. . . as I saw it.
By Chet Jones
Fitting as it was Christmas day."Why would you want to go camping in Mexico?” everyone asked us.“It’s a dangerous Third World country, you might get killed ! "
How far from the truth that is. At least in Baja and if you use a little common sense. We were told not to camp anywhere other people were not camping. Makes sense to me. Anyone who bases their opinion of Mexico by the border towns is doing themselves a major disservice.
Much more of this exciting beautiful country can be found further south, well below Ensenada, Tijuana and Mexicali.
San Felipe is the minimum you should go to experience the charm this country has to offer. All the locals we met were very hospitable and glad to see you . . . and your money.
After all, their main income is tourism.
Don’t speak Spanish well? Not to worry. As long as you know a few of the basics you’ll get along fine. They are used to dealing with Gringos and many times know exactly what you want. If your good at charades all the better.
We entered Mexico at Calexico. The border came up on us so quick, I was still eating a Jack in the Box burger.
Crossing the border was quick and uneventful. Three questions were asked:“Do you have more then $10,000.00 on you”?“Umm … No.”“Where in Mexico are you going”?“San Felipe”“How long are you planning on staying in Mexico”?“Three weeks.”
Mexicali, just south of Calexico on the border, was pretty darn depressing I thought. We drove around this city for a bit before heading south on Highway 3. which is what we needed to get down to San Felipe. The roads weren't marked real well.
About two hours and two Mexican Army roadblocks later, we were looking at several campgrounds right on the north end of the Sea of Cortez. We decided to stay at Pete’s camp (www.petescamp.com) a very nice, well kept camp catering to Americans. Small Casas (homes) were built of brick and stone by some of the regulars, several being very nice indeed. You can own a building in Mexico, but you must lease the land. One guy was telling us he built his Casa a couple of years ago out of cinderblock and had only paid $20 a day for the masonry work.
A Palapa was the norm for most campers like us.
A Palapa is a usually a square four legged structure with a slanted thatched roof and open sides, But we did see thatched sides as well as round Palapas. The roof alone on a Palapa is a work of art. The entire thing is about 4 or 5 inches thick, the way they weave those palm fronds together is a skill in itself. Most people enclose their Palapa with tarps. This gives you a much larger area out of the wind, kind of like having your own enclosed porch. Back your camper up to it and you have yourself a very well thought out little shelter indeed, Some were very large and nice, others, like ours, were very modest.
The road at Pete's leading to the Sea.
Pete’s camp was a haven for the dirt bikers and the 4x4 crowd. Sand rails being the normal mode of transportation for most. On the weekends you couldn’t sleep at night due to the constant buzzing of 4x4’s, Jeeps and sand rails zooming up and down the beach, partying their brains out. As you can imagine it was a good time. Pete’s charged you $9.00 a night for camping and offered flush toilets and hot showers.
As far as money goes, the further down you go in Baja the more you must rely on Pesos. If you're planning on going no further south than say, San Felipe don't even bother changing your money over. Then again the further south you go, the more you must rely on Mexican currency and understand how much they are charging you and how much change you are due back.
Everyone, everywhere will take US money no matter where you’re at, but you may not get a very good return rate, and you’ll most always get pesos in change.
We went to a fine little restaurant that was right on site at Pete’s offering a good array of fine Mexican meals. The bartenders and waiters were very nice and the service was very good, not to mention the margaritas!
Pete's Restaurant and Bar.
While we were sitting at the bar I noticed two, fifth wheel trailers pull in, both with real nice XR’s . That night at Pete’s we ended up eating at the bar and staying there way too long if you know what I mean!
The next morning I got on my gear and went for a ride down along the beach. I thought it would be kind of tricky as I had injured my thumb at work just about a week earlier. Turned out the thumb was healing very well. It was not that bad at all. It was very exciting to finally ride in Baja. It has been something I have always wanted to do. I guess I realized a dream that day. As I was riding the beach I just knew there was a big ole' grin on my face!
Riding the beach.
