Baja was causing us some consternation. It had the landscape of southern California, with roads like a war-torn country, upon which we rattled along, encountering scarcely another soul. We were disoriented – where were the grand plazas, the early morning roosters, the music blaring from car windows? Where was the colour, the life, the history? We saw beautiful scenery, but few signs of life.
Then, on the road to Mulegé, we began to see reassuring signs of the country we know and love. The volcano, the fields of cacti, the bent guardrails – oh, yes, now you’re talking. We were quite pleased to be driving on fresh pothole-free pavement, but take a closer look at these roads. The lanes are narrow and there are no shoulders. Trucks blaze through here at all hours of the day and night and don’t give an inch. Luckily, there is not much traffic and it is possible to navigate without mishap.
Although clearly not everyone gets through unscathed. The remains of this truck cab have been lying there for a long time. Without having a clue of the trucking industry standards in Mexico, I’m guessing the drivers may well drive longer hours than might be advisable. We heard trucks on the road above our campground south of Mulegé, driving late into the dark night on those mountainous roads.
Among the nighttime driving challenges are the animals that wander onto the road. We passed a few burros and many an untethered cow and drove by with caution, but at night they present a true hazard.
Our first glimpse of the Sea of Cortez, about 20 minutes from our campground:
Our campground was on Playa Santispac, about 20 minutes south of Mulegé and on the mouth of the protected Bahia de Concepcion. It is situated on a gorgeous wide sand beach, a first-come, first-served campground. Pick a spot, set up camp and wait for the fun to begin. The campground is rustic and does not have any services (including cell service), but it does have a dump station. Everyone else comes to you.
First comes Chico, who offers to wash our truck and camper for US$50. While we are quite sure he would do a stellar job, we decide to wait until we hit Loreto.
Then, the water guy arrives and fills up our tank. We have propane, we have solar, we have water and we have wine – we’re all set to stay a while. There are two restaurants and a small store on the beach – the former which provides great food and entertainment every second night, and the latter which has a small store and turns out home baking when they feel like it. We ate at Armando’s a few times, in equal parts for their food, their warm hospitality and their free wifi.
The vendors come by every day, including one entertaining soul who drove by in an old truck so laden down it barely cleared the ground. He had blankets, jergas, door mats, hammocks and even a mini hammock,” you can hang bananas in your trailer.” Our “no, gracias” went unheeded – he also had chicken tamales and banana bread and at the last minute remembered silver jewellery. He left without a sale, but with all of us laughing.
We watched this man paddle out to a sailboat, with a couple of plastic bags that he handed over, contents unknown. Clean clothes? Takeout food? Beer? Home delivery, even on a sailboat.
We did buy shrimp from a vendor one day – so fresh and sweet, it was more like eating lobster. We made a messy meal of shrimp in butter, sopped up with freshly baked bread and a chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumber and avocado.
We saw dolphins a few times playing quite close to shore and were hoping to go out for a boat ride into the bay to perhaps see them a little closer up. The weather was not particularly cooperative – a bit of rain, very windy and quite cool, so we had to take a pass. We lazed about and Stephen went in swimming twice. Mainly we relaxed, read a lot, enjoyed meeting our neighbours (a young Brazilian couple who have lived in Vancouver for a number of years and are taking a year off to travel), and went for beach walks. We were ideally situated to enjoy both the sunrise and the sunsets and by the time we left five days later, we were completely unwound.
Our 6:00 am wakeup call:
The view an hour before sunset:
We drove into Mulegé a couple of times, to buy groceries and do a bit of sightseeing. Mulegé is a cute little town set in a date palm oasis on the river. The winding, extremely narrow streets make it impossible to enter with any vehicle larger than a truck and even at that, it was a tight squeeze.
We found Mago’s bakery and restaurant – a local hangout for both Mexicans and gringos with good food, a personable crowd and fantastic wifi. We used this opportunity to charge up our devices, catch up on emails; and I read about the latest Trump malfeasance and the ongoing fake news war between the Duchesses.
Mago, on the right.
We walked over the dam through the mangrove to get to the Mision, which holds a command post on the other side of the river. This river is great for bird-watching and would make for a tranquil paddle on a kayak.
The Mision Santa Rosalia was founded in 1705 by the Jesuits and Dominicans and finished in 1766. Unfortunately, rather than saving the souls of the native population, they introduced European diseases that managed to wipe out large numbers of the intended congregation. The Mision was abandoned 50 years later – one of a number of missions in Baja that were founded with the same intent and the same tragic outcomes. Today, the Misions sit as well-kept and photogenic reminders of their misguided past.
We’re starting to feel like we are in Mexico now, but perhaps “Mexico Lite.” Less people, less noise, less colour. More rocky and monochromatic, but still very beautiful.
