Baja Trip – Day 5 of 9
🗓: 26 Apr | 🌍: Grey Whale watching with Mario’s Tours

The half-way point and highlight of our trip was to experience the Pacific Grey Whale up close in their breeding and nursing waters of the Laguna Ojo de Liebre.

We set our phone alarm for 6AM and hustled out the hotel door in order to meet up with the tour company before their opening time of 7AM. Our morning plans were flawed for two reasons:

The first problem was the tour company we had picked; The Laguna Whale Watching Tours. Their website listed that they would be open at 7AM. Since we didn’t have any reservations booked, we hoped that we could get there in the morning and get two seats on the morning or afternoon tour. The problem is that Laguna Whale Watching closed their tour season the week before.

Welcome to the second problem – the time. After arriving at 6:30 AM we noticed my watch and the bikes showed 5:30 AM!?. Apparently Baja Sur is one-hour ahead on Baja. Fortunately, our phones updated when we connected to WiFi or we would have been an hour late and missed an opportunity all together. Thank you auto update feature on the iPhone!

Once 7AM rolled around, we began to feel that Laguna Whale Watching was not open for business. We went down the road to Malarrimo where they had whale watching advertised. It turns out that they were closed for the season as well. It looked like our window of opportunity to see the whales was fading fast. A huge bummer. The señor at Malarrimo got on the phone and found another company that was still doing tours. The tour company was Mario’s Tours and Restaurant and they were only about a 5 minute ride away! ¡Sacarse la lotería! We thanked him and hustled our way back to Highway 1.

Whale Xing!
Pacific Grey Whale migration

Once we parked the bikes in front of Mario’s Restaurant, an English speaking female approached us and relayed “You must be the motorcycle riders for the tour? You’ve got plenty of time; the tour starts in 40 minutes. Grab some breakfast or look around the museum.”

I paid the price of 900 pesos each ($47.83 USD) for the tour. This ended up being the most expensive thing we did in Baja. This industry is defiantly tourist based and the high prices reflect that a bit. On the other hand, where else can you experience the chance of touching a Pacific Grey Whale in the wild?

Mario’s Restaurant is highly recommended. It’s a beautiful building with great food and service. I enjoyed a breakfast omelet and Chantil enjoyed french toast. After breakfast, we made our way to the briefing area where the Pacific Grey Whale was discussed. Although we were the only US tourists in our group of ten, the guides did a great job of explaining everything in English.

Museum at Marios’s
Tour guide briefing
Windows decorated with beautiful blue recycled bottles
Dogs relaxing in the morning sun

After a thorough briefing, we loaded up the passenger van and made the 40-minute ride out to the boat. Our guides left us in the very capable hands of Captain Tito and his first-mate. A joke was made about how Captain Tito was the great-great grandson of the captain of the Titanic. Funny stuff.

Our boat for the next few hours

After issuing us all life-jackets, and rain coats, we were skimming along the water towards the entrance to the lagoon to find some whales. We stopped near a huge salt barge to talk about the salt mining that made this area so lucrative. We also stopped to look at a large group of seals lazing about on one of the mooring buoys. Before long we were idling along in search for some whales.

Tug pulling…
…a salt barge
Seals lounging about. Lazy seals.

Over the course of a few hours we ended up seeing quite a lot of whales and got pretty close to a few but never close enough to have them come alongside or pass under the boat. It was late in the season and the weather was a bit overcast so getting to pet or touch a Grey Whale was not in the cards. It was still a wonderful and memorable experience and a true highlight of our Baja experience.

A whale tail!
Nice back fella
Capturing the memory
Mommy and baby

It was well into the afternoon before we returned to the pier. Along the way back, we ate the provided sack lunch of a sandwich, an orange, a small Coke-Cola, and chocolates. As our boat nudged into the rocky shore and pier, we were greeted, once again, by our guides.

After returning back to Mario’s, we thanked everyone for a wonderful morning and then made our way back to Guerrero Negro for a nap at the hotel. All that time on the water made us a bit tired.

A Baja Civic! What a beater.

For dinner, we rode down the main street smelling all the wonderful restaurants before we decided to pull in front of the Taqueria Viva México. My staple meal was a Coca-Cola and three tacos; Taqueria Viva México didn’t disappoint. The couple who ran the restaurant seemed really nice. We asked about a dessert Churro and they pointed us in the direction of a place about a block away. As we returned to our bikes we exclaimed “¡Churro!” and they seemed to enjoy that by laughing and giving us a thumbs up.

Great tacos but no Churros

Once we returned to the hotel, we discovered a huge group of Mexican GS riders had taken up residence there. They seemed to be enjoying each others company and the Spanish party music went well into the evening. We had miles and miles of dirt road to cover the next day so we packed our panniers and tail bags, and then drifted off to a comfortable sleep.

Unfortunately we’ve reached our halfway point and have to make our way back north. Not to worry though, we’ve still got 4 days of adventure ahead…

Baja Trip – Day 6 of 9
🗓: 27 Apr | 🌍: Guerrero Negro to Punta San Francisquito

Day 6 – 18 miles paved + 84 miles dirt = 102 total miles (164 km)

Today was going to be a surprise for Chantil. She loves to hike and explore different places so I did some research and came across the website with some information on the Painted Cave of El Carmen. I hoped that this surprise side trip would be worth the short diversion from a long day of dirt road riding.

