We finally crossed our first border on November 28th. It was pretty easy - about 20 minutes all in. The border official said it wasn’t too busy because Black Friday was the day before and it’s better to shop online. Go figure. We have been to Mexico so many times over the past 20 years but for some reason driving here gave us a little thrill.
We cruised down the coast and stopped for a decadent lunch in Puento Nuevo – the lobster capital of Baja. It did not disappoint. The restaurant was on the water but a little stinky with a loud obnoxious mariachi band making it impossible to even hear each other… and we were in heaven.
Puento Nueva - Lobster Capital of Baja
Dead Soldiers - lots of 'em.
From there we spent our first night just north of Ensenada at La Salina beach, a.k.a Clam Beach. The camping was just ok but it was right on the beach so we settled in for our first night south of the border.
Clam Beach sunset...not too shabby
Clam Beach camp - first night
From there we made our way to Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s wine region. It’s not that well known but I have wanted to come here for a few years. The region was first developed for wine by Russian settlers back in the 1800’s, and wine making started back up again about 20 years ago. The area is beautiful - and a striking contrast of cacti alongside grapevines all over the valley. The town is still small and some say its Napa 30 years ago. We stayed at Valle de Ville, a Tuscan style hotel with its own winery, Vena Cava. The ceilings of the wine caves are made from 5 huge old fishing boats and we had lunch out of a fancy food truck called Troika.
Ville de Valle
Vena Cava Winery - fishing boat roofs
Treats left over from home for the winery dogs
All over the valley there is very interesting architecture and design. We went wine tasting at a family run winery in business for 31 years called Torres Alegre. The son, Ronaldo, told us with pride how his father studied in Bordeaux, and was the only wine maker with a P.h.D in all of Mexico. Ronaldo told us that it was his father’s work that changed the way white wine is now made in France. I’m not sure if that characterization is accurate, but who knows? Ronaldo and his wife met in Mexico City while both were art students at the University, and her unique art made from puzzle pieces hung on the walls of the winery.
Wine tasting at Torre Alegre
Lunch that day was at an outdoor spot called Deckman’s in the middle of a vineyard with just hay bails, a grill and a commercial fridge. No building. They served “artisanal beer”, amazing fresh caught yellowtail and local wine. We had dinner at an award-wining restaurant called Corazón de Tierra. The region was a fun detour and different slice of Mexico than we usually experience hanging out in beach communities.
Lunch at Deckman's
With a few days of rain in the forecast we decided to hightail it south to the Sea of Cortez. We spent one rainy night in a nice RV campground called Estero Beach just outside of Ensenada to get a phone (that process was a tricky but it forced us to practice our limited Spanish), and then we headed out.
We did a marathon 8-hour drive from Ensenada to Guererro Negro through beautiful desert landscape. We overnighted at a cool little road side restaurant/bar/camping spot. We rolled in with about 10 motocycle riders, parked in the back of the restaurant for the night and belly'd up to the bar. It felt like a tavern stop back in the old days. Good food, good conversation, cold beer, and a place to sleep.
Malarrimo - Our roadside tavern
Regrettably, we came in just past dusk so we discovered first hand why you don’t drive at night. The roads are very narrow (just enough room for the truckers' rear view mirror and ours to pass) with a drop off right at the white line. Supposedly the truckers are all “tequila’d up” by dark, and the animals come on to the road and even lay down…but are impossible to see. No more after dark drives. Period.
A few of the very good reasons why you just do not drive at night.
We are now on the Bahía Concepción just south of a little town called Mulegé, and have been camped out on the beach for the last 5 days at a place called Playa Coco. We thought we would stay 2 nights and then didn’t leave. The water is about 10 feet from our camper door and we have a little palapa. In the mornings vendors come by with fresh fish, eggs, vegetables, tamales, banana bread and water. (Martine, the vendor, calls us Juan y Paulita). This ocean front property costs $8 a night. This place feels like what we thought of when we imagined the Baja portion of the trip. And we finally feel like we are slowing down a little. I’m not sure when we’ll start to feel like this is really our life, but we are slowly getting into a groove.
Sunrise at our camp
That Corona commercial
Sunset at our camp
The grocery store came to us at Playa Coco.
The first day at Playa Coco we stopped at the beach next door and met Ali and Pat and their adorable kids. They have a blog called Bumfuzzle, and we have been following them for about 10 years. They were definitely an inspiration for us to take this leap. Amazing that after all this time we meet up in Baja - and they are two beaches over.
Yesterday was spent playing Frisbee in the water and watching pelicans fish in front of us while we had our lunch. Last night we went with our camp neighbors, Randy and Claudette, to the local bar for the bar owner’s birthday. It was not an early night like they promised. Lots of Norteamericanos and Europeans who escape winters are down here for months at a time and they all know each other. Beach dogs on the dance floor, margaritas the size of fish bowls…and we felt right at home. The next morning, John wasn’t really up for a day of travel (he too, was tequila’d up last night) so we stayed one more day.
Our new friends Randy and Claudette - love those Canadians!
Our palapa mascot.
Today we’ll head to Loreto for a few days of town living - Internet, groceries, and laundry. And then continue south.