Mexico, Part 11: Surfin' Safari on the East Cape

Camping on the East Cape

After leaving Santiago and Miraflores, we were a short drive from San Jose del Cabo. The greater Cabo area is where the Baja Peninsula ends - from here it's east to the East Cape or west to Cabo San Lucas and Todo Santos and then back up north. We had planned on some more beach camping, and the East Cape looked to be prime with public access arroyos and sand beaches.

We resupplied in San Jose del Cabo at the fantastic Mega supermarket…home of everything any American could ever want while in Mexico. While there we dined on some legit Chinese food. Chelsea and I were starved, and for $7USD we ate a lot of rice, egg rolls, fried pork, etc. (I lived in China for two years, and the food there is beyond amazing. Chinese food in the states isn't the same, primarily because OSHA won't let the cooks get their woks hot enough. Down in Mexico, however, folks are allowed to turn the propane way up, and darn near real Chinese food is the result.)

After the resupply we hit the road for the East Cape. The pavement soon ran out, and we slowly motored our way to an empty arroyo. Whales were swimming and breaching in the near distance, the view was fantastic, and the price was right. After setting up camp we began to diagnose what seemed to be a failing water pump in our camper - our water pressure was unusually weak and the pump was making far too much noise while in operation. Everything had to come out from under the bed to access the pump, and I had to get inverted in the small crawl space. We lowered the pump to help it access water, but to no avail. Stumped, we piled our gear back into the rig, assuming we'd be purchasing a new water pump in the near future.

We were joined that evening by Riley and his dogs Stinker and Stevie, three individuals that make quite a rag tag team of beach-dwelling travelers. Riley is a surfer and has about a million stories that all needed to be written down and published. Stevie the German shepherd is a dropout from police dog school - she's smart and she knows it and she doesn't care what you think. Stinker the Boston terrier is an intrepid adventurer who is unaware she lives with cerebral palsy. She goes anywhere Stevie goes, but a little slower, and at slightly more of a diagonal angle, because walking forward is tough. 

That night Chelsea and I made bread, a large chunk of which we delivered to Riley. His appreciation was palpable, and we spent the next day snorkeling for lobsters, of which we found one. Riley added some steaks and we added some veggies for a proper beachside meal. Over drinks and meats we discussed the coming swell, and Riley convinced us to meet him at 9 Palms, a local beach down the road, to learn how to surf. He had a longboard that he had left in San Jose del Cabo, and he was willing to pick it up if I was willing learn to surf. This sounded like a great plan, so we headed back to the city to re-resupply and then back to the beach to settle in for a few days of surf and sun.

Chinese Food tastes better in Mexico.

Chinese Food tastes better in Mexico.

The beaches of the East Cape.

The beaches of the East Cape.

Attempting to diagnose a problem with our water pump. Working in the storage space is possible, but cramped.

Attempting to diagnose a problem with our water pump. Working in the storage space is possible, but cramped.

Cooking with free fuel.

Cooking with free fuel.

Our first beach camp spot On the East Cape

Our first beach camp spot On the East Cape

Bread baking in the dutch oven, and water boiling in the old MSR pot.

Bread baking in the dutch oven, and water boiling in the old MSR pot.

Discussing Lobster and surf opportunites with RIley.

Discussing Lobster and surf opportunites with RIley.

Heading out to find some Lobster.

Heading out to find some Lobster.

We only got one but it sure was pretty! Stevie was very interested.

We only got one but it sure was pretty! Stevie was very interested.

Loulou was not interested in much

Loulou was not interested in much

Stinker the Boston terrier with cerebral palsy. Everywhere she went she kicked sand. Everywhere.

Stinker the Boston terrier with cerebral palsy. Everywhere she went she kicked sand. Everywhere.

Riley, waiting for me to follow him out of the surf. I know it looks calm, but i just got beat down over a reef filled with sea urchins. 

Riley, waiting for me to follow him out of the surf. I know it looks calm, but i just got beat down over a reef filled with sea urchins. 

The mobus rays were jumping! they were pretty far out, but chels managed to get a shot of one that was semi decent.

The mobus rays were jumping! they were pretty far out, but chels managed to get a shot of one that was semi decent.

Meat and Lobster, cooking away.

Meat and Lobster, cooking away.

Surf and turf excellence.

Surf and turf excellence.

Contemplating the next few days of surf-ability.

Contemplating the next few days of surf-ability.

Teach a Man to Surf...

After the re-resupply we moved to 9 Palms, a known surf spot on the northern edge of a string of surf spots that dot the East Cape. We pulled into our spot near Riley, and set up camp. We put up a shade tarp, moved some unnecessary items to the front seats, and partially unpacked our storage compartments, freeing up access to the wetsuits and snorkels. In the process, I wanted to check the feed tubes for the water pump - I had a suspicion that one of the tubes was sealing around a wall of our water tank, creating a vacuum and placing undue strain on the pump. I wasn't too far from correct; while the tube was free and clear of the wall, it was the inline filter that was degrading and being sucked up into the tubes when the pump was pulling water. We flipped it around, reversing the flow of water through the filter, and got our pressure back! Thankfully, it meant we didn't need to order a new pump.

When we arrived, it was just Riley, Chris the full-time hermit/local, and ourselves, but that would change. The swell was one of the first of the season, and the greater Baja surfing community was well aware of its imminent arrival, so the beach blew up. First, Riley's close friend Mac showed up and camped with us, and then eventually the beach was lined with a few dozen trucks, vans, and rigs, many of which were jumping back and forth between the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez to chase the waves.

Riley graciously ran into town to fetch his longboard, an accessory of his trip that he'd chosen to ditch because he wasn't using it, as he mostly road his short board. He started with some lessons on the sand, specifically teaching me that the paddling position on the board was a key to standing up in the right spot, and that standing up didn't mean standing up - a crouched position to keep mass low was preferable.

