My Mexican Adventure

San Lucas Beach




Here is my account of our trip into the land known as Baja (Mexico)

On the 2nd of January 2002, three of us Kevin from California, Tyson from Canada and myself (Dave) from England, but now living in Oregon, all riding KLR650's crossed over the border, to discover new horizions.




Day One




First things first, "Insurance" ... We had been told that you do not need to buy insurance to ride in Baja, but if you get into an accident, and you can't prove that you have liability insurance, you go to jail. We all opted to buy the insurance, the cost was only $3.32 per day and well worth the peace of mind.
We bought our policies in Calexico, which is located very close to the border. (5 minutes max to complete paper work per person)

Crossing the border at Mexicali was a breeze, traffic was light, and the border guards just waved us through without so much as a second glance.
We parked our bikes and set about looking for a tourist office to obtain our tourist permits.





Our KLR's parked in Mexicali




Here is where we get our first headache. We spent about an hour and a half, being sent from one place to another, just to try and find the correct building. Well, to cut a long story short, basically the tourist office is located right next to the border crossing on the left hand side as you enter Mexico (heads up for anyone crossing at Mexicali). Once the paper work is written up, you simply walk across the road and go to the bank (banco) and pay $21, then go back to the tourist office, where they stamp it, and then you're ready to go.

At last, we are all sorted and ready to hit the road to try and make San Felipe before sundown.

We arrive in San Felipe around 4pm, and the first thing we do is to taste the local food .... Yummy, Tacos at a little shop along the main road.





The tacos were super, great food



Once we had filled our bellies full of some great tacos (4 tacos - 2 beef, 2 chicken - and a pepsi $5), we begin to look around for somewhere to camp.
It's getting dark now, and riding in an unfamilar area at night is not advisable. We reach the beach, but find a sign saying "No Camping" .. Grrrr ... we move on wondering where to camp and come across a nice little RV camp site at the south end of San Felipe. We scoot in there and set up camp. We have a great view of the lights of San Felipe, as the park is atop a hill. ($7 per person per night)




San Felipe camp site




Total mileage for day one, approx 170, very easy riding, all highway, except for the quick run along the beach looking for a camp spot.




Red sky at night.


Day Two




Our plans for today were to ride from San Felipe down to San Ignacio, where we were hoping to meet up with Russell, another Canadian, who was ridng a DR 350.

We packed up camp and headed into San Felipe for some breakfast at a little cafe that had been recommended to us (trust the locals, they know the best places). The food was good and the setting perfect. ($5 per person for breakfast)








After munching down our chow, gassing up our bikes and buying some water (don't drink the tap water, our bodies are not use to it), we left San Felipe, but not before I took another photo of the wonderful beach located there.




San Felipe beach




Ok ... it's onto San Ignacio ... Hmmm not so fast. No one had told us that the Mex 5 highway turns into the Baja 1000 about 30 miles south of San Felipe. When the black top ends, the sand, gravel, and rocks begin. We pulled over at Puertecitos and let some air out of our tires. The last thing we needed was a flat tire, but we all had spare tubes and flat repairs just in case.





Kevin and the bikes




We started our bikes, pointed them south and rode like bats out of hell (50 to 60 miles an hour on gravel and sand roads), the KLR's even though great bikes, became a handful for me at this kind of speed, especially as we were loaded down with camping equipment, clothing, water and so on.

Kevin and Tyson were having a blast, I on the other hand was given the nickname "Pokey" due to the fact I kept falling behind. (I was stopping to take photos) that's my story and I'm sticking to it.




Tyson and Kevin




Well, we rode and we rode and we rode, for what seemed to be like forever across sparce terrain and past little fishing villages until we came across Coco's corner. Now Coco is an old timer that has made his home in the middle of nowhere along the Mex 5. He sells beer and soft drink's to passers - by for a living. If every you get down there and get to meet him, buy a drink from him, and also sign his guest book. He seems very proud of his book, and rightly so, he can speak some English and knows the area well .... Nice guy.




Coco's place




From Coco's corner we press onto Chapala approx another 20 miles away. As we arrive in Chapala the sun light is begining to fade, and we know that we won't be making San Ignacio on this day. Chapala has two building's, a resturant (someone's home, converted) and an abandoned building. We decide to eat there and then find a camp spot for the night.

