Friday, October 31, 2008

The Easy Side of Baja...

For me, just thinking about The Baja Peninsula of Mexico and the mystique that goes with it is just so engaging. As of 8 days ago I was among those that found this peninsula to be mysterious, rugged and exciting. It is no longer a mystery to me but it is still very rugged and exciting, perhaps in the extreme. 

It comes as no surprise to all those that have seen any or parts of the Baja 1000 that this would be the setting for the grueling and dangerous road race. Perhaps it is better to state that it is no wonder that someone picked this place to stage an endurance race pitting dune buggies (on steroids), dirt bikes, trucks, VW Bugs and Jeeps all on a series of dirt roads and river beds. Each rider or driver vying for some trophy that says you are one "bad ass individual". 

I'll say a few things about the race... First off, I have no idea how they can do this in 11-14 hours. Perhaps having a map of the area is key. Perhaps being on smaller bikes than mine (125cc - 250cc compared to my 1200 cc monster - by comparison) makes it easier to navigate some of the spots of "talcum powder" that appear out of nowhere and bog a larger bike down or pot holes that seem like they could swallow Winnebagos. Perhaps they just know how to ride in dirt better than I do, or perhaps all of them REALLY are the "bad asses" that they think they are. I kinda think that it is that these guys and gals are really hard core and all of the above apply.

From San Diego you cross the border into Mexico and, if you are planning on traveling past Baja and have your own vehicle, the first thing you need to do is get a vehicle permit for the amount of time you plan to spend in Mexico (I got 6 months to cover the return trip) and insurance. This process surprisingly didn't take as much time as I would have thought. 
(pardon the washed out photo - couldn't change settings while I was moving)

Tijauna is not what it was 24 years ago when I was here last. Although, this time, I was not looking for the alley wih the "donkey show" (no, I have never seen the "donkey show") or the "live sex show" or whatever alley that would get me into trouble back then.  Just reading this paragraph makes me shiver at how ridiculous it is for me to say that. (to clear the air here - the only time I was in TJ was with my uncle, aunt and a friend - there was none of the above shenanigans, but it sure does make things more colorful when someone says, "Wanna go see the Donkey Show?")
Crossing into Baja is relatively easy. If you are staying in Northern Baja for less than 72 hours you don't need any papers for your vehicle or person, but you do if you are going to be traveling into Baja Sud or the mainland of Mexico, so I took care of my permits at the border in Tijuana. When you cross the border you don't have to check in, you don't have to show ID, you can just keep going. There is an area where you can do all of this, but it is not directly in front of you and you could easily pass it by. As I did any insurance agency that might have existed in that area... I am still looking for insurance (I think it is mandatory). 

I did find one thing... Hussongs. Hussongs is the oldest Cantina in Mexico, boasting the #002 license to sell alcohol. It opened the doors in 1892 and has been serving tequila and cerveza since.
At the border I met an Australian rider named Ian, who I rode with from Tijuana to Ensenada. He was about the snootiest person that I have ever run across. Sure, we shared a few drinks and a meal, but he really wouldn't be someone that I would sit down with on a regular basis to share beers. The only thing we shared in common was our ride, our desire to be riding and our sense of adventure. Of all the Aussies I have met in my travels, I have to say he is not among those whom I would number as friend. I do feel good that I was able to help him clean out his fuel and get him back on the road. It felt good that I could sort out his issues even though he is almost done with his 2nd time around the world... makes you wonder...
The only two reasons to be on this side of Baja are Hussongs and La Buffadora (the blow hole). The spout of marine water (occurring every minute or so to varying degrees of height) is created when ocean waves and air are drawn into an underwater cave located in the cliffside, and the trapped air and water then explode upwards. This interaction not only creates the upward-shooting spout, but a thunderous noise as well. I snagged a video off youtube... it is passable;-) 
I missed a turn that would take me over to the Sea of Cortez side of Baja from Ensenada and tried to make up for it by cutting across some of the roads that, on my map, appeared to continue all the way to Route 3. This is where Baja got interesting... in a masochistic sort of way. More on that next.

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