We dove for clams, and now we will show you how to cook them. In Baja, Mexico. The “Sea of Cortez”
We dove for clams, and now we will show you how to cook them. In Baja, Mexico. The “Sea of Cortez”
Check out our recently published article on Baja, Mexico in Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine. I posted the article below, along with some screen shots of the magazine, but I recommend you go to their website and check out the entire issue. CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE ENTIRE ISSUE.
“You’re driving through Mexico, are you crazy, it’s so dangerous, you might die.” This is a common response we receive when telling people about our upcoming travels through this unaccustomed country. My usual response entails something along the lines of, “Really. What do you mean? Have you ever been there?” This is traditionally followed by an answer of, “Nooo. No, I’ve never been there.”
In the overlanding community, it is a fact that Mexico stands out as a major highlight of any Pan-American adventure. This is mostly due to the country’s abundance of culture, incredible food, warm people, and one cannot forget that it’s great on the budget. As these parking lot conversations arise before your departure, attempt to just nod and smile. Don’t be rude. You know the real deal. You did your homework.
On Halloween 2013 we headed West in the Toyota Tacoma (the Taco) on the Southern most road in California. We were making our final preparations to cross into Mexico, at the Tecate border. This sleepy border town had no line and no stress, but we were rookies. There was no denying that we were nervous. After all, it was our first international border, and with us we carried a truckload of personal possessions that would be bringing us to the southern most tip of South America. In the end, we psyched ourselves out for no reason. It was easy, and Baja awaited with an abundance of possibility.
Baja has fish, and fish is good. We camped in Punta Conejo close to the river mouth. When I say river I actually am referring to the dried-up dirt arroyo that bared more resemblance to a Fred Flintstone highway. But over millions of years of floods and river deposits, a giant river rock reef translates into an abundance of fish to eat and waves to be surfed, making this desert wasteland paradise to some. It was paradise to us. Sunrise surfcasting off the point was a guaranteed meal, or should I say meals. It was here that enough fish were caught, in 45 minutes each morning, to not only feed ourselves everyday, but also our fellow campers. The fish was also provided to the landowner who happily accepted Pargo instead of the small suggested camping fee. In the surf lineup they called me “the fish slayer”. This was a good thing. Amongst the catches were Snapper, Corvina, and trigger fish, just to name a few. As a result of the ocean’s bounty, we were able to invent new recipes and make some new amigos. When you catch your own food, you don’t have to buy food. It is like putting money in your pocket, which extends your trip. This is Baja.
On the Sea of Cortez we managed to find a less traveled nook not far from the highway and we were able to park right on the beach. The sea was calm and clear, like a toilet for the gods. There was no one around. “Lets get snorkley!” After about an hour of diving in the shallow crystal sea, I counted over one hundred chocolates in my black mesh bag. Chocolate pronounced, “cho-ko-la-tae,” is a clam native to Mexico. “Clams for days” was the phrase of the week. When we craved some variety, we switched over to scallops. These were additionally as abundant as the clams, but required more work. In hunting for Scallops, the end of the shell peeks out of the sand like a shy man at a singles retreat. Armed with a gloved hand, I wrenched at the creature. After a period of strangling and struggling, the ten plus inch shell fish finally revealed itself in its entirety. The process of cleaning scallops is messy and takes some time, but when your camping in Baja, time you have.
There are fish stories for days when overlanding Baja. I’m only scratching the surface. In addition to the surfboards and fishing gear, it is wise to pack a camera, because your friends won’t believe you. When you are not surfing, you will be fishing, and when you’re not fishing, you will be eating your catch. This baron desert is surprisingly abundant in sea life and if you should have the urge to fish, you will be successful. Besides remote camping and hunting for your meals, Baja provides plenty of opportunities for organized campgrounds (with hookups), cheap accommodations, and fish taco stands for miles. After not showering for weeks at a time, and finding fish scales in your pockets, campgrounds begin to provide a certain unprecedented sense of comfort. There is an ability to get a room in town, or gorge one self on the never-ending array of tacos, simply due to amazing affordability of this region.
If you’ve spent time in the desert you know that it possesses a magical quality. You know the polarity of it’s landscape, representing both strength and an undying sense of unforgiveness. Baja is all beautiful, spellbinding, and dangerous rolled into one narrow peninsula jutting off California. It is best to remember that one must always travel with water, the proper recovery gear, and perhaps extra gas. On some of the roads, you might not get a passer-by for weeks at a time. Also bring your warm cloths because Baja can be cold, depending on where you are at any given moment. And always bring paper maps because your GPS might stop working all of a sudden.
