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Author: Subject: Newbie report with advice for newbies
Ereek
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[*] posted on 1-11-2019 at 09:28 PM
Newbie report with advice for newbies


Hi All -- Hoping to share my experience so other new nomads can learn a thing or 2.

My wife and 2 kids and I rented a car in San Diego and spent a week driving to Bahia de LA and Guerrero Negro. I don't know if my experiences were typical, but this is how it was during the first week of January.

1. Renting a Car in the States. Nobody at any rental agency knows what they're talking about when it comes to Mexico Insurance. Many companies have a 150 mile limit. We went with a company whose policy did not mention a limit. When we picked up the car they said, "By the way, you can't go more than 150 miles into Baja." Needless to say we were upset. After much wrangling and arguing with higher-ups, we learned that the fine print of the Mexico insurance only says they won't transport us back to the states if we were further than 150 miles, but the coverage was otherwise good. That's it. As far as I can tell, all agencies use the same Mexican insurance agency, so if you're willing to risk having to take a bus, it's not really that big of a deal.

2. Crossing into Mexico. I was all geared up to get the FMM tourist permit at the border. On New Years Day when we crossed they just waved us through the first checkpoint...Which turned out to actually be the border...Yes I should have known better, but it was all so new. A few miles down the road we realized we didn't have the tourist permit. Oops. We did manage to go back to the airport and get them there. $558 Mex per permit. Dang. I still don't know how essential that permit is.

3. Roads were much better than I expected. Sure there were a few km's of nasty potholes and rough patches, but could mostly go along at a good clip.

4. Camped at Rancho Santa Ynes the first night. Got in at dusk. Seemed abandoned, everything dark. It was super cold and windy. We set up anyway, and had a quiet night. In the morning someone came out of the ranch house and asked for money for camping. We realized, of course it looks abandoned at night, because they don't seem to have electricity. Wild watermelons growing on the ground there.

5. The desert. I was not prepared for how stunningly beautiful and desolate is the Baja desert. I love the sea, but if I go back I'll set aside time to take in more of the desert.

6. Bay of L.A. Super windy, but the place just has a special feel to it. No boats going out because of the wind, so we missed out on that, but staying at Campo Archelon was really special. I have learned how wonderful palapas are at keeping out the wind. (We were tent camping). Although I didn't talk to him long, I really liked Antonio. I would camp at Archelon again gladly. We like peace and solitude.
The Stars were unbelievable. Our first 3 days were really pretty cold and windy.

7. Most military checkpoints were not a big deal. We got lightly searched at 1 out of 6. Perhaps having kids and a small car helps.

8. Guerrero Negro. Campo Laguna Ojo de Liebre. We were very uncertain about this camp as it is 16 miles off the road. Believe me, it's worth it. Very very peaceful. Love the coyotes singing and yipping. And when they're not yipping, the silence so thick you can drink it. If you need a bar and restaurant and nightlife, this place isn't for you. The thatched palapas are great, in my opinion.

9. Whale tours. The most touristy thing we did. We went with Mario's. The main difference, I think, between the companies, is where they go in the lagoon. Mario's was very professional. We knew we were early in the gray whale season, but we still say several. Very cool. The guide did point out that the whales were Mexican, being born there, and that Trump couldn't build a wall out in the ocean to keep them from traveling. :o)

10. After 3 days of tiny towns, Guerrero Negro felt like a huge city. Getting water at the purificada is cheap. 8 pesos for 3 gallons, plus they washed and rinsed our jugs.
Weather was warmish in GN - mid 60's during the day, but in the 30's at night.

11. On the way back we stopped at the cave art place just north of Cataviña . That place is amazingly beautiful, but there is some graffiti on the paintings. I just loved being able to see the cacti and cirios up close.

12. There were at least a dozen bicycle tourists we saw at different points, despite the fact that the road often has no shoulder. My hat's off to you guys. But I'm keeping my helmet on. Safe Travels.

13. I felt no animosity from anyone. I have passable Spanish, and folks in the small towns, and the soldiers, seemed to appreciate my effort.

14. I didn't realize it when I read the post, but the km marker list does correspond to the km signs on the road, so you don't have to reset your odometer every time. I found it to be accurate. Thanks to whoever did that.

15. There were generally plenty of gas stations, except for the stretch from El Rosario to Bay of LA.

16. One of my favorite sights was graffiti on an abandoned building some miles north of GN. "Make America Mexico Again." If I was smart enough to post pictures I'd put one up.

17. It rained our last drive day, heading up to Ensenada area. I really suggest planning your stay in that area ahead of time. it took us till after dark to get a hotel; it felt sketchy driving at night in all that traffic.

I absolutely loved my time in Baja. We're content camping and not having amusement parks and such to entertain us. We had a short time because of the kids' school vacation, so we drove more than was ideal. But it was still amazing. Would I go again? Yes, planning for 2 weeks or more. I'd love to get a bit further south, to see Laguna San Ignacio and other places.

