We are getting close to the end of our time in Mexico, and Belize is right around the corner, and here we’ve still not finished writing about our time in Baja, Mexico! So this is going to be a long read, but it’s time we get this last chapter written and say goodbye to Baja. Here’s hoping your browser can load all the photos!
The drive to La Paz was too long to make in one day, so we did a quick overnight in Constitucion, a non-descript town that had a big dusty parking lot next to a swim center for us to spend a quick overnight.
As we drove into La Paz, we could feel the end of our Baja adventure getting close because it would be from here we would take the ferry to the mainland. But, we were still deciding whether we’d leave right away, or drive a loop around the southern tip of Baja. We weren’t too keen on visiting Cabo San Lucas, and we were looking forward to getting over to the mainland. But, we decided to make the loop after all, our main motivators being other travellers’ accounts of Cabo Pulmo and Todos Santos. We are so glad we stayed a little longer.
In La Paz, we really just wanted hot showers, flushing toilets, and strong wifi to plan the next leg of travel. We got more much than that, as the campground had all that plus a pool and good neighbours. The comfortable living situation was so nice, we decided to stick around and see if we could get our travel vaccinations here too. But after checking into the local clinic, and a private hospital, we found out that the vaccines are not actually stored in Baja, and have to be shipped to Baja upon request from local doctor. We were advised to head to the airport in Mexico City where they’d have them in stock and appointments were easy to make. While investigating, we learned of all the possible shots we could receive for traveling South. I really didn’t want to give Indigo all these shots except the required yellow fever shot, I didn’t even want them myself. I was very happy to delay those decisions until we hit Mexico City.
We spent many days at the pool, even though the water was very very cold. But the hot air beat out the cold water and we eventually got in. Okan stands on the edge for 15 minutes saying he’s going to jump, and I do the icy walk of death from the steps with hands fluttering inches above the water. Indigo started chanting “jump daddy jump” so loudly that Okan had to finally jump. The cajoling however didn’t speed up my slow decent into the ice cold water. My pace is my pace. Indigo just laid on the hot cement to warm up fast every so often.
Laying by the pool, first time in a bathing suit in years thanks to living in Canada, I keep thinking I need to get in shape and get some color. I had such grand plans to get fit while on this trip. But there’s been no running, no exercise, no yoga, nothing really. There was that time I ran three days in a row in Northern California, and I did stretch once here in La Paz. My own pace I guess…probably could work on that.
We headed off to Todo Santos, and drove straight through the little town. It’s really nice and clean with lots of quaint shops and cafes. I was disappointed that the beach is not walking distance from town, and there was no camping near town. So we headed to our next spot just south in El Pescadero.
Our camp spot in El Pescadero wasn’t scenic at all, as it was on the corner of the place next to the fence, and looking into the neighbourhood through barbed wire. But the grounds were really nice. Great pool, nice bathrooms, and lots of lovely palms and greenery around.
We had to pull out our social selves again, as people congregated around the pool. Indigo played with a couple of Swedish girls until he became a bit too overbearing looking for attention. Him pushing the local dog out of jealousy was the tipping point and we took him crying back to the camper with him screaming the whole way “I will start being nice, I want to play with the girls” Got his sobbing under control enough to take him outside where he saw the girls heading to bed, and he decided to give up. Being social with a toddler can sometimes be a challenge.
In the morning, we scooted back up to Todo Santos to have lunch, and see the town close up. I chuckled to see a Hotel California here, because it seemed so symbolic and true of our experiences of the people we meet here. Folks never really leave once they’ve been here, but seem to keep a piece of themselves here to which they keep returning year after year. I will have to look up the inspiration for the song.
We ran into our old neighbours Alex and Dollie from the Loreto campground. Always a little odd to see someone running towards you with open arms when you are in a city you’ve never been in before..until you realize you know them! We were really wanting to get back to nature, and the water, so after a quick haircut for Indigo so we could see his face again, we headed off for some wild camping. Checked out two different beaches before finding our perfect spot.
We found a pristine beach, with massive surf, between two rocky points. There was another couple way down on the other side of the beach from Squamish BC. So practically neighbours back home as well. They’ve been traveling since 2015. Seems everyone who starts this lifestyle, can’t seem to quit it very easily.
