Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Guerrero Negro, and San Ignacio
Our next destination was Laguna Ojo de Liebre (or Scammon's Lagoon). We had read about camping there, where we would be able to hear the sounds of whales through the night. That sounded lovely.
When we reached Highway 1 again, the skies opened up and it began to pour. It would rain on us like that for the rest of the day. After a few hours of driving we had to cross the border between the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Yes, there actually is a border crossing, with an Agricultural Inspection Station. We had read that the officials would confiscate any fruits and vegetables, and also spray the underside of our car with herbicide. Well, when we arrived at the station it was dumping buckets of rain, and the guy manning the station didn't seem to want to get wet. He just poked his head out of his booth and waved us on.
At this point, we changed time zones, from Pacific to Mountain.
As we drove along the 16 mile road over the salt flats to the camping area, and evening approached, the weather was astounding. We were in awe of the colorful beauty that was around us. To the east, the sky was pitch black with lighting streaking out horizontally. To the west, the clouds were lifted just high enough that we could see a gorgeous magenta sunset. The sky became continuously more stunning as we zoomed along, trying to get to the end of the before dark. We were thankful that the dirt road wasn't slippery when wet. These photos give a bit of the feeling, but cannot capture the magnificent color and sheer beauty of that moment.
We arrived at the campsite
The next morning we wandered along the beach and with binoculars. Off in the distance, we could see numerous spouts, fins and tails, splashes, and big whale heads spyhopping. There was a flurry of whale activity in the lagoon!
We explored the beach around the lagoon, and found an area of crumbly cliffs where ancient seashells were embedded into the bank. One particular type of large conical shell protruded from the bank was distinctive. It would separate in flakes in our hands. We couldn't yet figure out what it was, but we would find its live counterparts exploring tidepools a few days later.
After exploring the beach, we were excited to head back into the town of Guerrero Negro for real food at a restaurant, and to fill up on food, water and gas, before heading south towards San Ignacio. Guerrero Negro is not a pretty town but after camping for so long, we were excited to be there. We decided to eat at the Malarrimo Restaurant. We were looking forward to a nice sit down meal after making so many ourselves. The Malarrimo Restaurant was known for its seafood, and as we discovered, was part of a RV park.
We sat outside on the patio and spoke in Spanish to our waiter. He let us practice our speaking even though he was well aware that it was not our native language. We were pleased to note that all the other diners were Spanish speakers.
While we waited for our food, we watched RV after RV pull into the parking lot in front of the restaurant, and then back their huge rigs into the RV park area. Watching the monster RVs, we very much appreciated our Sportsmobile camper van's reasonable size and go-anywhere abilities. We also watched the tour leader, a wiry old guy, run around the parking lot trying to organize his convoy of arriving RVs. Later, while we were eating our delicious meal, we saw him asking someone at Malarrimo (in his southern drawl), "well, isn't there someone I can talk to who speaks better English?" You would think someone who leads trips into Baja California Mexico would at least know some Spanish.
We also learned that because elections were being held this weekend, the government forbade the sale of liquor.
After lunch, we started our shopping excursion. We first head in a large grocery store to pick up some essentials. At first, we struggled with finding some of the basics — even corn tortillas and black beans! We just had to ask. It turned out that the beans were in a big wooden bin at the back of the store, and the corn tortillas were warm and fresh stored in a cooler by the cash registers. The produce selection was very good, so we bought lots of broccoli (to keep Geoff happy). Because of the elections weekend alcohol ban, we had to wait until our next shopping trip to buy more alcohol. Poor us!
The next step was getting water. The last water refill we had done was in San Felipe in the grocery store. However, we found a store devoted to dispensing drinking water. We learned throughout the rest of our trip that almost every town has one of these water stores, and they are usually the cheapest place to get clean water. Most people buy 5 gallon containers, and bring them back for refilling, but they were willing to fill our personal containers for us too. The water store had a huge room with a large drained table and 5 high pressure spouts coming from the ceiling. We handed the man in the filling room our 2 and 5 gallon containers, which were covered with dust from our driving over the back roads. He scrubbed them with soap and washed them out and then filled them with water. He yelled to the woman at the next window how many gallons it was and we paid her. It was 3 pesos a gallon (or US$2.10 for 7 gallons), 40% less than what we paid in San Felipe. We filled our onboard water tank in the van with the 5 gallon container and had it refilled.
After getting gas, food and water, and picking up some pesos at the ATM machine, we were all set to head back out into the wilderness. As we head out of town, Laura laughed at the idea of taking a Mexican spinning class in Spanish. That would be interesting!
San Ignacio is an old-fashioned place, with a traditional town square cooled by the shade of the surrounding date palm trees. It's the opposite of Guerrero Negro's hot and dusty strip mall! We explored the well-preserved mission, and ate lunch at Rene's. Finding an internet cafe on the main square, we sent out some email to let our friends know we were still alive.
As it was election weekend, voting booths were set up in the town square. "Tu voto es libre y secreto," the sign said.