We woke up early and loaded the bikes for what we expected to be one of our longer dirt days. After checking out of the hotel, we quickly made our way south along Highway 1. This first 18 miles was going to be our only pavement for the next two days so we enjoyed the good time we were making.

The first 20 miles of dirt road was along a wide and very straight section. The road didn’t get interesting until you reach the Baja California border. There are no signs at the border; just a white concrete marker with a metal pole sticking up from the center. We stopped at the border for a break and ate a quick breakfast.

Morning sun and Saguaro Castus
Some sections of the dirt road were washed away.

This is the start of what I would consider to be off-the-beaten path. We rode for miles and miles without seeing another vehicle, person, or dwelling. You really have to be emotionally prepared and have a vehicle you can depend on when choosing to go this route. Personally, I find it comforting to get away from people and enjoy the solitude of the isolated road.

Life is good!
Cactus forests and well-traveled dirt roads
Making good time on the wide dirt roads

12.8 miles after the border, we reached the waypoint N 28° 7.522’ W 113° 18.527’ marking the road to the painted cave. After a short two-track road, we parked our bikes on a dead-end section just below the base of the hillside. The hike to the cave is via a short, easily identified, and well traveled walking path.

Beautiful forest of Saguaro Cactus
Boojum Tree

The Painted Cave of El Carmen was not the largest example of native american artwork, but we found it to be very impressive. We were surprised at how well the place was preserved; there was no trash or graffiti anywhere to be seen! We enjoyed the peace and solitude of the cave while taking some pictures and flying the Mavic camera. I ended up capturing some great video of the cave entrance and the cactus forest below.

Well preserved due to its isolation
Painted Cave of El Carmen
Cave folks

Eight miles further from the painted cave trail, we arrived to our lunch spot – Rancho Piedra Blanca. As soon as we turned off the bikes and put down the kickstand, we were greeted by a smiling couple welcoming us to stay for a while. Since this was the longest distance between fuel stops for our mules, I asked the señor if he has any gasolina. He quickly returned with a funnel, and a full plastic jug to top off both tanks. We were a bit hungry so we asked about lunch. The señorita said it would be about “veinte minutos” and made her way to the kitchen and dining cabana towards the back of the rancho.

Horses and a donkey at Rancho Pindar Blanca
Old cactus marking the way to Rancho Pindar Blanca

A small group of RZR ATVs arrived from the northeast. They were traveling the opposite direction and offered some advice on places to stay along the route. When we mentioned we were considering camping in Punta San Francisquito one guy mentioned an alternative since San Francisquito had lost a lot of its charm since the earthquake some years ago. I made a mental note and thanked them for the advise (Later that day I wish I had taken the advise).
After a cold soda, the señor led us to the kitchen and dining room cabana where we were served a small salad and baked steak taquitos. I used the Google Translate app to chat with the couple a bit; letting them know we had two kids and we lived in San Diego. We relayed that they were very kind and generous and thanked them for the wonderful lunch. “Sometimes It’s not about the journey or the destination, but about the people you meet along the way.” – Nishan Panwa.

Chilling in the hammock at Punta San Francisquito

As we continued east we came across some of the most beautiful and largest Saguaro Cactus forests we have ever seen. It was a bit awe inspiring to see just how tall some of them were. See for yourself in the pictures…

Not an optical illusion – that’s one HUGE Saguaro Cactus!

Cresting the dirt road and seeing the beautiful blue waters of the Sea of Cortez was moving. Although we were a bit tired from all the dirt riding, it gave us continued motivation to reach the sea and find the perfect camp spot to capture the spirit of Baja.

Taking a break
The sign marking the trail to Bahía de Los Ángeles
We heard good things about Rancho Escondido but never did stop.
Boots used to decorate the sign to Rancho Escondido

Unfortunately, we didn’t find the spirit of Baja that we were looking for in Punta San Francisquito; all we found was run-down homes and beaches. Definitely not the picturesque place we had imagined. Apparently, this small town has suffered recently from an earthquake and never seems to have recovered. We decided to make our way back to the intersection marking the trail north to Bahía de Los Ángeles and see how much road we could cover before dark.

As the sun dipped below the small mountain range we realized our day of travel was at an end. We found a place to pull off the road near a dry creek bed. We coaxed the mules through about about 100 feet of deep sand and then set up our tent among the mules and the cactus forest.

Although, we did a pretty decent job of packing everything we needed for the trip, we realized, day two into our trip, that the fuel pump portion of our MSR Wisperlite stove was attached to a fuel bottle that was left home in San Diego. No fuel pump. No hot water. No freeze-dried dinners. Sad face.

Fortunately, Chantil came up with the idea of making a small camp fire using rocks to support the pot for boiling hot water. I went to finding tinder, kindling, and wood, while she found the rocks. Before long we had everything we needed for a genuine camp fire and had boiling water for our red beans and rice dinner.

Who needs a camp stove?

After dinner, we enjoyed a small camp fire under the peace of a billion twinkling stars; thus ending our sixth day in Baja.

Dried cactus husks make for a great campfire

Tomorrow we continue north, exploring more of Baja, and end up breaking our rule about riding after dark…

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