Up from Cabo San Lucas, almost 50 newly paved miles Essay

Road runners pedal furiously across your asphalt path; vultures andhawks perch on roadside cactus.

Along the western horizon, are aftersweeping arc of solitary beach is punctuated by rocky outcrops that dropsteeply into the surf. This is the scene along much of Baja California Sur’s newestpaved road. Except for five short detours where road and bridgeconstruction continues at arroyo crossings, Sunset reporters found the48 miles clear sailing in late December. Underway for many years, thepaving opens up the route along the Pacific from Cabo San Lucas to TodosSantos, where a dirt road through town connects with the paved highwayto La Paz. It’s a more Level, less winding alternative to Mexico1, with an average speed of 40 mph. The greatest benefit is access tobeaches that truly fulfill the claims of Baja tourism ads: they stretchfor miles and are virtually unpeopled (we met one surfer and a handfulof local fishermen).

Avid anglers can cast for croakers, corbina,sierra, and other surf fish. Todos Santos is a small farming town withthe dusty pastel quaintness that movie-set designers strive tore-create. The beaches are idyllic locales for self-contained campers. Othervisitors might consider a day trip by rental car from Cabo San Lucasresorts (most hotels will pack you a picnic lunch). A Volkswagen”bug” rents for $16 per day plus 11 cents a kilometer, amidsize car for $38 a day plus 18 cents a kilometer; add $4 a day forautomatic transmission, $8.50 for full insurance coverage. Fill up withgasoline in Cabo (or La Paz).

You’ll find no resorts and onlymodest provisions at tiny grocery stores in Todos Santos. Here’s a guide, from south to north, to help you recognizewhich nameless dirt roads lead to the best beaches and overlooks. Welist distances first in kilometers (miles in parentheses). Watch outfor cattle; don’t drive after dark and remember that late-summerand fall storms can alter road conditions. Because odometer readingscan vary from car to car, you may need to adjust our mileage readoutsslightly as you drive.

0 km (0 miles). From Mexico 1, just east of the Cabo San Lucasmarina, turn northward at a major intersection near a bright yellow autosupply store and a thatch-roofed restaurant called El Caracol. Bear leftpast military barracks. The road rises as you head inland, with thenewest pavement flowing ahead, a crisp black ribbon fringed with raggedmounds of red earth. Cardon dominate the landscape, along with othercactus and elephant trees; the sawtoothed Sierra de la Laguna risepurple-gray on the right. After a stretch of particularly dense cardon, you’ll encounterwithin the next 18 kilometers four detours (look for signs markedDesviacion). From rises, you can see panoramic views of the Pacific. 32.

4 km (20). A wide and level graded road cuts off to the west,leading in .6 km (.4 mile) to parking spots sheltered by dunes; scramblebetween or over them for views up and down the coast and to reach abeach with rocks at the south end, where anglers might cast a line.You’re likely to see bonyrumped range cattle browsing the dunes. 41 km (25,4). Look for a little sign on the side of the roadsaying Rancho El Cajoncito; turn west down a dirt road. At .

9 km (.5mile) you are at a fork. The left fork leads shortly to the beach justsouth of the point pictured at the top of page 68 (park at roadsidewhere it gets rutty). From here you can walk well over a milesouthward, exploring two coves with some rock-scrambling requiredbetween them. The right fork leads uphill (a bit rocky) to thepoint’s lookout for long views to the south as well as north toPunta Gasparino, 45.

7 km (28.3). A short unpaved spur west leads to a miles-longbeach that ends to the north in the rocky jumble of Punta La Tinaja.This is a particularly wide beach. Just north on the highway, anothercutoff leads to level parking that’s closer to the rocky point;walk over dune hillocks to reach the sand.

51.6 km (31.9). In December, a short detour here had become adrivable catch basin of rain from fall rainstorms (chubascos); statelysnowy egrets found it a popular water stop. 53.4 km (33.1). An easy cutoff to the left takes you northward,paralleling Mexico 19.

Shortly, you make a left turn leading to a beachwith perhaps the coast’s most dramatic backdrop: the rugged cliffsof Punta Gasparino to the north look as if they belong in the PacificNorthwest. You can walk for miles, but don’t play in the surf; atlow tide, a 4-foot-high cliff of sand separates the upper and lowerbeach, attesting to strong wave action. If you miss that trunoff, 1 km (.6 mile) north, look for a shparhairpin cutoff to the left; it slopes down alongside a dry wash to thesame beach. 65.1 km (40.

4). Turn left down a wide, well-graded dirt road;you’ll drive 2.7 km (1.7 miles), crossing a few cattle grates toreach the pristine arc of Playa Los Cerritos, the coast’ss bestsurfing beach and a good place to test the water. In the shallows, thesun glints off bits of feldspar that shine like grains of gold. Athatched shelter offers some shade. 73.

2 km (54.4). Opposite the cluster of white buildings that is ElPescadero, an uppaved cutoff bears left, paralleling the road. If yousee the primitive gate open (sometimes the ranch gate is closed),continue to Playa San Pedro, a favored camping spot of vacationers inthe spring. 76.0 km (49.

1). A wide, graded dirt road leads .5 km (.3 mile) toPlaya Punta Lobos, home of the Todos Santos fishing fleet, comprised ofsome two dozen colorful pangas. These boats come in with their catchesbetween 2 and 3 P.M. weekdays, a bit later on weekends. You’relikely to see locals spearfishing for octopus from rocks nearroad’s end.

This beach is not recommended for swimming, but youcan walk miles northward. 77.5 km (48.0). Paving ends at the town of Todos Santos.Colonial-looking buildings around the flagstone-paved town center datafrom the 1860s. Narrow roads lined with eucalyptus and concreteirrigation ditches fan out into surrounding farmland planted insugar-cane, citrus, mangoes, and bananas. Neon-bright blazes ofbougainvillea cloak fences and roofs.

Paving resumes on the north outskirts of town. From Todos Santosto Santos to La Paz, it’s 84 km (52 miles) of easy driving.


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