Adam writes on 2013-12-05:
We are presently in Ensenada, Baja California. And in the middle of a cold spell. Sounds like deja vu, doesn’t it? The last days at John’s in Vail, it started to cool off, especially in the evening, and after arriving in El Centro, California last night, by dusk we found ourselves in a mild sand storm.
It was an interesting ride day in that we went from seeing saguaro cactus and scrub, to just scrub, and then desert so dry that the cactus were dying. We hit some interesting enough mountains and shortly after Yuma, Arizona, we started seeing trucks full of lettuce, then sand dunes, and later irrigated lettuce fields, olive and date groves and then, as mentioned, sand storms.
Neither of us have ever been to California or the Baja before which has changed the dynamics of the trip a bit. We had planned to start out in Mexico with areas that I was familiar with and then expand from there, but as mentioned previously, we decided to head for the warmer weather of the Baja Peninsula. Warm weather is not what we are getting. That said, the weather down south, such as in places like La Paz, is looking much warmer so we are looking forward to that.
We departed El Centro for Tecate and hit some pretty heavy winds at reasonable altitude in the very picturesque rock strewn mountains. The Suzuki DR650 doesn’t come with hazard lights but just prior to starting the trip I added a little red switch which couples the left and right turn signals creating hazard lights. I hadn’t expected to have to use these so early in the trip, but we had to take it really slow up for a short while and wanted to make sure that passing vehicles got our attention.
If you have ever used a GPS you might know that, while it will usually get you from A to B, it might not always be your desired route. I don’t know what our GPSes were doing, but it looked like they wanted us to head quite close to San Diego and circle back, but we figured better and found a rather nice twisty route through areas like Campo. I was pretty pleased by this as it reminded me of the riding in the Sierra Madre Occidental region which I was keen to revisit and hoping to give Jenn a good taste of mountain riding – good practice for the Andes!
We arrived in Tecate, CA, a very small town, and dealt with sending a second package of excess luggage back to Ontario by way of USPS. Jenn grabbed us slices of pizza from the only restaurant in sight, partially as tariff to use their bathroom, and it turned out that that piece of pie was much tastier than the sand storm Dominos pizza from the night before. A good gourmet pizza can be very good – but sometimes you can try too hard and mess it up – sometimes simple is just purely delicious.
Having spent about 44 days in the USA, at least 34 days more than originally planned, we left the US and entered Mexico without drama. The border at Tecate was pretty simple. You pass through the delineate border area, park the bikes and go to the immigration office. It is my understanding that you do not need a travel visa in Mexico if you are within a certain distance to the border – 100km, I believe – and Baja California has a special status in that you do not need a vehicular importation permit until you travel to the mainland. Despite this you are still required to purchase vehicular insurance.
Again, Tecate was a very easy border crossing. We parked the bikes in a designated area, walked into the immigration office which had almost no line up, presented our passports, filled out our visitation permit, went next door to the “banjercito” (bank) and brought back our receipts showing that we had paid the $25 tourist visa cost. It was explained to us, and confirmed by a recent trip report found on the internet, that you do not need to pay for your TVIP (vehicle importation permit) until you are headed to the mainland – i.e. in La Paz.
Having a very nice experience with the lady at the banjercito, we went back to her and found that we *could* pay for our TVIP now instead of later so we opted to take care of it immediately. Who knows? Maybe later we would be rushing to get on the ferry at La Paz, and there was certainly no line so we took the time to take care of business. The woman we dealt with, and later a man, were very attentive, and spoke excellent English. Having paid our bond of $400 per bike, the man specifically made sure that we double checked our passport numbers and VIN and that all documents were in good order. A bad signature or wrong VIN could mean not getting our bond back upon exiting Mexico.
While somewhat cool, the ride from Tecate to Ensenada was quite nice. We passed through various rocky mountain ranges and found that the area is a winery region, as well as a producer of olives and honey. Passing our final mountain turn for the day, we finally saw the Pacific ocean, surfers and all (brrr cold!).
Ensenada is a nice little town and one could surely get lost in the eateries and bars if so inclined, although I fear that the prices might be close to or on par with US prices. Having found a place to stay based on research from the previous night, and being somewhat disappointed based on what you get for what you pay (Jenn’s views are a little stronger here), we went in search of a few bottles of cerveza and scarfed down seven tacos between us from a stall located close the the hotel.