By crossing the border to Mexico first thing we hoped that it would give us plenty of time to cross and get as far south as we could before night fall. We’d chosen the quieter town of Tecate to cross rather than the closest border to San Diego, the infamous Tijuana.
The quiet road winding though the desert hills took us to the border. On the US side there appeared to be only the backs of buildings facing the road to Mexico. We had been prewarned about this by other Europeans on their blogs, as this is such a small border and the fact that US citizens don’t need to check out of their own country means there is only an entry office for getting into the US, no exit. We needed to get our passports stamped out so we had to go into the back of the building when someone came out and ask a cleaner to let us through the next door. The US border guards then explained that we needed to enter Mexico, get all our paperwork done there, then reenter the US to get stamped out and then they would let us back through the entry gate. It sounds hugely complicated but it worked well.
Driving the 20m into Mexico they asked us to pull over and customs and the military did a quick search. Nothing too onerous, in fact the customs official seemed more concerned about what the girls were doing for schooling than anything else. We were then asked to drive around the block to a better parking space, as the little town on the Mexican side starts right at the actual border post so they don’t have much space. We then filled in a tourist card, paid our $25 each at the adjoining bank and got our passports stamped.
For the truck’s temporary import permit Steve then returned to the bank with a copy of the truck’s registration papers, his passport, and his tourist card which he had to first get copied at the Farmacia down the road. We had already arranged for Mexican insurance for the truck in advance online. At the bank he paid $50 for a 10 year import permit. We had expected to pay a temporary import permit deposit of between $200-400 but they didn’t ask for this.
We then all went back to the US to get stamped out and were let back into Mexico through the entry gate.
Within 1 1/2 hours we were done and that included popping to the ATM down the road for some Pesos. We were really glad we crossed at Tecate as there were no queues and everyone was really helpful.
We headed southwards on another long winding road through arid hills. At the first big town Ensanada, Steve disappeared for an hour to buy a sim card we can use in an iPad for internet access. Very impressively he managed to sort it out in his rusty Spanish. We had thought that we would either stay in Ensanada or push on south depending on the time we made. We are very aware of the problems in Mexico and have researched all the areas we are hoping to go to. Unfortunately although the Baja borders have been less affected than some of the areas bordering parts of Texas, there have still been some problems. So as it was still early afternoon we made for San Quentin.
Route 1 the only main road in Baja runs from North to South. Although it is generally in good repair it is incredible narrow, so much so that if we pass a truck going in the opposite direction we have to slow right down and get as close to the white line as possible. The road is so narrow that the white line is actually on the complete edge of the road usually with some sort of drop and we pass by with just a whisker between us. The trucks of course don’t slow down at all. We’ve also been witness to some crazy overtaking and we’ve been reminded of why we’ve vowed not to drive in the dark.
Unfortunately we hit rush hour on the road as we passed all the farms that grow fruit and veggies for the US market, all the workers were streaming out in old US school buses. We arrived at a rather windy and very empty campsite right on the beach just as the sun was setting. Although we are in low season, the tourist trade has been very much hit by the publicity of the drug violence.
The following day we kept on going south to Bahia de Los Angeles where we stayed at a scenic if rather neglected campsite on the Sea of Cortez.
We knew we were too early for the grey whale carving season but Steve and Alisha were keen to try out the fishing. When we booked the trip however, we found out there was a possibility to see whale-sharks and fin whales close to the shore so we all piled in with great excitement. The whale sharks we saw weren’t at all bothered by our presence and we were able to get really close to them on the boat. We had thought that we would snorkel next to them. Steve tried it first and found he could see them better from the boat. We tootled back and forth beside them for about half an hour.
We then headed off to fish and were thrilled to see two large fin whales swimming around the bay. They even surfaced so close to the boat but in the opposite direction that we were all looking that the unexpected blow made us all jump.
The fishing was fabulous. Plentiful enough bites to satisfy the kids attention span and exciting enough for Steve’s tastes. We caught about 20 bonito tuna all about 5 or 6lbs, 10 bass and a barracuda. Most of them went back but we kept enough for a couple of night’s tea for us and the boat owner.
We fished in areas where we could see the sea birds going crazy diving into bait balls of fish gathered by the bonito tuna attacking from below. The frenzy only lasted a few minutes in one spot but at that point any fishing lure you put into the water was struck within seconds by a hungry bonito.
Route 1 further wiggled though the cactus strewn desert until we got to San Ignacio a date palm filled oasis. The cacti are the type you would draw as a child or see in a western movie, so if feels very atmospheric.