February 1 – 17, 2022.
Welcome to the February Nomad Report. This is our monthly wrapup of where we’ve been, where we’re going, what we’ve been spending money on, and where we’ve camped. February’s Report will be divided into two parts because we have been really, really busy.
We started out the month lot-docking at our friends’, Julie and Jason, house after my and Greg’s reunion in the desert. It is so convenient to have friends who have a big vacant lot in front of their house in Tucson not only because they let us boondock there for a while but also because we get to hang out with them! Unlike other most of our other stays in Tucson in the past, this one was short as we were hot to get to Mexico and catch up with our friends from Roaming About, Mark, Liesbet, and Maya.
After doing some provisioning we left Tucson for Yuma, AZ where we picked up a few more supplies and spent the night on the BLM land best to the VFW Hall just out of town.
Crossing into Mexico
We crossed the border into Mexico the next morning at Los Algodones. We had crossed the border into Mexico in our van twice before at different locations (Nogales and Tecate). We decided on Los Algodones this time for a couple of reasons. First, we are super familiar with Los Algodones after all of our trips to the dentist there. Second, it seemed like it would be an easy crossing because it doesn’t seem like many people cross here to go touring around Mexico. And thirdly, our friends had asked if we could pick up their favorite rum at the big purple liquor store/pharmacy in Los Algodones (and it was an opportunity for us to buy a bottle of mezcal).
The crossing was super easy! We decided to bring Greg’s car as well as the van. I drove the van and followed Greg across the border. We expected to be stopped as we have at other crossings but no one waved us over so we kept going. We drove through town, parked the vehicles at the border wall/fence, and then walked back to the border entry to get our tourist cards.
We filled out a form, the immigration officer charged us $32, asked us where our car was, we said in Mexico, and he sent us on our way. Easiest crossing ever!
We had to wait until 11 for the liquor store to open so we did a little grocery shopping, bought some beer, and picked up some pastries at a Panaderia. Once we got the liquor we were on our way.
* All pics are click to enlarge. Once you have them enlarged you can view them in a slide show. Also you can hover over the pics to see captions.
** As always, there are an awful lot of pictures. If you are reading this in an email, it is probably pretty long. The photos are more artfully presented on the blog. Click here to see the post on the website.
Nuevo Coco’s Corner
We had no definite plans of where we were heading. I had a few possibilities marked on the map in San Felipe on the western shore of the Sea of Cortez. None of the campgrounds in San Felipe are cheap. And honestly, despite being on the beach, the coastline I could see looked pretty uninspiring until we got south of town. Since we would only be stopping to spend the night and move on we decided to give San Felipe and head to Coco’s Corner.
We had stopped at Coco’s previously when we visited Baja four years ago. Back then highway 5 was partially unpaved and pretty rugged. Coco’s was the only thing along the highway in this rugged stretch from highway one to the coast south of San Felipe. Coco had built dirt topes (speed bumps) that slowed you down as you approached Coco’s from either direction. Inside Coco sold drinks, snacks, and some cooked food. He allowed travelers to camp behind his store. Since then highway 5 has been paved and rerouted leaving the original Coco’s in the middle of nowhere with no one to slow down with his speed bumps. But last April he moved to a new location on the new highway. I didn’t know exactly where he was now except that it wasn’t far from his old location.
It was getting late when we made the decision to head on to Coco’s. The rule of thumb in Mexico is not to drive after dark. There are lots of hazards to encounter on Mexican roads – cows, dogs, potholes, and sometimes chunks of missing road. All this might be avoidable if it wasn’t really really dark at night. In the past, being in a foreign country, uncertain about where we were actually going, and the possibility we might arrive late would have left me with a little anxiety. But I am endeavoring to let that anxiety go and have been doing pretty well so far.
In the end, we still had an hour or so of daylight left when we found Coco’s. We bought a few beers and had a nice chat before turning in for our first night in Mexico in Coco’s parking lot.
The next morning we did a short drive to the sand dunes above Guerrero Negro. We had never been to this spot before but our friends had visited, so we thought we’d check it out. Camping here was free.
We might have hung out at the sand dunes a little longer but we heard from our friends and decided to go ahead and try to catch up with them. We headed to the little town of Mulegé. We had visited here on our last trip to Baja four years ago and had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant overlooking the waterfront. After our meal, we were allowed to spend the night in the restaurant’s parking lot. Since we were only going to spend one night this time, the restaurant seemed like a nice option for camping and eating before we moved on. Unfortunately, we found the place closed when we arrived. We ended up boondocking on the rocky beach on the edge of town.
Agua Verde & The Beach
We finally caught up with our friends on a beautiful beach north of the town of Agua Verde. In order to get there, we had to drive down a long scary, rough, steep, dirt road. It was a steering-wheel-gripping adventure but we made it without incident. We stayed on the beach for five days, kayaking, having musical happy hours, and hiking. We also put the car to good use and made an excursion into the town of Agua Verde.
