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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,535 days a wanderin'

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Back on the Road by Entering Northern Baja

Jan 4, 2016
by John
in: Mexico, Baja

We have always joked that our "real" trip would start the moment we crossed into Baja. No disrespect to the US or Canada, it's just that in our minds venturing to our neighbors to the south would be like nothing we have ever known. Sure, we have been to a few places in Mexico on vacation, driving through it in its entirety would immerse us in a different culture entirely. Exactly what we have been planning for.

In preparation for our crossing we saved a couple WikiOverland pages to pdf, bought our Mexican insurance online, and scraped all of our documents together. We had also been messaging Joe and Josee (Joe and Josee's Journey) and planned to cross into Baja together at Tecate. With everything seeming to be in order, we hugged and kissed our sister goodbye and headed for the border.

Rolling up and seeing the smiling faces of Joe and Josee really put us at ease, hopefully them as well. Entering Baja wasn't our first foreign border crossing, we entered and exited Canada three times, yet for some reason we were a bit apprehensive regarding Mexico. After some handshakes and money conversion at the exchange station nearby we were all soon in Mexico showing the innards of our rigs to the customs officials.

We were in, now to figure out the travel visa and vehicle import papers we've read so much about. In short, crossing at Tecate is really simple and consists of filling out a travel visa, walking to the tiny bank and paying, walking back to prove payment, getting our passports stamped, walking back to the bank to fill out the vehicle import papers, taking the newly signed copies to the pharmacy to make copies, walking back to the bank with the copies, paying the fee and deposit (our van is registered as a motor home so no deposit was required and we got a 10 year import), then getting our import papers. The hardest part was finding a place to park our rigs. We obviously looked fairly incompetent or confused so the customs officials moved some cones to accommodate the green around the gills gringos.

Filled with excitement, as if we won some sort of competition, we were off to Ensenada to get some fish tacos. Parking, once again, proved to be our biggest obstacle. Soon we were chomping on the infamous Tacos Fenix delectables, shit eating grins abound. We had successfully entered Baja!

Northern Baja Highlights

La Bufadora, Campo 7

We spent our first couple of nights at a cliffside campsite for a little over $4 US per night. The pit toilet leaves a lot to be desired but it's an authentic experience that shocks one into the differences regarding Mexican bathroom habits; while tossing toilet paper into a pit toilet is acceptable, doing the same with a flush toilet is not. It was a beautiful overlook and a great place to chill after our border success. Luisa, Graeme, Keelan, and Jessica (A2A Expedition) joined all of us on the second night for some good ole Overlander rowdy times.

Campo 7 La Bufadora, Baja Mexico

Cool kids aren't afraid to wear color

Rancho San Carlos

Neli's Big Adventure recommended this place to us and it was fabulous. The hour long bumpy drive in was soon forgotten once we entered the hot spring. It may not look like much, this place was divine. A little pricey at just under $15 US per couple per day. We expected to stay one night, we dragged oursevles out after three. The locals vacationing there gave us many good leads throughout Baja as well as several rounds of Tequila. We were warned that this place can get very busy on the weekends.

Rancho San Carlos, Baja Mexico

Gigantic lizzards arrive around 11 to sun

Puertecitos

A natural hot spring on the coast just south of San Felipe. An epic spot to soak while the waves crash on the nearby shore. It's a bit tricky to find as it is in the middle of a small community. The prices we were quoted were $15 US per car for just the hot springs and $20 US per car for both the hot springs and a campsite. We had to jockey around in the hot springs a lot as it gets very hot. None of us were tough enough for the hottest pool.

Puertecitos, Baja Mexico

Objects in pool are hotter than they appear

Gonzaga Bay

We had all been lusting to camp on or directly in front of a sandy beach ever since we entered Baja. Our first real attempt was a palapa filled campground at Gonzaga Bay. The drive in was stunning, the beach exceptionally so. What we didn't understand was the three walled palapas scattered about the fully open ones. Once the wind kicked up they made total sense. We never got in a swim as the wind never died down, requiring some serious engine and camper cleaning the morning we left. A beautiful place nonetheless.

Purtecitos to Gonzaga Bay, Baja Mexico

Best road in Baja, for realz

Gonzaga Bay, Baja Mexico

Hand holding nor kumbaya allowed

Gonzaga Bay, Baja Mexico

The earth is shifting. Quick, Instagram it.

Gonzaga Bay, Baja Mexico

Montana our ass, Big Sky Baja fo sho

Coco's Corner

An eclectic eccentric collection of things defines the place, nothing can capture the man known as Coco. In the center of a horridly dusty and automobile busting road it sits, a little over an hour each way. The cost to stay, one beverage of any kind. We bought a coke for less than one dollar to park in the field with rather nice pit toilets for where we were. Quirky but great, a nice reprieve for person and vehicle. Oddly, Coco was showing us his guestbook and we noticed an entry a month prior from Tallahassee. Mandi knows who they are, we still haven't seen them on the road. A small world indeed.

