Big Trip Across The Back Of Baja
By JOHN M. DERBY
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
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
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
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 …