La Paz and Todos Santos. Road Tripping Baja Mexico

After a nice night camping with the serenading of frogs in San Ignacio, we jumped back in the car and continued road tripping Baja Mexico. Our next stop was the capital of Baja California Sur, La Paz.  The first half of the trip wound through the mountains and took us to our first glimpse of the Sea Of Cortez, with it’s amazing blue waters and lazy beach towns.   We wished we had more time to kick back and get lost, but we had places to get to; Cabo was waiting for us.    Needing a break, we stopped and had some tacos at a random shack along the road, right on the water.  The first thing that hit us as we exited the car was the extreme heat.  Que calor!  Dusty wasn’t liking it very much at all either.

The road eventually made its way inland and we found ourselves on what seemed like the world’s straightest road through the world’s biggest desert.  It didn’t get any cooler either.  After about seven hours we again saw the Sea of Cortez and the city of La Paz lying beside it.

La Paz, Mexico Road tripping baja mexico We got a 240 peso hotel room (about $20, Pensíon California) and walked around in search of more tacos.  Ended up getting our first gorditas, similar to arepas we had in Colombia, a stuffed pastry type thing.  Then we of course finished the night with some ice cream!

Super Tacos Baja California - Road tripping Baja Mexico
Super Tacos Baja California

The next morning we found the taco truck that was supposed to be the best in the city (according to Lonely Planet) camped out right in front of our hotel.  They had nine different kinds of fish tacos and we stuffed our faces before starting out on our last drive for a few days.   It was really had to find the road out of the city as there were no proper signs.  Eventually, after asking about six different people we finally were back on the road to Cabo, our final destination.

We took the Highway 19 because it took us through the small town of Todos Santos.  Famous for its art galleries and Hawaii-like surfing (barrels people, we didn’t even think about it), Todos Santos was full of gringos and everything was way too expensive for us.  Cool stuff though!

Art and souvenirs in Todos Santos. Road Tripping Baja Mexico
Art and souvenirs in Todos Santos.
Carrie likes awesome murals.
Carrie likes awesome murals.
Zach in Todos Santos
Zach in Todos Santos

After wandering through Todos Santos for an hour, we felt we had seen it all and hopped back in the car to finish road tripping Baja Mexico all the way to Los Cabos at the end of the peninsula!

Check out part 2 here:

Check out part 4 here:

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From Norte to Sur! A Baja Mexico Road Trip

The second day of our Baja Mexico Road Trip we faced the toughest drive of the trip.  Ensenada to San Ignacio, a grueling 800km trek across the desert from Baja Norte to Baja Sur.  We set out around 8am and drove for a few hours before stopping at a roadside restaurant for delicious huevos rancheros and coffee.  The simple, delicious food-homemade tortillas, numerous condiments, and spicy salsa-is one of our favorite parts of México!

Baja Mexico Road Trip

After breakfast, the sun got stronger and the road rougher as we would our way through one of the craziest cactus-filled deserts we’ve ever seen.  Thank God we got our A/C fixed!  Luckily we had been advised to have a full gas tank and plenty of water as there were no services for hours and hours.  Nothing but a 2-lane, potholed highway winding its way through more and more “curvas peligrosas” (dangerous curves).  Getting stuck behind semis a couple of times was annoying because the road was hardly ever straight enough to pass without risking a head-on collision.

Baja Mexico Road Trip

After nearly 12 hours of driving, just before the sun set, we finally made it to San Ignacio.  Out of nowhere, a tiny lake and a palm-covered oasis town in the midst of all the dryness!  We found a wonderful $10 campground right on the laguna (Camping Los Petales) with basic showers, bathrooms, and kayaks for rent.  Walked into the tranquil town for some tacos and slept peacefully in our tent, despite the croaking bullfrogs.

Baja Mexico Road Trip
Camping San Ignacio

Baja Mexico Road Trip

San Ignacio was tiny but pleasant and full of friendly people!  Highlights were the gorgeous old Domincan church and buying a cheap bag of delicious dates (they grow on the palms all over town).  Sad we couldn’t stay longer, we headed off to La Paz!

Baja Mexico Road Trip San Ignacio Cathedral

Click here for day one of the adventure!

Click here for day three of the adventure!

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Salvadoran Naive Art and Mountaintop Hitchhiking in La Palma

Salvadoran Naive ArtLa Palma is in the northernmost reaches of El Salvador, just across the border from Honduras.  It’s home to world-famous Salvadoran painter Fernando Llort.  He founded a style called ” naive art ” which became extremely popular, and then he taught lots of locals how to duplicate paintings in this style, turning them into craftsmen with income-generating businesses!  Because of naive art’s fame and brilliance, and the many capable painters in town, La Palma has the most public murals per capita of anywhere in the world!  Every wall, business, house, telephone pole, curb, EVERYTHING is painted in this vivid, simple fashion.

Salvadoran Naive Art

Salvadoran Naive Art

La Palma is surrounded by lush mountains and the temperature is quite cool–yay!