Hope that helps someone new figure things out. I'm not always connected to technology, so I may not be back for a while to answer questions. But I'll try to check sooner or later.
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JZ
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[*] posted on 1-11-2019 at 10:07 PM


Great post. Are you hooked yet?

You have just scratched the surface. It will take you a life time to see and experience it all.




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Come along for a ride of the famous Seven Sisters https://youtu.be/hrdzmTWPUQs



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4x4abc
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[*] posted on 1-11-2019 at 11:28 PM


what a clean report!
readable
enjoyable




Harald Pietschmann
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David K
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[*] posted on 1-11-2019 at 11:42 PM


Thanks for sharing that!
Glad you found our Nomad Km. list helpful.
Hope you spend more time here planning your next Baja trip.




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ehall
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 04:45 AM


Great report. Your family might enjoy camping in the mountains near Laguna Hanson in warmer weather. Lots more to see in Baja Norte.
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basautter
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 05:16 AM


Great post, thanks for sharing. As for proper paperwork (tourist permit, insurance...) it is rare anyone pays much attention unless you get into an accident or have some other issue, Then you will be glad you have it. Enjoy!
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 05:46 AM


Very nice report, thank you!



Making America Great Again
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John Harper
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 07:30 AM


Great report, sounds like you had a great time.

John
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advrider
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 08:33 AM


We just missed you in Bay of LA(BOLA) also my wifes first time there and she loved it. We stayed at Daggetts but it was just as peaceful! You may not know it yet but you are hooked and will be going back every chance you get, each trip just shows you more that you will want to see.
You have Davidk to thank for the maps and KM markers. Laguna Hansen is another of Baja's magical places as ehall said, I could spend a week there easy. Very good report and welcome, the pull to go back will only grow stronger!
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 12:52 PM


Very enjoyable read. Reminded me of our first venture to the dark side.
"My very first visit to Baja California was a two week adventure to nowhere. I had no plan and stuck to it. The first couple of days were spent in a sort of crazed stupor shaking off the devils of "freeway CA". I had no help or prior expectations."
You may want to plan to delve un poco mas. Baja California really starts in Santa Rosalia. Just south of Mulege you will find some of the most plesant beach camping in the world. It keeps getting better and, most importantly, warmer. If you make it to La Paz you may be hooked, we were.




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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 01:00 PM


BTW, someone is bound to tell you that posting pictures is a piece of cake. You only have to boot you cache, reformat your hard drive, assemble your temporary import files, print your photos in doss and post them on www.wtf.com after setting up a login with no less than twelve alpha numerical symbols. Piece of cake.



#45... The United Disgrace of America
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thebajarunner
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 02:08 PM


Great report
Tonio at Archelon is a great young man
Hope you met his mom, Bety
His dad was a legend down there, died far too young.
I assume that you got pesos somewhere
ATM's everywhere so that is the easy way
Catavina.... just camp out on a side road
No charge and far from anyone, best camping in the world
FMM..... open up that can of junk and you will get bombed with lots of opinion, and little fact.
Your Mexican insurance has a clause way down that says the policy may be void if you are not legally in the country
And the law says you need an FMM
Enforced? Not generally
Wanna be on the safe side??? Get the FMM
Glad it all went well with you
Ensenada traffic is a bit zany after a week down south, but not nearly as bad as LA or SF, even Sacramento for that matter
And plenty of hotel options... next time take a bit of time ahead to plan that
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 02:21 PM


were these wild watermelons edible?
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BajaBlanca
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 06:20 PM


Welcome to the group and thanks for posting such a concise report.


How old are your kids and what was the highlight for them?


My sister's kids went bonkers over the whales.




Blanca and Les
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Whale-ista
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 07:37 PM


Sounds like a perfect introduction to some memorable places- thanks for the post.

Hope you and your family will have time to enjoy many more trips.




\"Probably the airplanes will bring week-enders from Los Angeles before long, and the beautiful poor bedraggled old town will bloom with a Floridian ugliness.\" (John Steinbeck, 1940, discussing the future of La Paz, BCS, Mexico)
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 09:46 PM


Quote: Originally posted by willardguy  
were these wild watermelons edible?



I am not familiar with the area where the OP reported finding them, but I have found wild gourds before that look just like tiny watermelons. The ones I found were not edible!




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Ereek
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[*] posted on 1-12-2019 at 09:56 PM


Ok- I think I attached the photo. Thanks to all for your kind replies.

Yes - I think I'm hooked, but I'm not sure when life will let us get back.

I did get the feeling that we only scratched the surface.

We exchanged pesos in San Diego. Probably not the best rate, but we weren't spending that much money so it wasn't a big deal.

The watermelons were probably edible, but we left them for the horses who looked a bit thin...

Gotta run...
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geronimo21
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[*] posted on 1-13-2019 at 12:50 AM


Your report makes me want to go...right now. Beautifully written. Thanks for the share.
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[*] posted on 1-13-2019 at 10:25 AM


They're called Coyote Melons, though in the gourd family.
Thanks for the report. Bet the kids will remember this forever.
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[*] posted on 1-27-2019 at 12:23 PM


Great report. So glad you had a peaceful, Baja time.
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