Baja California. Part 2. From Tecate To Coco’s Corner
I crossed the border into Baja California at the town Teсate and stayed overnight there, although initially my plan was to get to Ensenada the first day. But crossing the border between the United States and Mexico took longer than I expected, and I don’t like to ride at night because I can’t see well in the dark. The decision to spend a night in Tecate proved to be the right one, I had a nice sleep in a cheap hotel right in the center of the city, and the next morning I slowly packed, had breakfast and hit the road.
There are two main roads along Baja California – route number 1 and number 5. Route number 1 is more popular and most tourists and travelers in Baja prefer taking this road. Accordingly, there is more developed infrastructure there and more traffic as well. Route number 5 runs parallel to the first one along the eastern coast of Baja, with less people on it, it is more deserted and often there is no signal, no ATMs or gas stations. That’s what attracted me about it, so I decided to ride this road. However, closer to the south, both roads intersect and make into one single route number 1. Well, in the meantime, I wanted to enjoy some solitude and peace.
I miscalculated time a little bit, and I was entering the town when it was almost dark. Initially I was thinking of finding a cozy camping site by the sea, but it wouldn’t be easy to look for it in the dark and I was already tired, so I decided just to find a cheap hotel. It wasn’t easy. There were many hotels around, but to find an inexpensive one was a problem. I rode all around the town, luckily it was not very big, and eventually stopped at one pretty (although not very cheap) hotel with friendly hosts and a very comfortable and safe parking for my motorcycle. This is often the case, I first assess the parking spot for my bike, and then I think about myself.
Actually, at first I was only planning to spend one night in San Felipe and to continue the next day. But something prompted me to stay another day and to walk around the city and along the sea. The town turned out to be nice and peaceful, as far as I understood, the tourist season had not yet started and there were very few people. Let me remind you that we are talking about January, quarantine due to the virus has not started yet. However, the weather was quite fresh, especially in the evening, so I had to go for the sunset walk wrapped in all the warm clothes I had.
In San Felipe I made a serious mistake which I regretted over the next few days. I didn’t withdraw enough cash from ATM, hoping that I could pay with my card at gas stations. Well, I didn’t take into account some other circumstances either… But I’ll get to it a bit later.
After a day of rest and walks along the sea in San Felipe, I continued my ride. The following day the plan was to get to a place recommended to me more than once. I understood that for all those who travel by road number 5, especially motorcyclists, this is one of the landmarks and must-visit places on the way. Coco’s Corner. The owner of this place is an interesting and, I would say, legendary character, Coco. He is the one who attracts all the visitors, and I did not want to become an exception. But more details about it later …
I was in no hurry to leave San Felipe too early. That morning I had a chat with the owners of my hotel. I was particularly interested in the condition of the road towards my destination today, as I heard completely different opinions. By the way, road number 5 had not been paved until recently, and to be honest, I was counting on some off road. But it turned out that there were only short dirt patches left, mainly detours around the bridges. Well, then I’ll reach my destination faster… That’s what I thought…
When I left the town, I filled up my bike, and now off I go! I didn’t plan any detours from the main route that day, but when a few kilometers later I saw a sign by the road saying “Valley of the Giants”, I got very curious and decided to find out what kind of valley it is. Especially since the entrance gate was nearby. The guard kindly told me that this is a valley where you can see huge cactuses, and it’s only 5 minutes ride from here. One had to pay for the entrance, but for me it was twice less expensive as I was on a motorcycle. Well, I liked the fact that this place was very close, the road seemed pretty and away from the main road, and besides, I am very fond of cactuses. So without thinking much, I went there and I didn’t regret it at all.
The valley was amazing! As far as the eye could see, there were lots of huge cactuses around, twice or more of my height. I wanted to stop and admire each of them. Apart from them, there was nothing and no one around, absolute silence and peace… A real paradise for me… I took this opportunity to practice using my new drone. The place was perfect for it with its beauty and solitude.
I’d have stayed there a lot longer, but it was time to keep going. So I reluctantly packed and moved on, taking along with me amazing memories and footage.
After riding a few more miles, I saw the turn to Puertecitos. I also heard about this place from some people that it is quite interesting and worth seeing. So I decided that since I have it right on my way, it would be a shame not to see it. But there was a disappointment waiting for me… It turned out to be a closed community, and you can only visit it if you stay overnight. You can’t just stop by and look around. Well, I was not too upset, after all I’ll have more time on the road. I didn’t know that my acquaintance with the community of Puertecitos would not finish at that point…
I went back to the main road and rode on, admiring the views around me. The road was running right along the coast, and I couldn’t help turning my head around to enjoy the incredible scenery. The sea and water in general are the ultimate delight for my eyes, and I will never get tired of admiring it no matter how much I have it on my way.
