by car down the Baja California peninsula is one of the world's great
drives. You pass through ever-shifting landscapes of the most
extreme, surreal beauty — from high desert to low, from mountain to
plain, from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the Mar de
The surface of the two-lane highway is very well maintained these days
— the era of the lethal potholes is over. Gas supplies are
plentiful at the government-owned Pemex stations along the way, though
you'll have trouble finding premium gas, if that's what your car
prefers, between El Rosario and Santa Rosalia. (Stations do run
out of gas from time to time, mostly depending on how many big campers pass
through them in any given week, but if you fill up wherever possible
whenever your tank drops below three-quarters full you'll never get
into any serious trouble.)
Mexico 1 is a marvel of engineering but most of it leaves you
no margin for error. Shoulders are rare, especially on stretches
snake through high mountain passes with terrifying drop-offs just
inches from the edge of the road. At every blind curve on such
stretches you just have to pray that oncoming vehicles, especially the
big trucks, will stay in their lanes and leave you enough room to
live. It's on stretches like this that you want to be thinking
about Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and not about the drop-offs, though
this is difficult sometimes because of road signs reminding you of the
present hazards with icons of tall trucks flying off the edge of the
mountain. Often you really do need supernatural aid to maintain
your nerve — as the trucker below, with his Jesus and Mary mudflaps,
Even when the road cuts straight through level desert it's usually
built up on a high causeway with steep sides, no shoulders and few
turn-outs. If you had to veer off the pavement suddenly, even
here, you'd probably roll your vehicle, though the roll probably
wouldn't end in flaming death, as it certainly would in the high
mountain passes. And this is not to mention the livestock that
occasionally decides to share the road with you.
This is a road you never want to travel at night, or at speeds much
above the 80kph limit. I mean, don't even think about it.
The road from San Ignacio to Santa Rosalia on the east coast of the
peninsula is one of the most hair-raising stretches of Mexico 1.
But you're more than rewarded near the end of it by your first sight of
the Mar de Cortés, which is less like a real sea than a sea out of some
ancient legendary tale. It enchants everything.
For previous Baja California trip reports, go here.
[Photos © 2007 Harry Rossi]