Indigo and I were super happy here, Okan was a bit off kilter. Without internet, and an immediate project that needed attending, he seemed rather lost. I felt I could have stayed here a week, but Okan was worried about being too bored. So of course I started thinking of all the things he could do…working out, yoga, hiking, playing with indigo, writing blog posts, hiking down the trail for firewood. He doesn’t have as much patience for playing long mindless sand castle games in the heat as I do. I must admit I have a leg up on him in this area…since I would be building sand castles with or without Indigo. This was heaven for me because Indigo could run free (and naked!), and we could exercise, do yoga, read books, and truly be disconnected from the outside world. I am finding am most relaxed when we are stranded in the middle of nowhere.
We saw so many whales swimming by, and jumping sting rays! We got so excited each time a whale passed by, and they passed by all day long. Okan got some great photos of the surf, with whales and me and Indigo in the photo too! I saw one whale through the binoculars jumping way out at sea, it was so cool, and for the rest of the day I kept watching the whales near to shore hoping they would jump too, but they didn’t.
Okan got to spend a lot more play time with Indigo here which was nice. Indigo also went 2 days with no screens, and only asked once. When we said no, he dropped the topic right away. When Okan was putting Indigo to bed after an evening of star gazing, Indigo came out to tell me that light is the fastest thing in the world. He said nobody knows it and it’s like “crazy cakes” fast. Then he proceeded to tell me how Darth Vader is nearby watching us, and we need to be careful. Day and evenings without interruption with Dad, does wonders for the imagination.
Our campfire each night were great and one of the highlights of our evening. Although Indigo worries me with his increasing love for fire, and especially his love for waving burning sticks in the air. We would watch stars in the evening, always picking out Orion’s belt. In the stillness we could feel the tremors in the earth beneath our feet when the large waves crashed onto the beach. We were in the thick of nature, and it felt great.
I cringed thinking of going back to having internet reception, because I knew we would be glued to our screens catching up …me reading every news article on politics, and Okan reading travel blogs and sports. NPR would be playing in the mornings, and we wouldn’t have this more simple and focussed time. Okan said he wanted to leave in the morning after our second night because he needed to get started on some maintenance needed on the truck. But I was in heaven and wanted to spend more days where it’s so easy to mind Indigo and relax. Strangely enough, when I awoke the next morning, I was over my desire to stay longer. A storm was coming, it was getting cold, and I think I wanted to leave as much as Okan did. Lesson learned…never hold on too tightly to an idea!
Speaking of holding on too tightly to idea, we left our awesome wild campsite and set the GPS to bypass Cabo San Lucas and take a direct route to Cabo Pulmo. But at the turn off, Okan decided we should swing by Cabo San Lucas after all. We re-set the GPS for a Walmart to stock up on groceries, but we missed 2 turns in a row, and ended up driving by a Costco. We pulled into the Costco parking lot thinking we’d just get a slice of Pizza, since our card expired and we couldn’t shop there anymore. For reasons we cannot explain, we walked up and down the isles filling our cart anyway. We got to checkout – “card expired, sorry”. We decided to ditch the cart and just settle for the pizza, but then a man walked up behind us with only one item, and Okan asked if we could use his card and pay cash. He said yes, and we got our Costco loot! We went cheerfully over to the pizza place, but in Mexico you need a valid Costco card to get the pizza! We left so conflicted, happy with our Costco purchases, but with a lingering desire for Costco pizza unsatisfied.
We stopped for a meal at a cute restaurant at the start of the dirt road that would take us to (or close to) Cabo Pulmo where we hoped to snorkel or swim. At the restaurant we met more Canadians and stayed a while talking about our travels in Baja and where we were heading. I keep mentioning all the Canadians we meet, because it still amazes me how many are here, as if there is a tunnel that connects the two countries making travel here easy and the obvious thing to do.
We started driving down this crazy dirt road with huge ruts and bumps, and places too narrow for comfort around dropoffs to the sea. When we met a couple of dune buggies on the road, we were wondering if we were really on a road or if it was a trail. The buggy drivers assured us we were going the right direction and we continued. But then we hit a fence and could go no further. Some locals told us the land ahead had been purchased and fenced off, and we should simply go back to the main road, and we could go around. Main road? What? Pavement? What? When we hit the main road that had been running parallel to us, it was beautiful and smooth, and we could have been at our destination in 20 minutes instead of 90 minutes!
