Montana to Baja
Montana to Baja
I leaned out the window and let the warm air whip against my face. It was 9:00 at night, but the air remained warm, even as a cool breeze rolled in off the Pacific.
We were approximately 30 hours into our trip and were about to roll into San Diego. My roommate Graeme was at the wheel, and Taylor lounged in the backseat. The three of us had left Bozeman, Montana, the previous evening and were now within reach of our goal. Baja was less than an hour to the south.
Crossing the border at around 10:00 the next morning, we were determined to get past the notoriously sketchy northern areas of Baja and into the sparsely populated margin south. As dusk approached, we found ourselves bumping down a mud road, heading west, looking for somewhere to lay our heads for the night. As twilight fell, we happened upon a fenced compound where we paid $5 for a dinner of abalones pried from the rocks with a crowbar and a walled in campsite for the night.
Waking to thick fog pouring over the mountains, we watched the fishermen head out to sea for another day on the ocean and continued south. As we wound our way along another dirt road that periodically deteriorated into a tangle of rutted out mud and bare rock, I wondered how much punishment my Subaru was in for in the coming days. Having found out two days before we were planning on leaving that a CV axle was shot and that I needed new brake pads, we spent the day watching how to videos on youtube, then replaced the axle the night before our departure.
Dust billowed through the open windows of the Subaru and occasionally a rock would ping alarmingly off of the undercarriage. We were about two hours from Bajia de Los Angeles, a town of no more than 300 people, and had decided to take a trip to a neighboring bar along what the map described as a graded dirt road. What looked like a fairly straight forward 45 minute trip soon turned into a winding maze of sandy washes and rocky sections where the road was hard to distinguish from the landscape and it was rare to not be scraping the undercarriage or bumper. Two hours into our excursion we halted to grab some water and survey the situation.
“Maybe if you hit it with a bit more speed, the road will seem smoother," Graeme replied.
The rest of our conversation can be summed up in a few quotes:
“This road is made up of rocks no smaller than large cantaloupes.”
“Well, at least we have like, two liters of water left.”
“Are you sure that this is the right road to get to that bay?”
With tempers wearing thin, we pushed on. We eventually found ourselves at a sheltered cove rimmed by makeshift fishing shacks and a sandy beach. We sprinted into the shallows, donning snorkel gear and shedding clothes as we went. As we waded into the shallows, I turned, scanning the shoreline for any signs of life. Deserted. As I entered waist deep water, I twisted forward again, just in time to see a writhing motion and a cloud of sand boil up at my feet. Three or four rays, disturbed by my feet, shook themselves out of their sandy coverings and swam out ahead of us.
A few days later, we spent our last night in Baja on a cliff looking over an ocean a few minutes outside of a small fishing town. We were unsure if camping was allowed on the rocky outcropping, and after a tenuous hour or two setting up camp, we watched the sun slowly sink into the Pacific as the stars winked into view. We cooked chorizo sausage, peppers, onions and potatoes in the fire, encapsulated in tin foil, and ate them wrapped in fresh tortillas and doused in hot sauce.
In the morning, we sat on the cliff overlooking the ocean, as impenetrable fog swirled around us. After a quick meal of avocados and hot sauce on roasted tortillas, we packed up for the last time and loaded up for the long drive back to Montana. Looking over the ocean one last time in the morning, shrouded in fog, I knew we would be back.