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  • Writer's picturevanlafaxine

week 11+12: escapar de la baja

we are going to start making this blog breakdown more place-based rather than day-by-day since that is becoming a little cumbersome.

here is the update for our "escapar de la baja", not to be confused with "escapar a la baja" which was a festival that brought 1000s of vans to la paz and pissed a lot of people off.


Amy: We had our own version spring break on this private beach tucked away on east cape, ft. surf sessions, group workouts, quiet reading time, a movie night and campfires. This was one of my favourite beaches we camped on. It was free. It was tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Cabo and other towns. It was home to a family of donkeys. Whales swam by daily. The water was turquoise, and the waves were just big enough to surf. 

bill: i woke up saturday morning with a post-st. patty’s day hangover, a cut up foot, and… something else? turns out i got food poisoning ("montezuma’s revenge") so i was basically out of commission for the next couple days, which was okay i guess because i had a bunch of work to do and couldn’t surf anyways. everybody else surfed and partied on the beach for a few days, bit of a bummer to miss. a few days later i was finally feeling well enough to leave the van, duct tape up my foot, and get in a few last waves before we head north away from the surf. left some friends on the beach at shipwrecks and headed north with some others to santiago.


bill: we drove north into the mountains to a waterfall lagoon at sol de mayo near santiago. the waterfall is very cool (it is actually kind of warm) and the swimming is great but the real reason we came here is to climb! thom has been scoping out this deep water solo (climbing with no rope above water) since he got to mexico. it goes at about 5.9 and is on bomber granite. 5 star climb: hand jams, offwidth stacks, crimps, delicate footwork, beautiful. thom and hannah jumped from the top, the rest of us chickened out/fell part way up the wall.

Amy: Tucked away in the mountains north of Los Cabos is a lagoon with a spectacular waterfall. We drove up as a group and spent the day swimming, sunbathing and climbing on the rocks above the water (which were deep enough to jump from without touching the bottom). As Bill/other friends and family can attest, I’m a chicken when it comes to jumping off rocks. Normally, it takes an excruciatingly long time for me to muster enough courage to jump. But, this time felt different. Was it having friends to climb with? A crowd of tourists watching? Being free of my daily routines and responsibilities? Probably a combination of all the above, so I climbed and jumped into the water without fear. It was liberating. 

la ribera

Amy: After our waterfall chasing adventure, we chilled out for a few days at a beach in La Ribera. These were our last few days travelling as a group, so we made the most of it. Some highlights: a walk to a local panaderia (bakery) for some doughy sweet treats, slacklining between two of the vans, a movie on the beach - ‘Surfs Up’ - a cute Disney movie that was a favourite among the surfers in the group, and a family taco dinner for our last supper together.

bill: had a last few nights together as a group on the beach at la ribera. it is a bummer to leave all of our friends behind but we have to start heading north, we are out of time. we said our goodbyes with plans to meet back in california in the spring and began our long trek northward.

la paz

bill: first stop: la paz, which we mostly skipped on the way down. la paz is the capital of the baja, a “big” city, a lot more mexican than gringo, a lot more art, cool restaurants, great vibe. got breakfast at a restaurant with a french trained chef, very weird to have mornay sauce in mexico when our diet has been exclusively tomatoes and avocados. we stayed at tecalote beach which was only fine compared to a lot of the other beaches but the real attraction is balandra just down the road: a beach so beautiful they only give you a 4 hour time slot to visit. balandra is insane: giant volcanic cliffs falling into a turquoise bay from all sides, rippling sandbars all the way out to the sea of cortez that give this amazing wavey azure appearance to the bay. easily the most beautiful beach i have ever seen.

