After over a month of city-hopping, we were more than ready to hit the famed Oaxacan countryside. The mist covered mountains in this region are dotted with dozens of indigenous villages, most of which are only accessible via remote dirt roads you won’t find on any map. We had our sights set on a small village by the name of San Jose del Pacifico, a three hour drive south on the region’s only highway. The windy mountain road provided ample mountain vistas and opportunities for viewing indigenous life.
In an effort to combat some pretty severe air pollution, Mexico City implemented “Hoy No Circula” in the late 1980s. The law translates literally as, “Today, it does not circulate” and is meant to prevent at least 20% of cars from driving on or around the city each day of the week. The last digit of your license plate determines your day of no driving. Luckily, we had heard of these rules in advance and planned our time in the area accordingly.
Our introduction to Mexico City was both hectic and stressful. Despite our lack of a real map, we optimistically (read: stupidly) attempted to drive around the city to our campsite in the north with only a couple hours of daylight ahead of us. Distance-wise, this was not an unreasonable goal – the drive amounted to only about 80 km, or 50 miles. But we’re stubborn and as such, we avoid the toll roads as much as possible. In this case, that meant driving through the center of countless small towns on the outskirts of what is arguably the largest city in the world. It took us FIVE hours.
Deciding which places to visit and which to skip is one of the hardest things about traveling for an extended period of time. You will undoubtedly have less time than you plan for and you simply cannot see everything. While much of our trip is spontaneous, deciding one night where we hope to end up the next, we also have a mental list of “must-sees” along the way. For me, witnessing the Monarch butterfly migration in Mexico, one of the most impressive migrations in the animal kingdom, was on the top of this list.
Our night on the TMC ferry was uneventful to say the least. It’s more a cargo ferry than a passenger ferry, so with the exception of a few other small vehicles, we spent the night surrounded by 18 wheelers and dozens of truck drivers. We hung out for a couple hours on deck, watching the sunset over the La Paz harbor, reading and attempting to converse with some Mexican teenagers.
Baja is the kind of place where time just slips away from you. We originally intended to spend a bit more than a week here but it’s been nearly 16 days and we still find ourselves hesitant to move on. We have driven from the north to the southernmost point, bouncing along both coasts on the way down. We have slept on the beaches of both shores and in the meadows of the towering Sierra de las Lagunas. We have strolled malecons at sunset and sipped margaritas beneath many a palapa. Despite all we’ve done, there is a sense that we’ve barely scratched the surface. One thing is for sure – Baja California has it all.
Our last few days in the states were spent outside San Diego, running errands and taking care of some last minute preparations. Zach made a lot of improvements on the van, including installing some LEDs for indoor lighting (check back for updates to the car section coming soon). Michael and Marlena generously offered their home for our use as a base during this time. Zach met Michael through Expedition Portal – a forum for overlanders – and he was instrumental in the building of the electrical system in our rig.
Glimpsing the cables for the first time, my eyes filled with tears, an involuntary and unwelcome response to the daunting task ahead. We’re going to climb that? No way. No freaking way. I wasted no time verbalizing this opinion, stating that not only was I not going to climb the cables, but no one was.
Ok, so after four months on the road I’ve been asked to cut the sh*t and disclose the things people really want to know. The truth is life on the road is not always glamorous. There are good days and bad. There are lots of adjustments, inconveniences and tricky situations. So, for your enjoyment, here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.
We are the featured road-trippers this month on Drive the Americas (www.drivetheamericas.com) – the best reference out there for a driving trip through North, Central and South America. This website has been instrumental in our planning. Before we took off, we followed many fellow road trippers for great traveling tips and inspiring stories. We are proud to be a part of this awesome community!