We spent over 6 weeks surfing, fishing, driving the dusty dirt roads, buying hundreds of fish tacos, and traveling with friends we made in the desert. The stars were bright and the whales were swimming, but, as always, there is a time when one must move on. We drove the Taco aboard a two-story ship, parked on the top deck exposed to the sky. We were the only noncommercial, non tractor-trailer truck aboard the crowded vessel. The sky was clear, the truckers were drunk, and we departed La Paz before sunset. We set up camp as if we were back in the lonesome desert, popped the top, and spread the blankets. On the chilly clear night, the constellations were stunning. In less than twenty hours we landed in Matazalan, Mexico.
Hide and seek… Can you find the Sardinetaco rig amongst the slew of trucks???
We are on the boat that transports trucks from La Paz, Baja to Matazalan, Mexico. It costs approximately $325 and took about 16 hours once we left the dock.
We said our final farewell to Colorado, anxious to cross into Mexico. Two months after our initial departure from Jersey, we are starting to feel like our trip has really begun. After over a year of planning and saving, we are ready to begin on this journey: the truck is dialed in, our attitudes are refreshed, and Lupe still has no clue what is going on.
After leaving Colorado, our first stop was Moab, Utah. It was truly breath-taking scenery, but high winds and chilly weather kept us moving southwest at a rapid pace. The landscape of the desert becomes hypnotizing after driving for days. Mexico is close, but driving long hours is hard. When I was younger I once drove for 19 hours straight, but those days are long over and the combination of sore bones and tired eyes makes me out around 8. The southwest has epic terrain, we have a yearning to stay and explore, but we know more interesting things are on the horizon and, besides, there is a sense of “been there, done that”. We have a stronger desire to get out of this country and feel the rush of being someplace unfamiliar. We blaze through Utah, Arizona, and the California desert, deciding to ride the adrenaline all the way to the border.
We spent a night in Potrero, California, at a campground only minutes from the border town of Tecate, Mexico. We had received word that this border was easy to cross, as well as uncrowded. This all sounded great considering that the first, and last, time I was in Tijiuana (many years ago) things went pretty sour, pretty quick. As it turns out, crossing the border was not nearly as big of a deal as we made it out to be. The Mexican border peeps were helpful and friendly. They spoke good english and gave us free tacos when we got across (that’s all true accept the free taco part.) But anyway, we crossed with ease, drove through the trash-ridden streets of Tecate, and cruised down into Northern Baja wine country. Yea, thats right, Northern Baja has wine country (aka Ruta del Vino). After a handy tip from a fellow camper, it was decided that we would drive a full day past the riff-raff of North Baja, with hopes of arriving at a quieter place to pop-up the Autohome.
After hours behind the wheel in Mexico, we took a sand covered road for about 10 miles to the fishing village of Punta Baja. This is, in fact, a surf destination, but with no one in sight, high winds, and cold water we decided to skip the surfing and pop open our box of wine. The view was epic, and the sound of the waves put us to sleep. Before we knew it Mexican fisherman were driving through our camp at dangerous speeds in classic toyota pickups. They barreled down the dirt road before sunrise, making preparations for their day’s work. They did not mind us sleeping in their camp, but once again the high winds made us pack up and leave early.
We decided to make the drive to the Sea of Cortez side of Baja to a town called Bahia de los Angeles. This drive is known as one of the “gas gaps” meaning there is no fuel for hundreds of miles. I get about 250 to 300 miles to a tank so i felt pretty good about the situation, but to be cautious I filled up my two 5 gallon jerry cans. We set up camp on the beach. The air was hot and dry and relaxing here for a couple nights sounded like a good idea. We busted out the snorkel and saw an abundance of sea life. There was an oversized flounder a few feet from my face camouflaged in the sand. This thing was the size of a Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres platter. I came to the conclusion that i now need a spear gun. I need to pick one of those up somewhere soon. We did wind up catching about 7 barracuda off the tip of the peninsula in about 20 minutes, but we can’t eat those so we threw them back.
After a couple more military check points, that we pass with ease, we head further south. We currently sit in a an RV Park in the town of Guerrero Negro, in preparation fro our next destination. Our fellow campers have provided us with great tips about some spots to check out, and we are excited to continue onward. Soon we will post up somewhere for a few days, relax, and fish. So far Mexico has been extremely pleasant, with warm hearted locals and and abundance of Canadian tourists.