A Travellerspoint blog

Mexico - Baja California

Route: La Paz - Loreto - Posada Concepcion - Loreto - La Paz - Cabo San Lucas - La Paz - Mexico City

sunny 25 °C

MARCH 2020

A flight from Los Mochis, on one side of the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California), got us to La Paz on the other side. We were now in Baja California and at the start of the last leg of our Mexican adventure. After picking up a rental car at the airport we spent our first two nights in La Paz, the capital in Baja California Sur.

View over Baja California South from the air

View over Baja California South from the air

Activities for our first day in Baja California consisted of a stroll along the seafront and a visit to the old town of La Paz, picking up some postcards, cash and topping the phone up, as we went.

On the Malecon, one of many statues

On the Malecon, one of many statues

La Paz Cathedral

La Paz Cathedral

The next day we headed north to the coastal town of Loreto. For the first 200kms the road bisected the Baja California peninsular straight up the middle. To begin with the terrain was fairly flat and arid with Cardon Cactus everywhere and no sign of habitation. It then became a bit more hilly before arriving in a cultivated area around the town of Ciudad Constitucion and Ciudad Insurgentes.

At this point our route took us east towards the coast and the scenery became much more spectacular. We were now driving over and through the Sierra Giganta (a range of coastal mountains) until we reached the sea. All around us were towering mountains with cactus filled slopes and dried river gorges.

Sierra Giganta Mountains

Sierra Giganta Mountains

Once on the mountain roads our progress slowed but we didn’t expect it to stop, but it did. About 60km from Loreto the traffic came to a standstill, but what was strange was that other drivers were beckoning to us to pass the stationary vehicles. Carefully we drove past a queue of trucks and busses to where the other drivers were standing and were informed that there had been an accident but small vehicles like ours could squeeze by the wreckage. We therefore continued, now with a Mexican passenger desperate to get to his family in Loreto, until we reached a large truck that had jackknifed with its cab perilously close to the cliff edge. There was just enough room for our little Nissan March to pass between the back of the truck and the rock face and for us to continue our journey.
Our accommodation in Loreto was just out of town in a lovely purpose built one bedroom apartment. The view from the bedroom window was over cactus groves to the Sea of Cortez beyond. It had a swing in the front patio and all in all was a very pleasant place to stay. We only stayed overnight on this occasion but would be back in two days.

Relaxing with a nice bottle of red

Relaxing with a nice bottle of red

View from our accommodation in Loreto

View from our accommodation in Loreto

By the time we awoke on the following day the weather had turned for the worse with rain clouds building up all around us. Today we were travelling a hundred plus kilometres further north to a small community called Posada Concepcion on the Bahia Concepcion. For the first part of the journey we left the coast and travelled through the foothills of the Sierra Giganta. This was an undulating landscape without habitation but full of cactus and desert foliage. Vultures hoovered overhead, dead snakes (most likely a Baja California Ratsnake) lay on the road and an occasional Greater Roadrunner (small crested ground bird) would run across the road in front of us.

Road sign

Road sign

Goat Crossing

Goat Crossing

On our way to Loreto

On our way to Loreto

We then reached the coast again at the southern end of Bahia Concepcion. Bahia Concepcion is a massive inlet on the Sea of Cortez stretching over 50km from its mouth in the north. We now drove north along the coastal road with the water either right next to us or hundreds of meters below us, another spectacularly scenic route. With such scenery we stopped regularly to take it all in and to watch the marine life. Dolphins surfaced regularly, Cormorants and Pelicans were diving for fish and even a lone Sea Lion made an appearance.

Road side shrine in Baja Concepcion

Road side shrine in Baja Concepcion

Baja Concepcion

Baja Concepcion

Our bed for the night was in a hotel at the small coastal community of Posada Concepcion. Our hotel room was quite pleasant with a great view of Bahia Concepcion and its wildlife from our balcony, however it unfortunately lacked a bit of organisation. By now the rain had set in so all we could do was retire to our room and wait for it clear. Although we did have a nice lunch in the only restaurant in town, this was a charming place with a leaky roof and run by a local couple.

Restaurant at Posada Concepcion

Restaurant at Posada Concepcion

Osprey

Osprey

Fortunately the rain did clear before dark which allowed us to explore the town and surrounding beach. Both the little town and beach were very quiet and we saw no one during our stroll. Most of the houses on the beach and in the town were smart concrete building and the residents seemed to be from the USA.
We later found out that all of Posada Concepcion is owned by one Mexican family including the hotel we were staying in. Most of the beach front properties are owned by Americans and Canadians who lease their plot from the Mexican owners.

