Start of a new chapter. ¡Hola! Mexico.

After years of planning, the first chapter of our adventure had finally come to an end. After 6 night’s at the Parmann’s we were finally heading to Baja California, a decision we had only come to a week ago.

We truly did not know what to expect from this next leg of our tour. We were receiving mixed messages from people we spoke to. Lots of people were telling us that ‘Mexico is dangerous’, ‘You have to be careful there’. However, as it turned out, none of these people had actually been to Baja. My favourite quote of concern was from a lady working at a San Diego Walmart,

“I’ll pray for you every night.”

Most people we spoke to, who had actually been, informed us that they had loved Baja, and that we would have an incredible time.

Not wanting to live our lives in fear, we approached the border with open minds. After all, I had seen a mugging on my very first morning in Brooklyn!

Before leaving San Diego, we stopped off one last time at Trader Joes for some supplies. From there we followed to signs to Mexico.

We have crossed the border back in the England into Wales and Scotland, but as you can imagine, as part of the United Kingdom, that experience is a lot simpler.

As we approached the international border, we drove past the last exit before Mexico.

“There’s no going back now,” I pointed out enthusiastically.

As we approached the check point, we were not surprised when the armed guard pulled us over for inspection. Greeting us, he began to ask us questions all in Spanish. Perplexed, we stared at each other, neither of us being fluent Spanish speakers. We had hoped to learn Spanish originally, when our plans involved touring South America, but we never really listened to the audio cd we had bought more than a couple of times. It was so easy to put off when the trip was so far away.

The guard didn’t really search Ruby, other than briefly looking around with his torch. If there was anything illegal in there, he wasn’t prepared to turn it out looking for it.

With the inspection over, we were free to head into Mexico… well almost.

We’re actually in Mexico

Willow had done some research and learnt that you should head to the immigration office and complete some official paperwork, this would make our re-entry much smoother.

After chatting to an English speaking employee, we learned that for $50, we could complete an application for a 6 month visa in a matter of minutes, a complete contrast to our American visa application.

With all the necessary paperwork complete, we set off towards our first camp spot, desperate to get past Tijuana. We reasoned that if there was going to be trouble in certain parts of Baja, Tijuana could potentially be one of them. We also wanted our first night to be on some form of beach, rather than in a city, so we located an area just south of Ensenada.

It was fascinating to see how quickly the environment around us transformed. Less than a mile away, back in San Diego, you could clearly tell that you were in America. Now in Mexico, you could clearly tell you weren’t in the States anymore. Now I know that shouldn’t be surprising, but in my head I thought the metamorphosis would be gradual as we made our way further south.

Getting through Tijuana
Heading down to Ensenada

We followed the scenic coastal road down towards Ensenada. The road was a ribbon, winding through cliffs and hills. As we moved away from Tijuana, we started to pass through smaller stereotypical towns, comprising of dirt roads littered with stray dogs. Small taco standings everywhere.

The campsite we had picked was located at the end of a small peninsula, there were multiple campgrounds to choose from on iOverlander, but we settled on one named El Mirador, which was nestled above a local attraction named La Bufadora.

Only a couple of miles from the site, we got our first experience of Mexico’s notorious road system. The tarmac suddenly disappearing, only to be replace by dirt.

“I’m glad I fixed that rear shock absorber!” Willow smugly chuckled.

“It’ll probably fall off again in a week,” I teased.

Pulling up to the camp, we were relieved to find that we could pay in dollars. We had planned to take some money out at an ATM as we filled up, but the commission was extortionate. We knew that we would most definitely need pesos the further south we travelled.

Our first spot in Mexico

The campground was super basic. It had a toilet, which you had to flush with a bucket. Overall, it was still an upgrade on the state campground we paid $35 to stop at! Most importantly, it had 24 hour security and only cost $5. We wanted peace of mind for our first few nights, until we’d had a chance to get a better feel of our new surroundings. So far we hadn’t seen anything that worried us with regards to our safety.

We parked up right at the end of the cliff face, which offered us panoramic views over the Pacific, both of us still finding it hard to come to terms which the fact that we were no longer in The States.

Better view than our first night in the States
Gorgeous sunset

That night, we toasted our next chapter with a bottle of champagne.

“To Ruby! Our little van that keeps on going.”

Being of a cliff edge, we were concerned that it might get a little too windy and as a result, we’d have to sleep ‘downstairs’, however as we went to bed, it was surprisingly calm. This changed dramatically overnight, and our pop top was battered by ridiculously strong winds. As it was around 3am by this point, neither of us could be bothered to set up the rock’n’roll bed and so we stubbornly spent the rest of the night lying there, listening to the canvas violently bang relentlessly until the early hours.

The only positive from the situation, was waking up to beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. I guess sometimes you have to tolerate the bad to appreciate the good.

Morning view

Being on a protected site, on the end of a cliff, meant that we could happily let Aimee without any concerns. We’d all spent almost a week back in civilisation, so it was nice to slowly get back into our old routine.

After breakfast, we followed a path down to the main town, where the natural occuring marine geyser was located.

La Bufadora below us

We hadn’t even made it off the main steps, when we were bombarded with Mexican stall owners.

“Do you like sea food?”

“I have the best sea food in the world!”

“Come to me. I cook you taco.”

In those situations, I can’t help but to respond politely, declining each and everyone one of their offers (to Willow’s frustration).

The geyser was only a few minutes from the main market street. A small crowd was already gathered around, waiting for the water show. From what we read, you are always guaranteed to see something, it just varied on size based on the tide.

Positioned and ready, we were shortly rewarded with large bursts of water, small rainbows forming in the resulting shower.

Marina geyser
Bit of a rainbow

We then made our way back to the main Street and decided to have a quick walk down to see what was on offer. Instantly, we were bombarded by Mexican traders from multiple stalls, all vying for our custom.

These guys sell hard

I still couldn’t help myself, kindly telling that we just wanted to walk down first and that we’d have a look on the way back.

“Why can’t you just ignore them?” Willow groaned.

The street had all sorts of products, from fresh food and drink to Mexican clothing.

Once we reached the end, we turned around and walked back down.

‘Hey Amigo, now it’s my turn’, ‘Let me sell you some useless stuff you probably don’t need’, ‘Hey, you said you were coming in’.

We did same some Piña Coladas, and Willow enjoyed it enough to by one for the walk. Surprisingly, this helped protect us from the onslaught of sellers, as we already had something.

Able to relax a bit more, we ventured into one stall, drawn in by a spectacular looking poncho. After a bit of negotiating, I was able to knock the price down to $20.

A large American tour group arrived, offering us safe passage down the last stretch of the street, and then we scurried back up the steps towards the safety of Ruby. We later learned, that the area was a popular destination for cruise ship passengers, and so it is a popular place for sellers to target tourists. We were both greatful to make a move after that, desperate to find somewhere a little bit more secluded.

Aimee was still adjusting to being back in the van
Blending in

Back on Highway 1, we made our way further south, selecting a safe sounding spot on iOverlander. Reading some reviews of other spots, you could see accounts of where people had been involved in incidents with local banditos. Most of them where over 6 months old though, we would just have to hope we picked decent spots.

Moving on
Safe and secluded
I could get use to this

In the morning, we would continue making our way south, hoping to find better weather and less touristy attractions.