OK. Blogging is not my strength. Hell. I don’t even know how to spell it. Is it one ‘g’ or two!? Realistically I would have posted something about the journey every couple days. But if you’ve ever traveled, you know that the last thing you want to do is sit on your computer and type. Or at least that’s the case for me. So here you have it. The low down on our adventures to the Baja, Mexico in one LONG post.For all you people like me who find reading long blogs can be a challenge, I’ve broken it down into days and highlights. Scan and read what may interest you. Or come back and read it bit by bit. For all of you who have time, grab a coffee, make yourself comfortable and enjoy!!
SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE PICTURES!!
Day 1. Rain. Red Flagged Passports. Broken Van and tow truck rides.
It all started on a RAINY October 18th. Two girls, ready to start the drive to the Baja in Dexter the 1984 VW Westfalia. We knew where we were going – kind of. And had just over two weeks to get there. What we didn’t know was what we were in for along the way. But that’s what makes for an adventure, right!? We had a guest for the first part of our journey. A friend who had a flight to catch the next morning out of Portland. It was perfect really. An easy distance to cover from Vancouver in one day – even if it meant we had to make a short pit stop at the boarder because her passport had been flagged for working illegally in the states. With few complications and only a small search of the van we were well on our way into WA, excited to get out of the rain and be in sunny California in few days time. At least so we thought… In Everett we stopped to swap over drivers, only to discover Dexter was stuck in gear. There was no chance of driving further. And with a flight to catch at 630 the next morning, we had to figure something out. Thanks to BCAA we were able to get towed 200 miles south. The challenge was that only 2 of us could drive with the tow truck driver. The easy solution? Hide someone in the van. Done.
Day 2 & 3. VW Dealers. Backpacking. Hitch Hiking. By 230am we made it to Vancouver WA (north of Portland OR). No flight was missed and the Ford dealership that we were dropped off at turned out to be a nice quite place to pop the top and get some sleep. Why Ford you may ask? (We sure did). BCAA said it was the only full service shop in the area. It turned out the VW dealer/shop was right around the corner, and since Ford won’t touch old VW vans, we braved the mile drive, stuck in third gear trying not to burn out the clutch. The crew at the VW dealership loved us. I’m pretty sure half of them wanted to join us for the trip. Hopefully we convinced one kid to quite his job, sell his pimped out WRX, get his passport and go travel… The damage was minor and the parts cheap (minus the fact that you’re paying VW dealer prices for labor). But the bad news? The part was next to obsolete and had to come from California. With it being Friday this meant the part wouldn’t be delivered until Monday (which turned out to actually be Tuesday…) So in the rain we stayed. We were in no way prepared for the cold, wet weather. But we packed our bags, grabbed our surfboards and our 4/3 wetsuits and headed to the Oregon Coast. The joys of traveling backpack/bus/train/hitch hiking/hostel style is that you meet some VERY interesting people. From the randoms on the bus, to the restaurant and hostel workers and guests. We were constantly being surrounded and entertained by unique individuals. It’s great to be reminded that when you take the time to listen everyone has a good story to tell. The most memorable was when we were hitch hiking just outside of Cannon Beach and were picked up by two pastors. Their hope was to convert us in the 10 minute drive. The tactic was impressive and by the end we were given the option of choose life or death. By letting Jesus into our life we would be born again. If we didn’t we were choosing death. We thanked her for the information and told her we would think it over. She quickly informed us ‘that this was no information. This was the choice of life.’… Needless to say, we didn’t go surf or become born agains. But we hiked. Explored the stunning Oregon coast. Got rained on. Got hailed on. And were well entertained.
Day 4 & 5. Portland. Rappers. Homeless People. We made our way to Portland with hopes of continue on, but with the van part not arriving until Tuesday we decided it was best to buy some new (second hand) rain boots and go explore. Donuts, massive bookstores, and endless shopping kept us busy. We met some rappers that were surprised we had never heard of them. They thought it was probably because we didn’t watch tv… The homeless were attracted to us, and loved to chat and even protect us from all the ‘bad people in this world’. They made for interesting chauffeurs as we wondered the streets. Portland is weird and amazing. Go. It’s a great place to get stuck for a couple of days.
