Exploring North Baja

November 21st-28th

The last week since the end of the Baja 1000 and the departure of our crew of friends and family, has been about slowing down and enjoying the new lifestlye we have. I know that sounds simple, but really settling in to the routine and the pace of what will be our next three years has been a challenge. I knew this would probably be the hardest thing to adjust to for me, more so than adapting to a foreign country or a smaller living space. It’s the lack of schedule in my day which I so looked forward to and truly needed more than I thought.

It wasn’t until a solo stroll down the beach of Bahia de Los Angéles on Thanksgiving morning that I came to terms with my new routine and began to accept it. No one needs me to be anywhere, or do most anything, and that’s ok. I find purpose in my day by cooking, planning our route (but not too much, to leave room for much needed spontaneity), and reading. I’ve made at least one meal every day, usually from local market ingredients and inspiration, finished three books in as many weeks, and left most of our route to chance with just small plans.

Here are some of the highlights of our last week on the road:

San Felipe-

If you’ve heard any of the stories of our previous trips, you’ll know that we get really lucky sometimes in the experiences we have. Whether it’s getting a private tour of one of the oldest and most incredible houses on the island of Sicily just because we were admiring the owner’s gate, or getting to pet a cheetah in Namibia because we picked up a family on the side of a dirt road, awesome things happen to us when we travel. It’s part of the reason we both got so hooked on it.

Left: The owner of the home was a descendant of some Italian royalty, here he was posing with his own portrait, one of many on the walls depicting his family. Right: Petting our new cheetah friend with hitch hiker and new friend, Jonah.

So it should come as no surprise that when we arrived in San Felipe, depressed that the last of our friends and family had departed that morning, it just happened to be Revolution Day in Mexico to celebrate their independence from the Spanish over 100 years ago, and the town of San Felipe was celebrating with a huge parade! We parked our truck, intending to walk in and scope out where we could get our water tank filled, only to find the main road blocked off, while hundreds of children from different schools, teams, etc. dressed in all sorts of costumes, prepared to present themselves to the Mayor of San Felipe and the leaders of the community. We found a gringo bar on the Malécon with a view of the parade, ate Queso Fundido and drank Pacifico while we watched the festivities.

Upper left: Sunset on our first night in San Felipe. Various parade shots. Bottom right: When we returned from watching the parade, we found a guy just finishing washing our entire truck and camper. Either we were embarrassing the locals with our dirty car, or this guy is just a cool dude... probably both.

Following the same theme of crazy things happening while we travel, the day before as we were leaving our campsite in Punta Cabras, a truck rolled by with an unmistakable sticker on the side… It was a Rebelle Rally #. KP and I both jumped out and started waving our arms and chasing the truck to get the attention of the driver, who I knew would be my fellow competitor Emme Hall! We failed to flag her down, but got the attention of the car behind who was travelling with her, and he agreed to get the drivers attention and turn her our way. A few minutes later, the truck came back to the side of the road where we’d pulled over, but it wasn’t Emme who jumped out, but her dad. I knew she had borrowed his truck for the rally, but didn’t realize that his house was mere miles from where we had camped for the last three days!

Larry Hall served as an incredible resource for traveling in Baja and told us all the places we needed to hit, starting with his other house just south of San Felipe. We arrived there in the afternoon after watching the Revolution Day festivities, and in dire need of showers, and he greeted us with open arms. We drank way too much wine and tequilla, swapped stories, and ate fried egg sandwiches until bedtime. I was bummed to miss Emme, who’d been sick and wasn’t able to make it down for the race, but Larry was a wonderful host.

