Experiences in Baja

Beforehand, we had heard so much about Mexico: mostlywarnings from the U.S. Americans and highest praise from lots of other travelers. We were curious about what was awaiting us there. In the beginning, we were very reserved, but our shyness disappeared after a few days. Everyone is very friendly, helpful, interested, and yet not at all intrusive or pushy. The Mexicans asked us about our vehicle much less often than in the U.S.A. and had completely different questions instead: Where are you from? How long have you been on the road? How do you like it here and where are you heading next? They are more interested in us and our trip than in the Bremach and enjoy giving us tips about what we shouldn’t miss. Even people selling things on the beach are contented with a friendly “No, gracias” and move on happily.

The tempo of our travel has clearly slowed down here in Mexico. On the one hand, we can stay here twice as long as in the U.S.A. (6 months instead of 3) without a visa and have less time pressure, while, on the other, the driving speed is slowed down by a very effective and extremely well spread out net of “topes”. Topes are small hills made of asphalt orgravel on the streets, and there are often – but not always –warning signs for them. If you don’t slow down to a walking pace every time you see one extending over the entire street,sooner or later you have a broken axle. If at all possible, theMexicans drive around the topes onto gravel tracks right next to the asphalt street leading into the villages. In any case, theMexicans like to start a new route directly next to the old one if its condition is too bad. This creates a very funny road network, especially along the remote tracks, and it is always a good idea to follow the latest tire tracks. The speed you go along the tracks is determined by their condition, which can change quickly within very short distances or after a downpour. On the asphalt streets, there are often signs with speed limits, but they apparently don’t apply to Mexicans, who are really only slowed down by topes. The speed limit for a village or a construction zone, for example, is not annulled,so it is up to you when you want to drive faster again. It’s not advisable for tourists to pass vehicles driving more slowly; it’s better to relax and take advantage of the chance to look closely at their daring and adventuresome passing maneuvers.Most of the people living on Baja seem to own a pickup, and we were often amazed at how many pieces of furniture and other objects can be fastened onto them. Everywhere, even on the most remote tracks, there are so-called llanteras (tire-menders) with an enormous number of different tires on hand for vehicles in trouble. Luckily, we never had to use any of them, but they seem to be in demand by the locals.

Since great parts of Baja rarely get rain, the supply of drinking water is limited. During my first shower, I thought to myself that I must have sweated incredibly until I realized that the water itself was what was salty. Whereas we had always been able to stock up on water at the camping sites in the U.S.A.,here we often had to make use of our water filter or buy so-called “purified water”, which was desalinated sea water and was for sale in water shops in even the smallest villages. From water faucets and showers, you often only get a little bit of water at a time; it is really used very sparingly here. In order not to overburden the sewage systems, toilet paper always has to be disposed of in trashcans next to the toilet (it’s not so easyto change your habit of throwing it into the toilet …). The last few weeks have really taught us the worth of water and how much we take our good water and its readily available supply in countries where the resources are not so limited.

As for the weather, we have really been lucky so far. There have actually been lots of heavy rain showers which we have seen pretty close up, but we have only been hit twice brieflyby the tail of the big storm which then changed its path. How good that we planned our route for after the hurricane season and are not on the mainland right now! We usually enjoy bright blue skies on Baja, and it is hot and sometimes very humid. Even at night, it only cools down very little, especially near the ocean. For swimming and snorkeling, however, the temperature is ideal: no matter how long you stay in the water, you never get cold. And there is no chance of getting a sunburn, thanks to an optimal supply of COOLA products provided by my cousin Chris.

As Europeans, we’ve grown up with only a few wild, dangerous animals out in the nature surrounding us, and it wasn’t until this trip that we have had to be on the look-out for bears and pumas, and now the animal world in the water:anyone who doesn’t put his or her feet down carefully in the shallow water along the sandy beaches can be hit by the nasty lash of a stingray’s tail. Max had this painful experience, but luckily we got advice from a specialist right away and learned that the spot affected should be put in the hottest water possible and that the pain is gone in two hours. Every once in a while, there are also nasty jellyfish in the water and scorpions and rattlesnakes on land, but these are so timid that you only see them when they are lying dead on the street.

But the ocean also has lots of culinary delights, and we have often had tacos with fish or shrimps for lunch and enjoyed the delicious hot salsas accompanying them. The food at streets stands is excellent and not very expensive, and, besides, it isalso lots of fun to eat our way into the new culture, of course.Buying food supplies is completely different on Baja since the supermarkets are so small and offer so little choice. The shopping carts are rusty, the aisles dark and often blocked by a fan or a pile of dirt with a broom next to it. Sometimes you have to clear out half of a refrigerated chest in order to be able to see what’s there. You get the impression that the fruit and vegetables sold here are second choice B goods and that all the food that looks perfect is exported to the rich countries. This doesn’t mean that the fruit and vegetables are bad, but checking quickly to see that there isn’t any mold never hurts.

Along the way, we have met only a few fellow-travelers, but these contacts have been much more intensive. And they have always been with Americans who rave about what a wonderful place they have found for themselves in Mexico, whereas lots of their compatriots would never dare to travelhere, even in an armored tank. In Bahia des Los Angeles, we had a great time with Sylvia and Wolf from San Diego, who were camping in a car on the beach and shared so much with us. It all began with a solar shower (and we didn’t have any water for a shower) and continued with all sorts of delicious treats, time for playing with the children, an evening playingUNO together, lots of great talk, and even more showers. Last but not least, they gave us a present that is worth more than gold: a big canister full of drinking water. After that, in Punta de San Francisquito, we met the Californian William, who landed his plane on the track next to our palapa. The children were allowed into his plane (Robert couldn’t talk about anything else for the rest of the day), and he came by in the evening with a bottle of delicious late vintage Zinnfandel. InPuerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos (what a name for a village), we met Tracy and Keith after lunch, and they gave us lots of good tips and led us to a house where we could buy fresh fish from a fisherman. Later, when we were looking for a place to spend the night, we happened to meet up with them again. Tracyoffered to let us stay on her property, where the foundation stone was just being laid for a hotel with restaurant. We gratefully accepted the offer, of course. In front of a supermarket in Todos Santos, we met up with Elizabeth and Tim, who had already crossed our path at the beginning of ourBaja trip. They had given us their telephone number then, and 3 weeks later, we spent such a wonderful day with them andtheir two children that we camped in front of their door after dinner together in our Bremach. The next morning, I made piles and piles of German pancakes for all of us – a small thank-you for their hospitality.

We would like to take time now to thank all of you who have written comments on our page. We are always so very happy to get your feedback, greetings, and other signs of life! We’d love to have more :-) !

3 Thoughts on “Experiences in Baja

  1. Walter Schmid on Monday October 14th, 2013 at 02:49 PM said:

    Hallo Max und Familie
    Vielen Dank für die sehr interessanten Berichte. Es ist 35 Jahre her, als wir durch die USA, Mexiko, Guatemala und Belize reisten. Es weckt viele Erinnerungen. Ich wünsch euch noch viele schöne Erlebnisse.
    Herzliche Grüsse aus dem Hasli
    Walter

  2. Cooles Bild von Carla auf der Luftmatratze! Will sie jetzt auch so eine? Lg aus dem herbstlichen Karlsruhe Kerstin
    Ps am Kaiserstuhls wird gerade fleißig geherbstet und Wein gemacht.

  3. Habt Ihr inzwischen auch ein Surfbrett auf dem Dach? Ein schöner Bericht und weiterhin viel Spaß!

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