By Allan A Macho
Within minutes of arriving at the immaculately kept ranch headquarters, Mavrik is making friends with the other guests and friendly ranch dogs. As the sun settles behind the chaparral-covered mountains to the west, Mav joins the other guests for dinner in the main ranch building. Meals are homemade and served family style on a long wooden table, and kerosene lamps emit a soft golden glow that is reflected on the handsome faces of the men and women seated around the table. Early in the conversation, Raul shouts a warning at Mavrik, “Don’t drink the tap water!” Which gets a knowing chuckle out of everyone in the room. During dinner Mavrik comfortably engages the other guests in friendly conversation about his North American travels. In turn, they share their knowledge of Baja California with Mavrik and describe what he should expect to find in Baja. Raul also entertains his dinner guests by describing the scenic drive to Mission San Javier, the finest preserved stone mission in Baja, located 20 miles west of Loreto, BCS, on a good, paved road. From Mission San Javier the road is unpaved and continues overland to the Pacific Coast. Mavrik’s magnificent first night in Baja concludes with a satellite telephone call to his parents in Minnesota telling them that he is safe and enjoying himself in Mexico. “You can’t put a price on Mom’s happiness,” Mavrik says.
Mavrik’s Ford F150 Fx4 pickup camper is reminiscent of the Western Chuck Wagon, a type of field kitchen that Mav uses to store his personal items and cooking utensils while he travels throughout the North American continent. After a quiet night’s restful sleep inside his camper, Mavrik is up early with the rising sun and joins his new friends in the main building for a breakfast of chilaquiles. Rancho La Bellota not only provides comfortable lodging and delicious meals, but also horses are available for you to ride if you desire to explore the ranch on horseback. A side-trip to Russian Valley Hot Springs, a primitive campsite located a few miles southwest of Rancho La Bellota may interest you.
Mavrik’s first morning in Baja is spent studying his Baja maps with Raul. Mav is an attentive student and takes copious notes, marking his map where the good places to camp, fish, surf, and explore are located as he drives south to Cabo San Lucas. After breakfast Mavrik explores the ranch facilities and later waves goodbye to his new Baja friends who own an abalone farm south of Ensenada. They have invited Mavrik to tour their abalone farm and camp there when he continues his Baja adventures towards Cabo San Lucas which can be viewed on YouTube.com
During Mavrik’s Baja explorations he discovers what Baja California has to offer: spectacular topography; miles of trackless desert vistas, impressive sunrises and sunsets; an incredibly bright full Moon night; towering granite mountains, dry-lake mirages, white sand beaches, the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the rugged Baja coast line, eco-camping on a volcanic island off of San Quintín (where he explores a lava-tube cave); a baby seal rookery; the boulder strewn canyons of Central Baja; the vermillion colored Sea of Cortez offering epic fishing in the Bahia of Los Angeles; Santa Rosalia’s famous bakery; and south of the Tropic of Cancer to the tourist mecca of Los Cabos high rise hotels and restaurants where Mavrik and his best friends enjoy deep sea fishing for marlin and rooster fish.
Wherever Mavrik stops he makes friends because he is very easy-going, even with the differences in languages, he puts people at ease with his quick smile. Mavrik doesn’t hesitate to use basic Spanish language phrases as he interacts with his gracious hosts. All the way down the Baja, when Mavrik meets a Mexican stranger and he tells them his name, “Maverick,” they are quick to respond and tell him that his name translates to the ”Unbranded Calf” (Orejano, ore-E-hano) in Spanish. Mavrik graciously accepts their effort to engage him in friendly conversation and smiles appreciatively. Most people he encounters don’t mind that he is video recording his cross-country travels. However, when he is in public areas like restaurants or markets, he points the camera downward to give anonymity to the other people. Mavrik’s videos are not scripted or rehearsed; there are no apparent retakes. When you watch Mav’s videos you will feel like you are watching your friend pleasantly interacting with the people he encounters. Mavrik shows a genuine interest in other people, he wants to hear what they have to say, and he wants to learn their culture. He treats everyone respectfully and as an equal. Mavrik’s humbleness is genuine.
As he comfortably connects with his congenial Mexicans hosts, they invite him into their homes, and they often cook a meal for him. “Food is one of the greatest ways to experience a culture, and if you can have somebody locally cook you a dish, definitely take advantage of it,” Mavrik suggests. He often returns the favor and cooks a traditional meal for them that he prepares on the tailgate of his white Ford F150. His cooking style is unique because he rarely follows an exact recipe. His main dishes are freshly caught sea food or meats found in the local mercado. He measures the fresh spices by a pinch, a shake, or a splash, along with handfuls of other ingredients.
