Slowing it Down in Baja

Written by Evan

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Baja greeted us with long straight desolate pavement stretches in 100+ degree heat. We were headed to a small town higher up in the mountains, so knew we just had to suck it up and get through it to make it to more bearable temperatures.

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Hot and Dry!

Arriving in Valle de Trinidad, Baja California, we quickly found a hotel for about 250 pesos (~16 USD) and found a spot to get a quick workout in before dinner.

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Hotel laundry service

While the vast majority of people we have interacted with so far in Mexico have been extremely friendly, in this particular town we (mostly Michelle) were the recipients of unwanted stares during our workout, to the point of finishing our workout in our hotel room as a few trucks would drive by at slow speed multiple times staring at the uncommon blonde girl in their town.

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Beer before taco dinner

The next day saw us off to Parque Nacional San Martir, the home to Baja’s highest peak, Pichacho del Diablo (10,157’).

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View from the office

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The park was a good change of weather from the endless heat of the trip, as the park is situated in the subalpine forests, very similar to much of Colorado. We even saw many aspen trees changing into their yellow fall colors.

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Chilly!
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Fall in Baja’s high country

A fun hike with solid scrambling to a series of highpoints led to an awful hike back to our motos. Earlier that morning, I had woken up with my first bout of diarrhea, but overall did not feel too bad. During the hike out I started to get a headache, lose my appetite, and became very lethargic. A bad night of sleep complete with chills, hot flashes, and endless bathroom breaks beside our tent brought us to a chilly and rainy morning.

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As quick as we made it up to “Colorado in Baja” we were back on the Pacific coast of Baja riding through rain showers for a couple of days to Bahia Los Angeles.

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Refreshing rain en route to Bahia Los Angeles
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Slick road just off Pacific Ocean

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Lucky to come across this gas station- we were running low on fuel in the middle of nowhere

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Bahia Los Angeles brought us back into the heat of Baja, this time accompanied with quite a bit of humidity too. As we were pulling into our beach front campsite, we quickly met a slightly drunk group of sailors, when they excitedly yelled “Colorado?” (after seeing our license plates). A group of retired 50/60 something year olds had anchored their boats for a few nights in the bay to escaped hurricane danger further south.  One of the sailor couples had been sailing around for three years, and upon asking them where they were headed next, they responded: “our plans are written in the sand at low tide.”

We were looking forward to a good night of sleep camping in our tents by the bay, but the heat and humidity were too unbearable to get much sleep. We were planning on leaving in the morning to camp at a remote beach for my birthday, but were not in the mood to deal with another sleepless night, so we searched for a hotel in town with AC. But first, we ran into a frustrating money situation. The last ATM we took money out of was the last one we saw hundreds of miles ago in Puerto Penasco. By this point we were running low on cash, and there still was no ATM anywhere near. Locals informed us of the one small grocery store in town that would give you cash back on your debit card; however, the grocery store denied these rumors. We had to make a couple trips to the store and beg them (through not smooth Spang-lish), and they finally agreed to give us 1 thousand pesos (~50 usd) after spending 300 pesos in the store. We used the money to cover our hotel that night, which still did not leave us with much cash left. The birthday mood was lightened with a sweaty hike up a scenic highpoint above town. We had high hopes of celebrating my birthday with fish tacos and margaritas, and but no restaurant in town accepted credit cards, which brought us to a late grocery store dinner and some muffins for desert.

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Sweaty workout in the park
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Beach fail – full of stingrays!
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Evening hike

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Birthday dinner

The next day we headed out on a dirt road towards Baja California Sur – the ride was extremely scenic, complete with endless Baja washboard sections, and little bits of deeper sand here and there to keep it interesting. A long straight gravel section with a nasty crosswind and deep gravel bars brought us back to the main highway down Baja for a few more hours.

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We arrived in the lively town of Santa Rosalia, where we enjoyed pizza for dinner and ice cream and local pastries for desert. We found a cheap hotel just as the sun was setting, but complacency and laziness got the best of us. In the morning I noticed my straps open, and a tent, laptop charger and phone charger, and a toiletries bag were all missing.

