Ushuaia or Bust

Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure

Devastating news

As you know if you’ve followed this blog, I was scheduled to meet up with the guys from End of All Roads in Puebla last week. Sadly beyond words, one of the crew – Brian Johnson – skidded off the road and lost his life on their first day in Mexico, close to Zacatecas.

I only knew Brian a little from interacting with him online (and mutually trying to contain Dan’s panic level about their website). But from the outpouring of poignant testimonials by his friends and family, I can tell Brian was an incredibly special person who touched countless lives in his time. 

Here is the moving tribute Dan and Brian’s friends and family made to him on the End of All Roads Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/endofallroads/posts/408294522947099

Here is Brian’s bio on their blog site, which to me really illustrates the kind of person he was and the life he tried and succeeded in leading: http://endofallroads.com/team_member/brian-johnson/

The rest of the crew has vowed that the ride will continue in Brian’s honor. I’ve told them I have a bottle of Mezcal and 5 shot glasses waiting for them. 

The rest of the blog will continue in a few days. I’ve been pretty disoriented and not in the writing spirit much lately.

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The Mainland

La Paz to Mazatlan by ferry


I got to the ferry terminal about 5, as instructed. This time there were much less cars than when I was here a week ago about 5. Maybe because that ferry was going to Los Mochis.

Serious overlander vehicle on the ferry lot

I figured I’d have plenty of time in line to get everything organized, as you’re not allowed to go back to your car once it’s parked. Nope. They just shot me right up into the ferry.

Nice little room with a deck…
… and about 30 minutes to enjoy the last of the daylight while we sit in harbor
If we go down, I figure I will wear all 4 of these as I shove women and children out of my way to get to the lifeboats
Dammit why didn’t I bone up on my Korean? Well at least Korean ferries have a spotless record… oh wait
I don’t trust this KIDS Club – it has no backwards letters.

After getting settled in, I went down to get the “incluido” dinner. Not bad. Looks like the people who don’t have cabins are set up for some karoke or live music later. I saw a table of 3 young men and one young woman sitting at a table full of unopened Tecates. They were in for a fun night.

Later I came out just to see what was going on, and they were obviously well into the Tecates. I don’t know what cartel guys look like – but these kids had on pretty new hip-hop looking stuff – so maybe? I also noticed the guys always sat in the corner with their back to the wall. Sorry I did not feel it wise to try to sneak a pic of them. I decided to give them a wide berth as I probably look like DEA or something.

Pulling into Mazatlan

When I was disembarking, I thought I was in the line for drivers-only, and of course I’m right behind all the hip-hop dudes – who still had open beers in their hands at 9am. I thought – holy shit these guys are all getting in cars? What is this some kind of drunken can transport agency? Luckily I found out I was in the wrong line and had to go back up through the ship. I’ve never been so relieved to be in the wrong line.

Mazatlan -> Puerto Vallarta 


I made a bee-line out of Mazatlan and headed South – towards Puerto Vallarta. Poor Mazatlan. No one seems to have anything good to say about Mazatlan. And the parts I saw didn’t really change that perception for me. Although I’m sure it has something going on somewhere.

A little before Tepic, I got off the highway and headed for the coast – as I had time to spare and it looked like I could work my way down to Puerto Vallarta along the coast. The scenery turned quite lush and tropical jungle-ish.

I turned South at San Blas and worked my way along the coast. Lots of slow trucks going up hills slowed down traffic to a crawl. Then when the trucks get to the top they fly down the hill – the part where you can actually see to pass – and maybe only a few people can pass. If they’d just pull over at the top of the hill and let 20 cars go, traffic would move much faster. They’re practically stopped when they get to the top of the hill anyway. I don’t know if they’re trying to save gas or just massively underpowered.

Navigating through this region was pretty interesting as none of the small town names really matched my map, or google maps – which didn’t really match each other either. It felt like bingo when I actually got 2 of the 3 sources to agree. At a few points the road became completely covered with trees and made a tunnel.

The youtube compression really fails on these trees. It looks much cooler on my phone I promise.

Eventually I made my way to Lo De Marcos, which I wanted to check out as I had friends who have a place there. It was a very nice little town, sleepy in a way that I think I could really get into.

The extent of my photo safari in Lo De Marcos

I’d heard about Sayulita just to the South, so I wanted to check that out too. Sayulita is a pretty enough Mexican town on the beach – but also completely overrun with tourists – mostly Americans from what I could tell. The beach was packed, parking was really tough. Coming from Baja – where I mostly avoided Los Cabos – this was some culture shock. I lasted about 30 minutes, but managed to take some pics.

Oh yeah I saw some guy on the beach hiding behind a restaurant sign, where he had cover to point his giant 500-600mm lens at women walking down the beach. I looked at him and he pointed his lens out to the ocean like he was taking pictures of whales or surfers. Yeah dude – crouched down is a great vantage point for that. The guilty look on his face said it all. I should have taken a picture of him and shamed him in this blog.

I was pretty hungry, so I sat down at one place that looked ok and not too crowded. Immediately a fat American returned from the bathroom smoking a giant super-potent cigar. Well that explains why this chunk of tables was empty. I moved up a little bit and found a place with some ceviche – which also sold these monsters:

An extreme rarity – more ceviche than I can finish
These two struggled to keep pigeons from landing on this big pile of rice and food that it’s unclear what they planned to do with. American dude disapproves.

My next stop was the La Cruz de Huanacaxtle marina, where my new buddy Crazy Collin has his boat. The closer I got the more I started to worry a bit. Do I really know this guy? Also I get anxiety the first few days in a new place – which the Mexico mainland felt like for me. It’s just a physiological reaction I guess to unfamiliar surroundings. So that wasn’t really helping matters. I figured – well just know where my bag is at all times – so I can always bail if Collin gets wasted and starts showing me his knife collection or something. I have to admit at that point I was kinda wishing I had just booked a cheap hotel room.

I finally found the harbor, I took a few pictures why I waited for Collin to get back from running some errands. I guess this is one of the richest harbors in the world in terms of expensive yachts. It’s also the first place I’ve seen where the “Yacht Club” actually looked kind of swanky. All the Yacht Clubs I’ve seen in California are fairly pedestrian. Racquet Clubs on the other hand – are always swanky.

Collin showed up a bit later and we went out to the docks. As we approached a row of dinghies – I remembered – oh yeah, Collin told me his boat was at anchor, not in the dock. Well that certainly makes bugging out if things get weird a bit more complicated. We headed out to the boat with a loaded down dingy and Collin’s dog, Sadie – the mellowest black lab I’ve ever met in my life. Naturally my mind raced to that iconic scene from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The Implication:

We got to the boat in time for a gorgeous sunset.


