A trip that Mike Ballard and I took down to San Felipe, Baja California, in July, 2010. We drove federal route 1 from Tijuana to Ensenada, then 3 to 5 to San Felipe and Puertecitos, before returning the next day along 5 to some Baja California state routes and into Sonora to San Luis Rio Colorado. We then drove 2 all the way back to Tecate, stopping along the way to view the fault line that moved during the April, 2010 Mexicali earthquake.
World-famous Oh Shit Dip on highway 5 between San Felipe and Puertecitos. There are many that are much worse, further south along this road. However, that road was washed out by Hurricane Nora in 1997. The road was in terrible shape until – well, so recently that most US tour books and websites still do not know that it has been resurfaced.
The road is paved, and in great condition, past Puertecitos all the way down to El Huerfanito. It does help to remember, however, that any dip that has the orange and black striped marker beside it (like the Oh Shit Dip here) is best slowed down for.
Our first military checkpoint. They did not ask for FMM tourist cards – we went through the trouble of acquiring them, and it turns out no one wanted to see them. First we tried to find the office in Tijuana, and failed, so we decided to say “screw it”, but when we randomly came across an office in Ensenada (well signed from route 1 with blue signs for “migracion”), and paid our $22 each there.
One does not need FMM cards to take 1 down to Ensenada, or 5 down to San Felipe, but to travel 3 between the two, technically one does need such a card.
The 3/5 junction is undergoing a complete reconstruction. This sign may have been helpful at one point, as right now there is no signage at all indicating that we are to turn off the main road and onto a temporary dirt road paralleling 5.
The highest speed limit in Mexico on two-lane roads: about 68mph. There are some rare four-laners that go up to 120, but we did not see any. Even on the brand new four-lane road heading into San Felipe (it opens up to four lanes just south of here), the speed limit stays at 110.
We are officially here. Well, there’s still another five miles of outskirts, complete with English billboards encouraging the purchase of real estate. They really hyped up this place (impressively excessive, even in the context of a housing bubble) but now nothing is selling. Luckily, the actual downtown was spared from this excess, and you will need a small bit of Spanish to get by.
Note how only the word MEXICO has a border on that shield. Mexico takes a page from a 1930s Texas signing manual here.
Highway 5 heads out of San Felipe. This is some older paving – maybe even older than 1997. It definitely has a solid white stripe down the middle, as opposed to the modern yellow, but that isn’t all that meaningful. Mexico’s adherence to standards is fairly loose.
A rusty old sign for Emerald Camp. Highway 5 runs very close to the Gulf of California, and there are a series of dirt roads, each about a mile long, that one can take to camp on the beach. We did not stop here; we camped on the beach much closer to San Felipe.
I believe Laguna Chapala is where this road reconnects to highway 1. That’s about 200 kilometers down, and the road stops being highway 5 well before then. If the guide books are to be trusted, it’s a terrible dirt road. Maybe not anymore – no one seems to know!
That’s all for day one – at this point we had dinner in town, and got some sleep in the car in a campground by the water. Ten bucks. Next day – up at dawn, and head north to San Luis Rio Colorado.