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The Baja Expedition 2011 Team.Back Row (L to R): Nancy, Matt, Kathleen, Bob, Dan, Ron
the name invites intrigue and mystery. I have lived in the Southwest
for most of my life and despite that fact, I have been enthralled with
the idea of Baja California. Baja is unique in that it is relatively
close to the continental US and has large tracts of undeveloped desert
and mountains. For years, the off roading community in California
made trips to Baja seeking adventure, solitude and in some cases, just
respite from the day-to-day grind of life in these United States.
Our group of Unimog friends have been to Baja many times and this year, rather than returning to the Altar Desert, we decided to join one of the members of the group at his surf camp at Punta Canoas. From there, we would continue south along the Pacific coast and then cross inland and return north along the Sea of Cortez side of the peninsula.
The group consisted of 5 vehicles and 10 people and our trip was a full week in duration. We logged many miles of both highway and dirt roads and had a fair number of mechanical problems along the way. The good news was that nobody got sick or hurt.
The following figures were from Baja California Almanac
and show the index pages from the book. At $25, this book
reasonably priced, an outstanding value and is a great help when
navigating the peninsula. I strongly recommend that you get it
you heading south as it is the best one that I have found. It is
available, among other places, at the Map Center in San Diego as well
as direct through their web site.
They also sell a folding map that is not as detailed, but still
provides great information. As you can see in the figures, the book a
detailed section (2 pages) for each numbered region on the map.
are full topo maps and include a section for traveler's notes.
Sadly, during the trip, we heard that the Almanac was now out of print,
but that copies could still be found on eBay.
you can see, Baja is a big place. Nearly 1100 miles long, careful
attention to logistics are required before you go. As any person
has been there can attest, services are not always as they seem.
because there is a Pemex station does not mean they have fuel.
Forewarned is forearmed, so go prepared with fuel and water. Be
to arm yourself with the most recent information before you go.
one other thing. Baja is a desert. Water is in short supply
of the time. Rains can take a casual situation and turn it into a
crisis, washing out roads, bridges and other infrastructure. In
the fall of 2003, a hurricane put ashore at La Paz causing
substantial damage and interruption to traffic on the main north-south
highway. You can be stranded for days should such an event occur,
insure that you have extra food and water to meet your needs.
Indeed, on our trip, we were hit by a major winter storm that left many
towns giant mud holes and made the trails slick and treacherous.
Due to the luck of the draw, I
left our Almanac at home sitting happily on the couch. Our only
map was the AAA map and it generally proved sufficient. We did
not purchase a Mexican base map for our GPS, so it was of no use to us
Our travels were constrained to Baja California Norte. While we have been to the state of Sur before, the time allotted to the trip was not sufficient to get that far south. Indeed, our actual itinerary was somewhat of a "forced march" in that it required that we camp in a different location each day and precluded us from deeply exploring the area traveled. In Figure 1 below, our camps were located in cell numbers as shown in the table below.
||Bahia Santa Maria
||Mission San Borja
Matt was kind enough to provide me with several links to our actual route. The first is a KML file that will launch Google Earth, the second will redirect you to everytrail.com
Google Earth Path
The link table below contains links to the photos and dialog for each of the days of the expedition.
|San Diego to San Quintin, BCN
Quintin to Puna Canoas
Canoas to Punta Vibora
Vibora to Bahia Maria
Maria to Mission San Francisco Borja
San Francisco Borja to Punta Final
Final to Guadalupe Canyon and San Diego
The Mexican Military has greatly increased it's presence in
encountered them time and time again, even in remote locations.
checkpoint was very remote on a dirt road and we had to pass through at
9pm which made us look very much like drug runners . You must let them
inspect your vehicle, even if they are making
"unreasonable" demands. One fellow insisted that I open a sealed
package to demonstrate what was inside.
If you go to Baja, you will need liability insurance through a Mexican company. These policies are reasonably priced (usually by the day, week or season) and are available through the AAA and online as well as kiosks at the border. Mexican law dictates that you must have insurance and if you were to be stopped by the police or be involved in an accident and did NOT have insurance, you will not be pleased with what happens next.
The fuel situation in Baja has improved greatly over the years. That said, just because the map states that there is a Pemex station does not mean that they will have fuel. Or YOUR fuel. If the supply truck does not come, for whatever reason, you will be unpleasantly surprised, so take extra fuel.
U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Baja. Usually, you will pay less for items if you pay in Pesos since the exchange rate of the day usually does not filter into the back country. Generally speaking, the exchange rate is 10:1 ten pesos per dollar as it is easy to compute. At the time of this writing, the current exchange rate is about 11.5:1. ATM machines will accept U.S. credit cards and dispense pesos.
If you have a GPS and intend to use it for navigation in Baja,
insure that you have a recent base map that shows trails and roads in
your intended area of travel. Without an updated base map, the
GPS will only tell you "I am here" but that will not be very useful.
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Copyright Bill Caid 2011