Baja

We allowed ourselves to sleep in at the parking lot of the brewery. Once we decided we were awake, we headed off to the hot springs (las aguas termales de Puertecitos). We paid 500 pesos to drive Savannah into the village and up to the hot springs, which we hit just as the tide was coming in. The hot springs were quite busy as families congregated around the hotter areas. We found a quiet pool on the outskirts and watched dolphins jump and pelicans dive while we soaked.

Eventually, the tide came in to the point that our precariously placed backpack, which was perched on a rock within the pool, was in danger of getting wet. And the pool was getting cooler with the inflow of the sea. We hopped out, dried off, had a PB&J in the parking lot, then continued South to Bahía de Los Ángeles. We read about a pretty cool spot to camp and it was on our way to Loreto, where we hoped to get information about local climbing in the area.

Google maps over-estimated the time it would take us to travel to Bahía de Los Ángeles. We hit one military checkpoint after leaving Puertocito, but after answering where we were going and where we came from, we were waved through. We followed the coast South, then headed inland, until highway 5 intersected with highway 1. iOverlander recorded another military checkpoint here, but there was none, and we hung a left and headed back towards the coast. We saw a lot of horses and cow on the side of the road – most of them alive, some dead. The road was a bit scary to drive on as it seemed like layers and layers of pavement were laid on top of each other giving the sides of the road a pretty steep, sandy shoulder. I’d hold my breath as a semi-truck drove by, hoping we would both have enough room to pass by each other.

Our gas was running low as we arrived in Bahía de Los Ángeles. We knew there would be a gas station, but for up to an hour or so before we got there, we lost all service. When we arrived at the fuel station, we still didn’t have service, and failed to ask if they would take a credit card. After Savannah thirstily drank up 1500 pesos worth of fuel, I extended my arm out the window with our credit card to be told that there was no internet for credit and that we would have to pay cash. Stunned, we scrambled and found we only had ~500 pesos worth and maybe $10 worth USD. The attendant filled up a few other cars before returning  to us, upon which we told him this was all we had and that we could walk to town to try to find an ATM or a way to get cash. He offered to try turning the credit card machine off and on again and asked one of us to come into the office. Andre did me the favor of going instead of me, and it turned out the credit card machine worked. Lesson learned – we’ll always ask if credit is accepted first.

We then headed into town. I had a Zoom interview/meeting for a potential job in Santiago, Chile the next morning and Andre also had a Zoom meeting scheduled with his lab. We found the market with wifi to purchase, gave it a test run, then headed to our campsite. We found a free campsite on La Gringa playa, which was heavily endorsed on iOverlander as a really cool spot to camp. After we left the pavement, and were jarred as we crashed into the washboards, we saw that this was quite a popular place. It appeared though that most of the visitors to the beach were only there for the day – either fishing or swimming or drinking or all three. We passed a cool spot where the remnants of a building stood and made a note that we would check later to see if this place was free, it would be perfect spot to sling some hammocks.

We swam in the clearest blue water I’ve ever swam in. It looked like sunken mountains dotted the bay. It was the perfect little bay that we were lucky to stumble upon. As Andre cooked dinner, I noticed our ideal spot with the three posts of a building opened up. I moved the van over to claim it and set up our hammocks as Andre finished dinner. Once it was dark, we went down to the water to check out the stars only to find bioluminescent algae! As we disrupted the water with our hands and feet, the water lit up with specks of blue. It was incredible.

The next morning we tested out our sun shower to rinse off in preparation for our meetings. It worked well but the water definitely runs out faster than we hoped. We were both left a bit soapy.

We drove to the market, bought 3 tokens each of wifi, one hour per token (because of course we got there an hour early) and caught up with messages/news before doing our respective meetings. My meeting went really well for a prospective position in Chile if my eDNA study doesn’t get funded, or maybe even if it does and I can swing doing both. I’m very excited about both projects.

In between my meeting and Andre’s, we bought some juice from the market and sat out on the picnic table. During which point, a few military trucks rolled in. In the moments Andre was away, I was approached by an armed military guard and asked a few questions. We both had a ton of opportunities to work on our Spanish by venturing off the main routes and visiting small towns. After answering a few questions in broken Spanish about where I was from/what I was doing, the guard asked for my number in which I said I was with “mi novio,” he asked again and pushed his phone in front of me. It was a bit of an uncomfortable situation and I refused to share my number; Andre returned as we were saying our goodbyes.

Andre learned how to code in Python on the steps of the market. He’s somehow pulling off working in a cyber psychology lab as we continue our travels. We also got caught up in a dog fight – you can read about in Andre’s post here.

