Finally, it was time to cross into Baja. We were crossing at the Tijuana border. I later read this is one of the busiest border crossings in the world. You don't say? As we approached the border we felt like cattle being herded into a pen. We were asked a few questions, the border agent peeked in our windows, and we were sent on our way. Since we crossed much later than we planned to, we were in a rush to get as far as possible from Tijuana. As a matter of fact we never actually stopped to get our tourist cards, instead we got caught up in the herd of cars headed towards the city center. Oops.
We were feeling intimidated to say the least and it took us about 15 minutes to find Mex 1D, the toll road to Ensenada. What were we going to do about the tourist cards?
We arrived at our first stop, El Rancho Faro (The Lighthouse Ranch). This was our first volunteering stint with the Muskoka Foundation. There was a little confusion on our part, as to what was going to be happening at El Rancho Faro, but things eventually got straightened out and we were able to spend about 4 days getting to know the people.
El Ranch Faro is an all girls orphanage in the beautiful wine country of Northern Baja. The orphanage is a new partnership for Muskoka, so Brenton and I were there to get to know the people and the area and get some insight into what Muskoka can do for them. Our favorite part of our visit came on our last night.
One of the ferocious guard dogs at the Ranch. This is Ocho, he enjoys barking all night while you try to sleep.
Our last night there, the director of the orphanage and her husband came to us insisting that we stay in their pop up camper. We were trying to explain to them that we were very comfortable and warm in our car and that they didn't need to go to the trouble. They clearly weren't buying it, so we told them to look for themselves. Apparently they were under the impression that we were sleeping in our reclined bucket seats this whole time. They were amazed that our set up wasn't your typical SUV. The kids gathered round and we spent a couple of hours giving them a tour of the truck and, at their request, showed them pictures on our laptop of the different places we have traveled to. Brenton and I just stood back and watched their faces light up with curiosity and amusement.
Showing them the accomodations in our casita.
Here they are looking at our pictures from Overland Expo '11...you should've seen their faces while looking at some of the rigs. Suddenly ours had lost its lustre!
And those pesky tourist cards? On our last day at El Rancho Faro we got up early and drove to Tecate. After some reading, we figured this would be much easier. It's a much smaller and less crowded city and border crossing. Good choice. We found parking easily, just a block from the Migration Office and the entire process took no more than 15 minutes. We now have officially 180 days in Mexico, yay!
This little doll gave Shannon a bunch of free spanish lessons.
This little guy was a ton of amusement...once he finally warmed up to us.
We said our goodbyes to El Ranch Faro and headed south once again. We made our way to the town of Vicente Guerrero. We pulled up to our camp for the night, Posada Don Diego Resaturant/Bar/Trailer Park. We picked our spot and went in the restaurant to pay. After a quick glance at the menu, we decided we couldn't resist the temptation to have some good seafood. Shortly after we sat down, another couple sat at the table next to us and we chatted with them throughout our meal. Bruce and Lisa are from Canada. They had driven to La Paz and were making their way back north. They have been doing this trip for eight years so they had plenty of excellent recommendations for us as we head south. We told them our ultimate plan to drive to Tierra del Fuego and Bruce thought for a minute, then simply said, "every young couple should do that trip." We agree.
A typical view from MEX 1, anywhere in Central Baja.
The next morning we headed towards the town of Cataviña. On the the way we stopped in El Rosario to fill our gas tank and our two jerry cans. El Rosario is the last (reliable) place to fill up for almost 200 miles. Although we saw these entrepreneurs once we pulled into Cataviña. While we topped off our tank, it was hard not to grin...especially considering the extra dollar per liter these guys were charging.
Not long after passing through El Rosario, the landscape begins to change. There are all types of cacti: cirio (or boojum) trees, cardons, barrel cactus, chollas, and agaves. This area is known as the Sonoran Desert Vegetation Region and some of these species of cacti are only found here. As we got nearer to Cataviña we entered another impressive area known as the Catiñva boulder fields. This has been my favorite area so far. Huge boulders as far as the eye can see with these beautiful and unique cacti dispersed throughout. It was breathtaking. Just outside of Cataviña is El Marmol, an abandoned onyx mining area. We spent some time exploring among the chunks of onyx and hiking to an old mining entrance.
(Shannon was getting a little nervous driving here, but I was having a ball while pushing the limits.)
In case you've ever wondered what Onyx looks like in the raw.
Our next destination was Bahia de Los Angles (Bay of Angels). Up to this point in Baja, the weather had been mostly overcast, windy, and cold.
We were really hoping for some sunshine and warmth, and we weren't disappointed. As we approached the town, the skies opened and sun was shining. The Bay of Angles is beautiful. Our view to the west is a large rocky mountain range and our view to the east is the beautiful blue waters and the islands guarding the bay, the largest of which, Isla Angel de la Guarda, is 45 miles (75 km) long! The protection these islands offer gave me some reassurance our second day here when a local gringo told us that an earthquake had hit Acapulco and we didn't know yet if there would be a Tsunami as a result. What? A Tsunami? No one seemed overly alarmed but I watched the waters closely. I am happy to report, there was no Tsunami.
We don't know how long we'll be staying in Bahia de Los Angles, but this little oasis has kept our attention for several days now. We've been enjoying the company of our camp neighbors, talking with the locals, delicious seafood, perfect weather, and of course there's always the views. This is what it's all about.