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Colorful camp near San Felipe

'Tis a fine season for another road trip. What did we want for Christmas? Nothing more than to pile into the old Toyota and hit the road. It didn't really matter where, just somewhere. This was our gift to one another. The balmy weather of southern Arizona and the even warmer climes of Mexico further south seemed quite enticing. We headed down to Tucson, Arizona for Christmas eve. Christmas Day, the second day of the trip, found us leaving our hotel room in Tucson and headed west towards Yuma. Passing within a stones throw of the old Territorial Prison on the banks of the Rio Colorado, we pressed on through Calexico (there's a great band by that name!) and eventually to the international border at Mexicali. There was a guy on a moto just in front of us at the crossing, and he had something with him that made the mexican border dog go wild. Good thing that dog was on a leash! The police flagged him over for a search, and we passed on through. We made our way through town, and then it was a beautiful drive down to San Felipe. We did a little side trip to gather some firewood for a campfire before heading to the sandy desert near the sea where we would camp on the sand in the company of cactus and coyotes .

The following day, we woke to a great sunrise and headed into town for some huevos rancheros on the malecón. After breakfast, it was time to go get our tourist visas. The immigrations office is located on the left side of the "circle" as you are coming into the center of town from Hwy. 5. Since we had U.S. passports and were staying 7 days or less, there was no fee or paperwork to fill out. They just stamped the passports. Then it was off to the bank to get some pesos. After that, we went in search of another bottle of tequila. I knew we would be meeting a lot of friends along the way, and it would be a nice gesture to have plenty of good agave spirits to offer at the campfire. There is quite a nice selection of tequilas in San Felipe these days! I ended up buying a bottle of Don Julio Añejo to compliment the bottle of Casa Noble Reposado that we had brought with us. We headed south towards Puertecitos where we stopped for a soak in the hot springs on the edge of the sea. Cost is 20 pesos per person (about $2USD). The tide was out pretty far, so the upper pools were too hot for comfort. The lower pools were great. From there, we headed south to a favorite camp spot of ours, dubbed "mouse camp", which lies on a rock point that juts out over the water. An extinct volcano looms just to the north, it's coastal edge falling sharply off into the sea.

These rocks are all submerged when the tide comes in.

The Desertbull Dodge (Desertbull

The next day the sunrise was a humbling experience as always. After enjoying the pre-dawn glow from the cozy bed in the camper, and shooting a few pics from the sleeping bag, I always seem to wind up scrambling out of the camper trying to get my shoes on without dropping the camera while I run around trying to take pictures of everything before the magic light morphs into a full-blown solar wash. Kind of like a kid in a candy store I guess. Just as we were pulling out onto the main road, we see this burly Dodge truck come rolling down the switchbacks right in front of us. It's a beast of a truck, looking like it is searching out the next checkpoint or race marker. It's none other than DesertBull (Tim Sanchez) of DesertBull Racing, and his compadre Jeff. We chatted by the roadside for a bit, and then commenced our travels on the very rough road south, keeping in contact on the radio. We passed Punta Bufeo and Gonzaga Bay, and then turned off the main road at Coco's Corner, where we made our way into the beautiful Calamajué canyon with a pause at the old mission site along the banks of the creek. This would be our alternate route (more remote) to get further south towards our next goal - Bahia De Los Angeles, or "Bay of LA".

On the way to LA Bay, I was monitoring the radio in hopes of contacting either BajaXplorer (Michael) or the group from Expeditions West. All of us might be converging on the bay around the same time, so we agreed to try and meet up. Dumb luck saw the BajaTaco machine cruising by the turn-off to San Borja just as the Expeditions West gang was regrouping there after a visit to the mission. Great timing! We finished the ride into the bay together, chatting on the radio. LA Bay has a Pemex station now, but we rolled in during siesta time. So we passed through town and made our way to a nice beach camp in the sand. We spent the next two nights just enjoying the camp with our friends. On the first night, Vince treated us to a fabulous dinner with skewered lamb and veggies. Sharon and I had a nice hike across the little mountain to the next beach where we had fun watching the dolphins and looking for "found objects" to photograph. The water wasn't too bad and I managed to go for a swim, and wash away the miles of dust. Sharon decided that the water was a tad too chilly and a hot shower could no longer be avoided at the end of the fifth day. So I set up the on-board shower for her and heated up some water. (I forgot to put the solar water bag out - it would have been a perfect day for it.)

Pasquale feels the music while camped at LA Bay

Some of the fantastic rock in Calamujue canyon


After the second night of rock-solid sleep at the beach camp, we parted ways with the ExWest crowd at the Pemex station in town. As I was in the middle of fueling the taco, the power to the building went down, and the pump stopped pumping. The town's generator must have quit. We had no choice but to wait, as I had paid in advance, and they couldn't use the (electric) cash register to even give me change for what I had already pumped. No problem, we'll wait. After enjoying a snack on the tailgate, they got it sorted out and I was able to fill the auxiliary tank. It's a good feeling when the fuel tanks are full in Baja. We picked up a package of fresh, hot tortillas, and we were off again. On the return trip, we departed the pavement soon after leaving the bay, and took part of a race route across the desert. We wouldn't touch pavement again until the pot-holed bitumen north of Puertecitos. I thought some of the whoops in Yubay wash were going to swallow my truck whole. There were well over a mile of solid whoops that had been wallowed out in the soft sand. Up, down, Up, down... it was akin to being at sea. We took the race route through the old gold mining site of Desengaño, eventually paralleling Highway One. More whoops... then we intersected the Calamujué road, and it was across the valley, into the narrow canyon. It was here that we came upon a really cool Toyota Tacoma facing our direction, parked in the middle of the canyon. The occupants were out of the vehicle, fishing around in the fridge and just generally taking a quick break. They didn't hear us quietly roll up in front of them when I spoke on the radio... "FANCY MEETING YOU HERE!"  Hahaha! The look on BajaXplorer's face was pretty good as he immediately looked up and realized that even out here in the middle of nowhere you aren't safe from your friends. We chatted for a bit, then completed the canyon section,  then across another valley. More whoops... By the end of the long day, we reached Gonzaga Bay at dusk, where Sharon and I camped on the beach and enjoyed some freshly grilled carne asada and peppers with a nice bottle of red wine. We had reposado for dessert :-) and some great conversation.

Day Seven. We wake to a perfect morning in the bay and it is difficult to get ready to leave. I recall our expedition in 2000 when we had the luxury to stay in one place until we were satisfied. Not so today. After lounging on the beach and taking a chilly dip in the sea, we pack up camp for a late start to the north. The road from here to Puertecitos is a really bad one. Not bad in the sense that it is technically difficult, but bad in the sense that the washboard and embedded stones will loosen even the best dental fillings. I thought it was actually pretty decent this time compared to some years. We drove through the afternoon with a nice lunch stop, passed Puertecitos, and camped again near San Felipe. Have I mentioned how incredibly starry the night skies have been? WOW. Tonight was no exception. Laying on a blanket by the fire with your sweetheart, a coyote serenading nearby - that is hard to beat. The week has gone by fast, and tomorrow we will cross the border and make our way back home over the next two days.

San Felipe Sunrise, Last day in Baja.



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