We crossed the state line into our 2nd Mexican state: Baja California Sur, on Sunday afternoon. The terrain along this drive was also full of cactus and then pretty much nothing. There is a HUGE overhead sign that lets you know you are entering BCS and then a gigantic flag and an eagle which from the distance looks like a tuning fork. As you cross the border, you have to pay 20 pesos (about $1.25 US) to have the underside of your vehicle sprayed.
The pickings for RV parks were slim here with none on the water (we’ve been spoiled). This town’s livelihood comes from the tourists who come to see the grey whales in the winter and their salt ponds. It’s fairly large compared to what we’ve been through the past week or so but has no major stores.
We stayed in an RV park in town behind a hotel/restaurant with full hook ups and free Wi-Fi for a couple of nights. We did some grocery shopping, had our laundry done (washed, dried and folded for $12) and had Tigger washed for 115 pesos (about $7USD)
The peso is running at about 16.5 per USD (12.7 per CDN) right now and prices for camping, hotels, tours and the like are often quoted in USD but we tend to pay in pesos as their exchange rates are often off and it’s proven cheaper. Lucky for us our bank does not charge ATM fees or foreign exchange fees, so taking money out of an ATM is not a problem for us. Finding the ATM is a bigger problem. Both this town and San Felipe only had one bank and Bahia de LA had none.
We took an afternoon drive on Monday out to the Dunes Lookout which took us to an old lighthouse. You can see sand dunes as far as the eye can across the water. You pass by a few salt pans, then through a large wetlands area for birds before getting to there. We saw many herons, egrets and the like as well as osprey. They have actually built posts with platforms for them to nest on. There is no road to the dunes themselves, unless you had a dune buggy and went quite a ways around. Before reaching the end of this road, there was a left turn to a restaurant which seemed SO out of place so we had to take the turn. There was a little building that served food and snacks with some picnic tables right on the beach but they had no cold beer. There were clam and scallop shells everywhere around us and piles of them along the road side.
Monday night we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the hotel’s restaurant here; Doug had a nice seafood casserole and Fran enjoyed a plate of bay scallops and the best margarita she’s had so far in Baja.
We have tried various types of beer here: Corona (of course), Pacifico, Sol, Tecate and Modelo. We’d have to say our favorites are the first two. You can find Bud and Bud Light here (of course!), Heineken sometimes Stella too. There are several Mexican wines and lots of tequila naturally.
Leaving Guerrero Negro we headed east once again and stopped more than half way to the coast at the oasis of a town called San Ignacio. It is every green here with lots of palm trees and date palms. We stopped near the town square and saw the mission church and found a place that sold date shakes but they did not open until later afternoon. Darn! Once out of town back on the highway there was a little restaurant that sold date sweets and although they had no date shakes, we bought a big box of fresh dates; yummy!
The drive to Santa Rosalia on the Mexican Highway One was again full of various types of terrain: cactus, desert, mountains and a long downhill called Devil’s Hill which was in no way as bad as our road log described. Then you see the sea again and the road is not so great getting into town. There is a ferry here to mainland Mexico and a terminal for cargo ships. The town is mostly built of timber from the Pacific Northwest and it’s quite something that there hasn’t been a devastating fire. The streets are narrow and one way and the tiendas (shops) and bars are quite interesting to see. The big draw of this town is the church: it was built by Gustave Eiffel (of the Eiffel) and you can see the lattice work in the beams. It was made pre fab and shipped over in pieces.
There is a world famous bakery here but it was mostly Mexican breads and not that impressive to us.
Before walking into town on Wednesday, one of our kitchen cupboard doors, separated so we brought it with us and had it repaired. Fran also had the shoulder strap for her laptop bag repaired where the stitching had come undone. The gentleman who repaired it did not charge us as the just enjoyed the chance to practice his English!