But soon I felt that the wind was picking up more and more, and now I had to fight it and hold on tightly to the bike so I wouldn’t get blown away. Very soon I was so tired that I decided to stop by the side of the road and take a break. I had already realized that Baja California was a pretty windy place, and I had several encounters with some strong wind in the short time I’d been here. But it’s no surprise, Baja California is a peninsula surrounded by water from all sides, so the wind is a logical thing here. I stayed there for a few minutes and moved on.
But the wind was getting stronger and stronger, and now it was not just a discomfort, but a real danger. I even remembered the winds in Patagonia, but if in Patagonia I was more or less prepared for them because I had heard about them from many people, Baja was a complete surprise to me. When I saw a rest area spot on the road, I turned there, it was impossible to continue riding in such conditions. It was a real sandstorm, and when I stopped, I had to hold my bike tight so it wouldn’t fall down. There were still 100 km left till my destination today, Coco’s Corner, and if the wind did not stop, I would not get far. So I stood there for about an hour not knowing what to do next. Soon it became clear that I would not get to Coco’s Corner today, so I had to look for some alternative solution. Soon a car stopped next to me, and a couple inside asked if I was okay and if I needed any help. There’s not much one can help with in such situation, but it was still nice to see somebody caring. It was a couple from the USA, they also drove to the nearest hotel, but it was still at least 50 km away.
So, I had to decide urgently what to do. I’ve already been standing next to my bike for an hour, protecting it from the gusts of wind, it was about to get dark soon, and spending the night on this patch of the road was not a good idea. And then the bright idea came into my mind that the best thing I could do was to go back to Puertecitos and to seek a shelter there. I hoped that due to such difficult weather conditions I would be allowed to spend the night there. Especially when I return, the wind would blow at my back and it will probably be a little easier to ride. And I was just 10 km away from Puertecitos…
I was happy with this idea, it seemed to me the only possible solution in this situation. Somehow I turned my bike against the wind and went back to where I came from. It was really easier to ride with the wind blowing at my back, and soon I sighed with relief seeing the turn to Puertecitos. I immediately began to explain to the guard at the entrance what happened to me and why I had to come back. I think I could add that I wouldn’t move anywhere from here if I was not allowed to enter. But my fears were in vain, this time they let me in without any problem, and it turned out there was a cozy camping site right by the water. You couldn’t think of a better turn of events…
It was an unexpected end of the day, again my plans for the day were not destined to come true, but that’s probably the sense of an adventure… ? Otherwise, it would just be a booked and pre-paid vacation.
Soon my tent was pitched, I was glad to get to know that there was a shop nearby where I could buy some food. I immediately ran there while it was still open, I had almost nothing to eat with me.
The store was open, I was very pleased with the varieties of food there, it even had delicious homemade tamales, and the girl at the counter spoke excellent English. Soon we started to chat and it was just like a balm for my soul. There was so much positivity, excitement, and wisdom about her that I didn’t regret having to stay in this little village that day. Her name was Xoshi, and she told me a little bit about the village itself. Most of the people staying here are citizens of the USA and Canada, who come here for the winter season. There are very few permanent residents, Mexicans, living here, only about 20 people. I promised that tomorrow I would stop by again and show my bike to her on the way out of the village.
Back at my camping site, I ate the tamales I had bought for the dinner, and it was one of the most delicious dinners of my life. By that time, there were several more camp spots occupied, and I met some other travelers caught by the wind or night. One lady told me that there are famous hot springs in this village, right by the sea, and one can get there by the small road right behind the camp site. The springs are open, water there is very warm, and to get into the water now, with the light of the moon and stars, while watching the sea in front is a real pleasure. Frankly speaking, I was very tired and already preparing for a sweet sleep in my tent, but the idea with hot springs, the moon and the sea also interested me very much. I decided to go there and just to check the place without getting wet.
It was already very dark, only stars were shining, there was nobody around, but it would be difficult to get lost here, only one road was going up. Soon I saw an arch behind which there were several natural pools with hot springs. Several people just left, so now I was all alone here. This place really seemed absolutely magical to me. I couldn’t even imagine it, there was a full moon today, the moonlight was pouring around and illuminating the paths leading to the pools, the pools themselves, the sea. It was incredible. And though it was quite fresh outside, I took my clothes off and sank into the hot water. I have to say, it was my first encounter with hot springs in general. I saw some of them, but I never went inside. It was the first and probably the most amazing experience. And again, I thanked my destiny for bringing me here today. I relaxed long in that hot water, and it was the most amazing meditation and contemplation in my life. At that moment I had no doubt that my unplanned stop at this place was “planned” from above, and I was happy to have obeyed my inner voice to come back.
But the next day I had to continue, and I was very worried about the wind situation. Usually early in the morning the wind is not very strong, even in particularly windy regions, so I was going to wake up and get out as early as possible. But I remembered my promise, and on my way out of the village I stopped by my new friend Xoshi’s store to show my bike and say goodbye. She was very excited, it turned out that she was into bicycles and had a dream to ride her bike from Canada to her hometown of Puertecitos. But at the moment she was training, getting ready, going to bike all over Baja first, and then in a few years she would be ready for a big trip.
