Right after the dawn of the millennium, the “Escalera Nautica Blueprint” appeared on the horizon of Baja California, a mega project surrounding the Sea of Cortez to construct 20 new airports, 10 commercial ports, a string of marinas, 34 golf courses, a dozen new hotels, 6500 condos and connecting superhighways / sea ferries. Escalera Nautica means Nautical Staircase and I thought the time has come for Baja California to make a decision and polish this "rough diamond". I saw the beneficiaries-to-be jumping on the bandwagon, but National Geographic magazine raised the question “Can Mexico Wild Baja California Endure New Marinas?” and I have watched the debated developments, which has taken years.
According to 2009 news reports in a number of Mexican publications, FONATUR (Federal Tourism Promotion Fund) has announced that the much ballyhooed Nautical Ladder's final form has been canceled and the assets of the 10 projects that have either been completed or partially completed will be sold. FONATUR, which over the past six years received more than $1500 million pesos of investment for the project from the federal government, made clear that they no longer have a budget to further invest in the project.
Alas, the ambitious project seems to have disappeared like a soap bubble! - another Baja brouhaha. The one I remember was a story of Japanese Zaibatsu hotelier, who showed a keen interest in developing a fishing port facing the Sea of Cortez into a Disney style hotel resort with tennis courts, golf courses and activities such as whale watching, sports fishing, scuba diving, bungee jumping, ...etc. and that was when I arrived in San Diego in the 1970s.
Baja California is the 4th longest peninsula, after Kamchatka, Malaysia, and the Antarctic Larsen. It is approximately 1500 km (932 miles) from Tijuana or Ensenada to La Paz on Highway 1. The bus ride takes more than 24 hours. I have heard from my friend that he drove all night on a grueling ride returning from Cabo San Lucas back to San Diego. It was during the safe old days when you did not encounter thugs.
My first trip to Baja was a chartered Cesna to Loreto. I saw Picacho Del Diablo, the Devil Mountain and Sierra San Pedro and the mirror-like surface of the Sea of Cortez on the way. We were a party of scuba beginners and the shortage of scuba gear in Loreto forced us to relocate to the beach at Nueva Guayama, or San Carlos, mainland Mexico, where we enjoyed not just scuba diving but the view of the distinctive and mystic “Tetakawi” Twin Peaks. My Baja experience is an accumulation of multiple weekend mini family and golfing trips, both personal and company events to Tecate, Mexicali, San Felipe, Tijuana, Rosarito Beach (where we saw a replica of the 882 foot Titanic used for the film), Puerto Nuevo, Ensenada, Punta Banda (blow hole), Baja Mar, etc. I was invited to my son-in-law’s bachelor party to cross the San Ysidro border for an “all the lobster you can eat” treat. Baja Mar Golf Course was called the Pebble Beach course south of the Border, hazards included cactus thorns. My wife and I took a cruise to Ensenada on a luxury boat with my son and his wife.
Great things in Baja: You don’t have to worry too much about the weather since it is very stable throughout the year. Yes, they have hurricanes sometimes and rain creates big rivers (once you start to cross, there is no going back) and turns city streets into a pool of sewage, but that’s very rare. All Nippon Airways, the second airline in Japan used to have their young pilots stationed in San Diego to practice landings at Tijuana Airport. In the 1970s, I was informed the commercial airplane rental for practice was $1,000 an hour and it was less than the price they paid in Okinawa where their practice schedules were subject to frequent changes because of weather conditions.
I rented cars twice - once an old beat up VW micro bus for a round trip from Loreto to Mulege with my Hewlett-Packard friend from Palo Alto; the other a rather decent car in Los Cabos to drive to La Paz and Todos Santos. Probably my total mileage in Baja was less than 600 miles. But I have enjoyed every minute watching fields of boojums, tasting local dishes, engaging in bonito fishing and enjoying the gorgeous beaches.
I have seen posters and DVDs periodically about The Baja 1000, billed as the world's longest nonstop race, spanning 1,000 miles off-road and all terrain, through the Mexican desert from Tijuana to La Paz-- pretty much the entire length of Baja. I’m surprised they celebrated almost 40 years of the race with 1,000 racers and support teams and more than 200,000 spectators. Well, I wish them the best of luck in carrying on the event and someday reignite Baja’s drive to fly a balloon high that is not just full of hot air.