As a trade, I taught Riley how to make and bake simple white bread. My ingredients are flour, sugar, salt, water, and instant yeast, and I do not measure anything, other than the yeast which is in a single use packet. While kneading, flour is added by feel until the right texture is achieved, then the dough is left to rise, then shaped and placed in a deep steel pan we use as a dutch oven. To bake, we pile coals between some rocks, then set the steel pan on the rocks, and cover the lid with coals. Coals are added as needed, and when the bread smells ready, looks ready, and feels ready, we eat it. We rarely have any left over, because bread should be eaten fresh.

Just two rigs on the beach for the first few days.

Just two rigs on the beach for the first few days.

Riley ran back to town get his Longboard just for me! What a guy. Also, in this picture you can see what happens when you run your camper into a low roof.

Riley ran back to town get his Longboard just for me! What a guy. Also, in this picture you can see what happens when you run your camper into a low roof.

Surfing 101.

Surfing 101.

Surfing was much drier than i thought it would be.

Surfing was much drier than i thought it would be.

I'm killing it! Surfing is not that hard.

I'm killing it! Surfing is not that hard.

Describing the basics of bread.

Describing the basics of bread.

Hands on practice.

Hands on practice.

The bread after the second rise. I tend to let my breads rise twice.

The bread after the second rise. I tend to let my breads rise twice.

Piling coals on top of the dutch oven pan.

Piling coals on top of the dutch oven pan.

ooooooh its getting there!

ooooooh its getting there!

More excellent steaks on an excellent Baja beach.

More excellent steaks on an excellent Baja beach.

Surfing Safari

The surf picked up over the next few days, although to me it seemed inconsistent. Sometimes the swell would arrive a little more from the south, causing predictable waves to break over the reef. In these instances, a deep paddle channel existed that allowed surfers to paddle back into position. I would try to catch waves right on the shoulder of the deep water channel, mostly because I was afraid of eating a face full of rocks and sea urchins in the case of a fall. My plan worked great, until the swell decided to come in a little bit more from the east, and then the deep paddle channel turned into wave-break city, and my poor tired body would get tossed and buried in 5 foot waves. It was great. I temporarily quit after 3 days of trying.

All the while Chels was reading and lounging, Loulou was sleeping, Riley was coaching, and Stevie and Stinker were running around the beach like captains of their own paradise. I didn't feel bad for Stinker, she's got a great life and an owner that loves her and a big sister dog to watch out for her, but I couldn't help but feel something for the poor thing as she'd cut diagonally across the beach, looking forward but walking sideways, sand flying everywhere as her legs kicked with every step. She'd suffer through 7 or 8 seizures a day while we were on the beach, each one more heartbreaking than the last. She'd fall over, seize, then wrestle to get back up and limp out of sight trying as hard as she could to keep up with the other dogs, all the while our hearts breaking for her - then she'd come back, a big slice of white bread clutched in her mouth, a smile ear to ear after just raiding some neighbor's beach camp kitchen. Stinker, aptly named, needed no one to feel bad for her. I'll bet she's happier than you, and probably nearly as happy as Coco.

The swell came and the crowds came, and despite my initial worries that I would get in someone's way or spoil someone's wave, everyone was real nice and mostly left me alone. I was very thankful for the use of Riley's board, because a similar experience at a surf camp would have cost us a lot of money. In the end, it was great to get out on the water and try surfing once more. I had caught a baby wave or two while in Bali, but that barely counted as I had someone lining me up and pushing the board forward for me. In the end, I was beat, but I was happy I was beat and satisfied at my attempt. Surfing another day? Probably, but probably not on this trip, specifically.

Stevie looking adorable in her bow. It was a leash until she decided it was better as a scarf.

Stevie looking adorable in her bow. It was a leash until she decided it was better as a scarf.

Stinker the dog who doesn't know she has a disability.

Stinker the dog who doesn't know she has a disability.

Stink resting after a big day. The Hammock is a 150 thread brazillian style sling woven by inmates in MerIda.

Stink resting after a big day. The Hammock is a 150 thread brazillian style sling woven by inmates in MerIda.

MAC'S RIG JOINING THE BEACH - ONLY THREE AT THIS POINT.

MAC'S RIG JOINING THE BEACH - ONLY THREE AT THIS POINT.

OSPREYS ARE ONE REASON WE DON'T LET LOULOU WANDER AROUND WITHOUT HUMAN SUPERVISION.

OSPREYS ARE ONE REASON WE DON'T LET LOULOU WANDER AROUND WITHOUT HUMAN SUPERVISION.

CONTEMPLATING WAVES.

CONTEMPLATING WAVES.

I CAUGHT ONE!!!!!!

I CAUGHT ONE!!!!!!

I CAUGHT ANOTHER!

I CAUGHT ANOTHER!

Trying my best to pose like a magazine model.

Trying my best to pose like a magazine model.

Watching other people catch waves I can't catch.

Watching other people catch waves I can't catch.

Trying to catch waves.

Trying to catch waves.

The beach eventually got PACKED.

The beach eventually got PACKED.

Tents and umbrellas took over and we eventually lost our view of the waves. You can see Little Foot tucked back in behind the crowds. (At least we had privacy in our spot.)

Tents and umbrellas took over and we eventually lost our view of the waves. You can see Little Foot tucked back in behind the crowds. (At least we had privacy in our spot.)

It was quite a pretty places to camp for a few days.

It was quite a pretty places to camp for a few days.

Most of the time, Loulou couldn't be bothered.

Most of the time, Loulou couldn't be bothered.

WE EVENTUALLY LEFT THE EAST CAPE BEHIND, AND... BEGAN HEADING NORTH??!?!?

WE EVENTUALLY LEFT THE EAST CAPE BEHIND, AND... BEGAN HEADING NORTH??!?!?

RAIN CHASED US AWAY.

RAIN CHASED US AWAY.

Mexico, Part 9: Nearly Deserted Road and Nearly Deserted Beaches

Nearly Deserted Roads

After leaving Agua Verde all four sets of couples (Jan and Diana, the Spaniards in the Windstar, Pablo and Anna, and ourselves) went separate ways at separate speeds. At Agua Verde, Mexico 1 cuts across the Baja Peninsula headed west, and very nearly hits the coast before turning southeast and heading back to the Sea of Cortez. Between the coasts we spent a few nights at an RV park to catch up on blog posts and enjoy some hot showers before hitting the road again. Leaving civilization, we had our eyes on a dirt road adventure along the Pacific Coast, but were turned back when the locals told us the road on our map didn’t actually exist.