I was riding a lot of shoreline, once coming to an abandoned hotel. Intact, sitting empty, covered in graffiti. I was careful not to ride in the surf as the salt water is very corrosive. I rode from the very top of the Sea of Cortez all the way to San Felipe on the beach, except for a section right before town where I had to go inland for a bit to catch the road. I saw the only bike shop in town, a crude hand lettered sign out front. It was closed but was not much more than a Casa with about a hundred partial parts bikes laying in the back in various stages of disassembly. Returning to the camp I chose to ride the road back to camp and followed a Green Angles truck just about all the way back to camp. The Green Angles are government employees with some mechanical knowledge, driving green four wheel drive vehicles, equipped with radios. These trucks patrol the highways all the way from the southern tip, all the way to the border, stopping to help stranded motorists with mechanical problems or gas, (for a fee) or radio for a tow.
I pulled into camp finding my wife drinking a beer and reading her book on the beach while listening to the crying gulls overhead. I'm not sure she realized I was even gone!
Later that afternoon, two guys came over to our camp and introduced themselves, Steve and Bill, from Colorado. These were the guys who owned the trailers I witnessed coming in the night before, loaded with those XR's
We seemed to hit it off right away and they invited me to go on a ride with them the next day. We went to Cañón Del Diablo (Canyon of the Devil). We did some exploring and hit Chalapa dry lakebeds. Then we headed toward San Felipe on a dirt road that ended up being a whooped out section of the SCORE offroad race course. I found a course marker and stashed it in my fannypac as a later addition to the garage back home. We were heading for the famous dirt bike bar, El Miramar. When we arrived we were able to ride our dirt bikes right into the bar and park them next to the table while we sat and enjoyed a Frió Cerveza, (Cold beer) or three.
Chet, Bill and Steve at the El Miramar
Steve was an ex AA enduro rider who was, much faster then me. I couldn’t even keep up to his dust cloud. Bill, on the other hand was a big guy like me and our riding styles seemed to compliment each other quite well. At least WE had someone to ride with.
After riding for the day Steve, Bill and I, along with our wives, Joanne, Debby and Tracey who spent the day together as well, riding four wheelers up and down the beach, all got together for dinner at Pete’s Restaurant & Cantina.
Of course a few margaritas were on the La Quinta (the bill) as well!
We left Pete’s, saying goodbye to our new found friends. We headed South towards Puertecitos, about 90 kilometers south of San Felipe. This was a much smaller town, built mostly of local rock and stone.I noticed right away as we were entering the campground there were three guys also just pulling in on XR’s parking right next to us. I quickly parked the truck at the campsite and walked up to them as they were removing their helmets. We talked for a bit, They seemed rather rude and unfriendly. I was just wondering about the trails in the area.
One guy, the oldest, probably in his 50’s, said, “If we have to take you out tomorrow, you’ll pay for the gas for all three of us.”
“No Thanks, I'm just here for the night”. I said, as I turned around to return to the truck. Pretty darn rude I thought. Our sport needs less of this type.I heard later this guy was a doctor or something like that, he just flew in the day before. Too bad he brought his ego with him.
Camp in Puertecitos
Puertecitos also had a very nice hot sulfur springs right at the beach. This rocky shoreline held several pools of naturally heated water from volcanic activity. When the tide was out those pools of smelly sulfur water were way too hot to get into. As the tide comes in though, the pools start to cool off and many people climb in to relax. I was going to go try it out late that night and thought I would bring, our dog, Huey along for a walk as well. I walked right down the well worn path to the natural tubs.
I "surprised" two gay guys, having sex in the pools of hot water. We just exchanged uncomfortable hello's and Huey and I continued on. I think I'll let the tide go in and out a few more times before I get in.
Another thing we noticed in Puertecitos, was the lack of stray dogs. Seems like everyplace we stopped on our trip, the stray dogs outnumbered the residents. We found out later that Coyotes were thick in the area. They hunt in packs and had developed a very worthy hunting strategy. The smallest runt of the pack would run, full speed past one of the town dogs. Of course a dog, being a dog, would chase that little runt right into the waiting pack just a few hundred yards away.
We kept a closer eye on ‘Huey’ our own Miniature Schnauzer after that. We noticed Coyotes as close as fifty feet from our trailer while we were cooking.
Puertecitos Bay, from our camp
We ran into another character, who suggested we take the southbound dirt road. “No problem” he exclaimed. “It will cut several hours off your trip tomorrow” “It’s only 100 kilometers, take it easy and you shouldn’t have any problems” He said.
We were planning on taking Highway 3 north again, then east to hook up with Highway 1, Southbound, this was several hundred miles longer, getting us to the same place eventually. So what the hell lets try it.
