North Gulf: San Felipe and Driving South
The next morning we headed east along Mexico Highway 3 towards San Felipe. Geoff had traveled way twice before on previous Baja trips and was excited to show me the town. Mainly, it was all about the fish tacos. On the way, we went through a few military checkpoints. The young guys with big guns running the stops did nothing more than ask us where were going or perhaps look in the back of the truck. Searching for drugs in the middle of the desert? They seemed pretty bored.
Heading into San Felipe, we came across "machines at work", doing road construction. All traffic was diverted to a detour — which turned out to be a mile of driving in the sand alongside the road. Of course, in our 4x4 van, we love leaving pavement. But the other tourists in their pristine bus-sized RVs (all pulling their shiny "toad" cars) were probably not so happy. We smiled as they inched and bumped along, and we passed on by.
The drive took about 4 hours so we were ravenous by the time we arrived in San Felipe. We got there just about at the start of the siesta so many of the restaurants had closed. We found one taco stand, but wow was it good! Fresh fish fried in a corn batter served hot on corn tortillas for 8 pesos each (less than US$1). Along with the tacos came a buffet of condiments: freshly made guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, marinated onions, cabbage, white sauce and limes. Mmmmm! Geoff, of course, ordered another campechana.
We refilled our water supply from the grocery store. Many stores in Mexico
have a self-serve water dispenser. Stick your jug underneath and fill! Then we
hiked up to the shrine at the top of the hill at the north end of town, and
took a look back towards San Felipe.
We left town much later than expected and didn't travel too far south before
it was time to a find place to camp. Along the shore south of San Felipe, there are
many ranchos, or ranches run mainly by Americans. These places charge
US$3-$5 to camp for the night, and sometimes have showers and other amenities.
But with our camper van, we wanted to find our own private little space on the
beach. After poking around for a bit, found an uninhabited beach-front area
between a fishing camp and a distant group of houses.
Because of recent rains, the spiky ocotillos had just begun to sprout tiny leaves and bloom — even some which had been transformed into fence posts!
Laura had been warned that the road to Puertecitos wasn't in great condition and, wow, did we find that to be true! From San Felipe to Puertecitos, the pavement was old and unmaintained, so huge potholes had formed. More and more potholes merged until the road was more or less half pavement and half gravel. Every few yards was a transition which meant lurching up or down several inches. A simple gravel road would have been so much better! We pitied the folks who had to take this road every day. The road continued to degrade until it finally turned completely into gravel. Much better! But, there were still occasional killer potholes, like the one pictured with a size-10 shoe for comparison!
We ate lunch at volcanic rocky beach. As we were eating, enjoying the sun, and watching frigates (huge gliding birds which are prevalent throughout Baja), a pack of coyotes shot past, yipping and squealing.
We stopped early at Playa Buffeo to camp on a beach we had to ourselves.
The next morning, we were back on the road again. The road was fully gravel now, but had terrible washboarding. Most of the time, we found there was a sandy track paralleling the main road was in much better condition. Every once in awhile, we would encounter a river wash or something which would require us to temporarily get back on the main road. At one point, we almost drove over this guy on the side of the road who was kicking back, having a beer while he waited for his buddies surveying the road. Surveying?! In the middle of nowhere! Might that mean pavement is coming sometime in the future? We've heard rumors...
We started to see an amazing diversity of cactuses. Little did Laura know that it would only get better!