When people talk about traveling to Baja, the picture that comes to mind, and that is featured on many guidebooks, is from photos taken at the Bay of Concepcion. It has beautiful clear waters, miles of beaches, great kayaking and fishing, numerous coves, and is usually protected from the wind. It is also where “wild” camping for many begins, meaning no electric, showers, flush toilets, or services. We were eager to test out everything we had prepared for as “real” overlanders: our solar panels, cassette toilet, boat, fishing gear, and the ability to sit back and relax…
But, the winds were so bad, that the thought of being whipped in the face with sand was definitely not something we were eager to experience. So we waited out the winds in Mulegé, just north of the bay. Mulegé was just a place to crash until our ultimate Baja destination, but Mulegé actually turned out to be one of our favorite places.
Every campground has a personality, and the one in Mulegé had a great one for us. The campground was near the river, green, surrounded by fruit trees, and inhabited by a group of regulars that held bocce ball games at 4pm each day. Town was a short walk away. As per usual, there was a collection of Canadians, with some Americans sprinkled in, and several Mexican locals.
We secured a spot under a great shade tree. It seemed like the perfect idea, but we didn’t account for the branches scraping against our rooftop, and nuts falling on our heads at night due to the strong wind. When you are just inches away from your bedroom ceiling, these things become important considerations! But no matter how many times I eyed the other campsites, I didn’t ask Okan to relocate us.
Okan took out his fishing gear for the first time here. He caught a fish on his second cast, and things were looking optimistic! But for us, it seemed like that just meant there was nowhere to go but down. On a subsequent cast, Okan ended up hurling the entire pole into the air, which left me in a fit of laughter. But I faired no better, as I almost immediately managed to whack Indigo in the head with the lure during my own ill-timed and ill-aimed cast. After tending to some tears and checking for hook marks in Indigo’s head, I then proceeded to lose the lure in the river. I decided to retreat back to camp with Indigo, and when Okan returned he still had one fish, and was missing yet another lure. We shared the only catch of the day, and week, with enthusiasm that night.
Another reason Mulegé was great for us, is that Indigo met another little boy who happily shared his toys. The two dug holes together for hours, but his favorite activity was taking turns riding the toy ATV. It was bittersweet for me to watch, as the full days of happy play with lots of laughter, turned into an evening of tears as Indigo didn’t want to leave and come back to the camper.
Since winds died down and there were apparently no more fish in the river, we packed up and headed off to experience all that was Bahia Concepcion. On the drive down we saw the first beach, Playa Santispak, it was huge and had a big beautiful beach with clear water…but it was lined with what seemed like bumper to bumper huge RVs, almost the entire length of the beach. That didn’t strike us as the atmosphere we wanted, so we continued down the road, looking down from the cliffs hoping to scout out the other beaches. The other beaches were smaller, but were also packed with campers, giving even less personal space. After inspecting all of the beaches, we turned back and chose the first one…there were two restaurants on either end of the beach which started to seem appealing after seeing some of the pit toilets at the other beaches. I guess we were going to take baby steps towards full-on “wild camping” after all.
We parked next to a family of Canadians who Indigo adopted immediately. While we set up camp, Indigo was off on his first ATV ride with our new neighbors. Within 15 minutes, the fact that there were so many big RVs, lots of people and two restaurants behind us disappeared. For our entire stay we simply absorbed the beauty of the area, the wildlife, and enjoyed the epitome of Baja.
The beach had a fair amount of broken seashells on the side we were on, and was rather hot for little bare feet, so I embarked on making a private path for Indigo from our campsite to the water. We spent an afternoon together working on the path, and I was quite pleased with the results.
The wind was not as bad as the week prior, but was still plenty windy for playing with kites.
We took the boat out hoping for good fishing, but mostly to enjoy a boat ride together. Okan rowed us the whole way around one of the islands in the bay, while Indigo and I relaxed. A fisherman stopped by and asked if we needed a tow back to shore, as the wind was still strong and Okan was going to have a challenging time getting us back to the shore. But Okan likes a challenge, and in lieu of going to the gym, he rowed and rowed and rowed us back to camp.
Back at the campsite, trucks would roll up and down the beach selling pastries and fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruit. This really is the best way to ease into wild camping when you don’t like the looks of what is in your camper’s pantry!
Seems like the only wild part of camping we tested, was that we were self-powered, and had brought enough water for drinking and washing. Although Indigo thought pit toilets were cool, exclaiming “wow, this is a fancy toilet” as I stood by him with tissue over my nose nodding my head, we generally popped over to the restaurant to use their facilities.
On our last evening, we decided to walk down by the lagoon, where the clear water of the bay continues into the pristine mangroves. As we passed by a family’s evening campfire, one of the campers came running towards us with something in his hand, and I thought we must have dropped something. But it turned out the camper just wanted to offer Indigo a chance at roasting a marshmallow.
Indigo had never seen the giant sized pink and white marshmallows that are a staple here in Mexico, and was in heaven as he reached into the bag to pick one of each color. He opted for raw instead of roasted and immediately stuffed them in his mouth, while yelling “gracias”.
Our first wild camping adventure was now complete.