Agua Verde in Baja, Mexico – The town that time forgot

Agua Verde in Baja, Mexico – The town that time forgot

Zach Rohe Photography

Wedding, Portrait, & Landscape Photography in Sedona & Beyond

Agua Verde in Baja, Mexico – The town that time forgot

Agua Verde in Baja, Mexico is a place for adventurers

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“Agua Verde”  Every time I hear those two words, my spirit livens and my pulse quickens.  I had heard about Agua Verde on my first Baja expedition but I was breaking down constantly on that trip: brake lines, shock mounts, my chassis even cracked. And the road to get to Agua Verde is as famous as the place itself.

The Road

The old timers will tell you that back then, the road was far worse.  And that no one knew about this place before the internet, it was
unspoiled and virgin. When I finally got the gumption to drive the road, going down was definitely a bit sketchy. Then once you
thought it was smooth sailing you had to traverse one of the worst 10km of washboard I’ve driven. The grand finale is another single track, highly exposed gravel track that opens into paradise.

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But yet, the first time I got down to the town and drove out to the beach, I got out of my car and was mildly disappointed. Sure, the bay was tight, protected, and beautiful, but it wasn’t any more brilliant than Bahia Concepcion or the beaches of La Paz. A bit defeated, I set up my camp on the beach and made a campfire.

Before it was even lit, one of the locals stopped by and invited me to his restaurant. He said if I didn’t want to eat I was welcome to use the bano and that he was working on showers. He made it clear that the town welcomed travelers. I shook his hand and settled in to watch the sunset. About 20 local children played volleyball behind me, while my friends Lily and Joe had already adopted a new camp dog we called Steve. It was one of the best sunsets I’ve seen and is a feature on my 2023 photo calendar.

The Beauty of Agua Verde

When the sun rose the next morning, I felt a lot different. The rays of light and the soothing waves really made me feel at peace and the steep mountains that surround this bay and town really make you feel like you are in another world. I walked around the town, visited their small market, and took pictures of various landmarks. There were at least two churches, a school, and a torteleria that was being built. Most buildings had solar and piped in water, and the houses were vibrantly painted and well kept. For a place so remote and seemingly cut off from the outside world, it appeared life was good here. I like to explore all over new towns, and being from Baltimore, I felt much safer here and the streets were definitely cleaner! And that night, the kids all played volleyball. Some of their parents would walk the beach.  Agua Verde was growing on me.


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The area is diverse and unique

A few days later I took a hike, and explored some of the trails into the nearby mountains and looked for the source springs that provided fresh water to this community. One of the springs seemed like it had run dry many years ago, the other didn’t seem to be flowing great for a growing town. Water is a precious commodity in these parts and I hope that recent weather has served them well.  One of the things I was impressed with was the mountains and trails themselves. There were numerous canyons and peaks to scramble around get amazing views of Agua Verde and beyond. The area to the south I believe is a ranch and looked absolutely amazing.  The peaks behind offered some of the most dramatic views in Baja.  Hiking to the other side of the bay was another great beach and an estuary of sorts with tons of birds and flowers. The beauty of these few square miles is insane and now Agua Verde was one of my favorite places.

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A story that describes the vibe of the town

One of my favorite Agua Verde stories is the boat pickup. One of the neighborhood kids pulls up in an SUV, waiting for someone.  He is there for an hour and then leaves. After he leaves a panga shows up, gets close to shore and looks like theyre waiting for someone. After 30 minutes he try’s to bring the boat in but
it’s too choppy so he gets back in the boat defeated. Now the kid shows back up! He backs into the water with a trailer and they get the panga hooked up. Now as he is trying to pull the boat out the SUV keeps stalling. It stalls out, they take out a bat and beat on the exhaust until it runs again, move a couple feet until it stalls again. Repeat. The problem is the tide is coming up faster than they are making progress, and soon the SUV is stuck in the water. By now a few onlookers have assembled but everyone is laughing and having a good time, the tide is rising but not a care in the world! A little girl breaks free from the group and runs into the restaurant to tell them of the debacle. Within minutes a big pickup truck is there with a towstrap and is pulling the kid’s SUV out. But it’s too far gone. Just as I was going to go over and offer help, out of nowhere a huge pickup truck with a winch shows up, yanks the SUV and the boat out, and everyone cheers. The trucks go home, the kid beats on the exhaust some more, and then drives the panga back to his home while everyone cheers. No one got mad, no one freaked out, no one asked for money. There was a problem and they were going to solve it. That night the kids all came back and played volleyball.

