What could be better in February for a motorcyclist in Cincinnati than to go ride Baja. I know that many of you are thinking that Baja is a dangerous place and anyone would be crazy to go there. To be honest, I felt safer there than when I go down to Florida.
10 people and 7 bikes met in San Diego to begin our tour. It was 60 degrees and sunny with our hotel next to the ocean. What could be better. We had Bob, Rick and Liz from Canada, Joachim and Margot from Germany, Bryan from Great Britain, Hector (tour guide) from Mexico, and John from the US. Steve and I (tour guides) from the US. Steve brought our bikes up from Tucson in the support truck. He and I would be riding the KTM 990 Adventure, Bryan, Joachim, Margot, Rick and Liz are on BMW R1200GS’s and John and Bob are on BWM 650 GS’s.
We had our welcome briefing and dinner at the Bay Club Resort and turned over the bikes to the tour members. Of course everyone is excited. The next morning Hector and I loaded the luggage into the trailer and the riders met in the parking lot and are ready to go.
The group ready to get going.
Steve leads the group west of San Diego on CA94 to Tecate. Tecate is a small border crossing and was easy to get through. A little bit about Steve. Not only has he lead about 30 Baja tours on a motorcycle, he has also raced the Baja 500 several times in a buggy. He is very familiar with the peninsula and speaks fluent Spanish.
Steve takes the group south, avoiding Tijuana, and does several back roads to Ensenada. If anyone has ever been to Mexico, then you are familiar with Tope’s. Large speed bumps, even on the main highways. Very effective way to slow traffic. In Ensenada we stay at the San Nicholas Hotel, which has been the starting place of the Baja 500 and 1000 since the ’70′s. Very cool place with several photo montages in the dinning room of the various racers.
The next morning I get to ride and take the group from Ensenada to Cativina, about a 230 mile day down Mex 1. From Ensenada north it is still pretty green but south is where the desert starts. We skirt along the Pacific for the first half of the day and then head east at Rosalia where we had lunch. I know the picture is a little blurry, but Liz is holding a live lobster. Don’t know how much longer it was alive since most of us had lobster burritos for lunch .
After lunch we headed into the National Park of the Central Desert. Some great views and riding on some great twisty roads. The roads are very narrow and the lack of guardrails has you concentrating on the curves as well as the beautiful views. Bryan on his GS.
Our hotel in Catavina was great. A lot of dirt bikers and a couple of Baja trucks were also staying there. The desert views were fantastic. Large boulders, cactuses, and sand made for great pictures.
The hotel courtyard.
The desert view.
Our Edelweiss support vehicle
The next morning Steve took the group from Catavina to San Ignacio. Not much for me to write about since I was in the truck that day, but here’s a little history. Baja was originally settled by two tribes, the Oaxacans and the Mestizo. They were thought to have come over from Mongolia to Alaska then migrated down to Baja. In the 1600′s Spanish missionaries established missions in several towns in Baja and California. So any town with the prefix of San is or once was a Spanish Mission. San Ignacio is one of those.
We arrived at Ricardo’s Rice and Beans restaurant and hotel. This is also one of the checkpoints for the Baja 1000.
He’s got the best food in town. We would stay two nights there because we took the group to the San Ignacio Lagoon about 40 miles away down a dirt road to whale watch the next day. This is one of the places the Gray Whales come to mate and give birth. They stay there from Feb to the end of March. When we went out there were about 300 whales in the lagoon.
The group heading out to the lagoon in the boat.
You call it, heads or tails.
We had lunch at the lagoon and headed back to the hotel. We were lucky since the only time it rained was on the drive back to the hotel. We were sort of unlucky and were hit all week with a cold front out of Alaska keeping the temperatures around a cold 65 degrees all week.
The next morning I took the group to the actual mission in San Ignacio. This was built in 1700′s and they ended up bringing in a disease that killed most of the indigenous people, go figure. Here are some pics of the mission and square.
This ride day was great. The roads were very twisty and going through the mountains. Baja has a range of mountains going down the center north to south, which makes for some great riding. Our first stop was in Santa Rosalia. This town was a copper mine operated by the French. The company owner had a church imported from France that was built by Gustav Eiffel and was displayed at the world fair and reassembled in Santa Rosalia.
The mining company left the town and it became very poor. Now, since the price of copper has gone up they are reopening the mines and restoring the town. We then continued on to the town of Mulege and another mission. The missionaries would bring date palms with them. You get views like this around the missions in the desert.
Liz in front of the Mulege Mission
We went a little off road to lunch. I got to play a little with the KTM but the tour members took their time.
After lunch we were on the Sea of Cortez so we stopped at a few beaches for breaks.
Joachim and Margot on the beach
Our group riding along the Sea of Cortez
We ended our day in the town of Loretto. This was the view from our hotel rooms.
The next day Steve was on the bike again to La Paz, the capital of Baja Sur. Baja actually means lower, so its lower California. Baja is made up of two Mexican states, Baja and Baja Sur. Crossing into Baja Sur there’s something like a border crossing. Crossing into Baja you only need to get the $25 visa if you are going into Baja Sur, they check for it there. Going into mainland Mexico you will need to show proof of ownership (registration or title), insurance and get a tourist visa. Not so in Baja.
During our trip we had to stop at several military check points. They check for money and guns going south, and drugs going north. There not a big deal, I just act stupid to their questions. I’m good at doing that .
Again we stayed on the beach in La Paz on the Bay of La Paz. Another great view at sunset.
In the morning we took a little detour to the tip of the peninsula of La Paz and stopped at the beach on the Sea of Cortez.
From there we headed south again through the mountains down to San Jose del Cabo for our last night. Once at the hotel we did the motorcycle return and let the tour members head to their rooms and the bar. We loaded the bikes into the trailer and got ready for our 1000 mile road trip back to San Diego. We had our final group dinner and had many complements for our guests. 5:30 the next morning Steve, Hector and I were back on the road. 3 days later I was back in San Diego waiting to fly out to Cincinnati. I hit the ground here and wouldn’t you know it, gray skies and snow. I’m still cold, even sitting in the house.
Hope you enjoyed the trip report and photos.