I brought a bunch of beer, as one does when one is offered a free night’s stay on a boat. I figured this is the time where we get drunk and tell boat stories. Unfortunately Collin was not feeling very well and was pretty subdued. We talked for a bit while I drank a few beers and Collin went through sporadic contortions of pain. I remembered how much maintenance boats demand from my time owning one. And this one being twice as long looked like it demanded about 100 times more work. Quote of the night from Collin: “Yeah I’m 29 and own a yacht in Mexico. I think I’m gonna be single for a while.” Good on you Collin.

Oh yeah the other major tidbit Collin said is that if the cops catch you with cocaine on your boat – they just shoot you on the spot. So the war on drugs seems to have moved south. I hung out on the boat for another hour or so after Collin crashed, enjoying the peaceful sounds of the harbor. At night the waves were just enough to gently rock me into a deep satisfying sleep. Mucho better than a crappy hotel room – and sorry Collin for doubting your host-worthiness. You always have a place to crash in LA. Well whenever ifever I get back.

Also, apparently I bring pestilence with my wherever I go because the next day Collin was not really well enough to get up (man I hope Mike recovered in Baja). I did manage to wake up for an insane sunrise.

Collin’s buddy Gido, a German guy living with his family on the next boat over, brought over some miracle cure he had. “Don’t worry, it burns and tastes like chlorine, but it will kill anything.” Gido was also kind enough to give me a ride back to the dock on his dinghy, otherwise I may have been stuck on that boat for a while. Gido chucked it all in Germany and moved to Puerto Vallarta with his wife and kid a few years ago. I guess Germans have Jimmy Buffet syndrome too.

Thanks for the ride Gido, mucho appreciated

I WhatsApp-ed Collin that night and he was not doing much better. I checked in on him a couple days later and he had just gotten out of the hospital – where he was laid up with “hyper-infected intestines”. That sounds less than fun. He said the nurse told him it was probably from bad water. He said he only drinks bottled, except for what they give you at the restaurant. He had gone out for a nice steak dinner, and he was thinking at first it was the steak. But apparently it was probably the water. So avoid that at all costs. Good to know. Man I hope Mike is ok. (Edit: I have received proof of life from Mike – yay.)

I only had a few days until my Spanish language intensive in Puebla, and I knew I wanted to see San Miguel de Allende – so I made a beeline from Puerto Vallarta. It ended up about 9 hours of driving and I’m guessing $80-100 US in tolls on the autopista (toll freeway). At one point I accidentally got off the autopista and spent 30 minutes or so to go 5km behind more of those slow hill-climbing trucks. So yeah, the same route on the libre (free) road probably takes days. But how many people in Mexico can afford $100 to drive for one day?

Along the drive, the landscape went from lush tropical to something fairly close to California

 

San Miguel de Allende


I got to San Miguel de Allende about 4pm and just figured I’d drive into the center of town to check it out. Not the best idea.

As an aside – contrary to some of the blogs I’ve read – I’ve actually found driving easier than backpacking to this point. Moving day is infinitely easier when you don’t have to stuff everything you own into a bag, then carry it around with you until you find a new place to stay. I always feel like a vulnerable hermit crab outside its shell when I’m sitting in some new city with my suitcases or backpacks – especially when traveling alone and I have to deal with my bag and look for a place at the same time. Also I can usually find free camping, or sleep in my car if I have to.

Now having said that – San Miguel de Allende brought me back to reality on the car utopia. Imagine deciding to drive through some medieval European town with impossible narrow cobblestone streets, and traffic, as dusk rolled in. Also I was pretty fatigued from the day’s driving. At one point I almost caused a wreck to sheer stupidity, and have been kicking myself for it for days. No more fatigued driving in crazy towns.

A little tight

I saw a few places that offered parking – but they all had low overhangs that would knock my car carrier right off. For the first week or so I forgot I even had that thing on the top of my car – luckily I was in central Baja where parking garages don’t exist. But these days I am always aware of it (watch me forget now).

Finally I found a parking lot with no low overhang. I pulled in just to get my bearings for a bit and was greeted by a couple chained-up barking dogs. Oh yeah – street parking is about as easy to find as San Francisco – non-existent. Turns out the parking lot was for a hostel. Ok great. I walked in the back way – up to the front desk. No one was there. I peeked out the front door just to see if anyone was out front – which set off an alarm bell. Ok they’ll come now. Nope.

So I sat and waited for a bit. No one came. I set off the alarm a few more times. 15 minutes or so – and no one showed up. Furthermore the hostel seemed completely deserted and was mostly dark. I decided to wander around to see what it was like or if I could find anyone. The upstairs was not lit up at all, and the sun had set. So there was a nice eerie gloom. Some areas were unfinished, there were some closed rooms, but pretty much zero sign of any habitation.

I started thinking about how much not fun it would be to stay at this place, given the cold gloomy vibe. Then of course I thought of the movie Hostel. I was so unnerved I didn’t even get any pics. But dammit that parking was perfect. So while I was still sitting in the empty lobby, I decided to check on booking.com just to see what was out there. I found a crazy fancy looking resort place just outside of town, with parking, for $60/night. Sold. I got the heck out of there. The next day I kept trying to find the place to take some pics, but couldn’t find it on any hostel guides or booking sites. Creeeepy.

The fancy place – Imperio de Angeles:

The next day I taped up my heel and had the hotel call a taxi for me into town. I was already blown away by what I had seen the night before, and with more chance to explore the next day I was even more fascinated with the town. Apparently most of the exiting town was built during the Spanish colonial days – between the 16th and 17th centuries. Apparently in the 17000s it had 30k people, which made it one of the largest cities in the New World at the time. The architecture is a mix of baroque and neoclassical, not that I really know the difference. I just know it’s massively photogenic.

Enough people had told me to go to San Miguel de Allende, that I just put it on my list and didn’t research much beyond there. I like having no idea what to expect when I roll into a new place. I was worried SMA would be another Sayulita, but in the mountains. IE –  cute town overrun with tourists. But once I got there and was blown away by the architecture – I immediately wanted to read up on the history of the town. I guess by the early half of this century the town had fallen into some disrepair and was in danger of ruin, until it was discovered by artists from America and around the world. Oh yeah, apparently it also claims to have invented my old friend – the serape. When I get back and write my Bryson-esque travel memoir, I’ll have a ton more fun historical tidbits.

For lunch I had Chamorro de Adobado – super tender pork in a tomato sauce

I did my best to explore with my bruised heel on hard cobble-stones and rock side-walks. It’s just killing me that I can’t walk all day and explore cities like I usually do. But I still managed to get in some nice pics, a very tasty pork meal, and wandered up a step path to apparently the sunset spot (see pics in the album above).

Fairly involved concoctions they were selling at the sunset spot. I’m not sure if you get to keep the glasses.

I love hidden steps especially when they lead somewhere cool. 

I was entertained for a good 30 minutes by these kids and their dad playing with balloon toys

I tried one of these corn/lime parfait things that seem to be pretty popular. Very tasty and not like anything Iive tried before

At night the temps dropped pretty quick. I hung out until 8 or so then grabbed a taxi back to my resort. I passed the resort restaurant where some poor waiter was just standing there surrounded by dozens of tables loaded with finely polished glass and silverware. The resort was pretty deserted. I wonder if they got one customer all day long. Deserted restaurants and resorts freak me out for some reason.

