On March 1st we cross the border- 1,367 miles, 29 driving hours from Chula Vista, CA over 9 days, with 4 side trips along the way.
Lessons Learned. Indispensable apps: Maps.me, and Google Translate (especially its camera translating function)
Mexican immigration waves us across the border at Tecate. We park the car on a side street to stamp passports, validate visitor papers, and exchange US dollars into pesos.
On to Valle de Guadalupe via Ruta de Vino, to our vineyard lodging. In the valley, there are small wineries and spectacular Napa-style vineyards. With over 150 wineries, we have a blast. Tinto (red) is our favorite, and the Chenin Blanc is special.
Oops moment: There is no room in the car to purchase wine to take with us to La Paz. We remedy this oversight on the way OUT of Baja a few months later.
Baja Norte to Baja Sur (north to south)
We cross the 28th Parallel.
GPS calculates 8.5 hours driving time from Ensenada to Guerrero Negro. We are warned that cows sleep on the warm asphalt and are difficult to see after dark. After a longer day than expected, (11.5 hours), we arrive at sunset to our $38.00 hotel room.
Delay #1…First hour: Road blocks on Mexico 1 in Ensenada.
Delay #2….Potholes. Lots of them for the first 2-3 hours.
Delay #3…at a construction zone in the mountains. We wait for an hour and admire wildflowers with a long line of cars and trucks. The words “I don’t think we’re going to make it” are muttered for the first time.
Delay #4…a 45 mph speed limit is imposed for miles and miles. “Este Camino No Es De Alta Velocidad” – Not a High Speed Road. The road eventually becomes more desolate, and speed limit is gradually raised.
The longest stretch without a gas station is 239 miles. Along a remote stretch of road pickup trucks with gas cans in their beds are parked. These are marked as actual gas stations on the map.
Finding The Beauty
The scenery is wildly beautiful with bruma (fog) covered vineyards in the morning, green mountain hills, fields of vegetable farms, and crops of prickly pear fruit. It stretches to flat uninhabited desert with cactus fields and “Dr. Seuss-like” trees called cirios (candle) or boojum tree.
Guerrero Negro after 11 hours
A caravan of off-road ATVs racing beside the highway on a dirt trail, dodging poles, holes, culverts, and critters. Turns out, we are all checking into the same hotel at the same time that night.
- Mexican truck drivers (and there are a lot) kindly signal with their left blinker to let you know when it is clear to pass on winding, narrow roads.
- We encounter periodic military checkpoints on Mexico 1. The soldiers, young and polite, are decked out in full army fatigues with large guns. “Vaciones” (vacation) is a good word to know.
Gray Whale Watching (40 tons / 50 feet of love)
The gray whales come every winter from Alaska to breed and give birth. Their return trip begins in April.
Breaching and spouting they come right up to the boat for human contact. They surface alongside the small boats (pangas), and mothers push their calves up to the boats to show them off and allow petting. We were on the water with the whales for three hours. I could have stayed all day.
In the late 1800’s, the whale population was nearly extinguished, but with attention from conservationists and regulations they have rebounded. Whale watching is highly regulated and controlled in Baja.
Air Bnb Cancelled!
Struggling with the hotel’s weak internet connection, we find an email with a cancellation notice of our reserved Air BnB apartment in La Paz. Panic! We are arriving in 4 days for a two-month stay
Resolution: The rental angel, (Annabelle), diligently reaches us to authorize her to book a replacement. Granted!…Sight unseen – it turns out to be fantastic!
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