Weeks of December 29, 2011 - January 20, 2012
Before you read this long page, be prepared to have your preconceived ideas about Baja California changed dramatically. What was to be a short jaunt into Baja California, turned out to be a remarkable journey down to Baja California Sur and visiting some of the most fantastic (and fortunately, quietly publicized) beaches.
First, a little about Baja itself. Baja is divided into two regions called Baja California (BC) and Baja California Sur (BCS) (see Baja Maps Page). We Californians have come to understand that Baja was formed with the tectonic movement of the North American Plate and more specifically, the jolting of the infamous San Andreas Fault; however, its unique beauty in its topography, foliage and fauna is not something we often find described.
Baja averages less than 70 miles across its width (with 26 miles across being its narrowest point), and from top-to-bottom, reaches a length of almost 800 miles. Although other thin peninsulas exist in the world (Antarctica, Malay, etc.), none are as uniquely narrow as compared to their length. To put this wonderful spit of land in perspective, there are almost 2,000 miles of beach/shoreline and numerous cozy bays that are filled by either the Pacific Ocean or the Sea of Cortez (aka: the Gulf of California).
Down the length of Baja, seven mountain ranges break up the landscape. They are the Sierra de Juarez, the Sierra San Pedro Martir, the Sierra San Borja, the Sierra de San Francisco, the Sierra de Guadalupe, the Sierra de la Giganta and the Sierra de La Laguna. These mountains create breathtaking moments when you cross over from one side to the other and behold the royal blue and turquoise green waters of the Sea of Cortez or when you drop down into valleys that resemble something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Baja has been referred to as "The Mexican Galapagos" and the Sea of Cortez was even more succinctly described by none other than Jacques Cousteau as "The World's Aquarium" due to its rich and diverse marine life and both, tropical and subtropical, waters. In my opinion, when Jacques Cousteau and the National Geographic (which runs scientific expedition cruises around Baja) take such an interest in this small, protruding landmass, one has to tip your head in respect to what Baja represents.
We began our week in anticipation of joining our friends at a remote beach area (Punta Cabras) just north of a little town of Erendira, Baja California (BC). We joined Marylyn, her son John and his wife Lois, and their children Claire and Jack, along with Marylyn's daughter, Miranda, and her children Elizabeth and Thomas, as well as Matt, a family friend. Even though we were looking forward to ringing in the New Year with good friends, we were also a bit solemn because we were also going to bid farewell to a treasured man, Larry, Marylyn's husband that passed away in July.
||On our way south into Baja
near Ensenada. The fog rolled in rather
menacingly (novelist Stephen King
would have appreciated it)
Gerson and I enjoying the morning
sunshine before the incoming fog
||John, Elizabeth, Claire and
Jack roam the beach
and the tide pools
Gerson making the
We found our way into camp after dark and were guided by John doing his best Paul Revere imitation with a "one if by land" lantern signal. Unfortunately, the fog we witnessed rolling into Ensenada, followed us to Punta Cabras and we found ourselves being "misted" for much of the stay in the area.
Days were spent walking along the open beaches, poking around the tide pools, reading books, solving the world's problems and just enjoying the company of warm friendship. As John and Gerson could not resist the purchase of fireworks, we were well supplied with celebratory pyrotechnics for the ushering in of the New Year.
At sunset on New Years Eve, we collected our thoughts, held onto our memories, cradled a bit of Larry's ashes and scattered them into the waters Larry loved so much. We all took a few moments to soak in the moment and I just kept remembering Larry's laugh (or rather, giggle). I cannot think of Larry without smiling and what better way to pay tribute to a man that brought so much happiness into people's lives.
|Larry's ashes held lovingly
Miranda, Elizabeth and Thomas
Miranda saying goodbye
|A moment of silence and
Larry (Joseph and Poppet)
illuminating the sky
Later in the evening, John placed a bit of Larry's ashes (along with Marylyn and Larry's son, Joseph, that passed away many years ago and their beloved dog, Poppet) within a bottle rocket and sent them all gloriously up into the sky. The rocket exploded in brightness and color and we shared the thought that Larry would have appreciated the moment.
|Fireside chats where we
the world's problems
The coastal mist reflected in the flash
|Our motley crew: Matt,
Miranda (Toby and Posey),
Thomas, Elizabeth, John, Lois, Gerson, Louise, and
front Jack, Claire and Marylyn (Topsy)
With the kids not having to be in school until January 9th and as we did not have to be home until the 6th, we decided to continue down south with hope to hire a whale watching boat and see if we could find an early arriving gray whale or two. We drove the additional day and a half (as Baja is one looonnnng strip of land) and landed in the little port town of Guerrero Negro.
