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Heading into Baja

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Hola Amigos. As I type this I am sitting on the patio of a small hotel restaurant in Bahia Los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Norte. My first Pacifico of the evening has already disappeared, and there’s a little gray cat doing his best to distract me from my computer without actually letting me pet him. I have been to a lot of beautiful places in my life, and this little town ranks up there with the best of them. It’s a bit inconvenient to get to which has kept most of the gringos away, but the ones who find it are eternally grateful. I know that I am. So far`my trip through Baja has been everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I have met wonderful people. I have seen beautiful sights. I have had some incredible adventures. And my Spanish has improved dramatically. What more could a travelin’ man ask for? I have had spotty internet access at best for the past week or so and thus cannot remember what I have already written on this site. When I post this I’ll find out what I still have to fill in, but for now I’ll start with my descent into Mexico and try to get all the way to the peaceful evening by the sea that I am currently enjoying. When Jason and I were in San Diego one of the people we met was a kayak guide named Katrina. She told us where we should go paddling, where we should go drinking, and where we should go to try out hang-gliding if we had the nerve. Well, I’d like to think that it was the cost rather than the risk that kept us from hang gliding, but we did have a great paddling trip and enjoyed a couple of rounds in a cozy little bar at her suggestion. Needless to say I tracked my new friend down when I returned to San Diego, and I spent my last morning in the U.S. kayaking with her off of La Jolla Shores. Jason and I had paddled a fair amount of this water before, but it was much more interesting to do it with a pretty local guide who knew the natural and cultural history of the area (sorry Jason). Certainly it was better than my original plan of spending the morning in San Ysidro trying to get the best deal on Mexican car insurance and Pesos. After our trip Katrina had to get back to work and I had a couple of other kayak guides to meet to show off the Point 65 boats. It was a relaxing morning on the beach, and after a final stateside meal at In & Out Burger I headed South for the border. I pulled into the border town of San Ysidro with butterflies in my stomach and questions in my head. The break that I had taken from my travels to spend some time with my Dad had effectively split this adventure in two. I had completed my cross country adventure and had a great time. Everything had been pretty much perfect, except for the weather and the car troubles, but those were to be expected. Now I was off on a new adventure to a foreign country and all those nagging questions swirled in my head. Where am I going? How could I afford this? Should I be back home working on something more important? Do I deserve to have this much fun? Am I going to get robbed? What is my favorite color? I reached for a piece of technology I profess to hate and dialed my friend John’s number on my cell phone. I tried to sound confident and excited, but couldn’t help but convey my reservations. John quickly grasped the situation and assured me that the world would be just fine while I was off on my adventure, and that my dog was in good hands, and that I should just chill out and enjoy the fact that I had committed myself to a path that would lead me to a life experience no matter how it all turned out. Thank you Mr. Golden. The butterflies were still there, but now I was in San Ysidro, and it was time to start haggling insurance and exchange rates. I’d like to think I did pretty well on both accounts, but honestly at this point I’m just glad it took me less than 3 hours. Properly equipped I traveled the last couple of miles to the border ready to be searched, questioned, and probed due to the traveling circus appearance of my vehicle. Much to my delight I was simply waved across the border and suddenly found myself in Tiajuana. Excellent. Of course I immediately got lost. I don’t know how many times I had read the directions that said “ignore the signs and just turn here and here and here”. I just didn’t read them at the right time. After a quick tour of the seedier parts of Tiajuana (I assume there are less seedy parts) I found the toll road south and gladly paid the 30 pesos to get on the highway. I even managed to have my first decent conversation in Spanish with the toll collector. As with every officer and gas station attendant I had seen to date he apparently thought I was crazy for driving this Jeep from Virginia and couldn’t believe that I was going all the way to Cabo. For my part I tried not to offend him or insult his family or country as I stumbled though most of my Spanish vocabulary. The road south into Baja runs along the coast for the first 100 km or so, and the scenery is immediately breathtaking. I stopped at my first opportunity and could hardly contain my excitement as I jumped over the viewpoint guardrail to check out the crashing surf below. Baja! Damn. Ba Freakin’ Ja! Unbelievable. Needless to say, the butterflies had flown the coop. Now there was just excitement and anticipation. I continued south trying vainly to keep my eyes on the road. At my first opportunity I was back off the highway and on the true coastal road, old Hwy 1. Clusters of villages and towns dotted the coastline like christmas lights on a roofline. Each with its compliment of cantinas, taco stands, and souveneir shops. I was hoping to get to Ensenada, but the sun was going down quickly, and there was no way I was going to drive after dark. That’s Baja rule numero uno, and it seemed foolish to break it now. I decided to take a pit stop in Popolta for an early dinner and cold cerveza. This charming little fishing village is little more than a collection of restaurants, fish markets, and bars. In short it was the perfect first stop in Baja. I stumbled a bit with my Spanish as I ordered my meal, but it all worked out well as I enjoyed a large plate of fresh fish and a cold Pacifico under a setting sun. I knew I had to beat a quick path South to get to a decent place to spend the night, so I took a couple of quick notes from my guide book and headed toward Mision and the inviting Hotel Mision which was said to have fireplaces in each of its rooms which all fronted on the Pacific. All for under $40. Perfect. The guidebook was right about the fireplace, but a bit optimistic on price. What the heck, it was dark, and I was in Mexico. I settled into my room, lit the fire, and watched the surf roll in under the moonlight as I sipped a glass of red wine on the small patio. Baja. So far, so good.


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