The Baja Breakdown

There’s a tourism slogan that is prevalent all over Baja, “No Bad Days in Baja!” You see it emblazoned on everything from tee shirts to tequila shot glasses, vintage vans to surfboards. I would have to agree. Oh, sure there was that 24 hours in Cabo. But that really wasn’t “bad.” Just not to my liking. And then there was the afternoon I was chased down the hill by a scary pitt bull. But that was probably as much my fault for running. Otherwise, it was 17 blissful, feast-filled days.

Here are the logistics of the trip:

BUDGET

I set a budget of $70 per day for this trip. I knew it was aggressive, given how fast I was moving. Not much downtime for lounging around in a beach chair, spending nothing. But $70/day was my budget for the 2002 Round the World Tour, and I hit it exactly. Also, coincidentally, $70/day is my average daily living expense now in the Winnie, once I have taken out Health Care and monthly internet costs. So I figured I could come in much lower than that in Mexico.

But having every day be filled with either a tour or a bus ride, I came in a little over, at $75 per day ($82 if I average in my $120 airfare.)  But this includes things like snorkeling with sea lions and boat rides to pet the whales. I also had a few more…okay, a LOT more….Cervezas and margaritas than I would typically, along with a few hotel upgrades.

One plug for fitness, I never set foot in a taxi. With the exception of long distance buses and one shuttle to the airport, I walked everywhere.

Note:  All alcohol falls under "Food" category, as it was typically consumed with a meal.  Only Diet Cokes and bottled water are separate.

Note: All alcohol falls under “Food” category, as it was typically consumed with a meal. Only Diet Cokes and bottled water are seperate.

PACKING

I want to give a plug to the little Bagallini Pouch. I have carried this pouch with me on every international trip for the past 10 years. It’s invincible. It has five color-coded pouches (orange and pink on one side, green and purple on the other) that make it so easy to keep things organized. My passport lives in the main top pouch. Then I use the colors to keep myself organized. Pink for Pesos. Green for Greenbacks. Orange for Urgent, like bus tickets and luggage claim checks. You get the idea…IMG_8882

The beauty of traveling with a backpack versus a suitcase is its portability. Easier to navigate Mexico’s unlevel, pot-hole filled sidewalks. The benefit of having one this size is it’s big enough to have a “hip strap,” which means my butt bears all the weight. But it’s also quite a roomy pack, so the downside is the temptation to fill it. 😮

Here’s my packing list, for my own future reference:

BOTTOM COMPARTMENT
• REI Folding Camp Chair
• Down Cover in stuff sack (Mexico buses can be cold, but never needed it.)
• Chaco Sandals
• Camp Towel
• Rain Jacket/Wind Breaker
• Beach Towel
• Swimsuit (and plastic bag in case it’s still wet)’
• Sarong (doubles as scarf, blanket, towel, I could go on and on…)

TOP COMPARTMENT
•    Black knit pants
•    Jeans
•    Khaki Capris (never worn)
•    2 pair of Jeans shorts (only needed one)
•    Khaki drawstring shorts
•    Black drawstring shorts
•    Black “water shorts” (never worn)
•    1 Long Sleeved T-shirt
•    5 Short Sleeved T-shirts
•    9 pairs underwear
•    2 bras
•    3 pairs socks
•    2 bandanas
•    Sea to Summit Toiletry Bag

ELECTRONICS BAG (sits on top of clothes in top compartment)
• Laptop & Charger
• 2 Smart Phones & Charger
• Camera, 3 batteries, & Charger
• Ipod & Charger

(List does not include “traveling clothes” worn on the bus; tennis shoes, jeans, t-shirt, and long sleeve knit jacket.) I came home with all of the above but the “vintage” ipod, no doubt left in the bus seat. (sniff, sniff)

NEEDS

There were few things I wished I had brought, but they were nagging needs, so I am going to list them here for future reference:

• A wristwatch. It’s just not practical to pull out a smart phone to check the time while waiting for buses, carrying bags, etc.
• A three prong to two prong adapter. Many electrical outlets in Mexico only have two-prong holes, and my laptop charger is a 3-prong. Thank goodness, I was able to find them at the “Ferreteria,” or Hardware Store.
• A small extension cord. Often times, the older hotels will only have one outlet, and it can be too far for the laptop charge cord to reach. If you have camera gear, smart phones, ipods, and laptops that all need charging at the same time, a small extension cord will be handy. I found one at the Ferreteria, but it was 18ft. Had I brought a 6 ft from home, it would have been less bulk.
• Fingernail clippers

Cheap enough at only $3USD, but only being able to find a 6M (18 ft) was "expensive" in weight and bulk.

Cheap enough at only $3USD, but only being able to find a 6M (18 ft) was “expensive” in weight and bulk.

TRANSPORTATION TIPS

Aquila has a very extensive bus system, with online schedules that are easy to read, even if you don’t know much Spanish. Learn a few words like “Arrive,” “Depart,” “When,” and “Window Seat” and they will serve you well. An agent will typically turn the monitor around and let you choose your own seat. The further back you go, usually the warmer the temperature and rougher the ride, but also the less crowded, as the Mexicans seem to like to be toward the front.

