Baja California #1 – November 2019

February 28, 2020

Well, in case you were wondering if we would ever leave, we have. Just as the leaves of the maple tree in front of our office in Nevada City burst into flames, (no not from fire), we uncovered our trusty Turtle V expedition truck and headed south to Baja California. Crossing the border at Tecate without a problem, we followed the improved highway through the Guadalupe Valley wine region to Ensenada on the Pacific Coast.

Ensenada is a friendly tourist town and port, and a good place to start an adventure.

Arrival in Ensenada

Ensenada has always been a friendly tourist town and port. We parked safely at the Bahia Hotel and gave the guard a few dollars. Strolling down the Malecón next to the bay, there were plenty of tourist shops if we wanted to buy a hat or a T-shirt. We headed straight for the fish market where the selection is overwhelming. Clams, shrimp, oysters, mussels, crabs, lobsters and more fish than you would even think of. Since we knew all the seafood waiting for us a little further south, we limited ourselves to some nice fillets of fish for the first couple of nights. Of course we couldn’t resist a fish taco at one of the many little restaurants. After years of coming here, we have our favorite.

Hussong’s Cantina

Hussong’s is always full of strange characters—like these two.

Our next stop was mandatory. If you’re headed into Baja without a stop at Hussong’s Cantina, (established in 1892 by German immigrants), for a cold beer or a shot of tequila and some live Mariachi music, your trip is doomed. We tell you this from years of experience. This old watering hole was busy for a Thursday night. Finally scoring a table in a room crowded with more local Mexicans than tourists, we met our old friend, Sergio Murillo, the owner of the BajaRack Adventure Equipment who lives in Ensenada. Another beer and a bag of peanuts made our arrival official. As tradition dictates, we threw all the peanut shells on the floor. The noise level was, well — that’s part of the experience!

Celebrating Birthdays

Erika is beautiful lady and joining her for her birthday was special.

Thanks to a little bit of planning ahead, we happened to arrive the day before Sergio’s wife, Erika, was celebrating her birthday. The following afternoon we had a wonderful dinner overlooking the crashing Pacific at the Luxury Punta Morro Hotel and Restaurant. The service was impeccable, even impressing Monika with her Swiss standards. The evening ended with another birthday party at their home in the hills above Ensenada. We didn’t miss the opportunity to continue celebrating Monika’s birthday, our 37th wedding anniversary and Masha’s birthday in Tajikistan who just turned “sweet 16”!

Wine Tasting in Baja’s Guadalupe Valley

The following day, Sergio invited us to accompany him and Erika on a wine tasting tour and he had a particular winery, Misiones de California, in mind. Arriving late afternoon, we got a personal tour that was one of the most informative we have ever taken. The family-owned winery had an interesting selection. Their Rosé was made from grape stocks originally brought to Baja by the Spanish missionaries sometime in the 18th century. Can’t say it was great but it was certainly unique and intriguing, considering its history.

Heading South on Baja’s Highway 1

A parting shot of the Baja Rack truck and The Turtle V. Our truck would not be this clean for several weeks!

The next morning, after saying our good-byes to the Murillo family, we stopped at a market to pick up some last minute supplies. They are often less expensive than in the US, like ripe avocados and papayas. Heading south on Highway 1, our first stop was the farming community of San Quintin. Airing down the tires from 55psi to 30psi, we turned west on a sometimes rocky, washboard gravel road to reach the second of two bays where there are now several oyster camps instead of the one we remembered. We stopped at a friendly looking one. It was getting late so we asked if we could there camp for night. “Sure!!” the owner said, knowing we would be his first customers in the morning.

Oysters by the Dozen

After buying a couple dozen oysters just picked fresh off the racks in the bay, we continued west through rolling volcanic hills created by eleven volcanos that erupted some 10,000 years ago during the Pleistocene period. The road ended abruptly at a small fishing village. Our destination was still a good half hour away but the only road was the beach, totally impassable at high tide. We waited.

The Beach is the Road

The beach is the road. Fishermen use it every day. The high tide erases all the tracks.

Finally it felt safe. The soft sand getting to the hard pack of the receding tide definitely asked for four-wheel-drive but then it was damp sand at 35 mph to the exit of the beach. More soft sand that can be driven in two-wheel-drive if you aren’t as heavy we are. After a scenic drive through volcanic rolling hills and sand dunes, we arrived at our old friend’s home, Antonio Jimenez, and another perfect campsite. Here, the sandy road ends and turns abruptly down a long flat beach along the Punta Mazo peninsula. It is this beach where many big Pismo type clams are harvested. At low tide we could drive all the way to the far distant point.

Feasting on Pismo Clams

Our old friend Antonio was very pleased that we revisited him after at least a decade.

Not having the expertise of clam digging, Antonio’s son was happy to bring us a couple dozen, (approx. $5.00 a dozen) and we set about cleaning them while an orange sunset melted into the ocean. Chopping the clean clam meat and mixing it with diced onion, tomatoes, Jalapeño chilies, garlic, a little oregano, and a teaspoon of butter, the mixture was repacked into clean shells, wrapped in foil and grilled for about 10 minutes on each side. While the clams were baking we enjoyed a few oysters on the half-shell. It was a delicious meal and the “dishes” were just thrown away. We slept soundly to the sound of the incoming tide washing over the volcanic rocks in front of camp.

5 Responses to “Baja California #1 – November 2019”

  1. Looks like a great time!

  2. Looks like a fantastic visit to a well established favorite place. I’m sure your friends were delighted you dropped by!

    Happy Trails!


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  5. I’ve been tuned out from your stuff for a couple years. Its a wonderful come-back-home to see you again. After an adult-life-long career with the State of Calif in Sacramento, my wife and I moved to Delaware to be close to our daughter and grandson. I had always felt you two were neighbors, given our frequent visits to your enchanting home town.

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