Other Baja Road Report
Baja Road Reports
May 22, 2015
Tijuana to La Paz
Gary Graham – VSBD, Very Seasoned Baja Driver
Since the Mex 5 pavement project is not quite ready for prime time, I stuck with my usual route, beginning at the Tijuana border crossing.
Over the years Mex 1 has been bookended by heavy traffic in both directions. From the border through San Quintin the traffic is still heavy. The good news now is after you pass El Rosario to the south, you travel long stretches with not much traffic to contend with until your reach La Paz -- which now has traffic even worse than Ensenada!
Driving alone, I arrived at El Chaparral about 5:45 a.m. and parked in the Inmigración lot before crossing the line. Both the bank and FMM office were open. In less than 15 minutes, I had paid for my FMM, ($22), exchanged American dollars for Mexican pesos, (15-to-1 exchange rate), was back in the van, across the border, through secondary, and on my way just as a light rain began to fall.
The signs to the Mex 1 Toll Road are easy to follow … just keep to your right as you come through the gate. Tolls for my one-ton Dodge van were less than 100 pesos total through the three booths to Ensenada. I usually take the street fronting the waterfront through town; however currently it was under repair. So when you reach the traffic signal where you would normally turn right, continue straight through several stop signs until you reach a busy intersection, then turn right to continue south toward Maneadero and beyond.
Over the years Mex 1 has been bookended by heavy traffic in both directions. From the Border through San Quintin the traffic is still heavy. The good news now is after you pass El Rosario to the south, you travel long stretches with not much traffic to contend with until your reach La Paz — which now has traffic even worse than Ensenada!
Having said that, I departed on a Saturday and the traffic was remarkably light the entire way! Not sure if that was just a fluke or normal for a Saturday as I don’t often leave on a Saturday. The drive was uneventful and I was soon at the first of at least five Military Checkpoints and two fruit and vegetable inspection stops — Camalu, El Rosario, Jesus Maria, Guerrero Negro (fruit and vegetable inspection), San Ignacio, Loreto and El Centenario, (fruit and vegetable inspection).
When arriving at a checkpoint or stop, open your window before approaching the Inspector; if you are not comfortable speaking Spanish — don't! A big smile and simple hello is much better. When asked where you are going or what you are doing? Name your destination and say vacation, if that’s the case when traveling south. Traveling North? Just say — returning from vacation and name your destination.
Saturday's drive ended at the Cuesta Real Hotel and RV in Mulege around 7 p.m. They had been hit pretty hard by storms last September/October and their Wi-Fi had been down. Wi-Fi is essential for me and theirs was now up and running. As a side note: It was windy all the way down the peninsula and much cooler than normal for May. Everyone from Santa Rosalia to East Cape commented about the need for jackets or sweatshirts in the evening.
The following morning I headed to Loreto and ran into roadwork at the entrance into town. After making my scheduled meeting with Ana Gloria Benziger Davis, manager of the Oasis Hotel to discuss a Hobie Kayak event in June, I headed south, encountering the last bit of road construction, a detour approximately one mile long, about 10 miles north of the final inspection point near El Centenario.
I have driven Mex 1 hundreds of times since its opening in 1973, and Mex 1 has come a long way. Wider by a 1/3 in many areas and reasonably well maintained, it used to be that often local traffic along the road moved slowly and created a hazard. Seldom are these hazards found now. Most of the traffic travels at near highway speeds found on a secondary road in the states. Added to the mix are more than enough service stations, some with convenience stores and many more small roadside motels with Wi-Fi have added to the Baja traveler’s ability to drive the Baja Peninsula from border to tip with more ease and comfort than ever before.
October 22, 2014
San Diego to La Paz
Nancy Novak - First Timer
My friend Jeanne flew up to Tijuana, crossed border, to accompany me on my first road trip from San Diego to La Paz. We wanted to take it easy, no driving at night, as we had a small dog with us (and several stuffed animal mascots).
The 10AM border crossing was so uneventful, with no one stopping us to look at passports, prepared documents for insurance, doggy health certs that we missed the turn out and parking for me to get my Tourist Visa. Suddenly we were out in the roundabout traffic of Tijuana, looking at green road signs pointing to Ensenada. That started an hour of chaos with me parking the car, leaving friend and dog, and setting out on foot to find the Immigration.
Visa in hand, we continued south. Generally no road condition challenges or extensive security checks. One arroyo filled with residual water, a few short off-road gravel areas. The worst road construction was about 10 km long, one hour north of La Paz on Day 3. We filled up on gas at Pemex stations pro-actively so that there was never less than 1/2 tank in car. First stop was in El Rosario (250 miles) in BajaCactus hotel. Lovely little oasis.
Second day drive was longer (400 miles) to Muleje to visit a friend. Hotel Serenidad is supposed to be one of the nicest places nearby ; it is passable, bring bug spray. Third day was shortest drive from Muleje to La Paz. Etta's Pies, right on main street leading into Loreto downtown, was a good breakfast stop for pie of homemade pie and sugared coffee drinks. The Juncalito road construction which can cause delays of a hour, was minimal, with a 10 minute delay.
