Off the Beaten Pathway
I’m usually ‘game’ for something a little different—that road we’ve passed by a zillion times, and always wondered where it went. The restaurant people have recommended, but we haven’t tried as yet. So on our recent trip to San Felipe, Dan and I decided to explore off our usual beaten paths. Several years ago, I had driven south of San Felipe, perhaps 10 miles or so. But Dan had never seen that area and now that the roadway is much improved, we decided to spend our lazy Sunday afternoon exploring some of the South Beach areas. It was a fine day, the sun was out, although a brisk breeze kept the temperatures a tad chilly. The night before there had been quite a wind storm, enough so that I could hear the whistling and howling wind whipping around the corners of our snug and warm casita. But on Sunday, it had quieted down and we set off on our ‘adventure’.
As we passed the San Felipe Marina Resort, residual sand dusted the roadway, and the visages of civilization gave way to the raw desert floor with the distant ridges of the mountains to our right. I had never taken the road out to San Felipe’s airport, so we detoured along the good two-lane roadway until it dead-ended at the terminal building. It remains a mystery why with a good tower and terminal, run-ways that appear adequate, our little village continues to fail to successively contract with a commercial carrier for some sort of regular weekly service. Two small engine planes graced the hanger area, but there wasn’t any other discernible life nor activity that we could see.
Other than the occasional birds that flitted here or there, and a lone bull grazing lazily along the roadside, the hustle and bustle normally associated with an airport was noticeably absent at the San Felipe “International” Airport.
Which reminds me, coming upon this bull was another reminder why it is unsafe to travel the highways at night—you have no idea what obstacles or animals might be meandering across the road, not to mention the lack of shoulders on the otherwise well paved roadways.
As we continued southward along Highway 5, we noticed several defunct developments in various stages of disrepair, presumably abandoned for lack of funds to continue their ambitious designs. Archways designating long forgotten housing developments or resorts, with faded weather beaten lettering—sometimes paved roadways or just dusty sandy roads leading to no particular destinations, but providing tenuous access to the beaches and the turquoise Sea. A few settlements have survived—one such is called the Hacienda, with an outcropping of stately palm trees announcing its presence, with clusters of homes on the ridge that look out to the calm ocean beyond.
Campos pepper the sandy beaches as well—one larger one is Punta Estrella—its large billboard sign along the highway announcing its ‘amenities’ of showers and hookups for the casual camper. We turned onto the dusty sandy roadway, admiring the giant cactus that are the iconic symbol of Baja.
We meandered south awhile longer, but decided going further south to Puertocitos or even Gonzaga Bay was another trip for another day. Retracing our route back into town, we stopped off at San Felipe’s harbor and admired the fishing boats bobbing within the protecting arms of the harbor rock walls. The last of the street vendors selling fish tacos were calling it a day, and a handful of pelicans waddled around the wharf looking for stray morsels to eat.
We never quite know which restaurants will be open and which will be closed on a Sunday, but we were thrilled to find the New China Inn restaurant was open that Sunday– and we thoroughly enjoyed our Sunday dinner and fine service Pablo and his staff provided.
On our return trip home, we decided on a route never ventured before—bypassing the bulk of Mexicali and instead taking the cuota route (toll road) of Highway 2 across the top of the Baja peninsula to the Tecate border crossing. I suspect it was the longer route to get to where we needed to be—ultimately I-5 north up the central part of California to our home east of Sacramento—but it certainly was an interesting route with many scenic changes along the way. Once we turned off Mexico Highway 5 and headed west on Highway 2, for some distance the topography remained flat desert with the rugged mountains in the distance. But as we climbed in altitude, the desert terrain gave way to rocky hillsides. For awhile, we passed through an area where it appeared God had collected giant truck loads of rocks and just dumped them in piles one after another.
Eventually the rocks and desert gave way to greenery, with low lying shrubs clustered together that gave an appearance of a green carpet against the blue sky backdrop. We ascended along the mountain roadway, often a divided highway with a good surface all the way, reaching the summit of 1,300 meters (4,265 feet altitude). The air was chilly and we were surprised to see snow on the ground! Most likely remnants of the storm that had passed over much of northern Baja a few days previously.
In San Felipe, it had been a wind storm with gusts swirling around our casita, and snow dusting the highest mountain tops, but here on the mountain top, snow had fallen much more heavily. As we drove by, we saw a few people playing in the patches of snow.
We continued the drive through small village townships until we came to the outskirts of Tecate—signs of civilization and soon the turn-off for the border. Our border wait was about 30 minutes, not really bad. From Tecate, we wound our way back towards home, feeling good that we had chosen to see something new and different, and get off the beaten path.