Renting a car and driving in foreign, non-english speaking countries always seems like a gamble to me. But, with limited time we figured it was the easiest way to cover ground (buses can be a great adventure, if not always efficient...). So, with the 5.5 hour drive from La Paz to Loreto ahead of us, I was a bit trepidacious about the trip, given the stories you hear about rental companies and Mexican roads.
Imagine my excitement when, an hour out of La Paz, after rallying through our 3rd steep, bumpy, gravel road detour of the main highway, I heard a loud squealing sound. Luckily there was a pullout close by and I immediately pulled over. After a few iterations of driving forwards and backwards, forwards and backwards, forwards and backwards, I discerned that the issue was emanating from the wheel. While Jillian rustled through the rental paperwork, searching for information about what to do in this situation, I pondered what could be the problem. I remembered a time when I used to live on an island populated by more miles of dirt roads than people, and recalled the experience of getting a rock stuck between my brake pad and rotor. If you've ever had this happen, you know that sound. You're probably hearing it in your head right now. You're welcome.
So, I figured we'll take the wheel off, see if we can identify the problem and, if not, proceed to the worry phase. Sure enough, 5 minutes later, I flicked a small piece of metal (designed to keep rocks out of the rotors) and a pebble dropped to the ground. Greatly relieved, we climbed back in the car and finished the drive to Loreto (which, by the way, is super awesome and you should do it if you're ever down that way).
An hour outside Loreto, we dropped down out of the mountains and got our first glimpse of the islands of Loreto Bay. As we drove north along the coast, excitement began to build about the potential adventures we could embark on over the next 4 days. Some friends of ours had recently visited Loreto with their packrafts, so both ideas and stoke were limitless.
Being late in the afternoon, we opted to head to town for a snack, some wifi, and beers. Jillian researched where to camp and options for day trips, I took photos.
One morning I woke early, made some coffee before the sun hit the mountains above our beach, and took a short sunrise photography walk. In the shrubs near our camp I noticed the characteristic fast-fluttering activity of a hummingbird. I was fortunate to witness a few sporadic moments of rest to be able to get some photos of the endemic Xantus's Hummingbird.
After a day of adventuring, Loreto is a fine place to hit a few bars and enjoy some complementary chips and salsa. La Paz takes the cake for authentic Mexico, but Loreto sure is pretty. If you don't mind dozens of ex-pats running around, you'll appreciate the culture of Loreto.
One evening we walked down to the peninsula at the south end of town to take in the sunset and try our hand at the local birding scene. Having lived in one of the top birding locales in Alaska, we thoroughly enjoyed watching shorebirds and egrets harvest dinner amongst the setting sun and rising tide.
For our last couple of days in Baja Sur we headed southwest to the artsy surfing town of Todos Santos. Jillian scored a sweet place in the hills of Pescadero, overlooking Playa Cerritos. Unfortunately, while we were there the surf was kinda weak, so we spent our last 2 days in Baja enjoying leisurely mornings filled with coffee and reading books. We traveled in to Todos Santos where we perused the galleries and shops, found the best food in town (Alma y Manny's), and photographed baby sea turtles who had just hatched only hours earlier.
Sunsets from Carlos's communal palapa were fantastic, best enjoyed with a tall glass of Coco Piña Jumex and white rum. Dinners consisted of tacos, games, and stories of international travels with all present contributing. There was even a cardón out front that, when silhouetted by the sunset, took on the appearance of a "horn hand" (the official symbol of hard rock).
Overall, Baja was a fantastic trip - easy to get to, stress-free to travel around, overflowing with cheap drinks and food. If I did it again, I'd drive my truck and spend 3 months on the peninsula, maybe do a packraft trip from Loreto down to La Paz. There's so many places to see in the world, but you can never go wrong with Mexico!