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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Salt Lake City
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    413

    10 days of beach camping in Baja Norte

    A coworker and I decided this summer to do a trip to Baja. She knew Spanish and could surf, I wanted to learn to surf and had a truck to take.

    The outline for the trip was hazier than LA smog. Cross in Tecate to avoid the supposed shitshow in Tijuana, get south of Ensenada, the first night, stay along the Pacific coast as much as possible, cross back into the U.S. 10 days later. We knew we'd be in rural areas not likely to have service most of the time, and elected to not buy international phone service and just turn off the cells.

    Day 1

    Going into Tecate was easy. No line, pull up to the gate, it opens, and bam! we were in Mexico. No inspection by guards, nothing. You're in another country, and it's definitely foreign.

    The rules of the road in Mexico were obvious: Keep moving. Stop signs were ignored, old buses(along with everyone else) passed slower vehicles uphill, downhill, on straightaways, on blind curves and, if it existed, on the shoulder.

    Getting into Ensenada





    Spent the first night at Los Canadas, a nice campground just south of Ensenada that seemed safe. There were lots of Mexican-American families around, and the last showers for a while.



    Day 2

    We woke up early, ready to get off Highway 1 and to the beach. It quickly became apparent that the map we had, even though it was made by National Geographic and looked well-detailed, sucked. There are few signs giving directions to towns in Baja, so having accurate kilometer markings on a map is important for navigating. Ours lacked such frivolties. We were stuck approximating our position on the map and picking a likely looking dirt road. That often resulted in our "route" to the coast ending like this:


    Eventually, we gave up til we hit the paved road towards Erendira.

    Pulling into town:


    We got onto a dirt road, aired down the tires, and went south.

    Anyone know what these plants are?


    A few miles down the coast from Erendira, we found a blowhole:




    The rest of the day was spent getting lost in San Quintin, then heading to El Rosario. El Rosario was my favorite town of the trip. It was out of the industrial zone from Ensenada to San Quintin and felt like an authentic Mexican small town. We got turned around on one dirt road by locals playing volleyball and soccer in the street. After gassing up, we found a spot to camp in the hills north of town. Not the best spot to camp, but it worked.

    Day 3 and 4

    After a restless night, we took the dirt road to Punta San Carlos.

    Cactus forest:



    Mostly abandoned town(Malvar I think):




    After an hour or so, we pulled into the tiny fishing village at Punta San Carlos:



    Just north of the village, we'd passed a sign for a campground. What we found when we went to investigate was unexpected. An American windsurf camp, called SoloSport, was located there, complete with a full bar, high end food, and airstrip. A windsurf camp was in session as we drove up. The owners told us where to camp, and later on invited us over for drinks. Nice people and it was nice to be able to relax a bit, being close to other Americans. We laid over for a day and did some surfing.

    Camp:


    Day 5

    Punta San Carlos was nice, but we'd come to see rural Mexico. We decided to spend the next three days heading along the Seven Sisters, a stretch of coast far from the highway. There would be no gas for over three hundred miles, so we headed back to El Rosario for gas, water, and food. The dirt road for the Seven Sisters takes off from Highway 1 near Guayaquil, it's a couple of hours to Punta Canoas on the coast.

    Horses on the road in. Not much to eat out there...


    First silt beds:



    The tiny fishing village of Puerto Canoas, not much there so we went a few kilometers south to an empty beach and set up camp.


    Best campsite of the trip:


    The surfboard didn't fare well bouncing around over bad roads:


    Day 6

    About a month before our trip, monsoons soaked the Baja peninsula, which was nice because there was some greenery, but also washed out a lot of roads. There's no road conditions hotline to call, it's all word of mouth, and the Seven Sisters doesn't see much traffic. We got about 20 kilometers south of Punta Canoas, and the road ended in a huge wash. No tire tracks, indications of a road on the other side, nothing. We dropped into the wash, but the channel was choked with debris. Shit. Nothing to do but head back to Punta Canoas, take a dirt road road out to Highway 1, and come back in at San Jose del Faro. The road out (different than the one we'd taken in), soon petered out, so we did the only thing we could imagine: jumped on the first road we saw that headed south. It wasn't on the map, but we just kept heading south, hoping it went through. After a 2 or 3 hours of endless cacti and loose rock, we started to see signs of civilization:


    Lo and behold, the graded road to San Jose del Faro appeared, which jetted us back to the coast. Past the town, endless deserted beaches greeted us:



    Flooding on the road led to some questionable driving on the soft rock seawall. Hit it fast and don't let off...




