Baja California

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Baja California

Baja California
Street of the Cacti

Baja California is Mexico’s wild west: an almost untouched, 1,300-kilometer peninsula that resembles a prickly desert garden and over which only one road winds its length. But what a.

Michael Schroder


The BMW sways over the Mex 1 like a tequila-drunk donkey. The tar is full of scars, has blistered under the heat, has burst and is no longer there where the rivers, which are dry for most of the year, cross the road. Holes that are half a meter deep gape, and bridges are sometimes washed away by the masses of water that, after the few but heavy rains in the year, shoot like flash floods from the sierras through the valleys. The condition of the 1,700-kilometer main road, which was built in the 1970s and runs through Baja California, shows the extreme hostility of the country that is one of the most deserted areas in the world: the Mexican peninsula, the Longer than Italy and on the map looks like an appendix of the American state of California, it is hardly more densely populated than Alaska – and a glowing furnace with temperatures of up to 50 degrees in summer. Franca and I stop on a hill and are amazed a spiky land. Thousands of tree-thick cacti are lined up on the sun-baked ground, of which the majesties among them, the Cardóns, rise up to a height of 20 meters like gigantic index fingers. In the west, the Pacific shimmers behind angular table mountains. White whitecaps dance on a dark blue until sky and water can no longer be distinguished. To the east of our dusty location, the shimmering turquoise Gulf of California, which separates the peninsula from the Mexican mainland. Desert and sea are suddenly juxtaposed here, and nothing is reminiscent of civilization. Only half an hour ago did we see La Paz, the port city and “metropolis” at the southern end of the Baja, with its brightly colored bars and discos, with duty free Leaving mile and flashy restaurants. An air-conditioned fairground exactly to the taste of gringos, as Americans are called in Mexico, regardless of whether they are party college kids or deep-sea fishermen who fight for hours with capital marlins in Hemingway-style. The tip of the Baja to Cabo San Lucas benefits from the flair of the wild years long before the construction of the Mex 1, when the secluded fishing village of La Paz was no more than an insider tip for adventurers and civilization-weary dropouts or when a few daring guys tried to make a bet to cover the 1000 mile and difficult off-road route from Enseneda in the north to here in less than 35 hours with their souped-up cars. The legendary »Baja 1000« was born, the first big desert rally ever. For two or three hours the sore-strewn road leads us northwards as if drawn with a ruler. The sun is glowing white in a cloudless sky. The heat paralyzes my thoughts while driving, and my feet literally glow in the slipstream of the two cylinders. Only now and then a truck in American XXL oversize rushes towards us, heavily draped with chrome and always a huge impact protection made of arm-thick steel pipes in front of the radiators. Settlements are rare and the few farm workers who live in the dusty houses between La Paz and Ejido Insurgentes only struggle to defy a few hectares of agricultural land from the desert. Then a sharp bend to the right and we head straight for the Sierra de la Giganta, a rugged mountain range, the highest peak of which, the Pico Cúpula, measures 1,524 meters. In wide curves the asphalt finally cuts through the mountain ridges staggered one behind the other, and we dive into it a godforsaken area that at first glance looks like an alien planet. Brown and ocher-colored hills and slopes, deep, inaccessible canyons, frozen lava rocks and sand. Wind and weather have furrowed and shaped the rock everywhere, created a bizarre mountain range over millions of years, a place for coyotes and rattlesnakes, but not for humans. Nothing seems to have changed in this primeval landscape since the Spanish conqueror Cortes was the first European to set foot on the Baja in the 16th century and aptly named it »Calida Fornax« – hot oven. Traces of the modern age at best on the roadside. Splinters from taillights, broken windshields or rusty car wrecks, some of which have silted up to the roof, mark the narrow border area between civilization and a resolute nature. Shortly before Loreto we bunker beer, bread and spaghetti in a small kiosk and disappear on an enticing-looking slope. which leads straight down to a beach on the gulf. In no time our tent stands in the soft, heated sand. The sea water washes the sweat from the skin and cools the canned beer until the fiery red sun disappears behind the mountains and we can only make out the cacti and slender Cirio trees as idiosyncratic silhouettes. Outside, pelicans glide over the sea in perfect formation flight, and an incredibly mild wind caresses our salt-encrusted faces. We are alone and listen for a long time to the gentle lapping of the waves. High-noon in the Sierra. The sweat stings my eyes, and the land, littered with gnarled thorn bushes and the omnipresent cacti, glows under a merciless midday sun. In the wildly folded Giganta Mountains, shade is just as rare as water or oncoming traffic: Nobody comes towards us on the rough track that winds through one of the most inaccessible areas of the peninsula – 34 kilometers of