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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baja Mexico - Contrasts and Contradictions

Our time in the Baja was one of many contrasts and contradictions.

Some of the scenery is spectacular, in particular the 104 kms from Tecate, our border crossing to Ensenada. On driving back up to Tecate, quite high in the mountains you get spectacular vistas that are reminiscent of Wyoming (Yellowstone). As a day ride on a motorcycle definitely worth crossing just for the day down and back. Tecate is set amongst a boulder field environment, so interesting, and yet the valley setting has tenement dirt floor shacks that most of the people live in. The raw beauty and the abject poverty are seen in one vista.

The road south from Ensenada to El Rosario is mostly unappealing since it is a continual set of small towns straddling the highway for much of the 280 kms. You are forced to stay slow in these villages as the 'Topes', or miserable speed bumps of the worst type will rip your camper from your vehicle, or worse. fortunately it didn't happen to us. Add to that many of the sections are the typical 2 lane narrow roads.

Crossing into Mexico you are required to acquire a tourist card and pay the fee at a local bank. In all the military stops we encountered (12-14) not once were we ever requested to produce our tourist card to prove we were in the country legally.

Similarly, Ken Burningham had his camper robbed a Tecolote. The 'preventative' police came by after to check on the situation and recommended he go downtown La Paz to give a statement the next day. When he went downtown they knew nothing of the event and determined that since Ken had handled everything searching for what might have been stolen to report he destroyed any fingerprints that might have been there. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing all the time.

El Rosario to Catavina is scenic but a challenging road. You see in Baja the road has 2 lanes, one in each direction, lane width 9'6" each side, a centre stripe, and 2 white side markers. The total road width is 20'. and NO shoulder, ever. A typical old road in the US or Canada is 10' wide, width side markers and shoulders, mostly gravel. More modern 2 lane roads in Canada are 12' wide, 4' shoulders paved, totaling 28-30' in width. That's what makes the roads so difficult. The larger rigs are 8'6" in width, threading their way south against mostly trucks heading north. Lots of side mirrors are lost in the process, or worse, tires get trashed against the unyielding road drop-offs.

Catavina to Guerro Negro is very boring and most of it naroow, and desert with little to define it.

From Guerro Negro south to San Ignacio it is the same straight boring drive with little scenery to view, however from San Ignacio south as the road tacks towards the Sea of Cortes again the road gets interesting with volcanoes, and scenic vistas. 

At Santa Rosalita south you are on the Bay of Concepcion with many nice beach areas to pull off and camp on. Again, though, you will want the big rigs to stay in since there are no facilities whatsoever , except garbage collection and the odd outhouse. So the contradictions are, big rigs shouldn't be on these roads but are needed for the most comfort. We did fine with our rig, but limited water storage meant we needed to manage water consumption, and kept solar showers to every second day.

South of Loreto the road gets spectacular again for about 60 kms as you wind thru the Giganticos and against the sea then rises onto a high desert valley that is very productive for fruit trees. The remainder of the way to La Paz is uneventful but with interesting cactus displays.

La Paz in our opinion is the nicest city on the Baja, beautiful, approachable, but again that contrast, no people?? At 215,000 people it does have it's problems though.

We've covered Los Barriles in a lot of detail but it was a great destination to visit.

The loop road down from there thru the Tropic of Cancer to Cabo and back up thru Todo Santos was disappointing. Cabo is not RV friendly, and Todo Santos is suffering a crime way at the moment so you aren't safe to leave a vehicle unattended there. 

So there you have it, our opinion only of the Baja. Would we go back.... we'd have to think about what it offers that we can't find that meets our needs in southern California and Arizona. The weather this year was definitely better but the 1890 kms one way to drive down is difficult to justify. For some people California just doesn't offer beach water and kayaking this time of year, so if you want those the Baja is a yes for sure. Just do not expect a pool or most other amenities, but the food is great! And be prepared to see the contrast of so much poverty in a land of beauty.

But we definitely are ready to go with Cheryl and Dave and see the mainland Mexico on another trip!

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