A Bit Shaky On The Baja
Well we’re here in Mexico as the trip South begins. I’ve always been a bit apprehensive about this next part of the trip! Dan kept telling me in LA that it will be good to get out of my comfort zone – well, I would say that giving up the security of my job, moving out of my safe and secure home and moving onto the back of a motorcycle nearly 5 months ago is already being out of my comfort zone – but I’ll go a bit further 🙂
We crossed into the Baja Peninsular of Mexico at the Tijuana border crossing, our first border crossing where the language barrier becomes an issue. It actually ended up being pretty straight forward thanks to the prior research and some border crossing tips from other travelers. The US aren’t in slightest bit interested in you leaving their country so all we had to do was ride south from San Diego along the freeway and cross through a customs check point for Mexico and we were there….not too hard really. We then had to ride into Tijuana to sort out the necessary visas and permits – although not actually necessary if you’re only traveling part way down the Baja. We decided to just deal with it all there and then to avoid any hold ups later.
We found our way to the ‘Banjercito’ in Tijuana and guided by the local immigration guy, filled out the necessary paperwork, got the required stamps and permits in no time. He was more interested in the bike and quickly disappeared into the car park to look at it – fascinated by the Honda Tran’slap’, as he kept calling it. He said they only see BMW’s and KLR’s coming across the border these days.
With the niceties and necessities dealt with we hit the road. Dan had to quickly learn how to drive ‘Mexican’ style and we had our first experience of the ‘Topes’ we’ve been warned about. They are speed bumps with a difference – some are 2/3 times bigger than normal speed bumps, others are positioned more than 10 in a row getting closer and closer together as you enter towns, some are ‘homemade’ by the locals, a lot are not signposted or marked and they can catch drivers out! It’s a good job Dan fixed up the suspension in LA 🙂
We decided not to head to far on the 1st day so rode down to the coastal town of Ensenada. I think a combination of bad press about Mexico in the US and it being a bit early for peak season meant that there didn’t really seem to be that many travelers in town. We did meet our first American who has been living on the Baja too long doing drugs and was clearly crazy….it turned out he wasn’t the only one either!
Here’s a pic of the giant Mexican flag which stands proudly in the town.
We spent the next couple of days riding down the Baja stopping in a couple of small towns and sampling some of the local dishes….our Latin American Spanish phrasebook is proving very useful as we’re not stopping to learn Spanish until Guatemala. Who knows what we would be ordering without this book….but who knows what we’re really eating anyway..haha.
As we traveled South we hit the desert and our first views of loads of Cacti. All I could think about was the film ‘Three Amigos’ and then got the song ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes’ stuck in my head….along with visions of a singing bush – I loved that film!!!
We also met another crazy American….we stopped in a small town and he came over to tell us some stories of when he used to hang out with and date Marilyn Monroe and how he was related to Bridget Bardot. We looked unimpressed so he told us how Michael Jackson’s monkey was really his monkey and he wrote all of his songs too. Not to mention that he invented mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup. He didn’t smell too good so we made up our excuses about not wanting to stand around in the sun and we got out of there after giving him the 3 pesos he asked for to buy a drink…..his name is J D Rockefeller apparently.
As we kept heading South and arrived on the coast of the Sea of Cortez we we’re reminded that we we’re now in the tropics – the humidity and mosquitoes had arrived. I struggled to eat my diner with the combination of the spicy food and humidity whilst being bitten by mozzies through my clothes!!
We made our way down to La Paz to get the ferry to the mainland of Mexico. When we arrived in La Paz we checked into a budget hotel in time to miss a storm which had been brewing on the horizon – good timing as we avoided the rain and strong winds that hit – a large piece of palm tree fell onto the street and nearly hit a woman walking outside of the hotel – at least we were safely inside.
I decided to check up on the weather forecast and found out that a storm in the Pacific off the coast of the Baja had been upgraded to category 2 hurricane and was heading for land in a few days….arghh….need to get the ferry out of here!!
As I sat back on the bed to look at maps and plan some more of the trip something very frightening happened. There was a horrendous noise rumbling and getting louder – I looked at Dan and he looked back – just then the room started to shake….and then shake more vigorously. My instinct made me run out of the door and down the corridor (as all I could think was I bet this building wasn’t built to any building regs – we need to get out quick!!!). Dan called me back and we both took shelter under the doorway. It seemed to go on forever as we stood there bracing for what might be to come. Thankfully the shaking stopped and we ran downstairs from the 3rd floor and out onto the street. Everyone looked visable shaken outside, and through a few broken English conversations and some hand gestures we found out they don’t usually have earthquakes on the Baja. Everyone stayed outside in the rain for a while in case of any immediate aftershocks. There were quite a few, mostly small though, but enough for me not to get much sleep that night as they seemed to go on all night.
We found out that it was a 6.3 magnitude quake about 47 miles north of where we were. We’ve experienced a few small quakes in the past, especially when we lived in NZ, but nothing like this. I had to have a Margarita to calm my nerves!!!
Anyway, with too much excitement from mother nature, we headed to the port the next afternoon to board the ferry to the mainland. The ferry, AKA Karaoke boat, across to the mainland was an entertaining experience. Most of the people on board were truck drivers – some who were quite good at singing, some who were not!! Plus a military truck complete with soldiers carrying loads of weapons.
After being entertained for a few hours we reached Topolobampo and made our way off the boat – hoping that the bike was still standing below deck and in one piece after the crossing, which thankfully it was.
Just need to figure out where to head next!