Baja Trip – Day 7 of 9
🗓: 28 Apr | 🌍: Punta San Francisquito to Laguna Aqua Emerge

Day 7 – 14 miles paved + 80 miles dirt = 94 total miles (151 km)

Our morning consisted of waking up, packing up the tent gear, and getting the mules back onto hard-packed dirt. It was only a short 3 miles before we reached the intersection to Bahía de Los Ángeles where we turned right and meandered our way north. This portion of the road seems well traveled although we didn’t see any vehicles all morning and well into the afternoon.

Sea of Cortez on the horizon!

Mile 26 brought us to Playa San Rafael. I wished we had skipped Punta San Francisquito yesterday and camped here. A short two-track road brought us to a camp area on the cliff face. We quickly parked the mules and unpacked the tent so we had a place to lounge under some shade. The area was beautifully remote, with nothing more than the sounds of sea birds and the gentle waves of the sea.

We spent a few hours enjoying brunch, taking pictures and video with the Mavic drone camera, and walking along the rocky beach. I even changed into my swim trunks and took a short swim in the sea; the water was cooler than I thought it would be (sea rhymes with be – a poet and I didn’t even know it).

Playa San Rafael
The mules enjoying the cool breeze and views of the Sea of Cortez.
Rocky beach at San Rafael
Great brunch spot! Wished we had made it here last night.
Notice the missing brake light lens. It on the road in Baja somewhere!
White Chocolate enjoying the beach
Packed to the hilt but no complaining from Apache

Although I could have hung out and enjoyed Playa San Rafael all day we did have a schedule to keep since our insurance policy on the bikes was only good for a few more days. Perhaps we should have stayed…

As we continued inland we witnessed even more cactus forests that covered miles and miles of desert valleys. It really is incredible how much wide-open land exists in Baja.

Near perfect proportional cactus
Cactus forest
20 km to Bahia de Los Angeles

About 5 miles before reaching the town we noticed that there were quite a lot of developed campsites and homes along the beach. This seems like a popular place for people to vacation.

Cool sign but the camp was closed

Upon reaching Bahía de Los Ángeles we found a small mercado where we were able to buy some sodas, snacks, and top off our water supply. The señorita cashier was a bit rude despite me doing my best to speak Spanish with her. Not all folks you run into in a foreign country are pleasant; I’m sure it’s the same for tourists who visit the USA.

Mercado in Bahía de Los Ángeles. Notice the perro negro on the roof!?
Panditas gummy bear candy in my fav color. (Don’t judge me by my dirty fingernails)

As I was sitting next to my bike, an American (technically, aren’t all people living in North, Central, or South America an American?) on a dirt bike rode by and asked if we were Ok. I gave him a thumbs up and we talked for a bit about our trip so far. I asked if he had any recommendations on a good taco place and he pointed me in the right direction.

After some dinner and some WiFi it was starting to get darker. Although there were hotels in Bahía de Los Ángeles, we opted to leave town and make our way to Laguna Aqua Emerge. Interestingly, it’s called a lake but there hasn’t been water in it for some time; it’s now a dry lake bed. We hoped we could make it before dark.

Sunset riding on the two-lane highway leaving town.

It turns out we didn’t make it to the dry lake bed before dark. We did manage to get off the highway shorty after sunset, however. The sandy double-track road, leading to the lake-bed, made progress slow. In addition, it ended up being really windy on the lake bed.

Night riders

After picking a camp site near the middle of the lake-bed, we did our best to use the bikes as a wind-block while we set up camp. We decided it was too windy to use the tent and just slept under the stars in our sleeping bags. Once we were in the comfort of the bags, the winds didn’t seem so bad. It wasn’t much longer before we were both fast asleep… in the middle of a lake bed that was larger than we imagined…

Baja Trip – Day 8 of 9
🗓: 29 Apr | 🌍: Laguna Aqua Emerge to San Felipe, Baja

Day 8 – 174 miles paved + 31 miles dirt = 205 total miles (330 km)

Waking up in the middle of a dry lakebed is an experience every adventure minded person should seek. It’s a unique feeling being in the middle of miles and miles of dry, flat, desert landscape. Interestedly, the winds had died down for about an hour during sunrise. We had the chance to fly our Mavic camera and capture a video of our camp site from 1,000 feet. At that elevation our bikes and sleeping bags were just a tiny blip in a sea of brown-colored, cracked, hard-packed dirt.

