Mexico - Baja California (North)

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Between Alta ("high") California in the USA and the 28th parallel, is the northern part of the Mexican Baja ("low") California peninsula. Past the US border, the landscape quickly evolves from highly populated areas to remote places, precisely the kind we love exploring. Follow us on our tour, mostly along the Pacific coast line...
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Just 80 km further south of Ensenada, one can enjoy secluded Bahia Almejas, nicknamed "Love Beach" by North American surfers... This is why we like dead-end dirt roads so much!
Fresh sea food and fish at hand... in a quiet camp between desert and ocean, was our welcome introduction to Baja!
At first, these agaves looked like big artichokes to us...
Stretching from north to south the entire length of the peninsula, the central range is tucked between both coasts, with its "mesas" or table lands, playing host to scarce but amazing vegetation.
Following more or less a wash named "El Canasto," this dirt road leads to Puerto Catarina fishing camp.
The "cardon" cacti present throughout Baja dwarf our expedition vehicle with their tall-standing arms. Peaking behind our vehicle is a fine example of the hairy "cirio" or candle cactus which can be found only in a small portion of Northern Baja. How they grow to this impressive height in such a dry climate remains a mystery to us.
In this arid land, we often found ourselves surrounded by clay formations... Fine when dry, but certainly not a good a place to have been when the region was hit several times by very heavy rains in the last few years. Man-made climate change?
North of Punta Canoas, the eye looks towards Punta Camacho. As the ocean eats away at these clay cliffs, boulders remain behind which in time erode into a a ribbon of grey sand.
Dried roots of dead pithaya cacti provide good fuel for flash cooking, while their dead "branches" make a great fire starter. At dusk, our fire's cracking is often the only sound to be heard in the immense and restful silence.
Around the Cataviña settlement, the Vizcaino Desert is a scenic environment of white granite boulders and scattered desert plants among which towers the "idris columnaris" cactus, locally called "cirio" for its candle shape. A unique feature of the area, it is covered with tufts of hair and when in bloom, is topped with a crown of small white flowers.
Visible in the background is the fish camp of Laguna Manuela, at 15 km from the village named Villa Jesus Maria. This laguna happens to be a particularly good fishing area for any angler who enjoys using lures from shore.
At the northern tip of a peninsula which divides Laguna Guerrero Negro are the ruins of a former port, Puerto V. Carranza where salt was processed and taken away. Across this 2 km stretch of water, the dunes of Isla Arena protect the laguna from the Pacific Ocean waves.
The Laguna offers an interesting habitat for resident or migratory birds... and a changing one as the tides come in and out. Here at low tide, the vegetation is visible...
As the tide comes in the laguna silently fills. The old lighthouse, El faro Viejo and some ruins of the old buildings will soon be reflected in these quiet waters.
A birdwatcher's paradise and a magical place... Most visitors who come whale-watching during the tourist season -- December through February -- tend to dash through the small town of Guerrero Negro with a single comment... "There is nothing to see in Guerrero Negro!" Too sad, they did not take the 10 km drive on a narrow strip of dirt which takes you across an invisible border between Baja California and Baja California Sur to get to the ruins of a 1930's early settlement -- the wreckage of the US ship "Black Warrior", i.e. Guerrero Negro.
We were fortunate to be granted by a local family of fishermen permission to stay on their camp: a stretch of dunes located in the middle of the laguna. At night, our only neighbours were a pack of very shy coyotes.
These piles and piles of shells are sadly the only things remaining of a past when shells were abundant along the laguna sand shores: "chocolate" clams, so called for the brown colour of their shells, "catarina" small scallops and "mano de leon" larger ones whose shells are reminiscent of a lion's paw... and of a famous European oil company logo. Over- harvested at a time when sustainability was not a shared concern, these shores are now hopefully, albeit painstakingly, on their way to a slow recovery.
The plants in the Vizcaino desert get their moisture from morning dew, a winter gift from the ocean... while the nights granted us beautiful sunsets followed by a deafening silence, under the stars.