There is quite a bit of free beach camping in Baja, but when there isn’t, it’s 200 pesos. Pretty much any place they charge you to stay, it’s going to be 200 pesos, or about 10 bucks. What do you get for 10 bucks? Well, the beach . . . and usually baños and basura. Yay, bathrooms and trash disposal! Sometimes you might even get a palapa – a shade structure made of wood with a palm frond roof – although we never did.
You might be thinking, “Wow! 10 bucks for a campsite and you even get a toilet!” (Or you might not.) Let me clarify what is meant by toilet. There is something that is definitely a toilet – just like the one you have in your home – sitting on the ground. Usually it has 3 or 4 walls around it – and I use the term “walls” loosely here – sometimes it even has a door and/or a roof. There is no tank. There is a 55 gallon drum nearby filled with seawater. Using a bucket, you will use this seawater to flush the toilet.
It’s really not as bad as it sounds. And that’s mainly because we have a toilet in the van and don’t have to use that horror show! But it is nice to have a place to empty our pee jug.
After six weeks we arrive at Paradise
So after several weeks of free and cheap camping we arrived at the town of San Ignacio. A lovely little inland town with a mission and really adorable town square. There is no free camping in San Ignacio so we stopped in to a little RV park called Paraíso Misionál just a five minute walk from the square. Guess how much it cost. Yup. 200 pesos. But this was nothing like the 200 peso beach camping. Oh no. This adorable little oasis (for real it was a literal oasis in the desert, with palm trees and grass!) was beautifully landscaped, with such luxuries as tables and fire pits. But los baños! The bathrooms were new, clean and adorably decorated. And there were showers! Hot showers, with electric lights! And tell us laundry is coming soon.
So, I was waiting for another guest to finish in the bathroom, and while I was standing there I decided to take a picture of the hand washing sink (these are almost always outside the bathrooms). It was a lovely mosaic-tiled bowl on an old Singer sewing machine base.
“Buenos Dias!” It was the campground owner Tere. We had only spoken to her husband Miguel. “Buenos Dias! Como está?” I greeted her back. “What a beautiful place you have here,” I told her in Spanish. She told me that she and her husband bought the property just 15 months prior and had removed over 300 truck loads of garbage from the site. She and Miguel and their son Andres had spent countless hours creating a welcoming retreat for the weary traveler.
In the 20 minutes we talked, she spoke not a word of English. But she spoke slowly so I could understand her. She told me of her coming grandchild, of her daughters who were responsible for the design elements like the driftwood handles on the shower doors, and that Miquel made the beautiful mosaic bowl sink. We talked about Princesa the donkey and the new huerta Miguel and Andres were planting in one corner of the campground. Her face shone when she spoke of her family, and I thought of my family.
After a month and a half on the peninsula I had gotten pretty good with the language. I only had to look up one word while we were talking. I said that she must be very . . . and at a loss for the word I put my fist to my heart. She didn’t get it. So I consulted my phone. Orgulloso, I said. And her face lit up and she smiled. Yes, she was very proud.
I asked for a photo, and she agreed, but not before putting on her sunglasses to hide her eyes. “Tan vieja,” she said. I tried to express that those lines on her face were evidence of a life well-lived. I don’t know if she understood, but I did get her to take them off.
Joe and I are already talking about next winter’s plans. If we head back to Baja, they will most certainly include a visit to Paraíso Misionál, and Tere and Miguel’s paradise.
Cover photo shows Nowhere Van in the oasis that is the Paraíso Misionál campground.
2 thoughts on “Camping in Baja”
What a great conversation. We tend to be able to understand Spanish pretty well when people speak slowly. It is great to be able to connect with people in their own language.
So many ordinary things are a work of art in Mexico. Beauty is everywhere.
Yea it is!