Up until this hotel we always had secure parking. This hotel just had a dark lot next to the rooms, and because we were getting up early for a quick ride to Mulege, where we had a house rented for a couple nights as a birthday splurge, we didn’t unload all of our saddlebags. Lesson learned – don’t be lazy and complacent, especially with insecure parking!

Getting sick, being a bit worn out from rough sleep and lots of riding, the theft didn’t put me in a great mood – but luckily the house in Mulege was pretty amazing – right on the river surrounded by lush palm trees and desert hills. We walked up the road and bought some fresh fish from some local fisherman who were cutting it up from the mornings catch.

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Our little retreat for a couple days in Mulege
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Mulege kayaking

 

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Fish!

Back at San Martir Park further north, Michelle ran into Phil from Switzerland who is on the same trip as us (on the same bike, though set up much nicer!). Turns out he was in Mulege as well, so we invited him for dinner at our house. Phil had met Loren, another traveler from Germany, in his hotel, so both joined for a dinner of fish, pasta, beer, mango margaritas, and belated birthday cake. They were the first travelers we have run into so far on our trip, so was great to share dinner and drinks with them!

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Dinner with Phil and Laurin
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Suzuki DR 650 Lineup

 

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Finally laundry!

Close by to the house we rented, we ran into a couple originally from Colorado who have been living in Mulege for many years now.  They invited us in for some beers and gave us a tour of their house.  It was great running into them, sharing stories from Colorado, and learning more about Mulege.  We truly enjoyed meeting Mike and Elizabeth!

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Fish, Pasta, Mango Margaritas

After a couple nights, it was time to head into La Paz for a week of Spanish school at El Nopal and a homestay with a local family arranged by the Spanish school. An initial great twisty ride through mountainous coastline brought us to boring straight stretches of slab with the occasional dirt and at times extremely dusty low visibility bypasses around road construction.

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En route to La Paz

We arrived in La Paz and easily found our homestay with the extremely welcoming family of the Canos – Vince, Monica, and their two daughters Paulina and Karina. We settled in to our upstairs apartment, ate dinner, and socialized with the family. The next morning we were off to our first day of Spanish school at El Nopal. Luckily the school was within walking distance from the homestay (~45 minute walk) as we don’t like to ride our bikes when we are not actually out on the road from town to town. Walking is such a great compliment to all the moto riding, and we enjoy it more and more as the trip goes on. A very sweaty (La Paz is hot!) walk brought us to school, where we immediately met fellow travelers Mike and Lyndsay of California on the same trip as us, but in their Toyota pickup. Later on in the day we met Ryan who was starting 6 weeks of Spanish school at El Nopal. Throughout the week we hung out and got to know our fellow students, and were very happy to meet them!

The homestay was excellent – the Canos were fantastic hosts and made us feel comfortable and at home. We enjoyed Monica’s wonderful homecooked breakfasts and dinners, and countless La Paz treats, including ice cream, elotes, tostatos, fresh coconut, hot dogs, and more!  We really enjoyed spending time with a local family and learning more about their culture and the hot spots of La Paz!  We also spent time at the beach and walked on La Paz’s beautiful melacon. Huge thanks to the Canos!

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Amazing ice cream in La Paz
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Evening beach with the Cano’s
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Drinks with friends from Spanish School
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La Paz Melacon
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Tea shop with host family- we got a delicious iced coconut chai!
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Pina Loco and Coco

School went well – we had great teachers and a great environment at El Nopal, but 1 week really was not enough. We had a good review of Spanish that was learned in high school, but we need much more practice and class in the future to make more progress.

Our week in La Paz flew by, and suddenly it was time to catch our long ferry (~17 hour) to mainland Mexico. Luckily, Mike and Lyndsay were taking the same ferry as us. Arriving at the ferry, we ran into a few other overlanders creating a ragtag group to hangout with on the ferry, including Paul and Danielle on a surf trip from California to Panama in their Toyota van, Germans Sylvi and Michel on a trip from Alaska to South America in their Chevy Astro van, and full time digital nomads Will and Cate headed to mainland Mexico in their truck camper after spending 2 months in Baja. It was great meeting everyone! A quick nights sleep on the ferry brought us to Mazatlan, a few goodbyes to our new friends, and our second start in mainland Mexico!

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Saying goodbye to host family – thanks again for a great week!
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Onto the ferry

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Overlanders heading south
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Windy ferry deck
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Ferry dorm room

Waiving farewell to our ferry friends on the mainland!

