Whoah it’s hot! My van feels like an oven, waking up at the perfect white sand/blue water beach. It’s not even 8 yet but I have to get out. There’s no shower so I’ll go for a swim. But even in the shade of my hut it’s hot. The only option to cool down is to drive. So I’m on the road again. I stop in Loreto, a beautiful colonial town. But it’s Sunday afternoon and very hot (did I mention yet that it’s hot here? Well, it’s hot). So there’s not much to do. I heard about a very old monastery in the colonial village of San Javier in the mountains nearby. Driving means wind and mountains should also cool down stuff a bit. The road is pretty steep… And I forgot about that hurricane a few days ago… The road is flooded… Looks like only a centimeter… should be doable… A construction site… That means driving parallel to the main road but 30 meters lower… steep slopes… big potholes and loads of dirt… Still doable… And there is some more water on the road… probably 10 cm… Now it shouldn’t get much worse because I’ll have to turn around… Luckily the half of meter of road missing on the side with a 50 meter cliff is marked with some rocks…. I’ll just keep going… Ah now this is a challenge: 1.5 of the two lanes have disappeared in a sinkhole… there’s some big potholes right before and after this mess and on the side where the road is still intact there is another cliff… By now I know exactly how wide my van is and I fit exactly. Mission accomplished! The monastery is still in it’s original shape of 1699 in the middle of a cobblestone village surrounded by palm trees and high mountains. After hanging around the town for a bit I have to drive the same way back. At least downhill makes it easier on the van. That evening more campsites are closed and I end up sleeping behind a restaurant/hotel. This sounds bad but it was in a beautiful garden with private toilet, shower and swimming pool (nobody was staying at the hotel). The only thing was that the claim from the security guy that there were absolutely no mosquitoes was a bit optimistic. Also the guard dogs really liked licking the sweat salt from my legs.
There’s not much between Loreto and La Paz only a few industrial towns. The only tourism around is for the whales, but they don’t arrive for another few months. Time to fill up and diesel and drive all day. All fuel stations here are serviced so I asked the lady to fill up my half empty 80 liter tank. You can’t pay by card so I get some cash from my locker. When I get back to the front of the van I see that she filled me up with 6o liter. I know you can get more than 80 in the tank, but 20 liter extra is a bit much. I guess this is the first time I get ripped off…But after a day of driving it turns out it was actually possible. 400km later my van was still indicating a full tank.
In La Paz I could finally organize the van importation paperwork at the ferry harbor. The man working there spoke perfect English which is always nice while dealing with paperwork. Funny Mexican bureaucracy: they need a copy of you passport, car papers and Mexican tourist card. Only problem is that this office does not have a copier. So they send you to the police office two doors to the left where you can get copies for 2 pesos per page. Anyway, after loads of paperwork, some typos and a bit of money my van is now legally in Mexico. I spend the rest of the day at a remote beach north of the harbor. Drove my van near the water, went for a swim and lunch. The campsite I had planned for that night in La Ventana was not far away along the coast, but somehow the road went all the way inland and over some 700m high mountains.
The campsite was the first one in a long time with some actual shade from some ridiculously large palm trees. A good spot for a lazy planning day to figure out when I’ll take the ferry to the mainland. The campsite was described as a gringo ghetto. Which is exactly what it was. There was no system and no services. You just claim a bit of the beach and if you want water, power or sewer you just bring your own pipes and cables. Most of the other people there were staying for many months. It’s a famous kite surfing beach so that also gave me something to watch.
