Que Pasa in Baja?

January 11, 2016 Edition
BY: OLIVER QUINTERO

Get your motors running. It’s winter time and tourist officials are inviting eco-tourists to visit the San Pedro Martir Sierra, about a four hour drive from Ensenada. The Mexican environmental protection agency is promoting visits to the area which is very pretty this time of the year but also colder than a witch’s you know what. With the weather as it is right now you should be able to catch some snow up there. The weather oscillates between 41 F to 17 F, so bundle up. There are cabins up there that you can rent but the rentals will not start until the 22nd of this month.  You can always camp but only if you have gear for ice camping or are otherwise nuts in some way.  There is a huge observatory up there that accepts visitors and seeing that is worth the trip. Take your Flexible Flyer.

For more information, call the environmental protection agency at (646) 172-3000 ext. 3229 (Warning: Only Spanish speaking staff there). The park closes when the weather is extreme so be sure to call ahead or visit their facebook page “Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir”. And just what is “extreme”? Depends on how many sweaters you have on, I would say.

San Quintin against OXXOs. Well not all of San Quintin, just the business owner’s ass. The association recently presented a petition to the local council to ask them to please deny any more permits to build more OXXOs in the area. This has happened in almost every other Mexican city, where small shop owners are against the OXXOs because they can’t compete with them. It’s a sad story for them but on the other hand most of them had plenty of years to reinvest at least part of their profits in their businesses to improve or grow them but they failed to do so. It’s a case of David vs Goliath now but take into account that David had plenty of years to prepare for Goliath. Also, if the small tienda owners ran efficient stores that offered what people want, they could compete just fine.  The city council already told the small business owners tough luck, they’re letting more Oxxos in. Isn’t Oxxo the Mexican version of a health food store? Yes, I’m pretty sure about that. 

It’s whale season again! The whales are already swimming like hell for Cabo San Lucas, but you can go out and cheer them on their way. Local tour operators offer whale watching trips that go from around four hours to the full two day or more experience where they take you all the way down to Guerrero Negro to see the newly born baby whales. Don’t forget to take your Dramamine before boarding that boat or you will surely be feeding the whales. The seas are rough this time of year.

Parking meters proposed for Ensenada. The local council is analyzing a proposal to install 153 parking meters in downtown Ensenada that is projected to bring just under a million dollars a year into the city coffers. 30% of that take goes to the company that would buy, install and maintain the meters. An interesting twist to this proposal is that this would be intelligent meters that offer internet access (creating a free wifi network in downtown). They are also equipped for  video surveillance, they accept payments from your cell phone, and the user can monitor how much time he has left by logging onto a website.

On the downside this meters instantly give you a ticket if you don’t put enough money in there.

“El niño” shows his head. The heavy rains that have poured down on us lately are what experts say is the beginning of the El Niño rains that we were told to expect. As of press time the heavy rains hadn’t caused any fatalities but lots of people had to be moved to shelters to protect them from landslides and other dangers.

A huge rock rolled down the hill, landing splat on the free road from La Mision to Ensenada, blocking passage for a couple of hours. Authorities had to bring in a bulldozer to push the big rock over the edge and down the cliff and it looks like by some late Christmas miracle it didn’t land on anybody’s roof.

School’s out. School vacations were extended two days because of the rains. A rain day? Really? We’ve heard of snow days, but never a rain day. These kids have got to toughen up. Somebody needs to tell them they aren’t going to melt in the rain.

Final tourism numbers. Tourist promoters have presented the final 2015 numbers for our precious visitors. On average we saw an increase in hotel occupancy of 5.15% but on some holiday weekends the increase was up 20% compared to 2014.

Another interesting number reported was that 10% more people actually got off the cruise ships and that the cruise shippers  spent 6 dollars more on average.  ($58 in 2014 vs $64 in 2015).

Last but not least, the tourism office said that in 2014 only 10% of all tourists that we got in Baja were foreigners and that this past year that figure grew to 15%. The rest are national visitors, like all the Mexicans living in Mexacali who vacation here because in the summer it’s hotter than hell back home.

New Board. Newly elected members to the Board of the United Society of Baja California were sworn in on January 2, at the monthly meeting at the Rosarito Beach Hotel. Two year term winners are  Sandi Eddahbi, Rose Dillon, Amy Valenzuela, Carmen Valencia, Jo Flowers, Fred Alarcon, and  Joni Brotherton.

Kiko wants more medical tourism. As he walked the medical district in Mexicali, where the federal and state government are investing about a million bucks in modernizing the area, our state governor Kiko Vega recently said he wants us to be the number one destination for medical tourists. 

Oscar Escobedo, chief of the state tourism office, said every year about 1.2 million people, between patients their family and their friends visit Baja for medical tourism related activities and spend approximately half a billion dollars with us.

Public transportation mafia. Maybe you noticed a few weeks ago that the damn buses closed down the transpeninsular road in Ensenada. The privately owned companies were protesting because they want to increase the cost of riding the bus but the regulatory authorities haven’t given in. The cost to ride a bus in Ensenada is 10 pesos, (About 58 U.S. cents), which hasn’t gone up in a couple of years but it’s still one of the highest priced public transportation systems in all of Mexico.

The owners of the buses want to charge 40% more because they say gas has gone up a lot and their prices haven’t. This is true, but this only means that before gas went up they were ripping people off with such high prices and now those prices are just beginning to be fair. The city council in Ensenada already agreed to not increase the cost of public transportation and they also said that if there are any more protests that halt public transportation they would start revoking transportation licenses. So there.