Currently reading: The Moneyless Manifesto
We know we’ve missed our turn off, my bee sting is swelling to the size of a large grape and the van is slowly becoming an oven. After 4 hours of driving across the width of the peninsula in the heat of the day we are ready to put her in park and make camp. This is what we get for trying to be frugal and not investing in that damn GPS we almost bought before leaving! But, first we must go back to yesterday.....
We were eager to get back on the road, after 5 days at Bahia Concepcion, and to continue our voyage south! It was a short drive to the city of Loreto for a wifi connection; we sat in the beautiful back garden of Domingo’s, a long-established, authentic, Mexican restaurant known for its fresh seafood dishes. We linger a bit too long there before finding a place to camp and begin driving at sunset, breaking one of our rules to never drive at night.
We read about a free camping spot outside the tiny town of Juncalito, south of Loreto, and turn towards the Sea when we see a sign donning the town name. A dirt road leads us past a few homes and ranches before reaching the water where we thought we would find a small beach to park but are met by a rocky shore that seems to be private property (we found out the next morning that the 'camp' was the next left off the highway...that's what we get for driving at night). We drive a bit further along the coast to see if there’s anywhere we can post up, as it’s very dark now and don’t want to get back on the highway; dogs chase our car and try to scare us away from their territory with lots of barking and growling, but we aren’t fazed. We find a boat launch area with a few dry docked boats on the shore and we pull in between a couple, hoping we don’t get a knock on the window later that night from the landowner.
We get a few hours of sleep between the roosters and the torrent of barking dogs; as soon as one starts they all (at least a dozen) join in on the barking party. There’s always that last dog left barking who’s like, ‘Guys? You still awake? I can’t sleep, wanna talk?’; then there’s a long pause, but one gives in by barking back and then they all start up again. This went on all night, so we were thrilled when the light began to return to the sky and even more amazed by the beauty that surrounded us (it was pitch black when we pulled in and had no idea what we pulled into). The van faced a small bay with islands in the distance, vultures hung out nearby and magnificent mountains, part of the Valle de los Gigantes, greeted the sunlight behind us.
We head back into Loreto for a quick bite to eat and to re-stock ice for the cooler before making the trek across the peninsula to the Pacific side. We end up exploring Loreto longer than we planned and leave Loreto just before noon, just as the sun is really warming up. Luckily, you have to climb a pass out of Loreto, cooling us off and giving us amazing views of the mountains; but its not long before we’re on a long stretch of road in the heat of the day.
I rub sunscreen on Jeff’s arm, while he drives, as it’s burning in the desert sun; but with all the windows open it’s not unbearable, that is until we hit a swarm of bees. There was nothing we could do to avoid hitting them, and I think if we slowed down any more a lot more bees would have made it into the van. They hit like a thousand pieces of shrapnel on the front of the van, covering the windshield with their nectar-filled bodies. I’m not sure how many hit me, it all happened so fast; at least one to the face, handfuls to the chest and arms and they were in between my legs on the seat but one managed to get stuck in my hair and in my moment of hysteria I swatted her out and she landed, quite pissed off, on my forearm and proceeded to unleash her fury of apitoxin into me (my first sting ever!). Maybe that’s why we missed our turn…
I take a look at the map and decipher where we are approximately and see another beach spot, El Conejo, on the Pacific coast not too far south. And when we stop to top off the gas tank the ladies at the Pemex confirm that, yes the turn for Conejo is just another 30km. From our map I figure that the road in is about 10km- not too bad- and its not long before we’re heading west in hopes that this road leads us to someplace with a breeze.
