Finally we’re out of the US. Drive down Mexico’s Baja California. A long stretch thru the desert, some interesting towns, many desperate villages and some beaches. The latter – maybe we’ve expected a bit more.
Ensanada, 2nd May
A last IPA in small Borrego Springs. Who knows whether they sell such excellent stuff in Mexico.
The next morning we’re on the way to the border. To Tecate. A 2h drive, then we see the wall. Not really a wall, it’s more a kind of a fence. We suppose there are plans to replace this ugly construction in the very near future by a wonderful wall of trumpian dimensions. Well, maybe politicians can’t follow their own promises.
Back to reality. We’re at the border. On the US-side even not a village. Just a parking. And a gate, nobody visible. We pass it. Suddenly we realize that we’re already in Mexico. Of course without any stamps or whatever is needed. In our best Spanish we ask some officials hanging around on how to do the paperwork. No problem, we just have to park Prado in a side street in Tecate and walk back. We assume we’re walking back to the US. As we cannot see any of these US-immigration guys by now we’re probably illegal immigrants on US territory – similar to all these Mexicans we’ve seen on Fox News. Maybe not.
Anyway, we turn back towards the Mexican side. Now without missing the immigration office. Here we discover, that office hours are 9 am to 1 pm. And it’s 10 to 1. No problem. We fill in our immigration card. Pay some money and some 5′ later we’re out again. Not without telling the nice gentleman with a huge mustache in the office a few stories about Swizzyland and after having received a 6 months permit for Mexico. It’s still not 1 pm.
No need to have a TIP for Prado as we don’t plan to travel outside Baja California in the next months. Baja is 1 of the free zones or belongs a little bit to the US, or whatever.
We’re back on the road in Tecate, Mexico.
Immediately we see the difference. There are many people in the streets. Not this depressing emptiness you feel in most American towns. Of course everything is a little more untidy, they concentrate garbage to a lesser extend in waste bins, maybe houses are in even more desperate need for some paint than in the US. Well, all looks a little more used and less maintained. Nevertheless, visibly McDonald’s greasy burgers are still available.
We also search seriously for these caravans of immigrants trying to illegally enter the US. We can’t find them despite the fact that they must be here (according to Fox News and the President’s Office). Maybe they’re afraid we take a pic of them to publish it in our post. Or they’re all having lunch or they watch Fox News. Who knows.
We’re on the way to Ensenada. The biggest town in northern Baja. On the Ruta del Vino. Well, it’s not South Africa’s Stellenbosch or France’s Alsace. But it’s true, they have some wine.
Ensenada is definitely not a must-have-seen town in Mexico.
But convenient to get organized. To buy a new SIM card (best telcel – they have good coverage), to eat some ceviche (best at the La Guerrerense food stall) and to get used to their beer prices (5-6 times less than in the US).
It’s a place with many alfredo restaurants to munch seafood spiced with all kind of sauces you find on the tables accompanied by drinks in all different colors.
When we discovered these golden guys made of cast iron we thought it’s a tribute to good old Towaritsch Lenin. Far wrong, one of them is Venustiano Carranza. Don’t know him? – no worries, nor do we.
Ensenada is also a town full of artists – mainly musicians and street performers hunting for a tip to buy the next Burrito. However many talents are just waiting to be discovered.
There’s still more in town. Tacos – of a quality you would even not dare to think about in the US.
And last but not least, and maybe a fact not to neglect – a liter of beer is just 70 Pesos in a restaurant. That’s about 3.50$ for that stuff., compared to 15-20$ in any US watering hole.
Bahia de los Angeles, 4th May
We’re on the way to the south. But before starting Prado insists on a visit to the fuel station. The very 1st 1 it sees. It looks like Prado is so tired with this vegan US diesel it cries for an extra load of Mexican sulfur.
Then we’re on the way to San Quintin a little further south.
Thru some mountains, along more vineyards to reach the town in the afternoon.
We’re at the beach. It’s astonishingly cool, icy wind. More for a stroll than for a swim.
Well, we’re slightly surprised when we discover a heavily armed army pick-up patrolling along the beach. Maybe they’re just searching illegal US immigrants trying to escape Uncle Don’s politics. Maybe not.
The next morning we drive on. Now to Bahia the los Angeles. Some 350 km away on Baja’s east coast. The road gets smaller, more potholes. Fortunately not to many big trucks crossing.
The 1st stretch along the Pacific coast, then inland thru the desert. A paradise for cactus addicts.
In the afternoon we approach Bahia de los Angeles. It has the reputation to be a remote little village with a fantastic setting in a pretty spectacular landscape.
Well, beautiful landscape is true. All other romantic ideas about this neat village you better put aside before arriving.
Unfortunately, the waste disposal seems to have stopped decades ago, supposedly it’s strictly forbidden to finish any construction or to maintain any building in the whole town. Whatever, if you want to enjoy it, just drive out for a few km. This applies especially to any campgrounds in town.
We simply master the situation by staying in Villa Vitta – a reasonably well kept GH.
A few km out of town to the beach of La Gringa. Beautiful place.
Back to town. Time for a beer – at a place where you can ignore the view at you right and your left.
And that’s it.
Mulege, 6th May
We move on. Today to San Ignacio; some 350 km thru the desert. Pretty boring landscape. Lots of cactuses to admire.
A few villages, pretty nondescript. To live there would be you’re guarantee to be depressive after 2 days.
Somewhen we cross the border to Baja South. Nevertheless, more of admin. interest that anything else.
Then we’re in San Ignacio. It’s a real oasis. Palm trees, a pond – reminds us of Morrocco.
