There were a couple of things really pushing us to get to Mexico and specifically the Baja Peninsula. One was to see and have some time with our really dear friends and ‘Travel Mentors’ Judie and Ken Kesson after almost three years at their lovely home outside Rosarito Beach. And the other was to gorge ourselves on all the lobster we could eat!
We had almost three days with Ken and Judy and not only enjoyed long discussions about remote and interesting travel locations (they have been to over 130 countries) but also the views from their balcony and the Mexican food we all love in ocean side restaurants along the neighborhood coast.
We finally headed south, first to Ensenada where we made that big grocery stop we needed for the road ahead, and then finally drove on south, first camping in San Quintin, then in Guerrero Negro, and finally on a wonderful beach just south of Mulege, a date palm oasis beside the Sea of Cortez on the eastern side of Baja. But no lobster.
Not that we didn’t encounter interesting things along the way. Here, for instance, is a rather giant field of cacti we encountered when we pulled off the road to make some lunch.
We first hit the Sea of Cortez in the rather fascinating town of Santa Rosalia, established in the late 19th century by the French to mine the abundant copper found there. The mine ran until 1955 when it was finally shut down, but has been reopened and enormously expanded and reequipped in the last couple of years because the price of copper is so high (and refining techniques so improved) that it is worth mining again. The old foundry occupies much of the seaside in town and includes several small steam locomotives from the prior days.
The church in town also has an interesting history. It was designed by A.G. Eiffel for the 1892 World’s Fair in Paris, though a bit dwarfed by the tower which bears Eiffel’s name. Afterwards the church was first rebuilt somewhere in Belgium, then was shipped over to Santa Rosalia in pieces on a sailing ship around Cape Horn. Note its interesting roof structure. It’s entirely made of iron and steel but for the roofing. Oh, but lobster? Forget about it.
The beaches south of Mulege on the Bahia de Concepcion are just absolutely wonderful and the bay itself is convoluted and extensive, the water wonderfully variegated shades of blue and green.
Moving further south, we went into Loreto, one of the first Spanish settlements in Baja and long the port connecting Baja to the rest of the world since there was virtually no overland road until the mid 1970’s. Certainly the Spanish had a road to the north (Junipero Serra of the California Missions came up this way), but there was no paved road all the way until 40 years ago. Loreto is charmingly historical and a wonderful little town to wander through on foot with beautiful old structures well preserved and maintained. But you guessed it, no lobster!
From there we pushed on to La Paz, an even bigger city and port, staying in a really nice campground on the edge of town. However, it’s not a very photogenic city, or even very interesting but for its boat filled marinas, so we pushed on to have a day in the small village of Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the peninsula. Todos Santos is Baja’s small, beautiful artist’s hideaway, but has been discovered by the larger populace, particularly since it is an easy day trip from Cabo San Lucas to the south. Nevertheless it remains very interesting and picturesque since there are lots of galleries, restaurants, pretty old hotels and wonderful pastel houses and buildings in the downtown area. Still, no lobster.
We then returned to La Paz and set up on the ferry across the Sea of Cortez to the mainland of Mexico. We had intended to ride the spiffy white ferry belonging to Baja Ferries, but it turned out to be fully booked for trips to the mainland on the day we wanted to cross.
So we went and signed on with the other line, much funkier and rustier without any real facilities for passengers. It turned out that it was a ferry almost exclusively for trucks and their drivers and instead of the 16 hour trip to Mazatlan, we opted for the 8 hour crossing to a town called Topolobampo, sort of midway between Guaymas and Mazatlan. So come 1:30 PM on Thursday, December 19th we drove Dan aboard the ship, then up the steep ramp to the top car and truck deck and left him amid the many semis assembled on our deck and the one beneath.
We spent most of the trip sitting above and watching the shoreline disappear and the new mainland one appear, attempting to race the Baja Ferry ship that left after us and arrived across ahead of us—cleaner, whiter, even faster than ours. We finally reached Topolobampo at about eleven thirty, drove Dan off the ship into the drizzling rain and dark and then twenty miles to Las Mochis, a bigger town close by the toll road running north and south down the mainland coast of the Pacific.
Our first day on the mainland was a relatively easy one, though we did encounter one rather strange and frankly disheartening parade of circus trucks along the say.
We finished the day in the city of Mazatlan where we had stayed before and where we had not only a favorite campground, but a favorite restaurant on the ocean as well. And yes, finally, desperately, we found lobster and each devoured two medium sized beauties in just minutes of absolute bliss!
Our final day of driving brought us again to our beloved Sayulita where we have had the last ten days enjoying life again in the oceanside campground where we spent so much time last year. The town itself was lit and alive with lots going on into the night on Christmas Eve
and in the campground we had our own version of the Christmas story reenacted with a donkey, Mary and the baby Jesus, and the Star and an angel (otherwise naked but for wings) leading us out onto the sand and then back into a group sing along of Christmas carols and hot cider.
Since then we have had little but overcast and lots of rain, but the main beach still seems to be full of tourists and swimmers even at low tide, and the locals have found an effective means of waiting out the storms.
After ten days split evenly between sun and rain we headed Dan east towards and through Guadalajara and on to San Miguel de Allende for the months of January and February. Dan sits on the street in front of the house we have rented and it is nice to be settled a bit after so much travel and so many miles. San Miguel is such a vibrant, beautiful and exciting city it will not be long before we will have another blog diving deeper into life here in this treasure of a place.