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I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about Aqua Verde, to the contrary, I know very little other than my own experiences there. I know it’s long been a port of destination for the sailing community and that the townspeople run a sustainable and profitable fishing industry. The people seem happy and they’re definitely kind.  The beauty of this place extends past the sandy point and the bay and into the hills and the freshwater that gives this place life. Agua Verde has become one of my favorite places and although beautiful, it’s the people that set it apart.

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The future of Agua Verde

Many of us don’t want to see the growth of these places and want them to stay a secret. I can tell you that there are few secrets anymore, and Agua Verde isn’t one of them. The road will keep casual tourists at bay, but now National Geographic tour ships set dock once or twice a week. And we have to consider the townspeople as well. Some of them want to see growth, provide for their families, or maybe just buy an iphone. They have the right to all of those things. Some of them want to start a new business or have internet access. Kids may want to attend a university and meet kids from other towns. Growth and change is inevitable, and it’s the people of Agua Verde who should decide what happens to their town, not people like us who are merely visitors.

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My hope is that the people of this town get everything they’re looking for to add to their remote paradise. The internet is coming and I’m sure the road will be improving and soon I’ll be one of the old timers bitching about “how things used to be”.… I just hope the kids still play volleyball.

Thanks for reading, last year I picked up almost 200 pounds of trash from remote Baja beaches like Agua Verde. I pick up one pound of trash for every one of my Photo Calendars that I sell each year. I’m a professional photographer and part time story teller who loves to travel, check out my gallery of photos from around the US and MX on my website.

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The Book – A story on Cocos Corner in Baja, MX

The Book – A story on Cocos Corner in Baja, MX

Zach Rohe Photography

Wedding, Portrait, & Landscape Photography in Sedona & Beyond

The Book – A story on Cocos Corner in Baja, MX

“You need to sign the book”

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His name was Coco and he was the first friend I made in Baja.

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I had planned on crossing the border and spending a week or two in Baja Norte as part of “Road Trip 2” before moving to Yosemite. I had heard the legends of travelling Route 5 in Baja, a true adventurer’s route. There were secret hot springs, the worlds largest cactus, a horrible road destroyed by a hurricane, and an old man who lived in the middle of nowhere. He was in the guidebooks and his name was spoken across many campfires throughout the world. By the time I made it to his ranch, named Coco’s Corner, I was burnt out on Baja. It had taken me hours to travel less than 40 miles. My van now made sounds that I had never heard before and my body felt like I had just gotten out of a fight. The road was worse than advertised, but Coco’s Corner was definitely as advertised: beer cans strung up like windchimes, underwear all over the walls, and a pretty god damn amazing view from the parking lot.

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He welcomed me into his home with a cold Pacifico and immediately asked me about the photo on my van. He wanted to hear my story, how I ended up there. So I told him while he played dominos and complained how his partner kept cheating. He was interested in my story and I was interested in learning about Baja. So he told me the “rules” and where to go and how the people would welcome me. He offered me a room at the ranch and I offered him one of my photos for his collection. We would meet again and again over the course of several tours south of the border. He never remembered my name, but he always remembered my story.

