mex 3 and into the Valle de Guadalupe. Our destination was the small town of San Antonio del las Minus where Santo Tomas winery has opened its newest tasting room.

Sharon the manager greeted us and we sat at a high table with lovely views over the valley. The tasting room is smart and very modern, with one wall modelled as a massive wine rack.

Our last tasting was a sweet wine and Sharon bought out a complimentary cheese and apple pastry, complete with candle for John’s birthday.

After our tasting, we toured the facility and Sharon explained the wine making process. Lastly, we watched a film about the Santo Tomas company and the people who produce the wine. Sharon had been an excellent host, carefully explaining the qualities of each wine we tasted and looking after us very well throughout our stay.

Back on Mex 3, our camp for the night was just a few miles away at Rancho Sordo Mudo, a residential school for deaf children in Mexico. The RV Park is just across the highway from the school, camping fees are by donation which goes to the school. Located next to the RV Park is LA Cetto winery, the largest wine producer in Mexico. The park has a picturesque setting, surrounded by vineyards and among palm and citrus trees.

We dined at the nearby La Esperanza Restaurant. The restaurant was lively with chatter when we arrived and very busy. After a short wait, we were shown to our table out on the covered terrace where there is an outside section stretching out towards the vineyards. It has superb views over the valley looking out towards the mountains. Great food and wine, the perfect way to end a birthday.

Sunday 12th March

The morning view from our campsite out over the vineyards before we headed off for the last stage of our Baja road trip north.

The border crossing at Tecate. Waited about an hour to get through. Customs stopped us to have a look around the RV but we were soon on our way to San Diego.

We made good time from the border and were soon settled into the KOA campsite in Chula Vista. We called a Uber car for a ride into San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. First stop, Searsucker Bar on Fifth Street for a drink before taking a walk around the district. In the late 19th century Fifth Avenue was notorious for its saloons, gambling joints and bordellos. Now it has nicely restored red brick buildings and busy restaurant, bars and small shops.

The San Diego Fire Department turned up outside in the street as we sat in the bar. They unreeled their electric ladders and maneuvered them onto the roof of the building next door. Several fire officers took the long climb up to the top of the building, some looking very nervous. There was no sign of a fire and we found out later that it was a training exercise.

Monday 13th March

Again, this morning we used the very useful Uber car service for a ride into downtown San Diego. I should say three of us did, disappointingly the dog is not allowed on the trolley bus tour we are taking, therefore Tony and Sandy stayed at home.

Taking a tour around the city on a bus is usually a good way to see any city, a hop on hop off bus tour that allows you to see the sights and linger or go back if you would like. It is also good if you have little time and just want to get the flavor of a place.

Our first stop was Coronado, an island out in San Diego Bay that also houses a US naval air station. A bow shaped bridge arcs across the bay connecting the island to the mainland.

The driver gave us some background to the island on the way. Three business men bought the island in the 1880’s. They built the Hotel del Coronado and the place became a popular resort destination. To fund the building of the hotel, land lots were sold in 1886 by auction for prices ranging from $500.00 to $1,600.00. Now these plots are probably selling for $1 - 5 million plus. The hotel still stands in all its Victorian grandeur and is quite an impressive sight. The exterior views of the hotel were used for the film Some Like it Hot.

Coronado Beach

Beach side view of the Hotel del Coronado

At the back of the city is Balboa Park, our next stop. This extremely large urban park has gardens, museums, theatre, beautiful architecture and is the home of the famous San Diego Zoo. The park is an oasis of cool spaces, art, culture and science. Well worth a revisit.

Japanese Garden