Day 6 & 7. Driving. Still Raining. Walmart parking lots. Redwoods. Finally Dexter was ready to roll again. As fun as our little side backpacking trip was, we were anxious to be back in our house on four wheels and make some distance. As we left the VW shop we had a small spark and smoke shoot out of the cigarette lighter, but the last thing we were going to do was stop and have them look at it. In hind site maybe we should have, because to this day the van still has no power to the cigarette lighter, the radio, 4 ways, interior lights and fridge. But we survived. We became really good at singing one line of every song we knew. And who needs a cold fridge when you’re going hot places anyways, right!? Our next destination was Cresent Beach, California. For whatever reason it was still raining there? We were smart enough to park in a Walmart parking lot (our prime choice for camping locations over the next coupe of nights) where the streetlights made better lightning rods then our car. The thunderstorm rolled over our heads for a good portion of the night, but we woke dry and still alive. Don’t they say that in a car is one of the safest places to be during a thunderstorm?? The next morning we were humbled by the Redwoods. Around every corner, we were in awe. The trees towering over us, the light mist in the air and the stillness within the forests is something to experience. It can remind us of how small we really are in this world, and how much of an impact we have made.
Day 8 & 9. Butterflies. Sunshine, finally… California living. As we continued driving south, we finally found blue sky! It was nice knowing that that the rainy days were behind us. One of our small pit stops led us to being educated by a passionate volunteer on the thousands of monarch butterflies that migrate from west of The Rockies for the winter. (The monarchs who travel down to Mexico are those from east of The Rockies.) Hundreds hung from the branches like leaves, blind to the naked eye and to the eyes of their predators. They spend their winter there avoiding freezing to death, and preparing for mating season in February. Stunning and fascinating. As we crossed from northern California into the over populated south we found ourselves stuck in traffic for the fist time, reminding us quickly that city life was not for us. Venice beach was a good way to ease us into the hectic life of LA, were we met up with some friends and made it into the busy waters for a fun surf. In preparation for the boarder crossing into Mexico we made our last pit stop in San Diego. There we found ourselves on top of the world in La Jolla, taken in and treated like family by some friends who spoiled us with amazing food, comfy beds and a night out on the town. We would have loved to have spent more time here to explore and surf but that will just have to wait until the trip back up. We were excited to continue on and begin the mission down The Baja.
Day 10 Boarder Crossing Chaos. Surfing Northern Baja. It’s said that Mexico is in a pretty rough place. That it’s dangerous. That you should travel carefully. It’s recommended that once you cross the boarder to keep driving until you’re well into the Baja. Don’t stop for a surf and don’t camp on the beaches by yourself anywhere north of Rosalia. Don’t drive at night – not only because of banditos but also because of bad roads, speeding transport trucks and the high risk of hitting cows. There was definitely some hesitation as we crossed the boarder. Fear of the unknown. Having met up with a fellow sun seeking Whistler friend just outside of the boarder we were now power in numbers and ready to tackle the Baja. With a new boarder crossing still in its first couple days of being open, entering Mexico was chaos. The two cars got separated. We got lost in Tijuana. And quickly learned that signs in the Baja are few in far between and when you see a sign telling you to turn off for your destination it means turn now, not turn up ahead. It was a good thing cell phones still worked and that most towns are set up as a grid system in this country. Finding our way out and reconnecting happened easily enough and we were well on our way. We made a quick stop in Ensenada to pick up tourist visas, eat our first street tacos and to get some pesos out. It was early mid day and the town was packed with cruise ship passengers who where well into there 3rd margarita. A good indicator to get out of there. Unfortunately there wasn’t a ripple in the water so we continued to a surf break further south in hopes of finding some waves. The possibilities for good surf spots seemed endless and as we pulled into our destination we were greeted with small fun waves. There were only 6 of us in the water and the long boarders were more then willing to share the bigger waves of the sets so us short boarders could have a go. It was great to finally be camping right on the ocean, to be surfing right in front of the van and to be eating fresh fish, lobster and scallops for cheap. Welcome to the Baja.
