Home / Journal / Reluctant beach bums in Baja


After leaving Ensenada we ride south, keeping the Pacific never more than a few miles away. We top off our tanks every 50 miles or so, slightly paranoid about running out of gas in the middle of nowhere (we were beyond fine!). Stopping off in El Rosario to grab a late lunch, we ponder our next move: do we stay the night where we are or do we push on to Cataviña? It is 2:30 and the time we generally like to be off the road by is around 4 p.m.

Noting all the prerunners and dirtbikes barreling through town as they do their practice runs of the Baja 1000 race, we are slightly worried that the lone hotel in Cataviña may be booked up. We attempt to call the hotel but receive no answer, which is answer enough for us: El Rosario it is.

We enjoyed our stay in El Rosario, even though the hotel didn’t have air conditioning—the breeze was cool enough due to our proximity to the Pacific and the room had a decent enough fan so we left the door open to let the air circulate.

No biggie, as we are able to do a bit of laundry in the sink—hanging it up early enough for it to be dry by the time we turn in for the night. The next morning we have a quick breakfast of chilaquiles at the same restaurant and ride off towards Bahía de Los Angeles.

We are relieved to not have stayed in Cataviña when we pass through it around midday, as it is not much more than a small cluster of ramshackle buildings across the road from a seemingly out-of-place fancy hotel compound. At least El Rosario had a supermercado around the corner from where we stayed. We stop at the gas truck in town, take a gallon each and continue to the cut-off that heads towards the Sea of Cortez.

Cacti and mountains… and here we thought Baja was just a big ol’ sand dune.

Our first beach camping experience went swimmingly, apart from a belligerently drunk American harassing us and whoever else was unfortunate enough to be in his range of most-likely blurred vision. His barrage of nonsensical insults and attempt to sabotage our camp stove (as it was being used to boil a large pot of water) left no chance of sympathy from us as he was eventually carted away by the local police.

How dare that guy insult our gourmet camp dinner of fried Spam and potatoes in tortillas!

The positives? We were apparently one of only a few people who didn’t end up getting stung by a stingray while swimming (which Brittany did blindly, having cast off her glasses for a dip in the ocean). We met a bunch of other travelers, including Raquel and David (of Lost for Days) who are also on a journey to Argentina in their 1998 Toyota Land Cruiser. And we ended the night sitting on the beach in good company while gazing up at the stars. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Not a bad beach, really.

We visit with David and Raquel for a short time in the morning and decide to caravan together over the next few days, cuz why not? Ehren and I leave them behind at the Bay of L.A. with plans to meet up later that afternoon at the town square in San Ignacio. We arrive in town almost exactly at noon and are delighted with the sights that greet us there, so we grab a couple of cold Cokes and slowly simmer in the atmosphere for about 2-3 hours.

Misión San Ignacio, from where we sat on our bench.

Our lovely, lovely shaded town square.

It was a hot ride to get here, and after peeling our sweaty riding gear from our bodies we sought out a bench beneath one of the square’s generous shade trees with a magnificent view of the colonial mission across the street. Sipping our bottles of bub, we sit in silence and observe the townspeople as they drive or walk past, checking out our bikes and (more likely) Ehren’s beard. When asked if we are American by an elderly gentlemen pushing his grandchild in a stroller, upon hearing our sheepish affirmation he warmly welcomes us to San Ignacio. Tourists stop in from time to time, walking up the steps to see the mission and take a few pictures before heading out again.

A familiar Land Cruiser pulls up next to us and we are stirred from our stupor. We talk briefly about our respective drives from Bahía de Los Angeles as we walk over to the mission steps: time for us to be tourists now. The mission church is magnificent, and the grounds are beautiful.

Walking down the aisle.

Detail of one of the side altars.

Side door leading to the beautifully kept grounds.

Ehren and flowers.

After our sightseeing excursion across the street, talk turns to where the camp spot will be that night. Laguna San Ignacio is mentioned, which is about an hour’s drive to the southwest; the shadows are long so we leave in haste. The road to the laguna is nicely paved up until the last 10 km or so, then it becomes sandy and/or rocky. And the washboard… oh, goodness.

Alrighty then.

Pretty sure this campsite is around here somewhere…

We make it through that 10 km to the water’s edge soon enough, and as the sun dips below the horizon we realize we still have another 6-8 km to go to get to where we will set up for the night. Arriving at our destination, it appears as though they haven’t had customers in quite some time. Regardless, they are accommodating and show us a nice place under a big tree to park and pitch a tent, complete with palapa.

While Ehren and I busy ourselves with getting the tent ready, Raquel hops into action and makes the palapa a welcoming place to sit and have a communal dinner. We donate a tomato, onion, can of corn and packet of refried beans to the cause and together we enjoy a dinner of guacamole, chips, beans mixed with the corn, tortillas and cookies (we always have cookies). Afterwards the four of us play ‘two truths and a lie’ for a while (not very exciting to play with two ho-hum midwesterners, I imagine) and then hit the hay.

Ehren watches as David packs up their rooftop tent.

A fishing boat is moored just off shore.

The view from the tent.

Whale bones bleachin’ in the sun.

The next day we make our way back through San Ignacio to continue east on Mex 1 to Mulegé and Bahía de Concepción. We spend the night at our third and final oceanside campsite at Playa Santispac. This place is cool because it has a restaurant at the end of the beach, so we head there to enjoy a late lunch before donning our swimsuits and soaking up the ocean until we feel that desired chill enter our bones (it was another stupid hot day, and we would be disappointed to learn later that night that the temps do not drop here when the sun goes down). No stingrays this time, though we were agitated by sand flea bites for a few days afterward.

Another beach, another palapa.

A nearby lagoon to which we strolled.

We haven’t mentioned it, but Ehren and I weren’t that big on beaches beforehand. Now that our Baja beach trilogy is complete (after Playa Santispac we are in hotels until we reach mainland), we’ve found that we still aren’t beach people. This helps inform our later route through Mexico as we are driven to higher elevations in search of cooler temps.




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