Messico Baja California
From Tijuana to La Paz
After riding in 6 states of the United States, today I bid goodbye and head to the US – Mexico border, Tijuana. Frankly speaking, I’m scared. My biker friends, Andrea and Ashlee, together with Liviu, accompanied me. We rode on I-5-S, as I-5-N, the freeway was filled with lots of huge and fast moving trucks. I got my tourist card at the Mexican immigration (USD23) and then for the first time, GD rolled its wheels on Mexican land – Baja California. I was very excited.
The scenic road from Tijuana followed along the coast to Ensenada. The road was good but I had to pass three tolls (US$1 each). It was quite difficult to find my host’s house in Ensenada as the location he gave to me was wrong. While trying to find the house, I climbed up a steep concrete road, which ended abruptly at a mini construction site. I braked instantly and my tires slid. Due to the load it’s carrying, GD started to reverse even though I had pulled the hand brake. I almost dropped the bike. Slowly, I make a U-turn and head down.
After some difficulties and asking the locals, I found the host’s house. Again I had to undergo a challenge to ride my bike into his back yard as the edge of the road was raised. Thank god I managed to do it. My hosts, Reuben and Clara spoke reasonably good English. In late afternoon, I followed Clara to her mother’s house. We went there by a local bus. It was a nice experience for me to ride on a Mexican bus for the first time of my life.
The next day I rode along Pan-Am 1 Highway to El Rosario. It was not difficult to find my way as the Pan-Am 1 Highway was the one and only main highway in Baja California. There were two times that I almost collided with another vehicle, as I was not familiar with the driving rules here. It was funny that every time when I reached a junction, even though I was on the main road, I was the one who must stop and let the vehicle on the other side pass first. The second time I almost collided was due to a very blurred traffic light which I didn’t notice. It was a big difference to compare the road and driving attitude between Unites States and Baja California people. The roads here are not only narrow but at some parts with pot-holes. At times, I had to climb up some hills, which offered a nice view.
After riding for 250kms, I reached El Rosario, also known as Baja Cactus. This very small town didn’t have any budget hostel, so I ended up staying at Baja Cactus Motel (USD23).
As I made my way out of the town to head south, my view was dominated with giant cactus trees. No wonder El Rosario was called Baja Cactus, because I learned later that starting from here, one could see the giant cactuses all the way to La Paz. It was very amazing to see how huge the cactuses were along the narrow and winding road. Not many vehicles could be seen along the way but I had to pass a few military checkpoints. Fortunately, after asking a few questions, they let me go without searching my bike. I have heard horror stories of how some over-landers were searched and were asked for money. Honestly, the sight of the militaries did make me feel scared, especially when those on pickup trucks passed me. I imagined if they asked me to pull over and demanded money from me. Thank god my wild imaginings never happen.
As I made my way, the road I’m riding crossed a vast desert. Wind started to blow fiercely, sometimes from my right side and sometimes from my left side. My neck felt so painful due to having to fight the wind. I saw the carcass of a cow by the roadside. Herring gulls were having a feast by eating the carcass. I bet the poor animal might have deviated from its group accidentally and couldn’t find its way home. It died due to failure in finding water in this desert.
I reached Guerrero Negro after riding for 374kms, feeling so exhausted. I found a place to pitch my tent. It was hard to pitch my tent due to the wind but after some struggles, I managed to get it to stand. That night, the wind got even fiercer and I must admit that I was scared. My tent was almost blown down by the wind. I bet the fierce wind was the edge of the tornado, which was heading to Mexico main land at this moment. It was only at 2am the wind lessened and I managed to sleep.
I woke up late the next day. It was only at 11.30am that I started my ride, heading south. My targeted destination was Mulege, a nice beach town. The wind was still strong at certain places. Some times I got a side wind and sometimes, I got a tail wind, which was good. I got a very strong side wind when nearing Santa Rosalia. My poor GD was blown from side to the middle of the road. Luckily the road was deserted. However, the view of gorges, canyon and Pacific Coast was so stunning.
Arriving in Mulege, I decided to find a place to stay elsewhere. I continued riding to Concepcion Bay. I found Playa Santispac where my friend, Andrea told me that I could camp, but there was no fresh water here and I really need to shower. I left the beautiful beach and tried to find another accommodation. I found Posada Concepcion, which another over-lander friend, Alex Wong told me about. This place was situated at a very beautiful bay and I fell in love with this place at first sight so I decided to stay there for 2 nights. The green turquoise water was shallow and crystal clear. It was soooo beautiful.
After resting for 2 days at Concepcion Bay, I made my way to the last town in Baja for my ride – La Paz. I started early, as the distance was far, 516km. It was an easy ride even though the road was winding, because there was no wind in the morning. I rode fast to La Paz and managed to arrive at 3.30pm. I headed straight to the address of the customs office to get my Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP). I didn’t get this permit at the Tijuana border because it was not compulsory to get it when riding in Baja, but it’s a must if you want to ride your own vehicle in Mexico main land. The address, which was given to me, was wrong. I found the place, but there was no customs office there.
To make matters worse, I had to ride on thick soft sands for 3kms to get to the address, and another 3kms to exit. It was a very hot day and having to ride on soft sands was no fun at all. Communication failure really makes me frustrated. A local spoke to me in Spanish, telling me to go to a nearby pharmacy as someone might speak English there. I found the pharmacy but the staff didn’t speak English. However, using the translator on his phone, we managed to converse. The guy helped me to call the customs office. Only then I knew that Pichilingue (the customs office location) was not at Pichilingue Street as I was told, but at the pier itself. It was already after office hours by then, so there was nothing that I could do anymore. I asked locals for a cheap hotel, and they told me to go to Bahia Dorada Hotel, which charged 400 pesos (US$26). It was already dark by then and I had no more energy to find a cheaper place elsewhere.
The anxiety of what’s awaiting me in main land Mexico, and the concern of not having got my permit and ferry ticket yet made me not sleep very well last night. I guess I think too much. At 10am, I went to a bank to withdraw money. Unlike Baja which accepted USD at hotels, gas stations or shops, main land Mexico did not. I withdrew 5500 Pesos, but the machine only gave me 5300 Pesos. Later when I checked my account, I lost RM100 for this withdrawal. I didn’t understand why, whether it was the bank fee or whatever, but RM100 fee for one withdrawal was too much. By 12pm, I had made my way to Pichilingue, which was about 25kms from La Paz. Nearing the pier, I noticed that my GPS was wobbling. Suddenly, the holder broke.
Thank god I managed to catch it before it dropped. Phewwww. I arrived the pier and located the Banjercito (customs office). The officer could speak English. I had my permit done for US$60 and I had to pay US$400 refundable deposit for my bike. Then I went to the ferry building to purchase my ferry ticket. It cost 2200 Pesos (US$147) for myself and the bike, without cabin. Then I had my bike inspection done and had to pay again 77 Pesos (US$5.50) for port tax. It was money, money, and money today. While waiting to board the Baja Ferry, I had a conversation with a very nice Mexican guy. His name was Mario. He spoke very fluent English. He offered me his cabin for free, as the cabin had 4 bunk beds and only him and his 18-year old assistant occupied the cabin. I accepted his offer and was very glad to as the sea was quite rough.