Baja is a mixed bag.
If your idea of a good time is a desolate beach with incredible sunsets and stark beauty – you can find that in Baja.
If you idea of a good time is an all-nighter at a flashy night-club with a shoulder-to-shoulder suntanned mob – you can find that as well.
When it comes to Baja Sur, or southern Baja, Cabo San Lucas will certainly fill the bill for the cocktail crowd.
Personally, that is the one place I’d rather stay away from – but that is probably a function of my particular demographic: a mid-50’s old married guy with grown children and a tendency to fall asleep on the Barcalounger by 8:00 p.m.
My modus operandi is more to hardly party rather than to party hardy.
So you’d more likely find me on or near some remote beach. Either that or out exploring the route on or near-by the grand circle route of Highways 1 and 19 and the small towns that dot the vast region of desert mountains that end abruptly at the edge of the blue-green sea.
A couple of days ago we drove to Todo Santos from Los Barriles – roughly an hour and a half drive – depending on how many dolcerias you stop by to grab some empanadas of various fruit fillings. I recommend the pin’a, or pineapple.
Driving in Baja can be a white-knuckle affair for those of the faint at heart or those oblivious to the lack of shoulders and what appear to be over-sized semis coming at you at break-neck speeds and then whizzing by close enough to make you hold your breath and hope that there is sufficient room. Even more interesting is when those same trucks come flying up behind you and then pass with little room to spare.
Don’t get distracted by the frequent roadside memorials – certainly they can’t ALL be for highway fatalities – can they?!?
Just like many countries, Mexico has some particular driver signals that behoove you to become familiar with:
> A left turn signal light on the car in front of you might well mean that car intends to turn left.
> A left turn signal light on the car in front of you might well mean it is clear for you to pass.
> Or it might really mean they intend to turn left. Obviously the difference is significant.
Free range is the norm for Baja, which means you should fully expect to drive around a corner and see a cow, goat, dog, horse, sheep, or rabbit cohabited your lane of travel – which likely explains a good many of those roadside memorials.
> The standard operating procedure is to turn on your emergency blinkers when you encounter these animals on or near the road and leave them on for some distance to offer caution to oncoming travelers.
> If you see a car coming at you with their blinkers on I would suggest you slow down to avoid becoming a justification for yet another display of religious symbols and fake flowers.
Todo Santos was a mixed bag in and of itself.
The downtown area was one art gallery and trinket shop after another after another and the streets were lined with mostly older American tourists wearing shorts bearing very un-tanned skin, many having arrived by tour bus, likely from Cabo.
But just out of town, along dusty dirt roads were many ramshackle houses – one would assume habited by the hard-working locals – as well as a number of almost hidden restaurants that have to be found – such as one called Secrets of the Garden where organic produce used in the menu items were grown within a few feet of your table.
Some of these roads lead to paths to the Pacific Ocean that – if your Karma is right – will take you to within a rocks toss of numerous Gray whales cruising along the beach and sticking their heads up and looking around to see if anybody is around.
A very special experience. I’d love to know what they are thinking when they see us lined up with the pelicans and seagulls along the beach.