November 12 - 19, 2018: Baja Peninsula Drive South
We left Scottsdale, Arizona to drive down to the end of the Baja Peninsula for the winter (thru April). We will keep the trailer at our lot in Los Barriles where we had water, power, and septic put in last year. We also own the Peninsula Condo in San Jose del Cabo that if it is not rented or we have people visiting, we will stay there. So basically, we can stay in the city (San Jose) or the country (Los Barriles)!
On the drive down, we wanted to take our time and stop and visit some towns along the way.
Day 1: November 12 Scottsdale, Arizona to Winterhaven, California
As we drove along Highway 8, we passed HUGE solar farms and cattle farms. Our first stop for the night along the route was at the Quechan Casino in Winterhaven, California. Since Craig and I don't really enjoy gambling you may ask "why stop there?" Because it is FREE! This is a huge area for people to come and stay in their campers and then cross the border to Los Algadones, Mexico and have dental, medical, etc. work done. We met a realy nice couple (Sheila and Marty) that stayed next to us and gave us some great recommendations for dental, dermatology, and other doctors and facilities.
After walking through the casino to get the lay of the land, we contemplated coming in for breakfast the next morning, however it was pretty smoky and we opted not to. One thing to note, the wind was pretty strong here and the temperature was about 64. Brrr....
Day 2: November 13 Winterhaven, California to Boulevard, California
We still traveled along Highway 8 and passed Imperial Sand Dunes National Park, more solar farms, windmill farms, and...HUGE boulder fields/mountains. These are really cool mountains that are all boulders - man this would be fun to hike and climb in.
This night we stopped at the Golden Acorn Casino in Boulevard, California. Again....because it was free! And again...the casino was even smokier than last night, so we opted to eat in the trailer. Staying in places like this gives us both time to catch up on computer work and read books, so we don't mind. One thing to note on Boulevard, California...we know why there are so many windmill farms. The wind blows ALL the time and was so strong the trailer shook, even with the stabilizers down! And...the last time we looked at the temperature outside it was 48, brrrzzz. Granted it was windy and we were at about 2,800 elevation. I did double check the map to make sure we are going South and NOT North!
Boulder fields and mountains
This is the parking lot where campers stay, our trailer is on the far right in the back
Day 3: November 14 Boulevard, California to San Quintin, Baja 196 miles
The Baja Peninsula is 800 miles from the border to the tip where Cabo San Lucas is. Our properties are right in this area, so we have roughly 800 miles to cover. A golden rule in the Baja is that you do not drive at night. This is because the cows, horses, goats, dogs, and other animals come to the warm asphalt to bed down for the night. So...this limits how long you can drive in a day before you lose daylight. And...the roads are NARROW...rarely do you have a shoulder on the side of the roadway and since Highway 1 is the only paved road at this point, it gets a lot of traffic and there are many large semi-trucks on it. It is also very hilly, so basically...you drive slower than normal. There is a Highway 5 that was just put in on the East Coast of the Baja, however it is not fully paved and the hurricanes this year have caused major damage to the road so it is not passable in some locations until they get it fixed.
Not sure how long it would take us to get across the border, we arrived at 9:30am. It took us about an hour to complete the paperwork and cross the Tecate border. We parked the truck and trailer in a lot before the border and walked to the Immigration Office to get our Tourist Visa, then went around the corner and paid at the Banjercito then back to Immigration to get it stamped. We were not sure if we needed to do any other paperwork for the truck and trailer so we walked around and asked at a few places and 'think' they said no. So we walked back to the truck and drove to the border crossing. The officer looked inside the trailer and looked at the registration for the truck, trailer, and motorcycle and....waved us through. EASY peasey! Had we not screwed around looking for what we needed to do with the truck (nothing), it would have taken us about 30 minutes. Next time we know. The Tecate border crossing is easy, park, walk, get paperwork, then drive through.
As we rolled into Ensenada, we got our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. Ah....
The drive this day was uneventful and very pretty. The terrain in this section is very much like Northern California with hills, mountains, a few cactus and sand. Craig has driven this road twice before and I have only one time. Either it has changed or I forgot how many wineries there are between Tecate and San Quiten! And...the agriculture is crazy! This whole area has a TON of greenhouses and fields, not sure what all they are growing, but we've seen a some berry facilities.
I was a little worried because the Baja 1,000 race is starting in Ensenada on Friday and there are preliminary checkins and events going on. We saw a group of racers in El Centra the night before and chatted with them. All of the racers were crossing at Tijuana because they predid their paperwork, but...we were driving right through Ensenada the start and end point of the race. As we drove through Ensenada, we saw a few race vehicles and passed the area where they had all of the vendors, stages, etc. Not a big deal at all! Yeah! As we travel along Baja Norte (North), this is where the race is happening, so we may see or hear it over the next few days.