The dirt road, South of Puertecitos.
That stretch of road was HELL! It was like driving on a washboard with so many rocks and holes we never got out of first gear the whole time. It took us two days to travel the distance pulling our little popup camper. We spent the night on a very pretty and very remote beach on Gonzaga bay This place had traffic style signs saying “ALL DOGS MUST BE ON A LEASH”. Coyote country, remember? A very nice partially unfinished restaurant was there too, but empty.
There was an airstrip and Pemex (Gas) station, also closed and unused. Only a few of the other Palapas were being used, by a couple of overnighters like us and a group of school kids, they looked as if they were going to spending quite a bit of time there indeed with the amount of Beer and gear they had with them. No one was around to charge us for camping that night, I guess the best things in life, ARE free!
I noticed as I was setting the camper up that night, the door was binding and was difficult to close, I'll have to investigate that closer.
We roasted some chicken & potatoes in the Dutch oven, too much to finish, and toasted the day with a bottle of Mexican wine, after all . . . it was Christmas eve.
Tracey, You can see the dirt road behind her.
The next morning we packed up to continue our trek toward the highway, still on that same damn dirt road.
That road ended up destroying our little pop-up camper, the constant vibration of the road loosened just about every screw, bolt and fastener on the thing. Every time we set it up, I had to get the tool kit out and tighten various screws holding one thing or the other together. Lemme see now, the stove came off, the brackets that hold the bed had loosened, the outside trim came off, the DC converter fell off onto the floor. We developed a major propane leak, leaving our stove useless. Both hinges on the front each came off, TWICE. Once I caught it and replaced the screws. Once I didn't, that caused the whole darn thing to Pop up on the highway! I felt a tug on the truck, wondering what was wrong now. I looked in the rear-view mirror, all I saw was canvas! The whole front end of it had popped up at 60MPH, which tore the side of the canvas pretty good.
Oh, and remember the binding camper door? Well this was due to the CRACKED Frame that broke on us at three AM in the morning, 700 miles from home on the way back. We slept in the Home depot parking lot so I could get something to repair it with when they opened. I ended up repairing it good enough to get us home. Anyone interested in a Pop-up Camper For Sale, cheap? or should I say . . . ALMOST FREE!
Right near the end of that stretch of bad road was Coco’s corner. Tim Morton of Baja bound adventures http://www.bajaboundmoto.com/bajaboundmain.html
instructed us that we must stop by Coco's corners and have a beer with Coco and be sure to sign his logbook. Coco, a recent amputee, losing his right leg to poor circulation, was a real piece of work, let me tell you. Now, I don’t know why, but we expected a restaurant or a bar, or at least a building. Coco’s Corner had no buildings, just a pick up camper set on the ground that Coco slept in.
Coco has been there about ten years. He is even listed on the map. He must be proud of that as he insisted on autographing our map! Coco is a squatter and decided he wanted this land so he staked it all out … with Tecate Beer cans, strung up all over the place. With all those cans strung up it looked almost like Christmas decorations.
Coco was quite an artist and cartoonist. He drew his idea of what you and your mode of transportation looked like to him. With all kinds of funny cartoons and artwork adorning his logbooks they were very interesting to look at. You could spend hours reading all the entries in them. He has five logbooks now, I believe he said, in the seven years he has been doing this. He also assigns everyone a number, If you return to Coco's at a later date he can look up your number in his logbooks.
Coco and I with one of his logbooks
While we were having a beer with Coco, a pick up truck pulled up, a small Mexican fellow got out and spoke with Coco for a few minutes and was off again, but not before dropping off a hitchhiker. Coco wasn’t too thrilled to see this guy, who was totally covered with road dust from head to toe. He was in the back of that pick up truck, claiming the driver had not got below 85MPH the whole way, now this was the same dirt road we never got out of first gear on, Of course we were towing a camper, too. The faster you go the smoother it gets.
The hitchhiker had asked Coco if there was any food. Coco motioned to his partner and he produced three or four tamales for the guy. Coco was not wanting any money for them, claiming “I never charge anybody for anything, unless you drink my beer”. We found out later that the hitchhiker’s name was Slodeer. He may have been Iranian perhaps, it was very hard to tell as he spoke perfect English.
Coco, Tracey and Slodeer
Montreal, Canada was his birthplace, or so he claimed. After a beer or four we bid Coco goodbye, vowing to return for another visit.