Posda Concepcion

Posda Concepcion

Posada Concepcion

Posada Concepcion

The next day dawned bright and sunny, ideal for us to continue our journey north up the Baja California coast. We drove as far as the town of Mulege which coincided with the mouth of Bahia Concepcion. This seemed a good point to turn back so we filled up with fuel and did just that. For the rest of the morning we slowly drove back to Loreto stopping many times to admire and photograph the beautiful scenery.

Baja Concepcion

Baja Concepcion

Flowering Cactus

Flowering Cactus

Beach on Baja Concepcion

Beach on Baja Concepcion

Baja Concepcion road trip

Baja Concepcion road trip

Sand spit on Baja Concepcion

Sand spit on Baja Concepcion

Back in Loreto we had secured the same lovely accommodation for a further two nights, allowing a full day to explore the area. After a shop for food the afternoon consisted of mostly relaxing, Anne had a manicure, pedicure and massage at the spa next door whilst I caught up on the blog. It was then a glass of wine on the swing outside our room and dinner in the apartment.

View of the Sierra Giganta from our apartment in Loreto

View of the Sierra Giganta from our apartment in Loreto

Mexican House Finch

Mexican House Finch

Clear blue skies greeted us when we awoke the next morning, it was great to be able to fling the windows open to see the sea and listen to the birds. Today we drove up into the mountains to a tiny hamlet called San Javier. The road snaked its way up the mountains between towering peaks until we reached an ancient imploded volcanic crater, some 500 meters above sea level. It was here, nestled below the old crater rim, that San Javier sat. Unusual for this part of Mexico, San Javier has year round access to water so making it a bit of an oasis in the middle of the surrounding arid landscape. In the 18th century a mission was set up here because of its access to water and its church is the dominant feature of the town. We looked around the church and the cultivated land behind it, visiting a 200 year old olive tree during our walk. It was fascinating to hear what was produced up here, as well as olives and vegetables they grow grapes for wine.

Cactus portrait

Cactus portrait

On the road to San Javier

On the road to San Javier

San Javier

San Javier

Road through the Sierra Giganta Mountains (the red car didn't make it)

Road through the Sierra Giganta Mountains (the red car didn't make it)

Misión San Javier

Misión San Javier

A 200   years old olive tree

A 200 + years old olive tree

Misión San Francisco Javier

Misión San Francisco Javier

In the Sierra Giganta mountains

In the Sierra Giganta mountains

The afternoon was occupied by exploring the coastal town of Loreto, only a few kilometres from our apartment. Loreto is a fairly attractive town with a nice seafront, harbour and centre. We walked around for a couple hours seeing all the sights before taking an early dinner in a local restaurant.

Loreto

Loreto

Loreto

Loreto

Loreto

Loreto

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

The following day was fairly ordinary as we drove back from Loreto to La Paz along the same route as we had arrived. The drive took most of the day so we were happy to relax by the time we reached our apartment.
What was more significant was the decision we made during the drive. That was to return to the UK within the next week or so. We were having doubts about the merits of continuing to our next location of California (USA), with the Coronaviras getting a grip there. So when our flight operator announced they would not be allowed to fly us to Los Angeles that made our mind up.

The next day we had three goals, to transfer to our next accommodation, start cancelling our forward bookings and organising our flight home. After making a start to our new travel plans we packed up in La Paz and drove south to the Pacific coast town of Cabo San Lucas. By the time we arrived we were both pretty tired from today’s and yesterday’s drive plus the stress from our new situation. It was therefore a bonus to discover that our apartment in Cabo San Lucas was even better than we had recalled. We were able to crack open a beer each and relax on our balcony gazing out into the Pacific Ocean beyond. A few hours rest and we were refreshed enough to tackle some more travel alterations.

View from our apartment in Cabo San Lucas

View from our apartment in Cabo San Lucas

Our first full day in Cabo San Lucas was a bit mundane, food shopping, collecting the laundry, a visit to the ATM and completing the final tasks of changing our travel plans. We again appreciated the comfort of the apartment on a day like this, we even had Netflix in english to keep us entertained.