Driving south was otherworldly with the varying forms of cactus, boulders and fantastic geologic shapes. One specific cactus that caught my attention was called "Cirios" or "Boojum". This particular cactus is endemic to Baja and like our California Redwoods, grows nowhere else in the world. I think Dr. Seuss visited the Valle de Los Cirios before writing his books as I could easily overlay the books' imagination with this landscape.
We stayed in a "middle-of-nowhere" camp near Catavina on the way back to the coast (as Highway 1 zigzags across the peninsula) and were surrounded by dried river beds and boulders. Once at the Pacific coast in Guerrero Negro, we immediately embarked on having lunch at a little fish taco trailer that yes, was the best fish taco we have ever had (and we sure did try to find a better one!). For $1 U.S. for each taco, Gerson and I gleefully indulged in one of the seven deadly sins: Gluttony.
||Landscape from Punta Cabras
to Catavina - a virtual cactus and boulder
forest (Ciros aka: Boojum cactus)
Luved the sign...no mistaking
||The best Fish Taco place!
John, Thomas ,
Elizabeth and Marylyn agreeing many times
No mistaking there was "fud"
here to eat -
We landed in Guerrero Negro with the intention of taking a whale-watching tour and enjoying a beautiful day out on the ocean; however, the term "whale-watching" was rather deceiving and should be used only when venturing out on those types of tours north of the border. For when embarking on the tour around the Laguna Ojo de Liebre, they really should more accurately refer to the excursion as a "whale-petting" tour.
The gray whales are considered to be true Mexican whales as they are conceived in Mexican waters and born in same. Their migrations start and end along the coast of Baja and they have the longest travel itinerary of any mammal (going all the way up to the Chukchi and Bering seas - upwards of 5,000 miles!) The whales predominantly gather in several areas (Laguna Guerrero Negro, Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Laguna San Ignacio and Bahia Magdelena) along the Pacific coast and consistently exhibit friendly and curious behavior toward us bipeds. (Funny thing, when we passed through a typical Military checkpoint, the soldier scoffed at our going to watch the whales stating that we were too early and the whales were not there yet. Oh, was he incorrecto...big time, and I mean, as in 40'+ of big time wrong!)
||John and Lois await the
And the whales did not disappoint
Even the dolphins entertained
||The whales (male and female)
had fun playing with these weird
metal things that had all these
squealing animals inside
We all piled into one boat and seemingly glided out past the protected lagoon and into more open water. No sooner than we felt the waves of the ocean did we spot the telltale blast of water and the phwhoosh! of a whale's blow. As we ventured closer to our first behemoth, our Captain was notified that a pair of whales were cozying up with the other boat nearby.
We edged over to where a male and a female were seemingly playing with the boat and found ourselves almost tipping the boat over because of our jumping to one side or the other to get the best view. In no time, Gerson was holding onto my pants so I could reach over the boat and actually pet a gray whale! My fingers still are all a-tingle just thinking about it.
Then, it was Gerson's turn and no sooner than he took up position on the rail did one of the whales pop its head up next to him so that Gerson could give its nose a good scratch. I think I actually saw Gerson shiver with excitement as his contact with the whale was so extraordinary.
||Whale waving hello
Gerson scratching that tough to reach spot
Jack and Claire making friends
||Lois enjoying the whale
The whales doing what whales
What a tall tail tale to tell
We were sprayed with the whale's blows, waved at by the whale's tails (flukes) and intently watched by incredibly intelligent eyes. I think we all got to glide our fingers across one of the most graceful and amazing creatures on this earth.
||40' of grace and curiousity||
||Just more of our close
The last picture was a
common event -
I have heard that your life can be changed by looking into the eye of a whale and I am here to tell you that absolutely! there is an alteration in your perspective on the world when it's reflected in that intelligent, knowing eye. It really is indefinable and the experience is unique to the observer .