I decided I liked San Miguel de Allende enough to stay another night. Really I could have stayed two weeks there, and I don’t say that about many places. I talked to some locals who said there’s some interesting art exhibit or cultural presentation every night. I could easily just wander meeting local artists and taking pics for days on end. Well – assuming my heel would cooperate.

So I checked with my resort – sure they could extend my stay – for 3200 pesos. Let’s see “tres mil, dos-cientos … thinking … thinking … hmmmm … I’m pretty sure that’s 3200 pesos. Well that’s like $160.” So I asked again just to confirm I didn’t screw up the numbers somehow. Yep $160. Nah. I think I’ll pass. Enjoy losing 25% of your guests! 😀

Apparently they wash your car overnight at this resort – unsolicited (I tipped the guy a couple dollars and he seemed happy). But dammit now I have to go get it dirty again. Dirty cars get a lot less attention, and I know my car is happier when it’s dirty. It’s like a dog.

Aw man – so shiny

So this is where I’m thinking having a car is pretty sweet. I can just load up my car, find somewhere to park in SMA, explore the city some more, then find some place to stay as the sun goes down. Well not exactly.

First I checked out the arboretum outside of town. It had a lot of cool plants, some art sculptures, and an old water wheel from the 1600s or something. Apparently the history of SMA is tied to bringing water into town from outside. It’s like a mini-LA.

This art installation is called “Navegar las Estrellas” – to navigate the stars.

After that I headed into town – l figured I’d drive around looking for a hostel – as I had seen a few in the previous days. I decided I’d even stay at the creepy hostel for one night, since it had parking and might make a good story. Naturally I had zero luck finding any hostel, or parking.

Finally I got lucky and saw someone leaving in a spot near el centro. I pulled in feeling pretty pleased with myself. I looked around and didn’t see any no-parking signs (E with a slash through it). However I didn’t see any yes-parking signs either – and they were usually pretty good about those. Also the guy behind me was sitting in his car, napping. And I was in the front of the row. These are called warning signs.

But hey what’s the worst that can happen? They’re not going to tow my car. So I set off to explore a little and try to find a place to stay for the night. One thing I wanted to find was the hat store I had seen the night before. All the locals and ex-pats seem to wear Panama hats or the wider-brimmed straw hat, whatever that’s called. I figured my grubby hiking hat could use an upgrade when I’m being man about town. Amazingly I did find the hat store and asked the clerk if they had any cabeza grande (big head). Only one variety of Panama hat fit me, but I liked it. The shop girl was adamant there was no bargaining, and her body language made it abundantly clear she’d really rather I just leave so she could get back to her iPhone. So it wasn’t cheap. But I’m happy with it. The cheap ones didn’t even come close to my size. They fit me about like like one of those silly hats they put on monkeys.

From my friend on Facebook: “Savino’s got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he’ll blend in, disappear, you’ll never see him again. With any luck, he’s got the grail already.”

Hat secured, I tried a few hotels that looked like they might be cheap but were not. So finally I found a hostel on booking.com that had private rooms (but shared bathroom which I can deal with). Of course it was on the other side of town. I hobbled over to it, checked in, and rested myself for a bit in my very Spartan room that for some reason needs 5 light switches.

I needed things out of my car, which was of course, on the other side of town. I spotted some parking close to the hotel and decided to get my car and bring it back there. When I got to my car, someone was sitting in their car in front of me – almost blocking the intersection and clearly not in a legal spot. I thought – it’s your lucky day sir as you can have this spot. When I got in the car he was gesturing at me. I noticed a ticket under the wiper blade.

Ah – yep not a legal spot. Oh well, what are they really going to do? I mean I will pay it online if they make it easy. But somehow I doubted they had that option. Nowhere on the ticket did it even say the fine.

So I parked my car in the overnight lot, but not before taking a chunk out of my side mirror housing – trying to back in to an impossible angle between two cars and a tree. First injury of the trip. Noting superglue can’t fix.

We will rebuild

 

This Pemex station is somewhat in need of an upgrade. I think it might actually be in service.

I got everything I thought I would need from my car and headed back to the hostel where I rested my heel for an hour or two. After it got dark, I got hungry. I opened my door to a blast of arctic air. There was no heater in my room. But apparently, the room was small enough that my body heat had kept it quite comfy. I realized I only had my shorts. My jeans were in my car and the lot was probably locked up for the night. I could have frozen my ass off to walk a few blocks to try to get my jeans. But that seemed to defeat the purpose. I found a hot dog stand a block away and wolfed down a shivering hot dog. So much for any plans for a night out – which I really didn’t have anyway. I checked and it got down to 32 degrees that night. Mexico es muy frio!

The next day I had a wonderful albeit cold (the environment, not the food) breakfast at the hostel. I really like chilaquiles (fried chips with rojo sauce and sour cream) for breakfast.

Simple and perfect

I checked out and headed to my car. I had to roust the parkng attendant at 10am. Luckily someone was there who knew where she lived. This is not an early-rising country.

The drive to Puebla was a fairly uneventful autopista excursion of about 5 hours and maybe only $25 in tolls this time. People were burning brush and fields all over – so there was lots of smoke which unfortunately mostly obscured the nearby volcanoes – the tallest of which is some 18,400 feet!

Driving into town I saw a young girl of 11 or 12 working on her mother’s nails as both sat by the side of road along a big roundabout. I assume they were taking a break from panhandling or selling some small items. The young girl had a look of innocence and devotion as she was 100% focused on helping her mother. The scene was poignant, heartbreaking, and somehow not without hope at the same time. I wondered if maybe that young girl can get an education and lift the family to make a better life for her mother somehow.

(I talked to Scott, who owns the Spanish school I’m staying at. He didn’t seem very optimistic about the chances of someone born into that kind of poverty here – which is probably true in most places. When I get settled, I am going to look into charities where you can sponsor a child to get an education, and also help the family out to replace the work or income they were expecting the child to bring in. Basically whatever it takes to make sure a child in poverty gets an education. Something like that has to exist right? Yeah of course it does. I just need to get on it.)

I arrived at the school, my home for the next week, and unloaded some things from the car. Scott, the owner of the school, looked at my car and asked how I got a Temporary Import Permit without a front plate. All that was there was my empty license plate holder – screwed back in and even the little caps over the screws put back on. I thought – “What kind of thief screws the license plate holder back in?” He said that the cops do that sometimes, to make sure you pay the ticket. Which I have to admit, is certainly an effective strategy. And oh yeah – I did get a parking ticket in San Miguel de Allende. I thought I was in a legal spot, but as mentioned – there were some warning signs I should have heeded.