October 10, 2014
La Paz to Ensenada
A friend and I drove from La Paz to Ensenada starting Friday the 10th of October. There were a number of miles of road construction outside of La Paz with a long dirt detour. Near Loreto there were patches of road construction with flag men but there was only a short wait. After that the road was quite good except for an occasional gravely or wet or muddy vado.
October 7, 2014
Hwy 5 Bay of Los Angeles to Coco's Corner
We just came north Tue Oct 7 from Bay of LA across Coco's Corner and up Hwy 5. Out of Bahia d LA there were four detours, but well marked. Thru Coco's Corner we got caught in several squalls and driving rains but the road held.
The southern side had been widened from previous washouts. The northern side had recently been graded so was fairly smooth. There was gas available at Gonzaga Bay. The only thing the Military checked was our ice chest. The desert was a beautiful green and the flowers were just beginning to bloom. It was a lovely trip.
September 21 & 22
Tecate to Loreto
Overview from Tecate border crossing to Loreto.:No problems with roads, conditions vary from very good to fair. No problem getting fuel.
Tecate to Catavina. Sunday 9/21: All 3 border gates were signed “nothing to declare”, got green light but since there wasn’t a custom person at the gate at 7:15 AM, maybe everyone got green. A few spots of normal construction outside of Ensenada, all short ones, then excellent conditions to Guayquil. Road from there to Catavina have the normal weather potholes. The usual rough wash 3 KM before Catavina is rougher than normal, and the one immediately after Catavina is one lane with a dirt fill-in.
Catavina to Loreto: 9/22: Usual road conditions to Guerro Negro. Road to Loreto requires a little more care. Basically good, crews have been shoring up many miles along road sides by piling dirt mounds. (This is the section the big rig turned over when the road collapsed). Single lane, about 6” deep water with a dirt mound at San Ignacio. Water an inch or two deep in the wash KM63 before Loreto. KM8 washout had a few deep potholes. All in all, an easier trip than usual because of very little traffic. No delays at Military check points, about half just waved us through, not even bothering to ask where we were going.
Thanks to Jean!
September 20, 2015
Pescadero (Todos Santos) to El Rosario (Pacific coast, Baja California)
We have just arrived to El Rosario.
The road from Pescadero to Loreto was fine, a few short waits where the roads were being worked on, or had been narrowed down to one lane.
Three spots were a bit of an issue:
1. At the south end of San Ignacio there is a big river of water, quite deep. I guess Ann waited a while yesterday and they paid a flat bed to take them across. We went today, it still looked quite deep, but somehow we made it across (in the Prius). Water in places of the river is up to probably mid door (of a small car).
2. Just south of Guerrero Negro it looks like a massive river came across and covered the road in probably at least a meter of sand. There are a bunch of trucks and workers, trying to clear the road but it's a pretty huge project. Waited for a bit there but was let through after a bit.
3. About 30 km south of St Augustine the road was washed out. Workers have come in and covered where the road used to be with dirt piled up. The water is so close to the new make shift road, it could easily flood if there is a drop of rain.
Minor delays here and there with rock slides and blocked roads. There are numerous places with small stream or dried up streams crossing the road which would easily flood if we get another bought of rain (if Polo comes this way), so it would be smart for any travelers to keep that in mind.
September 19, 2015
Mulege to Ensenada
Drove yesterday from Mulege--which has gas at Pemex south of town but bank & ATM closed w/ power still out--to Guerrero Negro. Gas available all towns except San Ignacio.
The bank & ATM were open Sta. Rosalia. The only treacherous water on road was vado at San Ignacio where the stream ran over pickup's bumper on bed of rocks and boulders covering road; too deep for passenger cars
Major road repairs with wait times encountered only north of Vizcaino, where large chunks of NB lane broke away, one carrying Los Pinos semi was lodged drivers' side down in muck at the bottom. A huge soil-moving operation underway there, wait time an hour or so with muggy heat and abundant flies.
September 12, 2014
La Paz to San Jose del Cabo
Via Hwy 19
I hadn't driven to Cabo San Lucas or the airport in more than a year, in the last three weeks I've made the trip 4 times, the last being September 12. The new roadway trims significant amounts of time from the trip and without a shadow of a doubt, make the trip safer.
I recall the days, in the not so distant past, that there were a limited number of places to pass and even fewer to do so safely. On one trip towing a small boat I was forced to explore the desert as an oncoming 18 wheeler was passing in an unsafe location and forced me off the road.
Those days are gone and now making the trip at a constant 60 mile per hour south and 65 miles per hour back it took 2 hrs and 20 minutes from CostaBaja, 7km north of La Paz to the US Consulate Agency in San Jose del Cabo, this is maybe 15-20 minutes shorter than the airport drive and CostaBaja is perhaps about the same further out than La Paz central.
From the edge of La Paz to Todos Santos is an easy 40 minutes now, all on 4 lane. passing trucks is a breeze. The by-pass of Todos Santos also saves another 10-15 minutes. But without a doubt the local businesses in Todos have suffered. We took the town route coming back and we were the only car in town!
But it isn't the same trip as it was for me nearly two decades ago. Most of the roadside attractions are shuttered, many in part because the road now passes within feet of their buildings. "Art & Beer", south of Cheerios, a roadside institution for decades has a padlocked gate barring the entrance.
One thing for gringos to consider when driving this roadway is it is not a freeway. There is no controlled access and you can still find a rare animal in the road or a car making a u-turn or entering at reduced speed. We were passed on more than on occasion by cars doing close to 100mph.
We found out why there is little respect for the speed limit, funding for the Federal Highway patrol in the La Paz district is limited to $800 pesos per week for gasoline. With the increased price of gas and only three cars assigned to the district the federal roadway becomes a free-for-all. We did see at least one officer issuing an infraction just outside San Pedro.
The traffic bottleneck is still the entrance into Cabo. There is a two word military term for where the main roads in and out of Cabo meet the federal highway and the first word is "Cluster". But that is what remains of old Baja. Once you are back on the tourist corridor to San Jose del Cabo speeds increase, but mind you, this region is much more vigorously patrolled.
i miss the old drive, it was far more interesting, but I do enjoy the shorter duration and far safe access from La Paz to Los Cabos. I guess I can still take Highway 1 through East Cape to remind me of the old days...
August 31-Sept 1, 2014
The Turn Signal Game - Just Don't!
For decades here in Baja it has been common for drivers to turn on their left turn signal to indicate that it is safe to pass. With curvy roads and limited passing areas this was sometime helpful. You had to watch though, because if you got a flash of brake lights too (if they worked) it could really mean a left hand turn, a mess would result if you thought he meant for you to pass.
Recently, trucks have been using the left turn signal to indicate to an oncoming truck where the near side of their truck is. Even dumber... see our slide show to see how well it doesn't work.
LEFT TURN SIGNALS ARE FOR MAKING A LEFT TURN.
A few years ago a bus passed a slow dump truck with a left turn signal illuminated. The southbound bus driver thought he was indicating it was safe to pass. The northbound bus driver thought he was indicting the left side of his truck. (which was correct) Unfortunately, 19 people and both bus drivers died in the 80+MPH head on collision. If you are driving a pickup or camper - you are not a Semi, quit pretending! There are currently driver education programs to help Mexicans kick the habit as well.
Drive safe - don't drive after dark if you can avoid it, a wandering cow makes a terrible hood ornament!
Tijuana to La Paz
Al Marchand - Veteran Baja Driver
1. Tijuana to Ensenada: Drivers still have to use the "free" road to negotiate the bottom third of this section. Traffic will be directed off of the toll road at La Mision and will rejoin at San Miguel next to the toll booth. It was nice to travel the old road once again and the condition of it was excellent.
2. There is bridge/culvert construction about 5 miles north of San Vincente.
3. There is a short section of road construction south of San Quintín near the Old Mill turnoff.
4. There are many potholes in an area from 20 miles north to 20 miles south of Catavina. There is another pothole section as you approach the Bahia de Los Angeles turnoff.
5. There is bridge construction near Nopolo (south of Loreto).
6. The rockslide at the miradornear Juncalito is still being worked upon.
7. The worst part of the journey is the last 6½ miles just north of La Paz.
~ Al M.
August 21, 2014
La Paz after the Rains
Here in La Paz we have had some torrential rains and violent thunderstorms, even to the point of sparking fires along the Malecon. The heavy rains have moved large amounts of dust and dirt into the roadways and left small ponds in the poorly drained areas. As anywhere the rains also cause the pot holes to bloom into existence and there are some truly treacherous ones. Yesterday I saw a late model Lexus blow a tire after failing to avoid one, and in another location an accident resulted from traffic swerving to avoid a road hazard. It is unlikely that road crew will get to all of them soon, and equally likely that they won't even try until these nearly daily drenching's end in the next few week.
La Paz received massive federal grants following our 2012 record rainy season and many of the main roads have been replaced with concrete which holds up much better. However, there are still places where that construction is still underway on some major through fares. It is now on hold, because it is hard to get good pavement laid down when the ground is saturated.
Crews are out daily, cleaning the major roadways by hand and bucket loader but in driving down the Malecon this morning, despite their efforts I could see a cloud of dust in my rear view mirror. This dust is highly contaminated and probably a real bad idea to breath. Open restaurants are suppose to be closed for three days following such events, but since they happen even more often than every three days some of the vendors are returning to business under questionable circumstances. Health officials warn against eating at these open restaurants and swimming is not suppose to be permitted in the Ensenada de La Paz (and anywhere else where run-off creates contamination) Avoid standing water, as it is very likely black water contaminated.
To avoid Dengue Fever outbreaks the city is publicizing efforts to have residents clean up standing water around their homes to control mosquito breeding. No significant increases in Dengue outbreaks have yet been reported, but the common tropical disease has reared its ugly head in La Paz before and runs in 7 year cycles for an unknown reason.
Although this report is specific to La Paz, it is also true of any other locations here in Baja California Sur that have endured these heavy afternoon rains.