Another day on the beach at Cabo Pulmo. Famous for one of the few Pacific beaches with coral reefs. The last 15km of the road was bad. Really bad. Unpaved, washboards, holes and rocks. I could drive max 20km/h but just to be sure the Mexicans still had put some actual speed bumps in the road. For those I had to go even slower. The road was bad enough that I lost one of my wheel caps. The beach was totally worth it. You had to pay 40 pesos (2 euros) to park there and be allowed to use the toilets and showers (three walls and a garden hose). And for another whopping 10 pesos (50 cents) you get to stay overnight too. Let me think about that…. Obviously I’ll stay. I had to rent snorkeling gear since mine didn’t fit in my bag. The guy really wanted me to give me a life vest too. I told him I swim a lot and when I go snorkeling I actually want to dive underwater too. After a long discussion he let me go without, but if the coastguard would show up I would have to get out of the water real quick. The snorkeling was great. Sadly enough the reef itself was largely dead and bleached but the fish were beautiful: bright yellow puffer-fish with black dots, rainbow-colored parrot-fish, bright blue trigger-fish and so much more. I was already very happy when a sea turtle floated into view. And a few minutes later another. Those animals are so cool floating through the water. They really didn’t care about me swimming right next to them. The fins the rental guy gave me were too small and started cutting in my toes. I got out at a remote beach to see that I had swum way further than I expected. They way back with the fins in my hands wasn’t too bad when another three turtles showed up. Back at the beach some more people also had decided to stay overnight but most people left. The owner told me I could move my van closer to the water if I wanted to. Just when I thought this is close enough I felt my front tires sink a few centimeters into the loose sand. Stuck! Luckily some of the guys at the beach pushed my out again. I should be a bit more careful and back in onto beaches to keep my front tires on the better sand.
The road continuing from the beach was supposed to be even worse and even longer than the way in, so I drove back. At 500 meter of the beginning of the dirt road I found my wheel cap. Completely shattered by cars running it over. When I picked it up I noticed I had lost another one on the way back… Today I planned to drive along the southern tip of Baja from the not too touristy town of San Jose del Cabo, past the very touristy Cabo San Lucas to the nice Todos Santos. Well both Cabos were way too touristy for my taste. Big modern hotels and shopping malls. You couldn’t get to a beach because they were all owned by the fancy hotels. Todos Santos was very pretty. Following my GPS I drove into a street I noticed that all cars were parked in the opposite direction. And then I noticed a police car. Turned out I drove into a badly signposted one way street. “Pretending” not to speak Spanish got me out of that relatively easy. All the official campsites in Todos Santos turned out to be ruined by the hurricane, a fire or were just closed. I did spot a beach for wild camping but I didn’t want to get stuck again with nobody around. So I decided to drive to La Paz for another hour back to the campsite I was at a few days ago. When I drove into the campsite I saw that the Swiss VW van from Ensenada was there too. Turns out there was also a Dutch guy in a German RV and best of all a Mexican Bible Camp for kids. Probably about 100 kids spending the weekend in musical prayers, with emotional preachers and loads of games. Fun!
Time to book the ferry to mainland Mexico. This ended up being way more complicated than needed. I had heard that the included sitting sleeping spots on the ferry would be really bad. Also sometimes the boat doesn’t take 12 but 40 hours. So I wanted to book a room. But the cheap rooms were booked out, or maybe not, or maybe they were. Also they needed loads of car paperwork. Then I couldn’t pay by card and had to find a bank to get cash. In the end I got a Junior Executive Suite Exterior. This was only a bit more expensive than the booked out normal rooms. But instead of a shared room with 4 beds I had a private room with private bathroom with tub, a balcony, a TV and a fridge filled with beer and soda. This was enough complicated work for the day so I went back to my “deserted” beach from last week. Except for the fact that it was Saturday and it was now completely packed. Back at the campsite I found the Swiss guys again for a beer and there was more entertainment from the Bible Camp.
The boat would only leave Sunday at 8. I spend the morning in La Paz. A beautiful town. But because it’s Sunday morning all stores are closed. Time to spend some time calling friends in Switzerland. I decided to wait for the boat on my now regular beach spot. The American guy I met in Cabo Pulmo dropped by on his motor, he is also taking the ferry today. At the ferry you get a border police inspection of your car. You have to get your car weighted for a ridiculous price. Then it turned out that the paper “ticket” I got yesterday was only a reservation confirmation and had to be changed at another office to actual tickets. At the queue for the ferry I saw both the American and the Swiss in the same queue. The ferry was very nice from the inside and my room was great. I had dinner with the American, the Swiss and an Italian motorcyclist all doing the panamerican. The American and Italian guy joined me for beers on my balcony after which I got to sleep in a nice bed and they had to go back to their chairs (yes, I mentioned way to often to them how nice my room was). Time to sleep. Tomorrow will be mainland Mexico. Way more crowded. Looking forward to it.