Sure, it is easy to see the pictures of crystal clear, turquoise ocean bays and say we need to travel through Baja, Mexico but it is not for the faint of heart. A year ago when we were researching selling our house completely by owner without a realtor on either side, we read that you needed to have balls of steel! And you do have to have tough balls to sell your house without a realtor.
But you know what? Succeeding through that process toughened us up mentally in order to travel through Baja. There are only a few tough (or crazy) enough to drive this highway and travel all the way through Baja. Here are all the warnings to prepare for this challenge.
#1: The Mex 1 highway is included on the list of Most Dangerous Roads in the world to travel. I’m glad I didn’t realize this fact until we over halfway through Baja. World’s Most Dangerous Roads
#2: The Mex 1 highway is unnervingly narrow with each lane only 10 feet wide. Our motorhome with mirrors is about 8 feet wide, semi trucks are slightly wider and there are no shoulders. So you do the math on how much room is left between the trucks and RVs passing by each other within inches. You cannot take your eye off of this road for a second as this road is completely unforgiving.
#3: The highway has hundreds of hairpin turns around mountainsides with no guardrails or a very minimal rail with dents or bends from previous travelers. There are cliffs, bluffs, canyons, and caverns over every edge. Even when the highway is straight and flat, the asphalt is built up many inches so you still don’t want to drop off the edge.
This following video from YouTube shows a side trip on Highway 5 to San Felipe for the first 2 1/2 minutes. We’ll be driving this section on our return trip to the U.S. in order to avoid a pothole section, but after the 2:30 time in the video it’s all Highway 1 and shows exactly the road conditions we’ve experienced including driving around a tipped over semi truck on a mountainside.
#4: The potholes are seriously major holes that require swerving, dodging, and braking at least during a 100 mile stretch in central Baja. Here’s a typical pothole image. This is why in every town even the small towns that have nothing, you will always see a tire shop called a llantera.
#5: In Mexico, they love to use speed bumps called topes (toe pays) for slowing down traffic instead of a stop sign or stop light. You will see this sign a lot and heed its warning or you might lose a car part or tooth filling! This is the main reason for not driving at night.
#6: And there are a lot of ALTO signs, AKA stop signs. As a gringo, you better stop to avoid a ticket, but then hope you don’t get rear ended or t-boned as the Mexicans mostly see ALTO signs as yield signs.
#7: Mex 1 is only a 2 lane road which results in a lot of passing. If you have a car behind you wanting to pass, you’re supposed to turn on your left turn blinker meaning there are no approaching cars or blind spots and it is safe for the car following to pass. If there is room somewhere you should also move over to the right or slow down giving them more space to pass.
There is none of this passive aggressive behavior like in our home state of not allowing others to pass or merge. It’s actually kind of refreshing like teamwork. You just have to pray when going around curves that there isn’t someone passing and meeting you in a head-on collision. Hazard lights and headlights are also used for warning of slow downs.
#8: There is literally at least one memorial on the side of the highway within every mile. And these are not a bouquet of flowers or a balloon, these are major serious memorials to the departed. More video from YouTube to show what driving on Mex 1 is all about. Minutes 2:00-3:00 are not meant to be callous, but will show the intricacies of the memorials. RIP.
#9: Mexico is an open range country meaning cattle, horses, and burros graze wherever they want in the desert. And dogs are totally different in Mexico. They also run free and somehow know how to navigate through any traffic. The dogs never seem to fight with each other. When you’re in a café, a dog will just wonder through but won’t jump on you or beg. Dogs are very independent in Mexico.
#10: In addition to crossing the border and figuring that all out, there are inspection points by the military, police, and agriculture. It is intimidating, but we have not had any issues at any of the inspections so far. At one of our inspection points, a couple weeks ago, a military man checked inside our motorhome and proceeded to the refrigerator. Took out 2 cervezas with our approval to share with his partner. They chugged them down and then sent us on our way. You get used to seeing them armed with their machine guns even at the grocery store. No problema!
Patience and balls of steel have rewarded us well with no issues and countless beautiful locations along the Mex 1 highway in Baja. Muchas Gracias to Mr. Ramble who has done 99% of our well over 1000 miles Baja driving very safely without incident.
Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel. ~Napoleon Hill
C'mon, we want you to RAMBLE Along with us!
Receive an update for new blog posts by filling in your first name and email address.