We entered Mexico with high hopes of getting a couple hundred miles in before night fell. We’d been told by some that the Baja was a safer way South than mainland Mexico and that we’d have an easier time that way. Further advice was offered by the US government, as they don’t consider Baja a threat, whereas all other USA bordered Mexican States are.
I had my doubts as we entered Tijuana. We never expected to stay in the city, but Aaron got confused by the road signs and we stayed longer than I’d expected. All we wanted was highway 1, but it eluded us. We weaved boxes on the GPS throughout the city looking for the right road. He claimed that, according to said GPS, we were passing back and forth through the intended road. To me, I saw us moving in circles and constantly hitting dead ends blocked with angry feral dogs trying to rip our legs off.
The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in a bad part of Tijuana come nightfall. But, eventually, after yet another dead end filled with angry dogs, an old, white-haired man gave us somewhat dubious directions in Spanish that we followed (I think) and they led us to Highway 1.
Not long after this occurrence, Aaron told me that, should he ever see me give him the same look I gave him in Tijuana, he would seriously hurt me. He said it is warranted, as anyone seeing this look will feel obligated to do terrible things to us. I respond that I felt that the look I gave him then was one of serious doubt and expected doom and that I did not intend to ever give that look again unwarranted.
We continued on highway 1 for two hours. At that time, we saw the sun descending and took the next exit. We’d heard that one should never travel in Mexico at night. We weren’t really afraid of obstacles (we should have been), but we really didn’t want to deal with banditos.
We started looking for a place to sleep. We aren’t really the sort to care for comfort, and we had sleeping bags, so whatever was available was what we wanted. After a few questions and a bit of a drive we found a surfer campground. There weren’t any surfers there, but there were camping areas and a group of Mexicans drinking cerveza. One of the men was named Javier. Javier spoke English.
Thus, any interaction we had with Mexican people at the campsite was through Javier. Sure, we drove down the road and found exquisite Mexican burritos and tacos at some random roadside stand and we bought firewood from some random family that had a sign up at the side of the road, but we really didn’t have a feel for the people outside of Javier.
Javier told us that we shouldn’t fear Mexico any more than we fear the USA. He told us that people there were no different and that we shouldn’t expect bad things to happen. He told us that we were as likely to die tonight as we were any other night. I thought that last part was a bit dark, but understood where he was coming from.
When we came back from eating and getting firewood, Javier was sleeping and we tried to follow suit.
We woke up early, packed up, and headed out. We weren’t exactly sure about our path, though. We knew highway 1 went all the way to Cabo, but we also knew that we wanted to see more than some boring old highway. A fried of ours had also told us that the Sea of Cortez was a safer way to head south, so, in the end, he headed towards the Sea of Cortez on highway 3.
Gas stations aren’t as frequent on Highway 3 as they are on 1. Shortly after making the switch we went through long expanses of basically nothing: not the sort of nothing that Nebraska is, though… the sort of nothing that’s filled with cacti and hills and the expectations of bleached cow skulls scattered alongside the road.
At one point we bought a couple of coke bottles of gas from a lady at what, in my mind, closely resembled a child’s lemonade stand. With that, we made it to a couple buildings and a gas station.
We couldn’t get gas from that station. I forget if it was because we had no money and asked to use a credit card (we got turned away without gas pretty frequently for their inability/unwillingness to process credit cards) or if they had no gas to give. Either way, we drove to the buildings before the Pemex station and met a man named Hector.
Hector told us all about his days of riding dirt bikes and cars up and down the Baja. He gave us some advice for our ride and showed us some great old sepia photographs of his racing days. He told us that if we kept on our path, we’d go through a stretch of dirt paths and then we’d reach Coco’s Corner. To tell the truth, we weren’t fully convinced we wanted to take that route, but we were grateful to have a conversation with an English speaker and we bought a couple sandwiches and some water for the road.
We continued on towards San Felipe without incident for a while after that. As we got nearer to the city, we passed three or four pulled over trucks. One had a trailer and a large group of people were milling around a few four-wheelers.
They cheered and waved as we passed by, so Aaron stopped, I followed, and we agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to turn around and ask what they were up to. Turns out they were taking the Baja 1000 trail to San Felipe. The Baja 1000 is an annual race that changes a little from year to year, but it basically goes from around Tijuana to Cabo or La Paz. They told that from where we were then to San Felipe would only be a couple of hours and that we were welcome to join them, so we did.
They assured us that, while they were riding lightweight 4-wheelers and were clad in armor, that none of that was necessary and that we’d get along just fine on our large, backpack laden motorcycles. We did not.
A lot of it was fun, but the deep, fine sand made it incredibly hard for us. We stuck with it for a while, though. Then I got caught in a deep rut in the sand, wobbled, lost my chain, and fell (the order of that might not be right… I can’t be sure).
Soon after that, we got back on the road and made it to San Felipe where we met up with them at their hotel. We ate a very late lunch at the beach-side restaurant and met more friendly local folk. We were advised not to ride at night and that we could make it only a little further before dark. We took the advice and only made it as far as Puertocito.
We stopped there for gas, found there was none, and decided we’d stay there, as it was supposed to be night soon and figured it’d be bad to run out of gas and be stuck on the side of the road at night. Besides, the campsite there offered hot springs.
We briefly haggled the price of the night and promptly put our swim gear on and went for the hotsprings. The campsite was on the beach and there were cliffs off to the left with a plateau above with houses overlooking the bay. The hotsprings were supposed to be somewhere up where the houses were. We looked, but did not find them.
We then returned to the campsite to ask again. Then we walked around the whole area and were again disappointed.
Aaron went back again and asked. Then he jumped on his moto, picked me up, and we again swept the whole area looking for the hot springs.
This time, we found it. They were poorly labeled, so we forgave ourselves for not finding it for the first hour we were looking, but when we finally climbed over the rocks and lowered ourselves into the natural pools made when the tide recedes, we were again, disappointed.
When we arrived, we were warned that the best times to go were in the morning or immediately, so maybe we missed our window, because the pools were lukewarm at best (The ocean was actually about the same temperature). Furthermore, the water was filled with tiny demon shrimp that love nothing more than to bite every available submerged bit of skin. We tried all the pools we could find, but found it less than comfortable.
Feeling somewhat defeated, we returned to the beach, put the tarp and sleeping bags down, and slept on top of them, as it was a very hot night. The bugs were also bad, but we got a decent night of sleep and looked forward to riding all the next day and making great time. You see, a crazy eyed gas station attendant swore to us that the new road we were taking was nearly finished and that, with our dirt bikes, we could easily cut 9 hours off our trip to Cabo.
That information was very wrong.