A side note about the Pacific gray whales (as the Atlantic gray whales were hunted to extinction): at one time, these magnificent beings cruised the oceans in numbers exceeding tens of thousands (estimated around 90,000) and by the mid 1800's, their numbers were slaughtered down to between 5,000 - 9,000. With protective status being placed upon the whales in 1937, the population has rebounded back to around 25,000 with approximately 1,500 born every year, and all of them coming-and-going from our beloved Baja.
||Just one more look...
See the rainbow - is that cool or what!
Miranda and Louise and a gray-t day
Louise, Miranda, Gerson, Elizabeth,
||Whale bones along the beaches
Protected sand dunes and beaches
And, if the whales were not enough to take our breath away, we cruised by a long stretch of protected sand dunes and slid within feet of the pristine shoreline inhabited by an array of birds. There was such a peacefulness about the area that you would be hard pressed to believe you were actually in Mexico.
||A rather large flock of birds
Regal looking pelicans
Sea Lions never disappoint
||Osprey - quite
formidable looking bird of prey,
and with the exception of Antarctica and some
islands, lives on all continents.
Finishing out the "tour" was a run by the locals hanging (literally) out on the buoys and passing under the watchful eye of an Osprey - the sea eagle.
||Gerson and Louise
Skull of the Gray Whale
||Salt mine - 5% of the world's
comes from this mine alone
Gerson making a salt-angel
We made our way back along the peninsula and stopped for a few minutes to take in the grand salt works located in the lagoon. The salt mine is owned by Mitsubishi and this particular region supplies 5% of the world's salt alone! From a distance, it was as though we were looking upon great mounds of snow and Gerson could not resist attempting a "salt angel" before we were rounded up to leave.
It did not take us long to pack up from our wonderful (hot shower) respite and head down to the Campo de Ballenas (part of the Laguna Ojo De Liebre Natural Park) along the famous Scammon's Lagoon where the gray whales come to feed and frolic. The sun was shining, the tide was low and the beach was all ours to explore the last few hours of daylight.
||The salt "ponds"
Low tide at Campo de Ballenas
||Extensive mud flats expose
Having fun with our shadows
This was to be our last night together as Marylyn and family were headed back north to those awful things called 'work' and 'school'. As Gerson and I had confirmed that a little personal business that was to force us home by January 6th was postponed by another party, we gained a couple of weeks of freedom. And, seeing as we were around Guerrero Negro and already half way down the length of Baja....well, you can figure the rest!
||Sunset over the Laguna Ojo de
and Scammon's Lagoon
Heron-type bird waiting
||Gerson looking for the whales
Miranda and Marylyn listening to and
Look for the black lines across the water
We thought we would awaken the next morning saddened by our upcoming separation; however, as it turned out. we all awoke with excitement in our own stories of hearing the whales all night and again that morning. Even though the night sky was filled with layers of stars, the horizon of water was black as pitch and to hear this "phwhooosh" of the whale blows seemingly next to you, just set us all in awe of the magnificent creatures.
One-by-one, we took our turn standing on the shore, on the dunes and on our bumpers looking westward in hopes to spot the emergence of a black smudge on the horizon, see the faint disturbance in the air from the blow and then like thunder following lightning, hear the recognizable "phwhooosh" sound. My eyes started to cross after looking through the binoculars for so long.
||Matt, Thomas and Jack making
to go and signing off with their
Miranda and Marylyn head
||Our view out our back door
the small dune at Campo de Ballenas
Just listening to the whale blows
Gerson enjoying the landscape
Whale skeleton on display nearby
We all slowly packed up and said our good-byes and we watched the group toddle off and leave us all alone with the sand and the whales. So, without much ado, Gerson and I soaked in a little Vitamin D sunshine and casually tucked our belongings into place for our sojourn in Baja.