Coco's Corner, Baja Mexico

Is Vin Diesel gonna save us from the Bioraptors

La Gringa

We headed to Bahia de Los Angeles and ended up driving out to La Gringa. It's a great free spot, the road in was under construction so it took a little while longer than anticipated. The wind was still blowing so we picked a good place to park and wandered a little. The rocky beach was a bit steep but beautiful. The pit toilets are open air, at least the one near us was. This was our last stop on our way to southern Baja.

In Route to Bahia de Los Angeles

Baja is a desert, WTF!

La Gringa, Baja Mexico

Stop clowning around you two and bake us a pie

La Gringa, Baja Mexico

Um, Joe, buddy... that might be a bit too comfortable.

La Gringa, Baja Mexico

How many pelicans does it take to hold down a boulder?

La Gringa, Baja Mexico

So it rains in the desert, stupid scientists

Honorable Mentions

While we don't list every place and thing we do there are some that stick in our minds. Weeks later we catch ourselves mentioning them to others or just savoring the memory of the exquisite cuisine we consumed. In northern Baja there are couple standouts.

KiKi's RV Resort, San Felipe

The showers are kind of warm, the price to camp not the lowest, yet, there's something about the place that is amazingly comfortable. We spent a couple nights on our way south, a few more when we traveled back north with Joe and Josee when they were sorting out a mechanical issue with their truck. Out of all of the campgrounds, it appears to be the one most Overlanders choose. The resident snowbirds gave us a warm welcome and great leads for places further south.

El Kikiriki, San Felipe

I'm not a foodie, or at least I don't think I am, but great culinary experiences are not entirely lost on me. We were told to try the tacos al pastor at El Kikiriki and they were phenomenal. We later ventured back for the grilled chicken dinner for four and it too did not disappoint. Our only let down was finding it closed on a Tuesday when we decided to get one last meal. Some of the best street food in Baja!

Things We've Learned

Baja is a desert, somehow we missed that one. It's not as stark as other deserts we've experienced so we're handling it a bit better. We kicked around northern Baja for a couple of weeks and could have spent more or less time depending on the season. The hot springs were a wonderful way to start our Baja experience.

Traveling with another couple, especially Joe and Josee, is remarkable. We never considered traveling with anyone else, it was always just the two of us except for the couple of days we hung out with Liz and Jay (Alaska 2 Argentina) in California. We did share dinner with other travelers and/or hours of conversation, that's completely different then traveling full time together. It has been a wonderful surprise and they are exceptional friends.


Navigating by 'Baja' tag - Navigate by Date
Say what? (6)
Jan 5, 2016 at 02:35 AM
Happy New Year overlanders!
It's really cool to see some picture of Baja again and read that you both enjoy that beautiful place. I hope the mechanical issue of your friend's truck is now fixed and that you can discover further South.
Happy travels friends, take care
Claude-Alain
Jan 5, 2016 at 09:07 AM
Happy New Year Claude-Alain! Their truck was repaired in a couple of days then we continued south. Baja is a really neat place, we are so glad we could take the time to explore it slowly. Today marks our 39th day kicking around down here and we are finally starting the La Paz loop. We expect to be here another 2-3 weeks before catching the ferry to mainland. Hopefully one day you'll take back to the road and we can share many a campfire. Happy trails!
Jan 5, 2016 at 12:20 PM
Great update and glad you're having a great time. We have been having one hell of a time this last week with one issue after another but currently happily overpaying for a hookup spot at Estero Beach in Ensenada. Rainy, so just 2 nights here before heading to San Felipe to search for sun and tacos :) We do need to find a camper repair place...where did Joe and Josee go? Hope to run into you guys one of these days!
Jan 5, 2016 at 01:14 PM
Sorry to hear that Rhonda, hopefully everything turns around soon! We waited in San Felipe while Joe and Josee had their truck fixed then we all traveled south together. We are all sitting in a restaurant awaiting our lunch right now. Keep heading south and we're bound to run into each other ; )
Sharon
Oct 15, 2017 at 08:09 PM
John and Mandi,
I started reading your blog after I had a very pleasant interchange with John on the Pan American Travelers FB site — anyhow, after 10mo the on the road in the US and Canada, we are nearing the time we will cross into Mexico and I read your posts about Mexico and really appreciate the guidance in your experiences! Thanks.
Oct 16, 2017 at 11:16 AM
Hey Sharon, congrats and thanks. We know there has been some storm damage in Mexico : ( but hopefully many of our favorite places are OK. Please feel free to reach out anytime. If we don't have any advice we might know someone who does.
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