We were very glad to see that narrow stretch of blacktop known as Highway 1, about an hour past Coco's. We ended up giving Slodeer a ride past the highway to the Town of Guerrero Negro (Black Warrior). He seemed to be a nice enough guy and didn’t complain a bit, of course he was riding in the back of the pickup on top of the cooler. We filled his water bottles and gave him a piece of roast chicken from the prior night’s dinner. A minute later he was along side the road once more, riding his thumb where ever it would take him.
Slodeer, stashing his tamales
After two days on that road from Hell, we decided to treat ourselves to a Motel, a real bed and a hot shower that sounded good! We found a room in the Motel La Posada del "Don Vincente in Guerrero Negro, for 180 pesos, (about $18 US) and were quickly fast asleep. For a few hours anyway, The Music from the bar next to the hotel woke us up. the Music continued into the wee hours of the morning. We found out the next day the "bar" next to the hotel was a stripper bar. Catering to all the horny gentlemen of this area. I wonder if they rented these rooms by the hour?
Dead cattle littered the landscape along the highways, all in various stages of decomposition. killed by the trucks cruising after dark hitting them. These trucks had big "cow catcher" things on the front, resembling those on an old steam train engine. The cattle tend to lay on the warm asphalt at night and it's very hard to spot a black cow laying on blacktop on a black night. The trucks hit them sending them as far as 100 yards from the highway. there they sit, till the vultures and other animals reduce them to skeletons. Dead dogs were also a common sight in town, they get hit by cars and just lie there.
We headed South again the next day toward Mulegé (Moo la hay) on Coco's advice. It was a very nice little river town, around 250 easy kilometers away. At least it was all highway, and the dirt road was behind us. We continued on south in search of a campground to spend the night. Fifteen miles south of Mulegé, we came across, Playa El Burro on Bahia Conseptción (Conception bay), a small, primitive campground with a nice little restaurant. This was a very pretty bay, so we decided to stay here for a while.
Only $6 per day, No hook ups or showers just pit toilets.
Speaking of toilets, I never quite got used to the Mexican toilets. Apparently the septic/cesspool systems in Mexico cannot handle the toilet paper, just the waste product itself. Right next to all the toilets, no matter if its flush type or pit toilet, was a five gallon bucket that you were suppose to throw in all of your stinky, sh*t covered paper into, rather then flushing it down the potty.
What a disgusting practice! Also bring along your own toilet paper, and a lot of it. It is in definite short supply as are most textiles. Many of the toilets we visited didn’t supply any, even in some of the restaurants and hotels. Just about all the toilets we saw were in terrible shape as far as cleanliness goes. Especially at the gas stations.
All the gas stations in Mexico are Pemex stations, I think it's a government thing. They seem to charge you what they think they can get for it, if they are low on gas the price seems to go up. That didn't keep us from topping off at EVERY station we passed. usually a hundred miles apart.
If the Seas are rough and the Ferries can't get across from the mainland, you can't get any gas period! for this reason you cannot pass a gas station in Mexico without stopping to fill up, for fear of running out and not being able to get anymore. The Pemex stations are quite a distance apart unlike in the states, where there is one at every corner. Most everyone you saw on the road carried extra fuel cans. We saw many Pemex stations, abandoned too. Just sitting open and empty, people crap on the floor and spray paint the walls. Abandoned buildings were the norm in Mexico, most sitting without roofs, all but the most remote, covered in the ever present graffiti.
Why don't they demolish all these buildings and put the cinderblocks to a better use elsewhere? A simple thought? Also, I feel they should put more effort toward recycling, with all the glass and plastic bags littering the landscape. Everywhere you look you saw tires. thy were everywhere, flat tires, bald tires, ripped tires, you name it. They were very abundant. Recycle these; they can grind them up to make a very durable road covering, I am told. It would do the country good to put a price on these recyclables and give some of these hard working people a chance to make some cash, while at the same time cleaning up the countryside, in many places marred only by this unsightly litter.
We spent New Years eve in Mulegé, well part of it anyway. We were so tired and beat we didn't wait around until midnight but headed back along the dark spooky, highway toward our Palapa. Our beach, normally a quiet little spot after dark, was a hub of activity. By the time we returned the regulars had prepared a potluck style dinner and everyone was drinking and eating and having a merry ole time at this impromptu little get together. As midnight came upon us, fireworks were going off everywhere. I am a lover of fireworks, remembering the cherry bombs and huge rockets from childhood. These little items of obscurity were gone forever due to US laws and restrictions.