    We made it to the Bahia Blanca area before tiring of driving and hitting the beach.


    Day 7

    We weren't sure how far down the coast we were, for a couple reasons. A confusing web of dirt roads and trails interlaces all over the peninsula, and it was usually impossible to know which was the one we wanted. Therefore, we did lot's of backtracking and unnecessary wandering. So even though I'd set the odometer to keep track of progress, it was inaccurate. We woke up and started jamming, wanting to get to Santa Rosalita that day but not knowing how far away it was. Turns out, we were closer than we'd thought, so we needlessly passed up more awesome beaches in a cloud of anxiety and dust. We got to the town before noon, hit the pavement, and raced towards Villa Jesus Maria for gas. We looked for a decent spot to camp near the town, found only frustration, and decided to start the journey north. I think we were both ready to relax, clean up, and eat something besides canned soup and peanut butter. We decided to gun it for El Rosario, about 300 miles north. There awaited a hotel, restaurant, and margaritas. We made it to El Rosario just before dark. Damn, I'm glad we rushed. The Baja Cactus hotel was nicer than any hotel I'd been in before, and cost around $35 bucks(390 pesos). The food and margaritas next door at Mama Espinoza's were great. I could live in that town.

    Day 8 and 9

    After a sad farewell to El Rosario, we enjoyed a mostly relaxed cruise back to the border. Spent a little time in Ensenada, and it wasn't great, in my opinion. The people are too dependent on tourists, it was uncomfortable and I don't like cities anyway.

    This was my first time to a foreign country, and it made me want to travel more. One of the coolest, most wild places i'd ever been. People were very friendly, there are almost no rules, and large expanses of nothingness. Hell yeah!
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    righthere/rightnow
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    2,343
    Looks like a blast and triggered some good memories of my own getting lost with a girl on a road trip, before cell phones and GPS.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    a poop plant
    Posts
    2,913
    Cool trip. I like the Sea of Cortez side better, but no surfing.

    Those look like artichoke plants.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Ventura Highway in the Sunshine
    Posts
    21,385
    Beach camping in Baja, one of the more enjoyable things in life.

    TR brings back memories of too much tequila, sunny beaches and passing out on the gulf side...good times.

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...
    iscariot

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    The Mayonnaisium
    Posts
    7,029
    Did you two bang or what?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    General Sherman's Favorite City
    Posts
    18,181
    Nice TR! Way to get after it.
    I still call it The Jake.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    50 miles E of Paradise
    Posts
    8,429
    Another guy with incredible memories of camping in Baja - on the gulf side mostly. Paddle, fish, dive, drink, sleep - repeat endlessly. Love the people in Baja too - incredibly friendly and generous with what they have. Sitting on the beach sharing the days catch and beer with the locals is too much fun.
    Check Out Ullr's Mobile Avalanche Safety Tools for iOS and Android
    www.ullrlabs.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    SF Bay
    Posts
    102
    Nice TR, just fyi grab yourself a copy of the Baja Almanac the $65 will be well worth the navigational help ;-). Hopefully I'll be able to try that coastal road on the bike next time.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Posts
    29,089
    artichokes.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    11,479
    Nice. I find using the Navfree Mexico maps offline works great, even for isolated dirt roads. Just flip your phone to airplane mode, make sure your GPS is on, and load up your already downloaded map. I've been in some really isolated places in MX, and it surprises me how well it can get you to point B.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Missoula, MT
    Posts
    19,975
    Quote Originally Posted by Mazderati View Post
    Did you two bang or what?
    There was this other girl he kissed a few times after a few dinner dates and he didn't want to ruin it.
    No longer stuck.