Leaving Baja California and entering into Baja California Sur, our first stop was to be San Ignacio, a date-palm oasis in the middle of the desert thanks to its spring-fed ponds that trickle into the center of town. While driving into the area, it is easy to locate the village for it is embraced by many palm trees that encircle the source of water. This smallish town was built in the late 1700's, (which meant a visit to the Mission San Ignacio Kadakaaman, built around 1786), and we had a good wander around the city's streets. We soon discovered that there was much more to this area than met the eye and that meant that there was much to explore around the town and that we would need many days in which to do so.
||Mission San Ignacio - built
An original section remains
||Mission San Ignacio
The sagging door frame
Museum showing a scale size
Two World Heritage Sites exist in and around San Ignacio, one of them being the Mission. The other place(s) of interest are the collective cave paintings that are found in the rocky shelters and caves throughout the San Francisco mountains nearby. Over 600 pictorial sites exist (some up to 14 meters/40+ feet high) and are the oldest cave paintings on the continent (over 7,500 years old). Unfortunately, with tours ranging from one day to several days (all have to be taken with guides on foot or by burro), we had to pass on this exciting venture and list it as a "to-do" for a later time.
We left San Ignacio and found our way down south of Mulege, a nice little touristy town on the Sea of Cortez. As I noted before, Baja California averages a width of 70 miles and has a rather zigzag road, so crossing from the Pacific Ocean at Guerrero Negro, over the desert and mountains, we found ourselves looking upon the breathtaking Sea of Cortez.
||Lagoons around San Ignacio
Tidal pool near Mulege (Moo-lay-hay)
View coming into the Sea of Cortez
Gerson walking over the low-tide land
||Check out the cactus crew
See, we can all get along
View of the beautiful sky and bay
We did not stop in Mulege, even though it was "cute", as it just had a bit too many Norte Americanos walking around with bags of sh-stuff on their arms and we were in the mood for some quiet time. So, upon recommendation from Marylyn and John and just about everyone we spoke with, we camped at a little bay area called "El Requeson" (reh-qway-sone).
||The birds seem to have little
Gerson at the island at La Requeson
View across the Bahia Concepcion
A bit of color in the desert landscape
||Prickly pear cactus - very
Gerson and I hiking around the
Very clear water displaying what could have been our dinner (photo taken of 3' fish from about 30' up)
We drove down to the shore and across the hard-packed sand and after passing a few long-term campers (all Canadians fleeing the cold), we parked within a few feet of the high-tide line and directly across the land-bridge to a small island. It was not long before the sun was setting and we had the fire glowing and the stars showing.
||Gerson looking over a very
Natural rock fall resembles a whale (coincidence!)
High tide erases the land bridge and creates our island
Turquoise waters at La Requeson - and our backyard
||Our camp on the beach
Someone lost their brain
First thing in the morning, we squeezed into our wetsuits (as the water was a tad chilly) and snorkeled along the bay and around the island. The water was very clear and somewhat populated by colorful fish and lots of critters scurrying along the sandy bottom areas. Unfortunately, while cavorting around the varying underwater organisms, something did not agree with my sinuses or eyes and I emerged from the water with the contours of the middle of my face contorting into a single, swollen mass. In other words, I had an allergic reaction to some organism in the water that made my nose and eyes swell and bulge, making me look as though I just went 10 rounds in a boxing ring. Fortunately, a fresh-water rinse, an anti-inflammatory and some rest in the sunshine reduced my proboscis back to its normal, now seemingly, delicate size.
Then, it was off for a bit of a hike around the bay area and the mapping out of where we want to return the next time we venture down Baja (as it is a definite we will be coming back, and soon!). During the walk, we noticed an odd rock slide on the nearby hill that resembled a whale. At first look, it would appear that someone had enhanced the rock fall to take this recognizable shape; however, upon closer scrutiny, the "rocks" are actually boulders and not so easily coaxed into an artistic position. We thought the "whale" figure very befitting for the area.
|Photos were taken
while walking the
La Requeson bay during low tide
(about 2' of water)
- Teeny tiny hermit crabs are walking
across my toes - can you find
- Where's the crab? (2nd photo)
My, what lovely teeth you have?
Louise's face after an allergic reaction
to some unknown water entity (this
about half way to really swollen - there are puffer fish and now, puffer face!)