It takes an hour to drive the 10km stretch of dirt road riddled with washboard and some hairy rock maneuvering through a sea of cacti and cattle seeking what little shade they can find; how do they even survive out here, I wonder. After a steep climb up and over a ridge, the ocean comes into view and we breath a sigh of relief. As we pull up to the coastal cliffs, the salty air kisses my face as we scan the horizon for a good place to call home for the night. There a very few cars strewn about the rolling, sandy hills (in contrast to our last camps on Bahia Concepcion) and no services, which I am pleased about because that means there likely won’t be a local asking for a fee to camp- free beach front property. We settle on a high spot, and have the place pretty much to ourselves! (For those of you who follow us on Instagram, this drive and camp is the high-speed video we posted a few weeks ago)
It’s nice to have the time for ourselves, just Jeff and I here; we are able to gather out thoughts and reset intentions for the rest of the trip. We, in our own ways, express that we feel like we’re lacking purpose- Jeff even says he misses work and I agree, I long to feel the earth in my hands and sow seeds, he misses building bikes and polo. So we make a promise to each other that we will find the balance between travel and our other passions that ground us but are not very practical on the road. With this in mind, and the knowing that we can’t do much about it in the middle of the desert on the ocean in Baja, we make another promise: to live in the moment, to enjoy and experience as much as we can with open minds and hearts, we are young and free and will not take the opportunity we carved for ourselves for granted.
We park our chairs cliffside and prop our feet up on the cooler for sunset ritual, taking in the way the light shines through the crest of the waves before before taking their final bow and crashing on the shore. It takes me a minute to get the fire going tonight, we don’t have much kindling and wind is strong where the Pacific meets the land- in permaculture we call this ‘the edge’, or where two ecosystems meet, think of the coast, a riparian zone, or where the forest meets the meadow. The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system., therefore one of the permaculture principles, of which there are twelve, is to ‘optimize edge.’ But I digress....
Back to the fire…the wood that we’ve gathered along the way smells something like rotten food when burned; we don’t know what kind of wood it is, but its as though its saying don’t burn me if you do I’ll send out my stink bomb like a skunk. This is why we will forever call the wood in Baja skunk wood and we’ll laugh when we recall our nights running around fires in the dark night dodging the smoke of our blaze. As the light of the sun lingers in the sky, the fire really gets going and as if reflecting the embers of our warmth, the night gives way to an orange brilliance that guides me into a deep state of gratitude. It’s wonderful when you recognize the cycles and patterns in nature, you start to see how it’s all connected: the land, the plants, the animals, the sun- we’re all one living being, surviving together. And just as I start to run with this thought a little mouse pokes its head out of its burrow adjacent to the rocks ringing our fire; he has come to enjoy the heat with us and give us a couple scares as he darts about our chairs. My feeling of deep connection to our home and all the life it supports is interrupted and stops at the thought of this little guy getting into the van. (Sidenote: my thoughts manifested themselves, it has been a while since this night and our little friend became a 3rd passenger on our adventure and unfortunately met his demise after ransacking our pantry- he was especially fond of the peanuts and flax seed RIP small friend)
Knowing that we need to keep moving, we pack up camp when the sun greets us and point Delilah south towards La Paz, the capital of BCS, the largest city we’ve been to yet! The city sprawls out from the sea and marina in a grid-like fashion and centers around a large market and square complete with church. We allow ourselves to get lost for a while to take in all the city sights and smells- colorful buildings flank busy one-way streets where no one stops, they barely yield, at stop signs, savory smoke billows from roadside taco stands making it extremely difficult to remain vegetarian/pescatarian- but we stick to our morals and our stomachs lead us to Taco Fish, an open-air, you guessed it, fish taco place outside city centro. Giant filets of fried fish make their way from the kitchen to the small counter where you place your order; you’re given your tacos bare, and shown to a large condiment bar filled with anything and everything you’ve ever thought to put on a taco: cabbage, pico, pickled veg, slaw, lime, radish on and on…we walk out full and ready to take on the city.
We wander the malecon along the turquoise bay and feel like tourists but there are many locals going about there business and we start to get a true feeling for the city. We try to see if the harbors will let us park there overnight but the price they ask could get us a small room for the night, and since our anniversary falls the next day, we decide we will leave Delilah for the first time in months to sleep in a real bed and have a proper shower. We find a white hotel with Moorish architecture that gives off a Poseidon vibe which we’re into and after seeing the pool we just couldn’t resist. We swim and lay and read and write and sip margaritas and it feels like the promise we made last night- to find the balance- has fallen to the wayside; it feels like we’re on vacation. Some may think, isn’t everyday a vacation when traveling? But, there’s definitely a difference…vanlife can be stressful at times (that’s also what makes it fun and exciting) not knowing where you’re going to sleep that night, wondering if you have enough gas to make it to your next destination, driving for hours on end over rough roads hoping you’re van doesn’t fall apart…every once in a while we need a break and today we gave ourselves one.
