Baja Campers Corner – Season 7 Kicks Off for Baja Amigos RV Caravan Tour
November 10, 2015 –Starting our 7th season and leading our 25th Baja tour how many new experiences could we have? Well, Day 1 answered those questions. Our first stop is as always the Mexican Immigration Office to process the Tourist Cards. It’s usually a three step process: (1) complete the application, (2) pay at the bank, (3) return to the immigration officer to have the permit registered and stamped. Not today, this was 1 -top shopping at Mexican Immigration Office. Apparently the bank was low on funds, so the entire process was completed in the office and the officers were very friendly with lots of good humor.
Unfortunately the US Customs on return were not so friendly. I knew we had some attitude with this particular officer immediately. I responded to the standard question “Are you bringing anything back into the US” with nothing and the customs officer sternly stated “You are bringing back that Mexican Tourist Visa aren’t you?” Ya, you got me there for sure. Then our 2 Scots, Allan & Debbie were pulled out of line by the same Officer and sent to an interrogation room because of alleged Visa issues. 45 minutes later on closer examination and a proper scan of their Passports (something that was not done at the outset) and there was nothing out of order at all. Apparently the customs official was a good talker, but not a good listener. Homeland Security putting tax payers money to work.
Day 1 what could happen? Well getting thru Tecate was not as simple as usual because of all of the construction, so we had some scouting to do in transit. Once across the border we waited on the road, engine idling, 4 ways on, not wanting to lose #2 right off the bat. As #3 was about to clear the border they informed us they had just lent a $100 US to a needy injured Boater heading to Baja, short of funds and bleeding profusely (banged head at border entry station). Ok, we then made a right turn, and told them to stop at our location and wait for #4, we proceeded and found a spot to stop. #4 cleared and we all started our move to pick up Hwy 3. Then we had another call from #3, while waiting for #4 they were approached by a Municipal Policemen who gratuitously extorted $20 US for Jim & Deb and now Allan & Debbie (who pulled in behind them) for parking in a no parking zone. Yes they were technically guilty, but really, they can see these tourists have been in Mexico less than 2 minutes and they can’t just push them along? I have stopped many times in zones that say no parking, Mulege, Loreto, La Paz and San Jose, and the local Police have just told me to move. No ticket, no fine, no threat to go to the Police Station. Tecate Cops have such a unique “Welcome to Mexico”.
The good news the rest of Day 1 went smoothly, the new Hwy 3 construction project was complete, eliminating a very windy narrow 10 km section of road. We did have an impatient Albertan with a travel trailer so eager to head south he passed us and a semi on 3 different corners. Hope he makes it in one piece. We arrived at Costco and found parking, always busy on a Sunday. We saw the same $100 Baja Boater (Colorado plates) heading south as we sat at the light at Costco turning south on Hwy 1. Guess he did not see us?
Did you know?After we got settled at the Villarino Campground, Adolfo and Belem are great hosts, then headed off to La Bufadora, also busy on a Sunday, most of the shops were open and the blow hole blowing well. Definitely a fun event and experience for the gang. The next at the crack of 10:30 AM we set off for Ensenada, the Art Gallery, Former Casino, Fish Market and Historic Downtown. No cruise ships in port and not a weekend so the gang had this pretty much all to themselves. Fun was had, so was lunch and to top things off some refreshments and also saw some daredevil bicycle riding on Hwy 1 . Tomorrow the adventure continues as we are off to Fidel’s and the beach once more.
Situated adjacent to the peaceful southern shore of Ensenada’s Bahia de Todos Santos, the narrow, mostly barren finger of land known as Punta Banda assertively juts out into the Pacific Ocean, helping to form one of northern Baja’s most picturesque bays. At the very tip, the churning waters near the La Bufadora blowhole surge up through the rugged, guano covered outcroppings and, after reaching their apex, dissipate into a cool mist of salty rain.
But, because of its rural locale during times when most transportation was literally provided by horsepower, it only had a permanent population of fewer than 100 residents by the time World War I had ended. The land at the Punta Banda’s outermost point is haphazardly strewn with rocky grottos and coves that were created by volcanic upheavals eons ago; and the clear water that invades their shallows often turns a mesmerizing turquoise color under the bright Baja sun.In spite of a few scattered housing developments the peninsula remains predominantly covered by wild chaparral, cactus and sage. In 1885, Punta Banda was established as the southernmost sector of what was originally referred to as Colonia Carlos Pacheco, a region that was also comprised of San Carlos and Ensenada. It was distinguished by the presence of a natural hot spring that surfaced near the sandy shore, and a few years after that a hotel and spa was built as an attraction to bring in visitors.
During the middle of the 19th century, it has been said that bands of pirates would hide in the secluded coves along the southern shores of the Punta Banda peninsula, and then sail out unexpectedly to take over freighters that were bringing gold and other valuables down the California coast toward their eventual ports of call on the east coast.
In a recent attempt to domesticate yet another portion of this wild land, Tiger Woods proposed the building of a massive golf course and residential complex that would sprawl over most of the primitive acreage north of La Bufadora cove.In the early 1930s, Charles Nordhoff, author of the book, Mutiny on the Bounty, owned a rancho near Punta Banda and hosted many Hollywood celebrities who enjoyed coming down to Baja for hunting and fishing, as well as the scenic beauty of the area. One of them was Clark Gable, who just a few years later won an Oscar for his performance as Fletcher Christian in the popular movie version of the story.
But whatever the reason, it is nice to know that a pastoral playground like this is less than a one hour drive south of Ensenada’s downtown business district.But, despite the fact that there were significant concerns and protests raised by environmental entities, it was declining economic conditions north of the border that ultimately spelled doom for the proposed luxury development. Today, Punta Banda draws increasing throngs of new visitors who enjoy basking in the sun, lying in the sand, catching a few fish or getting a gander at the world’s second largest blowhole.
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