So as what I thought was an extreme long shot, I posted in the Pan-American Travelers group on Facebook, asking if anyone was in San Miguel and on their way to Puebla. Since I will be here for a week learning Spanish. (Edit: turns out to be two weeks as my motorcycle friends are struggling to get across Texas in the snow and cold.)

A fellow “overlander” named Bruno Rey responded that night. The next day, he was kind enough to print up copies of my documents, then make the pilgrimage into the center of town – which as I have covered – isn’t the easiest driving or parking in the world. He paid the fine – 151 pesos (about $7.50) – and is now in possession of my license plate.

Muchas muchas gracias San Bruno! See you in a few days my new friend.

Next: two weeks studying Spanish in Puebla and eating many great things. Puebla is a foodie’s dream.

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The best things in life

Most of this post is me messing around on “The Cape” of Baja – which from what I gather is everything south of La Paz. To get there from Bahia Concepcion on the Sea of Cortez, you actually have to criss-cross your way across Baja – almost to the Pacific Ocean side, then back to La Paz which is back on the Sea of Cortez.

We may have finally found our ‘boring drive’, because his is apparently the only pic I took during the drive to La Paz:

 

 

La Paz


I thought the drive would take longer – but as it turned out I had time to go to the ferry building in La Paz to get my ferry ticket and take care of my vehicle import permit (TIP). I decided to take the longer route through La Paz – which looked like a nice enough town with a waterfront with lots of gringos wandering around. Again I took no pics apparently. So here’s a delicious roadside taco I had earlier and forgot to post. (I have taken pics of approximately 80% of the tacos I’ve eaten so far.)

The Ferry terminal is actually way out of town to the point where I thought google maps must be confused again – as I figured it would be near the other boats. I was wondering how the peope get from town to way out here. Also there are zero signs to alert you that you are headed toward the ferry terminal. But then I saw a grey bus with a bunch of people dressed like ship’s officers. So I figured maybe I am on the right track. Then I saw a bunch of taxi-vans loaded with people. And finally I came up over a hill and saw a ferry the size of a cruise ship.

I’m really glad I figured out that drive, where to pull in, and got my TIP permit and ferry ticket ahead of time. As I had no idea how long any of that stuff was going to take. The TIP permit actually went super smooth as the woman spoke very good English. Buying the ferry ticket however was my first taste of trying to accomplish a complicated transaction with someone who speaks no English and my spotty Spanish (But soon to improve with my weeklong intensive class in Puebla.)

15 minutes minimum transaction time for each purchase. That’s ok – I’m on Mexico time 🙂

Anyway we muddled through it. I got a ticket for next Tuesday – which gives me 6 days to explore the Baja Cape/Los Cabos area. Ideally Sunday or Monday might have been better, as now I only have a few days to make it to Puebla for my 5-day Spanish intensive class. But it was either Saturday or Tuesday as the ferry only runs 3x per week. I also got a cabin because I heard if you don’t get one you have to sleep at the restaurant tables. And that didn’t sound fun. The car itself was about $130 and the cabin was $45.

The biggest sticking point at first was she kept saying Martes – and I completely spaced on the word for Tuesday. Argh. Right now my Spanish teacher Julia is probably reading this and saying to herself – “We went over that 20 times in class!” My memory for foreign word vocabulary sucks. Always has and it certainly isn’t getting any better as I get older.

However I had a funny moment that Julia should appreciate. In class to would teach us possesive pronouns, she would grab our pen and say “Mi pluma?” and we’d say “No! Mi pluma.” Then she’d grab her pencil and say “Tu lapiz?” And we’d say “No mi lapiz. Tu lapiz”. Etc. So at one point I realized I had probably stolen the ticket-girl’s pen, but she was too polite to ask for it back. I remembered back to class and said “Su pluma?” (I even remembered su instead of tu for formal vs. informal). She said “Si” and I had to say “No mi pluma. Su pluma.” She laughed. Julia – please tell the class that as I’m sure they will get a big kick out of it.

Ticket and TIP in hand, I grabbed a cheap hotel in La Paz as I was starting to smell myself from  days of camping out. However that’s not really an excuse, as there was a place with a cheap shower just down the road from where we were camping. So I need to start using those and stop wussing out and getting hotel rooms – or my trip will not be as long as I want. Also I have a bad habit of sleeping in and farting around until check out time – just because I can or something. And in this hotel checkout time was 1pm lol. It did have good internet though, so I finally got caught up on a bunch of stuff.

So having blown half the day in a hotel room, I headed out of La Paz – towards some interesting-looking places. But not before I stopped for some tacos. This place broke my rule of looking for places with a crowd. But I figured if the guy has the balls to put a flaming taco on his cart, I kind of have to try it. Also there was one taxi driver there. And they usually know what’s up.

The first taco was shredded lomo di cerdo (loin of pork) and it was amazing. My mouth is watering again just thinking about it.

I declined to put any salsa as I could tell it was already plenty spicy, although less spicy than the al pastor tacos in TJ – which win the spicy award so far. The second taco – pork in chile morita – was some kind of fatty pork that I didn’t like as much.

I should have tried the Cabeza (pork head I think?) or the chicharron. Next time I will ask them to show each meat and pick what looks tasty.

The cab driver must have used some salsa because his nose was running and eyes watering. I chugged a big bottle of coke, which I didn’t really want but it was the only thing he had to drink and once I opened his cooler to look I felt like I had to buy something (I am bad with this).

 

La Ventana (and surrounds)


Gut bomb secured – I headed out of town towards a point called Bahia de los Sueños – because it looked like an interesting spot the the map. Also the cave explorer in me wanted to start at the northeast end of the roughly round cape, and work my way around clockwise. The first place I got to was a nice little beach with a restaurant and some kind of cabanas. It was pretty windy. I then drove on a fairly nice dirt road to the northern point which comes to the end at a new and old lighthouse, and an almost deserted beach. I got out, took some pics, and walked around a little

At some point while I was out on the beach testing the water temperature – a guy in a loaded down Toyota pickup pulled up next to my car and got out with his dog. I walked toward my car and he waved hello. Enter Crazy Collin. We talked for a bit and he suggested we drive on the beach, since we now had two 4WD vehicles. IE – if one gets stuck the other can pull him out.

The sand was pretty fluffy and I wondered just what it would take to get stuck out there. Also the whole idea about preserving momentum is out the window with that sand. As soon as I let off the gas the car instantly stopped. So it’s pretty much all about tire flailing power. Also if our rope/towing strap isn’t long enough for one car to be on relative solid ground, that’s not going to do much good – as neither car will have traction to pull the other out.

By the way – stuff like this is one of the big reasons I like doing this trip. There are so many new places where you actually have to think for yourself, use common sense, use your wits etc. – from 4x4ing, to deciding what you bring, to staying out of trouble. Most of us don’t get that out of our normal lives – unless we do something like stunt coordinator – or work with our hands and have to improvise. Humans weren’t made to live their lives on auto-pilot imo. I feel more alive when I have to think on my feet. I guess you could google “how to drive in beach sand” and find some youtube video. But really.