I encourage everyone to watch Mav’s Baja Travel videos because he is a Good Will Ambassador of North America, everyone should learn something from Mavrik and follow his examples of good manners. “People who have the least, tend to be the most generous,” Mavrik said. “No matter if it’s their last meal, when I enter their casa, they always offer me something to eat.” The photo at the left shows Maverik with two yellowtail fish that he caught a couple hours earlier in the Bay of Los Angeles that has some of the best fishing in the Sea of Cortez. He gladly helps his fishing guide Luis of Ricardo’s Diving Tours prepare Yellowtail Sashimi (tiradito de jurel) and traditional fish tacos topped with fresh Pico de Gallo for their family dinner.
Before dinner, Luis’ family led Mavrik on a desert excursion near Mission San Borja (est. 1762) to show him some ancient Indigenous rock paintings and very tall cirio trees that are possibly hundreds of years old. The oldest cirio trees have been estimated to be seven- hundred years old! These peculiar looking trees are found nowhere else in the world and only in the middle of Baja.
This author is a fifty-year veteran of Baja travel and I have watched hundreds of Baja videos, and Mavrik is the only YouTuber that I have watched who interacts with the Mexicans on a personal level. For example, He doesn’t hesitate to stop and help a Mexican driver change a flat tire on his truck. His naturally relaxed nature puts everyone at ease, and they invite him to camp on their land or park next their house. His Mexican amigos have taught Mavrik how to prepare flour tortillas from scratch, fresh pico de gallo, a pasilla chile marinade, fish tacos, queso birria tacos, and how to prepare abalone, crab, and grilled oyster tostadas to name a few local dishes that he shares with his viewers.
Near the end of Mavrik’s Baja journey, he cooks traditional fish tacos on the tail gate of his F150 pickup truck for his friend and parents who flew down from Minnesota to visit their son in Cabo San Lucas. Mavrik does not hesitate to park on a busy street in Cabo San Lucas for this cooking tutorial and Mavrik being Mavrik, he shares freshly prepared pescado (fish) tacos with the local citizens who are watching him cook while parked in front of the downtown stores.
Mavrik is dedicated to preserving the sport of fishing. Wherever he fishes he adheres to limit restrictions and practices catch and release. He returns large fish to the water to maintain breeding stock. He keeps one or two smaller fish for cooking. Also, Mavrik encourages his viewers to Tread Lightly on the land and pack out their trash. “Leave your campsite clean for the next visitor,” he advises.
Mavrik owns an eclectic collection of camping vehicles: a 1992 imported Toyota HiAce mini motorhome with right-hand drive; a 2010 Ford F150 Fx4 w/ topper; a retired US Marine Corps M1123 HUMVEE w/ communications box; a rare Volkswagen Bug outfitted with a pop-up camper; and his recently acquired “The Aironado” housecar, a combination 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado & Airstream Trailer to his fleet of unique camping-vehicles.
What separates Mavrik’s videos from the typical Baja videos is his focus on the Mexican people he encounters in Baja California. Like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Mav knows the value of friendship and he makes it a point to remember each person’s name. What I admire most in Mavrik is his desire to help other people. Like Mav often says, “I am paying it forward.” To watch Mavrik’s entertaining videos of his travels across Canada, the United States, and Baja California search YouTube and type “Mav Baja” and several of his Baja videos will appear in the search results. Start with: My First Night Camping in Mexico, that will be at Rancho La Bellota guest ranch.
As you watch Mavrik’s Catch & Cook adventures progress down the Baja you will see new friendships easily made, and that he values each person he meets equally. Whenever anyone asks me is it safe to travel in Baja California, or what are the people like in Mexico, I encourage them to watch Mav’s Baja videos on YouTube. At the end of each video, viewers have left hundreds of positive comments about how beautiful Baja is, and how friendly and hospitable the Mexican people are. Many of his viewers mentioned that they had been afraid of visiting Baja, however, now after watching Mavrik’s videos they are ready to journey across the border and meet the friendly people of Mexico and enjoy the beauty of Baja, California.
Positively, if you are an experienced Baja traveler or curious about taking your first trip to Baja, I encourage you to watch Mavrik’s YouTube videos and meet the Mexican people Mav has befriended. Mavrik is truly an American Ambassador of Good Will. As Mavrik Joos says at the end of each of his Catch & Cook videos—“Keep on Truckin’.”