Baja Mexico kayak and mtb adventure

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Seasider, Feb 16, 2016.

  1. Seasider

    Seasider Paddler

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    Driving to Baja Mexico has been on my adventure list for a number of years. Late last year my brother and I decided to haul a couple of kayaks and mountain bikes south from my home in Courtenay, BC.

    The plan was to steer our kayaks along a section of the Sea of Cortez and mountain bike in the mountains if that fit well into the trip. For me, it was important to choose the most remote kayaking section that was reasonably practical, so I decided on 300 km from Bahia de Los Angeles to Santa Rosalia. Originally I was going to post a separate trip on a different website for the mountain bike portion but I decided to combine the two partly because the mountain bike section happened between the first and second kayak trip and partly because I took many photos of birds and it was interesting to see some of the land based birds.

    Initial research quickly indicated that winter was not the preferred time for this type of trip. I had been to Baja in the 80s and knew that the east cape (south of la Paz) high wind resorts that I stayed at then, opened in mid November and closed in March when the winds diminished. Also,, the likelihood of any type of rescue would be minimal at best, on this route in the winter: Off season for fishing and boating in general meant a vhf call would go unanswered even if one spoke spanish and could contact the occasional pango boat. The Mexican Navy also takes on the search and rescue roll and their nearest base is hundreds of km south. No authority is responsible with for channel 16(and maintaining necessary communication network) as far as I know.

    Wind forecasts are different as there is no gov. forecasting center or the necessary stations and buoys to make this possible. Wind forecasting is available and reliable for predicting days when dangerously high winds could be expected. Any of the various websites that use computer modelling to predict the winds in the Baja region can be used for this.

    I had been cautioned by a number of people (including two former class 5 whitewater guides) that a trip in the winter might not be a good idea. Although I absorbed all comments/recommendations from people, it still seemed that this kind of trip was well within range and the potential risk made it even more attractive.

    Before the adventure trip report I will add a brief description of the 3000 plus km drive to get to the beginning: We left Courtenay at 5 am and sailed on the 10 am trip from Victoria to Port Angeles after clearing customs.



    Here is a google maps link showing the locations of the two kayak and one bike trip

    https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid= ... sp=sharing

    Then it was on to the I5 to the Mexico border. Most information about the I5 seemed to describe a long, dull ride but I found the trip fascinating. From the forests and mountains of Washington, the hillbilly/redneck hills* of Oregon to the flat plain of the central California valley with its massive scale agriculture and industrial energy installations. It was all intensely interesting. The return trip through Mexicali added, among other things, the bonus of seeing Joshua trees and the Temahachi wind farm southeast of Bakersfield.

    * Just past the Rogue River exit I passed a white bearded character driving a late 80s full size regular cab pickup. There were two full length US flags on each side of the truck positioned the length of the 8' box and up about 2'. I caught a glimpse of a bumper sticker but could only read a few words, but it was most likely something like "I believe in guns, god and the USA". Also in many area of Oregon were the various types of religious signage, ranging from small hand

    writtten on cardboard "Jesus saves" tacked to fence posts to huge and expensive commercial billboards.

    Three days and an overnight south of Portland and one west of Bakersfield and we were at the US border. With minimal lineup and hassle we were directed to a secondary inspection where a large X-ray type device passed over our truck. Fifteen minutes of waiting in a covered area out of the rain that was coming down at the time and we were on our way. Three Mexicans(they had a 60 inch flatscreen tv in the back of their truck) were waiting with us and also continued on with the flatscreen absorbing all the rain that came at the tv other than the 25% that was covered by a loose, flapping tarp.

    Weather was a bit severe as we drove through Ensenada and proceeded south on January 6. I wasn't expecting high winds and heavy rainfall in the early January dry season. Darkness came and we continued driving south, carefully maneuvering around piles of dirt and loose rock that had fallen into the roadway. Numerous police and emergency vehicles were driving up and down the highway in a somewhat random way considering that we never came across any accident. Police vehicles were parked with lights flashing on some secondary roads though, such as the one to La Bocana. We stayed at an awful place about 8 feet off Mex 1 in Santo Tomas(I think). It was the only time we stayed in a motel. The next night it was still windy and raining as we camped in the Valle do los Cirios protected area north of the Bahia de Los Angeles turn-off. I enjoyed the incredible beauty of the area even if It was a bit cold after some water got into my tent which I wasn't expecting considering we were in the Sonoran desert.

