There are many many ways to ‘get off the beaten track’ from taking an unsignposted road or track, to a random conversation with a fellow traveller which leads to an unexpected turn of direction (metaphorically or physically, or both).
The route to Bahia de los Angeles itself was fairly unplanned. Recommended by many along the way from Ensenada south but not placed firmly on our route radar. That is until we decided to drive more kilometers in one day than Baha roads allow an elderley and slightly sensitive Hanna.
The maximum number of kilometers per day on Baha roads is determined by some fairly simple factors. Time of departure, gradient of the intervening hills and the number of unexpected holes, divets and missing sections of Tarmac (blacktop for our US readers). The over riding rule is not to drive at dusk or in the dark – you quite simply cannot see the road surface well enough to make decisions about where to place your wheels on the carriageway.
So when, the day before we headed to Bahia de los Angeles, we realised we had pushed it too far in one day; it was time re-adjust the next day’s drive. Camping spots and RV parks being very spaced out we decided to head for Bahia de los Angeles as a one night stop over.
As we pulled in to the little town beside the sweeping bay of sand and beach we were more than a little impressed by the view and headed for the recommended Daggetts campground on the beach front.
As this was now officially our first camping-on-the-beach experience it was quite a seminal moment and the following events stem from this rather sudden change of direction.
The evening was beautifully clear and full of stars the ocean was quiet and the general air of the campsite was peacefull and relaxed. Resolving to go to the town the following day, by bike to explore, we relaxed and slept peacefully.
The following day we headed to town and found ourselves in Guillermos beach front bar having a beer watching the turquoise water of the bay. Two things occured – one; we realised that by an unknown fluke of trans-dimensional time warping; drinking had started at 11am and two; we met a couple of gringas that arrived at the bar by boat (up on to the sandy beach out front). I mention both because I find it is better to set the complete scene lest there be no mis-understanding later.
The beer probably is less important than the gringas but both seemed necessary. Conversation started and lunch happened and an offer of a trip across the bay to an in-accessible beach was offered along with the information that tomorrow there was an off road race in the desert – the Baha 200 (little sister of the Baha 1000 and 500).
The breadcrumbs were laid and the boat ride was had – thanks guys we had a great time – and were dropped back an hour or so later with promises to meet at the finish line the next day. We left town and headed back planning our route to the race.
Timings in Mexico, perhaps some of you know, are loose so after we had asked 3 locals the start time of the race and received 3 different answers we decided that the earlier we got to town the better. So we rolled away at 7am and parked Hanna in town on the Malecon. We walked to the nearest accessible point to where we believed the race was and managed to hitch a ride in a pick-up truck to the finish line … 15kms in to the desert.
Deposited at said finish line we were left wondering what to do as we realised that the sun was hot we had no shade and only a litre of drinking water. Necessity being a great mother we hung a couple of lunghis in a cactus tree and made a bench from some very accomodating rocks and waited.
So by now perhaps you have wondered about the Baha bugs? certainly the ‘desert fun’ … well hang in there because first come the scramblers … not being a motorbike geek I have not very much idea of what they were but they were scramblers and they were the first signs that we had indeed stumbled upon an off road race. Then at around 10.30am (we arrived there at 8.30) there was a deafening roar as the first of the off road cars arrived from the start line in town … and lo and behold they were VW Beetles (Finally the Baha Bugs!) … in many varieties … later we learned that the classes differentiated between those constructed from the chassis and engine of a beetle with a tube frame to ones with mods to the front and rear end but basically a Beetle body to the real stars the factory built Beetles – Herbie rides again in Baha. The biggest class was the trucks (a la Mad Max).
We tried to count them past us but lost count around 30 and were told later that around 50 had started. Dust clouds, wind, sun and shouting was now the order of the day. 40kms off into the desert on a loop that brought them round passed us between 3 and 5 times.
As each lap passed; fewer vehicles came round and then one not seen for ages would reappear gunning the gas and sounding like they were accelerating at mach 2 but actually the exhaust mods were doing a great impression of speed but when you looked carefully the exhaust sound and the speed were like a badly dubbed film.
So during this mayhem and fun we spotted a Dragon flag that had to be from one of the countries back home (I thought it looked Welsh but was later told it was the Scottish fighting dragon flag – sorry to both nations there) and not only that but two of their number were sporting a rather fetching pair of Tutus. It was the Tutus that did it, so after a luch bought from a family opposite – which was called a chimichanga, an interesting culinary experience – Sas went over to introduce herself, to discover that Richard was from the south coast UK and the rest of the team were from San Diego and San Fransisco.
As the race drew on and the day grew later we invited ourselves over to meet Dave, Bernadette, Val and Debbie – their race driver and co-pilot were Kathleen and Kathi which we didnt meet until much later. Conversation ensued and beers also (thanks guys those beers were so needed and cold too!) The team was very small and they each funded a small part of the huge costs of such a venture; Richard and Dave were Baha 1000 team drivers and were helping out. So as the shadows lengthened it turned out that after surviving two laps, which included a fight with a large cactus that tried to hitch a ride by throwing itself in through the front window between Kathi and Kathleen causing them both personal damage (no lasting effects girls? except perhaps a couple of scars?) there had been a mechanical hitch – a broken rear axle at the furthest point from where the team were based.
Team Highlander to the rescue – Dave and Val took tools and beer (obv) and water and headed off in to the desert. Us left to hold down the fort had a difficult job, I mean there was cold beer to drink, snacks to eat and chatting to be done. Speaking to Richard (who lives full time in the US) I was able to get the low down on the class sytem for the race and stories of doing the Baha 1000 – and how him and Dave came to meet Kathleen’s Dad and had therefore come to be in the support team for Kathleen and Kathi. Debbie had been in and around Bahia de los Angeles for the last 25 years and had some amazing insights and stories to recount. All in all that last 2 hours, as the desert sky changed from sunshine to the violets and golds of sunset and as the teams around us packed up and headed off, was a glorious picnic in the Baha desert. As dark fell we had still heard nothing of the stricken team car and members; I was a little peturbed but Richard lit us a fire and was confident that all was well with the rescue and we settled in to being the last people out there, 15 kms from town and with dwindling beer supplies.
At the 11th hour and after it was truly dark Dave and Val and Kathi and Kathleen appeared, truck towing car with broken rear axle. Within minutes the fire was out the tools packed and the rest of us piled in to and on to the truck as we set off for Debbie’s place to leave the car and head in to town for the post-race festivities.
So our new friends invited us to park Hanna outside their little house in Guillermo’s comlex and get down to some serious fun. Over to the town square for an awards ceremony which seemed to be giving nearly every participant an award. It was loud boisterous and fun. Then after a taco back to team Highlander’s house for the rest of the evening.
So we hung out with these lovely people for another 2 days and helped get the car loaded on to its trailer at Debbie’s house …
Then finally on the 5th day of our one day stop in Bahia de los Angeles we left as the heroic team Highlander set off back to the US and some semblance of normality.
To all you lovely people we would like to say thank you for your generosity, love and inclusiveness; we had the most amazing experience and without you guys it would never have been the same.
Sometimes it is far far better to follow the love than the plan.