Amy: On our drive to La Paz we made a pit stop in a cute town called El Truinfo, a cultural/historic site with a burgundy misión and quaint cobblestone streets. At sunset, we pulled into Playa el Tecolote, a free beach to camp on north of La Paz. We’d heard great things about this spot, but after seeing the pristine beaches on east cape, we weren’t as impressed. The next morning, we drove out to Playa Balandra - the most famous beach around La Paz. You can’t camp here, and for good reason - it is magical. The bay is a hundred shades of turquoise and shallow enough to walk an hundred yards out. We strolled to the end of the beach, across the softest white sand I’ve ever felt, to get to the famous mushroom rock. In the afternoon, we explored the city of La Paz. We walked the malecón, ate some delicious ceviche, tacos and jalepeno poppers, and saw a Sears department store (she lives!!)


bill: next stop loreto, we skipped this on the way down to leave something cool to see on the way back north. loreto has grown a lot in recent years since it has an airport and the gringo money is flowing in, and for good reason. it is a very cute town with a european feeling square surrounding its misión (old spanish church), cobblestone streets, and a ton of great restaurants and live music. we got on the bike and drove up to the nearby mountain village of san javier, all built around the extremely old misión. the hour long drive there was insanely fun on a motorcycle: blind hairpins, switchbacks, water crossings, 45 degree grade turns, it’s hard to imagine a more fun road to drive a bike on. amy forgot her water bottle so we got to do it again. afterwards we tried to go to a restaurant recommended by some friends but it was about 25 minutes down a “dirt road” which by ontario standards would be an atv trail, and our butts weren’t feeling up to the task after driving to san javier and back twice, we turned around a few kms in.

a bartender is buenavista told me that "driving a motorcycle is the most fun you can have with your pants on", well driving this road is the most fun you can have on a motorcycle

Amy: We camped smack dab in the middle of downtown Loreto - a few steps from the main square, and a stones throw from the ocean. Our first stop: tacos! We found a spot tucked away on the arroyo and enjoyed the best grilled shrimp tacos we’ve eaten on the trip, and chile rellenos - a classic Mexican dish comprised of a poblano pepper stuffed with seafood and rice, smothered in a salsa-esque sauce, and topped with melted cheese. The next day, we rode the motorbike out to San Javier, a little village nestled high in the mountains. It’s famous for its misión - a simple stone building surrounded by flowering vines and orange trees. The air was thick with the sweet smell of orange blossoms. Halfway down the mountain I realized I forgot my water bottle on a bench, so we launched a rescue mission to retrieve it (a 30 min detour). We ate dinner downtown, watched a gorgeous pink sunset over the Loreto mision, and drank a few margaritas in the town square - a lively place. On both nights, there were markets with local vendors selling treats and homemade goods, and dozens of families walking, eating and enjoying live music.

bahia de concepcion

Amy: We enjoyed Bahia de Conception so much on our way down that we decided to camp one more night on the beach. We picked Playa el Requeson, known for its sprawling sand bar that connects to an island during low tide. Bill and I walked across and found a quiet spot beside a patch of mangroves to spend the afternoon. In the morning, I bought some fresh shrimp from a local fisherman, then we hit the road for Mulegé! We enjoyed this town on our way down, so we stopped again to hike up to the misión, and enjoy the view of the meandering river lined with palm trees. A tropical oasis! I bought some date bread (a specialty in the area), then we continued onward.

bill: stopped back at the bahia to stay at a different beach and visit mulegé a little more. we stayed at playa requison, a beach on a sandbar across a bay which was beautiful. the young crowd on the beaches dissipates the more north we head; we are firmly back in boomer territory.


playa requezon

guerrero negro

Amy: We enjoyed our first whale tour so much, we decided to do another one on our way through Guerrero Negro. This time, we visited the north side of Ojo de Liebre bay. After an hour or so of floating around, a mother whale and her calf decided to hang out. The baby whale was especially playful - it splashed around and bobbed its head up and down right beside us, letting us touch its silky soft baby skin. At one point, three whales were around the boat, looking at us with their big whale eyes, rubbing close to the hull, and letting us touch their heads and backs. We got much more face to face time with the whales this time - worth every penny!