All Aquila buses I rode with the exception of one had onboard wifi which worked consistently as we drove through towns, and often times even in the more remote regions. All Aquila buses use the same naming convention. The wifi connection is titled with the bus number followed by a dash, and the bus name in CAPS, for example, “164-AQUILA” This is handy to know, as even if you are sitting in the bus station when a bus pulls in, you can still pick up their signal and download emails for the time that bus is parked at the station.

I made it a habit to always ask schedules for departure in a location upon arrival. Before I would head out, I would go into the station and photograph the outbound schedule, almost always on display overhead. Just in case the internet was problematic…

Crossing the Border to travel by Bus – Ride the San Diego Trolley to the end of the “Blue Line,” which is San Ysidro. Walk across the border. If going to Ensenada, turn right for another two blocks to Plaza Viva for the ABC Bus Station. For points beyond Ensenada, you must take a taxi ($20USD) to the main bus station.

Crossing the border to travel by Plane — Ride the San Diego Trolley to the end of the “Blue Line,” which is San Ysidro. Walk across the street to McDonalds, and go up the stairs. Find the “Tourismo Express” shuttle bus in the Border Station Parking Lot. They offer shuttles every 20 minutes to the new “CBX,” or “Cross Border Express” skyway where you can walk across the border right into the Tijuana Airport! There are numerous low cost carriers that will take you to La Paz or San Juan de Cabo from here. Remarkably easy!

RESOURCES

My three “Go To” resources for this trip:
Carlos Fiesta’s Baja Expo — This website doesn’t look like much at first glance. But if you click on the city, there is a wealth of information on each destination! I particularly found the “Gringo Factor” and “Lodging” sections most helpful. Thank you, Carlos, whoever you are…
• “The Moonguide” – It wasn’t as “robust” as a Lonely Planet when finding budget accommodations, but it was more up to date than the most recent 2007 edition of the LP.
• Trip Advisor – I don’t typically use this for accommodations, as it is too challenging to find the budget options. But I do use it religiously to find the “Top Things to Do” and restaurant recommendations

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GIVING THANKS

I would not have been able to fit this trip into the budget had it not been for the generosity of my dear friend Margie. Having to pay to store both the Winnie and the Tracker in the San Diego area would have made a trip like this cost-prohibitive. Not only did she make her driveway available, she also fed me and sent me off with a bag of oranges, lemons, lettuce, avocados, and two bottles of wine! My most heartfelt thanks, Mi Amiga!

My beautiful friend Margie, wearing a headset because we are talking while she is on a conference call.  ;-)

My beautiful friend Margie, wearing a headset because we are talking while she is on a conference call. ;-)

And lastly, I thank all my wonderful blog followers for all your kind comments and compliments. I hope you enjoyed the “Baja Series” as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was Anais Nin who said so beautifully, “We write to taste life twice. In the moment, and in retrospection.”   I enjoyed the retrospection, and I hope you did too.

I toast you with a Margarita!

It may not be in Mexico, but it's one darned good margarita!

It may not be in Mexico, but it’s one darned good margarita!

• Two parts silver agave tequila
• One part Grand Mariner
• Juice of one whole, juicy lime
• Juice of half a blood orange, this one compliments of LuAnn and Terry’s tree
Shaken, poured over ice in a salt-rimmed glass.  Best enjoyed in Baja, but a Winnebago is sure to be second best!

36 thoughts on “The Baja Breakdown

  1. Fantastic writeup that matches all of your great photos during the trip. I sent your one of Hussong’s in Ensenada to my friend and asked if she remember that night in the 70’s and if that place looked familiar. She loved it!

    If you don’t mind, I am going to bookmark this page and use it as a reference for my next trip to the Baja.

    Thank you for taking time during your trip to blog, I really appreciate it.

    • Thank you so much Steve! I would be honored if you bookmarked the page. Thank you for all your support on the blog. Hope you and the Hounds are having a good spring!

  2. Words cannot adequately convey my admiration and heartfelt appreciation for the Baja travelogue you so graciously shared with your readers. I opened each Baja blog “installment” salivating like a dawg…ready to dive into your beautiful photos, travel tips and touching introspection. Whether I ever travel to that area of Mexico remains to be seen but I now have a basic platform to work from (thanks to you) should I find the time for such a sweet getaway. “The Baja Breakdown” was icing on the cake. Thank you, thank you, thank you…for continuous inspiration, beautiful scenery and words of wisdom. :-)

    • Rhonda, I always want to cut and paste your comments into their own blog post, because they are so beautiful worded. Thank you so much for your kind words and support!

  3. It was a great trip down Baja. Thanks for sharing it! My wife and I years ago (90’s) took a bus like you did from Tijuana to Mulege, then to Loreto and finally La Paz. It was a blast for us. What is the make of packback that you used? I thought there might be a picture but maybe we missed it. Great writing!

