:: Baja California ::
October 8th - 10th
The Boarder Crossing
In preparing to the leave the country we felt like were were in a tri-athlon. When we crossed the finish line, the boarder, we thought we'd receive a trophy. A trophy with two little bronzed figures under a cabana sipping drinks with their own umbrella.
The Tijuana border, however, was a mere transition - a mind altering transition. And we weren't in a race, just participating in a series of events. Some serene, others adventurous and a few logistically technical. Between Tijuana and Ensenada we purchased many colorful papers making us legit in Mexico. We restocked and reorganized our Elephante (an '86 VW Van, transformed into our home on wheels) a few times a day. In an ongoing phase of preparing.
At San Simeon, 150 km south of Ensenada, we finally 'chose' to be done preparing; the location of the lighter or contacts would change numerous times, and that's OK. So we perched our feet on the horizon, enjoying the fact that we didn't have cell phones.
Entering the town on a sandy two lane drive we were ambushed by a camouflaged Mexican speed bump, [topes]. Our poor Elephante was viciously thrown into the air, bringing his load crashing down upon him. We looked up, startled and shaken, to see Prescilla (our kayak) riding far more forward than she normally does. The jolt had caused the Yakama racks to fall forward under the lurching weight and the towers were no longer clutching Elephante's roof. We removed the stuffed kayak, wheelchair, and crutches from the top as every stray dog in town, of which there were many, came out to smell what had been caught in the speed bump trap.
As fate would have it (or perhaps a strategic opportunist), a welding shop sat across the street so we limped the van across the street. For 25 American Bucks we spent the rest of the day watching Jose Roberto permanently weld our new Yakamas to Elephante's top. Jose the welder gave us directions to a windy camping spot with an abundance of shells and we put Guerrero Negro and its nasty speed bumps behind us.
Among the densely populated palm trees, palapas and casitas ducked in and out of sight. At the end of the main street in Mulege is the mouth of Conception Bay. A refreshing bath in the warm water of the bay was spoiled when Josh was viciously attacked by an invisible assailant- a sudden series stings. We never saw the offender but later learned that tiny translucent jellies inhabit these waters and we would inevitably meet them again and again.
Under a palapa covered with a gorgeous "Maxfield Parish" sunset we set up camp in a smaller bay inside La Bajia de Concepcion. Pintoresco y tranquillo [quaint and peaceful]. Este noche la luna fuecasi llena, un poco menguando, y nuestro corazones muy llenos. [This night the moon was almost full, a bit waning, and our hearts were very full].
Bajia de Concepcion
After our morning salutations we jogged around the Bay. A friendly young black dog began following Josh so Heather was off the hook. Josh named him Perrito Perro (Little Doggy Dog) and we had a dog for the day. Those two ran around the bay like old friends. Perrtito guarded our palapa and we helped him swim. The Playa manager, Paco, and his friend's Jose and Alfonso took us and our Perrito snorkeling, fishing and diving for almejas [clams]. The snorkeling was amazing! bright tropical yellow and blue fish, schools of shiny sardines encircled us, and lush ocean flora teeming with life. We ate fresh amejas as they were plucked from the sea floor with limon and hot sauce- Muy Fresco!
Islands dusted with green vegetation decorated el mar [the sea] mimicked the islands in British Colombia or the Puegot Sound. The recent hurricanes brought rain-- the rain brought the green islands. Pintoresco pero no tranquillo. The view hardly matched the reality. . . Swarms of mosquitoes awaited to gorge themselves on our blood. And in the middle of the night, wild horses danced around our tent looking for ground scores - a surreal experience leaving us with little sleep but fantastical dreams. Then, in the morning, the soft sand swallowed our tire. In the scorching heat, while combating the voracious mosquitoes, we jacked the van and constructed a flat rock ramp out of the pit we'd dug for ourselves! Back on Carretera de Uno, we picked up four young Canadian women and their four huge packs.
The Canadians guided us to an organic farm close to Todos Santos, a proclaimed 'energy vortex'. In other words many artists (local and otherwise), surfers, advocates of organic food and fancy caffeinated drinks, and people who like to talk about transformation had made a home in Todos Santos.
So the farm, run by Javier the "lettuce man," operated in the old tradition: planting according to the cycles of the moon and growing compatible plants together... in sandy rows so that everyone worked barefoot. Two bright British ex-pats, Paul and Sara, were mostly running the show and accepted help from the occasional WOOLF volunteer [World Organization of Organic League of Farmers- or something like that]. Javier had signed up as one of the thousands of worldwide organic farms trade modest accommodations, and food, instruction on how to farm for cheap clabor.
We drove to the tip of Baja which is dominated by Cabo San Lucus, the American satellite town. We weren't in the mood for Americanism and besides, the recent hurricanes had washed out the approaches to the supposed climbing crags so we motored on. Heather had come down with the flue, which Josh had given her, and a remote hot springs sounded like the perfectly healing thing.
Well, the remote hot springs were very remote. So remote that Elephante got stuck in the sand- 4-5 times. At one point, Josh gathered a tractor driver from his grass smoking daze haul us out of a large sewage puddle. The road to Aguacliente appeared to be desolate, but then around a corner a village would appear. Every ten kilometers or so another town appeared. Eeach time locals pointed west saying "Aguacliente, un poco kilometers". The vision of natural hot springs and cliffs launching into a cool river motivated us to continue despite the false peaks. As the sun approached the horizon, we approached the river, the river without a bridge, and Aguacliente lie on the other side. Determined to soak, we set off on foot for another local pointed west saying "dos kilometers". (you'd think we learned our lesson). After 3-4 km of walking in a delirious haze, we heard a Gringo say, "You better start digging". The Hurricanes had managed to ruin the hot pools. Pinche!
Luckily, Willy, his son Billy and their dog Will, had already begun the reconstruction process and Heather was eventually able to soak in ankle deep agua caliente. We spent the next day lounging in the cool and apparently healing river.
We camped just north of La Paz at Tecolote, our launch pad to the Isla de Espiritu Santos. Bill, a jolly sun-kissed man, and Sam, Bill's short but long black dog call, kept Elephante company while we paddled the 5 miles across the channel to the isla. Spending three gorgeous days and two nights on the island we paddled, snorkeled, relaxed, ate and paddled... 15 miles on the last day in choppy waves. An absolutely beautiful experience- Los fotos explicile la historia mejor que las palabras. [The pictures tell the story much better than words].
We took a ferry ride across the Sea of Cortez to Topolobompo. A surreal ride through the night on a surprisingly spiffy ship, somehow out of place after all the sand and mosquitoes. At 2am we drove Elephante off the ship and found ourselves in mainland Mexico, a much different scene than Baja.
A full day of driving past lush farmland and through small, crowded towns landed us in Mazatlan. We got a room (yahoo!) at the Hotel La Siesta in the old part of town-- complete with European-feeling plazas, narrow cobbled streets, museums with local art, and picturesque sandy beaches. The clean sheets, hot water, DSL and UNLIMITED electricity made us feel like we were important or something. Giant rubber trees filled the courtyard and our friend The Pacific is right outside the balcony, delivering an amazing sunset. We dined in the plaza a short walk away to the melodious sounds of student's piano recitals at the local music school.
Projimo, a major destination for Heather. Josh wasn't quite sure how he was going to occupy his time while Heather offered therapeutic services. Conchita wheeled and waved to us, an invitation to join her under the cabana; the first of many conversations under the cabana.