We poked around unsuccessfully, looking for more adventurous side roads, but as the afternoon shadows grew longer we eventually settled on driving to a Pacific surf spot that was listed as a good area for free camping. 10km into a 20km drive down a sandy track, we gave up and stopped for the night. We weren’t going to surf at the beach, the road was deserted, the view was great, and there was no reason not to stop.

The next morning we enjoyed coffee while gazing out over the forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the rolling hills that lead down to the beach, nature’s hand only interrupted by the continuation of the sandy track that had led us to our impromptu, roadside camp spot. Everything was silent; we were alone, stillness laying ahead of us for miles to the sea, except for one tiny puff of dust that soon became a small cloud, and then a trail of flying dirt and diesel fumes furiously kicked up by nothing other than a green and silver Mitsubishi Delica! Pablo and Anna and their van La Cucaracha (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) had found us again!

We flagged them down and exchanged pleasantries, and both agreed that the nature of Baja, for the traveler at least, is very much that of a town with a single street. We were separately headed for La Paz, the big port city in Southern Baja, and planned to meet up at a Tecolate beach, a popular free camping spot for long distance travelers, to celebrate Chelsea's birthday. The one-street-town nature of Baja had us accidentally bump into each other two more times before the beach. The Peninsula is small when it wants to be.

A beautiful sandy track surrounded by cactus.

A beautiful sandy track surrounded by cactus.

Our lazy, halfway camping spot on the side of a road.

Our lazy, halfway camping spot on the side of a road.

The forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the hills.

The forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the hills.

Testing the six wheel drive - front axle engaged (green lever), rear lockers engaged (middle yellow lever), and front locker engaged (far right yellow lever). Only test on soft straight roads!

Testing the six wheel drive - front axle engaged (green lever), rear lockers engaged (middle yellow lever), and front locker engaged (far right yellow lever). Only test on soft straight roads!

Tecolate Beach

We didn’t really enjoy Tecolate beach, but we did enjoy the company we found. While we were there a strong norte, the northerly winds that ran Rod out of Agua Verde a day early, kicked up, throwing light silt into every crevasse of our rig, and rendering the shoreline unusable for swimming or relaxing. As we sought shelter from the wind we ran into our friends Dani and Kevin, the nice folks we met in Mulege, traveling in their Iveco Trakker with their dog Mali. Finding them made the windy beach more bearable. Eventually we met up with Pablo and Anna as well, and goofed around for Chelsea’s birthday, taking some funny photos in the operating but nearly deserted beachside restaurants.

Sunset at Tecolate with Mali, Dani and Kevin.

Sunset at Tecolate with Mali, Dani and Kevin.

Tecolate restaurant deck. Half the restaurant was deck, the other half was a beached ship cememented into the ground. No joke.

Tecolate restaurant deck. Half the restaurant was deck, the other half was a beached ship cememented into the ground. No joke.

Tecolate beach restaurants and Chels looking a little discouraged and windblown by the thwarted birthday beach day.

Tecolate beach restaurants and Chels looking a little discouraged and windblown by the thwarted birthday beach day.

Pablo nailed it.

Pablo nailed it.

Nearly Deserted Beaches

The next day we shook off the night’s festivities and headed to a possibly deserted beach. We followed a windy road of immaculate asphalt out to some beaches just south of La Paz. La Cucaracha and Little Foot dove off the pavement and onto the dirt at the first possibility, a decision motivated by the hand of God more than the mind of man. We navigated a washed-out decent that caused some Japanese steel to meet some Mexican rock (the Austrian steel was unscathed) only to find a lonely little Volkswagen sedan and a helpless young man at the bottom of the hill, with the car backed up into a berm, and two wheels off the ground. God had sent us down the hill to perform a rescue!

The gentleman had been driving home from the beach the night before and took a wrong turn. As he nosed up to the hill we had just descended, he realized he had made a mistake. While attempting to make a three point turn, he reversed with too much enthusiasm and got stuck on the berm. He had been there all night! We broke out the shovels and muscles and dug him out, and after a short chat we realized that he knew our friend Mauricio (of @Ensenada fame), and the world of Baja got even smaller.

We spent two nights on the beach with Pablo and Anna. It was our first sighting of mobula rays breaching and splashing in the water, as if they were clapping with their entire body. Dolphins splashed in the distance, and a single lonely sea lion sat on a rock and sang to us for hours. Other highlights included baking bread over the campfire, and trying some of Pablo and Anna’s fantastic salted cod spread. There is a recipe he published in Overland Journal out there somewhere, and I’ll try to find it for you. We also collected and steamed crabs, continuing the theme of Pablo and I killing animals and eating them.

A rescue! I was hoping we would need to pull him out but four extra people pushing while Chels revved the gas was enough.

A rescue! I was hoping we would need to pull him out but four extra people pushing while Chels revved the gas was enough.

La Cucuracha chasing me down!

La Cucuracha chasing me down!

Getting ready to tread some sand.

Getting ready to tread some sand.

Our deserted beach.

Our deserted beach.

Prime crab hunting territory.

Prime crab hunting territory.

Crab hunting with Pablo.

Crab hunting with Pablo.

Crabs!

Crabs!

Tasty crabs.

Tasty crabs.

We were surrounded by 360° of beauty. That forest is huge cacti.

We were surrounded by 360° of beauty. That forest is huge cacti.

Prepping bread. We baked it in coals, not on the burner.

Prepping bread. We baked it in coals, not on the burner.

The beach, with some of the cleanest and clearest water we've seen yet.

The beach, with some of the cleanest and clearest water we've seen yet.

Pablo and Anna brought a kayak from Ensenada and chased down some mobula rays.

Pablo and Anna brought a kayak from Ensenada and chased down some mobula rays.

Consulting maps.

Consulting maps.