And they're off! Snail racing at its best
Gerson and Louise toasting for
The next day we decided to make a run for La Paz which meant, driving as far as we could through the mid-section of BCS without much stopping. Fortunately, the road was well-mannered and the traffic was light so we made it through La Paz and around the bay to our camp in Tecolote by late afternoon.
We had been warned about the winds coming off the Bahia de La Paz and the warnings were well stated. We were determined to walk the beautiful beach and called 'uncle' soon enough. As luck would have it, our timing of escape from the wind coincided with a little beach cafe wherein we huddled against a wall and soaked our disappointment in cold beers and chillingly good ceviche. All is not lost when you find a good ceviche...
||More spectacular views over
Sea of Cortez
Baja's beautiful desert landscape
||Tecolote - near La Paz (a bit
too windy for us)
Ducking out of the
wind, we happened upon a
Hey, if you cannot move it, then why not
It did not take us long to get underway the next morning and we were in La Paz for an early lunch. After asking several of the locals where to eat, we were surprised to be recommended to a place right on the shoreline, as this would usually be a location for a "tourist-type" restaurant. What we found, however, was the Bismark-cito was a wonderful local joint where we savored fresh fish tacos and fresh fish la plancha (grilled), all the while taking in the view of the glittering turquoise water of the Bahia de La Paz.
We wandered about for a bit and just enjoyed the spectacular shoreline walkway, with the water crystal clear and clean and the people friendly and smiling. La Paz can be described as the place Mexicans go for their holiday and it has such a casual, comfortable feel that you definitely would never get from the more well-known mainland-Mexico tourist towns.
||Around La Paz (north).
in the waters
Nice place to moor for the day
||Even National Geographic
time in the Sea of Cortez
La Paz shorefront views - very nice!
From La Paz, we made our way back across the peninsula to El Pescadero, a little enclave on the Pacific Ocean just south of Todos Santos. As fortune was smiling upon us, we were introduced to a friend of John's (he stopped in at our camp at Punta Cabras) that lives in Baja and we could not resist enhancing this newfound friendship by landing in on him at his home in El Pescadero.
Chris bought his parcel several years back and after living on it while his house was being built, has been enjoying life in Baja for many years now. Being an avid surfer, Chris spends a few months working as a film editor in the U.S. and then spends a few months in his Baja home. What a nice way to live your life!
||Chris Figler's place in La
(near Todos Santos) and views from
||What Todos Santos and
is all about - surfing!
good surfers in the water
And the beach was not too bad
Chris's house was just a skip to the beach and mornings were to be spent with a cup of coffee and a bench with a front-row view of the burgeoning surf. We took the opportunity to wander the beach and found that there was a little turtle enclosure, protecting the turtle eggs for when they hatch. It was a nice thing to see on a rather busy beach (as the area is well-known among surfers for its winter waves).
Chris's house was a terrific combination of ocean view, tropical ambience and farm homey-ness (as behind his home were acres of farmland). And, the hot shower (with nice water pressure) was a real treat!
||Tucked away entrance to the
Views to the surf break nearby
Abandoned RV Park that got washed
Campers still find a way to be near the surf
||Everyone comes out to surf
Turtle eggs' protection area
Sunset from Chris' home
Borrowing Chris's Suzuki Samurai, we ventured into the nearby Todos Santos and decided to play the tourist. We dropped off our laundry, I listened to Gerson sweet-talk the laundry women to have the clothes done the same day, we poked into the varying stores and had another wonderful street-side lunch at a psuedo cart/hut establishment wherein the tables are one with the street/sidewalk.
All in all, it was quite a fun day...until we got stuck in the sand, that is. As luck would have it, we were leaving Todos Santos just before sunset and wanted to take a peek at the other surf break near town. So, without giving much thought to getting directions, we just headed west and scrambled toward the ocean. Having all the confidence in the little 4x4 Samurai, we ventured onto a sand-packed road, only to find that the sand was not so packed and whump, down we went. Fortunately, a home was being built nearby and Gerson schmoozed the workers into coming over and helping us push the car out of its premature grave. Within minutes, I had the car popped into reverse and back on solid footing.
