The Big Trip Across The Back Of Baja

By JOHN M. DERBY
Times Publisher
April 18, 2019

Editor’s Note: The following Legacy column by Publisher John Derby was first published 14 years ago, on April 14, 2005.

At some points, the width of the Baja California peninsula, in Mexico, is less than 100 miles from one coast to the other; however, there are no paved roads which will take you straight across. There are only dirt roads which will climb up and over the spine of mountains which go down the back of Baja, and to the other side.

It would be a two-day trip, if everything went all right. We purchased topographical maps which showed the small dirt roads in the interior.

We filled the gas tank full, and carried an extra five gallon container of fresh water. We also had extra blankets and a mattress in case we should have to spend the night where there were no sleeping accommodations.

We had two days worth of food and a small propane stove and coffee pot. A case of beer and a bottle of wine could be used as pain killers once the road shook our old bones to the breaking point.

Then we set out on what were uncharted roads for us. The first roads were what we called two or 42 roads. One could either drive two miles an hour or 42, any other speed would be intolerable.

We started out at 42 and the dust flew up behind us. This lasted until we hit the foot of the mountain range. Then two miles an hour and even less was all we could manage taking our 3/4 ton Chevy up higher and higher into thin desert air.

Sometimes we felt like we would meet the back end of our own vehicle as we charged up hairpin curves. If we would have met another car coming down the same road there would have been no place to pass.

Our four-wheel drive helped give us traction as we wheeled over gullies and boulders sending rocks flying in the air as we pushed upward.

We had a sense of how the first travelers felt as they navigated their way south to the tip of Baja in the early 1960s before there was even a paved road. Baja is such a new country and the area where we stay still has no electricity.

It seemed to take us forever to climb to the top of the mountain, although it was only 3,000 or 4,000 feet. We were on the road an hour before the truck started downhill. Then the wheels slipped and slid over rocks.

We feared the truck might jack-knife coming down as the wheels lost traction, and then in a sudden spurt caught on again.

When we came to a river it seemed obvious the road would go straight, but we failed to look at our map closely and didn't realize until later that we had taken the wrong road.

This road was 100 percent worse than the other one, crossing the riverbed over high boulders and steep ravines.

To be continued next week …


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