Cactus forests and dream bays
A disastrous gift
In Ensenada we turn east onto MEX 3. Our destination: San Felipe on the east coast of Baja California. Soon we pass the first of many military controls in "Lower California" - the peninsula we are currently on.
We drive to the barrier and are stopped by two heavily armed military men. "De dónde vienen?" - Hmmm, long faces on our part ... - "De D Ó N D E?", one of the strikingly young military men repeats slowly and clearly. Ahhh, from where we are, he wants to know! I proudly answer with my previously rehearsed sentence: "Somos de Suiza". - We receive "Ándale" again as an answer. At the same time, the military official, with a clear gesture of his hand, indicates to us that we may continue.
Shortly before San Felipe the second military control waits for us on this day. Again we are asked a question that we do not understand. But that is not a problem, because it benefits from the latest technologies. The military officer pulls his iPhone out of his trouser pocket and holds it in front of his mouth while he speaks a sentence in Spanish. Then he holds out the smartphone and we hear the English-speaking voice of the Google Translator. We are asked if our vehicle can be inspected, agree to this request and get out.
First, the officer searches our glove compartment and center console. In the latter, he immediately finds our "gift box", a small box with gifts we received from people on the road. Inside there is, for example, the 2-dollar note of Toby from Cleveland, the drawing of 10-year-old Felix from France ... and the pistol cartridge of Melissa from Glacier National Park.
In Mexico, carrying firearms and ammunition with you as a tourist is highly illegal and can be rewarded with prison sentences. And we fools didn't think about this cartridge for a second!
The military wants to know of course immediately whether we carry still more ammunition or weapons in the car. We try to explain to him as best we can - again with the help of the Google Translator - that this cartridge was a gift and that we didn't store any weapons or the like in the car. He doesn't really want to believe us and starts a meticulous one hour search. Every single compartment, every box and every cavity is turned upside down and checked. Even our mattress is inspected, scanned and swept. We patiently watch and wait. At least our belongings are handled carefully. When the young military finally finds nothing, thank God we can continue our journey. But he wants to keep the cartridge. - He can have it!
In the valley of the giants
The next morning we drive further south along the east coast of the Baja. On the way we see many American or Canadian camper vans of so-called "Snowbirds", which spend the winter down here. Soon we reach our destination, the Valle de los Gigantes. This is a kind of protected area, but it is hardly signposted. However, we have to pay 200 pesos (approx. 10 CHF) entrance fee before the gates to the park are opened.
We realize once again that we are no longer in the USA and that everything is a little different in Mexico. We search in vain for an info brochure and are quite surprised that we are allowed to move freely in the park or go anywhere we want. We are not banned from hundreds of things by information boards and are not told what to do. At first we even feel a little helpless, but then we quickly appreciate the new situation.
The attraction in the Valle de los Gigantes is a huge cactus forest. On a sandy road we pass between Saguaros, which are as tall as a house, at whose sight every ornamental cactus at home would blush with shame. The already impressive picture is perfected by countless violet flowers that give the desert landscape the necessary colour. This is how we imagined Mexico!
On the MEX 5 we continue along the coast to the south. We pass beautiful bays with turquoise blue water and find nice overnight places directly at the sea. When we pass a small village, we like to stop to get fresh tacos at "puestos" (Foodtrucks). On a tortilla you get the desired ingredient (in our case mostly freshly caught fish) and can then choose from various toppings, such as guacamole, onions and salsas and refine your own taco. And all this at unbeatable prices (15 pesos = 0.75 CHF per piece)!
We find our favourite place at Bahía de los Ángeles on a small headland directly at the sea. We have the whole beach to ourselves and stay for the first time in a long time for a few days and do nothing at all. After we always drove a lot in the USA and our days were packed with activities, we feel here a little like in the holidays from the holidays. We watch the many water birds, find starfish and can even watch a seal hunting in the evening. Unfortunately, the water is still a bit cold at this time of year, so that we don't really like going for a swim.