Local artists in
Todos Santos creating a mosaic
Yep, we got stuck in the
sand, even with the 4x4 we
||Sunset over the desert as
seen upon our return
from Todos Santos
Chris and Gerson
We stayed with Chris for a couple of days and as we had no intention of stopping in or anywhere near Cabo San Lucas, we just sauntered down to the southernmost road of BCS, called the East Cape Road. We did pass through Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo and both live up to their reputations of being beautiful and ugly at the same time. The beauty being the blue, blue water of the Pacific Ocean punctuated by various rock island formations and the ugly being the multitude of the obnoxiously colored creatures crowding the streets and beaches with bags of cra-stuff hanging from every appendage (or so it seemed).
|This is the extent of our
Cabo San Lucas. Just way too touristy
for us and frankly, a bit ugly
San Jose Del Cabo - a little better
Can you imagine yourself here?
|Are you bored of beautiful
The East Cape Road's
Traveling along the unpaved East Cape Road was a long, arduous journey that expanded a 50 mile run into a 4-hour hobble. Fortunately, we were well equipped with the 4x4 Dodge truck and we waddled most of the way along this incredibly stunning landscape. Although, there were a few dollops in the road that we were a little nervous skimming over because in several places, the road had eroded away and simply did not exist.
The East Cape Road drive was just one beautiful beach after another and another and another and we were never bored at the reveal of this part of the country. Other than the occasional burro or cow, we were essentially adrift by ourselves and just soaked in the remoteness of it all. Of course, scores of houses and lots were for sale as many Norte Americanos buy a place amidst this beauty with the wishful thinking that they will spend countless months basking in the solitude only to realize, all solitude and no amenities makes for a dull existence (after awhile anyway).
The area has no electricity, no water and no cell phone service so if you do not install a solar power system or use a gas-powered generator, you have no other source of power. Without power for the water pump or satellite dish, you have no fresh water and no electronic entertainment. Even though it sounds very romantic to spend endless days without electricity or water, believe me, it does not take that long before you start hallucinating a stove, washer, dryer, refrigerator, TV and especially, hot showers!
||A somewhat well-known Zacate
with its unusual trunk
The East Cape
Road was a bit dodgy and
||Gerson and his delusion of
fire pit grandeur
Los Frailles - great snorkeling
We looked to make Cabo Pulmo by nightfall and just squeaked into this little diving enclave before dark. As we were previously (mis)informed that there was a camping area nearby, we went looking for our home for the night. Unbeknownst to us, there really was no designated camping area and we were notified of this by Cole, a local dive shop owner. And, Cole, being the astute businessman that he was, offered us to stay in his parking lot and have all the access we wanted to his clean bathrooms and his outdoor (hot) showers used by the divers after they return from their excursions.
Of course, it went without saying that we could stay for free and not to concern ourselves with how long we stay next to his restaurant and bar and his diving/snorkeling operation. No, no worries at all that there was nothing else around for quite a distance and that Gerson's eyes lit up at the mention of cold beer nearby. Yeah, like I said, Cole was a very astute businessman which was confirmed with our spending two dinners at the restaurant (including an excellent impromptu ceviche), one snorkeling foray on his boat and the purchase of two t-shirts.
||Los Frailles and our
||We actually got to swim with
sea lions that hung around these
rocks - just so much fun to see
underwater looking at you as
though you are the one in the zoo
(and, perhaps we are!)
A very good day!
The snorkeling was amazing as we were dropped off at three locations around the beach area known as Los Frailles. The snorkeling areas could be reached from the beach; however, the time and effort it would take to swim the distance to the choice areas would inhibit the enjoyment we had just getting dumped right in the middle of the "aquarium".