We get into a taxi, another first, for a night on the town in the big city to celebrate our being together for two trips around the sun, and ask the driver where he would take his wife for their anniversary. He doesn’t even hesitate before turning the car off the malecon and into the heart of La Paz. Our driver, Alberto, told us everyone comes here for special occasions and he wasn’t lying; not long after we sit down a bride in a big, white dress comes in and the rest of the evening the place fills up with guests and the air is rich with love and celebration. Mariachi men join our table for a couple songs too! It feels like its been more like 4 years, but we guess that’s what happens when you grab a hold of life and shake everything you can out of it with someone you love. Back at the hotel, (I know what you’re thinking) we fall asleep to the gentle, soothing sounds of club music pulsating through the night.
The next morning we are eager to reunite with Delilah and explore the outer beaches of La Paz; we drive along the bay then dip into mountainous terrain before being spit back out onto the most clear, turquoise sea at Playa Tecolote, a long, beautiful stretch of sand with views of Isla Espiritu in the distance. A few bars dot the beach, they allow us to use their restroom if we buy a beer and tell us we can use them even after they close too; yay for free camping and kind bars!
We venture around looking for a nice spot to post up at for a couple days and I see a perfect site tucked into the sand dunes, so Jeff romps in there and the rear tires sink low into the deep sand and the van comes to a sudden halt. We knew this would happen at some point on the trip and I’m so glad it happened here; it’s Sunday and it seems half of La Paz is enjoying the beach today. Not long after we started digging out the rear tires for a second time did a group of locals walk up and offer help. The only male in the group started digging with Jeff and I, but I had to make a break for the camera to document this momentous occasion- Jeff wasn’t into the photo opportunity but you can’t halt artistic genius :) After 5 minutes of digging we’re sure we’ve given D a path out so I hop in the drivers seat and everyone takes a position at the front bumper- I really wish I grabbed the camera for this one because staring back at me are Jeff and said dude with three girls all in full face makeup, bright pink lipstick and all, pushing our 6,000 lb vehicle out of the sand. I throw it in reverse and gun it outta there so fast I have to slam on the breaks to avoid crashing into shrubs, and the van skids to a sideways stop- free at last! I offer the group cervesas but only dude takes one; muchas gracias nuevos amigos!
We head towards more stable grounds by one of the bars and ask if its ok to park where we are, the closest to the shore of any other campers on the beach, and meet Alex a bartender who spent 14 years in Denver (the last place we paid rent). We quickly bond over familiar street names and restaurants while he simultaneously hustles us into a sea lion snorkel trip to Isla Espiritu for the next day. After a few cervesas and a whole fish we walk the beach to peep the scene: groups of locals partying and snacking on homemade ceviche and clams, multi-generational families enjoying the water. We notice little glints of green and blue sparkling in the sand, and find a ridiculous amount of sea glass as we stroll; by the end of our walk we have a rather large collection, about a cup, and I think of my mom and her dad's reverence for sea glass.
We arrive back at the van and a group of teenage boys has parked next to the van blaring music out of there car and don't seem to mind the spattering of empty beer cans strewn about their feet. Jeff and I set out for a beach read on the tapestry in hopes that the teens have curfews after they didn’t seem keen on chatting with us, but to our dismay they remained our loud neighbors well past a spectacular sunset sing-screaming into the night. We couldn't help but laugh to ourselves every time one of them solo'd to their favorite part of a song and even start to like one of the songs after the seventh time its played in a row. But, eventually their headlights come on and they peel out of the sand leaving us in a cloud of dust that settles to silence, the sea, and the stars.
Currently listening to: Jack + Eliza
Currently reading: The Moneyless Manifesto
Today is the first clear day we’ve had since Ensenada and we can’t wait to soak it all up on the Sea of Cortez later. The drive from San Ignacio to Mulégé is a nice strech on the Mex 1, not too long, maybe a couple hours; and passes through some hilly terrain sprinkled with cacti, our ever present friend on the peninsula. We come up on a volcano known as the Three Virgins and I wonder if any women’s lives were actually sacrificed there…hope not.
