The Baja Papers, day two

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(No, I haven’t posted any other days yet. This one happened to stand out in my mind, so it got done first.)

Bright and early on Saturday, browse got a crazy idea. To hell with taking buses to and fro; I wanna be able to explore the area a bit! Let’s rent a car! Bobo agreed to be brave enough to play navigator, if browse was willing to compete with Mexican traffic. A few phone calls later and a person speaking no English showed up to pick us up and drive us to a local hotel where we rented the car. It was a tiny white car identified only as a “Chevrolet Chevy”. An interesting reminder that the known car companies make all sorts of models that we never see in the US. Oh, and it was a stick, too! That ensured that browse would be the only driver.

We made a quick stop at Gardenia Tacos again for a departing lunch. This was the first fish tacos I ever had in Baja, and I couldn’t have picked a better spot. Hidden from the bulk of the tourists, a bit of a dive, and fabulous food!

Then we got on the road to Todos Santos. Amazing amounts of desert, arroyos, cactus and bright blue skies. “As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.”

A word about southern Baja and roads. The touristas all fly into the Cabo Airport adjacent to Cabo del San Jose and its sister city Cabo San Lucas. These towns are built around the local resorts and are reasonably big. But as you wind out of town, you find there is one road that follows the Pacific coast to Todos Santos. Well, truth be told, there are lots of roads. But only one that is paved. 🙂 Everything else is desert scrub, cactus, arroyos, and dirt roads. Really, just staggering amounts of open space and harsh landscape.

We stopped at an odd place in the middle of nowhere called “Art and Beer”. Big sculptures in the yard, a deck on the roof for watching the distant ocean and the very occasional plumes of whale breath. This was exactly why I wanted a rental car, so we could stop and explore places like this!

There was a CD of older jazz and pop standards playing, and we listened to a foursome of older tourist puzzle over who it was. I was shocked when they guessed Rod Stewart, and even more amazed when Bobo agreed with them? I would have sworn it was an older woman singing!

We ordered a pair of mango margaritas, which turned out to be massive! The bar felt like the sort of place where some ex-pat couple said, “Nope, we’re not moving anymore; stopping here!” He does art, she runs a bar/gallery, and sometimes they record CDs (he plays synthesizers, she plays drums). Bobo bought a CD, which we listened to a lot in the remaining car rides – stoner electronica.

Back on the road, and into Todos Santos. TS turns out to be a spec of a town, the sort of place you call a “one-stop-light-town”. And I counted. Yep, only one. The town also has only two paved roads. I admit to a moment of massive apprehension when Navigator Bobo told me to turn off the main drag towards our hotel. Dirt road. Chicken pecking beside the road. Dog sleeping in the middle of the road. A Coca Cola sign that looked to be 50 years old.

But, there’s the hotel, and it was pretty nice. A little run down maybe, but quite passable. The pool was missing some tiles, the hot tub was never actually hot, and the mattress was a four inch foam pad on a plywood platform. But still…

We got checked in by a clerk who knew virtually no English. In the same little room where we checked in, there were two older PCs with internet access. I remembered that the hotel advertised Wifi access. I checked my iPhone and found a network with a password on it. You’ll be shocked to hear this, but I did not know Spanish phrase for “Wifi password”. Sigh, maybe later.

We got into the room, stashed our bags, and quickly changed into beach wear. We headed back south a short distance, to Cerritos Beach. This is where Bobo stayed two years ago on her first visit to Baja, for a surf camp. The beach has been much more developed since then, with bathrooms and a real cantina right on the beach. We got there in the late afternoon and went straight for the water.

Playing in the surf was just the best! We had borrowed boogie boards from Bobo’s pal in TS, Paty, and we alternated between riding waves and being pummeled by them. I was continuing to fight a cold and the repeated (and involuntary) saline rinses of my sinuses were a good thing. Exhausted by the waves, we finally staggered out of the surf, toweled off, and investigated the cantina. “Dos Pacificos, por favor!” See, I picked up a little Spanish! 😉

After sundown, it got too cold for us, and we swiftly headed back to the hotel room for hot showers and clean clothes. We headed out for dinner, as Bobo’s blood sugar began to dip dangerously. The place we really wanted to go was closed, and our options seemed perilously slim. We finally settled on “Hotel California”, a local place that claims to be the inspiration for the Eagles song. “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man!” The food was pretty decent. I noticed I was running low on cash and visited the ATM in the place. About 20 minutes later, I realized I had failed to retrieve my card from the machine. I rushed over to it, and of course the card was gone. Sigh. Several minutes on the phone to USBank and I got the card canceled. Hmm, still with the majority of the trip in front of us, and I have no ATM card. Great.

We headed back to the hotel to settle in for the evening. I decided to take another try at the Wifi situation. I found yet another clerk with virtually no English skills. (Not that I’m blaming him; he knew more English than I knew Spanish, I’d wager.) My opening bid was to say “Internet?” with a hopeful tone in my voice. This got an enthusiastic “Si!” and the clerk pointed to the computers in the room. I nodded, but then mimed myself holding a laptop of my own. “Password?”, I said. A light of recognition went on. The clerk opened his phone, navigated to a set of notes, then got a piece of paper and carefully block printed a word for me. I tried it on the iPhone. Success!

Up in the room, we settled in for the night. It was Saturday night in Todos Santos, which is apparently a festive occasion. As I settled into bed, I noticed I could hear a mariachi band playing quite loudly in the neighborhood. Ahh well, I was sure they would stop soon. And they did. At 4 am. But the slack was quickly picked up by another contributor. Remember when I mentioned chickens in the road? Yeah, roosters. You know how in cartoons, roosters crow exactly once as the sun peeks over the horizon. Yeah, well, not so much. These roosters started crowing around 4 am, just as the mariachis retired. And they continued to crow. And crow, and crow. They were still at it when we checked out around noon on Sunday. Oh, and I shouldn’t omit the drunken set of hotel guests who came home around 2am, quite loudly.

It sounds like I’m bitching a lot, and I don’t mean to be. For me, Todos Santos was the highlight of the trip. If I got the chance to repeat the vacation, I’d strongly consider just staying in Todos Santos the entire time, using it as a base to explore the multitude of local beaches. But it was a bit of an adventure. And shouldn’t a vacation include a healthy dose of adventure? (Say “Yes.”)

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