Every now and then, I pull out just random bits and pieces that I want to pass onto you in this column. There’s no particular theme or subject, just some things you might find interesting and hopefully useful on your Baja journeys!
Just a little more than a year ago, we were in a much different condition here in Southern Baja. Hurricane Odile, the strongest storm ever to hit Baja with winds over 150 mph, had left a path of destruction unseen in our region.
Although the majority of tourists stranded during the storm were home, a month after the chubasco, many of us were still without electricity, water, and phones. We were the “lucky ones.”
At least most of us had places to sleep in albeit damaged domiciles. The hardest hit, usually the poorest, lost everything they had when their homes were leveled by the winds, rains and floods.
Many of us with businesses, suffered extreme damages. Some irreparably and thus causing many lost jobs.
A year later, many of the scars are still there. Many homes never were repaired and, like many businesses, stand vacant. Broken windows, uprooted trees and damaged roofs and piles of rubble that were merely piled and pushed aside can still be found.
But, Baja and it’s resilient folks rebounded well. The new Cabo Airport that was going to take 6-8 months to repair, started receiving flights in a month, even though, it was still missing walls and a roof.
The military and police quickly restored order and the power companies worked around the clock to get the grids back up. They were still going weeks after Odile had left.
Donations of food, water, clothing, generators, water-makers poured in. And, bit-by-bit, Baja stood up again and got onto its feet.
(Sidebar note: As I’m writing this, the Pacific mainland side of Mexico is bracing for Hurricane Patricia, which forecasters are saying could be the STRONGEST HURRICANE EVER RECORDED ON THE PLANET IN HISTORY. Category 5 with winds of 200-250 mph. As of the time you’re reading this, we’ll know more. Hoping for the best for our amigos to the south.)
Speaking of airports and travel, the new pedestrian Express Bridge from the U.S. to the Tijuana Airport should be opening by December. The 525-foot private bridge, will allow folks to park their cars; check in; and walk to the airport. For a small fee.
But, the popular new Tijauna airport will now be more accessible and should be a win-win for everyone. Southern Californians will no longer have to drive their vehicles across the border to park or take shuttles from the U.S. side.
Currently, a growing number of Americans, especially southern Californians, utilize extremely economic flights from Tijuana to access destinations like La Paz and Cabo San Lucas. Additionally, the airport is a major hub for airlines flying to numerous tourist destinations on the Mexican mainland as well as Central America and South America.
Making it easier will generate more airline business. Certainly, it will make it a lot easier than having to get through the border then navigating the circuitous series of boulevards and sidestreets of Tijuana to get to the airport.
“MANANA!” Similarly, all of southern Baja is waiting for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to open the new highway…basically cut the ribbon…for the new toll road that will ostensibly reduce the drive from the Los Cabos area to La Paz in half. Currently the drive takes 3-4 hours.
Given that the state capital of La Paz strangely has no direct flights from the United States into the city, everyone must fly into Cabo San Lucas then make the long drive north. Although a pretty drive, it makes for a laborious travel day for Americans wanting to visit the capital. Commercially, as well, it will save time and expenses for commercial traffic between the two areas.
The new highway has been opened for weeks and, tourists and locals alike are anxious for the ribbon cutting which keeps getting postponed. Actually, the better word might be “frustrated” as hotels and businesses are especially left wondering and waiting. All we keep hearing is “next week!”
Lastly, if you’re planning to come down and visit us here in Baja or anywhere else in Mexico, you should strongly consider changing more dollars for pesos than usual. I know a lot of folks are coming for the holidays and also for fishing tournaments.
Everyone down here still loves U.S. presidents on green paper. Don’t get me wrong.
However, with the devaluation of the peso in recent months, you can get anywhere from 13-18 pesos for the dollar. That means, having pesos in hand goes a lot further when you’re here travelling.
For example, a taco plate and beer on a menu costing 100 pesos a few years ago, or a taxi ride of the same price, would be $10 U.S. when the rate was 10:1 (pesos: dollars). Now, with the dollar growing stronger, 100 pesos is really maybe only $6 or $7 dollars U.S.
If you pay in dollars, especially with small vendors like the taxi driver or a street cart, they might not have change or the change will surely be in pesos. You’ll lose a bit on the transaction coming and going.
Many Mexican banks won’t let you change money, even if you have an account. We have found that the best places and the best rates can be found at the airport, money exchange kiosks in cities and interesting, the larger food market chains.
Safe travels all. Bien viajes!