Buenos Dias! Everything is still OK. Dogs, people, and van. After Ensenada, we decided to check out the hot springs in Puertecitos. The thing is, there’s one main highway that runs North/South down the whole Baja Peninsula and our plan is to drive the whole thing. But to get to Puertecitos you have to take a little detour over to the west coast. No big deal. There’s a road from Puertecitos that heads south and eventually picks up the North/South highway, saving a ton of time. The problem is that road is unfinished. The passability of that road is the topic of much discussion among RVers. We talked to a bunch of people and decided that it was not worth risking a broken axle. But since we heard good things about Puertecitos we decided it would be worth it to drive four hours there and four hours back to Ensenada even though it was out of our way. Plus, I was dying to get my first look at the Sea of Cortez.
Because driving at night here is highly not recommended, we spent the night in San Felipe along the way. I’m sorry if your mom’s from there and you have warm and happy childhood memories of the place, but San Felipe is now firmly in my top ten of worst towns ever. It’s unbelievably weird in an ominous way. Lots of abandoned RV parks, roaming dogs, terrible tacos, and retired Canadians who should dream bigger. None of these things are unusual in Baja, but for some reason in San Felipe it all adds up to no bueno. If you’ve ever seen that movie Quick Change with Bill Murray and Geena Davis where they rob a bank and spend the rest of the movie just trying to get out of NYC, you may remember the scene where the old lady with a cart is wailing “ Flores! Flores para los muertos!” over and over again. In San Felipe I kept thinking I was going to run into that lady at any minute. We moved on pretty quickly.
It turns out Puertecitos is a scruffy little village with a campground that has a handful of palapas (which are like little shaded beach huts) right on the water. It was completely deserted when we got there, but we found a young guy named Luis who took our camping fee and explained to us that the gate to the village is locked at 10 pm and no one can go in or out after that. Obviously. Where would you go? He also led us to the springs…which were fantastic. Basically, there are these hot springs that fill little rock pools with steaming hot water. Then, when the tide comes in, the cold water floods into the pools and cools them down. So you end up with a patchwork of pools ranging from scalding hot to mildly warm, depending on how close to the waterline you go. Fabulous.
After soaking in the springs for a while, we settled into the empty campground in our almost totally unpopulated town. Locked. In. We got a little spooked in the middle of the night when we were awakened by crazy howling noises that we did not investigate. Eventually we had a discussion about zombies and went back to sleep.
The next morning we met these two young dudes who were bicycling down the baja. Uh-huh. Yup. Michael and Ben. We got to chatting and it turns out they’d heard the next bay down the road, Bahia Gonzaga, was really amazing. It was just a little bit down the road and it was before the notorious unfinished road. It seemed a shame to miss out on that so we pressed onward, agreeing to meet up with our new biking friends if possible. Which we did. And it was great. The landscape and the drive were amazing. Like otherworldly amazing. Bahia Gonzaga itself was pretty cool. We spent two nights there. We had a beach bbq with our new friends and a very cool couple from Utah. After extensive discussion we realized if we were to push onwards there were really only 24 miles of the unfinished road. And it would be insanity to backtrack almost 6 hours in the wrong direction. And if we combined forces with Michael and Ben we would have four sets of eyes on the road and two bikes on which to go looking for help if need be. Sold. We stuck their bikes in the back of the Travato and took off.
That 24 miles wasn’t so much a road as a path through a totally stunning desert landscape. In my head, despite the warnings, I was imagining a road that was in really bad shape. You know, big potholes, broken pavement. That’s not what this is. Think about it: an unfinished road is a normal road that completely stops at some point and then is just an idea. That’s what this was. There was a nice road and then there were big barricades and then, off to the side, were the tracks of the total idiots who came before us, following an idea into the desert. If you’re imagining some kind of raucous, devil-may-care, beer commercial adventure, you are sadly mistaken. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful, ass-clenching tedium. It took us three hours to make it through that section. That means we averaged 8 miles an hour, which seems extremely generous. We’re so happy to have had Ben and Michael with us. They hopped out at several points to scope the “road” ahead because, in addition to the gnarly terrain, there are all of these off-shoot paths and nothing is labeled. All hail the Travato. Totally unscathed. You can do anything if you do it slow enough.
We kept our new Mexi-family together all the way to Bahia de Los Angeles, another beautiful beach community on the Sea of Cortez. Which is where we are now. Resting and taking care of some essentials. Like getting the propane tank filled and getting some laundry done. Our new buddies took off on their bikes today. Hopefully we’ll see them further along the route. Next stop: Guerrero Negro for some whale watching. Thanks for tuning in.
Sidenotes: we’ve been through numerous military checkpoints and still haven’t shown any paperwork. If we end up missing, maybe follow up with Michael and Ben. Last names unknown. Also Michael-we have your alligator!