The highlight of the morning was being able to swim right up to a colony of sea lions basking in the sun on a large rock. Understandably, we were not to go too close to the rock as the sea lions are somewhat playful, they would think nothing of pushing one of their fellows off the rock and having several hundred pounds of blubber landing on top of you. However, we were able to get within 10' or so of the rock and had several sea lions frolicking around and under the both of us. I found myself laughing through my snorkel at their underwater antics and at the amusing way the sea lions look right into your mask as if to say "Whassup!" And, not to mention the incredible schools of colorful fish that inhabited the reefs and the rocks. A definite 'go-back-to place' for us.
||Gerson and the view back
beach at and around Capo Pulmo
"house" has possibilities as it is
||Gerson contemplating whatever
Views back along Cabo Pulmo shore
Doesn't this last picture look like a
We also took some time to walk the beaches and as the bays are book-ended by cliffs, found ourselves clambering over rocks and looking down upon yet more stunning blue-green bays and tide pools.
||Gerson looking out from the
Restaurant and hanging at the bar
Gerson with Cole Barrymore, the owner
Coral Reef Restaurant and Dive Center
||Los Barilles and a nice way
to park the RV
Even the dogs enjoy the ATV rides
We were fortunate to be on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja at that time because just up north in Los Barilles, the King Of The Wind competition was taking place and we were able to catch a glimpse of the men (and women) launching their flying machines. The King Of The Wind competition was just like it sounds and it was a contest between Wind Surfers and Kite Boarders and who can get the highest ride out of the wind.
Our necks got sore watching the riders thrust themselves upwards to 30+ feet and then sail along for 50' or more. The competitors came from all over the U.S. and thousands of people were cheering them on into the skies.
|Gerson watching the King of
Yes, that is a kite boarder
|The first picture has two
the air - can you find them?
And even more women in flight
Walking along the beach and a bit around town, we found that we really liked this place of locals and ex-pats. There was a safe and secure feeling wherever we went and still the smells and flavors of the savory food of Mexico.
|And, now the men's turn||And, to show that kite
a sport with consequences...look
Our campsite view was not too bad
We started to become a bit more aware of our time left and pointed our camper northward for the long haul home. Enjoying La Paz as much as we did, we decided to create our own deja vu and had lunch at the Bismark-cito again. And, not wasting a good thing, we indulged in the fish taco-plancha combination once again (or should I say, "tacos").
||Views from Los Barilles to La
Baja's version of leaves
Just a typical little pass-thru town
||La Paz again and some of the
things done to beautify the
sitting on this bench
Then, it was off to drive some of the zig of the zag and clear out a portion of the desert country. We found that we had a little time to stop into a camp on the beach we passed on the way south and it did not disappoint. Juncalito (Hun-ka-leeto) was an absolute pleasure (well, after we unstuck ourselves - yep, this time we got stuck with the Dodge and camper, and a little digging, a big wood plank and a strong 4x4 gear, we popped right out of our self-dug hole).
|Beautiful desert sky and landscape||Juncalito - our view
Local family fishing and brought in
We settled in and immediately melted into the peaceful mood of this special place as Juncalito was just a free-camp beach area with nothing but a spectacular view of the Bahia Chenque and lots of places to walk in the hills. The water was crystal clear and in the morning, cruised by dolphins making their breakfast run. Can you say "ahhhh!."
||Juncalito view back to camp
A vulture drying its wings
Gerson overlooking the bay
View to Puerto Escondido
||Very clear water
Incredible mountains surround the
Dolphins on their breakfast run
Our next stop was Loreto and having read very little positive about Loreto, we did not anticipate more than a pause to grab a quick bite to eat. Well, as the references we read were wrong, so were we in our assumption. Although, we did not stop for more than a lunch and a walk around, the lunch and the wonderful stroll through part of this sleepy, quiet, Sea of Cortez town was truly inspiring.
Loreto was the first Spanish settlement in Baja and it was actually the capital of Las Californias from 1697 - 1777. It has a rich history and it is still a jumping off point for excellent fishing expeditions. Being a town located off the main highway, you could easily miss its charm, and I am sure glad we didn't.
A nearby bay and what a nice place
|Sea of Cortez still stunning
Walking plaza area in Loreto
I would have liked to stay another day at Juncalito but alas, we had been told of yet another fine area called Bahia de Los Angeles. So, northward we went and with a stay-over in Vizcaino, a smallish middle-of-the-peninsula town, we made it back to the Sea of Cortez by the next afternoon.