The road starts to climb up some steep passes, then quickly drops down into a deep canyon while views of the sea peak through the mountains. The road takes us all the way to the water, then follows the coast south to the small town of Santa Rosalia; we drive through knowing we can stop on our way back. Not 45 minutes later, we reach the very cute town of Mulégé, just off the highway and set inland from the sea. It’s a good place to stop and fill up on gas, food and the ever-dimishing cervecas before making camp along Bahia Concepcion (BC).
We don’t know what to expect of BC except that there were a handful of places to camp on the beach, but our jaws almost fell to the floor of the van when we see the bay come into view- Baja has this way of being dramatic, you don’t ease into things here, they hit all of your senses at once sending tantalizing shivers down every limb of your body. I grab Jeff’s arm and we both practically jump out of our seats in excitement over what lay before our eyes; around every turn is a new cove with white sand beaches and turquoise to cerulean-blue water.
We drive down past a few beaches to see which one calls to us and we feel good vibes at Playa Santispec; a large bay that faces south-east, protected from the late afternoon winds, with views of three islands- one of which is covered in cactus. We set up camp at the north end of the bay, where there are fewer rigs, and collect fire wood at the base of the hill that shelters the amazing place we will call home for the next couple nights. We saw away at a few large trunks of wood we collect before Jeff takes out the paddleboard for a sunset cruise while I finish setting up camp and journal for a few minutes. The sun falls quickly here on the east side of the peninsula, so we get the fire going as the moon rises over a cliff. Beer quenches our thirst and we snack on avocado, salsa and fresh tortillas we picked up in town.
A sensation of warmth passes through us, and its not the fire; it’s a feeling of gratitude for each other, for Mother Earth and the beautiful places She has gifted to us. To live is to enjoy Her gift.
We rise with the sun, which takes a while to make it to our end of the cove, and before I can get the water on for coffee and tea Jeff is back out on the SUP- he is loving his new paddleboard, he’s a natural, and I watch as he paddles out of sight exploring the nearby islands. Today is a day we give to ourselves, with some nice weather, and after being on the move, its nice to slow down and savor the moment. I read while Jeff plays a game of bocce with a local man named Chicho; all while local merchants drive up and down the beach selling vegetables, seafood, home-made tamales and empenadas, blankets, ponchos, jewelry- you name it. I negotiate prices with Cesar, whose van is overflowing with local wares, and walk away with a poncho and hat for Jeff, and a ring for myself all for under $50…hey, he kept saying, ‘almost free!’ so I took him for his word.
Brad, a young guy, shows up on his bike and sets up his tent next to the van. Jeff talks to him about our dream of riding bikes across countries; Brad’s plan is to go all way to South America- go Brad! Not long after another couple shows up in a ’67 VW bus and we immediately know they are our people; Brian and Jen are from Portland and recently made the trip down to Central America. Once on the road, it is not hard to come across others on their own journeys, all different in their own unique ways, but similar in that we’ve chosen to swim against the current seeking new lands, cultures, and experiences. We talk of tiny homes, the best camping we’ve had, the stiffest margaritas, and the close calls. Brian tells us he’s so excited for us and that this is only the beginning- yes, we know, it’s all happening, we can feel it. And I look at Jeff and know that I couldn’t ask for a better partner on this adventure, this is right where I’m supposed to be!
The next morning we wake knowing that our time here at Santispec must come to a close, wanting to explore more coves on Bahia Concepcion makes the difficult task of breaking down camp less brutal. It’s hard to leave a place you know you could spend weeks- but we’re on a mission, and there’s farming to do!
We make the quick trip back to Mulege for more ice, hielo, pronounce like yellow, and a quick wifi connection before heading back south to see what more BC has in store for us. We drive down to a few beaches, but they’re either crowded or in one case has a very rude Gringo lady as host. So, we head to the last beach on the bay and check out Playa Requeson; this beach is unlike any others because it is basically a sandbar that perpendicularly stretches out from the coast to a small island, which protects a reef on the other side! We head in to investigate and see Gregor and Janice’s maroon westy, and know that’s a good sign; it’s so fun to run in to others you’ve met on the road. We pull down towards the end of the sandbar next to two ladies getting help from a Green Angel, Mexico’s roadside assistance team that will help you with just about anything, even a shade sail which he has expertly rigged up off their sweet old Toyota camper. I introduce myself to Grace Ann and her friend, Sheri, before setting up in the afternoon winds which are more prevalent as we’re exposed on all sides, but the fact that water surrounds us on three makes up for that fact.