So we parked the cars on the beach and hung out for a bit while Collin played with his dog – probably the mellowest pure bred black lab I’ve ever met. We grabbed some shells and coral that were literally just the ones within arms’ reach. I took a pic – just so I could post on FB later and make my friend Kim envious.

Eventually we drove back to the lighthouses to take some sunset shots.

Collin figured out you could actually climb up into the old one. It was a bit sketchy but solid. I took a few pics from the top and went down. Collin tried to Facebook Live from up there. Not sure if it worked. At some point a local on a quad-runner came and checked us out. I think just to make sure we weren’t there to raid his lobster traps.

Collin said he was going to come back and camp on that beach, but he had a hotel for that night in La Paz. He had to fly back to Tijuana the next day because he didn’t get his Mexican Visa (FMM) the first time through. Heh – more like FML am I right? #UPTOP

Anyway once the Visa is sorted out, Collin is planning to move to his boat in Puerto Vallarta. We exchanged info. and he offered to let me stay on the boat for a night or two – which I might take him up on after my ferry lands in Mazatlan.

Once the sun went down I drove up to a town on the other side of the little bay where the lighthouse was – called La Ventana. Apparently La Ventana is some kind of kite-surfer mecca and they had flooded the town. I found this out from a local ex-pat when I stopped to get the only street-food I could find – a very tasty bacon-wrapped hot dog with cheese and pico di gallo – and the most amazingly soft bun I’ve ever had.

He also told me about a free camping beach just north of town. It had been really windy at the lighthouse, and camping in the wind isn’t the most fun. But also I figured the hotels must all be booked with kite-surfers. I asked the local about the wind, as it had died down, and he told me it will stay that way until about 11am the next day. Ok, perfect. How nice of the wind to be that predictable.

I drove through town, found the beach and set up my tent just in time to see a pretty spectacular moonrise.

It was warm enough out that I left the cover off my tent and slept under the moon and stars. I woke up in the morning to a gorgeous sunrise.

I can’t really put into words how amazing it is to wake up to your own little show like that on a mostly deserted beach. There’s no way to convey it in blog form that I know of. The only thing I know for sure is the dozen or so other people camped out there were all experiencing the same unverbalizable joy that I was.

It reminds me of the time my friends and I wandered into a bar in Nice, France – to two Americans putting on an amazingly talented freestyle rap show while a 6′ tall blonde in high heels did cartwheels and other incredibly nimble acrobatics within a very small space in front of them. I immediately realized I could never possibly begin to explain how random, bizarre, and cool this scene was to anyone back home (this was pre-cel phone camera or Facebook days). I think my friends all felt the same thing – but at least each of us knew that the other knew.

I thought about my plan to ‘treat myself’ to a few days at a resort in San Jose del Cabo and realized I don’t even want that. I want more of this. I had a moment of clarity. Wow – the best things in life really are free (or dirt cheap). It’s not just a bland cliché.

I also had a another epiphany about what I want to do with this blog. I’d like to write a Bill Bryson-style travel memoir when I get back and have time to research the shit out of the local history, ecology, culture, etc. I love how he mixes humor in with vast amounts of really interesting informative facts. Maybe mine will be like that but also multi-media. Anyway that should keep my brain busy for a while.

I stopped and got some coffee in La Ventana, then headed out shortly after dawn, with a rough plan to work my way around the eastern edge of the cape.

I’m not sure if I was supposed spray this on myself, in my mouth, or on my food.

There’s no way I can see a road that hugs that much coastline and not check it out. After several whiffs, I found one town on the northeast cape that google maps recognized and plugged it in. As is it’s wont – Google soon had me headed down a dirt road that got sketchier and sketchier. I stopped for a bit to get my bearings then realized I was actually on a road my map had as red – which is one step up from grey. The impassible road by Mike’s Sky Rancho was grey. But I’ve been on some other grey roads that weren’t bad.

I love elephant trees

It quickly became apparent that – um no, this is not a red road. Maybe it was before the last hurricane or something. From what I gather, hurricanes seem to blow far southern Baja  every 5 or 10 years and re-arrange all the beaches and plenty of other stuff. There are arroyos everywhere – which are dry canyons that fan out into dry deltas all the way to the beach. Except for hurricanes – when they become raging torrents flooding down out of the mountains.

Either that or the person who did the Southern Baja portion of the map is a lot more generous about road conditions than the person who did the Northern portion.

I saw a decent turn-around spot, and came very close to turning around. Not because the road was too sketchy, but because I wasn’t sure if I wanted 25 more KM of jostling around – although some of that was out on the coast which shouldn’t be too bad (at least assuming I was on the road on the map I thought I was on – which isn’t always a given). But I could see I was getting close to a ridge where it looked like I should be able to see the Sea of Cortez. So I pushed on and was greated to a nice view of the water, and the road didn’t look too bad headed back down.

Although it was a lot winder than it looked and went into a deep canyon, which semed to be guarded by legions of angry red wasps, before finally emerging to the coast.

And this is the scene I was greeted with:

Maybe it was the work to get there, but at that moment I decided this is the most scenic drive I’ve ever done. And I’ve done way more than my share of scenic drives. I literally just had to get out of the car and gape at it for 5 minuntes – until a wasp flew by and herded me back into my car.

The drive went on like that for about 10km – just incredible.

Sand burrs! No bueno for dogs or flip-flops.

Finally I came down to a couple of actually populated houses, and down all the way to a beach that looked like a great spot to spend the day snorkeling.

Buzzard Beach

I took the coast road for a while past a super luxe housing enclave called Punta Pescadaro, and some other not quite as luxe compounds. Towards the end the clouds got really crazy so I had to take some pics. I’ve never seen clouds like this. It looks like a cat scratched the sky.

 

Santiago


Instead of heading all the way down towards San Jose del Cabo, I decided to head over to Santiago, as I heard you could possibly arrange some guided hikes into the mountains here. From what I heard the trails are a real mess and hard to find and if you go too far in w/o a guide you will probably get lost. Even with GPS only one of the trails is marked at all.

 Very photogenic local iglesia in Santiago

Mural across from the church

I stopped at a place called the Palomar Hotel which I had heard is a good way to get a hold of the local trekking company (Baja Aventuras I think). Before I even went in I met a couple women who live down there. We got to talking about the crazy drive I had just taken. She agreed that no, this is not a ‘red road’. She said she did it once, then marked it “death road” on her map to make sure she’d never do it again. But mind-bogglingly – she did it in a Ford Fiesta. I cannot imagine the road was as bad when she did it as what I just did. But either way I told her she should get her name on a plaque.

She introduced me to a local gentleman who knew the guides and outfitters. I said I really just wanted a hard butt-kicking day hike, or possibly overnight if we could leave today. However nothing really gets arranged that fast in Mexico. I think the guide was out on another hike. I decided just to keep exploring on my own.

