Overlanding Baja - Week 8
February 8, 2022
All good things eventually come to an end, or in Buddha’s words, all that rises passes away. After two months, this week was our last in the beautiful Baja, and it was packed with friendships and adventures, including a border-crossing episode where our truck almost got seized.
Tuesday: Loreto to Playa El Requeson (1h30 / 100km)
After stocking up on water and food, we left Loreto and drove a short distance to Bahía Concepción for the night. Our plan was to be within an hour or so away from Mulegé so we could meet up with Rámon, one of the kayaking guides from our meditation retreat, for a short paddle the next morning.
Playa el Requeson is perhaps the most photographed beach in Baja for one can camp on a narrow strip of sandy beach and wake up to water almost hugging on three sides during high tide.
Wednesday: Playa El Requeson to San Ignacio Lagoon via Mulegé (3h45 / 240km)
We arrived in Mulegé with enough time to spare for a cup of coffee and a plate of delicious breakfast scramble before meeting up with Rámon. Since we were in noble silence last week, we were excited to finally getting to know him.
Rámon grew up in a fishing village and has lived in Mulegé for most of his life, and everyone knew him in town. When we were paddling on Río Mulegé, cars would honk in the distance to say hello. Rámon now works as a kayaking guide and instructor for NOLS, one of the most well-known wilderness schools in the world, and when he isn’t paddling in Alaska or Patagonia, he leads expeditions with organizations like Sea Trek around Baja.
One of his main goals in life, he said, was to support his 21-year-old son through nursing school. In two years, Rámon would have accomplished that goal. We asked him what would be next, and he said that he wanted to work less, spend more time with his wife, and finish building his guesthouse for friends and travelers. And he noted that one of the cultural differences between Mexico and the U.S. was American’s obsession about calendars. “I am booked for a trip in December 2023,” he laughed, “But I don’t even know if I would be alive then.”
Since we arrived in Baja, we have been struck by the friendliness and generosity of the locals. Rámon prepared the kayaks, and welcomed two strangers to his hometown during his precious day off. Fishermen in other villages offered their fresh catches as gifts, and countless people greeted us on the streets. Friendliness and generosity were contagious, and we couldn’t help but invite Rámon to share a meal with us before leaving Mulegé to San Ignacio Lagoon for more whale watching.
At sunset, we pulled into Antonio’s Eco-Camp by the San Ignacio Lagoon. Amongst all the tour operators in the lagoon, only two are owned and operated by locals: Antonio’s and Pachico’s.
Thursday: San Ignacio Lagoon to Ojo De Liebre (3h30 / 220km)
It was a windy day, but luckily, the whale watching tours were operating in the morning. So we got into our bumpiest boat ride yet out to the lagoon to see more whales.
Compared to Puerto San Carlos, where we spent 4 hours with gray whales for the first time, whale watching tours in San Ignacio Lagoon last only 90 minutes. Despite the white caps on the water, we spotted bottlenose dolphins, two sea lions, along with many gray whales.
We loved the day at Antonio’s — the camp was cared for with great attention, the tour was professionally run, and the food was so delicious! We wished to stay another day, but the forecast showed heavier wind for the next morning, so we sadly waved goodbye to the staff and headed north to Ojo de Liebre for, surprise surprise, more whales.
In the late afternoon, we arrived at Ojo de Liebre campground and were delighted to see the German family traveling in a red firetruck, whom we first ran into a few weeks ago in the opposite end of Baja, also camping there.
Friday: Ojo De Liebre to Guerrero Negro (30min / 25km)
Of the three places to see gray whales in Baja, the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon is closest to Alaska, which means the gray whales in this lagoon have the shortest distance to travel back north after their winter break in the warm water. There are usually more whales, especially baby gray whales, in the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon.
We woke up early to join the tour, organized by the local fishermen’s co-op, and we indeed saw a few mother-baby pairs. One of the pairs came pretty close to the boat, and we saw the baby whale poking their head out and giving us a curious stare. According to our captain, the baby was only a week or so old! We didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but you can imagine our joy with such sight!
After the tour, we drove about 30 minutes to Guerrero Negro, the main town nearby, and stayed at Zihul’s campground for rest of the day. Zihul, like many others we’ve met on the trip, is welcoming and generous. He makes artisan knives for a living, and recently opened his backyard for overlanders with a clean bathroom and shower, and a shaded picnic table with chairs.
Saturday: Guerrero Negro to Campo Mosqueda (8h / 540km)
When we said goodbye to Zihul in the morning, we realized that our Baja trip was truly coming to an end. Time to go home! Since we came to Baja from the Pacific side, we decided to drive back on Highway 5 next by the Sea of Cortez. Though we had heard about the natural hot springs along the way, the wind that day shattered not only our mood to be outside, but also our gas milage! In the end, we booked it almost all the way to the border, and stayed at Campo Mosqueda, about an hour south of Mexicali.
Sunday: Campo Mosqueda to Salt Lake City (12h30 / 1,250km)
We left the campground at 8am and headed toward the border in Mexicali. A few weeks ago, Victor, thinking that he was smarter than everyone else, registered our truck with a program called Sentri, which grants access to an express lane when entering the country from Mexico or Canada. But when we pulled up to the officer at the immigration booth, she glanced at the camper and told us that Sentri was not to be used for truck campers. Afterward, she sent us to the secondary inspection station where we were told that our truck will be seized for up to 7 days, and our Global Entry membership will be lifted. 😱
We were dumbstruck.
After explaining our genuine mistake to the agent, the supervisor on duty decided to let us go with a warning after a thorough inspection of our truck. We were eternally grateful to the border agents and promptly removed our truck from the Sentri program.
Everything happened after that incident felt like a blur. We drove through California, Arizona and Nevada, and after a quick stop for dinner at In-and-Out 🍔 in St George, Utah, we were faced with the choices of either camping somewhere in southern Utah for the night, or driving another 4 hours to our bed in the apartment. Victor boldly picked the latter. At around midnight, we rolled out of the truck and into the flannel sheets of our bed and drifted off to sleep.
Et voilà! Our winter trip to Baja is officially a wrap. We loved it so much that we know for sure we will be back! Would you be interested in traveling with us for a week of whales in Baja next time? Drop us a line on Instagram or write to us [email protected].
In the next few months, we will be resting at home and enjoying what Utah has to offer: snow sports, spring in the red rocks, and hanging with our friends!
We look forward to overlanding to Alaska this summer, and are pumped about our Brooks Camp reservations to see bears up close. Rámon will also be guiding trips in Alaska, and he invited us to join him on his days off to paddle in the glaciers. We can’t wait! Until then, we may post an article or two but we will get back to our weekly schedule in June!
May friendships and adventures continue. See you soon!