As I am writing this, we are in the first week of December, and although that marks us at 5 months since we originally departed from San Diego, our travels abroad have just eclipsed 2 weeks. Our first destination; Mexico’s Northern Baja, which is the region of Baja starting from the US/Mexico border down to the halfway point of Guerrero Negro. We have been traveling/living out of Poppins for these past 5 months, and even though that seems like plenty of time to get used to this life on the road, there was still a bit of stigma regarding doing this road travel in our back yard of the U.S.A. versus doing it in a foreign land. (For those of you who are unfamiliar, Poppins is my trusty Nissan Frontier that I converted into our little home on wheels)
To help us mentally adjust, we began our travels in what I consider to be the most familiar region of any foreign land I have visited (except maybe Florence, Italy where I spent 4 months studying abroad). It’s a place I have been frequenting for the past 9 years either by car or boat, so I felt confident beginning our foreign travels here – a place to get our feet wet.
Writing this, I am sitting on a white sand beach in Bahia Concepcion (which I will talk about when I cover the Baja Sur Region) and looking back at our first couple weeks on the road. I can confirm that having an adjustment period to being abroad, especially in a vehicle, in a familiar place was good call. I am a firm believer that it’s usually best to jump right in, as Lindsey had mentioned in her first blog post, but if you have the means, jumping into the shallow end isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can work up confidence for what’s ahead, as well as teach you some important lessons right off the bat (like make sure you have enough cash when heading to small towns that don’t take cards).
We got our start in a small town just southwest of Ensenada call La Bufadora. Here, we found ourselves a secluded campsite at Campo #5, a small campground about 2 km outside of town. Campo #5 was a very basic spot where the only amenity was a toilet with running water and a cold water “shower”, which was actually just a water pipe coming out of a wall. Regardless of the amenities, or lack thereof, it was a great place for us to start and spend our first few days. It was private, large enough for big groups, and it had a few hiking trails, one of which lead down to a nice small rocky beach. Not far from San Diego, we even had a few of our best friends come down for a few days and celebrate thanksgiving for one last send off. I almost feel like I can write one entire blog about our campsite Thanksgiving dinner…it was amazing! As for the town of La Bufadora, it is a small strip of restaurants and Mexican shops selling all the things you would expect them to be selling. The town is also known for the world’s 2nd largest natural blow hole. Unfortunately, for the blow hole to be active the seas need to be a little rougher then when we were there, so we missed out on the action, but it is worth checking out nonetheless.
We spent three days in La Bufadora and then made our way south, stopping off at one of Mexico’s wine regions; the Santo Tomas Valley. It was Thanksgiving Day, so Linds and I treated ourselves to a nice little wine tasting at The Santo Tomas Winery. The wine was very good and the property was gorgeous, we even ended up getting the full-fledged tour for free since there was no one else there. After that we headed out towards the pacific coast to a small town called Erendira where we posted up at Coyote Cal’s Hostel. Coyote Cals was a cool spot, although a bit more expensive than we would have liked. The place has rooms and beds for rent, along with bathrooms, showers, a kitchen and dining area, and space for camping. They have a little bar and game room for guests as well, so all in all, a cool spot with lots to keep you occupied and provide all the comforts you need. It is definitely a cool destination for you and your friends to spend a long weekend, as long as 10-15 bucks per night per person is within your budget.
After a short stay at Coyote Cal’s, we made our way towards the Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir. I can’t say enough positive things about this place. Lindsey and I love the woods and mountains, but neither of us expected to see much of that down in Baja, so this was a pleasant surprise. Only about a 5.5-hour trip from San Diego, you drive up into Baja’s tallest mountain range and the landscape turns from desert cactus to mountainous peaks covered in huge pine trees. Camping here was cheap, and the campsites were all clean and very large. The one we stayed in had 2 fire pits and could probably hold a group of 15 people or so. The rangers were very nice, and they even provide all the free firewood you need. Throughout the park there are lots of hiking trails, and the park also features a large observatory at the top of one of the peaks. They give free tours of the observatory, but unfortunately you can’t go at night and look at the stars through the telescope (for astronomer’s eyes only I guess). This park is a shorter drive from San Diego than Sequoia NP, so I highly recommend a trip here if you are a camping/hiking enthusiast, it’s worth your time.
As we descended out of the Park after hanging out for a few days, we made our way down south, driving through San Quintin and towards El Rosario. El Rosario is a small Mexican village with not all that much going on. We stopped in for the night only to stock up on supplies and gas before making the long haul down to Bahia de los Angeles the following day. This stretch of road is referred to as the Baja Gas Gap, where there are no gas stations for about 190 miles, so it’s important to ensure you are topped off before making the journey. A little over half way down the route towards Guerrero Negro, you run into the Bahia L.A. junction, which leads you out to the eastern side of the peninsula to Bahia de los Angeles, nestled along the Sea of Cortez coastline.
This was our first stop along the eastern coast, and wow!! Amazing little town along the sandy coastline of the Sea of Cortez filled with little markets, small restaurants/taco stands, motels, and a handful of beachfront camping locations. After exploring a bit, we posted up at Camp Archelon, which was a laid-back spot with a few beach cabins for rent, along with beachfront huts called Palapas. Unfortunately, this was where we learned our first major lesson; make sure you have some extra cash tucked away and are prepared before traveling to some of Baja’s remote villages. We had all the supplies we needed, but we didn’t have enough cash to fill up our tank and pay for accommodations for more than one night. There were no cash machines in the town, nor were there any for miles around. The gas stations and all the businesses only took cash, so we were out of luck. We had enough money to pay for one night at Camp Archelon and enough fuel to get us to the next destination that would accept credit card payment for gasoline. Our time here was certainly cut short, but I confidently can say this place is well worth a return trip at some point down the road. You can make the haul from San Diego in under 8 hours, which is manageable for a long weekend trip. You can fish off the beach, kayak, paddle board, off road, or even pay a local fishing charter to take you out a bit further for some yellowtail or grouper. After confronting our disappointment with our situation, we embraced the time we had and made the best of it. Lesson learned, and I’m glad we still got the chance to experience Bahia de Los Angeles for at least a day. If you live in San Diego, put this destination on your list and get down there, you won’t regret it.
Once we took off from Bahia de L.A., we made our way towards Guerrero Negro. This would be the final stop in what’s considered the Northern Baja California territory. Here, our number one goal was to find a bank and make sure we don’t repeat our first mistake. The town was a bit larger than most of the towns we had passed after Ensenada, but not a whole lot to offer for camping. During the winter months, starting mid to late December, this location is best known for the grey whales that live in the bay and give birth to their offspring. Sounds like a cool experience to get up close and personal with these huge whales, but we were a little early in the season so I guess we will have to make a trip back here as well…We did, however, find a bank and stopped for lunch at cool little health food stand called Good Vibes, which was great(#buenasvibras). After a short stop, we were on the road again, this time heading into Baja California Sur.
Northern Baja California turned out to give us everything we needed and more. We got ourselves comfortable with being in a new country, we learned some valuable lessons, Lindsey got her first stomach bug out of the way, and I am happy to say; our feet are now officially wet!