Green in Baja California.
The thing with Mexico is that it pulls me in like many years ago Morocco. I just have to go to Mexico!
After the long wait I enter on 23rd of April cross the border early morning from San Diego to Tijuana then down along the coast and I feel fresh like out of school, I know nothing of Mexico. Just maybe that I am defiant as governments urge to abstain from traveling to Mexico.
There is no story yet in Mexico or in Baja California, I am too new to the country, I need to look and understand, maybe just go south these 2000km of the Baja desert, enjoy nature and sun after winter and maybe be a bit vigilant.
BTW: for a fab story turn this page and read the Copper-Canyon page.
I still tell you what I do in Baja...
Ensenada 23rd, Baja California, Mexico, Saturday and Easter, at 2 in the afternoon the central drinking quarters are in high swing, young Americans come on a long weekend binge, also in defiance of travel warnings, their sign is a Mexican tourist sombrero and full-body tattoo, girls of course blond, real blond or fake, hot-pants and plastic boobs, some are stunningly thin, many enormously obese and they'd be, why not, in hot-pants too, boys and girls down rounds and rounds of tequila shots, some have had 10 and as many beers, or twice as much. It is just 2.
I have my first Taco experience, carne asada, no sophistication on the food front yet, then find my corner bar right on the drinking mile, the DJ hammers loud and straight, just keeps banging, my beer is Pacifico, my cigar Romeo y Julietta, I sit by the open window, the sun warms, I still carry the northern freeze inside thanks God I don't have to talk. The fridge is turned to below freezing, the cold Pacificos go down well. Maybe the best beer in Mexico, I'd go through Mazatlan later on the trip and find the brewery. Here in Baja we add a lemon squash to our bottle, sometimes salt and lemon, later on the mainland beer is consumed rather straight. Yes, yes I would learn all that but for now I know nothing and while the Californian young go wild on booze, ecstasy and disco and two chubby black ladies perform a dance of sorts on top of the bar, stick their bum out for a photo, I remain rather mute, get drunk slowly and type away on my laptop till night falls, since my switch to Apple all the routines need still tweaking, the workflow of GPS and pictures and webpage adjusting. A geek of sorts but not a programmer this will remain a constant endeavor till leaving Mexico City, only by then I'd be set-up.
Ensenada 24th and one day of drinking is enough, the morning all is full of glass and bottles and vomit, Ensenada is not what I have come for, I want the Baja desert, the Sonora desert, the cacti, the rugged coast line, the sandy beaches. So I drive out scared a bit as the news about this country have not been good over the past years; friend Mohamed at CPJ in New York stuck me their report on the drug trafficking's related killings and war, a horrific story of some 30,000 dead. I don't brush it aside, want be cautious where to sleep and park. Also my knowledge of Spanish is so limited.
South, after the first night the cacti start very soon, and soon the first real giants, the Cardon and Pipes that tower 15 to 20m are a common site, and a great many other weird stingy scrub-cacti; some crawl on the ground while others try to reach the skies. How amazing how nature adapts to the driest of all climates. I am so happy and many times stop, run in the desert, crawl up a hill to take some photos of the strangest ever encountered plants species, some quick flying bug eventually stings me in my upper arm, you better get back out of here he conveys the message, wasps might become aggressive and numerous I think and head swiftly back to my van. On another occasion, in a dry creek bed palms and cacti grow happily side by side. It is paradise.
The road though is long, straight and hot, the vultures sit on the cacti and wait, taking in the (I would say at least 5 liters) required amounts of water is an ordeal, the cold beers by contrast in the desert such a delight, cans of Tecate and Modelo, but it dehydrates and brings head-ache.
In Guerriero Negro north to south I cross the 28th parallel and enter the state Baja California Sur. Time changes forward by one hour, I turn east, land inwards and a white hot takes over, the desert becomes both drier and hazier.
Then all of a sudden there is San Ignacio, an oasis, palm groves, a lake, la Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán, since 1728. In San Ignacio I have my first reminder that the land had seen a sad past, once the missionaries and their soldiers arrived the local populace was to die within some 60 years, mostly of disease, also in particular sick episodes the priests forgot to feed those Indians they recruited for explorations. ... Be brave call it a genocide! From Loreto, which I'd cross a day later a bit further south a "great" system known as El Camino Real (Royal Road), a means to conquer was established with Christianity just pretexted, it wiped out 90% of the indigenous people in California (Alto, Baja and Baja Sur), some missions closed soon after their installation because they ran out of subjects.
Beer and food intake on the main plaza in San Ignacio, then back on the desert road, the same white as this morning engulfs.
Santa Rosalia, Muleg, Loreto.
Santa Rosalia on the Mar de Cortés/Gulf of California greets with miles and miles of trucks and scrap yards along a seafront, also a lot of very old holed out machinery, locomotives and cranes, rusting away at the side of the road. Then entering town the metal converters and industrial works from a century ago sit there as if still in use, just a bit rusty, never dismantled and still waiting to be assigned museum status; the copper mines here stopped work more than 50 years ago. The French miners have built this town of wooden houses in all colors lining narrow streets up and down and Gustave Eiffel is credited for the design of a white metal sheet church. I walk those lanes of the old Santa Rosalia up and down in search for a bar, all the political parties have party offices in the wooden colored houses, there is a Mahatmar Ghandi library/biblioteca, bookshops/librerías, clothes shops, bakeries, beer shops but no bars, the town at the late hour shines in pleasant light, somewhere someone has put the speakers in the window, on the main square later a crowd gathers and listens to a politician. Mellow!