    The next day was overcast and windy as we drove down the road into Bahia de los Angeles. There was some disturbance on the surface of the water and as we drove closer they were waterspouts, which was a first for me. Other gringos I talked to at Daggetts campground also mentioned seeing the spouts.These west winds also moved anything in the water directly away from the beach and picked up during the evening and would have been in the mid to high twenty knot range during the night. Forecasting sites indicated that winds were to calm down over the next few days starting the next day, which was good news indeed. The kayaks were packed and ready to go and the winds had dropped to about fifteen knots by 2 pm so we decided to head out into the bay which was still covered in numerous whitecaps. In a short time we were downwind about 8 km and set up camp above a steep cobble beach near Punta Don Juan.



    In light conditions, made the 14km crossing of Las Animas Bay.

    After the crossing there were several km of headland approach to travel before passing Punta Las Animas. On reaching Punta Los Animas the current was strong enough to stop forward progress until we had moved several hundred meters offshore from the point and from there it was possible to travel another few km to a beautiful remote site for the night.











    Hiking the hills around Las Animas was excellent and we saw several Bighorn sheep among other sightings.
    After the crossing there were several km of headland approach to travel before passing Punta Las Animas. On reaching Punta Los Animas the current was strong enough to stop forward progress until we had moved several hundred meters offshore from the point and from there it was possible to travel another few km to a beautiful remote site for the night.












    Las Animas to San Raphael-around 25km
     
  2. Seasider

    Seasider Paddler

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    This tarantula hawk wasp was covering a lot of ground looking for tarantula burrows. Later reading indicated that they have the second most painful sting of all insects.


    On route so San Raphael we noticed something jumping and splashing in the distance. Turned out to be a group of Mobula rays. Here is a link to a short video.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UtRYtclOow

    Cormorants and Blue footed Boobies
    [attachment=1]P1010258.JPG
     
  3. Seasider

    Seasider Paddler

    Joined:
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    Unable to edit previous post so here is a new one:

    The San Raphael Bay is large and very north exposed(prevailing wind) so we were on the water in the early morning darkness before 6am. West winds caused us to abandon the 20 km crossing across the bay. By 9am ,and after 18 km we hit the shore through low surf. After a rest and snack we decided to continue on even though the wind and shore surf had increased during our stop. Even after a bit of a tough surf launch I still thought it would be ok to paddle as the sandy beach extended for many miles in the direction of our travel and I reasoned that it would be safe enough to get to shore in an emergency.
    Maybe an hour after our rest the wind slowly increased to an uncomfortable twenty knots, Whitecaps seemed to be everywhere and frequently broke against and over the side. Numerous times our boats were sitting in the froth atop steep waves which made it crucial to keep the paddle up above the surf, followed by a bracing forward stroke through the trough. The most unsettling part all this time was change in the beach surf. The water of San Raphael Bay is very shallow for hundreds of meters from shore which, in this case, moved the breaking surf from near shore to hundreds of meters out. From where we were paddling it would have been a nasty tumble through successive breaking sets to reach shore.

    Fortunately , after battling a cross/headwind up the bay an exhilarating downwind run took us to a spectacular sandy bight(last picture on previous post) just past Punta Ballena.
    On reflection, it would clearly have been better to stay in the bay until the winds were more favourable. However, I was amazed by the stability of the very heavily loaded Necky Looksha 17 and the Nimbus Telkwa HV we used. Both had rudders which were essential for us. I know one or two paddlers who have both the skill and necessary fitness to keep a skeg equipped touring boat upright and on track in these conditions but similarly skilled paddlers with a rudder equipped boat in the same conditions would have an easier time.

    Leopard Grouper (Cabrilla )for dinner
     
  4. Seasider

    Seasider Paddler

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    San Francisquito was near the half way point of the trip and there was always the option of ending the trip here. I would like to carry on but Johns preference was to go back to Bahia. In the end we decided to catch a ride back to Bahia de los Angeles.

    San Francisquito

    The San Fran resort is situated on the south end of the long beach. We camped on the north end.

    Paddled over to San Fran and had chat with Alberto, who helped arrange transport of us and our gear from San Fran Bay back to LA Bay.

    We paddled around the point to San Fran resort and met with Juan who arranged for Lupe to take us and our gear back along the 130 km gravel road back to LA bay.

    Several boats with two or three pangueros arrived in the middle of the night. They had basic sleeping rolls and rolled them onto the sand without any cover.Around 8 am they were up cleaning and preparing the catch of sea cucumbers.
     
  5. Seasider

    Seasider Paddler

    Joined:
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    During the planning process for our Baja trip I signed up on the Baja Nomad forum, asked questions and promised a trip report.

    Here is the link for my report which is an edited and expanded version of the one here on WCP:

    http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=82157