My mind is jittery; nerves are building as we approach Josh’s aunt and uncle at Gillespie Field and their beautiful six-seater Cessna. This trip is an unbelievably generous wedding gift from our big day back in 2015. We feel beyond lucky, and a little extra glamorous, as we board the plane and put on our aviation headsets!
Upon arrival to the San Felipe airstrip, we are greeted by calm, friendly soldiers who gladly accept the “Pepto-Pink” box of doughnuts that are faithfully brought each visit from San Diego.
Martin, long-time friend, picks us up in his car. It smells strongly of a recently spilled can of gasoline. With windows down, the sharp breeze throws our hair around wildly. We hear stories of his beloved two-year-old granddaughter. Comments are made of the UNBELIEVABLE amount of rain had recently. Unheard of! The Ocatillos are vibrant green through the desert like no one can recall. Sun shining, beautiful January day. Cooler than one might want for swimming, but hey, I’ll take it!
We arrive at Campo San Martin, a beachfront strip of just under 50 little homes, all built with the same beautiful brick from a single Mexican village. Martin had the foresight years ago to require each land leasor to build their home from this brick, as well as have a round front to the home. As you stroll the beach from campo to campo, you know when you’ve made it back home thanks to this unified style. Running on solar and trucked-in water, we have to be conservative in our use, but this is major luxury to me!
Peaceful is an understatement. We have the beach to ourselves, day in and day out. Our first day is spent gazing at the serene Sea of Cortez, playing Bocce Ball in the sand, reading in the hammock…the ultimate glamping life. We kick things off the first night with a shot of Cazadores Reposado followed by plenty of salt-rimmed margs on the rocks. Josh said he had just one glass...one that was never empty!
On the second morning we take a lengthy morning stroll searching for shells and sand dollars. Under a large rock Josh discovers two small octopi...just chillin’! After adequate beach wandering, we take off South down recently paved Highway 5. We hit big swooping dips in the road at times, and it feels like we might just bounce off the road into a giant Saguaro cactus! We take a pit stop on an expansive mesa looking down on the Sea of Cortez from the west. The ground is scattered with the lightest, airy pumice stones I have ever touched.
We arrive at Gonzaga Bay around noon to discover that Alfonsina’s Restaurant has undergone some incredible remodels. They’ve transformed their dining room into a modern masterpiece, with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, offering the most stunning bay views. The platter of freshly caught fish and shrimp, golden battered and fried to crispy perfection arrives and we all gasp with delight! Paired with the coldest Corona, it is the ultimate indulgence. I have no idea what they put in that crema sauce - amazing! The view looks South toward Punta Final, striking a deep curiosity for a future visit.
Returning north toward San Felipe, we take a sharp left off the road into the desert! This is offered as a chance to claim a small piece of the Baja 1,000 race course. In our modified Jeep Cherokee, designed for off-road adventures, we bound and swerve. I can’t help but feel relieved when the tires hit the pavement once again!
At dusk we see a pod of porpoises frolicking along, only to disappear quickly when a lone power boat comes zipping up the coast. Unlikely that they might have been the endangered Vaquita Porpoise, native to the Sea of Cortez and found only here. I worry for these rare porpoises, with around just 60-100 left in the wild! They get caught accidentally along with the sought after Totoaba fish, illegally sought for its bladder and considered a delicacy in China. There is much conflict and heartbreak over the two year fishing ban around San Felipe, scheduled to lapse this April. Environmentalists and fishermen are trying to find middle ground between species conservation and the economic needs of the fishing community. Time will tell.
The second night we have grand filet mignons on the grill with baked potatoes, and a very nice Napa Cab. Grilling and chilling! I am overjoyed. This has been an incredible and relaxing getaway, and I feel honored to have a glimpse into the Baja life.
What are your favorite Baja spots? Leave a comment below to share your Baja travel tips!