Meanwhile, I had to ride the third time the road stretch which scared me so much yesterday. I wondered if it would be windy again…
To my greatest joy, it was quiet today, and I rode past that “pocket” by the road where I had to turn back, with a smile. So, the wind wasn’t a problem for me today, but now there came another complication. As I mentioned before, I didn’t have enough cash with me, and unexpected delays on the road, with extra costs added, could have resulted in me running out of money much earlier. All the villages on the way were quite tiny, there were no banks, not even a connection signal. The next gas station shouldn’t be soon either, but I could still get there without any problem if it wasn’t for the yesterday’s wind, which increased the fuel consumption on my motorcycle.
But so far it wasn’t that bad, and I kept riding and enjoying the road, the scenery, and the moderate wind. Now I was definitely on my way to Coco’s Corner. It used to be right on the main road and it was impossible to miss it. But a few years ago they paved the road, and the main road was moved aside, 7 km away from Coco’s Corner. Now it is important not to miss the sign and take the gravel road to get to Coco’s Corner. Naturally, the number of visitors to Coco’s place has also decreased…
From Puertecitos to the turn to Coco’s Corner there are about 100 km, and as I was approaching the turn, I tried to look around carefully. Still I missed the sign, I noticed it only with my lateral vision and came back. It was a handwritten sign, so it was easy enough not to notice it.
While I was turning around and taking pictures near the sign, a car pulled up again and stopped next to me. It was the same couple I met yesterday when I was desperately protecting my bike from the wind. Now we got acquainted properly, their names were Jim and Terry, and they said they were really worried about me yesterday because the wind got stronger and even it was difficult to drive a car. Again I told to myself how good it is to listen to our inner voice and to follow its advice.
This time we exchanged contacts, in case we were at the same place again, and in case we didn’t get to meet on the road accidentally. They also shared some fuel with me, and later it made my life much easier.
So, they drove down the main road, and I turned on the gravel and went to meet Coco. A few words about Coco himself. This is an elderly man over 80 years old who has lived here in Baja California for many years and has been hosting travelers from all over the world. Here you can relax and have a rest from the road, spend the night, there is a spacious camping site, and even trailers here. The main area, actually Coco’s house, has a funny interior. In addition to hundreds of photos on the walls with people who visited Coco, there hangs a lot of lingerie from the ceiling. Coco’s name in people’s minds is always associated with jokes, funny stories and anecdotes, which is what attracts so many people. Probably, among those who live in any part of Baja California or at least once traveled there, you would not find anyone who would not know, or at least not heard about Coco.
To be honest, I felt a bit uncomfortable to go there at first, but luckily I had an excuse. My friend from Puertecitos Xoshi, when she found out that I was going to Coco’s, passed him a loaf of bread he loved, so I was a kind of delivery service.
But of course, no excuse to visit Coco is necessary, he is used to frequent guests, and now that the main road has been moved, he enjoys seeing them even more. He immediately sat me down at the table and asked me to sign his guest book. It turned out that he had accumulated more than 10 of them over the years, and I was interested to flip through them, to see which countries people were traveling from.
Coco lives alone, but he has an assistant who comes to help him about the house, also some people deliver drinks and groceries from time to time, and some visitors from the area show up once in a while. And yet I noticed in his eyes and voice shades of sadness and loneliness, fatigue. He is far from being young any longer, he lives alone in a remote place, apparently his whole life now is a struggle for survival. I had a lot of questions I did not dare to ask, and leaving him there was some sad feeling inside of me. Maybe I should have stayed there and spent the night in a trailer or a tent, I would have had more time and opportunity to talk to Coco. But I decided to move on and get to my next destination, where I could already withdraw money from the ATM and feel more comfortable. That was one of the reasons why I didn’t stay at Coco’s, I had nothing to pay for my accommodation, and I had to buy with the rest of my money some fuel which I still had to find somewhere.
I don’t have an illusion that one day I can go back and see Coco again. It’s probably the first and the last time we saw each other. And I will forever remember the last episode before I left. Coco showed me how he feeds one crow visiting him every day. He takes a raw egg, calls the crow with specific sounds, puts the egg on the ground and moves away. The crow flies up, quickly takes the egg with his beak and flies away. Coco repeated it several times, proudly saying that the crow comes only when he calls and no one else.
Whatever the present is, I am sure that Coco has something to remember, and I hope that these memories warm his soul in difficult moments. He has put thousands of smiles on people’s faces, and he lives in the memory of all those who have been lucky to visit him. And I think this is the best outcome of life you can wish for.
It was definitely one of the most memorable encounters in my journey through Baja California, and I often return to it in my thoughts even now, many months later…
But I still had a lot of interesting places and lots of exciting adventures ahead of me, so it was time to move on!