It got even colder in the early morning. Hopefully Baja will be warmer, but just in case it isn’t, we borrow an extra blanket from B who makes great coffee and even breakfast: seeded bread, fried eggs, sausage… T is out for her treatment and doesn’t get back until about 10:30 so it’s kind of a late start towards the border but the word is that noon is the best time to cross anyway.
The border crossing at Tijuana? Unbelievably relaxed! You park for a moment while one of the customs officers looks through the RV, asking a few questions: Alcohol? (a big plastic bottle of vodka) Cigarettes? (one new carton) Drugs? (of course not) Medicine? (aspirin. “Just aspirin?” yep.) Pets? (nope) It was not a terribly thorough search and the vehicle did not get x-rayed like some travelers have told us theirs did.
After that, we go to Aduano (the immigration/customs office) to get our visas. You fill out forms, pay for the visa which is good for 120 days (US$23 or M$390 each), then get the form stamped. The whole process takes less time than it does to get through immigration at an airport because there are so few people.
Road signs are such that traffic is directed onto the toll road but we manage to find the free road. Navigating through Mexico can be tricky, but not for this Natural Born Navigator!
Topes (speed bumps) replace stop signs in many part of Mexico, but in Baja there are fewer topes and more stop signs, many which appear out of nowhere, or are posted in unfamiliar places so you have to be careful when you drive.
Rosarito seems busier and more built up than when we were last here in 2010 and it is a bit of a slog to get through. On the other side, the road goes inland, then through some nice green valleys around La Mision, then back to the coast at Ensenada.
Ensenada seemed so dead when we were there with Big Dog’s father all those years ago. Today, it is a bit like Cancun (not the hotel zone, but the actual town) – busy, messy and colorful. At one intersection, a man waves us to eat at their shop and since there’s parking right in front, we go in for some shrimp and fish tacos as we enter the town. After that, a drive through the even busier Centro to get pesos from a Banamex ATM (exchange rate is about P18:$1), a supermarket for juice and pastries and then back on the road.
The road goes inland again. This is the edge of Baja’s wine country and there are dozens of wineries throughout this beautiful green valley.
Because of the late start, it’s starting to get dark but we push on, sometimes fighting strong gusts. By the time we get to Camalu, the road is at the coast and we can see the sun beginning to set as we drive through San Quintín. Where the heck are the RV parks? Dusty dirt roads lead to land’s edge, but which one to take?
Before we know it, the sun is gone and we are in Lazaro Cardenas. Huh? Did we miss all the signs? Big Dog u-turns back to San Quintín and to a Pemex gas station where someone who tells him about a turn off at a sign to Molino Viejo. Back in Lazaro Cardenas we do see a sign to Don Eddie’s RV park that we had read about on someone’s blog. The sign to Molino Viejo is just up ahead.
A dirt road goes a few kilometers to land’s end and Molino Viejo (Old Mill), a restaurant. Just before it is another RV park, but Big Dog doesn’t think it looks very appealing.
“We need to eat anyway, so why don’t we go to the restaurant and ask if we can park in their lot over night,” he says.
The restaurant is all wood and high ceilings and ship helms. It’s divided into restaurant section and bar section, with a handful of customers in each.
Since they tell us it’s alright to park overnight, we go into the main dining area. This is a much fancier place than we normally frequent but the staff are laid back and friendly.
We have cold beers, a salad of lettuce, black olives, purple onions and queso fresco with a strange fruity dressing, a pasta soup (gratis) and their specialty, molcajete de mariscos. Molcajetes are the stone mortars they use in Central America for grinding grains and are made of porous basalt. Our dish is a tasty creamy seafood stew in a piping hot molcajete. Apparently the molcajete stays hot for a really long time due to its high thermal mass. Our stew was bubbling for a long time! What a terrific meal to start off our Baja Adventure!
It’s dark outside now and we can’t really see what the bay looks like. That will have to wait until tomorrow.
End of Day Miles (from San Diego): 204 mi.