Playa Ines lies just south of Santa Rosalia, a little port town on the Sea of Cortez. Santa Rosalia is small and beautiful, but we didn't stay there long enough (read: we didn't take enough photos) to give the town a whole section of this post. It will suffice to say that Santa Rosalia is very cool, very welcoming, highly walkable, and home to a fantastic French influence, including a very decent French bakery and the Iglesia de Santa Bárbara, a church designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel.
The church is pretty cool. If you're rolling through the area, stop and check it out. It was originally designed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, essentially a word's fair held in France, as an early example of the wonders of modular construction. The structure is built of stamped steel and was meant to be shipped and erected on site in Africa, but was forgotten about for a decade until Charles Laforgue, the French director of Santa Rosalia's Boleo copper mine, found it lying in pieces in Belgium. He had it shipped to Santa Rosalia and installed in the town's center, where it stands today.
After Santa Rosalia we headed to Playa Ines, a beach with little traffic that we found on "iOverlander" an IPhone app for overlanding. The drive was great fun, a soft, turny, flat trail with little bumps and pitches here and there, lined with 15 foot tall cacti and paralleling a fantastic beach. That's the photographic fun of this area: cactus growing up to the ocean. In Alaska the mountains touch the ocean, with no in-between; in Mexico, its the desert that takes an unusual bedfellow.
Upon arriving at what iOverlander told us was a spot to find some free parking, we found a large-ish European 4WD RV parked, and, not wanting to spoil their spot, we continued. We drove a mile or so down the road until we met a ledge in the road we didn't really want to deal with, at which point I set out on foot to scout for campsites. Finding none, Chels and I turned back to crowd the Euro RV, and man, we sure are glad we did!
Kevin and Dani, and their dog Mali (or Mali, and her humans Dani and Kevin) are just great, arguably the kind of people we want to be someday, if not today. They've been traveling off and on for ages in a variety of vehicles, and their current rig is an Iveco Trakker with a custom camper box on the back. They are one couple (and this isn't limited to just couples) of many that we've met on the road and whose relationship we truly value. In just the past month and a half we've made a whole lews of friends, including Mauricio and Abby, Pablo and Anna, Mariana and Alex, Kevin and Dani, Jan and Diana, Sabrina and Henning. Have you met 10-12 new friends in the past 6 weeks? If not, consider selling everything, buying a truck/van/wagon/bike, and traveling long term.
Anyways, we met them at Playa Ines and spent a great night there, getting used to being on the beach and free camping in Baja. Not paying for camping creates an equal measure of liberty and fear, but camping next to another rig takes some of that fear away.
We left the playa a day before Kevin and Dani, and at their recommendation headed towards the sleepy little town of Mulegé. Mulegé is a cute little place, an oasis town that is balanced between farming and fishing. A mission church stands on the hill and the town center is a nest of tight streets that wreak havoc on many a gringo RV.
We stayed at RV Park Don Chon and waited out the short-lived fuel crisis that was gripping the peninsula at the time. The in-town Pemex station was out of fuel, and we used that as an excuse to spend a slow four days at the RV park. Our lives consisted of late mornings, hot showers, and walks to the mini market for groceries. Notable events that punctuated our peaceful days included haircuts from Dani, an afternoon game of bocce ball, and silently muttering curses into our pillows as the six raucous, young Australian men in the next spot over partied late into the night, every night. The water pump on their school bus had given up the ghost and they were truly marooned in Mulegé, much to our chagrin.
Bahía de Concepción
From Mulegé we headed south to the Bahía de Concepción, a fantastically calm bay, home to many sandy beaches and campgrounds. The beach we chose, Playa Escondido, was a whopping 85 kilometers south of Mulegé; Chelsea, Loulou, and myself were getting used to the drive-a-little, camp-a-lot mentality. The beach campground was far from vacant, but by no means noisy and crowded. All the different rigs had room to stretch out and not bother each other. We inhabited a parking spot freshly made by the beach's operator, Manuel. He was, no joke, leveling the spot with fill dirt as we pulled in, and he immediately offered up his new product. That's some real instant gratification, for both him and us!
At Playa Escondido we met Sabrina and Henning of @thetrailgypsies, as well as Jan and Diana of https://Steffens.live. I'm not sure if they are on the interwebs. They camped nearby, and you can see some glamour shots of the rigs in the photos below. Sabrina and Henning are in the white Tacoma with the roof top tent, and Jan and Diana are in the Land Rover with the pop-top.
The few days at Playa Escondido were fantastic. Highlights included: photographing by the full moon, spotting whale sharks near the shore, paddling on a borrowed kayak and SUP, and running errand's in our neighbor's dinghy (the nearest mercado was most easily accessible by sea). I hiked up a hillside to photograph one of the camp's residents restoring a mural of the Virgin de Guadelupe, Mexico's image of the Virgin Mary. (Sadly, Chels didn't join me on most of these adventures, as her back has been acting up in a fairly severe way. She was out for the week and had trouble standing, much less trying to walk and hike. Luckily, we found her some relief in Loreto…which we'll talk about next week!)
This week (or so) of our trip was a big turning point. We slowed down, camped for free for the first time, and continued making friends on the road. We also started toying around with, and eventually decided upon, the idea of just staying in Baja this winter, rather than trying to explore the entirety of the country. There are a handful of logistical reasons, but mostly it comes down to the fact that Baja has a lot to offer, and it all deserves to be done, and slowly at that. So, look for more Baja to come in the next weeks, because we'll be down here until the rest of North America thaws out!