With all our new arrangements in place the pressure began to subside allowing us time to see what Cabo San Lucas had to offer. We had been recommended a restaurant by our host so thought we would have lunch there today. As it was close to the marina a walk around seemed a good idea.
Cabo San Lucas marina is a different Mexico to what we had experienced so far. It’s a hub for tourism, especially from USA. Every 10 meters there would be someone trying to encourage us to eat at their place, take a boat trip, go fishing or buy jewellery. This was the first time in Mexico that we had encountered this level of selling. It was not a problem as all the traders were friendly and after a bit on banter concentrated their efforts on another potential customer. They have got to make a living after all. The marina was larger than we had expected and crammed full of luxury vessels, it looked more Monaco or LA than a small Mexican resort.

Marina

Marina

Once we left the marina and headed into town a degree on normality and calm returned. Our restaurant was only a short walk from the marina but felt like it was miles away as the noise, hassle and bustle had been replaced by the pace of normal life. Our seafood lunch was fantastic and the margarita’s enormous, which made walking up the hill to our apartment afterwards more of a challenge than it should have been.

Margarita

Margarita

With the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, the waters around Cabo San Lucas are quite unique. So today we decided to take a closer look. What we wanted to see was the coastal cliffs and beaches in this part of the peninsular and with limit road access the only practical way was by boat. A water taxi from the marina was one option but instead we were able to secure a private boat trip which was more expensive but much nicer. We also decided that this approach would help the suffering tourist industry, which was now starting to feel the knock on effects of the Coronavirus lock down.
Our vessel was a small motor boat with a captain and one crew member. Normally this time of year they would have eight or ten passengers for their boat trip but today they were happy with our custom. We left from the marina and headed north west along the coast, stopping first at Pelican Rock, a popular snorkelling spot. Glass insets in the bottom of the boat allowed us to see some of the marine life without getting wet, then we continued along the coast line.

Lover's Beach

Lover's Beach

Beach

Beach

Gap between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean

Gap between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean

Gap between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean

Gap between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean

Before long we were rounding the headland and leaving the Sea of Cortez to enter the Pacific Ocean. However, before that we got our first view of an impressive rock arch, a formation we had been keen to see ever since we arrived in the area. What drew us to see this formation was its similarity to “Durdle Door” in Dorset, England, a place we had visited many times.

The Arch

The Arch

Once round the headland and into the Pacific Ocean we were able to see the arch from the other side, together with the pacific coastline and beaches.

The Arch of Cabos San Lucas

The Arch of Cabos San Lucas

It was then time to return to the marina back the way we came. Same route back but now with the company of several Sea Lions. The Sea Lions passed close enough to the boat to get a good look at them but didn’t stay on the surface long enough for a photo.

View of Cabos San Lucas

View of Cabos San Lucas

Our time in Cabo San Lucas was now up and the following day we drove north back to La Paz. A stop at the airport to change rental vehicles and to visit Volaris Airlines to verify our travel arrangements, then onto our apartment in downtown La Paz. Although not quite as fancy as in Cabo San Lucas it was more central and had a view of the sea. Other than a bit of shopping that was our activities for the day.

For our first full day in La Paz we decided to take a drive out along the east coast and investigate the beaches in that area. We drove as far as the road would allow us and ended up at Tecolote Beach. We arrived around lunch time and the beach was almost deserted so decide to walk along its length and as far as the headland. For most of the time we only had Gulls, Frigatebirds and Pelicans for company but as we neared the headland we came across a community of RV’s. Tourists, mostly Americans, drive their RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) down from USA and live in them for extended periods on the beach, something we had seen on many of the beaches along the Baja California coast.

Tecolote Beach

Tecolote Beach

Tecolote Beach

Tecolote Beach

By the time we got back to the car park more tourists had arrived which was good news for the beach traders, especially in these uncertain times.
On route back to La Paz we made another stop. Just off the main road was a turning to Balandra Beach which we took and followed it to another car park. Balandra beach was different to Tecolote as it sat within an enclosed bay. It has the same powder white sand as Tecolote but the water is shallow throughout the bay, controlled by a sand bank at the mouth. We fancied a walk around the bay but as this required being in the water we decided to leave it for another day when we had our swimming costumes with us.