From Bahia de Los Angeles, we drove back to the highway 1 to continue South. We planned to spend the next night at some salt flats on our way to Loreto. Just after El Rosarito, we were met with another military checkpoint. We noticed how the road was split and broken apart to discourage anyone from running through the checkpoint. We bounced across bumpy road bypass to the check point. We had practiced answering the questions with more grace than “Hablo un poco espanol.” We formulated our answers to say we were coming from de Bahía de Los Ángeles and going to Granja Elizabeth (which was the closest town to the salt flats we were planning to stay). Before I could stumble through where we came from in Spanish, we were asked to get out of the car and open the doors for inspection. Thus far, we were mostly waved through, with maybe a quick glance into the open back doors. At this inspection, we were stopped for about 10 minutes as various containers were sorted through and inspected. Oddly enough, the garage was never sorted through – which holds most of the possessions we are traveling with. Instead, the shower bag, backpack with our laptops, random backpacks in the front of the garage, and middle counsel area of the van were thoroughly checked. I remember kind of panicking about the taser I had in my driver’s door and the butterfly knives we had in the middle counsel. I had heard a story about someone being in SE Asia and being detained for carrying a taser. Luckily they either didn’t know what it was or didn’t care – it’s bright pink to be fair. But eventually they said all was OK and we were waved through.

We did eventually make it Ganja Elizabeth, after one more check point – but this time an agricultural one where Savannah was just sprayed with insecticide and wasn’t searched. We finally got our joint debit card to work and pulled some cash from town. We then headed West out to the coast where we would find the salt flats to camp on.

This was a really cool spot, despite the constant fear of sinking into the mud below the salt… luckily that never happened. We parked on the side of the road and walked out onto the flats. Ancient sea shells filled the plush sand and as we walked puffs of dust left a trail behind us. Eventually the dusty sand turned in to rock hard salt, crystalized into interesting shapes. Everything looked small in the distance, including Savannah as we walked out across the flats.

Andre got some cool night shots of the stars that night.

We slept in the next morning, which is a new luxury that neither of us mind. Our next stop was Loreto. We had read on Mountain Project that if we went to the bar called El Zopilote and asked for Keiran, we could be told of the location for La Lotila – a multipitch trad climb near Loreto. On the way, we were stopped by another military checkpoint in which the van was turned topsy turvy again in search for who knows what. In Loreto, we found a paid campsite for 200 pesos (~$10) for the night with bathrooms, wifi, and (a much needed) real shower. We pulled in under the thatched structure denoting our campsite, then headed to El Zopilote. After some struggling with how to ask for Kieran for climbing questions, we finally conveyed why we wished to speak with him. Our waiter disappeared into the kitchen, but returned shortly after with some sad news – the climbing area was closed for the duration of the pandemic. Accepting our fate, we ordered some food anyway. I had an amazing fish ‘n chips dish with a blood orange wheat beer. We decided to have a night on the town that night since we would not be climbing the next day. Loreto is a really cool little town to check out and explore!

Despite now being ahead of schedule, since we wouldn’t be spending a day climbing, we decided to push on to La Paz. Andre skated to the nearby laundromat to finish drying our clothes that we had washed the night before. I grabbed a coffee nearby and did some maintenance/small fixes to the van set up. We drove out of Loreto and passed a lot of potentially climbable rock we wondered whether could be La Lolita. It was about a four hour drive from Loreto to La Paz.

We had one obligation in La Paz that day – to reserve a spot on the ferry from Pichilinque to Mazatlán. It went without a hitch. This is the first step of many to import Savannah from the Baja peninsula into mainland Mexico and be able to continue on there. The ferry ride will be about 20 hours, luckily we will be able to sleep in Savannah. We’ll likely be making a post on the logistics of all of this once we wrap everything up and get Savannah on the ferry.

After we reserved our ticket to Mazatlán and crossed our fingers that all will go well, we decided to relax. We hit the beach at Playa de Tecolote, a popular overlanding spot. Upon minutes after we parked and hopped into the sea, we spotted a sea turtle paddling out to deeper water. I’ve never seen one in the wild before and to be within meters of a wild, seemingly healthy and happy sea turtle was pretty incredible. Moments later we saw rays in a group swimming along the coast as well – we were only in about waist deep! After our share of salt water, we walked up the beach to the stand of restaurants and tried seviche for the first time, and I sampled all of the hot sauce options offered.

Today, we successfully acquired the TIP for Savannah – basically an import for bringing a vehicle into (mainland) Mexico and promising not to sell her. It was quite the experience but in the end it went pretty smooth – we’ll see how it goes going through customs and boarding the ferry tomorrow.

Until then, we’ll be at the beach 🙂

Andre is updating a map of our campsites – you can find it here!

3 thoughts on “Baja

  1. My internet was out for a day so I didn’t get to read this until this morning. More exciting parts to your trip! I talked to your Dad last Sunday and he was explaining about having to put Savannah on a ferry and all that. You two must have done some bad ass research to arrange all these plans. Venture on, stay safe and I will be anxiously waiting for the next installment! Love you!

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  2. So enjoyed reading your adventures in the Baja as Jim and I spent our honeymoon exploring that beautiful place. Flying fish in San Felipe and criss crossing over to the coast on sand roads without seeing a soul, come to mind. Have a great trip and keep sharing.

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