 

We started a Facebook page that will have more regular updates.  Check it out and “like” the page to get our updates, if you haven’t already!

Map of our route:

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13 thoughts on “Slowing it Down in Baja

  1. Michelle and Evan,
    It looks like you guys are having quite an experience. Evan, happy belated birthday! Enjoy your trip, we look forward to hear more about it. We are counting the days until you come in for Diane wedding.
    Love, dad

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  2. Hi Guys!
    Great blog, gives me a dose of nostalgia mixed with a dab of jealousy (Janene’s and my first real trip together was a road/kayak trip in Baja, spending Christmas on a deserted beach near Isla Carmen where we decorated a cactus with tinsel!). But anyway….
    You are heading into “our” part of Mexico now, and I do have a raft of suggested places if you want them, gleaned from 20+ years of being there. My e-mail is below

    I can expand upon them, but here’s a quick list
    San Blas – Traveler friendly but authentic, slightly funky coastal Mexican town., good for a base to explore interesting villages and jungles nearby.
    Puerto Vallarta – big and touristy, but if you’re ready for a break….great food and still cheap places to stay in the old town, esp. in the off season. Towns to the north of PV are real Gringo hangouts, towns to the south not so much. Also south would be access to one of the longer unpopulated coastlines in central Mexico, perfect with your bikes.
    Perula, Tenacatita, La Manzanilla – Three beach towns on the road south, each very different, all worth checking out. Perula the most primitive, Tenacatita (not really a town) the best snorkeling, La Manzanilla friendly with a well-integrated snowbird community. Caution, no banks at all until:
    Melaque/Barra de Navidad – Our winter home, easy place to be (we prefer Melaque), another snowbird retreat but mostly Mexican family beachgoers from inland. Gorgeous bay, I think the most scenic of the beach towns. Many side trips/great walks.
    Cihuatlán – Just south of Barra Melaque, not really a destination but just mentioned because of gorgeous church and also likely cheap lodging off the tourist trail if Melaque doesn’t appeal.
    Manzanillo – Skip it unless you are looking to restock from big department chains, it has ’em all.
    Colima – One of our favorite cities, almost untouristed, lovely central Jardín and church, great side trips including
    Cómala – One of mexico’s “pueblos mágicos” including the famed ‘botaneros’ where the food, drink and music never stop, and
    Laguna la María – 15 miles or so further, up close and personal with the most active volcano in the Western Hemisphere, great camping for a pittance and wonderful walk towards the volcano which fills the sky…
    OK, there’s more but I’ll wait to hear back
    Happy Trails!
    Rusty

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      1. Great! My thoughts on Colima come with the caveat that it’s appeal is mostly about a splurge of urban pleasures with a touch of class mostly concentrated in the few blocks around the central jardin, the proper name of which is the Jardin de Libertad. There is a pretty good Italian restaurant with great balcony seating overlooking the jardín, upstairs from the museum entrance and catty corner to the cathedral, on the opposite side of the square from the Hotel Ceballos. The Ceballos (a Best Western) has a nice but pricey outdoor cafe where you can hang out and people watch for the price of a coffee. On the farthest diagonal corner of the square from the hotel there is an affordable breakfast/lunch restaurant I believe called El Trébol. There are a couple of cheap lodgings on Plaza Nunez, 6 blocks or so along the main drag from the jardin. At least one of them I recall has secure parking inside.
        But you really want to head out to Comala and beyond to the volcano, a hilly winding ride through the lush countryside. The ejido at Laguna la Maria has secure camping available as I mentioned, and they are friendly. Also if you go to Comala you should check out the small but intriguing little sattelite village of Nogueras, with its museum, the former Hacienda of a locally famous artist named Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo, whose work is featured along with his collection of pre-Hispanic pottery and statuary.
        Hope some of this works for you
        Cheers!

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  3. We loved La Paz when we were there a few years ago, although I remember the male on being very smelly! People would walk along the shore with handkerchiefs over their noses!

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    1. hmm… weird! The Malecon was very clean and not stinky when we were there! I even saw workers out in the early mornings shoveling up any debris that washed up on the beaches overnight. We love La Paz too- it is super trendy!

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