We could have stayed on our little beach forever but we knew we’d eventually have to head on. The next stop was La Paz. I love Mexican cities. They are so full of life, good food, history, and entertainment. La Paz is no exception. We split off from our friends for a couple of days. They had extra stops they needed to make on the way. We needed groceries and a shower. So after stopping at a Supermercado we drove to a pay campground right outside of the city. Nice hot showers! We stayed for two days.
We ended up camping with our friends again in a parking lot on the water in the city. We were within walking distance from restaurants and the Malecon. We used the car again for a trip to the north side of town for a hike that overlooked the city.
February Part 1 Camping stats:
1 – day in a friends’ vacant lot
1 – day BLM land
1 – day at a business
12 – days boondocking
2 – days pay campground (600 pesos, around $30US)
Although I have still been keeping receipts, I haven’t been tracking our expenses. It is kind of liberating! If you miss the expense report, check out the expense report at our friend’s blog, Roaming About. They manage to have the most fun with spending the least amount of money!
We have mostly been only spending money on the usual gas, food, and drinks. But we have also been splurging a lot and sampling the local cuisine. Lots of fish tacos for Greg and for me whatever I can find vegetarian (most places are pretty accomodating).
Gas is expensive here in Mexico. The lowest prices I’ve seen are around 20.99 pesos per liter (but like everywhere right now they are going up). The dollar to peso exchange rate changes every day but it is averaging about 20 pesos to one dollar (today it is 20.71 pesos to one dollar). This means a gallon of gas cost about $4.50 here. Yikes! We have been getting better gas mileage though because we drive much slower. We have also not been running our airconditioner but occasionally after a long sweaty hike, we will blast that lovely cold air.
Food and drinks are generally cheaper here. A 12 pack of Tecate is around 7 or so dollars. For something like Coors Light, it’s even cheaper. Liquor is cheaper. A 750 milliliter of Jose Cuervo is about $10. And we’ve found a cheaper brand of tequila, Blanca Viuda for less than $8.
Eating out is cheap but not as cheap as you find in the Mexican mainland. Baja is very geared to non-Mexican tourists so there are lots of non-Mexican prices, especially in the bigger cities and tourist areas.
Tours and whatnot are out of our price range so we don’t do them. But we did see dive tours advertised for $40.
Once you get into Baja Sur there is a lot more free Camping than in the north – and the pay Camping is generally cheaper the farther away you get from the US border.
We always buy water in Mexico. It is pretty easy to find. Most towns have a place you can but Agua Purificada by the liter. In general, we’ve paid about 75¢ to fill up our 6-gallon jugs.
As I said, Los Algodones was our easiest border crossing. Usually, our vehicle is checked and we are asked to declare any alcohol and fruit. You are only allowed to bring a minimum amount of alcohol duty-free across the border and no fruit. There is a whole official list of what you can bring online somewhere. We used to worry about having too many musical instruments but have never been busted for having a guitar, an accordion, a ukulele, several percussion instruments, and a few small wind instruments. But don’t bring non-prescribed drugs or guns! This is illegal.
Usually, after your vehicle is checked you will need to park and go get your tourist card. This is why we chose Los Algodones, we knew where to park. When we crossed in Tecate we had lots of trouble finding a parking space,
If you are only going to Baja California, Baja California Sur, or Sonora, you only need a tourist card. If you are going to the Mexican mainland you will need to get a TIP (temporary import permit) for your vehicle.
Military Stops –
There are lots of military stops as you travel down the Baja peninsula. They may ask you where you are coming from and/or where you are going. We’ve had good experiences at these stops. Everyone is polite and friendly.
Just about everyone wears a mask here, indoors and out. When you enter a grocery store electronic thermometers are mounted for you to take your temperature. Most people hold their wrists up to the machines.
Don’t drive at night.
The roads can be super narrow. Hazards abound. Roads are not always paved and you need to watch out for potholes.
Speed limits are in Kilometers. They are really low. The top speed is usually about 80 kph which is about 55 mph. Of course, everyone drives faster but me, I’m not interested in getting a ticket or being stopped by police*. If you want to drive slow (or just do the speed limit) and there is a shoulder, drive on it to make it easy for people to pass. Drivers use their left turn signal to let you know when it is safe to pass. If you actually need to make a left turn, make sure no one is coming up behind you.
* If you are pulled over by the police and have not done anything wrong don’t pay the fine. Tell them you don’t speak Spanish and don’t understand. If they speak English address them in another language if you know one. Tell them that you will follow them to the police station to pay the fine. Waste their time, and hopefully, they will eventually give up and let you go- at least that is how it has worked for us so far.
Gas Stations –
There is no self-serve gas in Mexico. Attendants are generally nice but we have been ripped off at a gas station in Mexico before. Always look at the pump and make sure it is zeroed out before they start pumping. Conscientious attendants will tell you “cero” (zero) before they start to pump. You can pay cash or credit. If you pay cash, count out your money when you hand it to the attendant and know how much you are getting back. Attendants may expect a tip. We always tip if they wash our windshield (10 pesos). If they are nice and curious, we may tip a lesser amount.
Tune in for more tips next time!
Currently, we are in San Jose del Cabo. We have been loving the beaches of Baja California Sur. We plan on being back in the US at the beginning of April to plan our summer trip to Alaska!