Baja California - by Small Plane

I owned a small plane for many years.

A 1958 Cessna 175.

(4-seater. Tricycle gear. Franklin engine. Good for short runways.)

Bought it used in Liberia, West Africa in 1982.
I learned to fly there.

Built in 1958! 
A couple of missionaries flew it to West Africa. 
From the US. Via Brazil. Yikes.

Every landing in Liberia had a welcoming committee of small boys. Especially for a "missy" pilot!

I learned to fly over the jungles of West Africa.
Serious "bush" flying.

Yes, that's the runway. Straight ahead. 

Flying in Africa - is a very cool story. For another day.

But it made me comfortable flying into short fields and dirt airstrips.

Landing strip - by the beach. Handy - if that's where you want to set up your tent.

And - it brings us to to Baja.
It's relevant.

Because - the best parts of Baja are visited by small plane.
I kept that plane from Africa.

Flew it from Liberia to Switzerland when I worked there.
Then brought it along when we moved to New Mexico.

(My company, Pan Am, said I could ship a 'vehicle'.
They probably didn't expect it to be a plane.)

Where's Baja?
Not everyone knows.

Baja California is not in California.
It's in Mexico.

It's the long lean peninsula off the western coast of Mexico.
Between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. 

Below California.
Thus the name "Baja".

"Lower" California.
But not part of the US.

(Of course, that doesn't bother us.
We're from New Mexico. 

Which is not in Mexico.)

Mulege. The landing strip is to the left. See it?

Baja is remote and crazy beautiful.

Not Cabo San Lucas, down at the far end.
Not Ensenada, up near San Diego.

But the thousand or so kilometers in between.

The Fish Whisperer?

 It's a dry, dramatic, desert peninsula.
Amazing coastline and craggy mountains.

Wonderful for flying.

And the water is the perfect temperature.

There's wildlife:
Birds. Dolphins. Reptiles. Fish. Whales. Corals.

Amazing plants.
Ocean life.

With hardly anyone around.

It's not real easy to get to some parts of Baja without a small plane. 

So one time, Stan and I flew down to a tiny airstrip over Christmas.
I'd been there before, and wanted to show it to him.

Yep -  that's the runway. To the left. 

We'd brought our tent and a couple of sleeping bags.

Stan always brings his guitar. Even to the beach. In a very small plane.

We set up camp on the beach, under a straw palapa umbrella.
About 100 yards from the airplane.

It was parked on the sandy airstrip.

The view from our tent.

No one else around.

But there was a place nearby that sold fish tacos and cold beer.

That'll do.

For Christmas, they made pumpkin tamales.


View of our 'home' from an early morning swim in the sea.

Landing at Punta Chivato. Nearby. Easier than at San Francisquito.

When my kids were small, we'd pack them into the back of the plane. 

Mikey and Erik, collecting shells at Punta Chivato.

Head across the Sea of Cortez - to Baja California Sur.

We could make it in a day from Albuquerque.

Crossing the border into Mexico at Nogales.
(You had to stop at both sides of the border to clear customs.)

Kilian and Trish

The beach - the Sea of Cortez - is calm and shallow.

Perfect for small children.

Someday, they'll finish paving the road.

Maybe they have already.

The place may become wildly popular.

Another Cabo San Lucas.
High-rise hotels. Hip bars. Mega malls.

Who knows?

I'm just glad I had the opportunity to experience it - for many years - like this.

Welcome to Baja.