Balandra Beach

Balandra Beach

A walk along the Malecon (a broad pathway stretching many kilometres along the La Paz seafront) was our activity for the following day. We left the apartment around 10:00am to avoid the heat of the day and walked in an easterly direction. As it was Sunday it was very quiet. For most Mexicans this is their only day off so they tend not to venture out until later in the day. We walked for several kilometres next to a narrow beach and a calm turquoise sea before arriving at a marina packed with expensive boats. At this point we decided we had gone far enough and retraced our steps back to the apartment.

walk along the Malecon in La Paz

walk along the Malecon in La Paz

That evening we went back to the Malecon to watch the sunset, something we did every evening during our stay. The area had now been transformed from the calm tranquility of the morning into a busy and lively place. Families were now out socialising, kids were on their skateboards and bicycles, cars cruised slowly by with Mexican music blaring and restaurant lights were on to encouraging people to dine. We strolled along with everyone else, practicing our social distancing (we seemed to be the only ones doing this), until the sun had fully disappeared, then returned to the apartment for dinner.

Sunset La Paz

Sunset La Paz

Malecon at night, La Paz

Malecon at night, La Paz

La Paz by night

La Paz by night

As we had promised ourselves, the following day we returned to Balandra Beach to sample the waters of the Sea of Cortez. We had planned to drive directly to the beach but a large group of Pelicans court our eye on the way, so we stopped to investigate. In a small shallow bay there must have been over 100 Pelicans feeding on what we could only assume was a plentiful supply of fish. They would congregate in groups then suddenly fly off to another part of the bay when a shoal was spotted. They weren’t alone in this endeavours as Frigate-birds kept a lookout for what they could steal and Egrets fed on the scraps. The show was fascinating to watch and a good half hour had passed before we moved on.

Adult and Juvenile Brown Pelican

Adult and Juvenile Brown Pelican

Pelican frenzy

Pelican frenzy

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

As mentioned earlier Balandra Beach is on the south side of a horseshoe bay. The water level throughout the bay is kept shallow by a sandbar at its mouth. So shallow was the water that it was barely possible to swim in, so we went for walk instead. The cool water never got above waist high and the soft sand massaged your feet as you walked. We walked, or should I say waded, a kilometre out to the sandbar and to see some unusual rock formations. It seemed very therapeutic having the turquoise water sooth your lower body whilst the warm Mexican sun warmed our top half. There wasn’t many people so it was quite peaceful as well.
We spent several hours in the bay before returning back to the apartment for a late lunch.

Balandra Beach

Balandra Beach

Balandra Beach near La Paz

Balandra Beach near La Paz

Ice cream salesman on Plaja Balandra

Ice cream salesman on Plaja Balandra

This was our last night in La Paz so we decided to dine out after our sunset stroll along the Malecon. We chose the recommended restaurant Nim and enjoyed a beautiful meal accompanied by a few of margarita’s. We were their only customers which was a shame for such a nice place. Half the staff were playing scrabble whilst waiting for more people to arrive, sadly I fear that this wasn’t going to happen as tourism in Mexico is feeling the affects of the Coronavirus.

On our last day we reflected as we drove out of La Paz towards the airport. La Paz is a beautiful place with a perfect climate for us, not too hot and plenty of sunshine, we could have stayed much longer. However, crazy as it may seem on the surface, we had chosen to leave this idyllic place with no coronaviras (yet) to return home to a full blown pandemic (see below for our reasons).

At La Paz airport we had our temperature taken to check for any signs of the Coronaviras before being allowed to board the plane. Then it was a two hour flight to Mexico city. Our stay in Mexico City was only over night as we had a flight booked for the UK the next day.

The international terminal at Mexico City airport is the largest in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. Yet when we arrived to take our flight it was almost empty, most shops were closed and there was only a handful of security and airline staff on duty. Most check-in desks were closed, with only British Airways and Air France having flights departing. This scene was in stark contrast to the domestic terminal next door that seemed to be full of activity as we drove past.

Mexico City Airport, the busiest airport in Latin America

Mexico City Airport, the busiest airport in Latin America

Check In for our international flight to England at Mexico City Airport

Check In for our international flight to England at Mexico City Airport

Once check-in we progressed to departures and this is where things were a bit different. Before we could get our hand luggage scanned we were required to complete a health form. The form asked such questions as where you had been in the last 14 days, did you have a high temperature, were you coughing or more tired than normal, all aimed at detecting potential Coronavirus patients. Armed with our duly completed heath form we moved on to have our temperature taken. Temperature test successfully completed it was now time for our health forms to be checked. With these being acceptable we were now ready for our hand luggage to be scanned and finally through to take our flight.

