Ensenada to La Paz….. in no hurry

In Ensenada, I experienced my first round of travel illness (I’m fairly sure it was the ceviche I ate at a road-side stand, that or the fish tacos…. I can’t be certain, though). I’m certain that this won’t be the last time something does battle with my digestive system!

Location Unknown…..

After a pretty rough night, I was pretty anxious to get out of the hustle and bustle of the touristy border town of Ensenada, located about 1.5 hours from San Diego. I headed south keeping an eye out for a decent camping spot. I saw a sign, called the number on it, and found out they charge $3/night. So I turned off the highway and followed a dirt road. I never found the place I called, but I came upon a cantina on a bluff. I asked about camping and they said I could camp for free anywhere along the bluff, so I did. There was a large ramp carved into the bluff to allow fishermen down to the water. I walked down and talked with a few. They had some pretty nasty fish so I asked them what they do with it and they said carnitas—basically chopped up into tiny bits to use in ceviche or miscellaneous seafood dishes. That probably explains my food illness.

I enjoyed the sunset over the Pacific and was awoken by the sunrise over the Pacific….. the position of the bluff and the time of the year was right so that the sun both rose and set in the southern sky over the ocean.

Stuck in the Sand

I hit the road again headed south. Once again, I looked for a nice place to camp close to the ocean. In a small town, I asked about camping and they said that any of the land is public and I can camp anywhere I want. I found a decent looking dirt road headed off the main road and headed towards the ocean. I was doing fine until I came upon a small crest. The road turned to soft sand and the front end sunk in ‘to the frame’. I tried in vain to dig the car out, put the floormats under the sand, but it was no use. I decided the best course of action was to set up camp there, open a beer, and enjoy the sunset.

That night, I heard screeching brakes and then that terrible crunch of metal signifying a wreck. The next morning, I cooked breakfast, packed everything up, laced up my hiking boots, and made the 10km trek to the closest town.  As I was walking down the road, I saw the scene of the crash — someone slammed into a cow, probably the biggest hazard I’ve seen while driving, even worse at night with a dark, slow-moving cow in the middle of the road.

When I got to town, I looked around for someone with a Toyota 4×4 to pull me out. The first guy I asked said sure, we went to get his buddies, and then back to my car. It took a few tugs to get it out, but it came free. They followed me out to the main road.

I hit the road again and dug out my ‘Lonely Planet — Mexico’ guide book that I’ve used on past trips. It mentioned the town of San Ignacio, so I headed there. Its a really quaint town lined with palm trees, pretty much a desert oasis. I checked out the sights and then looked for a place to camp. All I found were dirt lots with owners that wanted $12 -$15/night to camp. I politely refused and hit the road looking for a better option.

Most expensive food I’ve ever eaten (and probably ever will)

Driving along, I came up to a wildlife refuge, so I pulled off and looked for a place to camp. I came up to a building, so I drove up and asked about a place to camp. They offered me a place to put my tent. After setting up my tent, I went back to thank them as they were setting up a bar-b-que. There were some guys there from Wyoming who, as it turns out, just finished hunting desert bighorn sheep. They offered me a taste of the sheep, so I easily agreed.

After talking with the locals and the Wyoming hunters, I found out that this was no ordinary hunt—the desert bighorn sheep, borrego, is the most expensive animal in the world to hunt because its numbers are so few. About $50,000.00 was paid for the privilege. According to the staff, they have a very limited number of hunts each year that basically pay for the preservation of the animals. The money is used to maintain a staff to keep alert for poachers, maintain the property, and improve habitat. As the food came off the grill, I was invited to dinner, so I agreed. The dish was tacos de borrego. It was very tasty. Probably the most expensive food I have eaten or will get to eat. The entire staff of the Ejido Alfredo V. Bonfil was very friendly and made me feel like family.

Crystal Clear Water

The next morning, I thanked everyone and hit the road again. I once again enjoyed the twisty roads as they wound their way back to the Sea of Cortez. When I first saw the water, I was amazed. It was the first time during the trip that the water was crystal clear with a deep aquamarine hue. The views from the highway were breathtaking. I drove through the town of Loreto, but was not really impressed. The beach was so-so and I nothing was easy to find, such as bread.

I talked to some locals and found a beach where I could camp. I set up my tent and enjoyed the evening. The next morning I awoke to the sunrise over the super-calm water. I broke camp and was going to hit the road when I decided to go back to Loreto to see if I could rent a kayak to explore the beautiful waters. The first shop didn’t have any, but after talking for a while, the owner pointed me to another locale. I visited them and they provided me with a kayak, equipment, and transportation. I loaded up the kayak with my camping gear and headed out. Fortunately there wasn’t much wind so the paddling was very easy.

Kayaking to my own private island

I headed to Isla Coronada, off the coast of Loreto. It’s a desert island, part of a national park, about 4 miles offshore. Once I arrived, I realized that I was the only person on the island. I really wish I had brought my good camera–I only brought my cheap-o waterproof one.  There were many pristine beaches, calm waters, and beautiful weather—the only thing one could ask for would be fresh water. I set up camp on a beach, enjoyed the sunset, and then ate dinner. After dark, the full moon came out, so I decided to do some night paddling. I brought my flashlight and used it to illuminate the crystal clear water. There were all sorts of fish and sea critters, just like being in an aquarium. I could hear the blowholes of marine mammals, but I could not see them. After about an hour, I returned to camp, pulled the kayak completely on the beach, and went to sleep.

Where did my kayak go?!?!

I woke up to the sunrise in the morning again and as I looked outside, I had two surprises… the tide came up pretty close to the tent and my kayak was nowhere to be seen. I got out of the tent and looked for it. I found it floating in the middle of the bay! The water was barely warm enough the previous afternoon to splash around in the shallow waters of the beach, but not in the morning. I was facing a tough swim in really cold, deep water. As soon as I jumped in, the cold hit me. I kept swimming, hoping the activity would warm me up—it didn’t. I finally reached the kayak and scrambled on top. Fortunately I had secured the paddle and lifejacket to the kayak, so I didn’t have to go searching for them too. I paddled back to shore, glad I didn’t have to tow the kayak by swimming. I stood in the sun for a while trying to warm back up.

After eating some breakfast, I packed up and paddled around the island and then back to the mainland. I was pretty worn out from all the exertion. I was picked up by the kayak rental company, and then loaded up my car and hit the road.

I drove to La Paz, stayed at a hotel that claimed to have hot water, but in reality did not, uploaded this blog, and am planning to hit the road to Los Cabos today.