Salvadoran Naive ArtOnly 12 kilometers away is Cerro El Pital, the highest peak in El Salvador, at 2730 meters (around 9000 feet).  San Ignacio, the next town over from La Palma, is the departure point for this hike.  The climb is not very daunting, as a road goes most of the way up, so you only have to hike the last 5km of the trail to the summit.  Of course we missed the bus going up, but as we started walking uphill from San Ignacio, we saw some people jumping into a pickup, confirmed that they were heading uphill, and joined them!  The views as we rode in the back of the truck, climbing higher and higher, were outstanding!

Salvadoran Naive Art

Even better, when we got to the trail and asked the driver how much we owed him, he just smiled and replied, “Nada!”  Finally, a first hitchhiking success after many fruitless attempts!  The trail up the summit took us about an hour and a half and was steep but not too strenuous.  Unfortunately, due to our inability to get up early, clouds were rolling in as we climbed and we couldn’t see anything but white fluff from the top.  During clear times (early morning) you can supposedly see into Honduras and Guatemala from the top.  So learn from our mistake and if you want to have great views from the summit, go early!

Salvadoran Naive Art
Zach, victorious, at the summit

Hiking back down, we got some more partly cloudy views.  Again, there was no bus in sight, so we just started hiking down the road hoping a car would pass and pick us up.

Salvadoran Naive ArtLuckily, just as our knees were starting to feel it on the steep slope, a bread truck with two guys in it stopped and crammed us in.  They were super friendly and gave us a free ride not only to San Ignacio, but all the way back to La Palma, since they were going that way anyway.  Hurrah for hiking and hitchhiking success!!!!!

Enjoy this post about Salvadoran Naive Art and hitchhiking to the top of El Salvador’s highest mountain? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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A Remote Border Crossing at La Balza – Backpacking Ecuador

This is the end of a bus marathon and details backpacking into Ecuador at one of their most remote borders, La Balza.

After an overnight bus from Lima to Chiclayo, we waited around for a few hours and got on the 1:30pm bus to Jaen.  The whole point of our taking this maddening route was so we could pass through Vilcabamba, Ecuador and check out this so-called “valley of longevity” where all the people supposedly live to be like 300 years old.  But anyhow, we arrived in Jaen just after dark, a dirty and dusty town full of mototaxis.   We jumped in one and told him to take us to the place where the buses leave for San Ignacio, the town closest to the border where we planned to spend the night.  After negotiating a price, we zoomed down the dirt road,   pulled a U-turn and and said, “Here is a good hotel!”  Though our Spanish is not great, we swear that we use understandable words!  Sometimes people don’t even listen to what we are saying and just try to guess what we want.  This seemed to happen a lot in northern Perú both times we were there.  Maybe they just play their music way too loud!

So we re-explained ourselves and finally were dropped off where we wanted to be; a spot with shared taxis to take us the next two hours for 20 Soles each.  For the first hour the road was perfect, paved and smooth.  Then the farther away from nowhere we got, the bigger the pot holes became and eventually the road became a one-lane bumpy mess.  Nevertheless, it was a nice ride, with a cool breeze blowing through the windows and lightning flashing in the distance.  It was getting late when we got into San Ignacio, so we crossed the street to a dumpy-looking lodging and got a cheap room from an unfriendly receptionist and settled in to wake up early for the border crossing.

In the morning we asked about three different people and finally got a mototaxi to drop us off at the shared taxis to the border.  17 Soles each and five people in the cab, we headed down one of the worst roads yet.  The night before there had been hard rains and the road was a muddy mess with landslides and road crews slaving away with shovels.  I would have called the road “impassable” or “passable only with 4×4”, but our driver was a pro mudder and we only got stuck a couple of times.  After two hours or so we were dropped off in the tiny village of La Balza at a bridge labeled “International Boundary” and we hauled our gear through more mud and over to the immigration office.  It was hard to tell if the guy there was the border agent or not, but he stamped our passports and we walked across the bridge into Ecuador.  On the other side was a uniformed official chit-chatting with the locals.  He led us into his office and had us fill out the standard entrance form.  Both of these “border agents” seemed pretty surprised to have any work to do, leading us to wonder how many people ever cross the border at La Balza.

Our passports were soon stamped and, super hungry, we walked next door to the only place serving food.  While we were eating, the border agent came over and rejoined his local friends.  There were many local-looking people walking back and forth across the border; some he would yell at to come to his office, some just crossed; it was a very laid-back mess of confusion.  Really, all you would have to do to get across this border illegally is run really fast.  A very different experience than the United States border with our walls and hundreds of people in line.  At noon we got on an old old bus with open sides and benches running from side to side.  Really it was more like a truck pulling a trailer full of wooden benches.  The speaker system rocked and it was almost like a party bus.  For over an hour we bounced along with our heads almost hitting the ceiling on the worst potholes.  This ride strangely brought smiles to both of our faces.  The benefit of our open-sided vehicle was that at least we knew that we could jump out easily if we ever started careening out of control.  Once in the nearest town of Zumba, we were able to get right on a bus to Vilcabamaba and arrived, again, just after dark.  We were sore, tired, and grumpy, but a huge section of the continent had been conquered.  Now for a few days of slightly slower travel then one more hard stretch to the Caribbean coast!

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