September 22nd, through 25th, 2011
My plans, always on the optimist side of things, were to be up early and into Mexico before 9am, thinking that would avoid whatever rush there was going south into Tijuana. In truth, I wasn’t even sure how long I had to ride before reaching the border, and I had completely unpacked, going through everything to see if there was anything else I should send back before crossing the border. So, it was more like 9 when I left the hotel.
I rode south on I-5, stopping to get gas and snack just north of the border. The “No entry back to USA sign” at the freeway ramp was unnerving. I know Mexico isn’t as bad as the news makes it out to be, but it was still a country where I had only a passing familiarity with the language. And traffic was supposed to be…interesting.
The actual border crossing was, mostly, a non-event. Everyone had to stop, and if waved over to the side there was a brief interview with someone who I guess was from customs or immigration. I know, since I got waved over. Her English was only a little better than my Spanish, and once she was satisfied that the Nomad was actually a tent, I was through and into Baja. No, she didn’t look at my passport.
Once over the border and into Tijuana, I had to find customs and immigration to get a tourist card and import sticker for Curiosity. This was supposedly located behind a McDonalds on the right of a round a bout. I found a McDonalds, but no customs behind it. So I went looking for other McDonalds, plunging into the local traffic.
It was nerve-wracking at first, but I think most of my anxiety was of the new country sort, and once I relaxed a little it was just like riding in any other city, though the cars weren’t as nice. And, after an hour, I decided I wasn’t going to find the Customs, or even back to where I had been when I turned off Mexico 1, the road I was supposed to follow towards Ensenada. I just kept going south and eventually ran into it, elaving the south side of Tijuana, but never did see a “Tijuana” sign to get a picture of. All and all, it was a frustrating start to my day.
I stopped in Ensenada for lunch, generally headed for La Bufadura and a campground the Mills had suggested in Seattle. It was called Camp 5, which seemed an odd name for a campground. I did see a camp 7, but no 4 or 6. I was close to the Pacific Coast, and there were occasional patches of fog drifting in, but once I was out of the city traffic virtually disappeared.
The Mills has camped on a little bit of land that jutted out once the bay, but when I got there that spot had 3 pick up trucks of people on it, and given the number of beer cans around they were planning on staying for a while. It was a nicer spot, but I couldn’t really complain.
The next day I packed up and headed south. On my map there was a place called San Quinton, right on the beach. I was in the mood for a beach despite the nice views. I was also a little hungry, so I rode into town to see what was around.
I got into town just a little after 9…and nothing was open. Stalls were still closed and locked, restaurants were dark and parking lots empty. I did get chassed by my first dog, so it wasn’t a total waste of time. I headed back to Mexico-1 and turned south. Apparently everything in this part of Baja opens after 10. I found a taco stand in a small town and tried for my first local meal.
Yeah, I took a bite before the pic. Wasn’t thinking, and was hungry. This was a pork taco, without Stomach. Stomach was an option, which was demonstrated to me by the lade at the counter holding one up with a questioning look. It was also pretty good, and I felt better after finding out I could get food. It’s the little things.
The rest of the ride south was pleasant. The sun was out but it wasn’t incredible hot (yet) since I was right on the Pacific. I found a campground with a restaurant and beach. It even also had a shower.
After dinner (which I got during Happy Hour at the bar, and spent chatting with an ex-pat American named Dik (without the c)) I walked down to the beach, to spend some time looking at the waves washing in.
The beach was covered in dunes, and tire tracks.
As the sun set, and the tide threatened where I was sitting, I walked back to camp. I did manage to get a sunset pic
And as I was about to my hammock saw
It did rain a little during the night, but not very much. The hammock was dry when I packed it up.
I decided to head for the Bahia del Los Angles, on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja. As soon I as I headed inland the temperature started to climb.
The road to the coast was smooth, and seemed new. I found out it actually was new, part of a plan the previous president had formed to moved pleasure boats from the Pacific side to the Sea of Cortez and back, allowing them to winter on the warmer inland side. The new president wasn’t as much of a fan, and work on the road has slowed, but the part to the Bay of LA was finished.
By the time I got to the Bay, I was roasting. All the hotels seemed to offer A/C, and the temptation was too much. I checked in, was told to ride my bike onto the porch, and went for a walk.
At dinner that night I met three Californians, who reminded me what Americans look like to the rest of the world by complaining they didn’t have a TV in their room, the food was too expensive, someone was going to steal their boat (which was currently on a TRAILER attached to their SUV. In the end one of the pulled it in front of the restaurant, nicely blocking the view of the bay I had been enjoying) and they hadn’t caught any fish. They had driven 10 hours for a weekend of fishing, and didn’t want to get a local guide. Later I heard from another traveller that catching fish in the Bay was actually just a matter of baiting a hook, but I don’t know what they were doing in that regard.
The three also seemed convinced I was going to be kidnapped, since I was traveling alone. That I shrugged off, but they also seemed convinced there was no way I was going to get south of Guerrero Negro without a tourist card, which I still didn’t have. This worried me a little, but I knew anywhere I would be stopped and asked for one, I should also be able to buy one. Guerrero Negro has a checkpoint, so I was pretty sure I could sort it out if there was a problem.
The ride to Guerrero Negro was long, and hot. Mostly hot. There was a military checkpoint and base just north of town, which I was waved through, but the Immigration office was closed, locked and empty. The campground book I had been gifted by the Mills suggested a campground/restaurant downtown, mainly for the restaurant, claiming it was the best in the area.
The camping certainly wasn’t that great. But, as it turned out, it was a popular place for travelers to stop, and I was soon surrounded by overlanders. Jeremy, who I had first met way back on the Alaskan Highway going north (and who refuses to have his picture taken again)
Ron and Viv Moon (www.guidebooks.com.au), traveling with
Neil and Helen Cocks. They had also picked up a London bicyclist from southern Baja, and gave him a ride north so he was out of the path of the hurricane.