We recently completed an exciting and adventurous RV caravan trip through Baja California, Mexico, led by a travel group called Baja Winters Travel Group. There was far too much going on to cover it all in one post, so we are publishing a series of informative posts. We hope they will be useful to anyone planning a trip with Baja Winters, or to anyone who wants to go RVing in Baja California, Mexico. We also want to share how much fun we had! We have also made a lot of videos about Baja. You can find links to all of our Baja California videos here.
In this post we share all the fun – and adventures – we had on the return home, a trip that took us seven days.
Route Map of Our Return from Baja California
This is a map of the route we took, mainly up Highway 1. We stayed at most of the RV parks we had stayed at on the way down, plus two new ones. The new RV parks were chosen so that we could go whale watching, and also camp in a wine farm, among the vineyards!
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Day 1: Santispac to Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur
In preparation for our return trip we had both the truck and the rig washed by some enterprising entrepreneurs on the beach. They did a fabulous job for the princely sum of $54 US. Obviously, we added on a healthy tip.
We traveled 185 miles to Malarrimo RV Park in Guerrero Negro. We left an hour behnid the convoy, due to our illnesses, and Tail Gunners Jerry and Kathy kindly stayed behind to guide us. Baja Winters’ motto is that no one gets left behind!
Within a short while we were driving past the lovely town of Mulege. There were far too many topes (road bumps to slow you down) in that area. I guess there is a good reason for that. Then, the road was very bad around Santa Rosalia, due to road works. But after that, the roads were quite good for the rest of the day, despite the usual narrow or non-existent shoulders.
Cuesta del Infernio – Again!
The drive was quite challenging because once we left the Sea of Cortez, we had to drive up the Cuesta del Infernio (Slope of Hell). We were still a little nervous about this infamous mountain route, but our truck performed beautifully. The well paved road has no potholes, but it does have uphill grades to a maximum of around 12 to 16 percent. Mainly the grades are around 6 to 8 percent, and the very steep grades come only in short bursts. Once again, we were forced to pass a slow-moving vehicle. Just to make it a bit more interesting! The entire climb takes place over a distance of only about two miles.
Joe made the video below to show exactly what it is like to drive the Cuesto del Infierno while towing a fifth wheel, in a guided caravan. The video shows the descent southwards, and the ascent northwards. The ascent starts at minute 18:30.
The picture below shows where this challenging part of Highway 1 is.
Then we climbed another, smaller mountain, and after that, the road was mainly flat, winding through fields of cacti. The most interesting part was getting to overtake this strangely loaded vehicle. We were happy to have Jerry on the CB, letting us know when it was safe for us to overtake.
The roads within Guerrero Negro itself were awful, with plenty of topes, and the main street ripped up for repairs.
We stayed for two nights in the Malarrimo RV Park in Guerrero Negro because some of our group were going off whale watching the next day. This was a good opportunity for Joe and I to get some rest, because we had both been very violently sick the day we left Santispac (nasty tummy bug).
Malarrimo RV Park, Baja California Sur
The Malarrimo RV Park was very tight. In the USA our 30-foot fifth wheel is considered to be on the small side – but in Mexico, it’s BIG. Given our poor state of health, we were relieved to have Tail Gunner Jerry park the rig for us. Even he, with all of his experience, had a bit of a battle, so he had to give up on the first spot, and move to one of the only three spots that is suitable for big rigs.
Apart from RV spots, there are also hotel rooms, all on the ground floor. Also, there is a bar, a patio restaurant, and a very good indoor seafood restaurant in the Malarrimo RV Park.
There is also a good gift shop (with high prices by Mexican standards).
The bar is housed in the restaurant, and the entire interior is very interesting. All kinds of sea-related things hang from the ceiling and decorate the walls. Unfortunately, the staff were not friendly and the bar service was abysmal. A young woman took our order and then just left! It was the first and only time in Mexico that we had indifferent to poor service from unfriendly servers.
Seafood Restaurant, Malarrimo RV Park, Baja California Sur
That said, we did have a very good dinner with the group at the seafood restaurant, and the service was slow but polite. Afterwards, it took about thirty minutes to track down someone who would take our payment for the dinner!
If you don’t want bad service, there is a very good taco stand just down the road. The park is situated on the main street, right in the town of Guerrero Negro.
If you drive out of the park and turn right, you can drive for about a mile and find a decent grocery store on the right-hand side of the street. There, you can buy groceries, alcohol, and water. When driving in this town, watch out for the frequent, inconspicuous stop signs!
