Laguna San Ignacio:
On Wednesday January 16th, 2013 we rolled into Baja California Sur, BCS. This was our second state in Mexico. Our first order of business was a stop at a gas station in Vizcaino but they didn’t take visa so I just befriended by a cute puppy that Lynne was immediately attached to! On the road again we made our way to San Ignacio. There were tourists aplenty as it’s the hopping off point to a fantastic laguna with the best grey whale calving to be found. We added 200 pesos worth of fuel to the tank (depleting our peso supply further) and cooked lunch in the shade and protection of the town square’s big shade trees. The pemex attendant really liked the Roo and once again we heard the exclamation SOOB A ROOO! I showed him the engine as I added a quart of oil. He said it had been pretty windy for 3 days straight. We checked out the cathedral. I searched for a bathroom eventually settling on a vacant corner of a courtyard as the price was better. Oh my! I asked at the bank about changing dollars or using my card- no dice! Out we rolled on the road to Laguna San Ignacio. The road was good for a ways but eventually turned to dirt for the last 10 miles. The mexican spanish word for dirt road- terreceria- translates to rough road. YUP! It was slow going! Arriving at Laguna San Ignacio we found an abandoned wood building and used it as a windbreak with the ROO on the other side. We weren’t going to be battered like the night before! I shot pics of another beautiful sunset over the Laguna as well as some night shots before retiring. It’s satisfying to go to bed with some beautiful shots on your memory card, lulled asleep by a kinder & gentler wind thinking of the stars over the laguna 20m from the tent.
The next morning I wrote in my journal as Lynne slept in and considered how disconnected we were from the world of facebook updates and the daily lives our friends and family were living. How do you communicate such an experience to people a world away? Even well crafted words and photos seem to fall flat. My cold was still going strong. Being in the wind a lot didn’t help destroy the snot factory. Whatev, such things are temporary! After noon we drove out a bit further and watched vultures feast before turning around. Ethan had spoken highly of his time in a small boat on this laguna, greeted by a whale and her calf. Such experiences between two species communicating without language is beyond words. For us though the cold & wind combined with our colds was also beyond words in another way. We put that down on the ‘save for later list’ in our heads knowing we’ll return to Baja as it’s essentially an extended US road trip. Retracing the path out from the Laguna on the bone shaker we headed back to pavement and eventually the main route south from San Ignacio. At the transition to pavement we met a nice couple from California who had traveled down Baja 23 years before and were seeing some of the same spots this trip. They suggested Agua Verde. We wisely heeded their advice.
Heading south and across Baja from the Pacific side to the Sea of Cortez side we got gas in the old ferry port & mining town of Santa Rosalia while Lynne marveled at some of the wonderfully decrepit structures! Further south we took a drive through Mulege, an old french town. Although after driving through it both of us thought of the entrance arch to be the main visible french identification. Otherwise it was all mexican. But that’s just us. Leaving the faux frenchies behind we headed south to search for beaches. Seeing a dirt road leading off the highway just north of El Coyote we did some scouting and soon light 4X4 work took us to the shore. Looking out from the bushes across a small inlet we saw a RV park across from us set in a bay. We had neighbors for the first time in Baja! A few night shots and it was time for sleep again. In the morning we rolled south and gassed up in Loreto where they gladly accepted Visa. Wooo! Heading into town we stopped at a Mercado and bought tortillas, a tvp like veg protein and 20L of water for 15 Pesos but when we went to pick up our big jug of water they were out. I also stopped by banks but their exchange rates were terrible. We stopped for our only internet time in all of Baja and spent 10-15 minutes writing our family an email to say all was well from the southlands.
Along the Sea of Cortez- Agua Verde:
By Noonish we were on our way and found the turnoff to Agua Verde 30 some miles south of Loreto. I was happy the road was better than I pictured as I was able to crank out 20-30mph for the first half before the hill. The hill was steepish, narrow and pretty! The vally below revealed a number of secluded coves, the sort of landscape one sees in dreams. We passed up and over several hills dividing these valleys/ coves until we reached the teeny tiny town of Agua Verde. After some exploring we turned around and headed back a little ways to a cove we spotted on the way in. It took a bit to find the road to the beach but 4×4 and some skills took us out along to the beach proper. The search was worth it. Quite worth it! This was by far the prettiest beach we camped at in all of Baja! The views of distant hills and towering cliffs in the distance were beautiful along with islands out in the sea of Cortez!