The water is so clear here, it has an aquamarine hue that calls Jeff onto the paddleboard in no time. We finish dinner as the sun sets, and not long after our minds our blown by the full moon rising in all its orange glory over the island in distance. The whole camp goes quiet paying respect to the beautiful round glowing orb in the horizon; it is truly breathtaking. I pull into Jeff and never want to forget this moment: here, in Baja, with the full moon hovering over the water, we look at each other and know that we are so lucky; to have found each other, to find ourselves in this place, to keep exploring hand in hand.
We make it over to a group campfire and meet Curtis and Jennifer, a couple in a 70s bay window bus named Bessy, who are also from Colorado, quit their jobs and traveling the peninsula. But, its not long before people get sleepy, yet Jeff and I are vibing off the full moon with Grace Ann, an amazing chica from San Diego who is an artist and progressive therapist. We stay up past our usual bedtime of moonrise and our conversations got deep, as deep as the sea before us, and she is the first person we feel a true connection with on the road. Grace Ann is so wise, and was so articulate about everything, especially her new nomadic lifestyle.
Each hour held new revelations, new knowing, new outlooks on life; here’s something I took away from that night: you aren’t given anything in life, except life, what we do with it, this one precious gift, is completely up to us. You have to chase your dreams wherever they may take you, however hard the sacrifice may be to get there. You have to ask your 80 year old self- Did you live it to the fullest? Did you follow your dreams? Did you make the most of your gift? The moon is high now and tells me its very late, we check the time and its 2am, as much as we could stay up a talk all night, we hit the sack and dream away.
The sunrise at Requeson is absolutely spectacular- pinks, oranges, and reds dance across the sky, waking me before my body is ready to rise. I hear Grace Ann and Sheri head out on a kayak, and Jeff is right behind them on the SUP making the trip around the island as I put on a pot of water. He saw ‘skate’ rays, a sting ray of sorts, angelfish, and grouper during his time on the water and I can’t wait to go out myself; but first a bio-magnetic therapy treatment from Grace Ann. My words begin to explain it but pH balances are restored in specific points of the body through the placement of magnets- go to her website for more info: healwithgrace.net.
We feast on fruit- orange, mango, banana and avocado before walking the sandbar to the island for a snorkel; but just as we’re about to leave, Jeff comes paddling in from his second trip of the day (sidenote: I’m so happy he found something he loves to do on the water) and Grace Ann(GA) and I decide we are going to paddle together to the reef. GA sits towards the front of the board while I paddle and you couldn’t imagine the size of the smiles on our faces or the loudness of our laughs as we paddle out. We make it to the reef and prop the board up on some rocks and jump into the world below, so many colors inundate your eyes that you don’t know where to look first: purple poufs wave about in the current, angelfish with bright blue and yellow stripes, a sea slug with a fire-engine red body speckled with white and balck dots, I see algae suckers in the dozens and a grouper peaks out from under a rock below me before quickly disappearing after seeing me dive towards him for a closer look. We stay in for close to an hour, but the water isn’t quite warm enough for all day diving so we paddle back reluctantly. We warm ourselves on the sand while Jeff naps in the upstairs bunk, complete with magnets to work out a headache. I make a mean breakfast burrito for afternoon-snack/dinner, it’s easier to cook while the sun is out, which allows us to sit and take in the sunset properly: with a cold beer and the beginnings of a fire.
The moon puts on another amazing performance, almost as big and orange as last night’s and the group fire has grown to include Gregor and Janice’s company. Sheri gathered wood from an unknown source and says, ‘don’t ask questions, just enjoy it!’ And we do, laughing about a camp game for people long away from a connection to the outside world; you start by saying- Did you hear (insert name of some infamous person) died? And you catch everybody off guard for a bit, before letting them in on the joke. It doesn't sound funny, or very kind but after being on the road for a while, I became quite gullible and fell for it the first time and that got a rise out of everyone. We run with it all night, cracking up and howling with laughter. Everyone else gets sleepy and just the A-team is left by fire yet again; Jeff, Grace Ann and I burn the remaining mystery wood and even more great conversation carries us into the night.
