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On the Road in Baja California

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

I awoke in Mision with a mission and quickly packed my things for the trip South. My frantic pace lasted right up until I stepped out onto the patio to retrieve my book. What’s the rush? I’m already where I need to be, right. What’s an hour or so between friends? I sat on the porch immersed in my book for a while and drank my coffee as the surf pounded the shoreline below. Eventually I had to leave, so I hopped in the Jeep and headed for Endenada. I needed to get my tourist card and a map or two as well. Ensenada is actually a pretty big town, with a pretty serious tourism industry. There were literally dozens of shops aimed at gringo tourists. Cigars (Cuban of course), booze, arts and crafts, and T-shirts were everywhere. No maps though. At least not maps that told you more than where the major roads were. Certainly no nautical charts. Not even at “Mexico’s Best Fishing Store”. Oh well, I’ll find them at some point I suppose. Along a side street I spotted Hussong’s Cantina. All the guide books had mentioned it as the “the bar that built a town”. Might as well stop in for a beer. After Hussong’s I had lunch at a roadside taqueria and headed for the immigration office. Believe it or not, you have to buy your paperwork down here. Just the blank forms cost $5. Then you go see the immigration officer. He checks 2 boxes and sends you to the banker who takes $27 and sends you back to the immigration officer who checks one more box before sending you on your way. It was a slightly ridiculous process, but while waiting in our various lines I met a couple of guys from New Zealand who were headed South as well. But they are headed all the way to Brazil! 4 months on motorcycles to head all the way through Central America and down to Rio. Now that’s an adventure. From Ensenada I had my first major decision to make. Did I head South toward Pacific beaches and epic surf, or did I head East toward the Sea of Cortez and world class paddling destinations. I had every intention of heading East, but everyone I spoke to warned me of the horrendous quality of the roads there. I trust my Jeep and everything, but was it really fair to subject it to the kind of torture they were talking about. One shopkeeper told me the story of a friend of hers who had hiked the entire coastline. She said that the section of road between Puertocitos and Bahia Gonzales was “impassable”. I got in the car with every intention of heading South… and then drove East. I had come here to see the Sea of Cortez. And it would be warmer than the Pacific. And if the road was really that bad I could always turn around. A few of the butterflies returned, but soon they were overwhelmed by the beauty of the mountains as the Jeep wove its way through the sharp curves, steep drops, and blind corners that define highway 3 through central Baja. The views were awe inspiring, but if you took your eyes off the road you’d end up 1000 ft below as a less inspirational part of the scenery. There were plenty of car shells rusting away down there to encourage respect for this section of road. Finally the Sea of Cortez glistened in the East as I rounded yet another narrow mountain curve. As I descended into the town of San Fellipe the sun was descending as well into that Vermillion Sea (I believe that was Steinbeck’s term). A quick flip through the guidebook pointed me toward Ruben’s Campo and a palapa shaded camp site on the beach. The level of accuracy of the directions in this particular book began to wear on my nerves as I searched the “area North of town” for the camp. Eventually it was dark enough that I was content to find the closest available refuge. They were full, but informed me that Rubens was in town, not North of it. A couple of sketchy back roads later and there I was. Ruben’s son Javier runs the campo now and is an enthusiastic Jeep fan. He has a ’92 Wrangler as well, and spent 45 minutes showing me how he intends to put the axles from a 2.5 ton Dodge truck on it to turn it into a true desert machine. More like a tank I think. That thing will be unstoppable. After setting up my camp I headed into the cantina for dinner. Fish tacos and beer seemed to be the right call. Between ordering and eating I headed out for a minute to grab my books and through the fence I saw two red motorcycles at Campo Kiki’s next door. No way. The Kiwi’s? Sure enough Josh and John rounded the corner and with equal surprise we shook hands and talked about how we had both ended up here completely randomly. I invited them to go paddling in the morning and they invited me over for a beer after dinner. Fast friends indeed, it was easy to tell they were good people and adventurous souls.


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