Baja Mexico, Part 2: La Paz to Loreto

In our first post about visiting the Baja, we chronicled our three day journey just to get to La Paz, Baja California Sur. By Monday morning, 10:00 am local time, we had arrived.

We wanted to get the fun part of our journey started ASAP, so we didn’t spend much time in La Paz. We hit the bank to take out some pesos, filled up on gas at the Pemex, and headed north. Our initial plan was to stop in Cuidad Constitucion for the first night, but as we found normal on the Baja, our plans changed with regularlity. We decided to try to make it to the town of Loreto and find a place to camp on the beach. While we struggled initially with the concept known locally as “kilometers”, we estimated that we could easily get there before nightfall. We got in the truck and kept driving. The initial drive was sparse, but beautiful. We even managed to find some cacti.

Wow. Such cactus.

Wow. Such cactus.

Much thorns.

Much thorns.




















One of the coolest things we found about driving in the Baja were the side roads. Most of the roads, major highways included, were thoroughly deserted for long stretches, and every now and then a lonely, dusty track would peel off to one side. We regularly took off down one these side “roads” as an opportunity to explore. It often felt like we were the only people to have traveled down these routes for months, or even years. Roughly 30 km’s outside of Loreto, we took a chance on one such side track, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Sea of Cortez before coming down out of the mountains. We drove up a small grassy track, through some rocky hills, and popped up onto an awesome cliff overlook. Despite being clearly abandoned, we even found evidence of a campsite and fire put! We had some lunch and took some pictures of the majestic scenery.


Gorgeous. The view’s not bad, either.


Om nom nom nom nom nom


Money shot

Money shot



Sadly, it was too early to make camp. We had a little more driving to do before reaching Loreto. We pressed on.

We made it into the town of Loreto in the late afternoon and set out trying to find a place to camp. This was our first night on the Baja peninsula, so camping on the beach was a must. We drove through the middle of town, and were waved towards the outer edge. We found an RV park filled with very nice looking vehicles, and decided to ask for directions. A Canadian man was sitting outside his RV reading a book, and he claimed that there was a road used by the locals to get to the beach during the summer months. If we could find it, we could camp on the beach no problem! We thanked him, and in the waining light managed to find a dirt turn off that led us to the beach.

Our beach campsite in Loreto

Our beach campsite in Loreto


We made a simple dinner with some locally sourced chicken and peppers

We made a simple dinner with some locally sourced chicken and peppers


We awoke at sunrise the next morning, completely refreshed.


Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day…




Day 5 of our trip begain with making coffee and oatmeal for breakfast and packing up the car. As our luck would have it, we ran into our Canadian friend from the RV park again! He was going for his morning walk along the beach, and recognized our behemoth of a car from the previous night. We offered him some coffee, only to discover that we only had two cups. We apologized, and ended up talking to him for quite some time about his trip and the Baja.



I need to work on my tan


His name was Ernie, and it turns out that he and his wife were spending 6 months living in their RV in the Baja. His son had previously raced in the Baja 500. We were extremely jealous. He was also very knowledgeable on things to do and see while on the peninsula. My internet-based planning had been mostly me pointing at the map, and saying, “That looks cool”. Ernie recommended numerous places to see and his expert advice helped us to re-plan most of the second half of our Baja trip.

Based on Ernie advice, that morning we headed up into the mountains north of Loreto to find the very old Mision San Javier, founded in 1699.


Part I: Durham, NC to Topolobamp, Los Mochis

[futures links to parts 3 and 4]


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Baja Mexico, Part I: Durham, NC to Topolobampo, Los Mochis

Call me Grant. Some years ago, never mind how long precisely, I though I would drive about a little, and see the sandy part of the world. Since deciding to pursue our goal of driving to Brazil for the World Cup, David and I realized that, having very little to no experience ACTUALLY driving through foreign countries and living out of our car, we needed to go on a practice trip. With the summer fast approaching, the only time we could both manage to have some free time for a trip like this was the week and a half after New Years Day and David heading back to Boston for school and me going back to work. We left for Mexico on Thursday, January 2nd at 10:00 pm.


Early morning shadows

We arrived some 24 hours later in Laredo, TX, where we camped at the Lake Casa Blanca State Park. We arrived after the park had closed for the night, but we called ahead and they graciously left us the code to the gate.

After a quick but much needed night of sleep, we woke up early the next morning and headed for the Mexican border. Laredo has two bridges into Nuevo Laredo in Mexico, but only Bridge II has the aduana (customs) and facilities to import your vehicle. Traffic coming into the United States was already backed up for what looked like miles, but going the other direction was quick and easy. An official glanced into the rear, asked about our cooler, then shrugged and waved us on. We were in Mexico! To travel outside the Border Zone (some 20 km’s from the border), though, and bring our car into the country, we had to go to the customs building and obtain our tourist visas and a temporary import permit for the Land Cruiser. Upon accomplishing this, we set off on the toll highway for Monterrey.


Northern mainland Mexico

Driving through the northern mainland of Mexico was very similar to how we would find driving through the Baja. Large town or city, 100+ miles of emptiness and mountains, another large town or city. This is not to say the drive wasn’t interesting. Our first taste of mountains and desert was very pretty, and when the highways would hit the cities, we inevitably would get lost trying to find our way to where they started again on the other side (roads signs virtually disappeared once we left the border areas). In the city of Torreon, especially, we spend a good 45 minutes driving though the backroads and poorer areas until we found a local bus that eventually led us back to the highway.

