South turn…

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(>Pictures at the bottom!)

… Baja California Sur
We enjoyed La Paz to the full before heading further south. The agglomeration extended far into the nearby mountains. The houses became fewer and fewer, but the mountains of rubbish became bigger and bigger. Entire stretches of land were filled with rubbish or objects that had no further use were dumped in the countryside. It is a real shame that the local population disregard their wonderful landscape in this way.

After the Sierra de la Laguna, we reached the sea again and the first tourist hotspots. The range of leisure activities on offer here must be particularly attractive and the huge advertising posters outdid each other. Construction activity along the coast was also eating more and more into the landscape. Wonderful scenic spots are being paved over with villas and even the coastal path is being sacrificed in places for more building land. We were also repeatedly confronted with barbed wire or locked gates, even though a through route was marked on the map. We had to turn around several times and bump our way back several kilometres to the next possible path.

The Cabo Pulmo National Park, where you can dive wonderfully in the reef, is probably a small exception on this coast. A long time ago, the government stopped a major construction project here because the planned resort could not rule out the environmental impact on the national park. Today, however, construction is taking place both north and south of the national park as if there were no tomorrow. Beautiful villas and resorts are being conjured up, while the local population lives in shacks on the opposite side of the road – a stark and heartbreaking sight.

The whole thing continued around San José del Coba; huge holiday residences and resorts, green golf courses and other leisure facilities. A few streets away from the sea were mostly poor houses surrounded by rubbish and scrap cars. However, we took advantage of this “almost American” city for a shopping trip and almost felt like we were in the USA. There was hardly any shortage of products and the main customers were, like us, winter refugees from the cold north.

It was only a few kilometres to Coba San Lucas. In 2014, this town was pretty much devastated by a hurricane. Today, however, you can hardly tell that this town has been devastated and people celebrate every evening as if the next hurricane is about to hit the coast and suck the town in. In addition to the exuberant festivities, there is also a lot on offer at or on the sea. We were – how could it be otherwise – at the harbour at the wrong time and the rock arch lying outside in the sea was already submerged by the tide. 🙁

As we didn’t want to drink at a tequila party, we left the city the same day in a north-westerly direction out into the wide open countryside. We were unsuspectingly looking for a place to camp for the night at a spacious bay. But as soon as we stopped and started looking for an ideal spot, we were swarmed by a horde of ATVs and Quats. There are countless providers of such adventures on this extensive stretch of coast and they followed each other in single file at a dusty distance. Crazy; these tourists! Shaking our heads, we left the town and found a small campsite south of Todos Santos, which we had to ourselves for the night.

Todos Santos was somehow a surprise for us. In addition to the countless art galleries, we were surprised by the many brick houses. Sugar cane cultivation and the corresponding mills brought a lot of wealth to the once mouse-poor village until the enormous loss of groundwater put a stop to it all. Today, in addition to surfboards, art objects of all kinds are sold in countless galleries and perhaps this branch of business is more profitable than the sugar trade. But for us it was somehow too expensive and not a place to stay any longer.

From Todos Santos, we steered our campervan along the coast in a north-westerly direction and followed the sea behind the sand dune. We travelled through vast and almost deserted areas and saw dream beaches where there was hardly anyone. Of course, this route also had its pitfalls, such as deep quicksand, where our jeep dug in up to the rear axle and deeper. Shovelling was the order of the day! Or the abandoned salt mine, where we suddenly found ourselves at the closed factory gate from the inside…..

We stayed true to our choice of route and only left the coast where there was really no sensible path. So we once again travelled through vast and almost deserted areas, experiencing lonely nights near the surf and the howling of coyotes. Various settlements were still marked on our map, but in reality they only consisted of individual houses or ruins that were reminders of the human existence that once existed. The picture hardly changed until we reached Bahía Magdalena and it was still a long way to the next fishing village. The longer we travelled along this coastal path, the more we calculated the distance; the diesel in the tank was already dangerously low. In Puerto San Carlos we got the juice we needed for our jeep and in the next town inland we got the calories we needed.

After the somewhat flat kilometres on the west coast, we turned off into the mountains out of boredom and scrambled through increasingly narrow valleys up into the Sierra de la Giganta. After the many flat and almost endless stretches along the sea, this was another great change. In San Josde Comondú we crossed the route we had travelled weeks ago, but immediately turned off again in a north-westerly direction. This took us back to the west coast via various mountain paths.

The mountains were followed by wide, flat stretches surrounded by table-like elevations. The closer we got to the coast, the more sandy passages and wide, dried-up salt lakes we encountered. At Laguna San Ignacio, a few operators were still advertising whale watching tours. However, we skipped the trip out to the open sea due to the high waves.

We had to drive a long way round Laguna San Ignacio and the Sierra de Santa Clara to get back to the south-west coast. Once again, we tried to follow the coast in a north-westerly direction as closely as possible. The foothills of the Sierra Pintada with its many smaller hills made the landscape very varied and the small fishing villages added a certain amount of variety.

Shortly before Bahía Asuncíon, we chose the wrong route, i.e. we really wanted to follow the coastline as closely as possible and promptly sank our jeep in the mud. Letting the air out of the tyres didn’t give us the slightest chance of getting out of the deep gullies. Even the red Maxtrax, which had often got us out of rough terrain, didn’t help here; our heavy vehicle was standing up with its axles in the mud and mire. After a lot of shovelling, the only thing that finally helped was to lift the vehicle and “underpin” the wheels. After 3 hours, the jeep was back on solid ground and we laughed at each other with dirt-smeared faces. Well; all’s well that ends well!

It was still a few kilometres through the Sierra de Pintada to the end of the world, out to the Peninsula de Vizcaíno and the fishing village of Punta Eugenia, but the varied landscape made the distance seem subjectively shorter than it actually was. However, we soon withdrew from this tip of land, which juts out into the Pacific Ocean, as we were unable to find a sheltered spot for the coming night or spot any whales.

From the Peninsula de Vizcaíno we travelled through the desert of the same name to the Mex1 road, the lifeline of the Baja, where we turned off to the north-west. We really wanted to get to Guerrero Negro, where whale watching is a big tourist attraction in the Laguna Ojo de Liebre and sightings of marine mammals are almost guaranteed. And indeed; it was no disappointment: the shallow lagoon, where the grey whales give birth to their calves, was teeming with these huge whales and we could barely recover from our amazement before the next grey whale appeared on the opposite side of the boat. Although grey whales are the smallest of their kind, they are simply huge.

In the Dunas de la Soledad we recovered from our experience and even these sand dunes are an experience in themselves. It was also time for us to get ready to continue our journey, after all, we don’t want to stay here forever 😉

We would like to continue along the south-west and west coast through the Baja Norte. We were already looking forward to the next adventures on our backroads; hopefully not in a mud hole somewhere this time. 🙂

Chantal and Tom/March 2024

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