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July 29, 2016

The Road to Bahia De Los Angeles

Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in the Costa Del Sol hotel on the shores of the Sea of Cortez in the town of Bahia De Los Angeles in the state of Baja California Del Norte, Mexico.

This is roughly the route I took today:

Starting Odometer: 43,287
Ending Odometer : 43,582
Miles Driven Today: 295

Today, the plan is to drive to Bahia de Los Angeles, but the problem is that these towns are not in my GPS for whatever reason. So, it makes it difficult for me to navigate for various reasons.

First of all, most people give distances in kilometers, and amounts in pesos. So, everything is a calculation to try to get it into units that are meaningful to me.

Somehow, I get past San Quintin without even realizing I'd passed through it. I thought I would recognize the place. But now I'm wondering if I'm not losing my mind. How could I have driven through San Quintin and not known it?

I'm trying to figure out how far it is to El Rosario. How far it is to the exit to Bahia De Los Angeles. But all I get are various numbers...kilometers...hours...miles....

I can't find El Rosario on my GPS.

I follow the coast for a bit, but now the land is becoming more arid. I see cacti on both sides of the road. This all looks too familiar. I'm following the coast, loosely, when suddenly the road turns inland and now there are cacti on both sides of the road.

Oh no. Forget this. My plan was to get to El Rosario and fill up there. But now, we're going inland, through cacti. I know where this ends up. I've been through the punta pieta desert before. I'm not going into the desert without a full tank of gas. I turn around and backtrack 21 miles to a Pemex station.

The Punta Pieta desert puts a fear into you that is hard to describe.

I ask the guy at the Pemex station. "Donde El Rosario".

"Quarente kilometers," he replies. So, I turned around before I got to El Rosario. I figured as much, but I couldn't risk dying in that desert. It's too painful to describe.

Now, I have a full tank of gas at least. I'm somewhere south of San Quintin.

I'd forgotten about stick fences. Everything is a failed housing project with rusting rebar and trees painted white at the base.

Now, I'm rolling south again, and the road turns inland. Through fields of cacti. They get taller and taller as we go inland.

I'm ready to confront the Punta Pieta desert again.

I've sort of given up any hope that I'll recognize any of the towns along the baja. They're just so different than my recollections.

But now, I roll into El Rosario, and it's exactly like I remember. The Pemex station. The hotel. The grocery store. Everything.

I stop and fill up at the Pemex.

"Lleno roha, por favor."

"Quanto kilometers para gasolina?" I ask.

He says it's 350 kilometers to the next gas station, but this time I'm listening.

Now, I'm rolling south east through the Punta Prieta desert. And, ostensibly, my goal is to refill at the exit to Bahia De Los Angeles.

So now, of course, I have no idea how far it is to the exit to Bahia de Los Angeles. This isn't in my gps either, of course.

About 75-80 miles into the desert southeast of El Rosario, and now there is a guy selling gas on the side of the road. He's got a little hand-made Pemex sign.

I remember this place from last time. Last time, this is where a guy emerged from the desert (heading north) and he was throwing away a Chlorox just with about 2-3" of gas in it. "Here dude...take this...you will need it," he offered. "When you get to the exit to Bahia De Los Angeles, there will be a guy selling gas out of the back of his truck on the side of the road."

So, this time, I stop, and the guy gives me 2 gallons of gas. I gave him $200 pesos for 2 gallons of gas. My calculations are that it cost me $5.88 per gallon, which isn't bad, considering.

Now that I have a GPS, I see what the road does. Mexico 1 turns and follows the dead center of the peninsula for some distance here. There are mountains on each side of me. I can only assume that they are on the coasts.

The desert would be a horrible place to die. This occurs to you over and over. So many things could go wrong. The roads are not good. We're constantly climbing and descending again through these mountains. The roads are not good. Lots of paving. Lots of potholes.

I pass some free range cows on the road.

Occasionally, the odd car stopped on the side of the road. I do not stop to help them.

At every bad curve, the rails are taken out. Glass. Broken cars. Sort of a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world on parade.

It's hot, of course.

I'm driving across the desert in the heat of the day. A smarter person would have left earlier.

I have petrol. And lots of water, Gatorade, and Jumex and Sponch.

But seriously, it's hard to imagine what made me think that I wanted to cross this desert again. It's hard to know what the thought process was. I'm driving for hours through this sweltering heat, sweating like a whore in church.

When I get to the place where I ran out of gas last time, I recognize it. I know exactly where I am now. Mountain range on each side. Cacti as tall as telephone poles. This is where he was. For sure.

I look at the mountains in the distance, and I've tossed this around in my head countless times since I ran out of gas in the Punta Prieta desert....I feel like, on paper, the baja peninsula is not all that wide. So, worst case scenario, I could have walked to either coast. This is what I tell myself once I got home from that adventure.

But now that I'm back in the desert, I see how impossible that would be. Imagine marching through a field of cacti in the heat of the day. It's impossible. You'd have to shelter in place until the heat of the day was gone, and there is no shelter in the desert. If you could walk to the coast, in theory, in practice, you'd be bled out by the cacti long before you got to either coast. And you'd pass out from heat exhaustion.

The desert is just indescribably inhospitable.

Now, I see the sign for Bahia De Los Angeles, and this time, I take the exit. Now, I'm heading roughly east down a road I've never been down before.

Not much different than before, but I'm glad to be getting closer to my destination.
Now, I'm only 20 miles from a hotel, I think.

Only now, I notice, no one else is on the road. I pass no one. No one passes me.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, I roll down the hill into Bahia Del Los Angeles. It's truly stunning. Islands dot the Sea of Cortez in all directions. Unless I'm mistaken, I believe I can see across to the other side of the Gulf of California.

I'm so happy to be alive and out of the desert.

I drive through town until I find a boat launch. Immediately strip down, change into my bathing suit, and swing in the gulf. I had people convince me that it would be too warm, but it's not. It's a perfect temperature, like the gulf of Mexico.

Then, I climb out and drive through town until I find a hotel with internet, A/C, and hot water showers. now, I'm at the "Guillermo's on the Beach". I tried to get a room here, but they were all booked up.

Update: It turns out that there's some sort of huge fishing tournament going on. Some guy from San Diego brought a bunch of his friends down here, and they booked up all of the rooms in town for some fishing tournament. The place I'm staying at basically lied and said they had A/C. Well, maybe in theory they have A/C, but I'm sweating like a whore in church and there are certainly no controls in my room where I can control the A/C, of course. But, I can't seem to find any other rooms either so...yeah...there is that.

Posted by Rob Kiser on July 29, 2016 at 7:20 PM

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