A storm was coming, and we pulled into at least 4 beach access spots described in the iOverlander app looking for some place to camp. The sand was whipping so badly in the wind, and all the sites all seemed about the same. The sand was so soft, that we couldn’t be near the water, and had to be back where the brush (and lots of cow poop) were scattered. We found what seemed to be the best windbreak we could find, played a little soccer, tried to catch the rainbow, ate and went to bed.
We packed right away in the morning, and headed north looking for a more permanent camp spot in Cabo Pulmo. We pulled into several spots, and what caught our eye was a campsite with a small boy playing in the sand. We stopped and talked for a minute and discovered they were also aiming for Argentina. But we had to move on to find an internet connection so Okan could submit an online reference for a colleague. We stopped at restaurant called El Caballero in the small town and had the best breakfast I’ve had on our entire trip. Scrambled eggs with shredded beaf, tortillas. So good, that we returned there again the day we left the area so I could enjoy it again.
We headed back to the campsite with the little boy, and once parked, they immediately started to play together. But language was a bit of an issue for them as French and English are not so easy to pick up. Unfortunately the boys kept getting into tussles, and Indigo would coming running back to me crying, and ten minutes later wanted to go back again. Needless to say this pattern continued all day, and it was exhausting. The parents spoke limited english, and what seemed like a great way to have a little free time with the boys playing, turned into hard work of translating and helping communicate apologies. A third boy joined, and then the process started all over again. Even with the tussles, Indigo still had to be pulled away in the evening crying because he wanted to keep playing. He was asleep within 5 minutes of getting him settled down in the camper. Finally a break!
In the morning he awoke wanted to play immediately with the other boys. This day we hosted playtime at our campsite. Couple of tussles, but the boys had a good night of sleep, and bounced back from any disagreements they had quickly and without tears.
On this day Okan spent the morning repairing his much loved flip flop with fishing line, while I cleaned and organized the camper. Then Okan took a long walk on the beach, while I hosted the other boys playtime and made snacks to hand out. Then Okan took a nap, while I read books to Indigo and then took him to the beach. I lovingly pointed out how different our days unfolded…Okan just smiled and gave me a foot massage.
It was here that Okan noticed we had a large crack in the camper’s fiberglass near the custom jerry can holders he made. We were quite freaked out at first, not knowing how serious this was. With the help of many other eyes, and a quick call to Hallmark, we determined that the crack was more cosmetic than structural and tried to put it in the back of our minds.
We left Cabo Pulmo and headed inland to search out waterfalls and natural swimming pools and found both just outside of Santiago.
Don’t let the photos fool you, we were not the only ones there. Many many people come here for a day of swimming and it got quite crowded. But a snake was spotted in the water, so everyone cleared out, giving ample time for photos of the beautiful pool sans tourists. I waded back in the water with Indigo before the others, with one eye looking sideways making sure the snake wasn’t returning.
We stayed at the campsite at the trailhead, which was really lovely with nice breezes if not much shade. In the morning we hiked past the waterfall, and to the pools that lay above it. We hoped the water would be warmer there, but it was the same refreshingly cold water in the pool below. Indigo got in a little rock hopping, as he was hell-bent on following the little girl he met the evening before, who was a master rock hopper.
With much on our minds, both the crack in the camper, and getting ferry tickets and vehicle import papers, we headed back to the same campground in La Paz. It was a great source of comfort to know in advance where we would be sleeping, when so many other things were up in the air.
While back in La Paz, Okan found a place to work on the truck. We had both a panel painted and the fiberglass worked on. Okan wasn’t thrilled about the workmanship, but we felt better to have stopped some rust with the paint and shored up the crack in the fiberglass before heading to the mainland.
A couple more days by the pool, and we said our final goodbyes to Baja. We still think about Baja often, especially our forays into wild camping there. I imagine we will return one day to revisit some of our favourite spots. Traveling through Baja was such a great introduction to Mexico, and that is one thing we couldn’t have planned any better!