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The United States of Baja


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Incredible beauty attracts incredible wealth…Mexican culture is shadowed by rich US invetsors.

“To see Baja properly you need to camp on the beaches”. Shreesh said this while driving through the beautiful and desolate desert scenery of Baja. I have to agree. Although Mexico Highway 1 is beautifully maintained and the most dangerous things we met were cows on the road, it does not hug the coastline like US highway 1 does. You do catch tantalizing glimpses of the coastline through desert scrubland and cactii reaching up towards the blue skies. And you do occasionally touch towns like Loreto nestled on the shores of the Pacific with amazing coastal scenery.


Cactii encounters in Baja

Another reason to camp is financial. Baja prices are US prices. Food, hotels, activities mimic Monterey, Miami Beach, Venice Beach. The “Golden Corridor” of Cabo San Lucas yields little else than gigantic, sprawling condominiums and resorts catering to the rich country up North. Food is mostly blah (except at San Jose del Cabos) and expensive. The beautiful coastal formations at Cabo are surrounded by kitsch such as seen in Fisherman’s Wharf. (And if you are a San Franciscan, I can almost see the suppressed shudder of horror).

Seeing the unashamed display of opulence makes me question the style in which we are traveling. We are certainly not backpacking with bare essentials. Cameras, video equipment, computers, music…even a makeshift projector for movies…we have all the comforts that we were used to in San Francisco. Are we being “responsible”?


Dreams of which nation?

Who is a good tourist anyway? Is it the teva wearing, REI-clothes clad scrubby backpacker that doesn’t have too much money to spend, camps on the beach, bathes once a week and eats street food or the well healed jetsetter who can get away for a week to spend thousands of dollars on accomodations, eats at Charlie Trotter’s “C” and spends $20 on Perrier? The latter certainly feeds more into the economy but the cost is Hiltons, Best Westerns and Costco in Cabo. And what do the locals think? Do they think everyone in the US jets around in a posh 200+ ft motorboat, drinking overpriced margeritas in sprawling mansions? I do not know the answer, but somewhere in between the two is a fine line after which the scene gets disturbing.

pelican scooby-doo

5 Responses to “The United States of Baja”

  1. Barbara says:

    The whole Baja peninsula is being ruined by people with more money than brains. 16 years ago it was fun to travel the length of Baja, but not now. It is much better to travel off road and enjoy the mostly pristine beauty away from the crowds.

  2. madhuri says:

    What is wrong with travelling in comfort? Backpackers do what they do because they like it and/or cannot afford better facilities. If one has the money to afford comfy travel arrangements and enjoys travelling in style, i dont see the reason for guilt. It pumps in money into the local economy, creates jobs, and everyone is happy. Sure, small scale local merchants get stumped out in the process, but if not walmart now, it’ll be el walmarto in a couple of years, they’ll have to deal with it sooner or later.

  3. Neena says:

    Hi Madhuri,
    Nothing wrong in traveling in comfort; we are certainly doing that! Its just the almost fortified mini-US’s in Baja where all the guests see of Mexico is the beaches, swimming pools and hotels and food made to mimic the US – with luxuries that few people in the world can only dream of – that is disturbing. One has to be circumspect in the display of wealth in poorer nations – as you yourself have probably experienced in India. Besides, the skyscrapers are ugly!

  4. Trainer Bob says:

    Hey Guys,
    Mexico is one of my favorite places to travel. Last visit was in the Yucatan in the town of Akumal.
    Tahoe update. If you have not heard, The Sierras are having an Epic Year (finally). I just returned from Squaw. Skiing in thigh deep snow through the trees of KT-22. The upper mtn. was closed due to wind but once in the trees it was so peaceful. One of those days you did’nt mind spending $73.00 for a lift ticket.
    Safe travels. I enjoy your stories and photos.
    P.S. Drunk fisherman are usually harmless.

  5. Neena says:

    Hi Trainer Bob,

    We have really enjoyed our first trip to Mexico. We are in Oaxaca now. Will be there for a month. Beautiful weather and great food. Don’t miss sking after being in the snow for months!
    Hope you have a great season

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