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Baja Trip Report

Discussion in 'Trails - Events - Expeditions' started by umpqua, Feb 22, 2007.

  1. umpqua

    umpqua

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    Hope this report isn't too long winded.

    I've traveled to Mexico probably 10 or more times in the last 25 - 30 years and one trip that I've always wanted to do was to drive the length of the baja. I found myself out of a job in January so the time seemed right to make it happen. A friend was willing to go with me so we started assembling the stuff that we knew we would need and a bunch of stuff that we hoped we wouldn't. We planned to camp out most of the nights so we packed all of our camping gear but we also took a lot of self help gear like a come along, high lift jack, fuel filter, fan belt, etc. etc. All stuff that hope you don't need. We packed it in a bag on top and hoped we wouldn't see it again until we returned.

    In early January I left Portland, OR with a friend in my 88 fj62 and headed south down I-5. We drove non stop to San Franciso and visited a fellow 62 owner for a couple of nights. We then left SF and drove another non stop to San Diego where we stayed in a cheap hotel a few miles north of the border. The next morning we gassed up and the real adventure began. We crossed over the border at Tijuana and since we were going a bunch of miles past the border we knew that we needed a tourist card. For some reason I guess we thought that there would be a greeting party or something but we just drove right into the middle of TJ. More notably the Mexicans are real layed back without a lot of suspicion...nice. Where the hell do we get the tourist card? After a lot of driving around near the border on the Mexican side we found the Migracion office. Once we found the office the card was easily obtained but this proved to be the most frustrating part of the trip. Anyway, it was now about 10am and our plan was to drive as far south away from the border as possible on this day.

    Our first night in Mexico was spent at Punta Baja on the Pacific coast just outside of El Rosario, a drive of 220 miles from the border. We arrived just before dark and it was cold and very windy. We managed to build a small fire, cooked a couple of steaks, drank several more Tecate's and went to sleep in the back of the LC. The next morning we were up and going early. Near our campsite was a fish camp and on the dirt road out we met many Mexicans going to the fish camp for their day of work. We rounded a corner and were met by a group that had a flat tire on an old, beat up Toyota pickup. Being it WAS a Toyota, we stopped to see if we could help. They had taken a spark plug out and had a hose running to their tire valve. That was going pretty slow so we got out the air compressor that we hoped we wouldn't need and pumped up the flat tire. In the meantime, other fisherman had stopped and quite a large crowd had gathered to admire the LC. This was a pretty cool experience and neither side spoke very much of the others language but everyone was very friendly. They appreciated the help.

    This day we drove from El Rosario to Playa Escondida on Bahia Conception (Sea of Cortez); a distance of 400 miles! We arrived about dark and were beat. We awoke the next day to a great place. Very, very pretty. There were a lot of interesting people that appeared to be making this nice beach their home for the winter. I've got to figure out how they make this happen. We also met some younger guys that were riding BMW motorcycles. They were going to be out 5 months and were going to catch the ferry at La Paz to the Mexican mainland and drive to central America. Damn....sure would like to go. We spent another night here and sat around the campfire with our new friends drinking and singing.

    The next portion of the trip was from Bahia Conception to La Paz; 285 miles. We stayed in a cheap but nice hotel in La Paz called Hotel Lorimar. They speak English. We went to a couple of bars that night and the next morning went to the market and bought shrimp, steaks, tortilla's, etc. etc.

    Stocked up we left La Paz and headed to Los Cerritos which is a surf camp just south of Todos Santos; a distance of 120 miles. We stopped in Todos Santos which is a very cool town althougth it has definately been discovered by the wine and cheese crowd with a lot of high end construction going on. Like everything else I'm 10 years too late! We camped at Los Cerritos, pulling the LC right up on the beach. We finally got some sun on this day so we decided to spend a couple of nights in this layed back place and watch the surfer trash do their thing while we ate, smoked cigars listened to music on the ipod and drank large quantities of beer and whiskey. We met Dave at this place; a shiftless Canadian trying to make a living in Cabo selling time shares. Dave ended up getting his mini van stuck so we used the tow strap that we hoped we wouldn't need to pull him out. On the moring that we left, a older Mexican man came by an picked up our cans. He didn's speak English but said something about a "Fiesta". No kidding!! I recommend Los Cerritos....a nice layover stop on the Pacific.

    Time to move on again and the goal is now to reach the tip, Cabo San Lucas! Not far, just under 100 miles. We spent one night at the Cabo Inn at about $70. Did the Cabo Wabo thing. I was offered drugs and women in Cabo and everyone seemed to have their hand out all the time. Locked the LC in a car wash down the street from the Cabo Inn for the night for security. VERY NOISY at the Cabo Inn all night.....traffic and drunks in the street. Expensive food. A #)%(#)%( shopping mall and a Costco. Let's get the hell out of here.

    Next day it's raining in Cabo so we hit the road headed back north to La Paz; 138 miles. We stopped for lunch at Hotel Palomar in Santiago. Very good and a very good vibe in Santiago. Read Todos Santos....maybe I'm not too late. We camped outside of La Paz on an ok beach. Lot's of people seem to be wintering in their RV's here.

    Next day, headed north to Agua Verde!! about 180 miles. The turnoff of Mex 1 is marked to Agua Verde and the GREAT beach that we found to camp on is about 23 miles off the pavement. At 23 miles take a 4x4 road to the beach. This is a fantastic spot and was the best part of the trip. The road into AV is fun....very scenic and no one around. We spent two nights in this spot, had it all to ourselves. Repeat eating shrimp, drinking. Walked on the beach and picked up some good shells.