Not so in Mexico, you could buy cherry bombs at many of the stores.
Most all of the beaches we stayed at, had a variety of oddball characters, all with their own story. I’m sure at least one of them, if not more, was hiding out in Mexico on the lam from the law. Here is a rundown on some of the more interesting characters we had the pleasure of meeting through out our trip. In no particular order, here we go.
There was the 71 year old guy with the 32 year old wife. They pulled up to the bar in a sand rail. They had been together for thirteen years and married for ten. Together they were a lot of fun, apart she despised her husband, knocking him at every opportunity sometimes getting very vocal about it. It was obvious they weren’t getting along too well. He would return home for bed before 9 pm, and she would stay at the bar, sometimes, till closing drinking. This really bothered him, he had said earlier. He was a friend of her father's and when he died she, for some reason, decided to marry the old guy. He must have some cash. I’m sure she didn’t figure he was going to be around for the long haul. She has probably never worked a day in her life. Just another gold digger.
We met a couple of nice enough guys down from California touring on their street bikes. Reed was on his BMW 1000 and Bradford on a Yamaha 750. Both seemed to be very interesting and intelligent guys with several stories of there own adventures on the road to share.
view from our camper
One more guy we met was the Fireman, kinda stuck on himself but somewhat likable. He claimed to be a big Blues music promoter on a three month layover in Mexico. I felt he was either a “wannabe” or a "never-was" just living his dream through his stories. I can usually spot A Bullsh*tter a mile away and something about this guy's stories, just didn’t gel.
we also met a kid of eighteen drinking beer in a restaurant. I pulled up on my XR for a cold one myself and sat down at the table next to theirs. We quickly struck up a conversation right away and he was very interested in my machine sitting outside. He used to have a dirt bike himself and missed it. So I let him take it for a ride, Something I normally don't do.
It made his day, the rest of his group said.
He was down with some of his father’s friends to spread his Dad's ashes along the shores of the Mexican beach we were on. Understandably, a favorite spot of his. He stopped by the pop-up that night and we talked and shared many more beers, then he told me the whole story . . .
. . . This guy's dad was a troubled Vietnam vet who had many demons in his head, so many in fact, he ended the torment by sticking a Glock in his mouth, spray painting the room with his brains.
This kid was the one who found him dead. Apparently he went through grueling questioning by the police, who thought HE had in fact murdered his father.
Turned out his father had been talking about blowing his head off for years and finally found the courage to do it one night in a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
“I want to do everything my father has done, only better” he claimed that night close to tears. So far he had visited the beach his dad loved so, and just enlisted in the Marines, vowing to repeat more of his father's accomplishments.
. . . By the way he talked, I suspected he too would end up tasting gunmetal, as his father had just a few short weeks earlier.
How could someone do this to his Kid? I wish him well.
Then there was a man of 70 who lived in Mexico year around. He practically bragged about the fact he had a fifteen year old Mexican girlfriend. We found out later, he has a four year old child with her. That means the girl had his baby when she was only Eleven.
How do YOU spell pedophile?
The kid was cute too, Obviously white and with long blond hair pulled back in a short ponytail.
He didn’t speak a word of English.
We met another guy and his wife, while waiting for breakfast one morning in a beach restaurant. “My wife and I are originally from Vermont living in California now, we have been coming down to Mexico for years now and I have made a lot of friends.” He told us.
“Matter of fact they gave me a nickname” he continued.
“ They call me Memo, "
"I was told it’s Mexican slang for _ _ _ _ ” (his real name)
We didn’t give it a second thought till we ran into him again a day or two later when he mentioned the nickname again. Apparently He was damn proud of that nickname.
Out of curiosity we looked it up later in the Spanish-English dictionary we had.
ME•MO - adj. foolish, simple. Simpleton. (Bantam Spanish - English dictionary pg. 230)
Musta laughed for a week!!
Another thing Tracey and I noticed, most all single people we met had boy/girlfriends that were either on their way down, or had just left. Very interesting.
