Heidi Trautmann

The World is my home Part IV - Baja California – the country of fishing camps and sand dollars


 By Heidi Trautmann


You think that some parts of the world are out of your reach? With space vessels landing on Mars and reaching out for other sun systems of our universe? With air fares so unbelievingly cheap?  Never ever has travelling been so easy. Some may say, I must not see everything. True, but getting to know other countries and people may tell us, how beautiful the world is and how important it is to protect her from ourselves, from self destruction.

Down there, the austere Beauty, I am sure you know it, the appendix of California, between  32,5° and 23° latitude,  1.300 km long, with an expanse of 144,500 square kilometres, and with only one tarred road from North to South. That is where we went. It was beginning of February when we – in our 20 years old Dodge Camper - crossed over from California to Mexico, to Baja California and, coming from Arizona, Tecate was the closest crossing, a rather adventurous approach.


Buenas dias Mexico! A wild place, a mad road, dusty, rough and bumpy, the No. 3 to Ensenada to join the one and only No. 1 from where we did side trips to either the Pacific or the Sea of Cortez, crisscrossing Baja on our way to the South on dusty washboard roads. I was hungry to see the wild Pacific, to get in touch with it. On our way to Cielito Lindo (Beautiful small Heaven) we came through farmland, fruit and vegetables, also cactus farms because in Mexico people eat not only the fruit but also the ears. In non-cultured areas we find the Mestique and Cottonwood trees. The area is rather flat and sudden sandstorms are the rule, and then you have to stop the car because you see nothing but red sand and plastic bags dancing in the air. Also sudden rains can transform the roads into rivers hard to cross. Warning signs all along the way. All life concentrates along the highway No. 1, very simple life, small houses made of mud bricks, open markets, even a butcher cuts the cow halves in the open, people on bikes, children in white shirts coming from school.

The white long beaches on the Pacafic finally, and we open our vests to offer ourselves to the sea wind and get carried away just like the seagulls crying above us. Here I found my first sand dollars, species from the sea urchins family. I collected them and I still have some here in my home in Cyprus. During the four months we travelled in Baja we found the most beautiful beaches, wild and left to sea animals, perhaps some two legged ones trying to surf on top of the waves, with them side by side young seals enjoying the game just as much.

We had arrived in Baja with our souls, you know that our soul travels with the speed of a camel, a peninsula, once part of the continent but it is told that Baja had decided to separate itself from the continent and take with it all animals and plants, in order to save them from destruction by humans. There are 3000 different species 800 among them are endemic. Perhaps one of the many attempts to save the paradise on earth.


And a paradise it is as we discovered during the months to follow.

The No. 1 (Transpeninsular) takes us as from El Rosario into the centre of the peninsula, right across the Desierto Central a nature reserve on 700 to 1000 m height. The roads are narrow and steep and in the bends we discover flower pots and name plates where cars, even busses and lorries have crashed and their rusty skeletons at the bottom make us drive most carefully avoiding to come too close to the American giant lorries who keep hooting their car horns, a ghastly experience. We drive through a wild stony desert where we find the Boojum trees, they look like carrots with fine fibers along their body and their bottom up. Wide fields of Cacti Giganta, here and there giant ball or barrel cacti reaching up to your hip, all full of blossoms, white and yellow. It is spring. And around the blossoms humming birds inserting their long beak into the depth of promise. A bush land rather full of succulent plants in the leaves of which the water is stored, water for humans and animals. Other wide fields are covered by the Yoshua tree, after which the nature reserve we are driving through got its name from. Each hill we go around discloses a new species, new colours, field of grown-up yukka trees full of big white blossoms. Just imagine red soil, yellow rocks, the green of the succulent plants, the many blossoms all against a dark blue sky, and in the far distance the mountains in sienna and purple. What a spectacle.


In Guerrero Negro – black warrior - that is on the 28th latitude - begins Baja California Sur, the 29th state of Mexico. The Northern half, Baja California Norte,  is the 31st state; along this latitude we have the  El Vizcaino Biospheric Reserve, an area with the lowest population density.

Here we met with a crowd of most interesting people, travelers like us, Canadians who had left their caravan in California and traveled with their station wagon,  sleeping in the back of the car, equipped with water and all the necessary outdoor camping utensils. Some Germans from Dresden, they had come from Canada and wanted to continue to Chile, they were on the road for over a year. You can recognize the true traveler by the way he sits patiently and observes the world turn.


Here, we wanted to visit the whale watching station; there is a huge camping ground attached to the research centre, with sites on top of sand dunes with at least 500 m space to the next camping site.

We took our camp chairs and binoculars and went down close to the water and sat with the back to a dune looking out for whales which come here into this lagoon from the North every year for mating. As we are rather quiet birds come close, sandpipers and other beach runners, they come in big groups, running away from the waves and returning, up and down picking little somethings stranded on the sand, insects; like a group of dancers, 1000s of them, moving into one direction, turning around, all at the same time. The next morning we had the luck to encounter these big mammals next to the whale station boats and I even touched one and looked it into the eye and I had the feeling, it wanted to say something. Their skin, black with white mussels clinging to it. The babies swam alongside their moms. We counted four mamas, and they treated us humans in their fragile boats very carefully. We felt very special that we could witness the rearing of their offspring.

Laguna Ojo de Liebre, (Hare’s eye lagoon) was the name of the lagoon and we stayed there for a couple of days, walking along the long fine beaches, together with pelicans and beach runners and cormorants. That is music, the sound of the pacific and the plaintive cries of the birds above the waves, and a never ending movement.

There was a young man from London, who was a social worker for drug addicts and one day he decided to drop out. Just with the most necessary he walked all the length of Baja California, lived from what the country gave him, caught his own fish. He wanted to prove to the young people in his charge that it was possible to live a dream and prove that one is able to achieve something without the help of others. He himself did, and after 3000 kms of Baja coast he wrote a book “Into a Desert Place: A 3000 miles walk along the coasts of Baja California” by Graham Mackintosh. I have read it and I was very impressed.

So far, I have shown to you the North of Baja California; In the next part I will tell you about the completely different Baja Sur.




This article is published in Cyprus Observer Sep 8, 2012

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