bill: one last whale tour for the road! took a tour out of town this time which is 3 hours in the boat instead of the 90 min last time. we are later in the season, the whales are in the process of leaving but the last to leave are the mothers and calves, so we got a lot of up close and personal time with some baby grey whales, and a lot more whale-petting this time round. i also got blasted point blank in the face with a blowhole, if anyone wants my tasting note for a mouthful of whale snot please let me know.

el rosario to guadalupe valley to tecate

Amy: After our whale tour, we had to keep pushing north. We drove through a cactus forest, then through lush green rolling mountains. We stopped here at golden hour to admire the spindly cirios. We camped at a small oceanside campground, and the camp host shared some tortillas and frijolitas (refried beans) with us for dinner.

bill: the drive into el rosario is beautiful, as you head north you start to enter into the more lush guadalupe valley territory and the agricultural lands, rolling hills covered in flowers and cacti.

baja is the only place in the world where these crazy dr. suess cirio cacti grow

the agave plant only blooms once every 50+ years, it shoots out this massive flowering stalk and disperses its pollen, it then proceeds to die.

everything changes once you hit el rosario, while still technically the baja, the baja vibe is totally gone; you are now in border mexico. dusty streets full of cars, traffic, we had children come up to our van to beg for food, someone tried to sell me a blood pressure monitor from under their sweater, and we finally had the corrupt police encounter we had been expecting. we were pulled over for speeding (the van doesn't really speed in the baja because we are always on pothole patrol, we are the slowest vehicle on the road), they said we were doing 80 in a 60, then said the limit was 50. we did what our friends had told us: be polite, play dumb, don't try to speak or understand any spanish, and only offer to pay the fine at the police station. after a while they gave up on getting a bribe and let us go on our way.

Amy: for our final night in Mexico we stayed at the L.A. Cetto winery in the Guadalupe valley. It's one of the largest wineries in Mexico! Unfortunately, we arrived after they closed, so only got to enjoy the views from their parking lot rather than the wine. We also experienced our first rainfall in five weeks. We woke up early to cross the border, and were in San Diego by lunchtime!

bill: we stayed in the guadalupe valley before crossing at tecate. the us border guard literally didn't ask us a single question. she looked at our passports, handed them back and then said "okay go" like she was annoyed we were still sitting there. always cross at tecate instead of tijuana.

we are very bummed to be leaving mexico. the idea of going back to a world where you don't get to sleep on the beach for free, spend dollars a day on food, spend all day surfing and hanging out with your friends, and live in a paradise where it is sunny and warm seems fairly silly. especially going back to a world where you pay an arm and leg for the opportunity to be cold and miserable and inside all of the time. i think this last month in mexico has been one of the best months of my life.

one final thought on mexico:

i will never understand the mexican obsession with the tope (speed bump). topes come in many forms, but the most heinous is the super-tope: 4 feet long by 2.5 feet tall, enough to just miss scraping the centre of your frame as you pass over it, big enough that you should carry some speed lest you get stuck atop one but also big enough that you should always live in fear of driving over one at more than a dead crawl. this in contrast to the no-tope: driving down the highway at 100km/h you see a bright yellow line emerge out of nowhere, slamming on the brakes just in time to see that you have been bamboozled: a pseudo-speed bump, nothing but paint on the road. when it comes to literally every other form of road safety, there is nothing that won’t be eschewed: guard rails over a 300ft drop? hell no. more than 2cm of shoulder? absolutely not. speed limit? not really. drunk driving? go right ahead! but the second you get into town, or even randomly in the middle of nowhere, there is the tope. in town, about every 20 feet you are driving over some form of tope, big, small, aggressive, mercifully smooth, or sometimes the mini-topes informing you of the upcoming tope. these are nice and in direct contrast to the unlabelled, unpainted, out of nowhere, maybe surreptitiously placed tope, ready to send you careening into the air without notice. special mention to the steel hemispheres scattered at random in the streets that are no different from a usual tope in a car but send motorcycle tires sliding off in destabilizing directions at random both front and back simultaneously. how all of this helps anyone, i am not sure, but they really seem to love them here.

hasta luego méxico!

here is this week's video:




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