    Quote Originally Posted by stuckathuntermtn View Post
    Just an uneducated guess.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Mt Baldys shoes
    Posts
    2,835
    Great trip report. Happy you like Mama Espinoza`s and El Rosario. I think she just celebrated her 100th birthday? My father in law was born and raised there. He is an Espinoza also. You can camp on the Playa there and its safe. Just turn right at the bottom of the hill across from the Mama`s restaurant and drive the dirt road to the beach. There is a market for cold beer on the way. Lots of family in that valley still. At the "Volcan" south of the beach there is a fish camp that some relatives run with Pangas that you can ride in and fish. They supply all the gear and bait. They clean the fish/everything. My FIL was a fisherman in his younger days at that camp. He still wants to retire in El Rosario some day but all the kids are in the US so probably won`t happen. Excuse the blog, just nice seeing something offbeat like this TR with the family history involved. Hope you get back down some day.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Paper St. Soap Co.
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    2,275
    Nice TR, thanks.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Salt Lake City
    Posts
    413
    Dang, forgot I'd posted this. Nice bump. Haven't been back, but would like to. Things have to line up in the fall, plus I have a different truck now that will need work before I trust taking it down there.

    That's cool to hear about your relatives in El Rosario, twins, will definitely spend more time there next time i go down.

    Good tips on some better maps to use, that would be the first thing I'd buy when planning my next trip.

    If I wasn't a snowboard addict, I think I'd spend a lot of time down there in winter with a dirtbike.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Mt Baldys shoes
    Posts
    2,835
    Cool^^^ I mentioned this thread to my father in law and he corrected me. Mama Espinoza is 109 years old ??? That's old.... Also wanted to mention San Quitin<spelling? Drive to the El Presidente Hotel and drive through the beach gate. You can drive for miles along the sandy shore and surf/beach fish/dig for clams etc. Have cocktails and a good dinner at the hotel and stay there if you want. Also the bay has a clam farm where you can buy them too. If you take a dirtbike make sure to bring a copy of the pink slip. The border police have been known to shake down everyone for cash if you can not prove you own the vehicle.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Salt Lake City
    Posts
    413
    109? Wow, the things she must have experienced. You must mean San Quintin, like the last big town? We made it out to that beach one afternoon. Drove quite aways and never saw either end. Walked the dunes a bit, and still the beach seemed to go forever. As we were headed out, we watched a crowd of locals coax their old civics and 2wd minitrucks with no mufflers through the soft sand to the wet hardpack, where they drag raced up and down the beach. Pretty fun. We probably drove right past that hotel and didn't notice it. One more thing to keep in mind for next time! Do you make it down there often?

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Mt Baldys shoes
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    Cool that you made it on the beach. If you make it back to Mama`s ask to see the museum. Its located behind the restaurant. Deep sea diving suits and assorted history pieces from the old days. We were going down a couple of times a year to deliver food and clothes to the relatives. Stopped when the Cartel started all the murders around there. Just too dangerous.

    Things have seemed to settle down so we are starting our trips again soon. We were married at the Catholic Church in Rosarito Beach so everyone could attend. Our hotel was a drug money laundering business run by the Ariano Felix Cartel. The U.S. put a no credit card restriction on it right after we stayed there.
    It was closed and torn down a few years later. We always wondered why they told our friends it was booked and when we were there it was a ghost town Funny shit! Now that was a hell of a party

    Our uncle owns a factory in Ensenada and just moved full time down there to oversee business. Our first stop this summer. Then to the Guadalupe Valley outside of town for some wine and Tequila tasting. Then to El Rosario to drop off food/clothes to the family. If you ever just want something easy rent a house in Baha Malibu. Its a gated community before Rosarito Beach that has a decent surf break and pretty chill to hang out on the beach and not be bothered.

    Not as exciting as car camping but easy and fun. Sorry for the blog but its a big part of my life that I usually do not share with people. Everyone seems to have bad things to say about Baha even though they have never been there. Get away from the border towns and you will meet some genuine great people.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Salt Lake City
    Posts
    413
    No apology necessary, Twins. I've really enjoyed hearing the stories and gaining more info. I hear you on the rented house thing. Would be much more relaxing.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Atlantic Coast
    Posts
    72
    neet pics here
    do they charge for this on beac h
    Rippin up the mount, and other great surfaces daily!
    Ride it , do it, live it, shred it, gnar it up, carve it ,
    comp out dude, huck it, spin it, killin it

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Lakeside California
    Posts
    497
    Triple A has the best maps I have found for Baja. There maps have every dirt road listed. Another good spot is Santo Thomas, just south of Ensenada. Great hotel on Highway one and the paved road just south of town leads out to Punta Santo Thomas and Castro's fish camp.
    Havent been down in years due to the problems with the freakin Cartels. Would love to go back though. Ive surfed a lot of waves down there

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