Where We Be
|The desert and mountain scenery in northern Baja
was more dramatic than we had been expecting
|Boojum trees ("cirios") are some of the stranger things you'll
see in northern Baja. They look like something out of Dr. Seuss.
|Cardon cacti make up large parts of the desert scenery,
and at times it feels like you're driving through Arizona
|We found a few nice places to eat along the way
|There's something about a two-lane ribbon of road that
simply calls out to you to get in your car and drive!
|The Pacific Ocean stretches out below us
near the cruise ship port of Ensenada
Driving our car over the Mexican border was so
easy that in hindsight we felt a bit silly to have
ever been worried about it in the first place. We
simply drove along I-5 south for 20 miles to the
border checkpoint. There was no wait at all. Two
guards made a cursory check of our bags and
waved us on. We parked just beyond the border
and got tourist visas for $25 per person –
necessary since we were headed south of
Ensenada (otherwise you don’t need one). We
got each visa for the longest possible length,
180 days, since you can use it again as long as
it's valid. Note: No vehicle import permit is
required to drive in the entire Baja peninsula.
We had printed out directions on Google Maps
but they turned out to be totally unnecessary
since signs for Route 1 (Transpeninsular) were
plentiful. All we had to do was follow Route 1 all
day long -- and every day after that, all the way
down to Cabo San Lucas. Route 1 is pretty much
the only major north-south route through Baja.
Shortly after Ensenada the highway narrowed
down to just one lane in each direction and the
shoulder disappeared, along with most of the
traffic. We paused at our first military check-
point, but the young man only asked us where
we had come from then waved us on. After
awhile we relaxed and realized -- we can do this!
|Shortly after Ensenada the road narrows to one lane
in each direction and the shoulder disappears
|After four hours of driving we reached our destination for the first day -- Punta Colonet at kilometer 131.
Hotel Paraiso Colonet is in the middle of nowhere but offers a convenient stopping point along the highway.
|Our plan was to push through northern Baja quickly...
but we kept pulling over to enjoy the unusual scenery
|A note on Baja speed limits...
We had heard enough horror stories in the U.S. about being targeted by police in Mexico
that we drove into Baja certain we were going to get pulled over for the slightest
infraction. Thus, when we first entered Baja, we drove exactly the speed limit as posted --
which annoyed the hell out of the drivers behind us! In fact we nearly got rear-ended a
few times when we tried to keep to 40 kph (25 mph) even though road conditions clearly
warranted a higher speed.
The truth is, just about no one drives the speed limit here. Posted limits are often
surprisingly low or vary from one minute to the next out of some sort of bureaucratic
overexuberance. In the end we decided to use common sense and do what those around
us were doing: drive between 10 and 20 kph faster than most of the posted limits on the
open highway. Even with our increased speeds we were still among the slowest drivers
on the road, and we were always careful to obey posted limits when passing through
towns. We're glad to say we've had no issues with police targeting us or pulling us over
during our trip for any reason.