We camp on Laguna Chapala, a dry lake bed, about two miles from the resturant. It is here we get our first flat, I have a thorn stuck in my front tire, no biggie, the three of us make small work of changing over the front tube and we are back to making camp in about 10 minutes or so.




Dry Lake bed, Chapala




As night falls we are given a display of some of the clearest skys I have ever seen, there are stars every where and the sound of nothing but the crackling of a fire we had built from the shrubs around, just made me feel like I had found a peace of heaven here on earth. (excellent)

Oh by the way, that wild brush only burns for about 4 minutes a bush, we made many runs into the darkness that night to keep ourselfs warm.

Total mileage for day two approx 150 miles, easy going for first 30 miles ... sheer hell for the rest, but fun.


Day Three




Day three arrives and we pack up camp and set off for San Ignacio, just as we get onto Mex 1, Kevin notices a two inch nail sticking out of Tyson's rear tire. We stop and and Tyson decided to pull the nail, hoping that his slime (liquid flat fix) will work. ... It didn't, we pull off the rear wheel and replace the tube.




Changing Tysons flat




After another brief delay, we are on our way to meet up with Russell, we had planned in advance that if we didn't reach him in San Ignacio in time that he would leave a message at the motel he was staying at and let us know where to meet up next.

From Chapala to San Igancio was a long hot ride, with a brief stop in Guerrero Negro, for water, gas and lunch. Guerrero Negro has a big miltary base there and a lot of the check points that you have to pass through from town to town, are probably manned by soldiers from here. Speaking of the soldiers, I found them to be very friendly and never once did I have a problem with them. It would appear their main task is to stop the movement of drugs across the border, not to harras the tourist. They do a good job, and just love motorcycles, especially Army Green KLR's.




Cafe in Guerrero Negro




From Guerrero Negro we head towards San Ignacio along the Mex 1. The road becomes very twisty and as you wind your way through and down the foot hills, you are greeted by an awsome sight, from the dry, brown terrain of the highlands, you start to see a lush oasis of green palm trees and foliage. At last San Ignacio. We quickly get directions to Russell's motel and hope that he is still there awaiting our arrival. No luck Russell isn't there, and neither is a message, letting us know where he is. (later find out, he was having mechanical problems, and had to cut short his trip)

WOW ... San Ignacio, what a wonderful place, it's like walking back in time and seeing how things use to be.




San Ignacio




I wanted to stay here the night, but Kevin and Tyson wanted to press on.

Once again back in the saddle we head towards Santa Rosalia, which is on the coast, we didn't like the looks of this town and so rode through it and ended up camping in an RV park in San Lucas ($6 per person). We made camp and and went of to get some dinner.




Tasty treats




The food was good, ($7 per person). While eating dinner and listening to my two amigo's talk, I began to realize I was kind of out of place amongst them. We were all on the same book so to speak, but alas we were not on the same page, there were things I wanted to see and do, that I knew wouldn't appeal to them.

When we got back to camp. I spoke to them and told them of what I wanted from this trip, and that I had decided to go my own way. They both kindly tried to talk me out of this, but we did all agree it would make more sense for me to do what I wanted to do, rather than be upset at myself for not enjoying my vacation to it's fullest.




San Lucas




That night I went to bed with a heavy heart and wondering if I had made the right decision. I didn't sleep very well.

Total mileage 260 miles , all easy highway miles, on the long flat sections, side winds were a big pain in the rear.


Day Four




Breaking camp was kinda sad that morning, this was going to be the last time I would see Kevin and Tyson while down in Baja. Tyson passed around the obliatory morning cookies (oatmeal with rasins) I have no idea where he got them, but he must have used one of his Givi side bags just for these cookies, he seemed to have hundreds of them .. they sure did taste good with a cup of morning joe mind you.

The sun was coming up so we all ran down to the beech for a few photos.








Once the photo shot was over, we said our good byes, and the guys fired up their bikes and rode out. I looked up, and caught a last glance of my two new friend's leaving the compound.

Now all alone (by choice) I packed my belongings and too, rode out. As I reached Mex 1, I turned south and rode for 10 minute's or so in the same direction as Kevin and Tyson. I don't know why I did this, as I was heading north back to San Ignacio to spend more time there and get a good look at that town, I guess I was hoping deep down they would be waiting around the corner for me.

