There’s no way of avoiding the fact that we had only given ourselves a week to get from the top of Baja California to the south. The trouble with making loose plans on a map is that we’re pretty bad at the scale problem! It turned out to be 1,000km of driving over 7 days, equating to an average of around 140km each day (around 85 miles). This doesn’t sound too bad, but the highway 1 we were taking was littered with roadworks, hairpin bends and an unbelievable amount of military checkpoints!
We decided that rather than driving 2 – 3 hours a day and just having afternoons to see places we’d have a few longer driving days and spend a few days off, so as to really enjoy a few of our days. Our first stop from the north was going to be Playa De Los Angeles, a beautiful beach on the east side of Baja overlooking the Gulf – the Sea of Cortez. As we realised it would be a 2 hour drive out for one night and a 2 hour drive back we decided to go straight to the next destination, San Ignacio, a quaint little town recommended to us by Raul.
We guessed we would be there by 6pm but the numerous military stops meant we didn’t get in until dark – around 8pm. In hindsight we should have stopped earlier, to abide by our rule of ‘never driving at night’. The last checkpoint we’d heard about a man with a full grill of gold teeth, who apparently had sticky fingers for tourists belongings. Whilst he wasn’t there it was the least friendly checkpoint of all, and the man searching our van asked if he could buy the bluetooth speaker! Lo siento, pero fue un regalo de mi padre (sorry, it was a present from my father!) seemed to work however. Pulling into a town when it’s dark wasn’t much fun, especially as the place we were planning to camp at was already closed! We drove around and found another campsite right by an Oasis named Las Patatas, pulled in and settled down for the night.
We’ve absolutely no idea why the camp site was named after potatoes… but nonetheless we’d stumbled on a gorgeous break from the desert and cactus environment we’d been driving through for the last 7 hours. We woke up right on a bed of water, the first we’d seen in Baja as in summer all the rivers are dried up. Beside us we had our own palapa (a shady structure weaved from thick leaves) and were parked right under gorgeous palm trees. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise coming in late as we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the $4 campsite!
The town of San Ignacio was idyllic, and much smaller than we’d pictured! The whole town was centred around a plaza, as with all Latin American towns, and the main attraction is the Mission which was built in 1728. As we arrived on a Sunday morning it was great to see it was still in use, as the locals were holding a Sunday service! We retired to a local coffee shop, to upload a blog post but it was always optimistic to try to upload photos on the small town wifi! After a gorgeous fresh lemonade we headed back to our campsite and enjoyed the afternoon lazing by the Oasis, as the next day we’d be doing another short drive.
The following morning we left early to head to the Sea of Cortez for a night. Whilst lovely, the Oasis camp site was in the middle of Baja and we’d really felt the effects of the heat at night and wanted to get some cooling ocean breeze. We’d found a free campsite by a lighthouse in a small town out of San Rosario on the East coast and headed there early to settle down for the day. There were already palapas set up, and we were joined by two stray dogs who we affectionately named Bennie & Billie. They stayed with us all day and watched guard over our van at night! In the morning we rewarded them with a pan of water before we left. It turned out our theory hadn’t paid off, as we experienced one of our hottest nights since the Nevada Desert, so we made the call to try the Pacific coast the following day.
The drive was a long one, and we needed to stop in a town to grab some laundry and do a shop. We did manage to find a free drinking water tap however which came straight from the mountains and had enough pressure to wash our car! Whilst the laundry was on we treated ourselves to a lunch in Ciuded Insurgentes and boy what a treat it was. Annie had Ceviche while Mikey had a special bowl (which was basically ceviche). It was a Mexican restaurant with a Japanese twist and they brought us free tuna appetisers which were gorgeous. The amount of food was ridiculous, we’ve never had so much fresh sea food on one plate before! It was all there; shrimp, prawns, octopus, squid and even scallops! We were truly defeated and asked the waiter if the portions were usually finished, to which he replied yes but a lot of the patrons are ‘gordito’ (a little chubby).
We headed to our campsite on the Pacific coast which was gorgeous. The breeze turned out to be working as we slept a little better, and we were right by the sea again. Mikey tried to surf however the waves were above his beginner level. We spent three nights here and treated ourselves to some beers while stargazing, the skies were the clearest we’ve seen in a long time. Definitely something we’ll miss when we return home.
Now on to La Paz to brush up on our Spanish and hopefully make our journey a little smoother!