Currently Listening to: Guantanamo Baywatch
…we woke in the night to pee and heard the locals partying it up across the river near the amphiteater, it is Friday night afterall; loud dance music and howling laughter kept me up for a bit but luckily I fall back asleep…
The sun, which was out (finally!), was illuminating the palm trees giving them a golden glow; the reflection of the palms on the river was mesmerizing. Jeff took at hot shower after Manuel kindly turned the boiler on, while I organized and set up the van for our next destination- Laguna San Ignacio- where whales are this time of year!
We drive through parts of town until we reach the main road, which takes us southwest to the coast. The road is nice and paved for the first 30 km, but once we reach the lagoon, the road turns to a meandering dirt road and then a pretty brutal washboard ensues; we out here- overlanding. A dark cloud looms in the distance as we pull into “town”; a few fishing shacks and a market where we restock on beer.
The drive is 9km further to Kuyima camp; this camp is known for its light footprint on the planet, using wind and solar to power the various buildings and composting toilets. On our way, we pass a few ejidos and a large shell “dump” that has a wicked almost gag-inducing smell- piles and piles of discarded clam shells line the road. We pull into Kuyima after following the artistic whale-tail signs and Laura, a cute girl about my age, comes jogging out of a palapa and shows us where the camp area is. We pull into the most southern spot for the best views and, hopefully, sunset ritual later.
Just as we pop the top a wicked wind picks up and the dark clouds that loomed in the distance are now upon us and release a massive amount of rain. I make breakfast using leftover rice from last night and top it with a fried egg; just as we finish eating the rain lets up and the clouds part to reveal blue skies. I head to the palapa to ask Laura if any boats were going out that afternoon. Mother whales make the trip from the frigid arctic waters to the warm lagoons of Baja every winter to have their babies; they are protected from prey, most often orcas, and the high salinity of the water increases the buoyancy which helps the new born calves stay afloat.
I head back to the van to tell Jeff the good news…that we get to go see the WHALES!! We change and put on our wind-breakers for the first time in forever and meet Laura near the gift shop for a briefing about the whales and where we can’t pet them: blowhole, eyes, fins, tail. Laura puts periwinkle purple bracelets on us which allow us to enter the conservancy and I like the color so much that when picking out life-jackets, Laura says, ‘And since Annie likes purple she gets the purple (read: pear-ple) jacket!’
We wade through one-foot deep water for 30 yds to our boat, captained by Domingo, a man who was born and raised on the Laguna and has been whale touring for almost 20 years. He walks the boat to deeper water then jumps in and we speed off to a camp further south to pick up two more passengers, Maria and her son Guillermo from Mexico City, making our trip cost less! It takes about 12 minutes to get to the area where the boats are allowed to stop for viewing; once in the conservancy, we see many mothers with their babies, so many it is difficult to decide which direction to look in. After an hour or so, we have seen it all: mother’s nursing their young, diving and giving us impressive tail shows, breaching the surface with their heads to see us- we looked into their eyes, which was my goal for the day. It takes awhile for each pair to warm up to you, diving when you first show up, then breaching, then nursing; we see a mother do an impressive somersault and another time a baby practically back flipped over its mother- so cute!
Towards the end of our 90 minute ride, a pair starts to really warm up to us; coming very close to the boat, I lean over the edge of the boat to get a closer look at these magestic creatures. I see the calf swimming towards me, parallel to the boat, at that moment the baby blowholes me right in the face, while continuing to swim along and I reach out my hand as she glides underneath my fingers!!!!!! Absolutely unforgettable! I switch positions with Jeff so he can interact and just then the mother reaches her head out of the water, as if greeting Jeff, and he gives her two nice strokes on the nose. She bows to us a few minutes later and our moment with them is over but never out of our minds; we feel a new, true connection with these animals that we can’t put into words. But I am so grateful we got to experience it together.
