Having decided to head to Baja Sur for some warmer weather, white sandy beaches, easier surf and supposed Palm Trees (now known to be barely existent anywhere in Baja) we headed out of Guerro Negro on the afternoon of May 1 towards a well renowned surf spot, San Juanico (a.k.a Scorpion Bay). On our drive down through the desert we came across a beautiful old mission town that is truly an oasis in the desert with fresh water and lot’s of vegetation. We stopped and walked around the town a bit that evening before heading toward the coast to camp. The mission which sits at the head of the little town was built in the 1700’s. It is a gorgeous old church who’s big front doors open up to a park through the middle of town. All the towns’ people, it seemed, were hanging out that evening as I would imagine happens almost every evening is in this town. The boys were playing a soccer game in the center, young couples were lying around with each other and the men and women who were manning the shops surrounding the park were all out front laughing and joking with each other.
One of the young boys came over to talk to us and the first thing out of his mouth was that our truck was “muy bonito!” (very beautiful). Of course Jed bonded with him right away.
We left San Ignacio around dusk and headed towards the coast where we were to find another dirt road to take us down to San Juanico. As it was already dark we decided to camp two hours in, along the Bay, Punta San Ignacio, which is supposed to be the best whale watching spot in Baja. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any as I think we were there a little too late in the year and we really only gave it a few glimpses that next morning before heading down the dirt road towards Scorpion Bay.
The dirt road in to Scorpion Bay was definitely an adventure in to itself. It was not well marked to say the least and other dirt roads veered in and out everywhere. At one point we were driving through blown in silt and sand dunes just hoping this was still even a road, but not able to stop and second guess ourselves without getting stuck. When we finally made it back to a more traveled road and were feeling like “okay, we are getting somewhere” we noticed that our compass said we were heading North East. “Damnit, this can’t be right!” We must have taken a wrong turn. Luckily there was a car coming towards us that we flagged down to ask. He confirmed, or at least we were pretty certain through our broken Spanish interpretation that he confirmed, we were in fact going the right way. Just keep going and then take a right at the next road, were his instructions. Thirty minutes later, still heading East and doubting our translation skills we finally did hit the next road and some confirmation that we were on the right track. Low and behold… a worthwhile sign!
After the road in we were surprised to find this small town in the middle of nowhere littered with gringo beach houses. We weren’t too sure about the place until we saw the beach and the waves. I am no expert but I would say these are about as perfect waves as you could get and according to some of the ex-pat locals probably one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. We decided this would be the perfect place for us to get off the road for a few days and get some surfing in. And as a bonus there was free camping on the beach at first point.
The area has about 5 or more point breaks and each point gets consistently bigger, harder and rockier as you go along. We never made it past second point, but this is where most everybody seemed to be anyway.
We spent the next five days figuring out surfing, hanging out on the beach, fishing and meeting a lot of cool and interesting people. We ate fresh fish almost every night, either from being invited over to dinner or from others giving away some of their catch. Try as we did, we never actually caught any of our own.
But we did catch some waves! And we rode them all the way to shore. By day four we were feeling pretty good about ourselves and hanging out at second point when I caught a wave, looking over my shoulder and then turned around and BAM there was Jed who had fallen off the wave before. I ran right in to his back. Ooops!
The next day, being a mandatory rest day for Jed and his bruised back, we decided it was time to move on down the road. We spent that night a El Conejo, the next recommended surf spot, but when we woke up the next morning to the sound of a freight train… being the waves crashing on shore we continued south to Todos Santos.
We reached Todos Santos mid morning and spent the afternoon walking around the cool, artsy little town. When we went back to the truck to head out of town to find a camp spot on the beach, Jed noticed a pool of oil by the other back tire. Our other seal had gone on out on the other back axle.
Knowing right away this time that we would need assistance to get this thing apart we headed to the little auto parts store we had seen walking through town. Not only did the guy have the part in stock, which none of the stores in the US did, but it was only 1/3 the price that we paid in the states. He also set us up with an appointment at his son’s mechanic shop the next morning.
We decided it would probably be best to just get a place in town that night and located a place described in our book as pay camping with showers and cheap! Perfect! Only when we got there, it was way nicer than expected and we were like this can’t be it, can it? Turns out the family that owns it had decided to turn it into a little gringo community where they had sectioned it off and were selling off lots instead. Luckily they liked us and let us camp out back anyway for just $20, giving us full access to the hot showers and cold pool. This was the first night since entering Mexico that we paid for and that we hadn’t slept on the coast!
We took our truck over to the shop the next morning and they fixed us right up. The whole ordeal ended up costing us just a portion of what we spent on the other one, and they even gave us a ride in to town so we could get our laundry done while we waited!
The next morning we went to what we heard was another great surf beach, El Cerritos. The waves were all closing out so the surf wasn’t that great but we decided to spend the day there anyway as this was first really nice, warm beach spot with others hanging out that we had been to. There was even a nice hotel up above on the cliffs, and we went up to take a look around. This hotel was beautiful! There were hot tubs on every balcony on the cliff’s edge overlooking the ocean. We were sitting with our feet in one of the hot tubs just taking it all in and a guest came up and started talking to us, “Oh, did you just get in?”