Bahía de los Ángeles -

After a second day at Larry’s house, and a delicious dinner of homemade shrimp curry, we got back on the road to head for the Bay of LA. We had heard from numerous people that this would be a favorite spot and we were eager to get there. The landscape for the first 50+ miles to Gonzaga Bay was desolate and rocky, a different Baja than we’d seen thus far. As we left the coastline, the paved road gave way to endless - and rarely posted - road construction that brought us into the more typical desert landscape. A roadrunner even ran across the road in front of the truck and I thought KP was going to lose his mind! : )

We made the obligatory stop at Coco’s Corner, a must for travelers passing on that stretch of “highway”. Expedition Portal has a great article on this "destination", link here. Coco has been running this makeshift truck stop for years and his walls are decorated with stickers, t-shirts, and business cards of those who’ve passed through… there is also a surprising amount of signed bras and panties… We had a couple beers with Coco and added our sticker to his wall, but we couldn’t leave until we signed his book. He must have hundreds of these books, as the entries in this one only went back to May of this year and the book was mostly full. He drew a little picture of our truck and camper and told us to “write our names and where we were born, not from, born.” We added our names, where we were born, and where we were headed to his book and felt like we had added our names to the history of Baja.

Left: The decorations in Coco's Corner are a bit eclectic. Middle: Our sticker now adorns the walls of Coco's Corner, right next to the window where Coco greets his customers. Right: Our entry into Coco's travel log.

We eventually made it down the highway to the Bay of LA just before dark. We had scoped out the camping in Bay of LA and read about a beach that was on a sort of National Park/Reserve so the camping was free and the wildlife was plenty. We even had a cop stop us on the way in to make sure we didn’t pay anyone for the camping. We spent our first glorious day wandering the beach, swimming, taking a trip into the nearby town for lunch and WiFi with some new friends, Antia and Michael from Germany, and dropping off our VERY full bag of laundry to be washed in town at the local Lavenderia.

The next day was Thanksgiving and the wind was howling through our campsite. We ventured outside to take a short walk and after fighting just to walk in a straight line we remained inside the rest of the day. I love cooking in our camper, but trying to do anything even remotely resembling a traditional Thanksgiving meal in it was going to be impossible, so I settled for a Chicken Taco soup that I made from scratch and simmered on the stove all afternoon. It was no turkey dinner, but it was delicious.

Upper Right: The neighbor dog Hessy came and smiled at us every morning. Lower Left: Our gorgeous camp spot in Bay of LA. Lower Right: We watched this seagull catch and eat a sting ray by our camp!

San Borja Mission/Desert Camping-

We reluctantly packed up to leave the Bay of LA and make our way back to the Pacific side of the Peninsula. The highway crosses the peninsula here and you have to make your way west in order to continue south and eventually get back to the warmer Sea of Cortez side. We decided to skip the highway and cross country it, as we are want to do, and took the road that takes you past the historic San Borja mission, built in the 1750s. When we got there a young boy in jeans and a cowboy hat was standing in the doorway. We didn’t realize at first, but he was to be our guide through the mission. He didn’t speak any English and our Spanish has not improved much in our month of living in Baja, but we picked up enough to learn a few facts and to see the inner workings of this beautiful old building.

We made our camp that night on a little side road leading to an old well in the middle of what you would quintessentially describe as the desert. Saguaro cactus standing guard, yucca plants at our feet, and rocky mesas in the distance. It was one of our favorite camps of the trip so far.

Sea Lion Arch Camp-

Our last camp before crossing in to the Southern part of the peninsula was on the rocky hills overlooking the Pacific. We had seen on iOverlander that there was a camp that overlooked a natural rock arch and a colony of sea lions so we figured that would be a legit place to spend a couple days. We spent hours of our next two days sitting on the rocks less than 100’ from where a group of 15-20 sea lions were lounging, swimming, and fishing. It was endlessly entertaining. That experience combined with the cartoon-looking crabs that would wash ashore on the nearby beach and then scuttle to get back into the ocean, only to be washed back ashore in an endless cycle, made for wonderful entertainment.

This week really helped us to slow down and develop a rhythm that we can now carry on into the rest of the trip. We are flying home for Christmas next week which will be a wonderful time to see friends and family and catch up on everything we’ve missed in the last couple months at home, but I know that I will be looking forward to getting back to our little camper and the nearest beach… oh and tacos!