Ok, so the names in this side of the world are all mixed up. There is Mexico which shares a border with California. But a part of Mexico is called Baja California. Which is not a part of California. If this wasn’t enough, there is New Mexico, which is not a part of Mexico. It is a state in US which shares a border with Mexico. They really could have thought of simplifying this entire thing! Anyhow, this post is about New Year 2015 that we spent in Baja California. Yes, I am trying to get all the long due posts out of the way while my vacation is breathing its last.
The initial plan was a road trip from Tijuana to Cabo. But the cost of renting a car for that route was prohibitive. Not that we paid any less for our trip. Our final plan was to fly from San Diego to Cabo, pick a car and do the route – Cabo – Todos Santos – Loreto – Cabo (for the New Year). This was a week long trip. The group was a mixed bunch. All of us knew only a few people in the group. Sometimes stepping away from the comfort of known people is a good thing. The week was a blast and the new year was a memorable one.
So we all got together in San Diego, for our flight to Cabo. Got super cheap $100 tickets for Spirit Airlines. They take no frills very seriously. Nothing is free. Not even cabin baggage, if I remember correctly. But the price is absolutely worth it. Would definitely recommend for a budget traveler. There was a baggage mishap at the Cabo airport, due to which we had to wait there for a few hours. Mexican airports are a little different from the usual airports. The duty free has more tequila than you would see in a lifetime. Plus a tasting table as well. We had time on our hands and the vacation spirit was fairly high. We tasted all and picked a few bottles for the road. Tried finding food at the airport, but to no avail. There were two bars at the restaurant which primarily served tequila and margaritas, with a side of nachos. All I am saying is that do come with an appetite for lemon wedges and shots. 🙂
Our first stop was a small, obscure place few kms before Todos Santos. This was about 76 kms from Cabo. We were already late and had been warned ominously to not drive once it is dark, in Mexico. We started for Todos Santos early evening and it was pitch dark by the time we reached close to the airbnb guesthouse. We had no idea where to go, Google maps wasn’t much help and there was a point when we were driving through bushes on a dirt track which looked like no one had been there for years! I am fairly sure that some of us became more religious that night. 🙂 Finally found the place and called it a night. What we missed in the night put a smile on our faces in the morning. The house we stayed in, was located right on the beach with a very fancy view. It was a very pretty, rustic place with a sitting area which convinced you to stay longer. We spent the morning walking on the beach and sipping on coffee. Weather was perfect and we were full of holiday joy. The day’s plan was to go to Hotel California for lunch and then drive to Loreto.
Hotel California is the most famous landmark in Todos Santos. If rumors are to be believed, this is the hotel that The Eagles sang about. True to their name, they do play that song fairly often. The hotel is a beautiful one and worth staying in. The colors were magnificent. And I was trigger happy. After a lavish lunch, left for Loreto.
Roads in Mexico are pretty good. Landscape is filled with cactus, many a times by the sea. Distance from Todos Santos to Loreto was 433 kms. Took us pretty much the entire day to get there.
Loreto is a picturesque town. Barely any tourists, beautiful beaches and great food. If you are not a hotel conscious person, don’t pre book. These small towns in Mexico are pretty much like Indian towns. Many cheap staying options which are not available online and once you haggle a little, you get a super deal. We paid 600 pesos ($40) a night for a room which fit in all 7 of us comfortably. We also paid $200 a night for the day we booked online. I am yet to get over the financial misery of it all!
The first day in Loreto was super chilly and windy. We had packed for the beach (read as minimal clothing) and that was not the weather we were prepared for. Well, weather be damned. We headed out in what we had. Our favorite breakfast place by far was Pan Que Pan. Their french toast was the best I have had. I still drool at the thought of it. Oscar, from the dive school, was full of good suggestions for Loreto. The one for the day was Ligui beach. It was a cold day and we were the only souls there. Not that cold weather is ever a deterrent. That was a very cold dip we took there. On our way back to the city, stopped at a restaurant called Sabor for dinner. The chicken tortilla soup there was divine! Highly recommended. As far as I remember, the evening was spent playing some very competitive pool. With beer of course. 🙂
The next day was another one of Oscar’s recommendations – beaches around Mulegé. By far, one of the nicest suggestions. The drive was beautiful and the time spent in those beaches was one of the highlights of the trip. It is a one and a half hour drive (135 kms) from Loreto and the way is spotted with picturesque beaches. The one worth a mention was the Playa de Perla beach. Incredibly beautiful and a sandbar right in the middle, so that you could walk a long way in. Spent a few hours there and moved towards Mulegé. The beaches at Mulegé were pretty as well, but we had left our hearts behind at Playa de Perla. So, we turned back quickly to catch the sunset there. That evening turned out to be phenomenal. We were the only ones on that beach. The setting sun was heartwarming and the company, perfect. There was music, Mexican libations and some very disturbing dance moves. Our ride back included a word of advice from the Mexican police as well. We ended the night at a local taco place (excellent beef tacos!) in Loreto.
Scuba and snorkeling was on the cards next day. We went with the Dolphin Dive Centre and I would suggest you do the same, if you are ever there. Oscar was awesome plus he had a sense of humor. He was also quite alarmed by the size of picnic lunch we had packed for the day. The two beaches we went that day were breathtaking. The colors kept getting prettier! Will let the pictures do the talking. In summary, excellent diving and snorkeling site. And just in case you want to camp and barbecue, this island is just the place for it. All you need is a permit from the local authorities (heard it is quick and easy).
It was time to start celebrating the end of 2014. Last two days of the year and the countdown had begun. Party destination was Cabo San Lucas. Crowded beach town with a badass reputation for parties. It was also Naren’s birthday and I am fairly sure this is one new year he won’t forget anytime soon. The new year celebrations were brilliant. Started at 6 pm and went right up till 6 am. At some point in the evening, we had the entire street dancing to ‘aaj blue hai paani paani’. Now if you can get a bunch of Mexican, British, Canadian and American folks to dance to Bollywood songs, the evening is definitely a roaring success. 🙂 This was followed by quite a few hours at this club called El Squid Roe, where every time the DJ played a punjabi number, he would point at us and yell ‘Indiaaaa!’. There are other aspects of the evening which I am intentionally skipping. All I would say is that if you ever go there, definitely spend an evening at The Giggling Marlin. 🙂
Last day was spent doing a small trek from our condo to the Divorce Beach and Lovers beach. Yes, those are next to each other (intentionally so, I guess). Oh and before I forget, you must go to Misiones De Kino to eat Crab Chilpalla. And I really mean it when I say must. That Chilpalla sauce would be the sole reason why I will go to Cabo all over again.
And that was it. 2015 had started. With good company and great memories. With the promise of new stories and beautiful places. With love and the optimism that a new year brings.