When we first started planning this adventure, we told ourselves that we would have the van ready to go early so we could do a test camping trip or two in California before setting off. Well, being us and being such good procrastinators, that didn’t happen so we decided to make the drive down Baja California our initial test trip. It was a beautiful drive and all went fairly well, but we definitely learned a lot including don’t stash your surfboard under the van and run over it, bugs suck, and check how soft the sand is before driving on it.
We left San Diego early Friday morning and drove straight through the San Ysidro border into Mexico. We need to get a tourist visa and a vehicle import permit in order to travel to mainland Mexico, but of course we decided to put this off and plan to deal with procuring these items in Cabo (hopefully that works out…). We drove eight hours south, through northern Baja to a beautiful area called Catavena with a landscape of boulders, cactuses, and palms similar to Joshua Tree. We turned off the main road and pulled into the campground at Rancho Santa Ynez which consisted of a large flat dirt area dotted with fire pits and surrounded by trees. An older Mexican man drove by and collected 100 pesos (about 8 dollars) from us for the camping fee which covered the use of the campground and water supplied through a little spicket. That night, we realized what a great choice we made on the color of the upholstery when Aron spilled an entire glass of red wine all over the inside of the van.
Along the drive the next day, we stopped to have lunch at some stunning white sand dunes that we saw off the road along the coast just before Guerrero Negro. The sand was soft and powdery like flour and the dunes formed all these beautiful patterns and shadows. Unfortunately, while leaving this spot, Aron drove over his surfboard which he had pulled out from the inside of the van and stashed underneath. It was a huge bummer but luckily it was still in one piece… although a little warped.
After that mishap, we drove through Guerrero Negro where there was a brief agricultural inspection and we paid 20 pesos to have the tires and the bottom of the van sprayed in order to control for the spread of seeds and other agricultural contaminants. We drove on through Ciudad Constitucion and continued on to Abreojos, a little fishing town on the Pacific coast home to a nice surf spot. There weren’t really any waves but it was beautiful and serene. A few little streets of brightly colored houses made up the town and the waterfront was lined with fishing boats. Just before the town down a flat packed salt road is a sandy point of coastline with a few houses where the well known waves usually are. We drove along the point looking for a place to camp and decided to practice our Spanish on the first person that we saw. We walked up to him and started our conversation (Hola, como esta?) and it turned out that he was from San Diego so our Spanish practice went out the window. He showed us around and pointed out all of the would be surf spots and then told us about a nice place to camp down the way. We took his advice and f0und a beautiful spot right on the side of the ocean just in time for the sunset. The beach was covered in large, beautiful, weathered shells and stones and we saw dolphins fishing just off the shore.
The next morning, we left our ocean side spot to head over to the east side of Baja, to Conception Bay. The drive was beautiful and the landscape was very green since there was a lot of rain this year. When we dropped from the hills down to the eastern coast, we saw huge splashes out in the ocean and realized it was two whales jumping out of the water! It was such an exciting thing to see the first moment the Sea of Cortez came into view. The drive south along the coast and Conception Bay was gorgeous. We passed the charming little towns of San Ignacio, Santa Rosalia, and Mulege nestled in palm oases and then drove by many beautiful coves of white sand and clear blue water until we reached our destination, Playa Requeson. Playa Requeson is a sand spit that connects the coast to a little island and is surrounded on both sides by two shallow bays (we learned how shallow they were when we tried to snorkel in less than about a foot and a half of water). The beach is lined with a few palapas for camping and we were the only people there. While we spent the day lounging in the sun and trying to snorkel, a couple of men worked hard to fix the road to the beach by loading their truck with sand from the beach and then spreading it over the washed out rocky road. We spoke with one of them when he came by to collect the camping fee (80 pesos) which covers the cost of maintaining the beach and the road. He told us that the hurricanes this year did a lot of damage, that there was a lot of water and wind and that they were busy working to repair everything.
For our last night, we headed to Conejo, another surf spot back on the Pacific side. We arrived in the early afternoon and found a big flat sandy area where we thought we might camp. The sand was pretty hard packed most of the way out to the ocean, but suddenly we drove into a soft spot and were stuck- for the first time but probably not the last. Under the soft, powdery sand was a layer of clay-like mud which the van could not get out of. We dug around the back tires and made little rock paths but the van just kept digging itself in deeper. After 20 minutes or so of this, a friendly Canadian couple happened to walk by and saw our predicament. They came back with a huge monster van and pulled us out in no time. After that, we decided to stick to the main road which led to a large camping area where we found a nice spot among the sand dunes. From our campsite we could walk across the sand dunes to the beach which was wide and flat, perfect for a nice evening run. Aron surfed some nice little waves in the evening and in the morning while I did some yoga on the beach and watched all the silver fish that were jumping out of the water.
This practice Baja run taught us most of all that things are not always going to be peachy on this trip. There are times when we are going to be dirty. Times when we are going to be uncomfortable. Times when bugs are going to be overwhelming. We’re going to get lost, we’re going to get stuck, we’re going to get frustrated, but that’s all part of the adventure. The thing is, we’re not traveling just to get somewhere, to arrive at a destination. We are traveling to experience the world, the good and the bad. To learn, to grow, to live.