A Bad Road and a Rocky Cove

After Leaving La Ventana and the comfort of a few days doing nothing on the beach, we set our eyes on more beach and more nothingness as Pablo and Anna headed inland. Our goal was a specific isolated rocky cove that had earned our friend Mauricio the cover shot of the 2016 Rovers North calendar. Two route options presented themselves: a short drive up and over the mountains that lay between us and our beach, or drive south around the mountains and then turn and drive back north again along the coast and through some small towns to our destination. The second option felt laborious and dull, but more importantly we have three locking differentials and nearly 35” mud terrain tires and we need reasons to use them. We filled our tanks and headed to the hills for what we thought would be a mild dirt road, After all, Google maps said we were only 56 minutes away!

What ensued was a stiff climb up a large hill that featured exposed cliffs, off camber turns, a handful of ledges, and loose granite scree. At times my navigator was crying, and at other times her terror rendered her mute, a silence that was quite unnerving. We parked in places to get out and walk, to scout lines, and to weigh options. We shoveled loose gravel into piles in hopes that some of the ledges would toss us a little less. Two hours of the drive was spent out of the vehicle. At times Loulou was even buckled in.

In the end it was a great drive, if a little jarring at times as Little Foot trundled down washed out slopes. Driving a challenging road with your home on the back of your truck definitely lowers your comfort level, but we made it, and the rocky cove was worth every tear and whimper.

We spent two days at the rocky cove, again doing not much. Highlights were reading books, snorkeling, and baking bread over the fire. Loulou chased hermit crabs on the rocks, which was probably a trip highlight for her. On the second day, Sabrina and Henning (of TrailGypsies fame) and Jan and Diana (of steffens.live fame) found us, driving up to the road we had just come down. They weren’t looking for us or the rocky cove and we hadn’t made plans to meet up, illustrating once again that Baja can be small when it wants to be.

While we were camped at the rocky cove Chelsea and I did a little unpacking of the rig, only to find that some moisture, likely sweat, had been trapped under our fantastic IKEA futon mattress and had started to mildew! Luckily we had the sun on our side, so out came the mattress to bake in the warmth after a thorough bleach-spray session as I fired up the drill and added some breather holes to the plywood that forms the base of our bed.

The problem of mold and mildew makes sense – mattresses need to breathe because we are wet, disgusting animals. While building out Little Foot in Montana we had toyed around with the idea of using a slatted platform to support the bed but had decided on a single sheet of plywood to help with weight, strength, and simplicity. I hadn’t really revisited the problem until now, and I expressed my woes to Henning, who promptly told me that they take their mattress out of their rig at least every few weeks, and drying mattresses is just part of extended car-based travel. I mention this only to show how helpful it can be to talk, at length, with other overlanders, or really anyone in your trade or niche activity. The BS sessions between overlanders aren’t just competitions or mental floss – often both parties gain valuable insights into the shared and unconventional lifestyle.

The start of the drive.

The start of the drive.

Things getting steeper.

Things getting steeper.

Parked in a good spot as we scouted and shoveled.

Parked in a good spot as we scouted and shoveled.

Loulou buckled in, and the rear diffs engaged!

Loulou buckled in, and the rear diffs engaged!

One of a few spots we piled up rocks to limit Little Foots rolling.

One of a few spots we piled up rocks to limit Little Foots rolling.

Just a little light road construction.

Just a little light road construction.

Note from Chelsea: I took this photo after all the scary stuff was over. The technical section was so scary that the idea of taking photos or video just seemed wrong…if something truly bad had happened, I would've been racked with guilt over having been recording instead of helping. Instead, I walked ahead in the line where we had decided the driver's tire would be and used a walkie talkie to communicate any other directions Christian might need. I took this photo as Christian rounded a bend above the scary section to wait for me to run up and jump in. I'm including it to show the angle of Little Foot as it climbs around a slight curve. What scared me the most was being on sections of this road that were so narrow that when Little Foot would pitch like this, it was directly over a steep cliff. So, please take my word for it when I say, it felt much scarier than it looks! 

Note from Chelsea: I took this photo after all the scary stuff was over. The technical section was so scary that the idea of taking photos or video just seemed wrong…if something truly bad had happened, I would've been racked with guilt over having been recording instead of helping. Instead, I walked ahead in the line where we had decided the driver's tire would be and used a walkie talkie to communicate any other directions Christian might need. I took this photo as Christian rounded a bend above the scary section to wait for me to run up and jump in. I'm including it to show the angle of Little Foot as it climbs around a slight curve. What scared me the most was being on sections of this road that were so narrow that when Little Foot would pitch like this, it was directly over a steep cliff. So, please take my word for it when I say, it felt much scarier than it looks! 

The road was as beautiful as it was exciting.

The road was as beautiful as it was exciting.

The rocky cove with dinner on the fire.

The rocky cove with dinner on the fire.

Loulou the hermit crab hunter.

Loulou the hermit crab hunter.

Bread baking.

Bread baking.

The rocky cove at sunrise that earned Mauricio the cover of the Rovers North calendar.

The rocky cove at sunrise that earned Mauricio the cover of the Rovers North calendar.

Little Foot looks good from every angle…at least we think so…but we're a little biased!

Little Foot looks good from every angle…at least we think so…but we're a little biased!

Mold and mildew. More like mild-ewwwwww.

Mold and mildew. More like mild-ewwwwww.

Planning my holes to add at least a little air flow. Don't worry…we thoroughly bleached and scrubbed all of this off.

Planning my holes to add at least a little air flow. Don't worry…we thoroughly bleached and scrubbed all of this off.

Drilling.

Drilling.

Commuter traffic! Even the main paved roads aren't without obstacles!

Commuter traffic! Even the main paved roads aren't without obstacles!

Los Barriles

Los Barriles is a tourist town, end of sentence. Its been taken over by Americans and Canadians and has lost a lot of its Mexican charm. We ran into town only to seek out WiFi, update the blog, and run some errands. Otherwise, we stayed on yet another deserted beach and enjoyed more free camping, more fires, and more nothingness. 

We were so turned off by the rampant Americanization of the town that we chose to avoid viewing the Superbowl. I really wanted to watch the Patriots, they are my team, but I just couldn't put up with the foreigner bars, and therefore I missed what my little brother told me was "The greatest game of football ever." Instead we found solace in our weekly Bible study, because Superbowl Sunday is still a Sunday!