Day 11 & 12 Hitch hikers. Boulders and Desert. Sea of Cortez. The main highway through the Baja runs back and forth between the pacific to the Sea of Cortez. Our next destination was to explore the calm waters on the east side. We stopped for gas and were approached by a Mexican hitch hiker looking for a ride to Cabo. We gave him the evil eye, read him as harmless and let him in for the ride. Yes. We’re crazy. But it’s all about trusting your intuition. His story? He had been working on the cruise ships selling jewelry for the last 8+ years. They had made a stop in Ensenada where he was robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight. He lost everything – laptop, cell phone, passport, documents, and cruise ship id. He was not aloud back on the boat and had to make his way to Cabo San Lucas to have all his documents reissued. He was full of great stories, was great entertainment – especially with our lack of music, and was a great traveling companion. We learned quickly that nothing is as close as you think in the Baja. We were nowhere near our next destination. As dusk approached we found ourselves in the middle of the desert surrounded by stunning granite boulders. They looked as though they had been strategically placed and with the evening sun illuminating them, the drive felt magical. We made it to a campsite as it got dark, ate some home made burritos and admired as the near full moon lit up the desert.
Day 13 Empty Beaches. Sun sets and full moons. Van issues. With our next destination now relatively close, we dropped off our new hitchhiking friend and turned down a side road towards the Sea of Cortez. Driving through the desert is pretty spectacular. The best part is when the ocean comes into view. The contrast between the dry, yellow desert and the bright blue ocean waters takes your breath away every time. We pulled up at Bahia de Los Angeles and with only one other camper in site, basked in the sun, soaked in the warm waters and settled into the peacefulness of this quite little community. The sun set. The full moon rose. And we stuffed ourselves with fresh fish and margaritas, appreciating life on the road. The next morning as the sun rose and the full moon set, we got on our way and with no surf in site, we took our time hopping from coast to coast. We stopped on the pacific for a skinny dipped where we would have surfed (had there been waves). And took in the scenery as we made our way back through the desert towards the Sea of Cortez. As we crossed, the van started doing funny things. It had a hard time starting after we got gas and as we continued, it began choking from time to time. Every time we got stopped at a military check point, we crossed our fingers with hopes that it would start. At least we knew that if something happened we had many helpful hands from the flirtations military men… Dexter held on until the end. We literally coasted into the campsite in Mulege just as it was getting dark. Our thoughts where the spark plugs. Luckily the issue was obvious. The cord which ran from the distributor cap to the coil was chard to a crisp. This was an easy fix. By bringing the cord to a mechanic they simply rummaged through their parts until they found something that looked similar. The joys of Mexico. It’s not about getting the exact, brand new part. It’s about dealing with what you have and making it work.
Day 14, 15 & 16 Green Desert!? More Empty Beaches (ok maybe the odd caravan or 2). Surfing Southern Baja. A couple of weeks before we started our drive a hurricane swept through the southern Baja. Some areas had received 2 feet of rain in only a couple of hours time which lead to mud slides and flooding. Many of the roads and bridges were wiped out but somehow by the time we did the drive, roads were all newly paved and bridges had been rebuilt. It was shocking that a country like Mexico can get things done so fast! Due to all the rain, the desert was now lush and alive. From what we heard it hadn’t been this vibrant since anyone could remember. This made for an incredible drive as we approached the Bahia Concepcion, (which use to be) a popular destination for many retirees who head south for the winter. The coastline consists of endless sandy bays and crystal clear waters. If you’re looking for a quite life on the beach this is the place to do it. As our travels continued through this beautiful part of the world we realized how much bad press and rumors of the Baja being dangerous have really had an impact. All these small towns and stunning beaches that were once crowded with North Americans are now next to empty. These places have so much to offer and it’s amazing what a little fear will do. To this day we never felt threatened or in danger. If anything we felt the opposite. The people here are so giving and friendly. Life is simple and easy. There seems little to worry about. The chance of something happening is always there, but it seems to be just as likely to happen back home… As we continued on further south we finally began to see more vacationers who were taking advantage of the cheap flights to Cabo San Lucas. Just outside of Todos Santos we made it back into the water for a couple of days of surfing and simply appreciated life on the beach before going on our separate ways. We had made it safely with few complications and many memories. The Baja will now be home for me for the next little while well I learn to kiteboard and surf as much as possible. I feel at home here, and am grateful for having this opportunity. After my yoga retreat at Prana Del Mar, south of Todos Santos, I now have settled into life in La Ventana and my bottom bunk is available to any visitors who are keen to go explore! Just let me know when your flights arriving…