If they come expecting to find warm sandy beaches and blue-green waters as seen in the travel advertisements, they will find them.
Although getting to some of them may be a challenge.
If travelers expect to be able to visit all the beautiful and historical places on nice wide paved roads, they are disillusioned. It is why savvy Baja sojourners tow 4-wheel drive vehicles or take some guided tours, as we did.
Many picturesque places in the US also can only be accessed by 4-wheel drive vehicles. Because of the desert landscape, roads and bridges often get washed out during storms, and there is going to be construction repair going on somewhere.
(This was also true in Canada and Alaska).
If RV travelers expect camping accommodations to be similar to US campgrounds, they will be disappointed, especially at those warm sandy beaches. Most of the camping we did in Baja was “boondocking,” basically camping without electric or water hookups. The few places we stayed that had electricity only had 15 amp outlets, and that was in the cities. The only place I remember that had 30-amp electric was the Deaf Camp, the first place we stayed, just 50 miles across the border, and they had no water. Even the 15 amp outlets had to be checked, they often spiked too high or low voltage, so we didn’t use them.
Generating electricity for the Baja Peninsula has been a challenge for decades, and many remote places still do not have it. The village of San Ignacio is a good example of how it has evolved.
Residents and businesses have adapted and rely on generators and solar panels to provide electricity needs. The restaurants on the beaches where we stayed had generators running. Many residents do not depend on electricity to meet their daily needs.
It is harder for us spoiled Americans to do without it. RVers who come here for the season every year come prepared....they have many solar panels, gas generators, and I even saw wind generators.
So, don’t come to Baja expecting electric hookups.
Water is an even bigger issue. All of Baja is desert. The landscape is hard, rocky, dry, windy and dusty except for a few isolated oases. It is also picturesque.
The only places that I heard mentioned by our guides that had fresh water springs were in the mountains. Water along the coasts is brackish (salty). Most of the houses have big tanks for water mounted on their roofs or on towers, using gravity for water pressure, and they have water delivered to fill them.
Water that is delivered by vendors to the beaches is described as “potable.” In the US we think of potable water as drinkable. In Baja it means that it is not salty, and can be used for bathing, washing dishes, and flushing toilets. It contains other minerals that are not kind to our digestive systems, so is not recommended for drinking. To fill your tank with purified (drinkable) water you have to drive several miles to a Purification Plant. We did that twice at Mulege, but mostly we drank bottled water.
Some of the campgrounds have dump stations, but they didn’t always work as expected. (I had a smelly spill one time because the dump pipe was clogged and overflowed on the ground.) The beach at Santispac had a dump site, but no water.
If you come to Baja, don’t expect to be able to take long showers every day, or keep your rigs clean inside and out. Plan to be conservative with your water usage.
I made fun of the “laundry” facilities at Fidel’s Campground, but truly, if we had stayed there on our way back north, I would have used it.
By then I had done several small loads by hand in my RV, and this setup was a lot more practical. Finding a laundromat was challenging and would require a plan...in Mulege the plan would have been driving to town, parking the RV outside town, carrying the laundry into town to the laundromat, waiting for it to be done, carrying it back to the RV, and driving back to the campground...a daylong effort. It was easier to wash out a few things by hand. If you come to Baja, don’t expect to wear clean clothes every day, except underwear which is easy to wash by hand.
If you come to Baja expecting other campers to keep their dogs on leashes as is required by most US campgrounds, think again. Most of the time Thistle was the only dog on a leash all the time. (He can’t be trusted off leash. In one town he rushed out the door before I could grab him after some neighborhood dogs that were in the campground. He ran with those dogs out of the campground, down the street, into an alley, and through neighborhood backyards. He was quickly out of sight, and I thought I had lost him. He came running back without the other dogs who had probably run home, but I had to be very careful opening the door after that.) Anyway, there are a lot of loose dogs big and small in the campgrounds....mostly friendly, but some not, and walking Thistle on his leash was sometimes challenging. I learned to scope out potential trouble and change direction to avoid problems. Also our group seemed to be the only ones concerned about picking up after our dogs.
Which brings us to trash. You do see a lot of it along the roadsides and city streets, and in the campgrounds...especially those on the beach. I mentioned the wind. If the wind doesn’t scatter it, the gulls and vultures steal from the overflowing trash cans and scatter it. I’m not sure how Baja manages its waste. They may have them, but I never saw a garbage collection truck picking up trash, even in towns. When the trash cans do get emptied at the campground, I’m not sure where they take it. I never saw a landfill or incinerator either. I imagine it would be hard to bury it in this hard and rocky terrain. At one campground, I did see the owner picking up trash every morning and emptying the trash containers onto a big burn pile, which was probably the most practical way to dispose of it. Mexicans are probably so used to it, they don’t even notice, and I learned to ignore it too, choosing to point my camera at the beautiful landscapes. It does make you think about how much trash we generate, and how wasteful we have become. There’s something to be said about the grocery stores in Baja that sell unpackaged food...less styrofoam and cellophane to litter the landscape for generations.
I noticed the poverty more at the beginning, and wrote about it in my post about San Quintin, but as time went on I realized that this is the life they have always known, have adapted to, and seem quite contented.
So all this sounds pretty negative, but it’s not what I came to Baja to see. I came to enjoy the same things I love when I travel places in the US:
The beautiful scenery:
Sunrises and sunsets:
Water and wildlife:
Wonderful winter weather:
Did I mention the beautiful scenery?:
These are the things that I chose to record on my blog, just as I do in the U.S.
As my friend Carol (who travels with her husband Bill every winter to mainland Mexico) commented on one of my blog posts: “T. I. M., This is Mexico. It’s why you’re here.”
I’m sure Carol and Bill see a lot of the same challenges in mainland Mexico too, but she records the beauty of the land and culture on her wonderful blog. (http://lifeinbrowncounty.blogspot.com/)
Would I come again? Absolutely! The Mexican people I met were friendly, helpful, and hard-working. I enjoyed practicing my Spanish, as they enjoyed practicing their English. Between the two, communication was never a problem. I never felt unsafe anywhere, although I took the same safety precautions I do anywhere I camp in the US.
That said, I may not travel back that way soon. Like Alaska, it is a long way to drive, and there are so many interesting and beautiful places I have not yet explored in the Lower 48 states. But then, if the winter temperatures are as low as they have been in the southern US this year, the warmth of Mexico may be calling me back sooner than I expect.
Would I recommend a trip to Baja to you? Well, I guess it would depend on your expectations. I have traveled many places and seen many things in my few short years of RVing. I have discovered that a trip, no matter how near or how far, is always an adventure. So if you are up for an adventure, Baja may be a good trip for you.