Baja California is a gentle introduction to the colorful world of Mexico. Crossing at Tijuana with a vehicle is easy.
Too easy, in fact—traffic only slows a little for the open barriers, the wait-go signs that immediately turn green, and the yellow topes (infamously high Mexian speed bumps) before speeding up again underneath the “Welcome to Tijuana” sign. Aidan rides over a broken drain lid that immediately gives way just as the front wheel passes it.
This is a different world, and we have entered it without any of the necessary documentation.
We gingerly coax the rear wheel around the hole and ask the internet for advice. There is some sort of seven-day rule and vehicles do not need a temporary import permit for Baja California itself.
But, since we are planning to stay longer and take the ferry to the mainland, we do have to get both. Finally, we find a blog post that reveals the secret. We should have followed the signs for “something to declare” to organize all the paperwork in the customs building hidden behind a tall wall.
We spend the best part of the day trying and failing to return to that building on foot. Finally, we cross back into the U.S., just to return to Mexico via the elusive customs building.
The paperwork itself is easy to obtain and we finally roll south along the old Federal Highway 1, rather than paying a toll for the boring 1D. The smooth highway follows the Pacific coast, with occasional ocean views and plenty of hotels for all budgets.
Motorcycles & Gear
1991 Honda NX250
2004 BMW F 650 GS
Helmet: Shoei RF1200
Jacket & Pants: REV-IT! Horizon 2 Ladies, REV-IT! Afterburn H2O, Alpinestars Hyper Dry Star
Luggage: DrySpec D20 saddle bags, Givi 30L Dolomiti Monokey, DrySpec roll-top dry bag
Camera: Canon Powershot G1X Mark 3, Nikon D90
Maximum Beach Chilling
Past Ensenada, we turn on a gravel road that reaches the sea and then loops back around to the highway. It takes us through yellow hills with dry brush and a few small cattle farms in the valleys. A surprising number of dump trucks pass with billowing dust clouds, the drivers greeting us with a lazy wave.
Through an open barbed-wire gate and past pineapple fields on the shoreline cliffs, we find the source of the truck traffic. The road may continue on the map, but it belongs to a quarry and a couple of bemused security guards turn us around.
Determined to beach camp, we find a sandy track leading from a small white house to a few dwellings on the other side of an estuary at La Bocana. With a lot of heaving and pushing, we maneuver the bikes around some dunes toward the sea and pitch our tent in time for sunset.
Slow-Racing the Baja 1000
In the morning, we have a blast spraying sand fountains as we ride the bikes back out. Aidan’s BMW is too heavy, though, and we have to lay it down to get it out of the hole it has dug for itself.
We only follow Fed. 1 as far as San Vicente. Just south of town, another dirt road cuts across to Fed. 3 and the eastern side of Baja.