We arrive back at camp and are excited to see the Canadian couple, Janice and Gregor in their red Westy, the ones we crossed the border with, at the site next to ours. We visit the giftshop and see some of Laura’s handiwork for sale- beautiful knotted bracelts and one necklace with a stone in it that was so gorgeous, I had to restrain myself from purchasing her work. But, Jeff got me a really cute hand-painted bookmark of a momma and baby whale to commemorate our adventure in the Laguna; it now holds my place in the beautifully written book Braided Sweatgrass: Indigenous Wisdome, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. I highly recommend it; her writing is stunning, as is the scope of her knowledge and reverence for the natural world.
Back at camp, we exchange van hacks and traveling tips with Janice and Gregor, sitting in their van for an hour as the sun dropped. Then ate dinner at the main palapa; yellowtail, scallops, soup and trés leches – Jeff loses his mind as he devours this tasty treat only to stop halfway through to take a picture in hopes of remembrance. Laura shows me how to make some of the knots she uses in her jewelry and I borrow a book on the local flora.
We build a fire using scrap wood from a new project on site and watch the moon grow in the sky, just as the whale babies did in their mothers’ wombs. We indulge in free coffee and tea the next morning, and ponder staying another night but the budget doesn’t allow another whale watching excursion so we make our way back towards San Ignacio on the bumpy washboard dirt road we came in on, with hopes of the Sea.
Currently Listening to: La Luz
We wake to low lying clouds moving through the mountainous islands a few hundred yards from the shore. It’s a magnificent sight so we walk for a while taking in the breathless beauty; and find some amazing shells to carry through our journey!
We have to back track the same road we came in on, but I am happy to revisit this stretch of road and that purple carpet of flowers! On our way south we come to a military checkpoint, the first of three today, and the guards ask us to step out while they take a look in the van and ask Jeff to see his passport and some other questions. I try to make small talk with the other guards, one had silver teeth and the other was wielding a pink digital camera and asks if it’s okay to take a picture, pointing to the van. I, the oblivious American, assume he wants me in it too; when I realize he just wants the van we all burst into hysterics and I am happy to get a laugh out of these military men even if it’s at my expense.
We head south on MEX 1 with plans to stay near Guerrero Negro (which means ‘Black Warrior’ after the name of a whaling ship that sunk offshore centuries ago) but after driving through town we don’t get the best vibes, so decide to fill our tummies and gas tank and move on. The landscape has not changed much except that maybe there are fewer cacti but they still dot the hills, which deepens my affection for them. Vultures and hawks like to hang out on top of the cacti, looking out over the vast expanse of desert, like kings watching over their kingdom.
Some vultures partake in the roadkill- mostly cows/bulls with the occasional and heartbreaking dog; you see stray dogs everywhere, running across roads, down the highway, I try to keep my headstrong and not give into the constant temptation to take one in. Life is hard in the desert. The two-hour drive from Guerrero Negro (GN) to San Ignacio goes by quickly even after crossing the state border of Baja California into Baja California Sur and another military checkpoint.
We read that San Ignacio is a spring-fed oasis in the desert, but nothing could have prepared us when we rounded that last corner and the sight of palm trees came into view, so densely packed into the luscious valley below. The sun started shining as we pulled in and we were so grateful we made the decision to pull out of cloudy GN.
We follow the road into town and pass a promising riverside camp in a thick grove of palms. You know you’ve reached town when the mission comes towering into view; it dates back to the 1700s and is astonishingly beautiful. We park D across the street at a tree lined square and walk over to scope out the old church. First we visit the rose garden, orchard and succulents before making our way past the 20ft wood-carved doors.. The high ceilings hold up brick archways that lead to an exquisite altar cover in gold leaf which takes up the entire back wall. Mexican flags fly proudly from the aisles and candles are lit at the side altars- we stop and try to take in all the history before us.
We walk around town and find a small café to sit and have a Pacifico before making camp back by the river. This camp is pretty special, we park on a black sand beach right on the river; the rain came for a bit, but birds entertained us and it let up around dusk and then the frogs started singing while we prepare dinner.
We introduce ourselves to Manuel, who runs the camp and was born her in San Ignacio; I ask him if he would like some dinner- arroz con pimento and quesadilla- but he politely declines. We end the day with dinner riverside and a jam sesh on the djembe drum.