    North from here back to Playa Escondida. Some of our friends are still around. Next morning a LONG drive back to San Diego; 619 miles.....can that be correct?? Man.

    Anyway, takeaways from the trip;

    Triple A has a good map of roads in the baja. I also had a Lonely Planet baja book. Mike and Terri Church have a "Camping Mexico's Baja" book, althougth it's geared towards the Rv crowd. It does however give you a good idea of potential campsites.

    Gas & Deisel are readily available but we worked on the top half of our tank. I would stop for gas anytime it is available after a half tank. Make SURE that you fill up in El Rosario (headed south) and Jesus Maria (headed north) as there is NO Gas available between these two towns other than maybe someone selling it out of a drum on a pickup truck (note Maybe). It's a distance of about 200 miles without gas. We kept 6 gallons on the roof - never had to use it but was nice to know it was there.

    If I had it to do again I would probably not drive past Agua Verde. Cabo is an arm pit and there is too much to see and do before you get there. 4500 miles on the trip. A LONG drive but one that I'm glad I made. Mex 1 is a good road although it is very narrow and you are inches from death when you meet a truck. A "pillow of air" is all that separates you. Towns that I liked; Santa Rosalia (great bakery), La Paz (kinda), Todos Santos (definately), Santiago (very nice).

    Check it out sometime. I've got a LOT of pictures but don't know how to post them.
     
  2. brmFJ43

    brmFJ43

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    Nothing beats a good road trip, especially in a cruiser! I've always wanted to make that trip, and I plan on making it happen in the near future.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
     
  3. pappy

    pappy photosynthesizing Moderator

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    I agree about Todos Santos. Very nice. One town I guess you didn't get to was Los Barriles between Santiago and La Paz. Another nice town full of Gringos and a very sweet FJ45.

    I disagree about Santa Rosalia. Cesspool on the Gulf. And never, ever, buy gas there.
     
  4. pappy

    pappy photosynthesizing Moderator

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    BTW, here is something fun you can do. This is my trip from last year plotted in Google Earth from my GPS.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2008
  5. Ducks

    Ducks

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    Do you have them up on the web somewhere?
     
  6. Ting

    Ting

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    pictures.....
     
  7. dealmaker

    dealmaker

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  8. cpg

    cpg

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    Great report.
    Did you ever have to show your tourist card?
     
  9. umpqua

    umpqua

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    We had to show our tourist card ONE time. It was northbound and I believe that it was when we crossed over from the southern baja state to the north.

    One thing that I did notice on this trip, and maybe it was because it was baja, but I believe that the Mexicans are real in tune with the tourism is a money source deal. We went through some very cursory military checkpoints headed south. One thing that I thought was pretty amusing was that they would come around and try to open the glove box. The knob just turned (you need a key open it) and wouldn't open. Not ONE time did anyone ask for a key. "Well, this won't open...ok". Headed back north the checks seemed to be a little more thorough but nothing major at all. I got the distinct impression that unless you were really %U%(#$ up that they weren't going to give you a second look.

    Pappy, that's a pretty cool map. It looks like you did some LONG driving days like we did. Didn't get to Los Barilles....next time. Loreto felt pretty good to me too. Saw a REAL nice 55 at the surfer beach at Los Cerritos.

    I do have pictures and would like to post them here. I have them on cd. How do I do it. Also, if your interested in can email you a link to Kodak Easyshare.
     
  10. cpg

    cpg

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    Was the check point just north of Guerro Negro?

    Please email me a link to easy share.

    How was the water temp aroun Bay of LA and Loreto if you went out for a swim ?

    Usually there is a manage your attachments option. to post photos I dont see it any more.
     
  11. expeditionswest

    expeditionswest

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    Great trip report. Next time, let me know and I will give you the coast route into La Paz.

    Baja is a magical place no doubt.

    Oh, and Cabo does suck!
     
  12. spressomon

    spressomon glutton Moderator

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    X2 (PM)...thanks.
     
  13. cpg

    cpg

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    Pictures??
     
  14. pappy

    pappy photosynthesizing Moderator

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    Busted! That was you posting at Nomad.
     
  15. cpg

    cpg

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    Yes
     
  16. Ducks

    Ducks

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    Excellent pictures. I guess it doesn't take a built rig to explore Baja. I look forward to taking my trip with what I have.

    Cheers.
     
  17. cpg

    cpg

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    I cant attach photos to this website any more the attach is not working.
     
  18. rdublin

    rdublin

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    It doesn't (depending on your definition of "explore"), BUT you want to make sure your truck is in good repair. You can certainly find trouble without trying too hard, but in my very limited experience most people go there to relax, not to run the Mexican version of The Hammers.

    On my previous trip (two years ago) we had a 60 that broke down because the PO did not bend over the ears of the spindle lock washer during a knuckle rebuild, which resulted in everything coming loose and the outer axle friction welding itself to the spindle. We spent the better part of a day looking for an early to mid 80s minitruck that we could get parts from. It was quite an adventure as none of us spoke Spanish, but in the end, we found an 85 up on blocks and were able to negotiate to get what we needed. It makes for a good story now, but it wasn't much fun at the time since we were on our way north to the border that day.

    Take what spares you can, especially for an 80, because you will probably have a tough time finding those parts in Baja.

    Cheers,