Driving East Cape Roads: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This post was originally published on the East Cape Blog of the Baja.com website.

Rain rutted road

The unpaved roads in Baja are nothing like those you are used to if you live in the States, southern Canada or most parts of Europe. They are narrow, pot-hole and washboard-riddled tracks of earth that snake through the desert, up and over rocky mountains and down through washed out seasonal riverbeds. They are poorly and infrequently maintained.

Maintenance consists of running a grader over the rough surface to break up the washboard and fill the holes, but the effects are short-lived, lasting only a few days depending on levels of traffic. With each pass of the grader, the road is cut a little deeper into the desert’s fragile surface and the dirt piles a little higher along the sides. No one applies gravel or removes large, sharp rocks that are uncovered by the grader.

Occasionally the local ranchers will fill in a particularly large sink hole that appears in the middle of the road or a washout that makes it impossible to proceed, but these are rare events indeed. The roads are so narrow in places and often bordered by severe drops on either side that you have to yield to oncoming traffic.

Most of us who choose to live here on the East Cape, however, recognize that a blessing accompanies the cursed road conditions – they keep the maddening crowds at bay.

Most of the folks on the East Cape have a solitary disposition or at least aren’t interested in the type of nightlife Los Cabos is famous for. Stargazing and fires on the beach are more our style. The roads do however wreak havoc on our vehicles and make us keep trips to town to a bare minimum.

Boca de las Vinoramas, where I live, is located at the end of the road. It sits at the crossroads of the Coast Road and the Palo Escopeta Road, which traverses the desert from San Bernabe near the San Jose International Airport out to the coast. From Vinorama, it’s a little over 20 miles North, East, and South to the pavement. But that is no ordinary 20 miles—it’s a dusty, bone-jarring, filling-loosening, neck-wrenching stretch of road, no matter what direction you go.

So we go to great lengths to reduce the number of trips we make to town. We bought a second fridge to have greater storage capacity. I store all our produce in special “green” bags that preserve them longer. I eat broccoli for several nights in a row so it gets eaten before it goes bad. And we keep a large supply of gasoline in jerry cans in the garage.

The East Cape requires adaptation. It challenges one’s resourcefulness and ability to tolerate what has to be one of the bumpiest roads on the planet. I need a chiropractic adjustment after I make the trip to town, but what’s the point of getting one while I’m there if I’m just going to get all shook up on the ride home?

Nevertheless, when I get home, shake the dust off and walk out onto the patio as the sun sets behind our house, I am greeted by the spectacular view of the sky and Sea of Cortez turning various shades of pink, coral, turquoise and indigo, and I am reminded why I choose to live here.

View of a Baja sunset from the patio

How about you? Have you got a good Baja back roads driving story? I’d love to hear about it! Post them in the comments section below.

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