Waking up on Torsten’s patio overlooking the sea of Cortez I was greeted by the second amazing sunrise of my Baja adventure. John was brewing coffee, and Josh was still trying to wrestle some sleep out of the last few minutes of night. I was happy to have made new friends so quickly, but my desire to hang out for a bit was overcome by my apprehension about the road ahead. The “road” south of Puertocitos has somewhat legendary status in Baja as being one of the absolute worst places to take your vehicle. There are rumors of car swallowing pot holes, complete washouts around blind curves, and rocky sections that resemble a field of half buried basketballs scattered with broken glass. The flip side of things is that this is one of the most beautiful sections of coastline, and the dirt-bike crowd loves to come ripping down this particular section of dusty two lane. My Jeep was not always my Jeep. Before it came to be known as Die Tan, this 1992 Wrangler spent time in the service of the Melrose Corporation bouncing around Daufuski Island in South Carolina. The first 20,000 miles or so of its life were spend off road, and I had put a few dirty miles on her myself. I knew that this was one capable vehicle, and I had just enough confidence in my ability to get down, over, and around whatever lie ahead to push southward. It didn’t hurt that the Kiwi’s were going to be coming down that same road 2 days later, and promised to give me a lift out if I needed it. So I loaded up and headed to Puertocitos. The road was recently paved as far as Puertocitos, but you wouldn’t know how recently from driving it. My confidence built as I headed South, and the little town of Puertocitos turned out to be a charming collection of waterfront cabanas, shacks, and palapas wrapped in the deep blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. As I rounded the corner past the main beach the road changed personality quicker than my ex-girlfriend on a bad day. Rumbling pavement turned to carnage inducing rock fields with chunks missing that I guess you would call potholes if it looked like they were in a road, but this seemed more like a mule track, so maybe they were just dinosaur footprints. Needless to say, the day was to be defined by bumping, jarring, and crunching, and my speed would rarely exceed 20 mph and often feel more like 20 feet per second. As challenging as the road was, the vistas from the top of each climb, and the hidden pocket beaches along the way made the effort well worthwhile. Keeping my eye on the road seemed to be near impossible at times. This would have been a great time for a clutch. If I had been able to stop and look around a bit more I might still be out there poking around. As it was, I didn’t even make it half way to my destination at Bahia Los Angeles. As the sun dropped lower and lower into the mountains I realized that I was still 30 miles from Highway 1 which was still 2 – 3 hours from Bahia L.A. I spotted the fishing village at Bahia Gonzaga as I came up over yet another rocky pass and decided that plan B was sitting right there in front of me. To get into town I actually had to drive down a dirt runway toward the sea. There were a couple of Cesnas parked in front of the beachside palapas, a couple of boats pulled up in front of a few, and an old International Scout skidded out in a ditch next to the local bar. I figured that I had found an interesting little place to spend the night. South of town was a stretch of simple palapas that seemed near abandoned. I picked one out about half way down and gathered up some firewood. Camp was easy to set since I just threw my hammock up between the palapa and the Jeep. Before long I had a wok full of fish on the fire, a half empty bottle of Cabernet from New Mexico in the sand beside me, and the remnants of a stunning sunset illuminating the water in front of me. Not a bad way to end the day. Not bad at all.
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