We camped both nights here at a defunct campground. A hurricane came through here last year and totally wiped out the one we planned to stay at so we went a little further down the highway and next to an existing RV park was another that no longer had any services but was right on the beach. The office was boarded up as were the bathrooms but two palapas still stood and the fishermen seem to use the beach to moor their boats. After enjoying a beer on the beach, a vehicle drove up and two women and a little girl came out. One lady, she introduced herself as Beatrice, said she was the owner and we could stay here no problem. Due to the lack of facilities instead of charging us the former $15USD she said a “donation” was welcome. We gave her 50 pesos and Doug made the little girl, Dora, her granddaughter, a balloon animal. Luckily for us it did cool down a bit that night although we ran both our fans most of the first night. The second night there was a wonderful cool breeze and it was actually a little chilly first thing in the morning. (58F/13C). No one showed up for “dinero” the second night.
Our next destination was Mulege which like, San Ignacio, is an oasis town but this one is on the coast at the mouth of a river. It is extremely green and lush in comparison to most of the Baja. This town is the entry way to the Bahia de Concepcion area which is touted as being idyllic and the perfect place for RV boondockers. We walked along the river mouth and enjoyed our breakfast in a parking area right on the river.
We have noticed many British Columbia license plates as we head south. Baja is a great snowbird destination for those on the west coast.
Mulege was cute to walk around with one way streets and lots of shade trees along the sidewalk. We visited the prison museum here. They tried a new tactic back in the day; a jail with no bars. Prisoners could go out every month six days a week, work, support their families and around dinner time, a conch shell was blown and they had to return to the prison for the night. Both men and women were kept there.
As we wandered back to Tigger, looking for a grocery store, we came across a Westfalia van with South Dakota places so we had to stop. It was a couple, Tony & Margo, from California who now live in Ensenada. We went for coffee with them, learned a few tidbits about the Baja and discovered they were staying at the place we were heading to for the night: Playa Santispac.
This is touted as one of the three great spots on this Bahia (bay). We ended up staying here two nights near Margo & Tony and also met a couple from the UK, Gordon & Joy, a couple of Germany, Peter & Tina and a couple from Switzerland, Ursula & Armando. It was quite a nice location: white beach of a nice length, (sand not super fine and lots of shell fragments but nice enough), clear warm water, palapas on the water to camp at, two bars/restaurants (one at either end of the beach) and mountains backing the whole place. We enjoyed the company here, the lovely water (where we “noodled” our way out quite far in the bay), tried out each of the bars and enjoyed being “unconnected” to the world for a few days as there is no cell or internet here. The only con about this playa is the bug population at dawn and dusk; there are mozzies and some kind of no see um cause Fran got a lot of bites that are quite itchy but don’t bleed like regular mozzie bites.
Every morning on this beach, there are vendors who come along offering boat rides, selling fresh water, fish, shrimp, clams, silver jewelry, blankets and other trinkets. We did buy some yellowtail – got two whole fish, cleaned and gutted for 160 pesos which is about $10US. It’s enough for four meals.
We did check out the other two Bahia beaches: El Coyote and El Requeson. We had originally planned to stay one night at each one. El Coyote was nice but a much smaller beach; we prefer a long stretch to walk on. El Requeson was quite picturesque and there is a spit of sand where at low tide you can walk to the island but it too had a short beach and no amenities other than a pit toilet. That day it was extremely windy (day after Hurricane Patricia) so it was not so nice being unprotected. All three of these beaches charge 100 pesos per night but Santispac was the longest and had the most “overlanders” to mingle with in the evenings.
When we left on Sunday, we travelled further south along the coast to the town of Loreto. We took a walk here around the town plaza and along the malecon. It’s a very pretty town with lots of palm trees but the beaches are not nice white sand and no campgrounds on the waterfront. We headed a little further south to El Juncalito where there was supposed to be free camping and good snorkeling.
The water was murky here and there were some decent sized waves (due to the wind we figured) so we stopped and blew up our boogie boards to have some fun. Another couple joined us in the water body surfing and after we all got out we had a beer and chatted. Fred & Marietta are from Alaska and he is retired and comes down here for a couple of months in the fall and spring (she works part time still and comes down between her shifts as a nurse periodically). They advised us that there are been many reports of banditos on this beach in the past year and suggested we go back to Loreto and stay at the Rivera RV park where his local home is. This RV Park is small and quiet and only two blocks from the malecon and ten minutes into town. A good location and a well maintained park with full amenities including Wi-Fi.