At this point not too far out of town I got my first attack of traveler’s runs. It became obvious that I wasn’t going to make it to any form of civilization so I found and out of the way spot and dug a hole in the sandy dirt J I also had a momentary brain fart as I decided to book a hotel in Cabo (but not a resort) for 3 nights. I figured if I was going to get sick at least I’d have a nice room. But it turned out I was fine once business was taken care of. I thought back to what I’d eaten and I bet anything it was the ice in my iced latte that morning. Even at a fancy coffee shop I guess ice is made with local water. No more of those!

At this point I thought I passed the Tropic of Cancer. But it’s actually 23 degrees, 30 minutes. Which is 23.5 degrees. DUH! 

It was still only mid day so I decided to head back out to the coast to check out some kind of eco-park the “death road” woman had mentioned. It’s weird with these eco-[fill in the blank] things out here – you never know if it’s going to be a real park with some kind of signage, or a resort, or nothing. In this case it turned out to be a resort of “eco cabañas” or something. But it had some signs about the local nature and mangrove swamps which were interesting. I trekked a little more down the coast, then found another crooked road to get back to Hwy 1 – since continuing south would just yield fancy resorts and housing compounds. There’s a little town in the middle that I think they don’t get too many gringos passing through, because the local kids playing soccer all stopped and stared at me as I drove by. I waved but they just stared some more then continued their game.

 

San Jose del Cabo


As soon as I got to the hotel (Hyatt Place) I regretted it. The place was fine but just bleh. But it turned out to be a good home base for a few days I guess. After two weeks in Baja – it was weird seeing the staff hustle and fall over themselves trying to check me in as fast as possible. They seemed really stressed out. I’m like guys – I’m on Mexico time – no rush. I felt bad – did the Americans do this to you? Demanding instant service instead of just adapting a tiny bit to another culture? Boo. I took a shower, relaxed a bit, then went out on foot to explore old town San Jose del Cabo – which I’ve heard good things about.

I hadn’t eaten much all day so I decided to look for a food cart amidst all the hotels and fancy restaurants. I saw this food cart a half a block off the hotel strip and hoped it was tacos.

Hmmm – not sure if want

One of my goals goal for this trip is to never be handed a menu. I find it so involved and time consuming. Just let me shove a couple tacos into my face and go back to exploring. I’ve actuality lost a few lbs so far because I pretty much just eat a medium breakfast, then some trail mix or something for lunch, then maybe a few tacos in the late afternoon/early eve. It’s my personal ideal travel meal plan.

Anyway – to my disappointment the food cart did not have tacos. They had a bunch of fried stuff like churros, fried plantains, and corn dogs. I decided to get a corn dog and continue on my walk – as it’s small enough that it’s not going to kill me.

The person in front of me got this crazy looking thing in a Tostitos bag that looked like it was about 2000 calories. I had to ask about it – Tostitos Locos (also called Tosti-locos). Luckily the guy spoke enough English to tell me it was really good and I should just try it.

I almost still got a corn dog, because it looked so huge and I didn’t know what half that stuff is. But at the last minute pulled the trigger. My plan was to have a few bites then pitch the rest if it was too crazy. But It was nothing like I expected – it had cucumbers, jicama and peanuts and other veggies and other stuff I need to look up – in a tomato sauce  (edit: Google translate doesn’t know what most of that stuff is either. I did find out one of them is pork skin. So if you don’t dig on swine ask for it w/o puerco). The only carbs in the whole thing were the Tostitos. I felt light and refreshed and continued on my walk. It was the perfect dinner. 

New rule for this trip: if someone tells me “just try it” or anything similar, I have to do so. I don’t have to eat all of it but I at least have to try it. And even if it sucks you still have a good story.

The other lesson is even in the middle of gringo-land you can find some super cheap interesting tasty local food. Just follow the service workers. They have to eat too. I guarantee what they’re having is usually more tasty and always more interesting than whatever overpriced garlic shrimp thing the gringos are sitting down 2 hours for. Nothing against garlic shrimp or sitting down to a nice meal – it’s just not my thing for this trip. I have to eat cheap if I want to be out here for a year.

Luckily when it comes to local food, the best things are often the cheapest. Look at BBQ in the US. Yes you can get expensive BBQ now. But back in the day when high society only wanted sirloin steaks, local African Americans took the “trash cuts” of meat and turned it into America’s great culinary art form. Pretty much every culture has a similar rags to riches cuisine story.

Belly secured, I kept on to old town San Jose – which I was told was a 45-minute walk. But I wanted the exercise. About halfway there I saw a place that said “San Jose del Cabo’s best fish tacos”. Well that sounds like a bit of a challenge. Apparently belly was not 100% secured by Tosti-locos. So I stopped and had a beer and a couple grilled fish tacos. They were pretty damn tasty. I still haven’t really learned how I like them dressed though. 

I throw different stuff on each time – usually slaw, white or orangish cream sauce, lime, maybe salsa. It’s hit or miss so far. I do invariably load them up so much that eating w/o making a gigantic mess on the table and in my beard is pretty much impossible. My strategy is to sit or stand where no one has to look directly at me while I eat, wolf the tacos down as fast as possible, then begin  the beard and mustache cleanup process. Average cleaning supply tally is about 10 napkins.

After round 2 – I made it old town – which was bustling. Apparently I was still hungry from my walk or something because I saw a huge line for tamales and decided if it’s that good I need to check it out. In line I met these two – Peter and his buddy Jose, the self-described “Anthony Bourdain of Cabo”. Ok then.

The tamale was delicious. I guess this is big eating day. Gotta do it every now and then. I’ve been also doing fasting days to make up for big eating days and lose some weight in general. It seems to be working so far. Keeps my body confused enough that it doesn’t go into full blown conserve fat mode. You’ve heard of muscle confusion, now try gut confusion™.

Turns out there was an art walk that weekend – and tons of galleries were open with amazing art work. Like serious stuff – not cheap. We wandered around talking about food, culture and some of the profoundly boorish behavior Americans put on display in Cabo. I officially apologized on behalf of all Americans, and he accepted. So you’re all off the hook. Just watch it from now on. :p Canadians you’re on your own.

S

A couple of kids were b-boying on the Zocalo (main square).

We also tried to get into La Lupita – which apparently some kind of super fancy taco place – where people were dressed up and talking about reservations. Which just seems wrong. But apparently they are amazing. (I’ve been googling but can’t find the place yet.) But it was too crowded for even Jose’s street cred to get us a table. We all decided to call it a night and I caught a cab back to my hotel.

The next day I went back up towards Santiago to see if I could find any trails and maybe hike on them just a bit. I was trying to hit a canyon on the map that the man at Hotel Palermo had given me. But it’s really tricky to find these things coming out of town – as there are a bunch of dirt roads fanning out in all directions. While google maps knows the roads – it doesn’t seem to know any destinations on the roads I want. I did know something called Fox Canyon. Which seemed to line up with the paper map I had. So I pointed google at that and let it go.

