The road to San Carlos 

An unlikely caravan down the Baja Penninsula

click to flip through (5) PHOTO BY STEVE ANDREWS - The wild Cacti along the road was reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss Book. The legendary author has a house on the Baja Peninsula and it's easy to see the connection to his illustrations here.
  • Photo by Steve Andrews
  • The wild Cacti along the road was reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss Book. The legendary author has a house on the Baja Peninsula and it's easy to see the connection to his illustrations here.

We made it through the Mexican border by 9:00 a.m., which is pretty darn good for a group of Whistlerites, especially considering it was Jim DeMarco's birthday the night before.

We celebrated the occasion in San Diego at Sushi Ota with Miki Homma, the owner of Sushi Village, who dubbed the restaurant his favourite sushi restaurant in the world.

After a week of driving down from Whistler Jim and I met up with Miki and his wife Naoko at the restaurant, along with two other Whistlerites, Bones and Michelle Skelton. We were all heading to La Ventana, a small town near Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula, to escape the inevitable fall rains up north. Being the only person in the crew who had never been to La Ventana, it was hard to not have high expectations of the place after being surrounded by such enthusiasm to head there.

Having only met Jim a week before, I was quite pleased with the road trip so far. A mutual friend put us in touch to set up a bike camp at his property in La Ventana. We hadn't yet exhausted the exciting and interesting parts of our past — a fun stage in friendship where you get to highlight your positive and happy memories. On the road you have nothing to do but chat. The trip through the U.S. had been a total of six days, but only about two and a half of those were driving time. Between Jim and myself we knew quite a few people along the California coast, and we had some fun catching up with old friends and making new ones.

The past week, and the week to follow, would be vastly different though.

Our first destination was San Carlos, a remote point about a third of the way down the Baja peninsula. The plan was to head there for a four-day camping trip at this remote outpost before continuing on to our final destination in La Ventana to welcome the guests we signed up only one week prior.

We made it to San Quentin in about six hours and all agreed to stop for the day at the Villa Santa Maria, a beachside property that rested on an immense bay of sand dunes as far as the eye could see.

It's a relic of the old Route 66-style convertible culture that long ago gave way to the RV's and SUV's we see on the road today.  Set out on a long dirt road, the hacienda-style inn has an old-world mission decor laid out in a '70s-architect's floor plan.

Our party was one of only a few groups — it was still very early in the yearly southern migration.

For only 700 pesos (roughly $70 USD) we had a luxurious room right on the beach, where in the few hours of daylight we managed to get in a small surf session. Dinner at the restaurant that evening was simple and cheap. I was able to finally practice my Spanish with the staff.

We set out early the next day to ensure that we had plenty of daylight for the 69-kilometre isolated approach to the coast. Miki and Nyoko would not be taking the 2.5-hour, dirt road and four-day campout to San Carlos. The desolation of San Carlos held no appeal for them, so we wished them a safe journey southward where we would meet back up in just under a week.

We stopped at a small store in El Rosario, the closest town toward the turnoff to the ocean, to stock up on supplies as there was nothing available where we would be camping out. We picked up four days worth of food, water and beer as quickly as we could and set out onward to the turnoff toward the ocean.

"Was that the sign we just passed?" Jim asked me with a bit of urgency about 20 minutes out of town.  

"To be honest, I wasn't paying attention," I replied, having been wrapped up in one of our many conversations and forgetting that the turnoff was close. We decided to drive another 10 minutes and if we didn't see the turnoff we'd probably missed it. But when the sign for San Carlos finally did come into view, I knew there was no way we could have missed it.

Adorned with decades' worth of stickers from windsurfers, kiters and surfers, the sign was a classic photo op that began a 69-kilometre dirt road toward the coast. At the end of the road lies an almost mythical place of consistent wind, classic waves and even a few bike trails for when the former two adventures didn't align perfectly. We set out with caution and dove into yet another life story that only comes out when you are seven days into a road trip with a former stranger. We were almost there.

CORRECTION: Due to editing errors Pique shared incorrect information in last week's travel story, "Top 6 Bucket List Experiences in B.C." by Robin Esrock.

The West Coast Trail is 77 kilometres, not seven, and Okanagan Lake is 135 kilometres, not 13 kilometres. Pique regrets the errors.


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