The following trip was conducted by Rovers North back in 1996. Harold Pietschmann of The Adventure Company was our guide, and provided a wealth of knowledge from his many, many years exploring the Baja peninsula.
Rovers North of course needs no introduction. If you own a Land Rover product, you have to know Rovers North.
The Adventure Company conducts off-road classes in such famous locations as the Rubicon. Harold is no stranger to Land Rovers, as he has won position as finalist for the Camel Trophy, and in the past has had a Defender 90 in his fleet of class vehicles.
Rovers North can be reached at www.roversnorth.com
Harold can be reached at www.4x4abc.com
BAJA, ITíS WHAT YOU DONíT TAKE THATíS MOST IMPORTANT
It's late April, 1996, and Iím sitting here in the relative comfort of my Southern California home, and itís suddenly very quiet and lonely. The other members of our Baja Expedition team Iíve shared the last fifteen days with have just taken off like Indiana Jones leaving for the next adventure, and they left me behind. Now Iím sipping on the last Mexican beer, discovered in the bottom of the cool water in the ice chest, muddied from sodas that have burst from the constant pounding and shaking over the last several days. One beer, a rock in my shoe, ten rolls of exposed Ektar, and a few new personality marks in the well-used Range Rover are all the material remains of the trip. In the past 15 days Iíve been sick, sunburned, sore, suffered heat exhaustion, and impaled my leg with 100-plus barbed cactus spines, and I want to go back today and do it all again. I think Iíve got the Baja bug!
Sixteen days ago I rushed through the last day at work to close the months business before leaving. The Final packing started at 10 PM and went on until well after midnight, and I had to leave by 4:30 AM to get to our starting point in Hollywood Hills. All of the basics were covered, and everything needed to get the well used Range Rover and well used owner through two weeks of off-roading was accounted for. Water, gas cans, tent, sleeping bag, spares, tools, emergency food, extra flashlights, tarps, etc. all found their way into the three storage bins, securely strapped in the back of the Rover. Although almost every material item was used during the trip, there were a few pieces of extra baggage that should have been left behind. If you go, here are a few important things to forget.
First, leave behind any item that you have to worry about damaging or losing because you can be guaranteed that dust, dirt, and rocks will be everywhere after the first day, and in the constant 100+ degree heat you will drop and misplace things on a regular basis. Whether your favorite hat, or camera, or vehicle; if you bring it make sure that you donít spend your time worrying about it instead of enjoying Baja.
Second, leave your entire concept of how to live life behind and learn to appreciate Baja and the people on their own terms. Although itís only minutes from downtown San Diego, the whole concept of life in Baja is very different from what we have learned in the US and Europe. Miles and miles of rugged barren land has a very special beauty, entirely different from lush green forests of the Rockies or Alps. Up on a cliff the solitary cactus struggles to grow between the smallest crack in the rock, its single blossom reminding you that even in the barren land there is a determination to create and perpetuate life. Tiny restaurants that you would never consider eating in at home are the best in town, and serve absolutely wonderful food, whether basic tacos and burritos, or platters heaped with varieties of local fresh fish caught just that afternoon. Baja is close, but itís a world away.
Third, and most important, leave your problems and sense of urgencies at home. Two nights in a row I woke up having nightmares about what was going on at the office, and for the first three days I had an unexplained desire to rush through whatever I was doing. In a more traditional holiday trip the constant flurry of activities and travel schedules will mask pent-up frustrations and anxiety that are meant to be forgotten. But in Baja, the solitude, open landscape, and slower pace leaves this extra unwanted baggage fully exposed, just as the barren landscape reveals the beauty of that single flowering cactus.
In Baja you will have a sharp reminder that perhaps the rush to make everything more and better is taking away from your life. If you can leave the right things behind and adapt to Bajaís ways, youíll get the Baja bug and youíll take a lot more than a rock in your shoe and a few snapshots home with you.
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