By Ian Rumford from the March 2012 Edition
A chance of a lifetime!! A trip I wouldn’t be able to do and now can say….I did it. To drive the Baja and the best thing, no cost to me. I was asked to bring a vehicle from Ensenada to Manzanillo.. the big guy, a Ford Excursion V10, the biggest SUV that was produced! Getting 10.5 miles to the gallon, it should not be a vehicle of choice for a person on a budget. A visit to the gas station is a way to make your wallet thinner, over 1200 pesos to fill (100.00+ USD / CAD to give you perspective).
But barring the obvious choice of vehicle to travel, it was comfortable to drive and the heavy duty suspension means, potholes look out! A Jeep CJ/Wrangler would be fun!
I bussed it to Guadalajara, to catch the plane to Tijuana and from there, another bus to Ensenada. Here I am, a city I haven’t clue about (imagine that!) It was easier than I thought, the bus station is connected to the airport, and there is a bus every 30mins to 1hr (180.00 pesos) and 90 minutes later, I am in Ensenada, a nice town unlike the predecessor, and I am awaiting the delivery of the Ford. My first of 5-6 fill-ups!! *shudder* But it wasn’t my money so gas worries weren’t a problem.
1pm and I am on my way, driving, towards La Paz to catch the ferry to Mazatlan. I was told 12 hrs drive, was I in for a surprise.. 950 miles..20 hours. I had a bit of a race on, as I had to catch a ferry at 6pm the next day. Originally I thought no problem, but the extra 8 hours drive made it a challenge. Tom-Toms make driving a breeze! There wasn’t really any worry as if I missed it; there would be another one tomorrow.
The Baja was a delight to travel, wide open varying terrains of rocks, sands, cactus and … quaint picturesque seaside stops. I was in a bit of a rush and didn’t take the time that everyone driving the Baja should take.
Take 7 days and drive, stop, explore… you will be amazed at the scenery. The states of Baja and Baja Sur, which meet in the middle of the Baja de California, are two completely different visions. The south seemed to have more picturesque towns and more desert-like. The north, rougher, rockier and seemingly more inhospitable terrain but that is its beauty.
Doing this trip, you can understand why the Baja cross-country road races were the toughest in the world, and make you wonder how they ever did it. Without that highway I can only imagine it would have been the toughest trek a vehicle could make. That is, IF, they went the full length from north to south. Once you hit the deserts of the Baja Sur, I think it would have been fun, but still very challenging.
I was rushing, and just in awe of the rough terrain, the valleys and the views of the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez, simply amazing views. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better… one more around the bend.
Beaches with views of islands in the distance, and rows or RV’s and trailers parked within stepping distance of the water. Obviously this is the custom, as the setup is all geared for this and these people know something the rest of us don’t. Enjoy yourself, relax…take your time, take it all in. Have fun!
Make it into La Paz, just in time, to catch the Ferry. I went to the sales office (which you drive past the loading area and make a left, 100yds up the road to your left, is their office) and I bought my ticket – $2450 pesos, for a passenger AND the largest SUV. It’s a pretty good deal that includes dinner and breakfast, in a cafeteria. Not the Ritz, but comparable to any high school cafeteria – edible. They had 3- 52” wide-screens TV’s (plus another 3 in cafeteria) playing nonstop movies in English, with Spanish subtitles, until 1am, and back on at 8am. For an extra 700 pesos I could have had a cabin with shower. But due to my last minute reservation, all were taken.
The loading started at 4pm, and the ferry would disembark at 6pm. Passenger vehicles first, then all the semi –trailers, and finally the full rigs. Packed! We left, maybe 30 minutes late; this is Mexico, nothing ever seems to go be on time! I reclined in my seat and just relaxed and watched movies. Everyone told me, 12 hours to get across, it was approximately 16-18. Disembarkation was smooth, and orderly.
You will arrive around noon the next day. Mazatlan to Manzanillo is as everyone expects same ol’, same ol’. If you have a chance, drive the Baja. You won’t be disappointed. I only wish I could have driven further south. Perhaps if I had missed the ferry that day, I would have done just that.
I WILL DO IT AGAIN!!