Gulf of California, North

Mexicali

I crossed the border into Mexico at Mexicali East (which is much smaller and more laid back than the main crossing further west into Mexicali proper). See in Google Maps See on a USGS topographic map See in Google Earth 32.6716, -115.3884  This was the first time I got the red light instead of green at the search lottery traffic light that all Mexican borders have — but the border officials just gave my vehicle a quick glance over. I then arranged my tourist visa ("FMM"), a half hour process of forms and fee paying (at a separate bank building). I've never been asked for this form — which is officially required for driving farther than northern Baja — but for peace of mind I have always taken the time to pick one up at the border.

I then spent much of the morning in the city of Mexicali stocking up for my trip — with a visit to the ATM for cash, groceries, a new SIM card for my Mexican phone, and ... tacos!

Percebú / Sand Island

When I was ready, I headed south on Highway 5. Four hours later, I was on one of my favorite beaches south of San Felipe, a deserted sand spit south of Percebú (known as "Sand Island"). Access can be tricky near high tide, as the access road gets flooded and turns into impassible mud. It's most likely this inaccessibility that keeps this beach from being developed with gringo vacation homes like the other beaches to the north and south. In any case, I was lucky with my timing. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 30.7911, -114.6998 

The aerial photos were taken with a DJI Phantom quadcopter carrying a GoPro Hero2 camera.

Percebu - Sand Island - Beach - SportsmobilePercebu - Sand Island - Beach (aerial photo)Percebu - Sand Island - Beach (aerial photo)Percebu - Sand Island - Beach (aerial photo)

There were plenty of pelicans around, including one sad pelican I saw walking up the length of the beach, apparently with a broken wing [not pictured].

Percebu - Sand Island - Pelicans - BeachPercebu - Sand Island - Pelicans - Beach

Wading out into the water, I found these nifty sand dollars with both 5-fold and 2-fold symmetry. And I managed to not step on this flat little ray hiding in the sand.

Percebu - Sand Island - Sand DollarsPercebu - Sand Island - Sand Dollars - BeachPercebu - Sand Island - Ray - Beach

Here is the Percebú access road. You can see the marshy area it crosses before the sand spit on the right side of the first photo below.

Percebu - Sand Island - Beach (aerial photo)Percebu - Sand Island - Beach - Sportsmobile (aerial photo)

Volcán Prieto

I had driven by Volcán Prieto many times, but this trip was the first time I had my flying camera with me — so I stopped to take some aerial photos of the volcano. The crater at the top has two little white dry lake beds, in which people have written messages with black rocks. The volcano almost looks like it has a face peering out the top, with these two playas as eyes, and the dry rivulets below as a toothy grin. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 30.2257, -114.6558 

Volcán Prieto - Volcano - BeachSouth of Volcán Prieto - Road - Sportsmobile (aerial photo)Looking North from Volcán Prieto (aerial photo)Volcán Prieto - Volcano Top - Volcano - Mini Playas (aerial photo)Volcán Prieto - Volcano Top - Volcano Top Crater - Mini Playas - Eyes, Mouth, Face (crop, aerial photo)Volcán Prieto - Volcano Top - Volcano Top Crater - Mini Playas (aerial photo)

Pavement Ends

Every time I take this route, the new paved highway south from San Felipe extends farther south. This time I encountered the road construction that marks the end of pavement just before the turnoff for Gonzaga Bay and Alfonsina's. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 29.8270, -114.4227  I didn't stop, but the Pemex gas station there appeared to be open. In any case, I aired down my tires and prepared for the washboard surface of the last 40 still-unpaved miles of Highway 5. Before all this pavement, I used to spend a couple days bumping along and exploring the Highway 5 route, but now it's only a matter of hours.

Pavement Ends - Road - SportsmobileCoco's Corner - Road

Cactus Forest

That night I camped in a forest of cactus — a valley filled with cardon, cirio ("boojum"), and plenty of other exotic (to my eyes) plants. I had last visited this same spot nine years earlier, so I tried to retake photos of plants I'd seen previously. In the desert, not much growth happens in nine years. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 29.2784, -114.1499 

Cactus Forest - Cirio ("Boojum")Cactus Forest - Cirio ("Boojum") - SunsetCactus ForestCactus ForestCactus Forest - SunsetCactus Forest - SunsetCactus Forest - Cirio ("Boojum") - SunsetCactus Forest - Cirio ("Boojum") - SunsetCactus Forest - SportsmobileCactus Forest - Sportsmobile (aerial photo)Cactus Forest - Calamuje Road, in the Distance (aerial photo)Cactus Forest - SportsmobileCactus ForestCactus Forest - Cirio ("Boojum")Cactus Forest - Dead CactusCactus Forest - Spikes - Shoe - StuckCactus Forest - Sportsmobile