    • Thanks, Michael — The only picture was in the initial post, “The bus, The Backpack, and the Baja.” I think it may have been the first picture. It is a “Gregory Lassen 4400,” but it is 14 years old, so I doubt Gregory makes that model anymore, and the newer ones are probably much lighter anyway. Gregory is a good brand. It has held up well.

      At 4400 cubic inches, it was a bit too big for this trip, though. I used it when I backpacked for a year in 2002. I needed a bigger pack, because I was carrying a sleeping bag, water filter, and three seasons of clothes. So it was a bit too large, but in the end worked out well. Thanks for the question.

  4. Baja traveler here from the 4X4 days before the road was paved. So great to see you appreciating an inspiring landscape but also communicating the fragile ecosystem. Thanx for the lesson in simplicity in packing what is NEEDED!
    Bus travel is connecting with the people. My last bus trip met a honeymoon couple were aboard because they forgot passports so the airline wouldn’t let them fly. Their memories of the timeshare in Cabo must compete with the journey getting there. (ps saw walking BLM Friday)

    • Thanks, ra cott for the nice comment. Your honeymooners story reminds me of something I read once about a true traveler being one who could “turn an ordeal into an adventure.” I think they must have had a wonderful adventure. 😉 Thanks for following.

  5. Thank you girl for spending some time with Chris and I it was sooo good to see you! I wish I was with you those 17 days! Alas, some of us are not yet retired, with kids in college! You are such an inspiration to me, and your prose makes me want to pack up and go!!! Hope you enjoyed the goodies, if you need more, stop on back by! You know where everything is, safe travels north! xoxo

    • Thank you, my dear friend. Your priorities are definitely in the right place, getting Isabella through college! There will be time for retirement, and then your days, no doubt on the Italian Rivera, will make me swoon. 😉

    • Hola, Mi Amiga,

      Yes, it includes fuel, but I don’t spend much for fuel, because the Winnie has a small tank (<26 gal dry) it gets 14.8 mpg, and I don't drive that much since I tend to "live" in the west.

  6. What a fabulous trip! Thank you so much for all the excellent photos and descriptions of your daily events. I really enjoy all the quotes you sprinkle into your posts. And, of course, your beautiful “phood photos.”

  7. Loved this series! On a different topic, where did you get the outside window cover for your RV and do you like it? any suggestions?

    • Hi, Bonnie — yes, I love my SunPro windowshade! I got ti here: http://www.sunpromfg.com. All you have to do is tell them the make and model, and they usually have a pattern already made up.

      The only thing I will caution about is the magnets that hold the sides in place. If you are boondocking on the dirt, particularly out west, there tend to be iron filings in the dirt. The magnets can pick these up and scratch the surface of the RV. So if you get one like this with the magnets, be sure you brush the magnetized bits that have been picked up from the dirt off before you attach them to the rig.

  8. It was fun to eavesdrop on your while you had such fun! Thanks for taking the time to share your joy with us.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

  9. This was an amazing adventure and you told the story well. I believe you have your mojo back.

    Add to packing list, multi-plug surge protector with long cord.

    • Thanks, Gaelyn — Yes, I truly loved writing every post. I think the change of scenery did me good! Thanks for the addition to the packing list.

  10. This was so fun to read! Thanks for taking the time to share it all. Don’t know if I will ever make it there, but your stories and photos are the next best thing.

  11. Thanks, Mindy. It is fun knowing you were following along! Hope you and Chris are getting off to a good season. Planting time soon, I would imagine…

  12. Suzanne, great recap! And so was the rest of the Baja travelogue, felt like we were there. Loved the ‘rita”recipe, the Grand Marnier is the secret, learned that one years ago from a guy I used to sail with. He was a bartender, go figure…..:) I do have to ask though, how in the heck does the chair fit in the bottom of the backpack?

    • Hi, Jim — Thanks for the comment. Don’t sailors make the best drinks? 😉

      The little chair folds down into what is like a bunch of short trekking poles connected by shock cord, and stuffs into a little stuff sack that is only 14″ X 4″ X 4″. My backpack has a bottom section made to hold tent gear, so it fit horizontally in that compartment with no problems. In fact, I took it to the beach each day in what amounted to a “drawstring bag.” Also took it to SD’s Pacific Beach on my bike in my hiking pack. (same trail we rode last year.) Very portable!

  13. Enjoyed the write ups of this trip, they were so good I was almost like being there. The detailed expenses are interesting because it adds so much as I often wonder “how much does it cost”. Thanks again for the time and effort.

  14. We did a Mexican Cruse but now we want to go there like you did and spend some time. Thanks for all the info and wonderful stories. Enjoyed the “series” so much!

  15. I enjoyed following your Baja trip and thanks for sharing all the great info. Just have one question for my curiosity – did you really go to Baja for 17 days with no socks? :)

  16. This will be my go-to post when we head to Baja. And we really have no excuses do we, given how close we are. Happy to hear that you enjoyed the blood oranges so much. :)

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