In one of the Palapas next to us we met a very nice woman, who lived in Baja the whole last year. Usually she runs a RV park in Alaska for their entire four month season. She told us in that time she earns about $6,000. This is what she lived on the other eight months of the year in Baja. Seems that no matter how much money you have, you can retire in Mexico, living comfortably.Our camp at el Burro
We learned a lot about the area from this woman. She told us about Clamming and the best beaches for it in the area. And she told us about the Phosphorus.
One night I was having a beer with one of the regulars in their Palapa, bid him goodnight and stumbled out the door toward my own camp. Then I noticed it! The waves were breaking on shore and GLOWING! Every time the waves broke it would glow, just like a light stick … you could see the glow from a fish jumping way out in the bay, Or a stone skip. It was totally cool. I tried to wake my wife up to witness it.
She was, how should I say? Less then enthusiastic about the whole thing.
The next morning I asked our neighbor about it. She said it was Phosphorous. “See that reddish stuff floating on the water”? She asked, pointing to the shoreline. “Collect it and put it in a zip lock bag and wait till tonight”. That night after dark all you had to do was touch the bag and it would glow brightly for a couple of seconds. One of the coolest natural things I have ever witnessed.
“Almost free” was their famous saying. One time after hearing that phrase one to many times, I retorted, “Almost broke” whereas the cheerful Mexican fellow smiled and in broken English said ” That OK, I take credit card!”
I wonder if he was joking? Naw, probably not.
The regulars warmly welcomed the various venders with a handshake.
“ Hola amigo. ¿Cómo son la esposa y los cabritos?” (Hello friend. How are your wife and kids?). I was shocked! Why would they encourage those guys like that? Turns out the Beach venders were very welcome at most camps. You could get just about anything you needed or wanted. The vendors would get it in the next day or two.
Lobsters, Shrimp & Scallop’s were good sellers for them, they would meet the fishing boats early in the morning at the closest dock, pick up the freshest, then offer it to you right at your camp bringing it on their regular routes.
You don’t necessarily need money to pay them either. Most times they are more then willing to Negocio (trade) for many things you may take for granted, something simple like a crescent wrench or a four way screwdriver could be in great demand.
One of them was eyeing our retractable dog leash. And Hueys glow in the dark Dog Ball, the ball ended up missing later that trip. I'm sure one of the stray dogs must have walked off with it.
One day one of the vendors stopped by with some Grande Camarón (Large Shrimp) We had heard about these. Not the normal shrimp you see in our American supermarkets. Six to seven inches long with heads two inches across, HUGE! These things were like holding Ice cream Cones!
I think we paid $17 US, per Kilo (2.2 Lbs.) We grilled them on the Weber, dowsing them with Limóns (small Limes about the size of a golf ball) and sat around eating shrimp and washing them down with Tecate at 9am one morning, What a life!
Most all the food in Mexico was very good and mostly inexpensive. Many of the larger beach camps, (there were plenty of camps) had their own restaurant right on the beach, operated by a family, seven days a week. Another thing we weren’t accustomed to in the states. ‘Huey’ our dog was more then welcome in just about all of them, they just smiled and waved him in. I’m sure they were thinking “Mañana Especial” (Tomorrows special.)
Some of the best meals we had at various restaurants were:
Two Shrimp tacos, with rice and beans and a very large platter of toppings for 20pesos(about $2.00 US)
½ BBQ chicken dinner with a lettuce salad, Baked potato, vegetable and tortillas, for 25 pesos (about $2.50 US) I thought most of the chicken we had in Mexico was much leaner and tougher than in the States with a much gamier taste.
Pig Roast with all the trimmings 40 pesos (about $4.00 US)
Pancake with eggs and bacon. 20 pesos (about 2.00 US) This single pancake was about 10" in diameter and about 3" thick. Served with two eggs any style and thick cut peppered bacon. It was very good, but took about an hour to prepare and was very popular.
Three Fish tacos with rice and beans, $150 pesos, (about $1.50 US)
Fish tacos were very common in Baja. These may not sound too appealing, but were excellent, and very tasty. Fried fish usually topped with Pico de Gallo (Tomato and onion salsa) and cabbage instead of lettuce. Lettuce was in short supply.
One of our favorite meals we prepared for ourselves was Carne Asada. This was very thin slices of steak, marinated in fruit and onions. Throw it on the grill for a couple of minutes per side, place it on a warmed tortilla, top with anything you desire and roll it up. Fast, delicious and no dishes to clean up. Just be sure to have hot sauce and your favorite bottled beverage handy.
