The Baja Bay Club
Punta Pescadero, Mexico
Story and photos by Norm Zareski
"Bonanza 8307 Delta is cleared into the San Diego Class Bravo airspace, maintain 9500, direct Tijuana, direct Loreto." With these friendly words from San Diego approach, a VFR border crossing flight plan was activated and our long weekend trip to Baja was off to an apparently successful start.
07 Delta, a 1958 J35 Bonanza owned by Pam and Jack Juraco of Manhattan Beach, California, was indicating 150k on a heading of 120 degrees en route to a final destination of Punta Pescadero. The heading hardly varied after a 0700 departure from Torrance on the planned four hour, 47 minute flight to this idyllic fly in resort about 750 statute miles south of San Diego.
In the distance, we soon spotted N552B, our Trinity Center-based traveling companions. Off to starboard, George Loegerings orange over white V36 slowly slipped into our 4 oclock position to join us. Together our "gang of six" in the two Bonanzas were anticipating a smooth, uneventful flight into Baja, and as luck would have it, we would not be disappointed.
The broken clouds gradually turned to beautiful CAVU conditions after we crossed the international border and settled in for the 3+-hour flight to Loreto, and the formalities required at the airport of entry.
As the terrain of the Sierra San Pedro Martir mountains gradually rose along our route of flight, we had terrific views of the national observatory on our left side and numerous small ejidos and rancheros below, which showed the signs of early morning activity. We could almost taste the freshly brewed cafe and smell the morning aroma of baked treats in the village panaderias.
We soon crossed the east coast of Baja near the sweeping Bahia de Los Angeles, then Mulege and the pristine waters of the Bahia de Concepcion slipped under our wings, and we were soon in contact with Loreto tower. Our flight plan had called for about three and a half hours from TOA to LTO, and we were quickly cleared for a long straight-in approach to runway 12. Customs and immigration formalities were polite and efficient. Jack, our "skipper," presented his pilots license, aircraft registration, and proof of insurance while filing a round robin flight to Punta Pescadero (PPC).
Less than an hour later, refreshed, refueled at about $2.20 per gallon (since there is no avgas at PPC), and legally in Mexico, we put the "manzanas" caper behind us and departed southward, climbing straight out over the deep blue waters of the inviting Sea of Cortez. Next stop, PPC, about an hours flight south.
Punta Pescadero turned out to be as enjoyable as it could possible be, and it provides a convenient escape for the Southwestern pilot. Whether one arrives in a fast, long range airplane, or hops down the coast of Baja in a more sedate, "smell the roses" manner, seeing the wide, isolated, but well maintained paved 3500 strip signals the real start to a Baja getaway. A check with 122.8 confirms all is clear, a final approach and landing to runway 11, and we had arrived. The hotel courtesy shuttle reached us even before we had unloaded and tied down the airplanes among the other five or six aircraft which were parked along the spacious apron.
The landing strip is very close to the hotel, and within minutes, we were savoring the refreshing taste of the "welcome" margaritas while enjoying the view of the gulf from the open-air bar. Punta Pescadero has been likened to the outer islands of Hawaii, as they were 50 years ago. First impressions are lasting, and the gorgeous panorama over the Gulf, the black-bottom swimming pool surrounded by a myriad of tropical plants, and the low-rise residential units of the small adjoining community set the stage for the sybaritic existence anticipated over the next three days.
Whether one is interested in beach activities, fishing, sports, water sports, or just plain loafing, Punta Pescadero offers something for just about everyone. One can fish for yellow fin tuna, dorado, sailfish, and blue or striped marlin. Snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, tennis, and beach combing offer alternative choices. The wide, sandy beach is just a few steps from the veranda of each room, and the coral reef formations make snorkeling or diving worthwhile. Horseback riding, mountain biking, and a nearby golf course round out the offerings for the active visitor. In the spirit of our intended restful weekend getaway, our illustrious group chose exactly none of the above.