Loulou: "Guys, maybe I can go for a swim?"

Loulou: "Guys, maybe I can go for a swim?"

Snorkel everywhere.

Snorkel everywhere.

Chelsea doing dishes.

Chelsea doing dishes.

Many of our dinner are simply guacamole.

Many of our dinner are simply guacamole.

A beach well above Los Barriles, kitchen of course facing the ocean.

A beach well above Los Barriles, kitchen of course facing the ocean.

Getting a fire going dinner.

Getting a fire going dinner.

Chicken from the fire this evening.

Chicken from the fire this evening.

Our Sundays are always spent with a weekly podcast from Barabbas Road Church (Chels' old church in San Diego) that we follow along with while going verse-by-verse through the Bible.

Our Sundays are always spent with a weekly podcast from Barabbas Road Church (Chels' old church in San Diego) that we follow along with while going verse-by-verse through the Bible.

Mexico, Part 8: Agua Verde and Life Off the Grid in the Secret Cove.

Agua Verde

After leaving Rattlesnake Beach, we bought provisions, filled our water and fuel tanks, and headed toward the fabled paradise of Agua Verde, an often-photographed beach/cove/fish camp that lies at the end of a dirt road. The dirt road has a reputation that changes with every traveler’s telling of their own story. Descriptions range from “totally doable,” to “tight and washed out hairpins,” to “a hellacious decent,” but all we really knew was that it was ~42 km of twists to the waypoint on our GPS marked “paraíso.”

The first 10km of the road off Mex1 is superb asphalt, sort of a trap for folks with big rigs and travel trailers. From there, the road degrades steadily, first to mediocre washboard, then to exposed single lane hairpins turns, then to rutted sand, and finally into a 50m long, 35° pitch of alternating gravel stair-step drops that leads you smack dab into the prettiest sand isthmus you’ve ever seen, complete with palm trees, a lone fishing shack, and turquoise water lapping at the beaches in front and behind a secluded camp spot.

At the transition from tar to dirt, Chels and I stopped to aired down the tires. While we were mussing about in the dirt, dropping the tires from 75psi to 35psi, what should pull up behind us but a white Toyota Tacoma closely followed by a gun metal grey Land Rover Defender; it was Sabrina and Henning of Trail Gypsies fame and Jan and Diana of Steffens.live fame! We were all going to the same place, so we switched on the walkie-talkies and caravanned down the road.

About 2/3rds of the way to our beach destination we spotted a small note, black indelible marker on white paper, taped to a kilometer marker that read,

“RESPECT THE CHICKEN”

Pablo and Anna, of Viajeros4x4x4 fame, had left Rattlesnake Beach a day before us, and we had planned to meet up at Agua Verde. They had left us a note referencing Pablo’s gentle criticism of my too-American method of grilling, a clue wrapped in an inside joke (see last week's post for a more detailed explanation). We were pretty sure our GPS waypoint was the same as theirs, as our mutual friend Mauricio (of @Ensenada fame) had given us the same set of highlights on our mapping app. We photographed the note, very excited that our friends were nearby, and continued onwards, one eye on the GPS, one on the bushes and signs and fence posts, looking for more clues.

The top of the road into Agua Verde. There is over 1200 feet oF descent between Mex1 and the beach.

The top of the road into Agua Verde. There is over 1200 feet oF descent between Mex1 and the beach.

Exposed Hairpins begin!

Exposed Hairpins begin!

The views from the road were stunning.

The views from the road were stunning.

That's the Trail Gypsies and Jan and Diana in the distance.

That's the Trail Gypsies and Jan and Diana in the distance.

Little Foot posing with the others down below on the road to Agua Verde.

Little Foot posing with the others down below on the road to Agua Verde.

Catching up to the convoy after a photo opportunity.

Catching up to the convoy after a photo opportunity.

The first of three signs telling us to "Respect the Chicken."

The first of three signs telling us to "Respect the Chicken."

The second clue! Alas, we missed the third…at first.

The second clue! Alas, we missed the third…at first.

Another photo opportunity as we waited for a car coming the other direction to pass us.

Another photo opportunity as we waited for a car coming the other direction to pass us.

A pano of the Agua Verde region.

A pano of the Agua Verde region.

Agua Verde proper is a sandy isthmus strung between a rocky cliff and a rocky island, but a kilometer further down the road is a small fish camp and village, Puerto Agua Verde. Furthermore, the beaches lining the road in the 20 kilometers leading up to the isthmus all boast stupendous campsites adorned with waves of emerald and turquoise, so the entire region is kind of known as Agua Verde, at least to ignorant travelers.  We knew the Viajeros could be camped anywhere, but we were half betting on them being camped on the isthmus. During our drive in, Chels and I spotted one more sign ordering us to “RESPECT THE CHICKEN”, but we also missed one and drove right past the Viajeros’ camp on our way to our intended destination.

As we descended onto the beach, still looking in vain for La Cucuracha and her inhabitants, we were faced with one last steep pitch. Chels jumped out to film as I engaged both the rear differential locks and the front axle, essentially making Little Foot a 6-wheel-drive beast. We dropped into our campsite without a problem, leveled out the rigs, and made dinner in near paradise.

We were still vexed by the lack of the Viajeros when we awoke the next day. Despite hikes to multiple viewpoints, as well as a tandem SUP mission to the village of Agua Verde on the advice from a morning hiker that there were two Spaniards in a van camped there (alas, it was the wrong set of Spaniards in a van!), the Viajeros remained hidden, the end of their trail of signs still a mystery.

The steep, gravel hill into the camp spot.

The steep, gravel hill into the camp spot.

The rigs, posing.

The rigs, posing.

Loulou also likes to hang out by the fires.

Loulou also likes to hang out by the fires.

A full view of the Agua Verde isthmus. It's a popular place for yachts, as well.

A full view of the Agua Verde isthmus. It's a popular place for yachts, as well.

Exploring the beaches and looking for the Viajeros.

Exploring the beaches and looking for the Viajeros.

No end to the beauty in this area.

No end to the beauty in this area.

We found a beautiful fully empty beach with no road in that was also too shallow for boats. We did consider making a road...

