After a first contact with the Gulf of California, we had to change sides again and head back towards the Pacific. The next destination was Guerrero Negro. Shortly before the town, we passed the border between the provinces of Baja Norte and Baja Sud. On this border there is an agriculture checkpoint. It is forbidden to take fruit and vegetables from Norte to Sud. We didn’t have much fruit and vegetables left, but felt it would be a shame to declare and throw away food that was all from Mexico. We nicely replied with a ‘no we don’t have’ and no further questions were asked.
Guerrero Negro has become big through salt production, but there is another highlight that is of greater value to tourists. Every year, around December to February, grey whales give birth to their young here in the lagoon, far away from predators. A spectacle well worth a visit. On the shores of Laguna Ojo de Liebre we spent the night hoping that the whales had already arrived from Alaska.
It must have been around 4am when we woke up to the howling of some coyotes. We had already heard that coyotes come to the beach here and are used to people. After breakfast we decided to explore if the whales were there yet and if we could take a boat out on the water to see these mighty animals up close. However, all the boats were still wrapped in plastic to protect them from the sun and sand, so apparently the season hadn’t started here yet. It turned out that this will be the case from January 1, when the first whale watching tours can be booked.
With the car we followed the gravel road further along the beach overlooking the water, hoping to maybe still see whales. After only 2 kilometers the road stopped and there was only water and a white sandy beach. In order not to let this short detour completely degenerate into a pointless mission, we decided to change clothes and go into the water. On our return we drank a ‘Tequila Sunrise – wannabe-cocktail’.
We decided to drive back to the narrow entrance of the lagoon to increase our chances of spotting a whale. The dirt road to Faro Viejo, the lighthouse that marks the entrance, was one we do not wish for every day. Not because of the natural beauty around us, but because of its terrible quality. Many bird species felt at home in these wetlands so we stopped frequently to get a good look at them. Standing still gave us a much-needed break that we but certainly also the car needed to unwind. We didn’t drive faster than 10 kilometers per hour, but we were well shaken up.
Eventually we reached the lighthouse where we came across a real fish market and where one fishing boat after another was pulled out of the water filled with freshly caught squid. We saw a number of dolphins swimming by, but whales were unfortunately not here either.
On our way toward Bahia Concepcion which is again on the Gulf side of the Baja, we first visited palm-lined San Ignacio on the way. Main attraction is the mission church from 1786. This church built of lava rock dates from the time when the Jesuits erected many churches and other buildings in this region. The church of San Ignacio is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in Baja. We parked in the Plaza, that was surrounded by bars and restaurants, souvenir stores and the church. We walked through the little church and looked at the organ and gardens. The gardens were decorated in the Christmas spirit with a completely furnished stable with Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child, and here and there were decorated trees that could easily pass as Christmas trees. The only thing that didn’t quite fit the Christmas picture were the orange trees.
We had a coffee at Rene’s and drove another 40 kilometers or so to spend the night under the flanks of El Volcan Virgenes on a hilltop at Oscar’s estate. From the restaurant we had an excellent view of the volcano still shining with the last light of the day.
Around 4 a.m. we woke up due to some tapping on the roof of the car. Rain? Does it rain here at all? We had not reckoned with rain, but it did indeed appear to drip a bit. It remained overcast all day on our way to the coast where we scheduled a stop in Santa Rosalia before driving on to Mulege.
Santa Rosalia is a typical port town. Upon arriving we were shocked at how industry can spoil the sight. There was no love at first sight. We replenished our water supply and ran some errand before heading downtown. Here we visited a church made of iron. Something we had never seen before. In fact, the building had been designed by Gustave Eiffel and built in Belgium before finding its final resting place here.
There was no shortage of restaurants or simple eateries here. On a random corner, we put ourselves on two bar stools and ordered two tacos from two friendly ladies. One taco asada and one with tripa. I had no idea what tripa was, but I am always into trying everything out. From now on, my preference will go back to a taco pescado or fish instead of intestine….
