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Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Strange, and spectacular winter
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Mag Bay burning


My Turn
How safe is Baja? Friends and strangers often ask me this reasonable, but difficult question. I always try to give a balanced answer of my personable, first-hand observations that stretch over more than four decades of traveling in Baja. I hesitate to comment on the country in general, just as I would hate to comment on the United States overall, though I've never been a victim of crime in the U.S.

But when a popular Baja forum thread posed a similar question in a Google search recently, the original post basically outlined a 30-year history of Baja adventures with few problems … one being a flashlight missing after an inspection at a military checkpoint. The post went on to ask for only first-hand experiences good or bad, not hearsay stories. I was interested in the comments that grew to more than 10 pages in length. Responses ranged from frivolous to serious and thoughtful. When the frivolous comments were removed, the length decreased by one-third.

The WON Baja editor was quoted, "Jonathan Roldan from Tailhunter told me his van has never been broken into in Baja, but gets broken into almost every year in the States."

On my post where I wrote that I hadn't incurred any crime personally, a response was, "I hear you, and your 30 years of Baja traveling speaks for itself. I say @#$% ’em … if they want to believe that fishing and vacationing in Baja are dangerous, then they shouldn't go."

"The news sensationalizes everything! Otherwise what would they cover to get you to tune in? Gee folks, sorry! Nothing happened in town. You can all change the channel now."

"The press makes their money off advertising. They need to sensationalize it to get the ratings so they can charge more. They take the worst case examples and make it seem like it's everywhere."

"Have fished, camped, and worked in Baja for over 20 years and I have never once had a bad experience. Maybe a couple of traffic tickets settled car-side that were dodgy, but I definitely feel safer in Baja than most areas in the States or Canada. We always breathe a collective sigh of relief once we cross the border into Mexico. I once left my laptop on a table at Verdugo's in Los Barriles for two days and it was sitting right there when I got back. Also left two high-end mountain bikes for a day west of Colonet so we could hike around a headland. We talked to two locals before we left them there asking if it was safe and they looked at us puzzled and said, ‘This is Mexico, nobody is going to take your bikes.’ If you act respectfully and politely and avoid crazy party areas, Baja is probably one of the safest places you could ever visit.”

"Baja is scary … North of Ensenada."

"Never any real problems in Baja. At least none that were not my fault."

"The closest I've ever been to dying in Baja was the shotgun start of the 2011 WON Tuna Challenge"

. . . and so on.


These comments basically were very similar to my own experiences in Baja and the answers that I habitually respond with when asked the question.

Please don't misunderstand. I am not attempting to minimize the risks. They exist anywhere you visit. I just scheduled a trip to Costa Rica. After booking the trip, I received a lengthy e-mail titled Costa Rica Travel Advisory – a laundry list warning of things to be concerned about.

Anywhere we travel there seems to be more risks, and our 24/7 world of 2012 electronic media we live in will not let you forget it. While we don't want to hear of the negatives, it is probably a good thing … reminding all of us of the real dangers that do exist, however small. After all, regardless of the country, learning the rules, laws, where to go and not go should be a consideration; you aren't in Kansas anymore.

Baja is a special place for many, and what it offers far outweighs the oftentimes overblown media reports of danger; on the other hand, it is very frightening to others. I am not fond of the border area and usually begin to feel better the farther south I go; by the time I reach San Quintin I begin to feel like I'm back home. I've left the border town “feel” behind and have reached the soul of Baja, which is the same in the U.S. and probably most countries.

Having said all of this, my advice is pretty simple: it's kind of like tequila, if you don't like it, don't drink it …

i.am.not
I AM NOT fond of the Border area and usually begin to feel better the farther south I go, and by the time I reach San Quintin I begin to feel like I'm back home.

Reader Comments
Great article and so true. I am scared to death anywhere near the border, and the only scary things down further are not gangs, but rather the police, military and customs who all seem to want to go through your belongings looking for things that will result in fees ( mordida ) needing to be paid. I know there are some bad guy in Baja, especially in northern Baja, but once you get further south, and especially in the larger tourist cities you couldn't be any safer in the US than you are in Baja.
Jonas
Gary, thanks for taking the time to write that piece. I was just talking with Dave Gellatly about coming down soon. Just talking about Baja and East Cape got me excited. All the best, Rob Garrett
Rob Garrett
We feel the same way. We travel to Mazatlan each year and folks ask if we are afraid. The answer is yes we are very afraid. We have to spend overnight in Anchorage and then go to Seattle. Arriving in Mazatlan we breath a sigh of relief.Nothing else to fear. Good Fishing, Sewardtom
Tom Irvin
My first visit to Baja was in 1963, and I have made over 100 trips up and down the Baja. Granted, I have had one car break in, and a laptop stolen, but I should have taken it into the motel. I feel safe once I am south of San Quintine, and north of Cabo a few miles. Mostly its the drivers that scare me in Cabo. Don't drive at night unless you are forced to... Russ
Russell Fritz
well im glad theres ppleoe like that willing to help the needy ppleoe of baja california(san quintin)i wish i knew where i was born i asked my mother again and she said its either called el buen pastor or buen samaritano she said its in the middle of nowhere and from what she remembers it was run by americans..wish i knew.anyway thanks for ur time and effort to help this ppleoe
Baran
As far I know the people in San Quintin know the clniic as: Clinica Alma Luminosa which is run by the Samaritanos Voladores. The Flying Samaritans is a group of professionals from many different walks of life (Physicians, Dentist, Nurses, Pilots, translators, etc.) interested in helping provide healthcare services at no charge to the people in Baja California, Mexico who other wise have no access to medical care.
Takahiro
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