Week 1 in Baja
The fact that we are able to travel for (hopefully) a year still does not feel real. We have finally reached a point that is further than either of us have ever been. We are settling into the truck and where everything is and starting to become efficient with it.
Baja has been really tough to find wifi. We have found that many places advertise they have it and then when you ask about it they say, “Oh no we don’t have wifi anymore.” It is also taking me a bit to get into the swing of speaking spanish. Which really frustrates me as I used to be decent and now I feel I have forgotten everything. It is slowly coming back though. In the last few days more and more has been popping into my head. I also have trusty google translate downloaded on my phone so I can look up anything I don’t know/need.
After we crossed the border we hit dirt as soon as we could driving past lots of little ranchitos, We didn’t really know where we would end up that night but we knew we would have decent elevation and it was remote, we ended up heading towards Laguna Hanson (aka Laguna Juarez) which turned out to be a dry lake bed but because of all the forgotten resorts, camping, and at one time a paid entry, it got us to wondering how long ago it had water in it. We found a camp that night in the hills a ways past Laguna Hanson, I think the nearest large ranch that showed on the map was Rancho Botella. On our way in and out of that spot we passed the nicest little wood cabin I think I have ever seen. It was not large or fancy bit the craftsmanship was mind blowing because as we drove to our spot we kept noticing that the builder had cut all the lumber from nearby trees, there were still some piles of planks out there, I think maybe drying out? But the amount of work that went into that little house and how much care and detail he put into the building was very cool to see. We got some video of that so you’ll see it in one of the videos.
The next morning we headed out using our little Baja atlas to navigate, which is kind of fun, out there it becomes a bit of a guessing game as to which road is which. We had the map on our phone recording a track so we could compare that when needed, and the Ranch names also gave us some idea of where we were. We hit some of the Baja 500 course which can always be distinguished by it’s giant whoops. We went by a popular place for Baja Racer’s called Mike’s Sky Ranch, which because of it’s popularity has become an expensive place to stay, so we hoped maybe the bar would be open and we could stop and have a drink, maybe they would even have wifi. Turns out the bar wasn’t open and they did not have wifi. So we chatted with the couple we was on caretaker duty of the ranch, they told us the way forward was very rough right now and we would need to turn around and go back to the highway, which was a good hour and half back a bumpy dirt road. We thanked them, and headed up the “impassable” hill just past the ranch, known as Simpson hill (I am sure you can google Simpson Hill Baja 500 and see some pretty crazy stuff). Because the 500 had just happened it was pretty chewed up and I cannot imagine trying to do any of it at speed let alone with a two wheel drive buggy…Yikes! Goose made quick work of the hill I only had to get out once to spot, this trail was pretty rough for the next hour so it was pretty slow going although not very technical terrain. We eventually made it to a much better dirt road and headed towards the nearest high elevation, Which happened to be REALLY high, there was an observatory in the nearby mountains which sat at 8,500 ft in elevation. So we climbed and climbed and found that there were not many little roads off the main road for us to find a spot. We went up one little trail to find an official “Bombalero” (Fire Department) truck at the top. After checking out a few more little roads we knew we would not be getting as remote as we would like. We finally found a little pullout with a disused trail off of it. We walked the trail and found a neat little spot up on a large flat rock, which sat just above the road but out of view so we climbed in the truck and crawled up to it. We had an amazing view that night and after about 7PM no one was coming or going on the road. In the middle of the night we did have a bit of a scare when a mountain lion came to check us out. Not sure why but he was making a lot of noise…not sure what you call the sound they make but I am going to call it a scream. So it woke us both up the sound was coming from right next to us then seemingly 10 feet away suddenly then 20 feet…it was like some sort of alien that could move that fast and quick. After that we both sat very still barely daring to breath and just listened for a long time. Eventually off in the distance we could hear a dog going crazy barking and growling so we figured the cat must have moved on. In the AM we investigated for footprints to prove out theory and sure enough we found some. WHEW! Glad we are sleeping high up. After that night we have made it a rule to make sure our tailgate is closed and we have our bear spray within reach.
The next day we were so excited to head to the beach! We needed some groceries and hoped to find some wifi. We had heard from some friends about a little hostel/camp on the water and it just so happened we would be hitting highway right at the turn for that, so we decided to check it out, it was called Quatro Casas. Again it’s sign advertised wifi. When we pulled in we talked to the owner and he told us they in fact no longer had wifi as it was the satellite kind and it was slow. I think the place was a popular spot for surfers as there were a few trucks and a few sprinters there and a few people surfing in the waves below. A cool house, a nice guy, not a great camp spot, and for us not surfing we were craving a better beach. Also because of the fact that it was known by the Americans (everyone staying there was American) the prices were high (for Baja). We needed to head into town anyways for supplies and hopefully wifi so we drove back to the little town and didn’t see much in the way of either, we did see a hardware store so we stopped there hoping they would carry some spray foam we needed to fill a hole that was letting in dust in the rear panel. At this time my google translate was not working and we had to mime spray foam, Tim had the brilliant idea to grab a can of spray paint and make the noise the foam makes when it squirts out. After that the girl helping us knew immediately what we needed. Turns out it fixed our dust issue too!