We found a beautiful fully empty beach with no road in that was also too shallow for boats. We did consider making a road...

The weather turned on the last morning and we headed out to Loreto.

The weather turned on the last morning and we headed out to Loreto.

Our time on the isthmus was limited – Chelsea had an appointment with Antonio back in Loreto for more back relief. We climbed out of our camp spot, again engaging Little Foot’s 5-wheel-drive, and started back on the road to civilization, with our eyes firmly glued to our rearview mirrors, searching for a clue we may have missed on the earlier drive. Low-and-behold, just a few kilometers up the road we found a brown paper note, half folded over, that read “Respect the LEFT Chicken.”

In our rush we had assumed the Viajeros would be on the isthmus, but they had turned early and headed down a dirt track to the beach. We followed the winding track and found Pablo and Anna camped on an idyllic beach (henceforth referred to as “the cove”) with the other set of Spaniards in a Ford Windstar, true shoestring overlanders. We exchanged pleasantries, and offered to resupply the Viajeros, which turned into resupplying three sets of couples (the Germans showed up right as we were pulling out) and forfeiting most of our clear water. We hustled off the beach, now late for our appointment, and headed back to Loreto for a night at an RV park and a large shopping trip.

6 wheel drive, engage!

6 wheel drive, engage!

It was an easy climb out, but we were prepared.

It was an easy climb out, but we were prepared.

Another view of the isthmus, taken on the drive out.

Another view of the isthmus, taken on the drive out.

Spotting the Viajeros! We found them!

Spotting the Viajeros! We found them!

The third, and originally missed, clue.

The third, and originally missed, clue.

The Viajeros found an excellent beach, but honestly, they are all excellent.

The Viajeros found an excellent beach, but honestly, they are all excellent.

Weather moving in and out over the mountains.

Weather moving in and out over the mountains.

Driving through Loreto, supplying up for a few more days on the beach.

Driving through Loreto, supplying up for a few more days on the beach.

The Secret Cove

We returned to the cove the next day, which also happened to be Anna’s birthday. Under secret orders from Pablo we brought back a birthday cake and a candle shaped like a question mark for the night’s festivities. The Windstar Spaniards had driven to the little fishing village of Agua Verde to secure a goat for the barbecue, which cost the group a grand total of $12.50 USD, cleaned, butchered, and ready to grill (yet another reason to love Mexico). A few of us searched for firewood as Jan and Diana setup their fancy hanging grill, and the birthday party was underway.

Pablo, ever the Argentinian, tended the fire and the grill, treating the recently deceased goat with great respect. Dinner and dessert was absolutely fantastic, and Anna was sung to by the world’s worst multi-lingual chorus, as God put on a show by lighting up the waves with neon blue iridescence. He gifted Anna with a tide of phosphorescent plankton, and we played around in the shallows, kicking and stomping and setting off miniature lightening storms that dissipated into a momentary parody of the night sky above our dancing heads, and then vanished into the nothingness of the gentle surf.

The cove.

The cove.

The bioluminsence on display at the cove on the evening of Anna's birthday.

The bioluminsence on display at the cove on the evening of Anna's birthday.

Spectacular bioluminsence.

Spectacular bioluminsence.

Chel's feet and her Chacos, bathed in light from the sea. (Hey Chaco…sponsor us!!!)

Chel's feet and her Chacos, bathed in light from the sea. (Hey Chaco…sponsor us!!!)

The stars and the sea playing.

The stars and the sea playing.

Beauty and light pollution, reminding us we're not alone.

Beauty and light pollution, reminding us we're not alone.

Pablo letting his Argentinian side come out!

Pablo letting his Argentinian side come out!

Respecting the goat, insetad of the chicken.

Respecting the goat, insetad of the chicken.

Jan and Diana provided a really cool, packable hanging grill. 

Jan and Diana provided a really cool, packable hanging grill. 

The fire continued all night.

The fire continued all night.

The next day our friend Rod and his two dogs arrived in his power boat, having motored all the way from Rattlesnake Beach to visit us. Northerly winds, "nortes" locally, can thrash the coast of the Sea of Cortez, so Rod planned his trip carefully and had to leave a little early to avoid rough seas on the voyage back to his winter camp. Between the winds, though, we got a calm day and he took Pablo and I out fishing, which was beautiful but fruitless.

In an attempt to provide dinner for everyone, Pablo, Jan, and myself went kayaking and snorkeling around a rocky point in search for what we thought were oysters, but may have actually been scallops. We tried to eat the beautiful things like oysters, but we kind of failed at that, and have since learned that (perhaps) we were supposed to clean and cook these specific shellfish. Whoops! No one got sick, but they were tough eating. Pablo also caught a fish in his homemade fishing net, and so that was served up for dinner over the fire.

At the end of a beautiful few days on the nearly deserted beach we packed up, and hit the road. Travel is fantastic, especially when you find a place that tempts you to quit traveling.

Rod showed up and we went boating!

Rod showed up and we went boating!

Kayaking for seafood.

Kayaking for seafood.

Pablo teaching Diana how to clean a fish.

Pablo teaching Diana how to clean a fish.

Removing the scales.

Removing the scales.

Opening shellfish.

Opening shellfish.

Cleaning them a bit, including removing a pair of tiny lobsters.

Cleaning them a bit, including removing a pair of tiny lobsters.

A tiny lobster!

A tiny lobster!

Fresh dinner.

Fresh dinner.

Rod and his boat, parked for the night.

Rod and his boat, parked for the night.

All the views were great.

All the views were great.

RoD brought his two dogs, Smoky and Rio, affectionately nicknamed  Los Dos Criminales.

RoD brought his two dogs, Smoky and Rio, affectionately nicknamed Los Dos Criminales.

The view from our bedroom.

The view from our bedroom.

I had to help Rod launch his boat the next morning as a northerly wind blew in.

I had to help Rod launch his boat the next morning as a northerly wind blew in.

Chels, usually the photographer, cleaning dishes in the sea (or maybe making mud pies?)

Chels, usually the photographer, cleaning dishes in the sea (or maybe making mud pies?)

