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Monday, October 24, 2005

Bahia de los Angeles, Baja, Mexico

Rev 2

After a trip to the States in August 2005, we crossed over to Bahia de los Angeles (BLA) from San Carlos, Mexico in early September and spent four weeks there. I thought I'd summarize some of the basics for those of you who may want to visit next summer. It goes without saying that this is just a list of those places we frequented and is by no means comprehensive.

Most services are directly off the paved road running through BLA. I think of it as a north-south strip with hotels, mercados, RV parks, and houses to either side, and the beach to the east.

As we were told well in advance of our visit, "You can get just about anything you want in BLA except for cash." There are no banks or ATMs there! Your last opportunity to stock up on cash is in Santa Rosalia, or in San Carlos if you are making the crossing from there. We know of boats who paid exorbitant sums to go to a bank in Guerrero Negro, or had to leave early in the season because they were running short of cash. Do not bring anything larger than 200 peso notes, and it's even better if you can break those into smaller bills before you come. Many businesses will take U.S. dollars, and the exchange rate in 2005 was 10 pesos to one dollar.

There is no bus service. The main highway is 45 miles inland, where you may flag down a north or south bound bus.

Time Zones:
Baja California (north of about Punta Trinidad, which is north of Santa Rosalia) uses Pacific Time. Baja California Sur (south of Punta Trinidad) uses Mountain Time. And to make things really confusing, Sonora is always on Mountain Standard Time (like Arizona, they don't change to Daylight Savings). So in the summer BLA is on PDT, La Paz is on MDT, and San Carlos is on MST (which ends up being the same as PDT).

There is a large gringo population in BLA, with whom you may be able to make arrangements for things to be brought in from the States (or to send flat mail out). The land based community uses VHF channel 68 for hailing, as do the cruisers. There are no TelMex/Ladatel pay phones. Phone calls placed from Mini-Market Lizeth or Mercado Isla are about $1.00/minute to the U.S.

Dinghy Landings:
Easiest and most secure is the beach in front of Guillermo's RV Park/restaurant/mercado at the south side of the concrete launch ramp. Most convenient to the Pemex and purified water sources is the beach in front of overturned white pangas next to abandoned looking RV Park (big empty parking lot) at the north end of the strip. This is also at the foot of a road which leads up to Isla (see Mercados below) on the right.

There are several barrels under a grove of trees behind the buildings at Guillermo's.

Xitlali (aka "the yellow tienda") - Has the most stock and widest variety of dry goods and vegetables. The vegetable truck arrived late each Tuesday and we were often able to get first pick of the vegetables Tuesday night after we went out for tacos. Otherwise we'd go in Wednesday morning for first choice of the fresh things. If what's out doesn't look fresh to you, ask if they have more in the back. Located at the south end of the strip and up (west) a couple of blocks.
Casa Diaz - Not much here but friends told us they had the freshest eggs (don't forget your plastic egg container!). You can actually walk into their refrigerator to see what they have - just don't let the door close on you like I did! Located down the street towards the beach (east) from Xitlali.
Isla - Probably the second best selection of dry goods after Xitlali, they also have purified water with which you can fill your jugs, but no delivery to the beach. The internet is here and there is a small selection of inexpensive ice cream behind the counter. Located just up from the north dinghy landing, it's a two story building on the beach side of the street.
2 Pinos - We were able to bring our five gallon garrafons (10 pesos each) here to fill them with UV purified water and have them delivered to our dinghy on the nearby beach. Located across the street from Isla.

There is no wireless service in BLA. The only internet we used was at Isla and it cost us 15 pesos for half an hour. They had about six terminals and one spot for a laptop connection.

Pemex station is located on right hand side of street at north end of town, and had just opened recently. Closed for siesta from 2-4 PM, and closed for the night at 7:00 PM.

Yolanda will do it from her house for 60 pesos a load (most expensive in all of Mexico for us!). Even if you take it in early in the morning she will tell you to come back "manana en la tarde." Use the north dinghy landing and walk north towards the Pemex. Look for the Propane/Gasoline sign on the left side of the street (before you reach the Pemex) and walk up to the house behind this. The dogs are harmless.

Eating Out:
Hotel Costa del Sol - For 2x1 margaritas (grande con rocas are excellent) and breakfast (chilaquiles with hash browns for 45 pesos - what a deal!). Located north of Hotel Villa Vita; look for stone wall and steps; outdoor patio and indoor seating.
Taqueria La Carreta (aka China's - pronounced "Cheena's") - For tacos (adobada, carne asada, pescado); buy drinks at Mini-Market Lizeth next door which is owned by China's sister (beer needs to be transferred to a cup since China doesn't have a liquor license). Located on west side of street north as you walk north of Isla. Sometimes closes as early as 8:00 PM.
Palapa Reyna - For hamburgers (or tortas) and French fries. Owner speaks English very well. No liquor license, so bring your own from nearby tienda. Located on west side of street north of China's (look for surfboard sign on building).

This is a must see. Located west of the zocolo with a sign on the street pointing the way. Open from 9-12 and mid-afternoons for a couple of hours. I especially enjoyed studying their extensive and well labeled shell collection.

As for all of Mexico boats should be equipped with bug screens, especially for the no-see-ums, although these can vary greatly from place to place and season to season. In Baja there is the additional problem of bees searching for fresh water. They will make round trip visits to your boat for anything from laundry hanging out to dry, to a damp galley sponge - and they will tell their friends about this wonderful new source of water! So be prepared, especially if you are allergic. They are not typically aggressive, but most people we met were stung at least once. As with no-see-ums the bee populations will vary, and fortunately there is usually another anchorage just down the road to move to should they become a nuisance.

Because of some adverse weather we weren't able to venture as far as we'd hoped during our limited time in the BLA area. We spent five nights anchored in Puerto Don Juan with 14 other boats waiting to see what would happen with hurricane Otis (nothing), and several nights in La Gringa waiting out some north winds. We stayed two nights in the one boat anchorage between Pata and Bota islands, where the water was flat even when we saw white caps in both of the outer channels. Anchoring off the village behind the protection of the sand spit was always pleasant, and we also enjoyed our two visits to La Mona in the southern part of the bay ("SoBLA"). Due to north winds building when we tried it, we were never able to stay overnight at Las Rocas or Mitlan anchorages, but they looked like they would be interesting to explore. The anchorages of Quemado, Pescador, and Alacran on the coast south of BLA were favorite stops on our way to and from the bay. We used both the Cunningham and Williams guides extensively throughout our Sea of Cortez visit, with Charlie's Charts and the Rains guides as backups.

It may have been the great group of people we met up with during our stay, but we hated to leave Bahia de los Angeles! I hope you enjoy your time there as much as we did.

Linda and John