We decided since it was early in the day that we would push on to find another camp for tonight. We headed for San Quintin, we had been to a place called the Old Mill before and hoped maybe it would have wifi. Luckily it did! So we grabbed a beer and sat on the water struggling with slow inconsistent wifi. The World Cup was on TV inside (I think Mexico lost the next day). We still needed supplies so we headed to the nearest grocery store and stocked up. Then headed out to where we hoped we could find a spot on the beach. A very washboardy dirt road lead us through two very small villages and then onto a beach and sand dunes. We eventually hit a preserve. At the entrance there was a gate that was open but it said we should register. We knocked on the door but no one was there. So we drove through the sleepy little village onto the beach. Then at the end of the town we hit a sign for the preserve which pretty much said we could do nothing in this area, yet we could see tire tracks continuing down the beach. We didn’t want to piss off the locals so we drove back through the town hoping we would see someone and be able to ask them. The very last house before we exited there was a man and we waived and I think he may have been the caretaker and he excitedly told Tim that we could camp there and just the sand dunes were protected. He also pointed out a big orange thing way out in the bay saying it would end up on the beach over there. Again no google translate we thought it was a fishing net or something, we found out when driving back the next morning that it was a dead whale that had washed up…Huge and stinky on the beach. This camp spot felt pretty magical, both of us were so excited to be at the beach, we had seals playing out in front of us that night, and even dolphins the next morning. It was so nice to get up that morning with the cool ocean breeze, seeing the locals out in their pongas, or on shore collecting and fishing, everyone was very friendly as they went about their daily routine. It is such a neat thing to be able to have your house be in such unique and seemingly luxurious spots. I sat in the back of the truck with my laptop editing video and watching the seals and fisherman go about their morning with my coffee and could not stop thinking HOW COOL IS THIS?! As we left we saw Pedro the caretaker again and talked about the whale that had washed up, how amazing our spot was and thanked him! He was so genuinely excited that we enjoyed his little corner of the world.
We headed in to El Rosario for gas and some tacos before heading to our next beach camp. The town seemed much more Americanized from the last time we had stopped there about 4 years ago. We hit the beach and at low tide we were able to drive around a little rock outcropping for a more remote spot. This was the perfect beach to run on so we took turns running to the end of the beach and back to our truck. Then we got up the nerve to get in the water, we took a little soap and shampoo and enjoyed getting clean. The water was very COLD and it was hard not to scream as you dunked in, after that feeling clean and enjoying the warm sun was great! Tim made a little bonfire and I made some fresh salsa to enjoy with the local delicious tortilla ships we had gotten the day before. Yum! We have been reading books once we get into bed each night and it has become something both of us really look forward to. Finally we have time to read!
We were going to be more remote for a few days without a town for at least three or four days, as we wanted to take the little roads that follow the coast down to Guerrero Negro. This has been my favorite part so far, as the little roads are two track that don’t get heavy traffic so no wash board. We just trundle along and enjoy the radio and conversation, taking in the views with the windows down. The nice part of driving along the coast is the cool ocean breeze. So pleasant. Our first camp spot was on a little bay with a small shack not far off, which had a few pongas, and even a surf board. We later found out that this area is popular during lobster season, which would explain the many traps we would see laying around and the lobster shells. But for now it was quiet and that was OK with us. Tim was excited to test out his free diving gear and we had a good spot with small waves near some rocks so he suited up (he looks like batman with a yellow weight belt) and went hunting for lobster or fish with no luck, the tide was just starting to come in and the once calm bay was stirring up a bit more and the visibility was very low so he gave up only to go get the surf board which as we imagined was not in very good shape. So we settled in with dinner and a fire. When we saw a truck a ways off on the beach we both watched as it was rare to see anybody out here and when he seemed to be coming our way we both got a little nervous. He pulled his truck right up behind ours. A little weary we both walked over to be greeted by a very friendly man and his wife and daughter, immediately we felt comfortable again. We were in a preserve and this guy was the caretaker. He just wanted us to fill out a little info on what we were using the preserve for, how long we would be there etc. Just information for the preserve. His wife and two daughters were in the truck and I chatted with them as Tim talked to Omar, it looked like they had been working that day to either harvest some plants or get rid of them, I should have asked. But we talked to them in our broken spanish and told them what we were doing. Then we said our goodbyes and they pulled away, then they pulled back up and he jumped out and asked if they could get a picture with us. So one of the little girls got out and took a photo with their camera of Omar, Tim and I with the truck in the background. I also got one of just Tim and Omar (internet connection is not good enough to send photos). We gave them a sticker and they waved and waved as they pulled away. Tim and I laughed at how our first instinct was that something bad was about to happen.
Another really nice perk of camping on or near the beach is the cool breeze at all times, it makes sleeping in so wonderfull. I took advantage of the cool breeze and enjoyed sleeping in this morning. Tim sat and read overlooking the bay with his morning coffee. We lazily packed up and decided to meander down the coast a bit more and see what other cool spots we might find.
We came across my favorite beach so far. Sandy with small waves. We could hide behind the tall Sand dunes. It was much warmer and less windy than all before, I took another ocean bath and then enjoyed the warm sun and sand, beer in hand. It was pure paradise. We even saw a few deer here.
Well that is all for now, we have had a few camps since and I can’t wait to share those with you too.
Kelsey and Tim