We encountered one military checkpoint before San Tomas (we expect to cross 6-7 as we travel down the Baja). They asked where we were going "Los Cabos" and tried to engage in other conversation, but since we couldn't speak Spanish, he just waved us through : ) We had our Learn To Speak Spanish CD playing and have been practicing, but...we haven't gotten that far into it yet to know what he said. We'll continue with the CD's and once we get settled in San Jose or Los Barriles, we will get hooked up with some lessons and see how much we can learn in 6 months.
We had about an hour delay for some road construction after San Tomas. This gave us a great opportunity to get in the trailer, make lunch, and eat it. Pretty cool, they actually had food vendor carts walking along the side of the road offering food and beverage (for a cost) while you waited. Smart!
We stopped for the night just past San Quintin and stayed on the beach at El Pabillon RV. We paid 200 pesos or about $10 USD for the night. The peso is currently 19 peso to 1 USD. They have about 40 sites and we were 1 of 3 people in the whole RV park. We arrived right as the sun was setting so we caught some great pictures while wading into the water : ) They actually have toilets and hot showers, so we partook of that the next morning. Man, it felt awesome to take a long very caliente shower!
There are a lot of whale skeletons that people use for entrances, decoration, etc.
There were 100's of starfish of all different colors on the beach
View out the back window of the trailer
The Pacific Ocean is just over the dune behind the trailer
We made it to the Baja!
Craigy walking back to the trailer
Day 4: November 15 San Quinten/Santa Maria to Guerrero Negro 264 miles
This was a long day because once you leave the San Quinten area, there are not a lot of stops in the middle of the Baja or what we call the "spine". We had thought about stopping for the night at Catavina because it is such a cool place topography wise. However, it was only 75 miles and we wanted to get more mileage under our belt.
This is one of the prettiest and my favorite parts of the drive down the Baja. This whole section is the Valle de los Cirios Protected Area. The large boulder fields around Catavina are just amazing and there are suppose to be some great hiking and ruins in here. We'll save that for another trip down or back. The quantity and variety of the cacti are....COOL! I cannot even tell you what kind all of them and the pictures below do not do justice.
Along the Baja there are great mountain ranges. Notice how narrow the road is? This is actually a good section!
The boulder fields around Catavina
And then this...
Phenomenal cacti varieties
And then it opens into this type of terrain
Then this...I know...how many cacti pictures is she going to show us : )
We saw a few of the pit areas for the Baja 1,000 along the route, but no racers since it has not started yet. Guerrero Negro is the turn for the race, so after tonight, we will not see any more race stuff. Another year, we'll plan it better so that we stop and are able to watch some of the race.
We encountered 3 military checkpoints. One before El Rosario which after some small talk in Spanish they let us pass. One that was closed after Catavina, and one before Guerrero Negro. This one they actually did an inspection in the trailer where he just looked in the fridge and a few cupboards. This again gave us the opportunity to practice our Spanish which is up to Lección Tres.
Waved us through this one after some small talk
Inspected the trailer on this one. See the dog in the lower right corner? His owner is the vehicle on the right that is being inspected. The owner drove off without his dog! The military guys were yelling "el pero, el pero" = dog. The guy stopped about 200 yards away and got his dog. Guess the inspection got him all flustered : )
We were not sure if this was someone moving their stuff down the Baja or if it was a band of gypsies
: ) Think they are moving stuff down
Typical day of driving, large semi passing you on a narrow road. At least this one is in good condition. Man...this is tight! This is why I don't drive on the way down. Once we get in Los Barriles and San Jose sure...but not on the way down!
Nice view : ) love the tail hanging over the back of the trailer
And...this...is why you do not drive at night. We were getting close to our stop for the night and it was 4:35pm. Before this on the drive today we saw about 5 sets of horses, 1 donkey, and 4 sets of cows grazing near the road. Another rule of thumb about the Baja - if you see animals near the road, turn on your flashers for a while so the oncoming cars are aware there are animals near the road. Pretty clever.
We stopped for the night at El Espinata Motel and RV. This is right on Highway 1 outside of Guerrero Negro and before the Baja Sur Inspection Station (looking for produce and fruit between Norte and Sur). We were trying for Laguna Ojo de Liebre Campground on the beach, however it was about an hour away and daylight was slipping. We'll stop at this campground on the way out of the Baja in April. It was a loud spot to stay for the night with all of the traffic, trucks, and people were partying at the hotel so lots of music and talking.
Day 5-6: November 16-17 Guerrero Negro to Bahia Conception/Mulege 188 miles
The last time we drove down the Baja in 2008, Bahia Conception was one of the areas that I loved and wanted to come back to. We decided this was our next stop and we'd stay for a few days.
The drive today was a great example of the Baja's varied terrain. As you can see from the pictures below we went from dry brush dessert, dense cacti forests, lush tropical palms, and industrial, to pristine tropical beaches with acquamarine colored waters.
The produce inspection between Baja Norte and Baja Sur. We will cross this tomorrow.
El Espinata Motel and RV. See where the truck is parked, he was right in front of our trailer.
This would be awesome on a motorcycle!
