We left La Ribera on January 31st to start our journey North.
MAKING OUR WAY NORTH
Our first stops were to fill a bucket list item for me of whale-watching and to ensure Scott had a fun time for the Super Bowl. A perpetual bucket list item for him! The gray whales migrate from Alaska down to Mexico every year to mate and give birth in three bays along the Pacific Coast of Baja: Magdalena Bay, the southernmost, San Ignacio Bay, the middle, and Guerrero Negro, the northernmost. Since we had been out to San Ignacio on our trip down (see https://arrrblog.travellerspoint.com/71/, we opted for Mag Bay first.
Our first day's drive was five hours to Adolfo Lopez Mateo on Magdalena Bay for whale-watching. We thought La Ribera was "authentic" and it was but Lopez Mateo is even more so. It is a completely Mexican town with no "gringo" presence at all, save the one hotel we stayed in. They make their living fishing, oystering, and for a few months each year guiding day trippers on whale-watching tours. There is a large sardine processing plant and a giant salt works. the latter produces 13% of the world's salt. It was really cool to see huge front-loaders moving over piles of salt so large it made them look tiny. Lastly, it is the place in Baja that first started to work on the recovery of the Osprey after the DDT kill-off. They put up tons of nesting poles and are really proud to claim that they are responsible for repopulating Baja with Osprey. Not sure how true that is but there were hundreds of nests in the area.
Of course, given our propensity for arriving just in time for a festival, they were having their Whale Festival the weekend we stopped, which included a carnival and concerts. The town was very busy and the music went into the night. It was interesting but definitely not a destination if you don't want to see whales.
We were a bit early for the whales in this bay though. They had not yet calved and were mostly out in the rougher water so they were hard to see. But we did see a lot of "spy hoppers" (this is where they stick their heads out of the water to look around), a few tail slaps, and a few water spouts ( where they blow air out and create a fountain of sorts). It was interesting but left me wanting more.
The coolest thing we saw, though, made up for not seeing much whale activity. On the way back we saw two coyotes on the barrier island beach. I have been wanting to see a coyote ever since we arrived and finally did! They were so beautiful and perfectly colored to blend into their habitat. We had also seen two Silver Foxes during our time in Baja but they got past too quickly for photos so this was really special.
We had an afternoon to kill so went for a drive out a sand road that led down past mangrove bays and out to the open ocean. On the way out, we ran across a family oyster farm and stopped to check it out and talk to them. They were just bringing in a batch from their hanging nets. They sell their oysters to buyers from as far away as Cabo and Ensenada.
They insisted we try some and we could not refuse! They were some of the most delicious oysters we've ever had and really well formed with beautiful deep cups.
The road took us by an old phosphate mine now defunct and mainly home to Osprey, a lagoon created by the mining, tidal flats full of birds, and a race track set up for drag racing. Since it's in the sand it was really short, less than an eighth of a mile!
We met some fabulous people at our hotel in Mag Bay from Germany that were living and working in Peru. There were also going to Loreto next and were taking a route that took them north and on secondary roads past sights they wanted to see. This got me looking for an alternate route for us and I discovered that there was a road to an old mission that would then lead us into Loreto. What I didn't realize was that it was 60+ km of dirt track!
There were small towns along the way, a historic ranch, and a monument to the Holy Christ of the Road.
It followed and crossed a huge arroyo the whole way! Some areas had pools of water where we saw birds, burros, and horses. It was one of the most spectacular drives we've done. The valley through the Sierra de la Gigantas was stunning.
This mountain was called "Elefante (Elephant)" and dominated the valley of Santo Domingo.
We finally reached San Javier and the mission was really beautiful. It's is a tiny town of just over 100 inhabitants and was founded in 1699.
Then it was onto the pavement and on to Loreto. The drive down out of the mountains with a view to the Sea of Cortez was breathtaking.
We got into town in the afternoon and headed out to explore since we hadn't done that on the way down. Loreto is another Pueblo Magico and it has a really pretty central area around the church that has open air restaurants and shops.
We even got a sunset back up towards the mountains.
We hooked up with our German friends the first evening we got there for some drinks and dancing!
Super Bowl Sunday Funday we spent at Augie's bar in Loreto. It was a fun gringo bar and though the game was pretty boring the company was fun!
The next day we drove on to the town of Guerrero Negro to do another whale-watching tour. Again, the town wasn't much but the whales were much more cooperative! Check out this video for some up close and personal views!
Truly whale-watching could more accurately be called "whale-waiting" but the wait is worth it when you get to see the babies with their moms and a close encounter like we were fortunate enough have.
From Guerrero Negro we crossed out of Baja California Sur into Baja California and began the long drive across and up to El Rosario.
This may be my favorite part of the whole drive. There are virtually no towns except for Cataviña, no gas stations, just beautiful scenery. We spent our last night in Baja in the same hotel in El Rosario we spent our first night. It was a fitting goodbye.
La Ruta del Vino
We had heard for months that the crossing at Tijuana where we came down is a nightmare going home. Eight or more lanes, several options for entering depending on your pass type, difficulty finding the right lane, and tremendously long waits. So we opted for the longer drive from Ensenada to Tecate to cross at a calmer boarder (one lane!) and drive through the wine country of Baja. So glad we did! The drive is really beautiful. The desert was sooo green with wildflowers everywhere! Such a contrast from our drive down in August!
We got to stop at the L.A. Cetto winery. I had been drinking their Nebbiolo for months and loved it so it was fun to stop and buy a few bottles to take home direct from the winery.
And the boarder crossing was easy-peezy (once we found the entrance that is)! It was sort of back at the edge of town along the boarder "wall" - such as it was.
After crossing we made our way to L.A. by way of San Diego, the coast, and the Pacific Coast highway. Caught our first sunset outside Baja before heading to the hotel.
So we made it! Time for a car wash! We stick out like a Baja buggy in glamorous L.A.
Be sure to keep up with us on Instagram @arrradventures.