The Beach, Birds and Bumps in Baja: July 17-20, 2010

It was our second wedding anniversary on the 18th, and our favorite place to be just to ourselves is Shell Island, about 20 miles south of San Felipe where the Sea of Cortez is on one side and the Percebu lagoon is on the other.

We started our weekend with breakfast at Sunrise Café, in Vista, CA and were on the road south at 7:30 am. Because of the traffic southbound at Calexico, last trip (2 weeks earlier) we decided to cross at Tecate this time. We crossed the border about 8:45 and headed towards Mexicali, getting on the fast toll highway (Mexico #2-D) a few miles to the east.

Three tolls are paid heading east to the San Felipe highway (Mexico #5). El Hongo was $4.30 (55 pesos), La Rumorosa was $1.50 (16 pesos), and Mexicali (at the Hwy. 5 junction) was 55 pesos (no dollar amount sign posted, we paid in pesos here). It was 10:30 when we got to Hwy. 5.

There was about 6 miles of dirt detour between La Puerta and Rio Hardy where there was earthquake damage and they may be widening the highway to four lanes. Another, but shorter section of dirt detour is near the Hwy. 3 junction, and military checkpoint. New, wider highway begins south of the Hwy. 3 junction and turns into four lanes closer to San Felipe. We got gasoline and a pack of Tecate beer at the El Dorado Pemex and market, and then went into San Felipe for a lunch of fish tacos and carne asada tacos before heading south.

Once again, we arrive on the beach and find nobody else there; solitude! Experimenting with my new truck’s four wheel drive and traction controls, I drive with tires fully inflated to the water’s edge, but the sand/ shell beach is just too soft for my fully loaded truck. Deflating the tires to 15 PSI does the trick. In this photo, where I deflated the tires, note how much better the truck floats beyond. I circled back to take this photo.

An osprey watches from the palapa just south, where Ken and Leidys camped 2 weeks ago.
The north lagoon at high tide makes a good separation from the campers at Rancho Percebu.
View south.
I love sand!
Setting sun to the north of Diablo Mountain.
One thing special about camping in Baja, is the days last forever, it seems! We had a calmer night (no rain) and after a campfire with total peace, we slept soundly! Since this day (Sunday, July 18) was so perfect and lasted so long, we decided to enjoy that memory (the sunning and swimming we did was great) and check out the new road south and go to Baja Cactus in El Rosario for the last night of our little vacation.

Naturally, the day we leave is the nicest day, it never fails! I guess that helps insure we will always want to return? No wind, calm seas, we go for a nice swim and then start to pack up the camp. We have a very simple and easy camp and it isn’t a big chore to load the truck. One more swim before we go and we are off the island a bit after 11 am. One last photo on the beach as we drive to the road:
We make a stop at Delicias (Km. 35) for some ice to keep the drinks cold. We have two ice chests, one for food, milk, juice and another for water, soft drinks and beer. We don’t bring too much food that needs to be on ice, so that chest had plenty of ice still. The highway between San Felipe and Puertecitos was built in 1982-83 and pavement was added starting about 8 years later, but took a long time to reach Puertecitos. Because the job was done so poorly, with too little asphalt, the road was pretty torn up in just a few years. Total repaving occurred by 2008, however the roadbed is still full of sharp, sudden dips and high speed driving is not possible. The new highway south from Puertecitos is a different story! Here are some photos north of Puertecitos, as we head south:

Now, the brand new section south from Puertecitos that was started in late 2008 and has taken a year and a half to get 20 miles, through some very difficult terrain…

Isla el Huerfanito (The Little Orphan) as seen from Km. 99.

End of the highway this trip!
El Huerfanito, as seen from the end of the paved highway/ detour.

We make lunch with a view of Isla El Muerto (The Dead Man).
The Enchanted Islands help make Hwy. 5 a more enjoyable drive… even when it isn’t paved.
Isla Lobos (The Sea Lions)
An unusual monument.
The first view of Gonzaga Bay.

Rancho Grande Market

Camp Beluga’s sign needs some love!
Highway 5 south from Gonzaga Bay, July 2010. Paving won’t arrive for four more years.
The first boojum tree on Hwy. 5.
Elizabeth gives me a wave!

Inside Coco’s Corner, we have a cold Pacifico. Coco was away but his helper Ramón took care of us.

Here is the Hwy. 5 road log from Monday, July 19, 2010:

0.0 (0 min.) Puertecitos Entrance Road, sign ahead for Laguna Chapala.

5.2 (6 min.) Playa Cristina

6.2 La Costilla

17.6 (20 min.) El Huerfanito (off to east of highway, no sign)

18.5 Detour off pavement onto older road, regraded for construction traffic. Piles of sand on road mark this point, no sign. Ahead on pavement is sign for Campo Tano at Mile 19.0. At 19.3 is a sign ‘End of Pavement, 200 mtrs.’). At 19.5 is the absolute end at an unfinished bridge. No sign of road work on the opposite side of arroyo. Road work does continue beyond, out of sight from here.

Return back to Mile 18.5, detour onto dirt… log continues from this point.

25.1 (34 min. from Puertecitos, not including run to end of pavement) End of new road construction alongside old road. Old road new grading ends… very rough, rocky road on to Gonzaga. Motorhomes and trailers should avoid!

26.0 ‘Okie Landing’ to east (note cement pads along end of gravel beach marking the fish camp of the 1960’s).

33.1 (1 hr. 14 min.) Campo Delfines

36.3 (1 hr. 26 min.) Las Encantadas

37.9 (1 hr. 31 min.) Punta Bufeo

43.1 (1 hr. 59 min.) El Faro

43.4 (2 hr. 1 min.) Papa Fernandez’ Bahia San Luis Gonzaga

Military Checkpoint is just a mile + ahead.

46.1 (2 hr. 12 min.) Alfonsina’s Pemex (closed from 2-4 pm), Rancho Grande Market just ahead on right.

Clear odometer for next section… The main road south from Gonzaga is much better than the road north, but the rough surface still limits maximum speed to ~30 mph (twice that of the north section) in a Tacoma, loaded.

0.0 Rancho Grande ‘Gonzaga Bay’

1.3 (8 min.) Road to Campo Beluga and Sacrificio

7.5 (22 min.) Road west to Arroyo Santa Maria and Las Palmitas oasis on the old mission trail ‘El Camino Real’

10.0 (28 min.) Road in from left is the south access route to Punta Final

16.7 La Turquesa Canyon road to west (green pools of water, turquoise mine, and very difficult off road and abandoned mine road shortcut to Hwy. 1 near El Pedregoso)

19.2 (52 min.) Las Arrastras site access road. Gold ore grinding mills, well, nearby waterhole of San Francisquito on the Camino Real.

23.0 (1 hr.) Coco’s Corner (cold Pacifico for sale $2) Coco in Ensenada, helper Ramón on hand.

36.1 (1 hr. 30 min. driving time) HWY. 1, Laguna Chapala. Gasoline and tire repairs advertised, 1 km. south.

Cataviña on Hwy. 1, 33 miles north of the junction with Hwy. 5 (Laguna Chapala).

Two young ladies were on duty at the Cataviña ‘fuel depot’. We purchased 5 gallons of gas for $16 dollars ($3.20: gallon). This gave us security that we could reach El Rosario.

Thanks for riding along with us!

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