Turns out I was 1 canyon south, which is the place that I was told has a waterfall and an easy hike. Oh well I’m here now I might as well explore. This eco-park (Rancho Ecológico Sol de Mayo) was actually much more like say a state park in the US. It had a $5 entrance fee to see the waterfall – which given the fact that there might be a half-dozen of them in all of Baja, didn’t seem bad. AND – as it turned out there was even a hiking trail that went down the river past the waterfall. Woo hoo.

Not the most common site in Baja

The waterfall was cool. People were swimming in it and cooling down. But because of the mountain looming overhead to the west, the sun disappeared about 3pm. I continued on the hiking trail and came to a totally unexpected deciduous forest.

I guess this is one of those things where instead of leaves falling off in winter, they fall off in the dry season. Really weird to see a deciduous forest with cactus all interspersed.

Also I saw a very fast little snake (not pictured because it was too fast), a couple of toads, a lizard – which you’d think would be all over Baja but I’ve barely seen any. And there are these small quail-like birds that mostly run along the ground, but then decide to take off and scare the crap out of you as you walk down the trail. Nature did not bless the quail with stealth mode in flight.

After the hike, I had a fun little adventure on the way back to my hotel. I decided to wing it w/o google maps, since I could see the hotel and knew my way around by now. (“Don’t be a slave to google maps, mannnn – get out and explore on your own.” Ok random internet dude from the Pan American Traveler’s group on FB.) I turned right and went down the main highway to where I could have thrown a rock and hit the hotel to the left. Welp, turns out you need to take the roundabout a ways back to come in the back way – or you’re headed to Cabo San Lucas. No problem I will just turn around. Hmmm traffic looks a little backed up coming the other way and there’s no way to turn around.

Finally I saw some signs for “retorno” – but I was looking for a place to turn around in the middle of the road – like I had seen in other places. It took me a couple retornos to realize you actually had to go right and up over the highway. By that time I had driven about 10km of completely stopped traffic coming that other way – that went from 3 lanes, to 2 lanes, to 1 lane which also had bus stops and stuff coming in to SJC. I pulled over and checked and there were literally no roads to get around this, short of driving all the way (30km miles or so) to Cabo San Lucas and taking the auto-pista (freeway – usually toll) back. So that’s what I did. Not sure if I was any faster but I wasn’t going to sit in stopped traffic for an hour+. Craziness.

So after that adventure, I got back to my hotel about an hour and a half later than planned and decided to skip going out – as I was tired and my feet were pretty sore. I did however head back out for some more Tosti-Locos, which were just as delicious the second time.

The next day my heel was even more sore. My heel had been sore off and on from all the hiking I was doing to try to get in shape for my April Patagonia trip. I was hoping to at least maintain on this trip so far. But hiking has been hard to come by. So since I couldn’t hike like I wanted, I would just eat a lot less and try to lose some weight – which will help for hiking just as much if not more. And believe it or not I have lost about 15 lbs. I know I post a lot about food – but a lot of days I’m not eating much at all. So far so good on that.

However it’s starting to worry me that even though I’ve barely hiked – apparently a couple hours walking around on pavement (in very good shoes for it) and then a 2 hour hike mostly on dirt the next day – is enough to make my left heel really sore again. I started googling and apparenlty I have something calle “Policeman’s Heel” – which is basically a bruised heel that won’t heal. Great. The only treatment is to stay off of it. Although you can tape your heel which will help compress the soft tissue and give it more cushion. I also got some tape various pads I’m going to try. The video has an example of how to tape up your heel properly.

NAILED IT

It seems like just the pressure of resting on the floor of my car while I drive is bothering it. So I am trying to hang my heel off the back edge of my flip-flop and rest it on a rolled up sock. I always forget though and end up putting pressure on it. Even now as I write this I am laying on a bed, but my heel is down and I can feel it starting to hurt a little. Argh.

So bottom line is no more walking around on pavement for hours for a while. Which sucks because one of my favorite things to do when I get to a new town is walk around on foot and explore everything. Hopefully I can baby it enough until my week in Puebla where I won’t be driving or moving around much. If it wasn’t for the photo trip in April – where it’s hard hikes for like 3 out of every 4 days – I wouldn’t be as worried about it. I really need to be healed by then.

So I decided to spend Saturday indoors – catching up on all my pictures from the iphone as well as the Nikon, catching up on the blog, working out in the hotel gym and oh yeah… what else did I have planned? The Chiefs playoff game! Yay!

Moving on. The next day I headed back out to hopefully hook up with Mike and Kelley one more time. I was excited to get back into my dusty tent and out of the sterile hotel room. The last text I got from them said they were camped at a place called San Pedrito, a little south of Todos Santos.

 

Cabo San Lucas


Oh yeah – first I took a little detour into Cabo San Lucas. Just for giggles I decided to point google maps to Señor Frogs – as it was also the only bar I could remember from when Grace and I went to Cabo a few years ago. After some effort, I found a paid parking lot – parked and bought some tape for my heel at a farmacia for like $7 lol. These farmacias exist only to sell viagra and vicodin to gringos. I think every thing else is priced *not* to move.

I figured I might watch some of the Sunday playoff games there and post on Facebook that I was at the choadiest place on earth – just to make my buddy Hali happy. However Señor Frogs was a) dead and b) didn’t even seem to have TVs. There were a few tourists drinking those 2’ high frozen drinks and that was about it. Also the hawkers all around that area were really aggressive – trying to sell fishing trips and everything else. A few other nearby bars had no TVs either. I wondered how can all these Americans be running around and no football for them to watch? I finally saw one little bar with football on, but decided just to get the hell out of there instead. 20 minutes in CSL was plenty. That part anyway. I’m sure there are better parts somewhere.

 

Todos Santos / Cerritos / San Pedrito


I’d heard a lot of good things about Todos Santos, so I wanted to check it out. The town had a decent # of tourists – but they seemed to be mostly the hippy/arty types. Or maybe those were locals. But the place had such a much more laid back vibe in every way than either of the Cabos. Also you can just park – anywhere! I walked around like one block on my taped up heel, then headed back out. I stopped off on my way out of town at a place I’d seen on the way in – for carnitas tacos – which I had yet to try on this trip.

Turned out to be the spiciest thing yet in Mexico. The salsa anwyay. Which to be fair it basically advertises itself as a bubbling cauldron from hell. But I thought it looked more interesting than the other salsas – with little chunky bits. I only put a little salsa on the tacos thank goodness. But that was enough to set my mouth on fire. And burn its way out the next day. 😀

I pointed google at San Pedrito – and for the 3rd time this trip found Mike and Kelley’s white van with car carrier. Oh yeah – on the way in to camp, I saw a road that seemed to go straight up the hill. It beckoned. I told it I’ll be back.