We hiked to the far end of the cove and watched the clouds roll over us. The pretty green hills were soon crowned in crimson, a sky on fire! I was enthralled with the light show! After dinner I took some night shots and went to bed. Better night shots came in the morning with the moon out of the picture when I awoke early. Once the sun was up I shot more and watched a coyote rush past me on the beach at full tilt <4m from where I stood! Lynne was as excited as I was to see my shots as I showed her back at camp, convincing her morning wasn’t so bad after all. It was hard to leave Agua Verde! On the way out from the beach we passed a small house before the main dirt road. I thought they were asking for propane. It wasn’t until later we figured out they were asking for a tip. Whoops. I felt bad for that for some time but there wasn’t anything I could do days down the road. It took 2 hours to drive the 24 miles back to the main highway. 40 more minutes down the pavement and we were in Ciudad Insurgencia. we stopped at a grocery store and bought some yogurt (the best we’ve found in Mexico!), tortillas, bleach (for treating water), cereal and cheese. We stopped at another store looking for water and with empty stomachs we bought a kilo of hot tortillas!! Roosters would later finish some of these. The fresh cheese tasted like the cheese of Georgia- like cows.
Back to the Pacific Coast: El Conejo
Further south we drove the 10 mile dirt road to El Conejo (the Rabbit) to a surf spot back on the Pacific side of Baja. We had yet to witness this culture and since it’s the reason a lot of gringos head south of the border we figured we should learn a bit more. First we checked out the lighthouse. It was the most sparse beach yet- no other islands or land to see- just ocean. We rolled over towards where we saw people camping. A gal from Tofino, BC, Canada was laying in the sun becoming darker than most mexicans. Another gal greeted us with, “You’re obviously new here, you’re so white. Well, good luck.” Lynne’s response in her head, “I’m gonna stay white- I’m not a surfer.” Some have been coming to this spot every year for over 25 years now. There was a sort of cultish / elitist vibe but the few who spoke to us were nice. A tight community! It was breezy on the ocean but not as bad as some of the beaches we had stayed at to the north and we were protected by the dune. Lynne cooked a yummy dish of Polenta, garlic, cow cheese & salsa that we had on tortillas. All the surfers congregated in small groups or solo on the dune or beach to watch the sunset. I did the same with my tripod and camera in hand. Coyotes woke me up at 2:30am. The waves were crashing hard. Falling asleep again the coyotes woke me up for star shots around 5am. I stood on the dune to watch the pre-sunrise color ease into the horizon. There’s something special about that time of day where light gradually changes from night to day. Magical.
We ate breakfast and headed back out to the pavement. I added my last quart of oil from Spokane and we headed further south towards La Paz. It would have been neat to see Cabo San Lucas but that’s another trip. Baja’s easy remember- just like traveling in the US aside from the fact you’re in Mexico. Arriving in La Paz a couple hours later we stopped at a Walmart on the way- a store I never buy goods from in the US. Here it was our only easy place to find Mobil 1 Synthetic 5W-30 that I was running. It wasn’t cheap either- 160 pesos is about $12.60 for a liter! We picked up more food and some detergent imagining that someday we would do laundry. After a while we were winding our way out of town towards the ferry terminal. Once there we had to figure out where to buy our ticket. Upon finding this office we had to go back to the terminal and find the place to buy our vehicle import permit, the pre-req for buying a ferry ticket. That was ~$49 + a $200 USD deposit that should be refunded upon leaving Mexico. They calculated a weird exchange (converting the dollars to pesos with a poor exchange then charging me in pesos) making it come out about $8 more on my CC statement. Back we went to the Office to purchase our ferry tickets. The boat to Mazatlan from La Paz is almost double the fare to Los Mochis but we had no desire to be so far north in the narco state of Sinaloa. I paid the 3318 Pesos for us (2200P for car and I + 1000 for Lynne). We didn’t get a cabin figuring we could later if we wanted. Whoops. We packed our things in preparation for the 3pm boarding and soon it was time to go. After pressing a button that turned green I had no idea I had just randomly selected ‘no search’ on my way through customs. In fact I didn’t know we were passing though customs. There was another fee for use of the port- 148 pesos- before I drove to the boat’s entrance. There I learned Lynne had to get off at the terminal, go through customs and ride a shuttle over to the ferry. Only the driver is allowed on with a vehicle. After dropping her off I returned and soon the Roo and I were on a boat bound for mainland Mexico! YEAAAHHH!! WOOHOOO!