In the morning I go back and take some more shots of the white church - now with front morning light. On a street stand I have two coffees and so-far the best Tacos, with cooked suckling saucy beef (what ever this is called); almost like a pro I load up with the ingredients that are avail: chopped parsley, onions, and cabbage, pimiento and a squash of lemon over the top.
On way to Mulegé I follow some vultures for a while as they circle the skies eying for prey. In Mulegé a Pacifico on the beach where Rio Santa Rosalia empties into the ocean, then on south along the coast along the Bahía Concepción, the cacti vegetation continues almost right down to the sea, many white sandy beaches are nested between the rocks. Somewhere I have another Pacifico.
But beer dehydrates, I know that already, just cannot help my thirst, I arrive in Loreto almost too tired to walk round. The Loreto mission was the first of its kind, 1697, Jesuit, with the conquistadores came the beginning of the end of the indigenous population, the beginning of Spanish California.
It is another 2 days until La Paz, via Ciudad Insurgentes and Ciudad Constitución and somewhere before dawn I walk the desert amidst the huge Cardons and the colors and structures of the fabric come out nicely this evening.
So finally La Paz the only real town of size and shape here, 29th of April, Friday, ready for drinking? Really I am tired, still freezy and shaky from the north, weakish from too much driving lately. But what the heck, here, parked centrally not far from the the seaside walk, El Malecon sleep comes close to utopia before 3 in the morning; only then the buzz dies down a bit, the stop and go traffic jam of pick-up trucks with their musica ranchera at full volume, their simple bass makes windows vibrate and sets off multiple car alarm systems. Oh, this ranchera reminds me so much of Austrian/Bavarian folk music/Volksmusik; 1864 till his death 1869 Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph of Austria ruled Mexico (wiki), is that the connection I wonder?
Well when the traffic dies down there would still be music in the streets, bands of mariachis may stroll well past 5 in the morning. So I might go out as well, foolishly I conclude. La Paz, and there are 2 kinds of bars, the "good" become lively just before midnight, the "bad" maybe lively any time in the day or evening. The bad are those where you don't want to be seen coming out by your wife, which doesn't apply to me. The "bad" are those where beer is damn cheap, music all ranchera style, and strange women hang out of any size and age. "Bad" are those where next to the obligatory Madonna icons on TV a soft-porn is showing. It's in the fully packed "bad" ones you encounter the real Mexico, of course.
Struggling with my health I leave after 3 days. La Paz is nice and I'll be back through here anyway.
I leave and on my way pass the Cactus Sanctuary, but this is in the middle of the day and not great for photos and I'll be back through here anyway. Drive on.
Todos Santos, Hotel California.
The now design hotel is indeed such a lovely place, the Eagles though have nothing to do with it. It is unbelievable but happens that when I enter the Gypsy Kings version of Hotel California is on, I am alone at the bar, have an Indio beer and feel, it's been my destination. That is at 5. It is Monday and I go for a walk and 4 hours later I am still the only guest at the bar; a dead and lovely place that makes its money during the day when tourists come in the still false believe that the Don Henley wrote the famous song here in some way back hippie times. This is why beer is damning twice as expensive as elsewhere. (todos-santos-pages)
The town is all newly renovated, bright colored art and pottery galleries, bookshops and tequila sunrise bars, for the tour busses from Cabo, it all closes at 6. It cannot hold me.
The cruise-ships off shore inhibit an otherwise great view on an immaculate ocean and southern most cliffs of the Baja, a bit closer funny plastic boobs try aerobics of sorts on the beach, these bars/resorts love to entertain their idiots with who wants a tequila shot for 20 pushups; Cabo San Lucas is clean vacationing, a marina with restaurants and an AC shopping center, catch your own marlin, it's easy, drinking and drinking. But then late you might meet the old, those Americans that came and stayed 20 or 30 years ago, their tattoos tell a story, they still wear long hairs, they saw "their" hippie Cabo evolve into that posh place.
I struggle with hang-over and heat during the day, thanks there is the AC Starbucks that has free wifi.
On 5th of May I leave for San José del Cabo, Cinco de Mayo (wiki) is a no-event; with all the Americans around...?
Christina flies in on 6th of May.
C. and La Ribera, follow the pelicans.
With C. we drive back north; La Ribera and Cabo Pulmo have amazing beaches, the pelicans glide and hunt for fish. We head for Santiago and the Sierra de la Laguna mountains in its back. Eventually further north via Los Barriles and El Triunfo, another mision which presents itself in flashy evening light, back to the Cactus Sanctuary.
Gracias Baja, takin' the ferry.
Back to La Paz, a brief look at the beaches north, Balandra and Tecolote, the peninsula Baja California has been good to me, after only 2.5 weeks on Tuesday the 10th of May Christina and I take the ferry over to Sinaloa. Thanks Mexico for that introduction, gracias Baja I am ready for more.