Thursday, January 22, 2015

Road Tripping Baja, Mexico - From Tijuana to Ensenada to San Quintin

Another country visited, another flag to add to the count list.  Really fun road tripping filled with food glorious food and adventure!

It should be a shame that I didn't cross the border to Tijuana when I was in San Diego in 2007 - afterall it's only 30 minutes away and so easy to step over!  But this time I was not to be denied!  We drove in from San Diego and hit the so called border without any problems - fast and easy.  Hey, if you want to come to Mexico, just come, we welcome you!
With no plans in mind, we drove straight for food - as recommended for its creative tacos (my god, my taco journey really hit its mark in Mexico!).  Taco Kokopelli was the place we hit first.  Though not exactly hungry we had to try their brand of tacos - octopus, shrimp and someone was being adventurous for cricket tacos.  And their array of sauces to go with.  Their tacos are different, its creative and actually ain't bad! Didn't try their fish tacos so couldn't really compare to Oscars, but I think I still find Oscars a lot better.  But if you are in Tijuana, do hit Kokopelli for tacos!  We had 5 tacos for just under $13!

Taco Kokopelli

Pulpo = Octopus taco

Which salsa do you want

Camaron = Shrimp taco

Cricket! Not for me
We also hit the Centro Cultural Center for a bit of art and cultural infusion.  We took the long walk to get there and acquainted ourselves with Tijuana.  It reminds me of the less developed side of Malaysia in JB, the houses and the streets, and also speaks of Philippines in certain way.  A vast difference stepping in from San Diego to take myself back in time, kinda like a kampung feeling but not exactly kampung.  Along the way, we also passed by Kitchen Boulevard, where several food trucks were parked to serve customers.  Was gonna check this place out for food but we got distracted by other food places after - Too many good food to choose from, something's gotta give!

And of course we took a walk along the tourist street in Centro - Av Revolucion where you will see the big Arch and a lot of tourist shops and bars.  As it was winter, the streets though busy were not as busy as in summer.  Still interesting to walk along the streets and be called out by the shop hawkers.  And also make time to visit Caesar restaurant and bar - apparently where the Caesar salad was invited and magic happens!  Walking into the bar, you get a rather old school feel about the bar, yet new.  They have old machines around the bar, refitted to look old but the machines are pretty new.  And an order or two of margaritas is a must!  The food menu is pretty interesting and according to my partner in crime pretty old school stuff.  But we were not planning on dinner as yet.  Dinner was somewhere else - a check on google and a toss of coin brought us to La Querencia - it was a tough choice as there were a lot of restaurants to pick from.  And we were happy with our final choice!  We stuffed our faces with the seafood selection - scallop cerviche, grilled scallops and grilled octopus!  Portions were huge and the price paid for worth the food.  And with wine to go with, and the mariachi man serenading me.  All in all a great dinner with great food and company.

Callo = scallop cerviche

We didn't know what callo meant and when we realized it was scallop, that was immediately the one we went for

Grilled octopus

And the night doesn't end without a visit to a bar or 2!  Where I tried for the first time Beer mixed with spice - it has a weird taste but ain't bad.  Gotta try something new eh?  The 2nd bar turned out to be a bar-cum-karaoke place, where we just drank pretty good sparkling wine and listened to the locals sing in spanish and some english songs.  Was a night of a lot of drinking and fun and laughter, where the partner in crime probably doesn't remember much of the night :).  It was a fantastic night, one of the best nights of my trip and in Mexico, a great night to remember for me.
Beer with spice, not bad
Karaoke in Mexico
Is Tijuana dangerous? Apparently they cleaned up A LOT and while there I didn't fear for my life, I didn't feel threatened walking down the streets.  Drop by for a visit if you are near!
Next morning, we continued our road trip down to Ensenada, both a little hungover from the night before.  The drive is smooth, going through just pretty much one straight road through a couple of tolls along the coast.  Stopping by one of the beaches for an afternoon nap before continuing down to Ensenada for the night.  Ensenada, upon reaching, seemed pretty tame as compared to Tijuana.  It was winter afterall and not many people were there.  Streets were pretty quiet and the popular bars pretty much empty.  It's huge for cruise ships to stop over at, and when they do, you see more people on the streets.  We settled for Ryerson 51 for our dinner of yet again some tacos.  The deco of the restaurant is pretty cool, and finding the toilet is a matter of "Follow the finger".  And I must comment about the churros we had from a small window shop along the way of the tourist street - Yum Yum, you can choose from a variety of fillings to be pumped into the hollow churro and I chose chocolate.  Which I absolutely loved. 

Follow the hand

Our road trip continued on a coastal drive to La Bufadora where we stopped in the middle of the journey to venture down the canyons and basically look around.  The drive along the coast is amazing with the amazing view of the coastline and the blue blue sea.  At La Bufadora, the main attraction is the blowhole, of course you have to pay to see it from the viewpoint, but we hiked the canyons and viewed it from the other side for free.  And we continued the hike over to the further out canyons, where no one hiked and were rewarded with an amazing view of the coast line and ocean and a perfect place for some peaceful meditation.  And onwards drive to San Quintin was through inland road passing through mountains and deep canyon/valley.  The view is amazing with all the mountains surrounding the road, and the drive is easy till it wound around the mountain road.  However, San Quintin was a disappointment. Maybe because we arrived at night and we had no information whatsoever about San Quintin.  The town is small and pretty much dead and we could not find a paved road to the beach - had planned to camp on the beach but that pretty much fell through and we drove all the way back to Ensenada again.
I felt like I was back in Australia
I love rock formations, canyons and mountains
Blowhole at La Bufadora
How amazing is this view!
Our next day itinerary was supposed to be heading to Guadalupe hot springs and canyon but the weather was rejecting us and we decided against it.  Wanted to head to the sand dunes to do some ATV riding but again the weather was against us (the sand dunes we spotted on our drive from TJ to Ensenada).  So it was back to San Diego where the road signs frustrated us to the extreme.  And the wait at the customs took about 2H. Easy to go into Mexico but as usual with the US, getting in requires long interrogation and checks because that's what they do! 
Baja, Mexico road trip was fun!  Wish we could have gone to the hot springs but sometimes in life you can't have everything!  I really liked the drive along the coast and through the mountains and food in Mexico is really something else.  And I would like to believe that the waters there should be really awesome for diving.  And I mean the food? I'm pretty sure I had maxed out my calorie intake for a week just in one day in Mexico.  Yet my fat pants got looser while my partner in crime got fatter
Fish and prawn taco from a random roadside stall. Awesome cos we get to put any toppings we like though I wished the fish/prawn weren't deep fried

He ordered Mexican coffee turned out it's spiked with 3 types of alcohol and burnt with flame! Almost 3 min prep for a glass

Typical Mexican breakfast  HUGE portions, CHEESE and sauces and beans

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