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There were a lot of stories about Coco. Mostly good, but a few were bad. I don’t know why he lived out in the middle of nowhere and I don’t care if he had support from outsiders. The man was nothing but kind to me and everyone I travelled with, and if you ever drove the old Route 5, you know that stretching your legs and having a beer with Coco was just what you needed at that milemarker. When the road changed, the vibe changed too, but with Coco, you knew what you were getting: a dirty mind, a kind soul, and one hell of a man.

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Rest in Peace, hermano. Thanks for telling me to go further south when I was ready to turn around. Next time I head south of the border I’m taking some of your spirit to Bay of LA so you can finally see what all the fuss is about!

David Kier has an excellent article with even more amazing photos of Cocos Corner.

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You can find prints and wall art from my Baja adventures here

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What is it like to celebrate holidays on the road?

What is it like to celebrate holidays on the road?

What is it like to celebrate holidays on the road?

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Vanlife during the holidays

Living on the road in a van has become the new American dream in many ways, but I’ve been doing this for over 4 years and I can assure there are plenty of nightmares to spoil the dream. One of the downfalls of living on the
road is loneliness and feeling lost around the holidays.

My first holiday season on the road I tried to pretend like I was really a normal
person, I actually dog sat for a friend and stayed in his home. I had a little tree and a Christmas dinner and mocked up my own little holiday festivities in Boulder, CO.

The following years I spent at the lodges I worked at during the summer with my close friends and a multitude of holiday cheer. The holidays here were easy as we had a big Christmas tree, tons of good people around, and even some gifts to exchange and an egg nog or two.

Adapting on the road

After I left the lodges, I looked to take my travels to the next level, and for the next two years I didn’t have time to celebrate the holidays as I was too busy planning the next hike or deciding what area to move to next. The search for new experiences was far more important to me than the comfort of celebrating a holiday like everyone else.

I think every nomad has a different way of celebrating the holidays on the road. Fellow nomad Kayla says her and her sister used to build gingerbread houses but now she and her nomadic sister paint rocks on facetime and leave them at places they visit along the way. My friend Zach celebrated a few years ago by tripping on acid and camped on the Rio Grande in Big Bend, saying it was one of his favorite places he has ever been.  When I was working with my good friend and nomad Cadell, he decorated his van to become frosty the snowman! We all have our ways of celebrating and getting in that holiday cheer! Fellow traveler Chris spent a Thanksgiving on Fremont St. in Las Vegas that he called very interesting while my friend Simone spent her Thanksgiving camping in a frigid Death Valley and reading about the persecution of it’s native people.

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I took an online survey to gather some questions about holidays on the road, here are a few of my favorites:

What holiday foods do you miss?
I definitely miss the sit down dinners at my grandmothers house. The smorgasboard of turkey, ham, and countless vegetables cooked with lots of butter and love.
How does Santa get into the van?
He looks for the starlink satellite, and since I don’t have one I get relegated to the “naughty” list.
What food have you had for holiday dinners?
At the lodges we always had awesome holiday meals prepared for us, but since I left I’ve had a turkey dinner from a church that was giving out meals to the homeless and another dinner of turkey hamburger helper at the Bradshaw Ranch.
Where do you put your tree?
I don’t have a tree, I’m usually surrounded by them! But some of my friends do
put in little trees with lights and ornaments.
Do you have a question? Leave it below and I’ll be sure to answer. Maybe some other nomads will chime in as well.

The reality is that while living in a van may seem like the best experience in the world, it comes with some trade offs. If you are big on holiday cheer and spending time with your family, most likely you are going to catch a plane and give them a visit. Despite our efforts to make vanlife holiday friendly, we are still homeless people squatting on public land in the winter. You can pull it off, to varying degrees, but as with everything on the road you have to remain flexible.

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Personally, over the years I’ve just given up. Living on the road has bouts with loneliness as much as times where you are surrounded by many like minded people. It can be the best of times and the worst of times, and if I need some holiday vibes I’ll pick up some gingerbread cookies and look for a good place to eat some mushrooms. On the road, if you’re doing it right, every day is a holiday.

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