I also use a camp Dutch oven for outdoor cooking and wanted to try some “Buried beans” I had never attempted this style of cooking before. It involves digging a BBQ pit and building a fire in it. After the wood has burned down to coals scoop them out and place you’re best bean recipe inside the Dutch oven and surround it with coals then completely bury it overnight. The next morning waking up to baked beans simmering all night over a dying fire only. . . Ours weren’t done
Beans just dug up
We had to continue cooking them for a couple of more hours, they turned out to be very tasty. I don’t think the fire was hot enough. As I was building the fire the camp caretaker walked over, worried about the size of our fire. A major concern when everyone’s roof is thatched!
Firewood was very scarce in Baja. We had to drive into the desert many times to try to find anything burnable. We ended up burning a lot of dead cactus and cow chips . Yep, that's right, dried cow dung, burned pretty good too. The vendors can keep you supplied with premium Mesquite wood, for a price of course. 3-5 pesos per piece.
Probably the best meal we had was free! We went Clamming in the Sea of Cortez for Buttercup clams. They ranged in size from about the size of a quarter to about the size of a silver dollar, There are several speices of clams in the area, these were the “most tender”, we were told.
Buttercup Clam beach
The beach we found was great for this, at low tide we could pick up anywhere from 4 to 6 clams in one handful. It took less then an hour to collect a five-gallon bucketful. Then you must let them purge for Twenty-four hours. This gives them time to “spit out” any sand or debris trapped inside. We placed them in a baking pan sprinkled them with Garlic and sealed them up with Foil. Eight minutes on the coals and they were open and delicious, dip them in melted garlic butter, add a tortilla or two and you had a feast fit for a king.
Heading North once more we drove all day, eating at a small roadside stand offering prepared food and coffee. This stand was once a Ford van now the sides have been mostly cutaway offering access to the many people waiting to eat. I got three steak tacos. 7 pesos each and Tracey got two tacos and a cup of soup. We are not sure what kind of soup it was but it was excellent. . . Tracey thought it might be pork, I figured it was probably Cat.
Remains of a clam feast
The drive north along the Pacific was very pretty, we stopped at a couple beaches on the way up and watched the surfers hang ten, or whatever it is they do. We stayed in Ensenada at a Cheap Motel and the Senora in charge was nice enough to order Domino’s pizza for us, delivered. I think that pizza was the lowest fat item we’ve had so far. We ate it in bed watching “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson, Dubbed in Spanish, Didn't get much out of it. looked excellent though, we'll have to pick up a copy in English when we get home.
Next day we spent in Downtown Ensenada shopping and looking at the many stores and what they had to offer. We were eating Lunch in a restaurant when I heard this strange sound, Startled at first, I looked around puzzled, it was a Cell phone ringing It was the first I had heard in weeks.
Our plans called for us to leave the country through Tijuana, I guess the crossing was crowded as the Policeia was waving everyone past the Tijuana crossing toward Otay Mesa. The road signs were so covered in graffiti you couldn't read them. Wouldn't you know we missed the exit for the crossing. AND the entire four lane road we were on Just ended, four lanes ending in a sand covered field next to a big flood control drainage canal. Several other people who had missed the same exit were too wondering where to go next. Where else? Right down into the canal, for about a mile we followed the other people just hoping they knew where they were going. It was kinda cool and dangerous at the same time. The canal ended right at the road leading to the border, amazing!
The Border crossing was a pretty uneventful except for having to wait in line for about two and half-hours. the Mexican vendors still making their way though the hundreds of cars, this time offering ceramic Jesus and sombreros. I asked one of them if he had any beer he said “Uno momento” ran to his van procured two Frió Cerveza and returned in short order, he produced two Tecate and requested a buck a piece for them. They tasted mighty good after waiting in line for two hours. As we got to the Guard at the border he took one look at our tarp covered pick up bed and asked “What are you bringing across today?”
“About a hundred bucks worth of worthless junk” was my reply. He smiled as he pointed the way to the exit.
Thus ended one of the best vacations I had ever taken. Baja Mexico was a very interesting and worthwhile, inexpensive vacation location. I would highly recommend it. Especially if you ride a dirt bike or other offroad vehicle. With what President Clinton has done, this may be the future of all our offroad adventures. Baja Mexico, enough culture and charm for just about everyone. Next time we go, we want two months!
Hope the Boss understands!