And the very 1st village on the Baja with a traditional plaza. Thus, pretty different to all other accumulation of cheap 3rd world architecture prevailing in this region.
Not to be mentioned, the plaza under the close supervision of the village’s security forces impatiently waiting for an inexcusable mistake of a poor sinner to be punished draconically.
And of course, they have their famous eponymous mission. The main attraction of the village if it happens to you to visit here outside of the whale watching season – as we do.
And most important there’s the plaza’s ultimate watering hole – Victor.
We head on to Mulege. On the way we pass the 3 Virgenes – well, 3 volcanoes. Despite the huge signboard indicating access to them and hiking trails, the whole area is properly fenced and closed to the public. What a pain in the ass.
We reach the Sea of Cortez at the small mining town of Santa Rosalia. An area where you really feel the pollution everywhere.
Nevertheless, downtown looks pretty nice, albeit quite chaotic. Could be a small Caribbean town.
The town is famous for its Iron Church. It’s said to be built by Gustave Eiffel – the guy how invented Paris’ Eiffel Tower to have as much money squeezed out as possible of poor Japanese’n’Chinese tourists visiting the town. The locals insist that the very same guy built this church. Probably with the same objective. Unluckily for the Sanrosalianos nobody seems to be ready to pay an entrance fee. Or there are no Chinese tourists. So the visit remains free and the Sanrosalianos remain shipping coal in the surrounding mines. What a destiny.
On to Mulege. Another oasis, just next to the sea.
A walk thru the palm trees …
… to the town’s Mission Santa Rosalia.
A stroll thru Mulege’s downtown. Unfortunately not too fascinating. And strangely surrounded by some so-called closed communities: settlements build by US or Canadian immigrants; strictly closed to all strangers, especially Mexicans. Seems to be a preferred way of living of these guys in an environment they probably feel threatening and not adequate to their style of living.
Whatever. The former prison – a pretty unusual building converted into a solidly closed museum.
Loreto, 8th May
The next morning we leave tiny Mulege. To Loreto some 100 km to the south. Along Bahia de Concepcion.
Described in most websites and guide books as the most beautiful stretch of Baja California. A place where life is a beach. Turquois, pristine water, lonely beaches with snow white sand. You name it, maybe you get it.
Of course, we have to explore it. Maybe we’ll spend the rest of our life here: camping, watching fishermen getting us the catch of the day, drinking beer and waiting for the next day to be even more perfect than the last 1.
Soon we arrive at the 1st beach: Playa de los Naranjos. What a beautiful name. There’s a cluster of colorful bungalows along the beach. Looks like a good idea for people without camping equipment. Getting closer we only realize how badly constructed and rundown they are. Somehow at the limit not too suitable for renting out. And the white sand in front of them – hard like concrete from all the cars driving along the beach. And covered with seaweed.
Probably we’re too near to Mulege. The good beaches must be further south.
We drive on. Along many secluded bays, many with white sand and turquoise water. Most of them with some shelters along the shores, all ready for camping – by now mostly empty. Just some trash swirling around in the wind. A few beaches with a hotel – they all look like closed down quite some time ago.
We arrive at Playa el Requeson. Said to be the most wonderful of all. Even with a spit connecting a small island during low tide. Sounds like the place you want to spend the rest of your life.
From far we quickly realize that the sand is not as white as expected. Who bothers, for the pics in our post we can improve it with Photoshop (see right). And there’s some seaweed. Mainly in the water. Could be an excellent base for a healthy nutrition. Just need to organize a Japanese for some cooking classes.
Well, we approach this paradise. Visibly someone maintains a campground. Perfect. There’s even a signboard indicating that everybody should pay something to ensure the maintenance of the place. Well, the board looks a little bit in a stage of disrepair. Probably the guy invests the money in more useful stuff than just a signboard. We feel slightly uneasy when we see the heap of trash on the side of the signboard and the dilapidating shelter of the caretaker.
No problem. We get out of the car. Strangely, the whole area somehow smells like the restrooms in the Grand Canyon National Park after 3 months of Government shutdown or the toilets of Calcutta’s railway station after a 4-week general strike of the maintenance staff. This smell a bit everywhere, not just at the place where the toilets are. Whatever. A look at these small buildings at the backside of the beach. Yes, real toilets, equipped with everything. It’s more about what we find inside. We don’t dare to take a pic. We couldn’t show it to anybody. Slowly we start to understand the prevailing system a la naturalezza. And imagine during high season there must be hundreds of campers living here for months. And all these enthusiastic campers could also explain why the sand has this grayish color and is again hard like concrete.
Well, maybe our reflections are wrong. During high season in winter only these large, completely autonomous, fully equipped American RVs with their huge generators stay at the beach. Thus, they don’t contribute to this specific mess. Or, at that time of the year, it’s simply too cold for this all-pervasive smell; as it’s too cold – maybe everything freezes immediately. Probably not.
Anyway, we prefer to move on. Sorry guys, we think we’ll have to spend the rest of our life somewhere else.
Thus, instead of enjoying the dream beach we drive on to Loreto.
Loreto. A small town at the Cortez Sea. Well, not the place to come for a beach. Nevertheless, very touristy – supposedly they still have a minority of locals. Mainly to keep the tourist’s life alive.
Whatever, there’s also an advantage: they sell IPA.
The next day a side trip to the Mission San Javier. High up in the mountains. Quite a spectacular landscape.
Then the visit to Baja’s oldest mission. Well hidden in the mountains.
Well, that’s it for this post.
Hope you enjoyed reading, learned a lot about America’s Mr. President, the Baja side of California and remain jealous despite some not too appetizing findings at Baja California’s famous beaches.
Soon more. Promised.