“Uh, yeah we just got here”
“My husband and I love this place. We come here all the time”
Jed plays along, “Yeah, it is really great. We will defiantly come back. Hey, do you know how to get up on the top balcony?”
She showed us the way to get up to the tower on top of the hotel. The door was a bookshelf in the wall that you pulled on to open. Never would have found that one!
We spent the rest of the afternoon in “our pretend rich person land” hanging out at the pools and walking around the hotel. But, it was back to the beach to sleep that evening… not that we are complaining about our set up.
The next day we took off towards a place called Nine Palms, another surf spot. On our way out of camp we stopped to use the outdoor facilities, so to say, and on the way out in to the desert I picked up a hitchhiker on the back of my shorts with out knowing it. I dug a hole and squated down and OUCH! I pinned the sucker between my thigh and my calf and it stuck in there well! I had no other choice but to finish my business like that and return to the car to have Jed help me pull it out, but not before he got a good laugh out of it! Made him feel better about his back I think.
We had to drive through the city of San Juan De Cabo, which after being in the middle of nowhere for so long was overwhelming. However we prized ourselves on how quickly we made it through the town, picking up all the essentials we needed (food, water, beer) and found the road up the coast to Nine Palms. Only come to find a little ways down the road a Mexican standing in front of a road closed sign telling us we need to turn around.
Okay, back to Cabo to find the highway. There must be another way in there further up the road. At this point we are well aware that our map of Mexico is worthless in Baja, but we were trying to use it anyway to find this other road it showed headed out to the area we wanted to go. After driving up and down the area a couple times, asking a few people (two of which had never even heard of the town we were looking for), we ended up taking a wild guess at a road that we thought might take us towards the coast where we could hit the road we originally wanted. Luckily we were right!
The Coast at Nine Palms (otherwise known to the Mexicans as Santa Elena) was GORGEOUS! There was again free camping on the beach and fun waves to play in. We spent the next three days here. There were lots of other campers from all over and we made friends with a couple from Boone, NC who are spending five months in Baja while one works from home as a computer programmer and the other works on her doctorate studies… not a bad gig.
9 Palms was recommended to us as a great place for beginners to surf, and it was… after you got over the fear of all the rocks out by the break. The first time I caught a wave and stood up there was a huge rock right there. I immediately jumped off and was fine, but had to swim in and take a time out to recollect myself. SCARY!
One afternoon Jed and our new friend, Zack, went out around the rocks to try and spear some of the fish we saw swimming all over in the crystal blue water. They must have been out there for about two hours and you knew they were getting luck because every once in a while they would both come above water hooting and hollering. They walked back up the beach with huge smiles on their faces and we had fresh fish for dinner that night!
Monday brought a huge swell to the area and with it a lot of the local gringos. The beach camping filled up quickly and the waves got HUGE, double overhead. We watched some really amazing surfers out there in addition to some people getting worked over and over. We chickened out, ourselves.
We decided to head down the road. 9 Palms was actually a place we both felt like we could spend a good amount of time (and plan to one day) but at this point it was time for us to move on to the mainland of Mexico. So we headed north to catch the ferry just north of La Paz.
We drove up to Los Barilles and stopped to find a phone to call the moms. We were trying to use another pay phone, unsuccessfully, and an ex-pat came out from the real estate office we were in front of and invited us in to use his skype. He also told us about the area and a great dirt road to take along the coast up to La Paz, but first we found out about a little waterfall hidden up one of the canyons in the area. Fresh water! We were definatly making the stop.
The little swimming hole was soo refreshing after four days in the ocean. We had the place all to ourselves and spent a couple hours there and did some pseudo bathing before heading out on the dirt road north.
Just a little past 9 Palms the Gulf de California starts to resemble a large lake with no waves. We camped at a great little private beach that night and out of all the private beaches we camped on so far in Baja we couldn’t figure out at first why this one seemed so peaceful. We finally realized that it was quiet…no loud crashing waves!
This morning the dirt road we were on stepped it up a bit and became a single lane four wheel drive road dug into the mountainside rolling right down to the ocean. The ocean was amazingly blue and we could see tons of fish from up there. We even saw a huge shark circling something. We were glad we found out about this way to LaPaz
We made it in to La Paz by late morning and planned to get on the ferry that left at 2:30, thinking we should have plenty of time to get our tourist visas and sticker for our car before then. And we would have had plenty of time… but the imigration office closes at 1pm, and even though we were in the office and had already filled out all of our paper work and they had started processing it… come 1pm they couldn’t do anymore. “Come back tomorrow at 9am!”
So here we sit in La Paz (a great little city) drinking a Negro Modelo! Tomorrow we will make our way to Topolobombo in the mainland. Well hopefully…