Bahia de Los Angeles had been touted by many people as one of the most beautiful bays in Baja and well, we had to disagree. You could see that at one time it enjoyed a boom of winter tourists (again, the snowbirds from the north) and that there were clean amenities throughout the area; however, our visit showed a dismantling of what was once usable and a general uncleanliness all around the bay. Basically, it has just been let go and with the deterioration of the infrastructure, so to goes the money with the tourists.
||View over the Vizcaino desert
Sunset in Vizcaino
||Coming into Bahia de Los
Bahia de Los Angeles marina area
Unfortunately, this area was rather
We had hoped to rent kayaks and stay for another day; however, a recent law requires you to rent from the authorities or perhaps, "Park Service" and you have to pay for a permit to use the kayaks on the bay. Apparently, this was because the kayakers were leaving their garbage on the shore or on the small islands that dot the entrance to the bay and the authorities wanted to police this practice. All I know is, is that I saw the fishermen (that are pretty much all that is left supporting the town) throwing their trash into the bay while they were bringing in their catch. One has to ask themselves how much garbage can a kayaker carry vs. a fishing boat...hmmmmm.
||Views to Bahia de Los Angeles
from around the bay
||Cirio tree - unique to the
Baja area and quite
different looking (and our abandoned RV
Various landscapes as you drive further north
So, with the disappointment of no kayaks to play with, we pointed westward and headed back over to the Pacific side. Now that we had an extra day, we decided to see what the beaches were like a bit further south of Ensenada than we had stayed over New Years.
We landed in a camping area near San Quintin and referred to as El Pabellon and we had no difficulty staying a couple of days. The campground was empty but for the owner, Fidel, a Canadian couple and three rather useless dogs, Muneca, Oso and one that we cannot remember the name. The irony of one of the dogs was that Muneca, a female, was the spitting image of another dog we met in Chile, also called "Muneco" (or the male form of the name - click on the name and see what you think about the similarity of the two pooches).
||Ahhh, now that is the way
beaches should look.
|Oso and Muneca adopted us
Muneca helping Gerson
clean the shrimp (every time you
It's amazing what $5 can buy (over 2 pounds of shrimp)
My haul in just ten minutes on the beach
(we are trying to
The beach here was gorgeous and you could not take 10 steps without crushing a sand dollar or shell that had washed up onto the shore. Within minutes, I had picked up so many sand dollars (estrellas de mar) that I had to go get a bag to carry my haul. It was very easy to spend hours walking next to the gentle waves and just ooh and ahh at all the shells laid out on the sand.
|Enjoying the sunset on the
deck of the
campground owner's place
Gerson and Fidel, the owner
Gerson one happy fire camper
Sunset over El Pabellon
The next day, we talked the owner, Fidel, into our paying for his lunch if he would take us around the area so we got to see a small bay and some other off-the-beaten-path of the area. We found that buying shrimp in Baja is VERY cheap and that the fresh fish in the area was delicious. Fidel tried to sell us a piece of his land and even though it was rather tempting, buying land in Mexico is a huge risk. And heck, in a few hours, we can visit with our camper anytime with a lot less hassle.
Having to get back home by the 20th, we packed up on the 19th and made ready for the seven-hour drive home, saying our goodbyes to Baja. Muneca and Oso chased us with wagging tails and we waddled off the last of our sand roads.
|Adios Baja - it was a magnifico three weeks!|
Entering and leaving Baja via Tijuana is always a bit of a challenge as the traffic and the roads are "interesting" and the border crossing can subject you to hours of soliciting cries of "buy this" or "I sell you that". Anyone that crosses at this border dreads this wait as you are a captured audience for the sellers of all kinds of junk.
As luck would have it, we entered the road for the border inspection in a wrong lane and we were told to circle back around and re-enter. With this instruction, we realized that we would enter even further back in the line and only hours of crawling forward awaited us. Well, we must have looked utterly confused as a local on a bicycle pedaled in to rescue us. He raced ahead of us, pedaling faster then Fred Flinstone, and took us to a little known entrance to the correct lanes. Not only did we bypass a couple of hours of waiting, we only spent about 15 minutes of shaking our heads and saying "no" to the pestering hawkers along the way. So, even though ending our wonderful trip with a pass through the not-so-wonderful Tijuana, we concluded our time in Baja with a helpful gesture from a kind man and it just punctuated the entire mood of our time in Baja California, an absolutely lovely place.