Almost every overlander passes through the peninsula, which stretches over 1,700 km from north to south, on the way along the Pan-Americana. Many even stay there for several months and are thrilled by the beaches, the weather and the relaxed Mexican vibe (especially if they come from the north – i.e., the U.S.A.). Our expectations are correspondingly high.
The entry into Mexico at the small border crossing near Tecate is relaxed and with hardly any traffic in our direction. As always, the Americans are not at all interested in our departure and there are simply no checkpoints for it. Over-correct as we are (and sensitive to visa issues because of problems of good travel friends with this subject), we want our B2 visa to be stamped out correctly so that we can document later, if necessary, that we left the country in time within the six months visa period. So, we look instead for the American border post for entry from Mexico – which is not just “across the street” to get stamped out. We get on the exit lane and turn around again before we get stuck… but this is a one-way street, which is at least what a corrupt police officer tries to make us believe: he suggests a cash payment without an official invoice as a “compromise solution” 😉. After 10 months travelling in civilized Canada and the U.S.A. we are once again confronted with the real challenges of traveling around the world. But at least we can enjoy significantly cheaper food prices in Mexico.
Since Baja California is a long, but quite narrow peninsula with an average width of 70 km, we regularly commute between the Pacific coast in the west and the Gulf of California (or Sea of Cortez) in the east on our journey south. The two coasts couldn’t be more different: on the one hand, the wild Pacific with huge waves, lots of spray, fog and currents which often make swimming impossible. On the other hand, the Gulf side with many small, sheltered bays with crystal clear water that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling… we have rarely seen so many fish. In addition, the difference in water temperature is considerable – at least in the north of Baja it is over 10 degrees: 18-20 degrees on the Pacific side, 30 degrees on the Gulf side.
All in all, the beaches are very beautiful, and, above all, the completely unproblematic wild camping is extremely pleasant, especially if you come from the USA which is very regulated in this regard: there are great pitches everywhere right on the beach. One of the beaches we liked best was the crescent bay at Puerto Aqua Verde. A 35 km long off-road track with great views and a mountain panorama on arrival and departure (with the consequence that there is little or no other travelers there), a picture-perfect sandy beach on both sides just a few meters from our overnight parking space, unique snorkeling opportunities and in the neighboring bay a small beach shack with delicious fish tacos and even better margaritas. We decide to stay there for three days.
Our second favorite beach is a bay on the Pacific with a rocky arch in the wild surf and a sea lion colony. There we stand slightly elevated on a cliff and spend a lazy afternoon on the white sandy beach with wild waves framed by rugged rocks. This then leads Karin to create a beach map in Google with what we consider to be the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The further south we go, the more the extremely high temperatures coupled with very high humidity get challenging. In Brazil and Colombia as well as in Africa we have already been to many countries that have this combination, but we have never felt it to be so extreme. Maybe it’s also due to the hurricanes that pass by and the associated consequences on the otherwise great weather. In any case, even constant bathing and showering several times a day doesn’t bring the necessary cooling down and sports or other outdoor activities aren’t really fun… I also almost fell into a huge cactus on a short mountain bike tour (trying to do at least some sports) … that could have ended badly.
After we took a nice tour around the much more touristy southern tip with the two “Cabos” and Caribbean-like beaches and gave a short interview in Cabo San Lucas, we decide to say “good-by” to Baja after three weeks and take the ferry to Topolobampo. In the colonial highlands, which are not far away from there, we will find more pleasant temperatures again. Another approaching hurricane – this time heading towards Baja – makes it a little easier for us to leave… On the ferry where we are allowed to stay and sleep in Shujaa, there is not a breath of air and so we melt away for another night.