In Mulege we went in search of the mission church which unfortunately turned out to be closed. We did not walk up the hill for nothing though, because the view over the river with a forest of palm trees and mountains behind it was impressive.
Bahia Concepcion is a bay in the Gulf of California and is a popular haunt of many overlander and Americans and Canadians escaping winter. Along the bay are several sandy beaches where it is allowed to park ones car and fall asleep with the sound of the lapping water in the background. After a bit of searching, we found some 15 or so free meters at Playa Los Cocos beach where we fitted right in. The only thing that counted now was chairs outside and enjoying the mountain scenery. Here and there an island protruded above the water surface. Yes, this was where we would allow ourselves to linger for a while.
Getting up to the sound of the waves is a wonderful start to the day. While we were still having our breakfast coffee, the first beach vendors came by. From blankets to jewellery to hammocks and T-shirts, everything was on offer, but they were by no means pushy. A friendly “no gracias” was enough. A jeep loaded with kayaks also stopped at our car and for that we were a little more interested. The bay with the offshore islands and rocks looked tempting to explore by kayak. After a little negotiation, we had rented a two-person kayak for 24 hours, paddles and life jackets included. Dimas still offered us firewood, water and tamales with chicken, but the kayak was enough for us.
We took our newly purchased diving goggles with us and off we went. We saw many small fish in the clear water and a beach on one of the islands invited us to take a break. Eddy tried out the diving goggles for the first time, but still felt uncomfortable. We are and will remain simply “underwater-unfit” as it seems to me, but we still have a little time and enough opportunity to practise. We swam another round in the cold water and then set off to circumnavigate the big island. On the way, we kept seeing pelicans, seagulls and large schools of small fish.
On the other side, the wind picked up noticeably and the water, which had been smooth as glass earlier, now had a good swell. We had to paddle hard to get back to our beach. We had earned our lunch. Afterwards it was time to hang out and it was a pleasure to watch the pelicans swoop and dive. Eddy then set off on his own for a second round in the kayak. I continued to laze on the beach and so the afternoon and evening passed. Tomorrow is 31 December and the last day of the year and we want to start it with a sunrise paddletour.
If only we got up on time, we should be able to see the sun rise from the water. Six-thirty the alarm clock went and we turned around one last time. We did put on our clothes and the kayak went into the water. Straight ahead of us, the sky was already turning bright orange so the sun was not long in coming. We paddled on through the calm water until the first rays of the sun appeared from behind the horizon. We paused and quietly enjoyed the moment. The last day of the year had officially begun.
En route near an island, we encountered a colony of pelicans. At least 50 were here at the very tip and by the looks of it they had also just risen. They were diligently washing the sleep out of their eyes before presumably going off together to find breakfast. We circled a large rock and were lucky enough to spot a frigate bird. After a brief hesitation, it still decided to fly away from us in search of safer places.
We too left Playa Los Cocos. Along the coast between Mulege and Loreto, although there are beautiful white sand beaches, it is not much else in terms of amenities. There is no telephone network and one has to search available wifi connection. Our Canadian neighbour had told us that there were two restaurants or supermarkets a bit further down the road that also offered internet by the hour. Taking into account the time difference, we went looking to wish the home front a happy new year. We were eight hours behind Western Europe. So the start of the New Year for us was still some time away.
Spontaneously, we moved to Playa el Coyote. Here, too, it was quite crowded, but we were still in time to take one of the last spots along the waterfront. Here too, the white sand scraped between your toes and the crystal-clear water invited you to cool off.
Along the waterline, brown paper bags with a tea light in them had been placed, which were all lit as darkness fell. Otherwise, the whole evening was remarkably quiet. Where was everyone? During our internet search, we had seen a sign announcing DJ and live music. It couldn’t be far and we combined this search with a walk along the beach. Unfortunately, the beach stopped at one point and we were forced to walk another stretch along the main road in pitch darkness which did not seem like a good idea to us. So we decided to head back and celebrate with our own tequila. At midnight, a neighbour just down the beach lit a flare.