Why did we decide to drive 3500 kilometres in 13 days?
It was Baja Mexico or Puerto Rico. Rather than miss half the country in the air, Nick - my partner in crime - and I both agreed that it would be rad to explore Mexico on four wheels, in a little Mazda named Mary.
Ambitious, sure, but why not? We were lucky enough to be travelling in another country, so we would explore it as best we could in what little time we had.
I’ve always been one for embracing the unfamiliar, for straying off the beaten track. Sometimes it plays in your favour and sometimes it doesn't. This trip had it all.
Yes, we missed out on waves, but that’s not to say Baja had little else on offer. The Baja California Peninsula is huge, beautiful and diverse. It extends 1247km from top to bottom and ranges from 40km to 320km wide. There is over 3000km of coastline and Baja has 65 islands. Desert, volcanoes, mountains and beaches. Mexican culture, good food and party vibes. Whatever you want your trip to be, you can make it your own. Expect to find uncrowded waves and stretches of beach without a soul in sight, then on the other hand, expect to find built up and Americanised towns bursting with tourists, party animals and obnoxious drunks.
The beauty about having four wheels and no real plans is that you can just get up, move on and search for the next best adventure. And we were always in a hurry to get there.
A Fish Taco Out of Water
You can't help but feel like a fish out of water, especially when you hit the smaller, remote towns in the middle of nowhere. Being a tall, white blondey, you stick out like a sore thumb.
We hit a town on the east coast late one night and holed up in a run down motel. Starving after a 12 hour journey, we wandered next door to a caravan dishing up $1 tacos, a little family-run affair.
I've never felt so out of place; I was in the real Mexico now. Three generations sitting around on plastic tables and chairs. One man painted a cactus on the caravan. The elders sat with the kids while mum and dad were pumping out tacos. The family spoke no English, or at least chose not to. I felt eyes on us the entire time. You smile and you get nothing back. I think they were more intrigued than anything. Not rude, just curious as to where we were from and why we were there, in the middle of nowhere eating their ridiculously good tacos.
Cabo Or Kuta?
Cabo is not the Mexico we were looking for. The small, surf town vibe were craved was missing in action. Cabo is more like an Americanised Kuta, full of shopping malls and nightclubs and plenty of American tourists. Within the first 50m we were targeted by an older, local surfer who looked like he had been running the town his whole life. He had one objective, to sell us whatever ‘party starters’ we wanted. Any kind, take your pick.
Cabo is not somewhere I would travel solo or just with a bunch of chicks. Having a bit of male company is awesome. At a checkpoint heading south, a soldier was adamant about me not driving with my window down through the town. The beaches are beautiful and there is exploring to be done. If there was surf, we could maybe ignore the hoohah that was happening around us.
Bucks parties in $10,000-a-night villas on the beach, obnoxious drunks yelling and harassing any woman they could see. The beach is pumping all day and night, so choose your spot wisely. If you're up for a party, get in there. If not, perhaps stray to San Jose.
The Surfing Alternatives
The scenery, diverse landscapes and beaches - with or without waves - made this failed surf mission well worth the while. We found accommodation atop the famous left, Monuments. We woke to ripples every morning, but gave Cabo's alternative water activities a go. It’s entertaining watching tour guys fight over you. Choose wisely and they will really look after you. They'll discount you massively if you give them a second run. Perhaps even a delivery of beer on ice to accompany your adventure.We hired SUPs and headed out to Pelican Rock for rock jumping and snorkelling. We boarded a glass bottom boat out to Lover's Beach and swam in beautiful clear waters where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific.
Desert Peaks and Giant Cacti
3 hours south of Tijuana you'll pass the Pacific coastline. Shifting slightly inland, you’ll hit a huge mountain range. When you reach the top, the views are insane.
Mexico offers one of the most incredible stretches of desert, full of giant cacti. The deeper you get, the more cacti you see.
You'll spy all kinds of abandoned shacks, houses and random structures. Beautiful roadside memorials peppered along the trail are so unique and full of colour. It's so peaceful out there. Every car you pass, you get a wave in excitement.
The non-rookie roadies with time up their sleeves would make sure to camp out under the stars. There are some amazing spots out there, with not a soul in sight. The few clusters of dwellings, shacks and shelters you pass offer only the essentials like food and water. Don't expect any English. Fill up on gas just before you hit the desert. The stations might be dry for the day, or it might just be siesta time.
A Checkpoint Republic
There are about eight military check points up and down the entire Peninsular. They're pretty sweet heading south, just a quick stop and an, “Hola, where are you headed and where are you from?”
On the way home, things get a little more thorough. Some soldiers - the younger guys - are super friendly, others quite serious. On the way back north, expect to get out of the car as they search everything. Through your clothes, your shampoo bottles and every common crevice in the car. You would be an idiot to try to smuggle anything back up North.