We arrived in the coastal city of Mazatlan under the cover of darkness, and found our hotel (the only one we stayed in on the entire journey!) and a safe place to park. Although we wouldn’t appreciate it until the morning, we stayed at a place called Hotel La Siesta and paid $50 for an oceanfront room. We ate at a small cafe nearby where a local band was playing. I tried to practice my Spanish, we each drank a few of the most refreshing Pacificos I have ever tasted, and we promptly went to sleep.


Good morning, Mazatlan

The next morning, we awoke to an awesome view and leisurely got up and loaded up the car. I had gotten very sunburned driving the previous day (the entire left-hand side of my body), so we both put on sunscreen and started meandering northward towards the town of Topolobampo, where that night we were getting on a ferry and heading to the Baja. As we headed north out of Mazatlan, we realized that the town is actually a pretty major tourist destination! About a mile from our aging, two story hotel, we began encountering highrise luxury resorts and gringos in flip flops. Driving in at night, we never would have noticed if we had driven south out of the city that morning.


Old Mazatlan

Old Mazatlan


After a relatively quick (4.5 hour) drive, we arrived in Topolobampo mid-afternoon. I was a little apprehensive about our ferry tickets, and thankfully David was willing to accommodate us getting to the port 6 hours early for the estimated 11:00 pm departure time without complaining too much. There was a little confusion as to what we were supposed to do with our car, but thankfully we met a nice retired Canadian couple who helped translate for us. It turns out, you have to get your car weighed and measured before they can validate your ticket.  The couple were taking 6 months and driving their full-sized RV up the Baja and back to Canada. We doubled back to town after verifying our tickets and found a local food shack where we ate delicious shrimp and marlin quesadillas, and headed back to the port to wait.

We eventually loaded onto the massive ferry, and after a surprisingly above average included meal onboard, we found some recliners and slept fitfully for a few hours before arriving in La Paz at around 7 am. Once there, we were only a long line of cars and a military checkpoint away from the Mexican Baja!


Awesome sauce


Part II: La Paz to Loreto

[future links to parts 3 and 4]

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Baja or Bust

Do you have any plans for the new year? Personally, we’re still trying to work off the pounds we picked up between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we also have a few bigger fish to fry. Come May, we are going to have to cross quite a few borders and log many hours on foreign roads, and we think we could use a little practice. What better way to get a feel for the road than a little test run down to Mexico?

Tomorrow Grant and I are setting off on a mini-adventure to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. The peninsula is a popular destination for overlanders and adventure enthusiasts alike. Known for whale watching, fishing, and relaxation of all varieties, the scenery and the beaches alone are a good enough reason to drive across the continent. But that’s not the only reason we are going. A vacation to warmer weather certainly is nice, but the practical side of our trip is far more important. It’s already 2014 and the summer is on the horizon, so BrazilDrive is headed to Mexico to prepare for the World Cup.

Like the real trip in the spring, we will be passing through Laredo, Texas as we head into Central America. The first real test is the border crossing. Most people agree that the further south you get, the more relaxed the borders, so naturally the US-Mexico border is the most heavily guarded. Borders are going to be stressful no matter what country you’re in, but we’re hoping to get some practice under our belt before the real deal. We’ve done the paperwork and made photocopies, so we’re hoping for a painless transition, but I’d rather experience any issues now, before missing World Cup games is on the line.

Driving to Baja is going to test more than border crossings. Driving long hours, cooking along the route, sleeping in our newly crafted sleeping platform, and updating the website are all areas we are hoping to work out. So far all of these things work on paper, but we need to try them out in the field before we take on Brazil. Keep an eye on the site in the days to come, as we’ll be posting pictures and updates from the trip!


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The Draw: Update

The World Cup Draw has come and gone and we are quite pleased with the results! After a tense morning and countless back-and-forth texting between Grant and I, the stage has been set and our personal game schedule has been revealed.


Colombia vs. Cote d’Ivoire

Italy vs. Uruguay

Germany vs. USA

Russia vs. South Korea


Not too shabby if I do say so myself. After missing out on the seeing the USMNT play in South Africa, we are pumped to see them in action in Brazil, and seeing Germany while we’re at it, well we can’t really complain about that either. We have also applied for tickets for an additional knock-out game and will keep you posted on its status, but with a handful of great matches already in the arsenal, I’d say we are quite happy.

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The Draw

The World Cup draw is tomorrow! Because of the way the qualifying process is set up, we have had to plan our trip around certain stadiums and individual matches rather than getting to see certain teams. However, in South Africa we registered for games in which the highest seeds were playing, and ended up getting to see Spain, Brazil, and Argentina, among others. Sadly, no U.S.A. games.

This time around, we were a little bit unfortunate to only get tickets to 4 of the 6 games we entered the lottery for. However, a new lottery phase opens up after the draw, so we have another chance! Currently, our schedule looks like this:

6/17, Cuiaba: H3-H4

6/19, Brasilia: C1-C3
6/24, Natal: D4-D1
 6/26, Recife: G4-G1
Games we didn’t get tickets for:
6/22, Rio de Janeiro: H1-H3
7/1, Sao Paolo: 1F-2E
Don’t forget to tune in to ESPN2 tomorrow at 11:30am EST to watch the draw!

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