May 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
When the main (and only) highway hangs a left just past the Pemex station through the town of El Rosario, this is where Baja truly gets wild. Amongst the crowd of longtime Baja dwellers, many suggest that Baja doesn’t even really begin in earnest until you have left El Rosario behind. Whether the town is the start or not, one thing that everyone has to do in El Rosario is fuel up the vehicle, because it’s a LONG way until the next reliable source for gas.
Once out of El Rosario the surroundings quickly turn to a barren moonscape of boulders and desert. For as far as the eye can see, the horizon is dominated by thirsty-looking cacti and boulders that look like they’ve fallen from the sky. Get used to the landscape, because it’s the only thing you’re looking at until you get to Cataviña.
Even though you may see the town of Cataviña on a map, don’t get your hopes up for supplies–there really aint that much here. There used to be a Pemex station, but is has been years since it closed down. Now there is one old man who sells gasoline from 5 gallon containers with a hose, and there’s a 50/50 chance he may not be there. Top off if he’s around, but don’t count on him being there. While fueling you can head on in to the only restaurant in town, though don’t get your hopes up about the food. Let’s just say my meat still had hair on it.
About 65 miles after Cataviña the road comes to a fork; the right takes you on towards the Baja Sur border, and the left will take you on an hour long drive that drops you down onto the Sea of Cortez into legendary Bahia de Los Angeles. A long time haven for fishing enthusiasts and a growing community of American expats, despite its surge in popularity Bahia de Los Angeles retains its outpost charm that is rivaled only by similar Sea of Cortez hamlets. Facing directly east, any visitor, fisherman, local, or camper is greeted each day by a mesmerizing sunrise exploding over the eastern horizon, slowly illuminating the desert mountains and surrounding islands with poignant rays of early morning sunshine. Sampling the numerous fresh fish taco establishments in town isn’t a bad way to spend a day either. Whenever I am in Bahia de Los Angeles, my favorite place to set up camp is at Camp Dagget on the north end of town, where thatched hut palapas and desert simplicity are the name of the game. Those looking for an empty beach can check out La Gringa at the very northern end of the bay, and numerous operators in town organize fishing and diving charters to the outer reaches of the bay and the offshore islands. In the summer months, it is even possible to happen upon whale sharks in the bay, presumably in search of the fresh fish tacos and Tecate’s that flow ever so freely on shore.
Heading back to the main highway, continuing on south towards the border brings you to the barely populated town of Rosarito–not to be confused with the drunken college beach hangout further north that goes by the same name. Rosarito offers little in the way of supplies, and while there is no place for gas, there is one small store that has a cooler for ice and all the Baja essentials (read: beer).
This area of Baja on the Pacific coast is affectionately known in the surf community simply as the “7 Sisters” for the succession of 7 point breaks that pick up big west and northwest swells (read: winter), the most famous of which is “The Wall“. Little more than a dirt road just past the town of Rosarito, this dirt road bounces its way 8 miles or so to the coast, where travelers can set up camp anywhere along the windswept Pacific coastline and leave the rest of the world completely behind. There are a few stone shelters for those choosing to tent camp it, and the prudent camper will utilize any shelter they can happen upon as the onshore winds can get chilly and fierce.
If not making a stop at the 7 Sisters, the next town after Rosarito is going to be the town of Jesus Maria, which officially is home to the Vagabond’s choice for the best tacos in all of Mexico. There are a lot of stands out there that have been tested, but I put my foot down that Taqueria Paulina in remote little Jesus Maria takes the cake. Perhaps its intense isolation and proximity to nothing adds to the flavor, but regardless, a pit stop into Taqueria Paulina is an absolute must.
After Jesus Maria it’s just a short drive to the border where your paperwork may or may not be checked, and a $2 fee will get your car sprayed for bugs before you begin your adventure south into Baja Sur.