En route to La Frontera

We had originally planned to be out of Mexico by the end of January and beginning our southwestern U.S. travels, but Mother Nature had other ideas. That most besieged of states, California, has been pummelled with three storms bringing heavy rain, mudslides, flooding and road closures in the south and heavy snow at higher elevations. The tail end of those storms has dumped buckets of rain in the northern end of Baja, so we made the decision to hunker down for a bit and enjoy the sun and warmth while we could.

We spent four days at Bahia de los Angeles, a community that is 66 km. from the highway to the Sea of Cortez.  While it is mainly a fishing and boating destination, we enjoyed it simply for its quiet beauty. This was the view from our campground.

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We went for a few desert walks and came upon this quintessential desert sight – a flock of turkey vultures, just waiting…

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Back on the beach, we met up with this little fellow that we believe to be a curlew. He was the only one we saw on any of the beaches in Baja.

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We arrived back to the campground to a rather frenetic scene. A couple of fellow campers had come back to shore and were cleaning their fish and tossing scraps to the birds. For a while the pelicans were batting 1000, but the gulls moved in and snatched the fish right out of their beaks. Amid the indignant screeching and flapping wings, it was looking like an avian smackdown.

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Our first morning there, we awoke to a beautiful 6:00 am sunrise. I got up to take some photos and sit on the beach to enjoy the changing sky.  Two of our neighbours were already there, readying their kayaks for a sunrise paddle.

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They returned a couple of hours later, with a few grouper for dinner.

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And that is the joy of Bahia de los Angeles – the water, the fishing, the quiet. Alas, the quiet was not to be, as a caravan of seven big rigs were camped out and ready to par-tay. A caravan is like being on a tour with a leader and other campers; travellers pay a good buck for that privilege. The caravan leader is the one who organizes border crossings, campgrounds, tours, restaurants, etc. and the rest follow behind. This was our first encounter with a caravan and if possible, it will be our last.  Probably they are all decent people and the leader bears a lot of responsibility for (not) setting the tone, but both nights 14 people began drinking around 4:00 pm and didn’t stop until 9:00 or 10:00 pm.  Dimwitted cacophony ensued. The rest of the campground had to listen to hours of shrieking laughter and loud inane conversation, punctuated by pointless war cries of “woo-hoo!”  I thought I might lose it, but was prevented by going over to them by Stephen, who quite rightly pointed out the fact that I would be trying to reason with 14 drunks; many of them belligerent.

Writing it off as being another chapter of “life on the road”, we took great comfort in meeting up again with Bob and Cindy from Christina Lake, British Columbia.  We had been hopscotching down and back up the Baja – meeting them a few times in different campgrounds. They were staying at a different campground, so we popped by for a visit and catch-up.

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The town of Bahia de los Angeles has campgrounds on one side and the marina and boat ramp on the other.  It has a bit of an end-of-the-road feel to it. There are boarded-up businesses and run-down buildings and sights like this one – a one-time grand home on the water that was abandoned and left to the elements. There was simply no-one to buy it and fix it up.

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I marvelled at the boat launch. Apparently as boat ramps go, this one is pretty fine, but if you look closely, you will see how far into the water the tow vehicles go. They must gauge where the ramp ends and the water begins and not get those two confused. As people still new to the efficient backing up of trailers, we were suitably impressed.

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We left Bahia de los Angeles and headed north with mixed feelings; our time in Baja was drawing to a close. We expected to have a couple of  nondescript overnight stops, then heave ourselves back into the reality show of the U.S.

As we headed north, we drove through a number of landscapes, including fields of giant boulders.

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I’ve probably mentioned the roads in Baja before. They are almost entirely narrow, with no shoulder and are in parts a pothole obstacle course. They require steely nerves and a steady eye; at times it all becomes a bit much. Again – all part of the Baja journey.

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We arrived at Don Eddy’s, near Lazaro Cardenas, about 200 km. south of the border, with the intention of getting up this morning and heading out, but it is so beautiful here we  decided to give ourselves another full day. Don Eddy’s is an RV park situated on a bay just in from the Pacific. The surrounding area is pastoral and calm – such a change from the desert landscape and it reminded us a bit of SE Asia.

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Our friends had told us about this site and also about a nearby restaurant called Eucalipto. This sweet little place is proof that if you provide fabulous food in a culinary desert and you are not afraid to charge a reasonable sum for it, then the unlikely location  (5 km. off the highway) won’t matter one bit.

Chef Javier, (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Gordon Ramsey) is from Mexico City, has cooked in a number of places around the world and three years ago, opened his small restaurant to great acclaim. Prices are in U.S. dollars, which is a good indication of the clientele.

We split a blue cheese salad, which arrived as a spiral of romaine tucked into a tomato cup, nestled in piles of pungent creamy cheese. We’d both been craving fresh salad so this was a ripping good start.   I ordered yellowtail tuna which was cooked exactly right (I didn’t need a knife) and Stephen had the pesto pasta with shrimp – every single ingredient fresh and popping with flavour.  We barely spoke – it was one of those primal food experiences.

On top of the memorable meal, we had fun watching the sous-chef’s 11-year-old son, (with that most Mexican name, Ryan), working the room. He calmly and confidently bussed tables, stopped to chat and stoked the fire. A true family business and a lovely way to end our trip.

Eucalipto’s crew:

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We popped into town to buy some groceries.  We saw huge puddles of water in the fields and on the side of the road that were the result of yesterday’s rain – that very rain storm we had wanted to avoid. Our timing was perfect.

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This is an important agricultural area, with tomatoes, strawberries and citrus being the primary crops. There are many roadside stands just like this one.

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I’ll leave you with an image that has burned into my brain. Mexico is not lacking for vehicles with questionable road-worthiness. We have seen cars without front hoods, driver’s doors, and windshields. We have seen vehicles that were 50% rust, with fenders hanging on with twine. But this one is the best yet – I wish we had taken a video of it in motion. The entire back end sways, with each side taking turns in a fascinating centrifugal motion. No doubt the driver will keep this baby on the road for a while yet.

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When we talk again it will be from somewhere in Arizona. We’ve never been to that state and have a year’s worth of potential places to visit. See you soon!