When I got to their camp site, a neighbor told me they were out surfing. I checked out the beach – which seemed to be fairly hopping with what in a past life I might have called “dirt hippies”. But in this context are basically “grungy surfers”. Not that they were ugly in any way. Of all the beaches we’d been to so far – this one definitely had the hottie surfer dudes and dudettes running around. If male or female tatted-up surf hotties is your thing, this is the place to be.

The camp also had a nice little rustic bar, so I decided to plop down and have a few beers. I met a few local Mexican girls hanging out for the day, and got to practice my Spanish a bit while they laughed at me. I told them about my experience buying the ferry ticket. I explained that at one point when I had to go to my car. I looked up how to say “It’s me again” for when I got back. My translate app told me to say “Vuelve a mi”. The ferry ticket girl laughed so I thought I had done well. Well apparently this means “I am back to myself again” or something non-sensical. So another good laugh was had.

Mike eventually emerged from the water and somehow spotted me under the bar’s palm frond awning. We hung out that night and had a few beers while we watched the surfer bros strut around with the weird chest-out waddle that a lot of them seem to have. It reminds me of a monkey when they walk on two legs.

As it got close to sundown, most of the camp migrated over to the beach and just sat there.

Last surfer of the day – gingerly working his way over the rocks in the dark

Once again all having that communal “holy crap this is the life” moment. Again I can’t really put it to words, but up and down the beach – we were all having it. There’s a thing called “Jimmy Buffet syndrome” – where middle-aged American men dream of escaping to Cabo or somewhere. I can’t imagine the tourist throngs of Cabo would be much of an escape – even if you’re living on a boat. But I feel like this place, and places like it around here, are the real spiritual epicenter of that fantasy. Or at least if I’m back in the states at some point dreaming about chucking it all – it will be for a place like this.

The next day we hung out until the sun got high enough that our cars could no longer provide a shady spot. Then we went over to Cerritos (auto square not found) beach to check it out and swim/surf. The beach is really nice but a little more built up. Also the occasional hawker came by with jewerly or something to sell – but they were very mild. I really wanted a tamale hawker to come by though as I had barely eaten anything.

The only vendors on the whole beach were two ice cream carts that the operators were having a devil of a time pushing around in the sand. There was one “exclusive beach club” at the end, which presumably is where the people of quality who stay at the big hotel on the point go to experience the beach but not have to mingle with riff-raff like us. Another fancy palapa resort in the middle did seem to have an actual open restaurant. But it looked pretty fancy and pretty slow And there were a bunch of people lounging around in nice white linens and lots of jewelry and fancy shades. I determined that if the Kardashians came to Cerritos beach this is where they’d stay.

I decided to give surfing a try for the first time in my life. I went out the first time with one of Mike’s boards – which are 7’ I think. I couldn’t sit on the thing as it would pretty much just sink. Even paddling on it was very tricky to keep my balance. I know some of this is because I’m super-noob. But also I don’t think this board is built for 250 lbs. I caught some waves ok, but when I got to my knees the board was more than a foot under water. It was fun though.

Big guy… with a little board

When I walked down to check out the vendors, I had seen surfboard rental. So I walked in and told them to give me the biggest beginner board they had – which turned out to be a big purple 9’ soft top. Perfect. I headed back out twice with that board and had an absolute blast. I never got fully standing, but I got pretty close. The second time out I figured out where the waves were breaking – about 50 yards offshore. You could walk out the whole way except for occasional sinkholes in the sand. That was where I caught my best waves.

The first time I really caught it, everything went from really frothy to quiet, and I thought the wave had passed me by again. But then I realized “Holy shit I’m actually out in front of this thing and riding it”. Like a boogie-board, but nonetheless I’ve never caught a wave that well with a boogie-board. So once I got my wits about me, I was able to get to my knees. Then by the time I started to stand up, I had ridden the wave half way to shore and it was starting to peter out. I was able to at least get on my feet, and have the board wobble one way, then the other, then the other (as opposed to just shoot out to one direction). So I call that a victory!

I definitely want to try it again as soon as I can – which might be El Salvador. I’m going to look into laid back surf camps where I can maybe get some lessons and they’ll tolerate a beginner. Then we’ll sit around the fire and talk surf-lingo of course.

After surfing I was exhausted and famished – having eaten only some ice cream all day. I see why surfers are in good shape usually. Also maybe why they have that certain walk – as some muscles in my lower back are giving me that “I am sore because I have never been used before” feeling.

I decided to go back to Todos Santos and plop down for some tacos and a ceviche tostada.

Perfect afternoon and we got a bonus singing performance.

I got back to the camp in time for sunset and watched as the last surfers of the day called it, then struggled to get over the rocks. Oh yeah – I came up with a theory that you can tell how alpha a surfer dude is by how much butt-crack they show while doing the surfer strut/waddle around camp. 2” seems to be beachmaster-level.

On the way back from the beach I saw the Mad Max vehicle again (3rd time this trip) camped right next to us. They’re a super friendly couple from San Francisco, just running it down to Baja for its maiden voyage. They call it Thunderdome – lol! I got to see some of the inner workings of that  thing – truly impressive. I asked how long it took to build. “Oh about a month”. Riiiiiight.

The next day I hung around for a while and managed to take an outdoor shower – so I at least I wouldn’t be all stinky for the ferry. I said my goodbyes to Mike and Kelley for the 4th and final time for a bit anyway. But I’m sure I will see them again – in Whistler, LA or maybe out on the road somewhere.

Mike and Kelley are two of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever met. I am eternally thankful to have met them on the second day of my trip, when I was still feeling pretty overwhelmed by it all. It was nice having them as an anchor to continually meet up with after my own explorations, and to be introduced to multiple slices of Baja surf culture in a way I’d never have gotten on my own. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart, and we will meet again!

Sadly, Mike ate something bad and died on my last day in Baja. Kelley and I buried him in the arroyo – so he could be swept out to sea with the next hurricane – as was his wish.

On the way out of town I looked at that road that went straight up the hill. I remembered the Sylvester the Cat cartoon – “If I doo’d it, I get a whuppin’ … I doo’d it.” The only real tricky part was the first 20 feet or so was super steep and had a big pothole right where the left tire wanted to go. I saw a set of fresh tracks that made it up that far then stopped. So I decided to head far left into the bushes, in order to straddle the pothole.

Unfortunately on the crux portion I lost video a little, as I was occupied with trying to keep my line. After that it was pretty smooth sailing, and the view was quite nice from up there.

You can see how rustic this camp is. In 10 years it may be all built up like Cerritos. Seems to be a common pattern.

I got to La Paz ahead of time and decided to try an obviously popular fish taco place.

Ordering and knowing where to pick up your food was confusing, but the food was very tasty. The fish taco and taco dorado (golden taco = some kind of fried thing) were very good.

But again the ceviche tostadas were the star of the show. I need to eat more ceviche. It’s so much lighter and less acidic down here than what I’m used to in the states.

Ok, time to say goodbye to Baja and get on the ferry for the mainland.

 

I’m going to title my travel memoir “Unnamed Road”.

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