El Valle: Sí, Porfa y Gracias
It's one of those mystical places you always hear about - that gem just down the road, beyond the border and a little inland. For some reason, it might not be your first choice - your first thought - to venture outside the box to see what truly exists in this so-called magical land.
When reality strikes and you hit the highway 1, the kilometers fly by with just as much gust as the wind off the scenic coastline. The distance is not far and the trip is a quick wander south. Reflecting back on our moments in the Valle de Guadalupe, our enthusiasm is high. When the time is right, pack your passport and journey to Baja's wine country before the Valle's charm gets gobbled up by commercialistic ventures.
How did we end up in the Valle you ask? It was 11:30pm on a Tuesday night. We were sleeping in Drew's mom's guest room, crossing our fingers that the van would be healthy and ready to roll the next day. Our initial trip plans for the week were to head north up the coast to Ojai, to hike into the hot springs, gaze at the pink hour, to wander and relax amidst the laid back atmosphere of the central coast. The van's unwell state and the fact that we had rented out our bungalow for this "vacation time" had left us thanking our lucky stars that Mama J was cool with us crashing at her abode.
With our initial Ojai plans completely deflated and the van being held hostage at the transmission shop, we sat in bed staring at the ceiling - looking for an idea to allow us to wander to faraway lands in the few remaining days of our free time. Thanks to Drew's wild ideas and AirBnB, we found our destination: La Casa de Tierra in Valle de Guadalupe. We booked it for the following two nights.
Several hours of sleep later and another depressing verdict from the mechanic, we were headed south to the fronterra, spirits high and bags packed into our little mini coop.
Once we crossed the border, all our worries shed and we were living in the moment. The road took us fast and the traffic was little. We stared off into the ocean as we scurried down the coast. Missing our exit but not by far, we stopped off at a beach called La Misión for a moment. It looked as if it was torn from a glamorous travel magazine, complete with beach side vendors and permanent cabanas for shade seekers. We made some photos and then got back on track for the main event.
The road to the Valle is simple. No complex turn offs or freeway exchanges. You take the exit near La Fonda and just south, turn inland. From there, it's pretty much a straight shot until you hit the big ass sign that says Ruta del Vino: Valle de Guadalupe; go left there, it's hard to miss. Wind down through the next few kilometers and you start to get the first taste of what this place has to offer.
The rustic allure of the area awes you as you drive through. Totally captivating. Drew was driving and almost cruised off the narrow road more than he will admit.
We finally veered off the main road, and headed toward our quarters for the next few days. The rental description didn't say anything about off-roading or needing a 4x4, but we made it there and were greeted by one of the most wonderful smiles you've ever come across. The owner of the place, Viviana, was happy to take us in and show us around.
She built her house in 2008 and started an eco-vineyard, recently opening it up to AirBnB. When we got settled, she offered us a glass of the house wine and spoke about her favorite places in town.
After a quick dinner, we were craving some tequila and some quiet time. The local liquor store fashioned us with a flask and we posted up atop Viviana's driveway to enjoy the sky's star show.
Viviana's description of the area: "rustic beauty, peaceful, come to be in touch with the elements of the desert. At night you will be dazzled by the galaxies you can view in the sky, and during the day, by the rugged mountains decorated with vineyards and smiling faces" is exceptionally reflective of what we experienced on day 1.
Watch for part 2 of the journey, coming at you shortly.