We pulled up to the Tijuana border on a Tuesday afternoon. Delighted to find no wait ahead of us, we pressed the push button inspection and held our breath waiting for the electric glow of the green light. Of course, it illuminated red. We sighed and hoped they would be kind – and fast. The “inspection” was pain-free with a quick peek through the slider door, followed by several questions about our odd right hand drive van. We played a quick game of “chicken” crossing the lanes of traffic coming into Mexico and continued through customs and immigration at their big white building.
Like most border crossings, it was a little unorganized but less than 30 minutes later we were pulling away with huge grins on our faces, high-fiving. Somehow, crossing this border made the entire adventure feel so much more real. Cars whipped passed us, changing lanes without signals, avoiding the old Nissans in the slow lane stacked quadruple overhead with furniture. The wall between Mexico and California kept its secrets alongside the highway. Then, we crested the hill out of the border town and began winding along the coastal carretera as the towns grew further and further apart.
This was the Baja.
Like responsible adults, we had found a campsite in advance using the iOverlander app and knew it would only take an hour or so to get there from the crossing. As planned, and less than 100km later, we arrived at our first beachside camp.
It wasn’t madly impressive, but it was Mexico and we were so glad to be there. We stayed a couple nights surfing, snorkeling and eating copious amounts of vanmade fish tacos. The sunsets over the Pacific were beautiful and we were often lucky enough to see dolphins and whales playing just past the break.
We had the whole place to ourselves.
The Northern Baja is a very desolate area with small towns spread far apart and little to no infrastructure. It was a very different place just south of the state of California where there were busy, developed cities blending into one another over a stunning landscape that you could barely see anymore. In the Baja, you could drive down dirt roads to find hundreds of beaches with not a soul in sight.
We would study the map, choose a dirt path that leads to the coast and follow it in hopes of finding an undiscovered surf break. Sometimes it would get a little muddy. Sometimes the road would be washed out so we’d reroute or throw it in 4 wheel and pick a line through it.
Once, we were exploring a 6km beach point only to realize, several kilometres out, that the tide was coming in! We raced back with the waves licking our tires, hearts racing, all the while hollering with excitement.
This is the land of wild camping. And wild camp we did.
Only a couple hours away, we decided to make a little fishing town, Santa Rosalillita (aka ‘The Jetty’), our next destination. Once we reached the turn off with a sign smothered in surf stickers, we knew we were headed the right direction. The Jetty is the smallest of the “seven sisters”. Seven surf breaks linked on a coastal stretch down the Baja, only accessible by dusty desert roads. An usually heavy North-Westerly swell was coming in and the Jetty was going off. As we pulled up to the beach, we could see the waves curling and peeling into perfect little barrels while surfers jumped into the sweet-spot off the man-made point with enormous grins spread across their faces. The camping area was filling up quick with those who had driven all the way from California for this break during these perfect conditions. We shared campfires and surf seshes with new friends, learned from locals how to cook lobster over open flame and couldn’t bring ourselves to leave until the swell started to die off.
Then, it was time to say goodbye to the Pacific and head East across the peninsula.