By Gene Kira, July 7 2003, as published in Western Outdoor News:
A nice bit of news from my recent fishing trip down Mex 1, Baja California's full-length Transpeninsular Highway, was to confirm that the long-standing "gas problem" of driving to Bahía de los Angeles and locations farther south is much improved.
For years, the last convenient gas stop heading south to Bahía de los Angeles on Baja's Mex 1 was at the 24-hour Pemex station at El Rosario, and then you were looking at a lonely 360-mile round-trip to the bay and back.
If you ran short on gas, the remedy was to buy expensive gas from drums, either from the freelance guys sometimes found at Cataviña or Punta Prieta, or more reliably, at L.A. Bay.
Even with a couple of cans in back, you were definitely stretching your tank by the time you got back to El Rosario. If you were making the remote Baja dirt road loop south to Las Animas, San Francisquito, and back to Mex 1 at Guerrero Negro, you were faced with an equally daunting stretch of about 350 miles of combo pavement and dirt.
This crazy situation, of course, was caused by the tragicomic closing of three Baja Pemex stations in a row--at Cataviña, Punta Prieta, and L.A. Bay itself--which ripped a gaping hole in Baja's gas supply map. Even if you were headed straight down Mex 1, this left a minimum 200-mile gap between El Rosario and Jesus Maria.
On this last trip, I got gas for the third time at the new Cataviña La Pinta Hotel Pemex, and it seems that this one-pump Baja gas station is at least a semi-permanent deal. It is nominally open daily to 11 p.m., and the only reason to suspect otherwise is the fact that the gas-from-drum guys are still hanging around like vultures, ready to serve your needs should "Plan A" come up dry. But, for all practical purposes, I think it's probably safe to put Cataviña into the "pretty reliable" gas category (it was never that good in the first place).
If you do strike out at Cataviña, you can still get gas from the freelancers at the L.A. Bay turnoff at Punta Prieta. This gas is Magna Sin, and it costs a very reasonable 135 pesos for five true gallons, or about $2.70 per gallon, as compared an official price of about $2.16 per Pemex "gallon" at the regular stations (note quotation marks).
I've always wondered about the economics of these gas-from-drum guys, since they only seem to bring about 110 gallons with them per supply run. Assuming they buy retail, they only seem to be making about $60 per load, less expenses, pretty tough sledding for a lot of hard work and waiting around in the hot sun. However, they are reluctant to give their names or talk about their business, since, I guess, they are technically horning in on a federal monopoly.
Another nice development in the Mex 1 gas situation is the favorable exchange rates that are being offered by various stations. In The Baja Catch, Neil Kelly and I recommend never to pay for gas with dollars, because you usually get royally screwed on the exchange rate. Well, that's no longer necessarily true.
For the past several years, the exchange rates at some Pemex stations have been slowly climbing and climbing, and at these stations you can now do much better than at the border cambios.
On this last Baja fishing trip, for instance, I found border cambio rates ranging from a low of 9.00 to about 9.53 pesos/dollar. At the Camalu and Colonet Pemex stations, it was an honest 10.2 pesos/dollar. If you're going deep down Mex 1, the main Pemex going into Loreto usually does a hair better than even those stations.
Watch out, though, because in most places, you still get hammered, so, for the most economical overall gas deal, it's best to duck into a bank and buy some pesos after you cross the border.
(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")