Mexico, Part 7: Loreto, Cockfights and Respecting the Chicken at Rattlesnake Beach

Loreto

We left the Bahía de Concepción and drove to Loreto, the next big town down the east coast of the peninsula. For some reason, we were fatigued, and the prospect of a night in a hotel was intoxicating. Sabrina and Henning (of Trail Gypsies fame) directed us towards a cheap-ish hotel in Loreto, citing its price, WiFi, hot showers, complimentary breakfast, secure parking, and pet friendliness as a list of luxuries. While they were not wrong, our stay was decidedly uncomfortable, but by no fault of the hotel's! We learned that night that we didn't want hotels anymore; Little Foot is our home, certainly our bedroom at least, and we have built him up to our idea of comfort, and anything else on the road is alien. We love hot showers and WiFi, but we don't need hotels anymore, especially in temperate-to-tropical Baja. It was a good lesson to learn, especially at the $35 USD price tag - we could have paid A LOT more to learn the same lesson in the states!

Parking in the hotel's secure lot did allow us to freely wander Loreto's downtown. The community is cute, and it has just enough gringo influence to create an interesting mix of cultures, but not enough to overpower. The town square is beautiful, and boasts a small tourist district, as well as an old church and, surprisingly, a very American microbrewery.

Mexico 1 is a great road. Just look at those mountains!

Mexico 1 is a great road. Just look at those mountains!

The hotel room that taught us we don't need hotel rooms.

The hotel room that taught us we don't need hotel rooms.

Pet friendly, but Loulou wanted back in Little Foot.

Pet friendly, but Loulou wanted back in Little Foot.

Cockfights!

While wandering around town we spotted none other but Pablo and Anna (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) in their beloved van, La Cucuracha! Chelsea had just been wondering aloud about when we might see them again, and then, speak of the devil, they appeared. We exchanged pleasantries, and Pablo mentioned that he wanted to attend a cock fight in town that night. He had, by chance, spied a billboard advertising that tonight was the monthly cock fight, but Anna didn't want to go. He offered to one or both of us to join him - perhaps if Chelsea wasn't interested she could walk back to downtown with Anna? I was tentatively interested, the ladies less so, but all four of us walked to the event, hemming and hawing about the situation. Upon arriving at the town's purpose built cock fighting arena, and upon paying the small entrance fee ($150 MEX for each couple), we decided to give the event a chance. The night turned out to be excellent, and it was probably the best cultural experience we've had in Baja yet!

The cock fighting arena in Loreto is not a multi-purpose venue. It is bespoke and purpose-built for the sport, and I hope that helps to impress upon you the importance of this pastime to the locals. It's like seeing rodeo grounds in the western US - when you see one, you know the community has a rich background in herding and managing cattle. Loreto has a deep agricultural background, and the cock fighting arena is a testament to that.

The compound is a walled structure, maybe 50 meters square, complete with stalls for food vendors, two sets of gendered bathrooms, and a large holding area for competing birds. The arena itself is open air, but set in an excavated pit, lined with red and white concrete stadium seating, and covered by a concrete roof to protect from sun and heat. The ring is dirt, with a series of starting lines delineating different starting points for different rounds of the fight. An MC directed traffic from a worn, wooden ringside table, and toddlers climbed around the stadiums stairs while their mothers sat together and gossiped. This was very much a family affair, and we felt at home, welcomed, and safe.

The fights themselves were fast affairs, usually less than a few minutes, and were mostly a flurry of feathers, although here and there a minute amount of blood was visible. Make no mistake, these were fights to the death, and each fight caused at least one, but usually two, rooster deaths, as the winner was often killed out of mercy. This part of the event caused hesitation in Chelsea and I (and perhaps Anna). We didn't love the idea of the birds dying, but I realized a few things. First, there was an appreciable amount of beauty surrounding the fights, from the dances of the birds to accouterments carried by the bird's handlers. Second, this night was a good chance for the handlers to win some big money, with the victor receiving $70,000 MEX ($3500 USD). And third, there is almost nothing cute about roosters, and when watching them fight you realize they are essentially feathered dinosaurs, and that nature, with no help of the farmers or ranchers, has designed the creature kill other roosters. In the end, I really don't mind watching dinosaurs kill other dinosaurs, especially while eating hotdogs and crushing cold drinks.

Pablo and Anna at the enterance to the cock fight arena - Pablo is smiling because he knows we are all going in, and we are all going to love it.

Pablo and Anna at the enterance to the cock fight arena - Pablo is smiling because he knows we are all going in, and we are all going to love it.

The arena, like the event and practice itself, is cemented in the community.

The arena, like the event and practice itself, is cemented in the community.

A family affair in Loreto! There were folks of all ages.

A family affair in Loreto! There were folks of all ages.

Rattlesnake Beach

We directed Pablo and Anna to Rattlesnake beach, the hideout of Mr. Rod Davis, a senior boatman at our summer employment, Timberline Tours in Eagle, Colorado. Rod has it all figured out - he spends his summers in Colorado boating on the rivers, and then escapes to sunny Baja for the winters, where he continues boating, but on the waves instead. We pushed the Viajeros towards him, and stayed an extra day in Loreto doing laundry and running errands.

Rattlesnake beach is like an ad hoc RV park, full of part time and full time snow birds from the US and Canada. The beach is lined with secluded camp spots full of truck campers, fifth wheels, tow behinds, Airstreams - you name it and it is there. The residents pay a little to the federal government to stay there, and everyone is happy. There are no hookups, no dumps, no power, no water - each camper figures that out. They have a nice little community going, a camp ground without a camp ground. It was a nice place to stop for a night or a season. There is a spring a few kilometers away from the beach at the mouth of a canyon where water tanks can be filled, a town is about 7 kilometers away for most of everyone's daily needs, and Loreto is just up the road for anything a city can offer.

The next day we headed south to Rattlesnake beach ourselves, and found Pablo and Anna pulling into a nice camp spot on the beach. Anna beckoned for us to park next to them at the spot as Pablo beckoned for us to continue down the beach to another spot. As per usual, I deferred to the advice of the lady, and we camped next to them. That night, however, I was all ears and a willing student as Pablo taught me how to grill in his Argentinian style. Pablo is both a Spaniard and an Argentinian, and it is easy to see both sides of the man if you spend any time with him, especially if there is a fire and some meat nearby. I, in true American form, had moved the meat on the grill around too much and too soon, earning a dose of Argentinian scorn.

