Travel Blog 31: Baja California
North of La Paz city was a deserted smack in the face. I looked out over the vast, motionless landscape and began to realize how long the Baja California peninsula truly is. Fuel stations are spread out far from each other with no guarantee they’d have gas or take credit cards. They do accept US dollars, but their made-up exchange rate would make it the most expensive gas on the North American continent. Running low on pesos made for a scary thought as food and gas require cash.
My first night cruising north was spent in a fishing village 10 miles off the main road. It was quiet, chilly, and a little rundown. Locals were very friendly when driving out the next morning. I think seeing a gringo come through town put some very curious thoughts in their heads. Continuing up the road, the landscape transitioned significantly to some of the most beautiful terrain I have ever driven through. A downhill curve picked up my speed, but I was forced to slam on the brakes when I saw four people banged up on the side of the road and their car smashed from rolling twice. They spoke no English, but we tied a strap from their car to mine to pull it out of the ditch. I patched the arm of one guy from my first aid kit while waiting until an ambulance showed up. I wished them well before continuing my journey to Loreto. I faced my own issues in Loreto as I walked out of the grocery story to see my front left tire fully flat. The gas station attendant next door called a mechanic that drove over to lift my car and patch the hole.
The Sea of Cortez coast was brutally hot, but stopping to swim at the various beaches made for a nice break from the road. Mulege was a jungly town with narrow roads, but a perfect lighthouse parking lot to sleep at. However, I managed to get Blaze stuck in the soft sand while looking for the perfect parking spot. Luckily four-wheel drive was able to charge over the rocks and wood I put underneath to free myself from a frustrating situation. Then I jumped in the bay to wash off the sweat and sand.
During my drive north to Santa Rosalia, I noticed a slight pull to the left while driving. In the middle of nowhere, I had to just ride it out. I reached town to realize I had another puncture in the same tire. That wheel was taking a real beating. In the process, the gas station attendant tried to take advantage of my vulnerability by charging my credit card twice; once for filling the tank and another 400 pesos ($20) for her to pocket cash. While speaking with a tire guy up the road, I saw the library offering WiFi. I checked my credit card statement to learn of her trickery. I spoke with local police, who did offer to help, but went back by myself to show her the double charge. She responded in clear, perfect English, “I’m sorry” handing me 400 pesos. In a way, she helped me because now I had more cash for the drive heading northbound.
With the tires back on track, I drove across the desert towards the west and north. I reached a military checkpoint that my travel app warns can be very intense on ‘gringo travelers.’ I took a different approach by saying, in clear Spanish, “I’m nervous. You’re military. I’m gringo. There is no one else here. I have no drugs, no mota, and want no problems. You can search my vehicle, but I must watch closely.” They seemed impressed by my diligence. They asked the same, typical questions of where I’m going and what my profession is. Telling officers I make art for children became the perfect response in my experiences around Mexico. Having my art supplies and examples of my work usually led to a smile from these intense men before continuing my journey up the road.
In Guerrero Negro, I rested two nights in a hotel, ate the tastiest ceviche tostadas, and crossed my final Mexico State border from Baja California Sur into Baja California. This border crossing also welcomed me to the Pacific coast time zone. I had reached the final leg of the journey!
Baja California was relatively uneventful. I slept in the most amazing desert town of Cataviña where boulder rocks and giant cacti entertained my eyes during the most incredible sunset in the distance. I haven’t had that silent of a night in a long time. Usually I’m entertained by waves all night, but the desert is tremendously still and eerily quiet. I loved it!
Up the road, I slept on my final cliff with waves, birds, and dolphins entertaining me while the sun dipped over the Pacific. It felt like my goodbye night as I was leaving the peaceful Pacific. There is no comparison to the freedom of parking on a cliff in Mexico. No concerns of police moving me along. Being far away from communities eliminates any threatening individuals. It’s just me and Mother Nature. There is no place I’d rather be!!