Borderlife [#4]

by Kaspar Heinrici - posted from Cat Cloud in Santa Cruz

[click HERE to see full gallery]

Real and imagined borders surround us.  Some borders are very real walls or divisions that literally define a space or contain an area.  Other borders are erected to demarcate an abstract idea of belonging that is entirely imposed by the human mind.  In some instances these literal and ideological borders overlap.

When visiting Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park one is struck by what an abrupt change in the landscape it represents on either side of the Rio Grande. When entering the canyon we overheard an Australian couple remarking about what a ridiculous notion it would be to put a dinky wall atop such an obviously impenetrable barrier of rock.  When driving into Tijuana from San Diego you don’t even have to roll down your window to pass into Mexico, but on the way back it is at least a 2hr wait to be vetted by U.S. border patrol.  Natural features and arbitrary border crossings are an acknowledgement of a difference or a supposed abrupt change from one side to the other.  The reality is that the culture and landscape form a spectrum of transition that flows on both sides of the border.

We spent over a week with my sister’s (@buscaalma) family in Rosarito, Mexico, which is a town just south of Tijuana.  Aleka is married to Enrique Peña who is a life long surfer from Puerto Escondido (check out pictures of him surfing @kilke76).  He is also a skilled carpenter and furniture maker (check out his furniture made from tropical Mexican hardwoods While being there with them I couldn't avoid seeing the benefits of being so close to this inflection point of culture without also recognizing the extreme difficulties faced by people trying to live life on both sides of the border.

My sister has never done anything the easy way, so it makes sense that she would end up trying to navigate this world.  She went into labor with my nephew Gael in Mexico and delivered him in the U.S. so he is pretty much the definition of a border baby.  Her husband and 2 children are from Puerto Escondido (which is a world away from Rosarito even though it is still in Mexico).  My sister moved to Rosarito from San Francisco (which despite a large Mexican population is also very different than Rosarito).  Although the intention was to meet in the middle (some mythical cultural and bureaucratic average), in some ways it is like they are all living in a totally new world together.

This is all to say that Ali and I benefitted from being interlopers in this borderlife and getting to pick and choose the parts we participated in.  This blog post deals with the somewhat expected and mostly surprising things we experienced during our week in Baja California.  Below is a summary of the places we visited in case you want a guide for your own Baja tour. For the full album of photos see the link in the sidebar.

Surfing - Food - Coffee - Beer - Wine - Scenery



When you tell most Americans you are going to spend time in Tijuana, they may be concerned for your welfare and that may be the case in certain areas at certain times but we never felt unsafe and found some of the best food culture we have ever experienced.  In Tijuana one day to meet Ali and my sister to pick up Gael at the border we went to Nativo Coffee @nativocoffeecommunity a new shop right on the border (Larroque 271 Tijuana, Baja California 22010).  I had a stiff Vietnamese coffee.  

Another day we went into Tijuana for a day of culture and hit up the Tijuana Cultural Center CECUT which has an amazing ball shaped “La Bola” iMax theatre associated with it designed by Pedro Ramirez Vazques and Manuel Rossen Morrison, as well as a “Cube” which houses the art exhibitions.  The best part was our visit to the food truck court Telefonica Gastro Park which beat any food truck food court I for selection, food quality and price.  For desert we hit a spot we found on the @bajayummy feed called Peace and Shakes

La Bola at CECUT

La Bola at CECUT


For me this is of the utmost importance so it is good that surfing is a family affair when in Rosarito, where we surfed several beaches together.  The surf in Rosarito is not the size that one would see in Puerto Escondido, but the entire coast of Baja California is covered with beach, reef and point breaks, each denoted by its mile marker.  Below is a brief description of each.  Note the surf was kinda blown out by on shore winds while we were there.

K38 (Club Marena)
This break can be accessed by paddling out to the left from under the overpass at the K38 marker or if you rent a room at the Club Marena and have the break right in front of you.  A right breaking point is the main break, but there is also a smaller left that works a little farther down from 38.

K42 (Raul’s)
These are separate breaks but in the same vicinity.  Raul’s is at the Pizza place just past K42 (drive all the way to the end of the road and there is a gap in the fence to the left).  K42 is a big empty lot (just pay the guy in the RV to park).  Raul’s is a more south facing reef break that is smaller but protected if it is windy.

This is a faster breaking beach break more or less in down town Rosarito by the power plant.

Baja Malibu
Another beach break located off the San Antonio exit from the 1D.

San Miguel
This is just past the 1D toll booth on your way to Ensenada.