Pablo told me, "You cannot just just move the chicken around where you want to. You cannot just move it and do what you want... You must, respect the chicken!" He went on to explain that you must respect the chicken and LOVE the chicken and it will love you back. That quickly became the phrase of the night, and then of the next few adventures as well. I'm very grateful to Pablo for infinitely helping my grilling skills!

Look! Birds not dying! Birds living! At Rod's camp spot at Rattlesnake beach.

Look! Birds not dying! Birds living! At Rod's camp spot at Rattlesnake beach.

Preparing the chicken to be respected.

Preparing the chicken to be respected.

Preparing a respectful fire.

Preparing a respectful fire.

Camped on Rattlesnake beach!

Camped on Rattlesnake beach!

Rattlesnake beach views.

Rattlesnake beach views.

Pablo tending and respecting the fire.

Pablo tending and respecting the fire.

Temperature is taken by placing your hand near the fire - great respect.

Temperature is taken by placing your hand near the fire - great respect.

The view from the top of Heart Attack Hill.

The view from the top of Heart Attack Hill.

Chelsea had been battling with back pains for months, and it had gotten a little more serious in the past weeks, so we set about finding a cure. Some campers at Rattlesnake assured us that Antonio, a local "witch doctor" in Loreto, could help her out. The next day some folks were going into town, so I loaded Chelsea into their truck, and headed out for a hike with the Viajeros up to a view point (complete with a cross) and then up the Tabor canyon in search of a fresh water spring.

The hike was outstanding, the spring cool and clear. Pablo, Anna, and myself scrambled up and over enormous rocks, and the whole setting seemed like something out of a Jurassic park movie. We enjoyed the views of the sea and the dips in the spring water as Chelsea got adjusted by Antonio, who is very much not a which doctor, but a self-taught physical therapist. She found great relief there, and not wanting to be left out of the fresh-water fun, insisted that we take showers in the spring water the next day before leaving for the next adventure.

I got to ride in  THE  La Cucuracha!

I got to ride in THE La Cucuracha!

Pablo arranged for the electrical station's gaurd to watch the van, to protect from the bandits, which had been reportedly breaking into cars at the trailhead.

Pablo arranged for the electrical station's gaurd to watch the van, to protect from the bandits, which had been reportedly breaking into cars at the trailhead.

The road to the canyon, across from Rattlesnake beach.

The road to the canyon, across from Rattlesnake beach.

Climbing up the canyon.

Climbing up the canyon.

I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully this captures some of the excellence of the area.

I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully this captures some of the excellence of the area.

The views up and down Tabor canyon were outstanding.

The views up and down Tabor canyon were outstanding.

A clear cool spring is just what every traveler needs!

A clear cool spring is just what every traveler needs!

Chelsea did get to bathe in some fresh spring water! Don't worry, she wasn't left out.

Chelsea did get to bathe in some fresh spring water! Don't worry, she wasn't left out.

Mexico, Part 6: Playa Ines, Mulegé, Bahia de Concepcion

Playa Ines

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. 

Winding Mexican pavement! Baja has some great paved roads in addition to the very well known dirt and sand tracks.

Winding Mexican pavement! Baja has some great paved roads in addition to the very well known dirt and sand tracks.

The  Iglesia de Santa Bárbara , a church designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. 

The Iglesia de Santa Bárbara, a church designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. 

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.

Little Foot just little-footing around.

Little Foot just little-footing around.

Parked on Playa Ines by the Iveco Trakker.

Parked on Playa Ines by the Iveco Trakker.

Another shot of Playa Ines, and the desert touching the beach, a sight which would become very familiar over the course of the coming weeks.

Another shot of Playa Ines, and the desert touching the beach, a sight which would become very familiar over the course of the coming weeks.

Mulegé

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.

Dani making Chelsea pretty, Kevin looking on.

Dani making Chelsea pretty, Kevin looking on.

Dani making me look pretty!

Dani making me look pretty!

Roving bocce in Mulegé! With a new, super fast haircut!

Roving bocce in Mulegé! With a new, super fast haircut!

From right to left: the Iveco, Little Foot, and the temporarily non-op school bus, home of the team Aussie.

From right to left: the Iveco, Little Foot, and the temporarily non-op school bus, home of the team Aussie.

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!

Playa Escondido on the Bahía de Concepcion

Playa Escondido on the Bahía de Concepcion

Our freshly created parking spot, and our friends in the background.

Our freshly created parking spot, and our friends in the background.

The full moon a-rising.

The full moon a-rising.

The rigs of The Trail Gypsies and Jan/Diana posing in the moon light.

The rigs of The Trail Gypsies and Jan/Diana posing in the moon light.

Little Foot posing too! And the beach, lit up like midday in the moonlight.

Little Foot posing too! And the beach, lit up like midday in the moonlight.

Me, paddling on someone else's SUP. We're trying to figure out how to rig one to Little Foot.

Me, paddling on someone else's SUP. We're trying to figure out how to rig one to Little Foot.

Running errands!

Running errands!

Running errands.

Running errands.

Paddling to find a whale shark.

Paddling to find a whale shark.

Manuel looking up to the Virgin de Guadleupe.

Manuel looking up to the Virgin de Guadleupe.

The restoration project underway.

The restoration project underway.

The cliff created a fantastic halo around the mural's head. The last coat of paint had been weakened by the most recent hurricane.

The cliff created a fantastic halo around the mural's head. The last coat of paint had been weakened by the most recent hurricane.

The view of the beach from the site of the mural.

The view of the beach from the site of the mural.

Little Foot and the neighbors. The truck two roof top tents in a traveling family. Two adults and three kids, living (yes, LIVING) in one truck. It's fantastic. 

Little Foot and the neighbors. The truck two roof top tents in a traveling family. Two adults and three kids, living (yes, LIVING) in one truck. It's fantastic.