We left Playa Santispac on a warm, sunny day (perfect for swimming or boat rides). We’ll quite possibly stop there again on the way back. We drove along this twisty road that snaked along the water and climbed up into the hills.
The view from the passenger side – on the way to Loreto.
Now we’re in Loreto for two weeks, parked in an amiable RV campground, with a large British Columbia contingent! See you again in a few days.
20 thoughts on “Finding Mexico in Baja”
I just read your wonderful travels out loud to Edwin while be makes our lunch.Great writing ,great photos and thanks for the awesome sense of adventure.Must go on one soon!
Are you thinking of Mexico or somewhere warm?
I am leaving for San Miguel on Jan 11. If you get that far email me! I am enjoying your blog as usual, loved the Bajo photos especially that stunning sunset!
I figured you must be either in Mexico or close to leaving. We won’t be on the mainland this trip but we’ve decided our subsequent trips to Mexico will not involve driving! We’ll pick a spot, fly there, and then if we want to branch out, we’ll take the bus.
So beautiful and warm unlike Toronto. Best Wishes.
It is so beautiful here and warm without being stiflingly hot and humid – perfect temperatures. You’ll be in the sun soon!
And the adventure continues!!
We’ve been talking about our Hwy. 5 adventures, and the stories are piling up. Two different sets of people got lost after a hand-written sign to Coco’s Corners – took a wrong turn and ended up lost and more than a bit freaked out. Another person had to drive her rig up the wall a bit where the truck is still stuck – everyone figures it may be there for weeks, if not months. Apparently the truck that dropped its load was still there as of a few days ago. Another person popped not one, but two tires. Yet another couple found the drive “no big deal.”
I’m sure you’ve already been in the past, but consider Santispac Beach – a little piece of heaven and so far, not crowded at all, which seems to be the way this winter. We will be stopping there again on the way back; looking forward to swimming in the warmer water.
The happy wanderers. Have a merry Christmas. And safe travels. Love Joan (Walton)
Joan – how great to hear from you! Merry Christmas to you too! Will you be in Mexico at some point this winter?
See you in the spring, I hope, when we’re back on Gabriola.
Happy to hear you have rustled up a titch of the Mexico you know and love. It is the people, food, and general hustle & bustle that allow us to feel truly immersed in our journeys. Enjoy! We are enjoying it with you 🙂 Looking forward to your take on Loreto. That was a destination we had considered…
We’re in Loreto now, and just got back from a day exploring the town. It’s pretty, historic, filled with great little restaurants and lots of activities in and around the area. So far, we’re really enjoying it here.
Enjoy this beautiful trip!!!and do not think of us soaked from the rain in Gabriola, heading towards more snowy adventures in the east…Merry Xms to you both!!
Snow is always better than rain this time of year – we all dream of a white Christmas, yes? Merry Christmas to you as well.
What a fabulous trip! Many of the pictures are stunning. Merry Christmas to you both. Snowed all day here and schools were closed. Although it’s beautidul outside, it’s not enough to win me over to the “I love winter” side of the fence. Me
Joan, if winter would only behave itself, we’d all be fans. Begin with November – make it light and bright. December – just enough snow for atmosphere. January – the “real” winter month – nothing to distract, and just enough to test your mettle. February – longer days, everything starts to warm up and by the end of the month, it’s spring and stays that way. That would work for me.
Hello! Loved your adventure report and the pics! That sunset…wow! Sounds like you are really enjoying yourselves. We are switching over to Christmas mode after the horrendous few weeks. Looking forward to the family reunion in Edmonton. Should be a lot of fun. We do a little concert so Gar and I are figuring out our Dolly and Kenny costumes from Value Village….will no doubt send pics! Wish us luck. Managed to find Gary( Dolly) a 44DD bra. Just have to fill it somehow!!! Weather for the drive looks ok so far.
Have a wonderful Christmas together!💕🎄Will definitely be thinking of you sipping especially if we are in -30!!! Keep posting and enjoying. Lots of love and hugs xoxo
I’m intrigued by the thought of you as Kenny – Gar in a wig and brassiere, I can imagine. I’m also keen to hear about your family reunion Christmas – I’ll be watching FB for photos.
Yes, you will all be happy to have time together to appreciate what you have, after such sadness and loss. You’re so right – Christmas is tough for a lot of people. I’ve never had loss at Christmas, but it is a season that makes me sad – I feel for so many people who are alone, or struggling – this season seems to amplify loneliness.
I will think of you with your family, being silly and having fun, as you do. xoxo
Good to hear you finally found your Mexico … your opening sentences had us a little worried! If we don’t hear from you before Christmas, Mitch and I hope yours is a merry one. We are looking forward to reading more of your travels in the New Year!
Merry Christmas to you and Mitch, and all the very best to you both for the New Year. Our paths may cross again this spring. :>) xoxo