Back on track and heading north, I made my way along the coast line.








From the coast line, it's just a short 50 miles or so inland to San Ignacio, once again, on entering this dreamy old town, I was a taken back by it's beauty.




Rio de San Ignacio




As you ride into the center of town, there is an old square, that is over looked by a very old mission. You can hear the children of the town playing in the square as you walk up the smoothed away stone steps that lead you to the doors of the church. In side the church there is a feeling of age, worn stone floors, and a musky smell, old wooden panelling grooved and scarred over time and use.




Mission de San Ignacio




The church is the focal point for this town, it is the highest and oldest building there (as far as I can make out). Outside the garden is sparce, but a few wild roses add some well needed color to the white washed walls of the church.








I would highly recommend a visit San Ignacio, for anyone that maybe going down that way.

Well back on Mex1, I head north toward's to the highlands, here the country side is rugged and nearly all desert, the moutains offer a great back drop, and when the sun catch's them just right, they seem to come alive with color, and beckon you to come closer.








Pushing on with no particular place to go, I take a few occasional off road foray's, the roads are mostly all sand, nothing deep, so my grip is fine. I had a new set of Kenda tires put onto my bike before I left, and they are holding up very nicely.








Back on the black top I see a cactus field about 15 miles or so south of Catavina. I know I shouldn't ride around this area, just in case I get another thorn in my tires, but I just couldn't resist, and so I took the plunge and threw caution to the wind, and rode.








I'm glad I did, the view's of the cactus amongst the rocks are a sight to see, and if you take the time to dismount, and walk your way into the fields, you will see colors galour, from bright yellows to greens and brilliant flashes of reds, all there just asking to be looked upon and admired.




Red Tipped Cactus




Not to mention the roads are a blast to ride. Hard packed dirt, a few small rocks and some loose sandy sections, to keep you on your toes.








Opp's ... bike start's to splutter, I switch to reserve, and make a b-line for Mex 1, I'm thinking I have made one too many off road juant's and have no idea how far it is to the next Pemex (gas station). Panic starts to set in, as being stranded in the middle of nowhere is a daunting thought. I ride at 50 miles an hour and coast down any hills I have had to climb, in an attempt to save gas.

Up a head I see a building, and hope it's a gas station ... Nope ... just a resturant and RV park, I pull in and notice a figure moving around the side of a shed. I approach him and with out knowing hardly five words of Spanish. I make it clear, I'm desperate and I need gas "badly" .... "Pemex", I cry, while pointing to my gas tank ... He look's at me and smiles, obviously I wasn't the first gringo to seek help from him for gas. He goes round to the back of his shed and re-appear's with a green prestone bottle and starts to pour the much needed gas into my bike.








I ask him, how much I owe, by saying "peso's" .. he write's a number in the sand with his finger, I nod agreeingly, and ask for a cup of caffe (coffee). While drinking my coffee, he comes over to me and points to himself saying "Santiago" I returned the gesture by pointing at myself and saying "David" ...








Santiago had only asked for 40 peso's ($4), I paid him 100 peso's ($10) and was happy to tip him, he had saved me from a for sure long hike to the next gas station.

If ever you are down in Baja, look out for Luncheria Sonora on Mex 1, it's a one building town, and Santiago is the population of this fine place, buy a coffee or something from him. It's good folk's like him that help lost soul's such as us when we are in times of need.

I waved good bye to Santiago and headed for El Rosario, about 45 miles north.








Once in El Rosario, I found a motel called "Sinah" right along the highway. I was in bad need of a shower, and the thought of a bed sounded real good to me also. The room was basic, but clean and the water was hot ... Awww comfort at last.




Hotel Sinah




Once I had taken a shower and grab a bite to eat, I hit the sack and was out like a light, I slept like a baby.
(room cost $17 for the night)

Total Mileage 368 mile's, both on and off road. Nothing hard, except them darn side winds again.


Day Five




Fully rested and feeling totally refreshed from a good nights sleep. I set off for Mike's Sky Ranch (A place for elite off road riding core and the begining point for the Baja 1000, I believe). The ranch is located on the out skirts of the San Pedro Martir National Park.

I make a brief stop in San Quintin, gas up and buy some water and set sail.









