By Karen Deal
Baja draws people of all sorts, many of whom are searching for something in this colorful, mysterious land. As a professional symphony orchestra conductor, my life has been rich, rewarding, and filled with beautiful music. But two years ago, after a 30 year career, I found myself unexpectedly unemployed at age 55. With no paycheck, no severance, and no health insurance, I was forced to sell everything, including my home. Suddenly I was among the mass of unemployed Americans struggling to figure out what to do next. Life as I knew it disappeared, my calendar was empty for the first time ever, and I had to figure out what to do.
Using international real estate prices as a primary source, I searched the globe for a spot to hang my hat. I needed an internet connection to apply for jobs and a place that would allow me to live as long as possible on the proceeds from selling my house. The requirements for this temporary, pre-retirement location included great weather, scenic beauty, water or mountains, bucket list adventures, and affordable health care. If I was going to be unemployed, I was going to do it in style. After months of searching, I discovered the tiny town of Mulege, in Baja California Sur, Mexico - an oasis in the desert alongside a peaceful bay, surrounded by spectacular mountains and home to untold species of marine and bird life. I packed my dogs, Jake and Skye, my laptop and flute, and began a 4500 mile solo journey from one coast to the other.
Twelve days after leaving Virginia, I approached the border crossing at Tecate. The cross country journey had been an important time for reflection and reading up on Baja. I found the Baja Bound website really helpful in answering my questions, calming my fears, and I was able to get my Mexican car insurance online. All my paperwork was in order and I was ready to make my first border crossing. To my delight, it was incredibly easy. The border guards waved me through with no inspection, so I stopped to get my 6 month visitor’s visa, and off we went.
The road from Tecate to Mulege is one of the most beautiful and interesting I have ever traveled. It is exciting. The highway is narrow, winding through the wine country and up to incredible plateaus with vista views for miles.
Arriving in Ensenada, I pulled over to look at the Pacific Ocean and realized that Jake and Skye had never seen a great body of water like this. We were all spellbound by the new sounds and smells, and the sea gulls and pelicans flying at eye level from our perch on a bluff.
The entire drive through Mexico was exquisite. The Baja Cactus Motel in El Rosario provided a very nice room, great bed, and allowed the dogs, all for only $28. A spectacular 12 hour drive through the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve filled the following day. The variation in terrain and diversity of cactus life was like driving through a National Geographic magazine. I kept wishing I was a geologist. Amazing rock formations, volcanoes, vast stretches of wildness abounded. It is one of those places where you want to stop every mile and take a picture.
There are no gas stations across this area, so I was careful to be prepared. Even so, I stopped and topped off the tank when I saw a Mexican family selling gas from a barrel in the back of his truck.
When we finally reached Santa Rosalia, I had my first view of the Sea of Cortez; a remarkable body of water that my childhood hero, Jacque Cousteau, called, "the aquarium of the world." The day was a feast for the eyes and senses and now as night fell, we arrived in Mulege. All was dark and quiet. I continued to drive until I saw a small, unlit sign marked, Posada. I saw a palapa full of people eating and drinking, so I got out of my car, walked over, and said, “Good evening, my name is Karen and I’ve driven all the way from Virginia. I’m an orchestra conductor - I just lost my job and I don’t really know where I’m supposed to be – so here I am.” In a flash I was given a glass of wine, a plate of food, a bowl of water for the dogs, and a place to stay for the night. Unknown to me, it was Valentine’s Day, 2012, and my heart felt full for the first time in a long time as I played Amazing Grace and My Funny Valentine for them on my flute. I found a group of friends and fellow adventurers, all drawn to Baja and the respite she provides.
I am building a new life in Mulege now, playing my flute and teaching classes. Baja fills the senses. And that bucket list, well so far I have watched humpback whales at play, snorkeled with several hundred manta rays jumping about, swum with a 26 foot whale shark, discovered a colony of endangered blue footed booby birds, released baby turtles into the Pacific, played my flute to some whales in San Ignacio, and kissed a baby grey whale on the nose. Not bad for being unemployed!
Changed some money. Good rate and friendly people.
Very convenient, great price !!
Reasonable prices and we thought best chance to actually get results if we needed them.