Why is there a Baja California

Baja California:

The interactive peninsula

Baja California is untamed and beautiful, unfriendly and yet friendly. Mexico's Pacific Peninsula is larger than Italy and twice as long as Florida. Yet it seems to have sprung straight from the hand of God. Because Baja is adventure, loneliness, heat and fascination at the same time. And Baja is the most impressive proof that the desert is alive.

What wrested its existence from nature on this hot spot on earth survives everything else. Because Baja California, that impassable peninsula south of the US tourist strongholds of Los Angeles and San Diego, is stubbornly ignored by the Mexican rain god. The result: permanent sun. It colors the sky a dark blue and mercilessly dries everything out.

Spanish conquerors therefore named the country "Calida Fornax", which means nothing other than "hot oven". An apt description when you consider that the humidity is very low and the temperatures easily reach 40 degrees in summer. From July to October there are frequent tropical cyclones, which herald the beneficial precipitation in the southernmost part of the peninsula. But just a few raindrops are enough to make the ground explode. Then Baja waves in such an enormous sea of ​​flowers that it takes your breath away. Nothing is reminiscent of the endless, brittle beauty, and finally it becomes apparent that 2,500 plant species live in this desert, many of which have existed since prehistoric times.

The cactus garden of Mexico

Baja also rightly bears the name "Mexico's cactus garden": 120 species grow here, fifty of which are nowhere else in the world. They protrude into the moonlit night like eerie ghost fingers, and it is only their ingenuity that gives them their biblical age of up to 1,000 years. They contract, reflect sunlight or create water reservoirs to protect themselves from drying out. In the cactus forests only two rule: the eagle and the vulture. Yes, and then there's the wind. A north-westerly breeze blows here almost all year round at up to 50 kilometers per hour. It is almost unbearably hot during the day, but at least it keeps the mosquitos away.

At first glance, Baja doesn't seem to be made for humans. The 1,150 kilometer long peninsula is still one of the most sparsely populated areas on earth. The population in the states of Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur is four million, but two million of them live in Tijuana and 140,000 in the southern metropolis of La Paz. For centuries, La Paz was the center of pearl divers, but as early as 1936 there were the oysters became infected with a mysterious disease and died out. Today tourism is the number one source of income.

If the peninsula was previously considered indomitable, it is now attracting more and more people. 90 percent of them come from the USA. They cavort in the duty-free northern border region and on the southern tip between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. Tijuana holds the lonely record of 30 million border crossings worldwide! Here Americans leave their money in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and of course at bullfighting. And here two worlds meet: the USA and Latin America. The capital Mexicali leaves no doubt about it: it has a Mexican flair, but with its 800,000 inhabitants it is a modern city. A visit to the Museo del Estado is definitely worth it. It provides information about the nature, culture and history of Baja California. But special attractions are the Basque ball game Jai Alai and of course the bullfight.

More than desert and sand - beaches like paradise

Meanwhile, word got around that Baja is more than just sand and desert. And that's true: no matter where you are, you never have to go far to one of the beautiful, often lonely beaches that line the 3,000-kilometer-long coastline like pearls. The deep-sea anglers came to the peninsula first, and in the informed circles Cabo San Lucas was soon considered an insider tip. Spanish missionaries founded the first settlement here in 1730 and decimated the population of Baja California from 40,000 to 3,700 people by 1842 due to smallpox and syphilis they brought with them. A century later, fishermen came first, then backpackers, and finally millionaires.

Cabo San Lucas is located exactly where the Pacific and the Sea of ​​Cortes meet and the El Arco, a natural stone arch, has formed off the coast. The Sea of ​​Cortes was formed when the peninsula separated from the mainland millions of years ago - a process that is still ongoing today: year after year, the peninsula drifts almost six centimeters northwest into the Pacific. The Sea of ​​Cortes is characterized by its extraordinary abundance of fish. At least 850 species live in the warm water or come here to spawn. It is a dream come true for snorkelers and day trippers on glass bottom boats. Beautiful beaches with gentle waves, rocky coasts with strong surf and offshore islands populated by water birds, sea lions and seals move the nearby sandy desert into the distance.

Paradise for water sports enthusiasts

Today Cabo San Lucas has blossomed into Mexico's fourth largest seaside resort, right after Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. In addition, it has now reached the water sports enthusiasts and sun-seekers that Baja is a paradise. And the offer for them ranges from water skiing to kayaking. The Dorado for windsurfers is in the south near Los Barilles, because from 11 a.m. the strong northwest wind and pleasant water temperatures of 22 degrees ensure ideal conditions. Diving expert Cousteau even declared the coast to be the most beautiful aquarium in the world.

If you come here for deep sea fishing, you can go on board in Loreto, La Paz, Los Barriles, and Los Cobos and, depending on the season, fish marlin, yellowfish, perch or wahoo. The Pacific coast, on the other hand, with its surf is the mecca of surfers. In the winter months, the waves reach dimensions that otherwise only apply to Australia and Hawaii. So it's no wonder that the surf elite simply calls the beaches on the island of Todos Santos "Killer Beach". But only those who are mobile get to know the idiosyncratic peninsula, see remote fishing villages, the mountain range in the north, the volcanic mountain formations, the high pastures, the highest mountain "Picacho del Diablo" at 3,096 meters or the strawberry plantations in San Ignacio.

Behind Cantamar he encounters extensive sand dunes, which serve as a practice area for motocross drivers and hang-gliders, discovers cave paintings in the Sierra San Francisco and ends up in All Saints Bay. This is where nature is at its most beautiful: surrounded by a rainbow, the sea rushes against the rocks and shoots up to 20 meters in one place. This huge water fountain is called "La Bufadora".

1700 kilometers of solitude

Since 1976 the only main road connected the north with the south, travelers have come to even the most inaccessible areas. The so-called "Transpeninsular" extends from the American border to Cabo San Lucas, the southernmost point of the peninsula. That's almost 1,700 kilometers of solitude. From Tijuana to Ensenada, the Transpeninsular is developed as a motorway. If you want to enter from the States, you don't even need a Mexican tourist visa for three days. However, he is then only allowed to drive as far as Ensenada, Mexico's largest wine-growing region. The port of the popular seaside resort was founded 400 years ago and served as a transshipment point for mission stations and farms.

However, if you do not continue, you will miss the greatest adventure. Because the most spectacular experience is watching the gray and humpback whales. They cavort in the Pacific lagoons from December to March. And there are not just isolated specimens, but over 3,000 of these 15-meter-long and 20-tonne marine mammals. Blue whales can also be seen here and there. With a length of at least 28 meters, they are the largest mammals in the world. By Heike van Braak