Day 2: Guerrero Negro and Whale Watching
Our group had a really good time whale watching. Joe and I declined to go since neither of us were too keen on a ride in a small boat in the Pacific Ocean. It turned out to be a good decision because it would have been horrible after being so sick. However, our group reported that it was a good trip, although a little choppy, and a number of them were able to touch a whale. One of the whales bought her baby up, apparently to show it off!
The following photos were kindly supplied by fellow traveler Juli Cooley.
Guerrero Negro Origins
Guerrero Negro means Black Warrior in English. The town is named for a ship of that name, which was shipwrecked there. In fact, there are quite a few shipwrecks off this coast, which made me doubly glad we had declined the whale watching.
Day 3: Guerrero Negro to Catavina, Baja California
Just after setting off from Guerrero Negro, we crossed the border from Baja California Sur into Baja California. As it was early, the border post was unmanned, which made us all very happy. Sometimes there are agricultural inspections at this crossing.
We breathed a sigh of relief too soon, because later we came to a military inspection. At this inspection point, for reasons unknown, the officers decided to thoroughly search Alison’s tiny Airstream. Of course they found nothing to worry about, and finally we were on our way again.
We traveled 150 miles to Santa Inez Campground, where we had dry camped on the way to Santispac. Along the way we drove through an unseasonable, torrential downpour and arrived with our rig and truck caked in four inches of red mud. So much for our lovely clean truck and rig. We had just had both washed for the first time ever. Lesson learned: don’t bother to wash your truck and rig!
The road from Guerrero Negro to Catavina is mainly flat, narrow (of course), with some mountain passes. There are no extreme mountain passes. Some stretches of the highway had actual shoulders, which made us almost giddy with joy! “Look! Shoulders!”
Unfortunately, there were also many potholed sections.
Plus there was the usual fairly high number of 18-wheelers. Because the roads are so narrow, it is always a bit scary to encounter these, no matter which way they are going. Fortunately, we found every 18-wheeler driver to be an excellent and careful driver. Some even slowed or stopped their vehicles to let us by.
Rancho Santa Inez RV Park, Baja California
As we got close to Catavina we came across beautiful scenery, with a cactus and boulder “garden.” But the road gets worse the closer you get to Catavina. The access road to Rancho Santa Inez RV Park is dreadful. It used to be paved, but has subsequently deteriorated into a nightmare. It is about a mile long, and we had to drive it at 3 miles per hour. We agreed that if we have any control over our future, we will never again visit the Rancho Santa Inez RV Park, simply because we never want to drive that access road ever again. It’s a downright insult.
It continued to rain heavily as we set up for the night, so there was no socializing and no bunkhouse dinner on this day. Becky and John had planned a hike to view some cave paintings, but only the unstoppable Alison had the energy to join John. The rest of us declined. Speaking only for the two of us, we were very tired by this time.
On our way south we had more energy to enjoy Rancho Santa Inez RV Park and the Bunk House dinner they offer. You can read more about Rancho Santa Inez RV Park here.
Day 4: Catavina to El Pabellon, Baja California
This day we only had to do a 115-mile drive to San Quintin. The scenery was lovely and very diverse, as this series of photographs of the convoy shows.
Shortly before we got to El Pabellon, we saw the Pacific Ocean again. A beautiful sight!
Once we got to El Pabellon, we camped on the beach, alongside a sand dune and the Pacific Ocean. Once again, Joe and I opted for a serviced site so we could empty our tanks. The showers at this park are clean and hot, but the water is salty.
Mexican Clam Bake on the Beach
Becky and John organized dinner with margaritas, so this was one of our last evenings to socialize. Jose, the son of the park owner, made us a fresh Mexican Clam Stew cooked on an open fire. Joe had three helpings!
The weather was cool, but at least there was no rain. We took the opportunity to pose for a group photo with Jose.
Day 5: El Pabellon to Santo Tomas Winery
The next day, we drove 85 miles to the Santo Tomas Winery. By this time, the roads had improved tremendously. It seems to us that for the first one hundred miles into the Baja, the roads are excellent. This makes sense, as good roads are necessary to export all the wine and other agricultural goods that are produced here.
There is one major exception: just south of Santo Tomas there is a mountain, where major roadworks were underway. We had to stop at the top of the mountain for about an hour, and then were led down the mountain by a pilot vehicle, via a horribly dusty road work area. Very unpleasant. Still, it does mean that in the future, this mountain pass will have an excellent road.
Just a very short while after that horrible experience, we got to the Santo Tomas Winery, where we planned to dry camp. The winery is one of the oldest in Mexico, founded in 1888 by the Catholic Church.