pure Baja between Loreto and the Jesuit Mission San Javier. Meter for meter I maneuver the BMW over the narrow path, sometimes on the edge of abyssal ravines, then with a lot of momentum through soft sand and washouts that are so big that an entire car would disappear in it. We are finally surrounded by the walls of a canyon, where the temperatures are like in a Finnish sauna. The missionary zeal of the monks, who made their way to this point at the beginning of the 18th century, must have been tremendous. At that time there were about 60,000 Indians living on the peninsula. The last indigenous population died about 100 years ago: the Baja tribes perished from the epidemics introduced by the Europeans. A good half an hour later, San Javier, which is hidden under lush green date palms – one of the few oases on the peninsula. An unbelievable silence hangs over the small place. Only simple huts crowd around the decrepit church, and the dogs dozing in the dust cannot even be woken by the sound of the boxer. We are mistaken for gringos in the bar and identify ourselves as Alemanes, which puts a big grin on the unshaven face of the guy behind the counter. Do I like his country? Si Señor. And the women? The toothless old woman in the corner laughs, we pay our beer and disappear again in the direction we came from. Behind Loreto, the Mex winds one mile after mile through the foothills of the Sierra Giganta. The speedometer needle oscillates at 90 kilometers per hour, and the lonely land rushes past us until the flat position of the sun reminds us that it is time to look for a place for the night. We just follow a well-worn track down into the Bahia Concepción until the brown rocks of the sheltered bay sink into the sea. A handful of mobile homes and pick-ups are already parked in the white shell sand of “Playa Coyote”. The latter with huge studded tires, with surfboards, mountain bikes, small enduros and cool boxes in the size of a bathtub on the back, without which probably no American would rush into an adventure. Somewhere guttural southern blues is playing. Campfires burn in the circle of folding chairs, there is a smell of fried fish. Nice gringos with a great sense of comfort and not afraid of sweaty bikers. “Your from Germany? Come on, have a drink! «The next morning, pelicans are circling directly above our tent, which stands a little apart on a narrow sandbar just a few steps from the water. We swim and snorkel, walk over the cliffs, take a long siesta in the midday heat and only move again in the late afternoon. To look for firewood or to chat with our neighbors. Two days flow by in this rhythm, in which time no longer matters to us. Behind Santa Rosalia the Mex 1 disappears again in the interior of the Baja. The turquoise Gulf of California shines again in the rear-view mirror of the steepest section of the road that bends to the west, then the meter-high lava fields around the Tres Vírgines, the three virgin volcanoes, swallow us up again for a few kilometers Gains the upper hand. Mex 1, shimmering with heat, stretches towards the horizon in an endless straight line without a gas station or telegraph pole. The country seems to die of thirst and is nevertheless a Garden of Eden with over 2500 plant species, of which around 60 only occur on the Baja. A jungle of meter-high cacti surrounds us, in between creosote bushes up to a thousand years old, baobab-like elephant trees, yucca palms or agaves, whose juice can be used to brew mezcal or tequila. I would prefer petrol, because the boxer is already running on reserve. We won’t meet people again until Guerreo Negro. The main street, lined with countless motels and fast food stalls, is already bustling with life, like everywhere on the Baja, when the late afternoon temperatures have dropped to a bearable level. Teenagers cruise in mega-wide Fords or Chevys, men with narrow mustaches and pointed cowboy boots made of snakeskin strut around in small groups. We refuel and rush out into the desert again. A few kilometers beyond town, the barren vegetation gives way to the snow-white sand of the Sarafan dunes. The wheels of the BMW disappear immediately into the powdered sugar-like underground that was piled up by the sea breezes to create a landscape like from the Sahara. On foot, sinking into the sand up to our ankles with every step, we climb and crawl over the sickle-shaped ridges of the many meter high, perfectly modeled mountains that seem to expand endlessly. Gradually the last rays of the sun turn the sky into a glowing red sea and let the dunes shine for a brief moment in a hallucinogenic light. A frenzy of colors that is replaced by a starry sky that twinkles billions of times. We’re only going back because our luggage is waiting in a hotel. And because we urgently need a shower again to finally wash the salt off our skin. Beyond the dunes, the northern part of the Baja begins. We notice it in the traffic. As a weekend tourist from San Diego, you can barely make it to the charming fishing village of Bahia de los Angeles. In any case, to the rocky desert of Desierto Central between Laguna Chapala and Rosario de Arriba, where millions of tons of rock, as if by giant hands, are randomly scattered between the house-high cacti. Finally the Mex 1 is even emerging. From Enseneda it already leads in four lanes towards Tijuana, the end of the Baja. The BMW no longer sways like a drunken donkey, but glides effortlessly on smooth tar.