The 21 rooms at Punta Pescadero are spacious and immaculate, and all have magnificent views looking directly eastward over the Sea of Cortez. Each unit is air conditioned, and includes a small refrigerator and TV. The well-manicured grounds reflect the desert xeriscape in which the resort is located.
In addition to the accommodations themselves, the quality of the service and the palatability of the food are usually important metrics by which to establish a "hospitality quotient" of any given resort. By all standards, Hotel Punta Pescadero gets high marks. Meals are optional, but at either breakfast, lunch, or dinner the fly-in traveler will be pleased with the tasty varieties offered. There are plenty of fresh fruits and juices, wonderfully creative entrées emphasizing a south of the border flair, and quality preparations artfully presented by the chef who was professionally trained in Mazatlan. Picture a sumptuous candle-lit buffet dinner set around the deck surrounding the black-bottom pool. With the dining experience accompanied by the soft ocean breezes and the gentle crashing of the waves to relax the body and lift the spirit, the evening ends on a quiet note with good conversation among flying companions at the open air bar.
In the true spirit of a Baja adventure, someone in our group suggested of a unique dining experience at a nearby cantina called the Baja Bay Club, (affectionately known as the BBC by local aficionados.) So for our final dinner, we would contact Arturo, who operated a local roadside cantina about one or two miles north of the hotel. With reservations set a day in advance for our party of six, we speculated as to what lay in store at the BBC. We need not have been concerned.
Late on the evening of our reservations, we were piled into the hotel shuttle for the relatively short but rugged ride to the BBC. Over the ruts, around the curves, and up and down the rolling hills, we were bouncing over the dusty road into the inky blackness of a very remote part of Baja. As we approached the BBC, we were again reminded that the journey is the destination, and that a sense of adventure and open mindedness is crucial to getting the most benefit of ones travels.
While rugged in its basic construction, with non-existent decor, the Baja Bay Club nevertheless welcomed us with its aura of authentic Baja California. Its slab floor held enough tables to seat only about 20 or 30 people, and its thatched roof and sides were adequate to provide any shelter, which might be required, though on this night the weather was warm and balmy.
Owned and run by Arturo and Antonia Fuentes-Torres, the BBC operates on an advanced reservation system only, since Arturo shops the local markets for the freshest ingredients available on any given day and buys only enough to feed the number of diners who have reservations. It was a wonderful tasty and friendly dinner; sort of a classy buffet banquet in a remote desert hideaway. The meal was carefully prepared and served by Antonia and Arturo. On this night, the result was a bountiful family-style dinner of garlic flavored carnitas, stuffed peppers, special Pollo Antonia, guacamole, chips, salsa, and plenty of tortillas and ice cold cerveza. When all was said and done, and we had eaten and drunk our fill, the meal had cost about $25 per person.
Since we were the only diners that night, we had an opportunity to visit with our hosts, whose English was as fractured as our Spanish. We learned that Arturo and Antonia had met when he came to Baja many years ago to help build Route 1, the National Highway. He told stories of the building of the road before he decided to permanently settle in and raise a family in what was an emerging settlement about 80 miles north of Cabo San Lucas. After the road was complete, Arturo and Antonia decided to open a small roadside restaurant, and for many years he has been able to support his family by providing delicious food for local residents and visitors.
The next morning at breakfast before our departure back to Torrance, we quietly reflected on how very fortunate we were to be actively involved in the general aviation community and being able to plan quick escapes to places like PPC. Were it not for the long reach and swift wings of our aircraft, Punta Pescadero and the Baja Bay Club would never had been indelibly etched into our personal logbook of flying memories.
A double room at Punta Pescadero is $115, and optional meals are $8, $10, and $15 for breakfast, lunch, and dinner respectively. For more information call 1-800-426-BAJA or go to www.punta-pescadero.com.
Norm Zareski is a freelance travel and aviation writer/photographer and lives in Palos Verdes Estates, California. He is an instrument rated private pilot and has traveled to about 60 foreign countries.
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