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Day 3: There Aren’t Supposed To Be Cacti Near The Ocean

Photo by Jill Replogle

The Tres Virgenes volcano.

Baja California Travel Blog

Read more about our travels on the peninsula.

CIUDAD CONSTITUCION, MX – As we head southeast from Guerrero Negro to Santa Rosalia, the climate gets drier and drier and the surrounding mountains get taller and taller. Oh, and now we have volcanoes, thankfully dormant.

One set is called the Tres Virgenes (Three Virgins). Can’t help but wonder if it was named after the sacrifices the indigenous performed at the base.

After crossing over a mountain pass, we dramatically drop down to the Sea of Cortez. Amazing how different it is from the Pacific Ocean: much bluer, much clearer and much calmer. I’m also told it’s much warmer, something I will have to test on the return trip.

And there are cacti all along the coastline, leading right up to the water’s edge. That took some getting used to…

The Sea of Cortez also has a seemingly endless string of islands that run parallel to Baja California. Is this what the Greek Isles look like, sans the blinding white buildings? I will have to find out for myself one day.

The entrance to Santa Rosalia looks like something out of a Hollywood director’s vision of an industrial wasteland, with large mines carving into the mountainside. But keep driving, because once you reach the center of town, it feels like you've left Mexico. While most buildings at the center of Mexican towns are built from concrete blocks, wood was the material of choice here.

It makes for a much more intimate feel: the buildings are smaller, seemingly crammed together.

Photo by Jill Replogle

The Sea of Cortez on the eastern side of the Baja California peninsula.

After a quick lunch at a taco stand, we head south and fuel up at the town of Mulegé. A debate ensues with reporter Jill Replogle, who wants to drive the unpaved mountain pass to Scorpion Bay. I want to stay on the paved road, which adds several hours to the trip. I must finally be getting responsible in my old age.

We decide to ask some locals before making a decision. At the PEMEX gas station, the attendant says it recently rained in the mountains and water may be running through the normally dry washes. He recommends talking to a bombero (firefighter) who frequents the road.

We go to the fire station, but our expert is not there. He’s up in the mountains, but a friendly colleague offers to help. First, he says it’s probably in bad shape. Then, he said it’s probably passable. Next, he said his dad just drove the road…in December.

Photo by Jose Luis Jiménez

One of many wooden buildings in downtown Santa Rosalia.

This reminded me of something my brother told me about his experiences stopping and asking someone for directions in Mexico: People have a hard time saying they don’t know, so they tend to give you an answer anyway.

Without a credible report on road conditions, we stay on the main highway and head south towards Loreto and ultimately on to the dusty town of Ciudad Constitución, another agricultural hub on the peninsula.

Along the way, we pass some incredible scenery. It inspired video journalist Katie Euphrat to shoot the moving landscape while standing through the sunroof. See the lengths journalist go through to get a story? And sorry boss, it was my idea. But I’m told it was well worth it.

We return to the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula just at sunset. After a long day of driving, we went out for a quick dinner and off to bed.

Photo by Jill Replogle

Sunset on the outskirts of Ciudad Constitución.

We will be up before dawn to reach our final destination: Scorpion Bay. Like I said before, Jill’s a workaholic. I’m going to have to find a way to cure her of that.

Hasta mañana amigos…