South Through Baja: Travel Journals

Photography by Sophie Jane Vigneau

The first thing you should know is that it might sound romantic, and maybe it is, but it’s also dusty, hot and crumbling. Packed my bags last-minute for a spur-of-the-moment trip down south to reunite with my long lost lover who had been sailing the Baja coast on a 32-foot wooden sailboat. Ok, it definitely sounds romantic. We met up in San Jose del Cabo, promptly rented a car, and hit the pock-marked road. We drove up, down, over, and back again across the Baja peninsula exploring Todos Santos, La Paz, Playa el Tecolote, and a dreamy not-so-secret “secret” beach by the name of Palm Beach. Plenty of crispy fish tacos were enjoyed, sandy sunsets viewed, and one too many cervesas consumed.

The photographs are all shot with my No. 1 travel companion—a trusty old 35mm Nikon film camera.

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We met up in San Jose del Cabo, promptly rented a car, and hit the pock-marked road.

Palm Beach

A bumpy dirt road, surrounded by tall cacti and certain to create just a touch of damage to the underside of your slick off-white, scratch-laden Volkswagen rental, leads you to a sandy parking lot complete with a panting, dusty-pawed, parking lot attendant with four legs and a wagging tail.

Slap a little sunscreen onto freckled noses, grab a perfectly car-warmed cervesa, slip off your sweaty sandals and begin meandering through a lush oasis with towering palms, the greenest fronds you ever did see and the sound of waves to lead your way. The oasis gives just enough shade to keep your feet moving forward but enough sunlight falls through the palms to entice you to the sun-drenched beach ahead.

A warm breeze rips across the open beach, ruffling our shirts and making the loose sand dance across our toes. Laughter rings out across the shore as locals enjoy a late afternoon picnic against the steep dark rocks.

The sand glitters like gold, and the waves draw nearer. Grins split across our faces as the shutters of our cameras click, the Super 8 film whirs, and we gulp down a refreshing warm Mexican beer as the sun starts to dip towards the horizon.

Palm Beach

Todos Santos

Todos Santos is full of carefully placed brick streets and sidewalks, beautiful art and housewares made by resident artisans, friendly locals, even friendlier local dogs, and surrounded by the dreamiest beaches. Vintage vehicles dot the streets, standing out among the tourist rental cars. Duck, duck, goose. Rental, rental, the perfect mustard-coloured VW beetle complete with equal parts rust and dust. Hand-painted shop signs draw you in to take a peek at what treasures lie within.

The beauty of Todos Santos catches you off guard, not in just the traditional way a picturesque little beach town makes you want to stay forever, but the true splendour lies in the details. The old wooden doors, the wrought iron gates, the perfectly contrasting door frames, the thoughtfully placed bricks, the crumbling walls and the peeling paint.

Todos Santos

The true splendour lies in the details.

La Paz

The town of La Paz is nestled snugly up against what would be the crook of the knee of the Sea of Cortez. What awaits you in La Paz is hot and crispy fish tacos, potholes a plenty, stop signs that really don’t mean stop at all, whale sharks soaring underneath the choppy seas of the vast bay, giggling kids on bikes ripping past you in their well known shortcut alleys, and a constant warm sea breeze brushing across your skin almost anywhere you stroll throughout the lovely city.

Carnival was in full swing, the excitement of children keen to play bumper cars and try their hand at winning a giant stuffed bear was in the air. The parade music filled the streets, the smell of cotton candy filled our nostrils, and and the Ferris wheel lights shone high and true, lighting up the night sky above us.

The old church bells rang loud and clear, echoing through the nearby streets. The weathered brick of the church and the carefully carved statues stood out, meticulously cared for and in perfect condition—a stark contrast to neighbouring parts of the city.

La Paz

Playa el Tecolote

At the very end of the dirt road heading north from La Paz lies a seemingly empty vast sand beach. Welcome to Playa el Tecolote. A few beachside bars sprinkle the coastline and even fewer boats float in the shallows. An old Mexican woman takes a break from the kitchen, dusts off her hands, and sells us six single beers in a plastic bag. She hands it off with a toothy grin and a wink. The straw fronds of the cabanas flutter in the breeze and just through the umbrellas and tables, I can make out two large pale tourist bellies playing in the waves.

A few beachside bars sprinkle the coastline and even fewer boats float in the shallows.

We sit on the shore, the tideline quickly falling away from us. The wet sand makes for a quick soggy bottom but no one seems to mind. The conversation continues with stories of the road and arguments of the very best places to sleep in a van down the Baja California Peninsula.

 

San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo