Overlanding Baja - Week 1

December 19, 2021

Finally! We are back on the road after a few weeks of resting and prepping at home in Utah. Our destination for the winter is the state of Baja California in Mexico! We are planning to spend roughly 2 months there before heading back home for the rest of the ski season.

We started our trip in Los Angeles, CA where we met with family before making our way south. We stopped at Basil’s Garage near San Diego, CA to replace our tires before hitting the peninsula. We decided to get smaller (35″) tires for the truck for two reasons. The first is to reduce our gas consumption. Secondly, oversize tires are harder to find south of the border.

Basil working on our truckBasil working on our truck

We crossed the border in Tecate and were immediately greeted by friendly Mexicans. In fact, even the border agents were very nice to us and wished us a wonderful adventure in the peninsula.

Our first stop in Mexico was just south of Tecate. We made arrangement with Noel from BICHI to stop at his winery and buy some bottles of wine. To our knowledge, they are one of the only natural wine makers in Mexico.

Unfortunately, we waited and walked around the winery for a long time but no one showed up…

Doors were locked at BICHIDoors were locked at BICHI

Amphora pots at the wineryAmphora pots at the winery

Rows of vinesRows of vines

Margo was happy to be outsideMargo was happy to be outside

Our next stop was Rancho La Bellota. We heard about the ranch on iOverlander and it sounded like the perfect spot to spend our first few nights after crossing the border. Raúl, the owner, has been welcoming overlanders from all over the world for years. Camping at the ranch is free: you are only asked to give a donation to Alberto, the caretaker.

Metal gate to the ranchMetal gate to the ranch

Victor opening the gateVictor opening the gate

On our way up hillOn our way up hill

We made it!We made it!

The ranch in the distanceThe ranch in the distance

Bad roads bring good people,” says Raúl! The road to the ranch is steep and rough. Without high clearance, going there would be quite challenging.

We were warmly welcomed by Alberto and the 6 dogs that live on the ranch. Raúl was busy in town getting his booster shot and arrived a little later that day.

Margo and her new friends at the ranchMargo and her new friends at the ranch

Ranch sheep wary of our presenceRanch sheep wary of our presence

Cute lambsCute lambs

Tequila the 10-month-old border collie watching the sheepTequila the 10-month-old border collie watching the sheep

Morning play dateMorning play date

Breakfast time for the horsesBreakfast time for the horses

Walking on the beautiful propertyWalking on the beautiful property

Entrance to the main lodgeEntrance to the main lodge

La Bellota means “acorn”La Bellota means “acorn”

Alberto’s cabin looks lush with the plantsAlberto’s cabin looks lush with the plants

We made camp right in the middle of the ranch.We made camp right in the middle of the ranch.

The overlander’s bathroomThe overlander’s bathroom

Clean, rustic shower with hot waterClean, rustic shower with hot water

Flush toilet and hand washing station with bar soapFlush toilet and hand washing station with bar soap

The ranch is run on solar panels. In the bathroom, candle lights add to the ambience.The ranch is run on solar panels. In the bathroom, candle lights add to the ambience.

Raúl is an overlander himself and has been building his own rigs for years. He showed us is latest creation. Entirely custom built and based on an old suburban that he has been owning for decades. It looks like a Troopy!

Dining area of the suburbanDining area of the suburban

Kitchenette insideKitchenette inside

His previous custom built rig based on an old Toyota Hilux. It’s for sale!His previous custom built rig based on an old Toyota Hilux. It’s for sale!

He recently acquired a 1st generation Tundra.He recently acquired a 1st generation Tundra.

After organizing horseback riding tours for years, Raul is now planning to built 4 truck campers and start organizing self-contained overlanding tours of the peninsula.

Funny story: Raúl has been looking all over the internet for inspirations to build the rigs for touring Baja and the video we filmed a couple months ago in France, featuring the Globe Camper, was his main source of inspiration. What a small world!

Raúl has been kind enough to store a few rigs that European overlanders had to leave in Mexico because of Covid. I walked around this huge Iveco truck owned by a German couple, which has been stored in a corner of the ranch.

The next day, Kuan went on a ride with Gael, Raúl’s wrangler.

Happy Kuan on the horsebackHappy Kuan on the horseback

Tequila came along for the rideTequila came along for the ride

Abby in front of the lodgeAbby in front of the lodge

Our truck in front of the lodgeOur truck in front of the lodge

Saddles under the morning lightSaddles under the morning light

The dining room inside the lodgeThe dining room inside the lodge

Candles are added to the chandelier for dinnerCandles are added to the chandelier for dinner


Saying goodbyes to RaúlSaying goodbyes to Raúl

Leaving the ranchLeaving the ranch

Raúl’s generosity was incredible. He literally spent all his time at the ranch with us, talking about anything and everything like we had known each other for years. He even took us for lunch in the nearby village and at night, poured his best tequila into our glasses.

You can tell Raúl is not doing that for his own good, but to showcase true Mexican hospitality to anyone that is wiling to stop at his ranch.

After leaving La Bellota, we were unsure of what was next for us. But knowing that Kuan had to have reliable internet on Saturday, we decided to book a room in a hotel for two nights in the valley de Guadalupe. After a quick search, we found a great bed & breakfast called Casa Mayoral that was dog friendly and only 20 minutes down the road. Perfecto!

Our cabin at Casa MayoralOur cabin at Casa Mayoral

Bright, cozy roomBright, cozy room

For lunch, we headed to Artio, a restaurant located in a local winery. The food was awesome and it was probably the most expensive meal we will have in Baja!

Grand tasting room at the wineryGrand tasting room at the winery

Dining room on the pondDining room on the pond

Excited for our fancy lunchExcited for our fancy lunch

Fresh Baja oystersFresh Baja oysters

Local fish ceviche with squid inkLocal fish ceviche with squid ink

Hairloom tomatoes with chiliHairloom tomatoes with chili

Roasted pork with nopalesRoasted pork with nopales

Grilled octopus atop black riceGrilled octopus atop black rice

Back at the bed & breakfastBack at the bed & breakfast

View from our roomView from our room

The patio next to the receptionThe patio next to the reception

Morning coffeeMorning coffee

Homemade horchata, so good!Homemade horchata, so good!

Delicious breakfast is served every morning. Yesterday’s breakfast was sopes atop lettuce and fresh salsaDelicious breakfast is served every morning. Yesterday’s breakfast was sopes atop lettuce and fresh salsa

Today, we will head as far south as we can since we want to spend the majority of our trip in Baja California Sur where the temperature is warmer.

We shall see where we’ll end up for Christmas next week and hopefully we will be able to spend the holidays in t-shirts.