You can reach Mike's Sky Ranch, by one of three routes. Mex 3 to Colonia Cardenas then onto the ranch, Mex 1 to Colonia Cardenas then onto the ranch or Mex 1 to San Telmo and then onto the ranch. I had choosen the later as it was on my way up north. The road from San Telmo was mostly gravel and sand, but it had been graded so was full of thse little 1 inch bumps, that are a royal pain in the rear. I found it best to run at about 40 to 45 miles an hours and just try and skim over them kidney bruiser's.








Not to far passed Ejido Sinaloa the road turns a lot smoother and those annoying little bumps become a thing of the past. The road has turned into mostly hard packed dirt and light sand, a real joy to ride and the view's are becoming even more pleasuarable, as I begin to gain some altitude.








Well nothing we do in life is suppose to be all good, and it was just passed El Coyote approx 16 miles from the the ranch, that I found out, with the good in life comes the bad. The poop has hit the fan, and I'm just about to ride on some of the hardest terrain I have ever ridden.








It began with deepening sand, no major problem except my bike is totally loaded (approx 90lb's of gear) that combined with the weight of a KLR 650 and my body weight of 232lb's, plus riding suit, helmet and boots etc, all adds up to one heavy piece of equipment. (yes this is my excuse).

From the deepening sand, came ruts and some major sized rocks.








The going was pain stakeingly slow, and the sun wasn't helping at all (approx 78 degree's). I had no idea this route was going to be this bad, some of the sections were just down right scary, two 6 foot dip's nearly made buzzard food out of me.

Well never the one to moan, complain or spin a tale :-) I pressed on, until I reached a ridge way.








Here I parked my bike in the shade and began to ponder my situation.

It can't be more than a few miles from the ranch, but at the pace I was going a few miles seemed like an eternity. I decided to go forward, but thought I would pre - walk any sections that took on the apperance of hell before actually trying to ride them.

Well it just so happen's that the next section after the ridge way, was a double switch back which was being used to help gain elevation. The path was coated in a heavy dose of fair sized rocks, and the actual turns were tight. There was no way I could ride this section, and to be honest, it would be a foolish thing for me to attempt, especially as I was on my own.

I turned my trusty KLR around and headed back the way I had come. I felt so demoralized, but that feeling soon passed as I realized I had to once again ride all that I had just so bravely struggled with to get here in the first place.








Once back down to more friendly terrain, I thought about what I had just attempted and even though I never made it through to Mike's Sky Ranch, I did feel a sense of accomplishment. I took a photo of myself to make me feel better.




San David




This had been a long hard day for me, I made my way back to Mex 1 and rode up to San Vincente. Where I got a a camp spot at an RV park just south of town ( $7 per person per night)

Total mileage approx 160 miles, easy roads to hellish trail's and life threatening two tracks.


Day Six




Day six was to be my last day in Mexico, I found myself yearning for my family and friend's, and I was missing the company of other english speaking folks. Looking back on it, maybe I should have stayed with Kevin and Tyson, but who can say.

I packed up camp and began the journey back to the border, stopping along the way to take a few photo's of intrest.








From San Vicente I took the Mex 1 towards Maneadero, along the way I noticed a truck parked along the side of the road with a KLR strapped to the front of it. I stopped and introduced myself. The guys name was Mike and he was with his wife, who were heading down to Bahia De Los Angeles for some sun, fun and riding.








After my brief visit with Mike and his wife, I once again set about making my way back to the border. Just passed Ensenada I took the Mex 3 and headed towards Tecate, another border town.








Crossing the border was easy and fast, traffic was nearly non-exsitent.

Total miles 115, all black top and smooth riding.




Thank You For Joining Me




In closing, I would like to say that Baja is certainly a place to go see and ride. The people are warm and friendly and are willing to help you with no questions asked.

On a darker side, I did find the amount of trash thrown along the road side a put off. There is broken glass nearly everywhere, so be careful when stopping for a photo op or something. The last thing you'll want to get is a flat because of a beer bottle.

Also if you are an animal lover, as I am, be prepared to see dead dogs along the road ways. The people of Mexico don't take care of their pets as much as we do here in the States. Sorry I didn't really want to tell you this, but it was a shock to my system to see so many of mans best friends, lying there.








Hey everyone, thanks for taking the time to read my web page. I hope you have enjoyed it.

If you have any comments, or questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me

David Butt
Salem, Oregon