Most shops and food outlets in departures were open even though there were very few passengers to use them. We bought a bit of duty-free in preparation for our self-isolation in the UK and had a bite to eat. This turned out to be a good thing as just before boarding we were told that our flight was a repatriation flight and there would be very little food on board. At this point everyone rushed off to places such as Starbucks to get some food for the flight. However, what was more concerning was the announcement that the drinks trolly hadn’t been loaded so the flight would be alcohol free.

We had enjoyed Mexico even more than expected and were sad to leave, a beautiful country made even better by its lovely people. We will definitely return one day.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

The Perfect Gift
During our travels around Mexico and especially when flying, we have noticed that passengers were regularly carrying gifts. We assumed these gifts were for the friends and family they were visiting. What was of interest though, was that the gifts were all the same, a large box (similar to a pizza box) containing Krispy Kreme donuts. On one internal flight I counted around 30 boxes being carefully transported as part of carry-on luggage. Every airport we visited had a Krispy Kreme outlet, so enabling and or promoting this gift phenomenon.

Meaning of the Mexican Flag
During our time in Mexico we discovered the story behind its attractive national flag. The flag is a vertical tricolour of green, white and red with the national emblem in the middle of the white. The green stands for hope, white is for unity and red is for the heroes that lost their lives fighting for independence. However, the most interesting part is the Coats of Arms in the middle.
The Coats of Arms represent a legend which shows how the Aztecs selected the site for their capital, Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs were a nomadic people led by Tenoch. Legend has it that Tenoch was informed by Huitzilopochtli (their god of war) that they should settle in a place where he found an eagle eating a snake on a prickly pear. The place where they saw the eagle was quite inhospitable, it was a swampy region which was situated in the middle of three lakes, but they built Tenochtitlan city and settled.

Mexican Flag

Mexican Flag

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Part 2
We first mentioned the Coronavirus in our last blog and at that time we were still optimistic about continuing our travels into California. However, soon after we published that blog the situation in USA, and Europe for that matter, got a great deal worse. Then before we could decide what to do our mind were made up for us. Our Mexican flight operator informed us that they had been instructed that no Europeans would be allowed to enter the USA from Mexico unless they were resident there.
So we now had three choices, visit another country instead, stay in Mexico or return to the UK. With borders being closed all around the world on a daily basis, going to another country would not have been the right thing to do. Staying in Mexico (we still had 135 of 180 days left on our tourist visa) would have been nice but we didn’t want to become a potential burden to the country should we get sick (and our travel insurance would only cover us for another 47 days) as the numbers of Coronaviras infections were on the rise. So the only responsible choice was to return to the UK and to do so fairly quickly whilst there were flights available.
We managed to cancel or change our bookings and secured a flight out of Mexico City to London Heathrow on 25 March (at almost three times the price of the original flight). Each of the following days we would check that our flight was still operating and hoping the UK government would not close their borders before we got home.
By mid-march the Mexican government had started putting plans in to place to combat the Coronaviras, still with only a few cases the numbers were rising. First, notice boards appeared giving instructions on how to detect and prevent the virus spread, then a few people began wearing face masks (especially staff in shops and restaurants) and hand cleaning gel was offered as you entered various establishment. We used the gel when ever it was offered and adopted social distancing (staying 2 meters away from other people where ever possible). I don’t think the Mexican people have heard of social distancing yet though.

As of the 18 March 2020 (26 March 2020) Coronavirus figures were as follows:

There are now 208,582 (551,246) cases of coronavirus confirmed around the world since the outbreak began, and 8,312 (24,915) people have died.
Of the 208,582 (551,246), 117,040 (397,628) are currently infected. 110,601 (376,571) have mild symptoms and 6,439 (21,057) are in a more serious condition. A further 91,542 (153,618) have either recovered 83,230 (128,703) or died 8,312 (24,915).
In the UK, where we are heading, 676 (158) more cases have been reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 2,626 (11,658). Of that, 2,457 (10,945) are currently infected. 2,437 (10,782) have mild symptoms and 20 (163) are in a more serious condition. A further 169 (713) have either recovered 65 (135) or died 104 (578).
In Mexico, our currently location, a total of 93 (585) cases have been identified. Of that, 93 (585) are currently infected. 88 (572) have mild symptoms and 1 (1) is in a more serious condition. A further 4 (4) have recovered and there has been no deaths (8).

Posted by MAd4travel 02:49 Archived in Mexico

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Comments

You clearly made the right decision in light of the coronavirus. Mexico looks amazing. I love the colour of the sea. It's making me desperate to go for a swim. Love all the different cacti too.

by irenevt

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