The 1300 kilometer long Baja consists mainly of a rugged rock and desert landscape. In addition to the numerous slopes that wind cross-country through the canyons or cactus forests, the dreamy beaches also beckon – an Eldorado for every motorcyclist.

Getting there: Anyone who is already traveling in California should head for a trip to the Baja at the border south of San Diego near Tijuana. However, a tour of the Baja is not allowed with every rental motorcycle (it is essential to discuss this with the landlord). If, on the other hand, you are planning a trip across the Baja and further through Mexico with your own motorcycle, we recommend an open-jaw flight, such as that offered by GS Sportreisen: outward flight to Los Angeles, back either from Puerto Vallarta on the west coast or from Cancun Yucatan Peninsula. For a motorcycle you have to pay for the return flight from 2687 Marks in both cases, the ticket for the driver is from around 1300 Marks. Information under phone 089/27818484, fax 27818481. Corresponding offers with occasionally slightly lower tariffs can also be requested from forwarding agents who specialize in air freight: MBS-Air-Cargo in Cologne, phone 02203/93384143 (Mr. Schuster), or GGG -Logistics in Frankfurt, phone 069/69590128. Car ferries run between the Baja and the Mexican mainland from La Paz to Matzatlán (daily, 16 hours, around 140 marks per person including motorcycle) or from Santa Rosalia to Guaymas (Wednesdays and Sundays, seven Hours, around 80 marks per person including motorcycle). Documents: For a trip via the Baja from the USA, no further documents are required besides the passport and vehicle registration. However, if you want to travel further through Mexico with your own motorcycle (not possible with US rental motorcycles!), You will need an international driver’s license, an international vehicle license, three passport photos and a credit card (Visa or Mastercard). Have three copies of each document ready. Travel time: The best months to tour Baja are September to December and March to June. In the months of July and August there are regular midday temperatures of up to 50 degrees. Overnight: There are cheap guesthouses in every place from around 30 Marks. The La Pinta hotels along the »Mex 1«, where a double room costs from around 90 marks, are excellent. The south of the Baja has dedicated itself entirely to tourism, with countless hotels in all price ranges. Wild camping is possible almost everywhere without danger, and anyone who has spent a night in the cactus fields or on the beaches goes to the hotel as rarely as possible.Rental motorcycles: Edelweib Bike Travel offers a 15-day guided tour from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas on South end of the Baja from 4745 marks. For the flight ticket you have to calculate from around 1200 Marks. Catalog and information: Telephone 02681/5904. GS Sportreisen also has two Baja tours in its program, which last either nine or 16 days and cost from 3850 Marks including motorcycle (without flight). Rental motorcycles can also be arranged. Catalog and information: Telephone 089/27818484, Fax 089/27818481. Literature: Among the numerous Mexico travel guides, the “Baja California Touring Manual” by Christian Pehlemann from the publisher of the same name for 39 .80 marks – an excellent guide for Baja trips of all levels of difficulty. The Hallwag map “Mexico” on a scale of 1: 2,600,000 for 12.80 marks is suitable for a trip across the Baja. Time required: ten days traveled: 2,000 kilometers

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