Dry lakebed camping
Dried hard-packed dirt
Viajo – Spanish for “I travel”

This also happened to be the first mechanical problem of the trip… While trying to start my mule, it wouldn’t turn over and indicated a weak battery. I didn’t leave anything on or charging all night so I was a bit worried. At least we were not too far from help and we had a recovery system, if necessary, to tow me into town. I unplugged the GPS, 12V accessory charger, turned off the switch to the aux lighting, crossed my fingers, and said a short internal prayer…

… It started right up. I just had to ensure I didn’t accidentally stall the engine during my typical off-road follies. I also hoped to give him a good charging from the highway miles we had planned ahead. I estimated that I only had to shut him off three times that day and hoped it would be enough to keep his battery going strong enough to get us back home the next day.

Built for adventure
A good looking mule

After breaking down camp, we rode around the dry lakebed enjoying the speed we could travel on what Chantil said “were the smoothest roads in all of Baja!” I set up the iPhone and tripod to film a bit of buffoonery as well.

Weirdo tricks in the desert!

The winds started picking up again so we left the lakebed and proceeded back onto the two-lane highway Punta Prieta Los Angeles as it continued west to Highway 1.

Heavy winds and dust storms
Blowing dust reduced visibility to less 20 yards

The highway was uneventful since we had already seen much of it on Day 4. We were in search of new lands to explore and that happened just after mile 38 where the dirt road winds north towards Coco’s Corner. This was the intended path we plotted, however…

…The beginning of the road had miles of devilish deep sand. Together, we battled the mules through a mile of sand in the hopes that things would improve further along. I went ahead attempting to coax Chantil’s mule through another half-mile before I finally succumbed to the satanic sand. The 1.5 miles back to Highway 1 was exhausting. I felt a bit humiliated for not being able to ride across the sands like Lawrence of Arabia but was also grateful to have made it back to the pavement before my heart exploded.

Fortunately there was another much easier way to Coco’s Corner that is about 18 miles up Highway 1. This dirt road is graded and easily traveled although much of it is under some serious construction. There were traffic cones and heavy trucks parked everywhere. Interestingly enough, there were no flaggers; folks in Baja just go about their way despite multiple roads leading in various directions; most unmarked.

Construction zone
About to reach Coco’s

After a short period we reached the famous Coco’s Corner. We had a little idea of what to expect since we had read other ride reports but we were still surprised at how warm hearted and generous Coco is. His place is quite an attraction with the plethora of beer-can decorations, colorful vinyl racing stickers, t-shirts, and other signed pieces of women clothing hanging from the roof. We enjoyed a cold Coca-Cola, signed his guestbook, took a picture with him, and were soon on our way north once again. Yes, my mule did start again.

Cool Coca-Cola at Coco’s (That’s a lot of “C”s)
Stickers seem to be a theme at the Baja hangouts
Chantil and Coco
Coco’s Corner decorations

It wasn’t much further after Coco’s Corner that we merged onto some of the nicest paved roads in all of Baja. The Mexican Federal Highway 5 is a surprising mix of beautifully flat two-laned pavement with wide shoulders. Speed limits in some sections was a whopping 100 KPH!

However, ride another five miles and your being punished by roads reminiscent of a teenage boy – a face full of potholes with no shoulders. See for yourself:

Some pretty bad sections of highway
Baja Bug

The PEMEX station was the second time I had to shut down my mule today, but it started right up – perhaps a weak battery.

Before long we reached San Felipe… on a Saturday… with no hotel reservations… BIG mistake.

San Felipe was maddening; trucks, cars, bikes, ATVs, Mexicans, and Americans are everywhere. We attempted to get into five different hotel but all has the same answer – “No hay habitación.” It was getting late and I didn’t want to be on the road after sunset so I voted to continue north and hope for some camping along the beach. Just before sunset we found Campo Los Amigos. With a lot of faith and a bit of hope, we followed the sandy road towards the Sea of Cortez where we found…

… a palm-frond roofed cabana right next to the beach. We parked the mules and set up camp before the last bit of light disappeared from another great day in Baja. Later that evening, a couple came by to collect the 220 pesos ($12 USD) for the campsite.

My review of Campo Los Amigos: It’s a bit of a dump; the men’s bathrooms were locked and the women’s toilets don’t flush. The cabanas are falling apart and there was quite a lot of trash in the camp area. One neighbor played Mexican pop music until 10:45 PM (actually not too unreasonable for a Saturday evening) followed by another insensitive neighbor from California who shot off fireworks and M-80s until 11:30 PM. Chantil didn’t notice because she slept soundly through all of the noise. Her review is a bit more positive. She reminded me that the beach and the views of the mountains near San Felipe were beautiful. She’s right; they were, especially during the next morning…

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