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The Southern Loop

December 13, 2011

With the Ferry booked we had a week to complete our Baja adventure. We headed south from La Paz along Mex 1. Our first stop was Los Barriles – a small coastal town on the Sea of Cortez. This was clearly a favoured winter haunt of a large number of North Americans. The quiet of the streets was frequently interrupted by Snowbirds on quad bikes.

We stayed at Martin Verdugo’s Beach Resort and Hotel which was an old school RV Park which fronted onto the Ocean, although it also included a small hotel the building of which was actually on the beach. There was a beachfront swimming pool and bar which was a lovely location for a sundowner !

We didn’t do much in Los Barriles except walk on the beach, drink in the bar and pop into a local Taco place for some takeaway for dinner.

From Los Barriles we drove off the main highway and down a dirt road to Cabo Pulmo. This is the site of one the only coral reefs in the Western Americas. Unfortunately we checked with the local dive op and they told us that the North wind was blowing and they couldn’t get out. We went to the beach but the wind was indeed blowing and we decided not to stay.

Slightly further South from here we crossed the Tropic of Cancer, another milestone on our journey. Shortly after this we visited a small town called Santiago and then drove around 10k down some sandy dirt roads. These were great apart from some really narrow cattle grids which we only just fitted over.

At the end of the road we reached a small holding where we paid USD 6 each for the privilege of hiking to a place called Canon de Zorra.

This is an oasis in the desert where a waterfall fills a small lake with water and then a small stream stretches about a kilometre downstream before disappearing into the dust. The lake itself is surrounded by lush vegetation and the water itself is thick with plants. I enjoyed jumping into the lake from some overhanging rocks and the water was refreshing in the desert heat !

After we had hung out here for a while we jumped back in the Beast and drove all the way to the South to the American enclave of Cabo San Lucas. This feels like leaving Baja and entering a fully developed seaside town complete with Hard Rock Café and Walmart.

We checked in to the Vagabundos RV Park – a whopping Mex$355 (US$27). There was a small restaurant and bar on site. So since we’d arrived late we decided to eat out for the night. There was a small band playing that were really quite good – we later learnt that the lead was the guitarist for the group Santana who was friends with the owners and just visiting !

From the campsite we decided to drive into town and get our bearings. Cabo was ok for us as the roads were all of a decent size and we didn’t get stuck. We didn’t find much in the way of parking though so drove a bit out of town and stumbled across a big open car park right next to the beach. This was where all the local workers park who worked on the beach and in the adjacent hotels. We hit the beach and found that as we walked along we were getting a lot of hassle from various hawkers – even being offered 2 for 1 margaritas at 10.30 in the morning ! We decided to take up one offer of a water taxi to one of the local sights called Playa Amor (Lover’s Beach).

It was only a 5 minute boat transfer to the beach but we did get taken to see the Sea Lion colony and the Land’s End arch which are just round the corner from the beach. We decided to stay a couple of hours on the beach – the nice thing about this beach is that it has two sides – one facing the Sea of Cortez with great swimming and the other with the crashing waves and dangerous undertow of the Pacific.

From the beach I decided to swim back to the Sea Lion colony – this involved swimming round a point with some heavy surf then crossing a channel with fairly heavy boat traffic. I made it the colony though and discovered that behind the rock with the sea lions lying on it was a shallow channel which they used to enter and exit the water. I spent 30 minutes or so just floating in this channel watching big sea lions cruise up and down – fairly oblivious to my presence – unless I got too close !

After returning to the Beast we thought we would give  town another go and managed to find another free parking lot not so far from the harbour. We walked through the main tourist area and found a dive shop where we booked a couple of local dives for the next day.

The next morning we drove to the dive shop and parked in a pay car park right outside the shop. We loaded up onto their boat for the 10 minute journey to the dive site. The first dive was on Pelican Rock – the harbour side of Playa Amor. This was a fairly average dive with the only real highlight being a seahorse that I’d not seen before with a snub nose, the visibility was variable because of a dredge working in the harbour. The second dive was much better and was on the point where the Sea of Cortez and Pacific meet. There is an underwater pinnacle here which we dove around – despite some heavy surge and interesting currents. The highlight of this dive was a school of cow nosed rays which swam past us. Unfortunately they bolted when the strobe from my camera fired !

Overall Manta divers were a good operation and I would recommend them. The diving in Cabo was disappointing though – the visibility the day before when we were snorkelling had been perfect and the dredge had really killed it.

After we’d packed up our dive stuff we hit the road again and drove North to Todos Santos. This is one of the Mexican government’s Pueblos Magico’s. These are towns which have been designated as tourist hot spots and investment is being made to improve them. This involves things like road improvements and trying to remove wires in the key central areas to make them a bit more picturesque.

While in Todos Santos we visited the local post office as we needed to post something. It was like walking into someone’s house – but before reaching the office you had to climb over a little bit of post !

We hung out in Todos Santos for a bit but there wasn’t actually much there so we headed back to La Paz so we could be close for our ferry the next day.

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