Getting into Santo Tomas Winery
The winery is beautiful, but driving in is a challenge for larger rigs. At the entry we had to pass under a stone arch and then avoid a security boom. Just to make it more interesting! We tapped the boom on our way in, but thankfully missed the stone arch.
Then you drive down a very narrow dirt road to some very small sites. The three biggest rigs – Goliath (Joe and Kathy), Baja Nancy (Richard and Nancy), and us – were crammed into a parking lot which was about the width of a basketball court. Apart from us, there were also a few visitor cars parked in front of us! Once again, Wagon Master John and Tail Gunner Jerry gave me terrific directions to get us into the parking.
The smaller rigs proceeded to somewhat easier parking further in – but then they had to back out the next day!
Eucalyptus Trees, Tractor Ride, and Sensory Wine Tasting
We were parked under a grove of eucalyptus trees, overlooking the vineyards. It was quite lovely, and very similar to wineries we visited Napa Valley. The wine tasting was a memorable experience as we drove through the vines on a tractor drawn cart, stopping to taste different varieties. Right next to the vines where the grapes had been grown!
We then attended the “Sensory Wine Tasting” part of the tour. This was basically tasting wine in the dark or under dim lights.
The Gift Shop at Santo Tomas
There is a really nice gift shop, where we bought some wine and olive oil.
One point worthy of note – the Santo Tomas Winery had the cleanest, most lovely washrooms we found in all of Baja. There were even soap dispensers!
Day 6: Santo Tomas Winery to Sordo Mudo RV Park, Guadalupe Valley, Baja California
We made our way slowly down the narrow road to get out of Santo Tomas. We had a short delay while we tried to find Alison’s lost cell phone. Sadly, we think one of the staff must have pocketed it after she dropped it. Either that, or she dropped it, and then it mysteriously vaporized.
Driving through Ensenada
We traveled only 50 miles, on good roads, to Sordo Mudo RV Park for our last night in Mexico. Unfortunately, that drive included going through what felt like the longest city in the world, Ensenada. It’s a slow city drive, and confusing, and we were very glad to be following directions from Wagon Master Becky.
To make things much worse, the recent heavy rains had ripped up the streets. There were multiple, muddy potholes. At one point, we were sandwiched in by giant trucks, and so we were forced to drive straight over a three-foot-deep pothole.
We have seldom been so glad to get out of a city as we were when we finally left Ensenada!
The further north you go, the more signs there are of human life, including traffic, cultivation, and habitations. Also, the scenery gets greener and more interesting, as you can see in these photos.
About 20 miles before the Sordo Mudo RV Park is a sign we really liked: Welcome to the Wine Route!
We were happy to reach the Sordo Mudo RV Park. At the Sordo Mudo RV Park, we once again had full hook-ups. So we were able to empty our tanks in preparation for crossing the border the next day.
Also, Joe took the opportunity to clean some of the mud off the truck and the Denali. He used as little water as possible, because water is a precious commodity in the Baja. In fact, he removed most of the caked mud with a hammer and chisel!
Rancho Sordo Mudo has decent, clean washrooms, so we took the opportunity to clean off some of the travel grime with a hot shower.
Domecq Winery, northern Baja California
We set up camp and then traveled to Domecq Winery for one of the best wine tastings and winery tours we have ever experienced, anywhere. We ended up buying several bottles of wine to bring back.
The tour guide at Domecq Winery was excellent, and knowledgeable. Again, we thought that we could just as easily be in the Napa valley as in Mexico.
We would recommend a day trip from the USA to Domecq Winery – it’s that good, and the roads are good too. Be sure to phone in advance to book a tour!
We took the opportunity to pose for another group photo. Unfortunately, quite a few of us were missing from this one, because the non-wine-drinkers had elected to stay at camp.
La Casa de Dona Lupe, Baja California
We also visited La Casa de Dona Lupe, which is a farm, restaurant, and beautiful store.
Back at camp that afternoon, we celebrated Kathy’s birthday by having her bash a piñata!
We also spent some time chatting together. We were painfully aware that this would be the last opportunity we would get to spend time with the people we had come to know and appreciate on our trip through the Baja.
Day 7: Guadalupe Valley to Tecate Border Crossing
On the morning of the last day, we all exchanged hugs in the morning, knowing that very soon, we would all be going our separate ways. We had made some solid connections during the month in Baja, and hope to remain friends with as many of the group as possible.
On the last day we traveled 50 miles more to get to the border crossing from Baja California, Mexico to the USA at Tecate. That drive was actually very challenging, for a couple of reasons. Read more about that in this post, which includes a video of the border crossing.
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