View from K42 looking South

View from K42 looking South

View of K38 point break

View of K38 point break


We spent most of our time kicking around Rosarito and racked up our favorite spots to visit.  We even got to shop with my mom getting some great concrete garden art and rugs.

Baja Produce
Get the Atun sandwich, peruse the local produce and groceries.  This is upscale local shopping at surprisingly good prices.  One time there were just finishing an Elote Loaf that was fresh out of the oven.  Ali likes their cereals and they just opened a smaller location in downtown Rosarito by the entrance to the hotel.

Robles de raiz a la mesa
Coffee drinks for days, makes you want to have caffeine 3 times a day.  Sage or aloe infused lattes aero press, cold press, french press, they have everything.  We had their pancakes one day with all manner of fruit and nuts in, on or around it.

Surf Shop across from the Rosarito Hotel.  This place is tiny and doesn’t have much for the surfer, but is great for stickers and t-shirts.  I have hand made wooden sunglasses with polarized lenses from there that are made in Tijuana and a zinc stick made from organic ingredients.

Cafe Conrado
Went here for breakfast on Mexican Mother’s Day and everything is great except the coffee.  Try the carrot cake (after your breakfast).  At the San Antonio exit off the 1D.

Charlys Place
Taco joint near K38.  This place is just classic everything burritos, tacos…etc.  If you want to get fancy try the Mocajete de camaron which is shrimp served steaming hot in queso straight from the Mocajete bowl.

Ollies Pizza
Objectively good pizza south of Rosarito towards Puerto Nuevo off the route 1 gratis.  The owner will probably come by several times to make sure it is tasting as good as it should.

Hotel Calafia
Ali and I went here by accident for some “upscale” dining.  The food was not amazing and not cheap, but the setting is very cool with a dining room that looks over the ocean as well as a nicely landscaped pool area with a genuine vintage look.

The Rug Spot (This is the name we made up)
Across from a large abandoned construction site is this Oaxacan rug atelier.  It is south of Rosarito on the inland side of the 1 gratis.  If the weather is fair they will hang rugs out front, if not you are on your own (Ali and I had to knock around and ask some folks to get in the 1st time we were there).

Mobile law office at the beach in Rosarito

Mobile law office at the beach in Rosarito

ROUTE DEL VINO (Valle de Guadalupe)

If you are a wine lover and you are in Baja, you have to go here.  No really, you will be sucked in whether it is for some crazy boutique bubble hotel or just a tasting. We have been a few times now.

Deckmans en el Mogor
This is a restaurant on the El Mogor winery.  This place is no secret, but well worth it especially if El Mogor is offering tastings.  Smell the hay bale construction, look out over the vineyard and enjoy some Pulpo with your wine.

Finca Altazano
Just go to the website and you will see the appeal.  More of a Mexican crowd here, the food is good and you can sit atop the massive wine barrels for a view.

Clos de Tres Cantos
We were looking for a winery with a different perspective and this is it.  The architecture alone is worth it.  All the buildings are made with repurposed materials and local stone.  Some of the furniture is armchairs resurfaced in concrete and light is let into the buildings via wine bottles set into the walls.  The wines are delicious too.

Canyon El Salto
If you are looking for a hike to do on your way to the valley this is a great spot. Just a few dollars to park.

ENSENADA (+La Bufadora)

We did a quick trip to see this very hyped section of Baja.  La Bufadora is totally worth it particularly if you don’t actually go into Bufadora to see the “blowhole”

Casa Medio Dia
See our instagram feed for more on Irene and Bruce who run this Air BnB operation.  Off the beaten path down a rough dirt road high on the bluffs over La Bufadora is this great spot.  It is $100 a night, there is a crazy collection of records, board games and VHS tapes and directions to the best most unpopulated hikes/beaches.

This was a recommendation from Rubin (our tasting guide at Clos de Tres Cantos and it was just what we were looking for.  You think you are arriving at a random business park in Ensenada, but in the back is a courtyard garden.  We had one of each of their steamed bun tacos (shiitake, pulpo and chorizo).  The chicharrones come with great spicy salsas.  

Aqua Mala Cerveceria
There is a brewery scene in Ensenada and this place came to life as we sat there.  If you want micro brews for less than $2 this is the place, plus the food is from another place on this list Deckman’s so you can’t miss.  There is a view of the water.

Cafe Toya
Tiny cafe with real good pastries and cookies.  I had a Cortado and jam filled cookies for the ride home.

Now we are almost to Santa Cruz and so much has happened since Mexico, but we had to get this down in order for us to move on. You can look forward to a report from Ali on SoCal and the adventures in San Diego, Kings Canyon and Big Sur.