Part 1: San Diego to San Quintin, BCN


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The Experience

Our crew assembled at Kai's house for a 0600 departure to the border.  Sadly, the weather was not looking good.  A huge winter storm was closing in on all of California, both U.S. and Baja, and there was nothing we could do about it.  As we left, it started raining and the intensity of the rain increased throughout the day.  The winds were strong, but the good news was that it kept traffic light.

We headed to the San Ysidro border crossing and headed south into the storm.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Kathleen poses with the 1017A prior to loading our stuff for the trip.  With all the cargo boxes that were recently added, we had plenty of space for our stuff.  This would be our ride for the next 7 days.

By the time that we crossed the border, Tijuana was awash in runoff.  While you cannot tell in the photo above, most of that puddle is raw, untreated sewage.  Every manhole in the street was a gushing, four-foot-geyser of sewage spilling into the streets.  Your eyes may be misled, but our noses were not.

Note the dark color of what is coming out of the hole in the wall?  The Mexicans refer to sewage as "agua negra" (black water) for obvious reasons.

The untreated runoff issue is not new; it has been a thorn in the side of the residents of San Diego County for 50 years.  The EPA finally forced the development of a treatment plant on the U.S. side of the border to attempt to clean up the effluent before it hits the Pacific Ocean in U.S. territory.  Above, you can see a portion of the treatment plant as well as the border fence.

Most of the untreated effluent goes into the Tijuana River.  The extent of the flooding can be seen in the photo above.  A portion of the original border fence made of aircraft landing mat can be seen in the foreground.

In addition to the effluent, the rain also washed large amounts of debris onto the highway.  Most of the debris was small, but there were some large boulders in the mix as well.

We continued south on the toll road to Ensenada and the rain/wind continued to build in intensity.  In Ensenada, the wind was blowing tree limbs onto the streets.  Kai suffered the first mechanical failure of the trip.  And, it was the worst failure possible without forcing a retreat to the U.S. - a windshield wiper motor failure.  Kai drove south essentially blind for most of the first day.  Our 1017 suffered a clutch pedal issue shortly thereafter.  The pedal would depress, but not return.  But, by pulling up on the pedal with my foot, the truck continued to be driveable.  We drove it that way for the next 7 days.  In the photo above, the team works its way through the main street in Ensenada in the driving rain.

One of the group needed supplies, so we diverted to the supermarket that was near the main highway.  Above, Dan and Ronald pass through a significant mud hole in the street.

Every street was awash in water.  Whether the water here was any cleaner than the border area in Tijuana, I have no idea.

After the supermarket, we continued south and encountered this stereotypical, if not racist, signage.

The water was axle-deep on the bus in front of us.

We made our way south to San Vicente  and started searching for fish tacos.  Sadly, due to the rain, our place of choice was closed.  We did find an open restaurant, but they were out of fish so we had machaca and birria.  As we were eating, a German fellow pulled in with his Mercedes camper and came into the restaurant to see who owned the Unimogs parked outside.  Above is a photo of his rig.  He stated that he had been "all over" Baja but his definition of "all over" is likely different than ours due to the ground clearance on his truck.

South of San Vicente, the main highway was swamped at nearly every vado (wash) crossing.  So there is no mistake, the photo above shows the main highway for the peninsula.

Our objective for the night was San Quintin.  The initial plan was to camp on the beach, but the rain was making things dicey.  We headed toward the point at San Quintin thinking that wet sand would be superior to mud, but even that was beginning to look questionable.  The photo above shows the dirt road that provides access to the point.

Yuck.  Some of these holes were deep and the mud was thick and gooey.  The trucks churned it up pretty good for the locals, so we were pretty sure that they would be hating us later in the day.

We abandoned the idea of the beach camp since the wind was very strong.  Next we considered an organized camp ground, but abandoned that idea as well since we would be paying for our mud bath.

In the end, we decided that our plans needed significant adjustment and elected to head back inland from the ocean.  So, we had to traverse the mud holes again.

Kai had been in the San Quintin area before on his motorcycle and had stayed at a nice hotel on the beach.  The price was very reasonable at $47US per night and it was an easy sell to the team members because of the cold wind.  The photo above was taken the following morning when the skies had cleared.

The rooms were nice, as was the whole facility.  But, best of all was that there was a restaurant associated with the hotel so we did not have to go into the rain to find a place to eat.  So, we had cocktails in the bar, cocktails in the room and then ate in the restaurant.  We all slept well that night, but it continued raining hard.

We knew that the bad weather was coming, so it was no surprise.  That said, it was still a pain.  The only thing better than driving on the narrow, heavily traveled highway Mex 1 in the rain is driving section of road at night in the rain.  We almost got to do both.  We were very lucky to have stumbled upon the hotel we stayed at, the accommodations were more than adequate and well timed given the cold, rain and mud.

Tomorrow, we continue south down the peninsula to Punta Canoas.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2011, all rights reserved.
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