This is the area of Santa Rosalia, it is a small industrial town right on the Sea of Cortez
We saw a TON of bicyclist. I cannot even imagine riding a bicycle on this road with the narrow road and semi-trucks. CRAZY. Look closely at the last rider, she has a child bike (or whatever you call them) attached to her bike. The child is riding in a child seat on the back of the first bike (dad's bike).
It's all girl power with this set of cyclist! Two moms and their young daughters!
Another set of cyclist! I think we probably saw 10 sets along our drive down. The ones we've heard speaking sound mostly European.
Three military checkpoints this day. Two were manned and we were inspected each time. One was not manned and we drove through it.
Quiet a few solar farms along the way.
This is as we got closer to Mulege, palm trees!
In the Bahia Concepcion, we stayed at the Playa Santispak for two days and had a great time...relaxing. We've been moving each day and it was great to just sit and gaze out at the bay, read books, and Craig did a little maintenance on the trailer. The water is the Sea of Cortez which is warmer than the Pacific side, but still a little too chilly for me to get in and swim. If it were a month earlier, it would have been great to snorkel and play in the bay. On our way out of the Baja in April, we will definitely stop along the Bahia Conception again, stay at another beach spot and get the paddleboards out.
At Playa Santispak there are two restaurants and we got our first Mexican food while in the Baja. With having the trailer it is so easy to just eat the food we brought and every place we've been staying is not close to restaurants, so...we took advantage of the opportunity and had some great pollo fajitas and pescada (fish) for dinner one night. Margaritas are $3.50 US and POTENT, so of course I had to have one : ) And...we actually ate there the second night it was so good!
This is Playa Santispak, we parked the trailer in the far left side of the picture.
View from the trailer door
Craig chilling and reading a book
Armando's where we ate our dinners.
We have been boondocking since we left Scottsdale so Craig ran the generator for about 30 minutes just to run it.
Sunset - that is our truck and trailer you see on the right
We took a walk around the cove, great place!
Day 7: November 18 Bahia Concepcion to Puerto San Carlos 197 miles
We loved the Bahia Concepcion area, but were ready to continue on our journey. We still had about 400 miles to go and decided to break it up at the Magdalena Bay area, which is the best spot for whale watching during the season (January - March). One military checkpoint today and we were inspected.
As we turned off Highway 1 at Ciudad Constitucion towards Puerto San Carlos and our lodging for the night, we noticed that this area is agriculture and farming.
If you look in the left of this picture, you will see a lot of cattle. And...they are actually behind a fence! WOW!
We stayed the night at Villas Mar y Arena (Sea and Sand) Hotel and RV Park. The RV section was really small, essentially one spot behind the restaurant. The next day we sat and chatted with Fito the owner and his 10 year old grandson. This is one of the best places to come and whale watch so we were getting the skinny from him. Very nice people!
Craig enjoying the view, sunset, and reading a book
This was the view from our trailer door
And of course, there was a family dog who was so sweet and just wanted to hang out with us
Day 8: November 19 Puerto San Carlos to Los Barriles 228 miles
Los Barriles is our final destination with the trailer and since we were so close, we wanted to get there and get settled.
Not a real exciting day of travels and now the terrain is mostly palm, cacti, and mountains. There are some great mountains in this area!
On this final leg of the trip we encountered 1 military checkpoint and 2 Federal Checkpoints. The Federal checkpoints, waved us through. The military checkpoint was the longest one we encountered. The guy opened every cupboard, drawer, fridge, and opened tubs, bags, etc.
More road construction, this was the longest section during the whole trip
Craig did awesome on keeping the trailer in the lines, I just thought this was a cool picture
Remember my fascination with cemeteries in the States? Well, I'm in heaven with all of the monuments along the road. Some are very simple, others very elaborate. These are examples of modest ones.
And...a LARGE herd of goats casually walking along the highway
This is the Capilla de Ntra. Sra De Guadalupe Church in El Triunfo which is about 30 miles before Los Barriles
More of El Triunfo, this is a really pretty area and the buildings they are restoring are really cool
We made it to Los Barriles! It feels good to be 'home'. This is a great little town, it is a small fishing village with about 1,200 population and known for it's kite boarding, wind surfing, and fishing.
The first few days in Los Barriles, we met our builder (Chepy) to discuss the plans for the lot. We completed the water and electric contracts and it is ready for Chepy to finish the lines and connections for water, electric, and septic. We also contracted him to build a wall/fence around the property. That is all we will do for this year, in the upcoming years we will build a casita and make other improvements. Our second night at the property, we had a herd of goats come meandering through our lot. I bet they were thinking "what the...this trailer is now in our way" : ) Hence...why we are fencing the lot, hopefully we can keep the little buggers out. Stay tuned for other updates on the Los Barriles development.
Once Los Barriles was ready for Chepy, we moved into our condo in San Jose del Cabo. While at the condo we'll do maintenance, explore the surrounding areas, and most important...spend a lot of time around the pool!
The entrance into town
This is our lot that we had cleared and our power monument. Our property goes up the hillside
Remember, we will bounce between living in the condo in San Jose (city) and the trailer in Los Barriles (country). Look for exciting adventures from both locations as we Winter in the Baja!