Tag Archives: Baja

Ironing the Beach

This is an old photo I came across. Pablo, the man in the photo, took care of the beach where we stayed. The land belonged to his wife’s family for generations, he told us. There are no facilities, except an outhouse, but most people who camp there have everything they need in their RVs. When we stayed at Pablo’s beach the price was very reasonable at $3.00 per night to park on the beach. $5.00 if you wanted a palapa as well. We stayed for about three months and loved every minute of it.

This was what they call dry camping, not because the desert is dry, but because there are no amenities like running water or electricity. It’s very rustic, but also very natural and beautiful. It is quiet there unless someone brings battery-operated radios or (in those days, about 18 years ago) cassette tape players. More often you’d hear someone playing a guitar by the campfire or a group of friends singing at happy hour.

Pablo was rightly proud of his beach and kept it clean. He took the seaweed away in a wheelbarrow and dumped it far from the camping area so the little flies didn’t infest the sandy beach. Hard work for a man in his early 70s.

Here he is, ironing the beach. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he was “planchando la playa.” Ironing the beach?! I looked it up. Yes, that’s what he had said. He was flattening the sand that many footsteps had scuffed and as he ran his homemade ironing board over an area, it raked up any foreign objects (like cigarette butts, and beer caps) that would otherwise make the beach messy.

The handle of the “iron” Pablo is using, is made from a spine of the cardón cactus. Very hard wood.

ironing the beach [1]

It was after spending a couple of winters in Baja at Pablo´s beach that I decided to write my novel “Orion’s Gift.” In the story I had a character like Pablo but named him Alfonso.

If a romantic suspense drama in Baja interests you, why not check out “Orion’s Gift”?

Orion's Gift

Available at all amazon outlets and smashwords.com.

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Amazon.com

Pools and Palms

I was invited to join friends on a holiday, but sadly couldn’t make it. Now they are taunting me with photos to make sure I don’t say “no” next time.

In a setting that makes me think of my novel Orion’s Gift (see cover image at the side), they played at being tourists for a week. My character, Sylvia, didn’t get quite as far south as Cabo, but the general landscape is very similar.

334But let’s leave Sylvia for now. She missed out on Cabo, just as I did.

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Ah … to be lying on one of those lounge chairs until it got too warm and then being forced to jump into one of many pools.

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The Hotel Riu provided all these opportunities for relaxation without the vacationers having to go far afield.

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Breakfast must have been hard to endure in this outdoor setting.

IMG_0001They had a bit of fun reading the sign. In spite of the mistakes, I bet the ice cream hit the spot.

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Looks like I missed a good time in the pools under the palms.

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Baja Getaway – Part Nine – Dolphins

Gary held the 12 ft. aluminum skiff steady for me.

“Thanks. Do you think we’ll see any dolphins?”

“We might if we get out some distance into the bay. Let’s push off and we’ll putt out a little way and have a look around.”

We glided over the glassy water easily. A couple of hundred yards from the beach, Gary cut the motor and we drifted in the sudden silence.

Now that we were sitting still and the air was no longer whooshing past, I felt the soothing rays of the sun soaking into me. The early morning wisps of mist had lifted from the bay, leaving clear blue sky reflected in a deeper blue sea. I filled my lungs with the fresh, salty air.

“Have a look.” Gary handed me a pair of binoculars. “Look for fins or tops of their bodies breaking the surface. If you see any, we’ll try to get closer without spooking them.”

Moments later, I pointed. “There!” At a slower, quieter speed, Gary angled the boat towards the school’s probable destination, so that eventually our paths would cross.

Hundreds of sleek bodies broke the surface only to curve and dive down immediately and reappear a few yards farther on. Gary cut the motor again and we drifted, a mere speck in the middle of the huge Bay of Conception, closer than we had hoped to a huge school of dolphins, all aiming for the head of the bay.

“Listen to them!” I whisper-shouted. The mewling, whistling, singing, and crying, as they repeatedly broke the surface of the water, was an eerie choir piece. Hauntingly beautiful, it gave me goosebumps in spite of the warm day. Gary’s face mirrored my feelings exactly—somewhere between awe and ecstasy.

Still trying to come to terms with the amazing spectacle we had just experienced, we sat a moment longer watching the last of the dolphins disappear in the distance.

“Uh-oh!” Gary pointed towards the open end of the bay. “Whitecaps.” He started the motor and turned the skiff towards home. Within minutes, the breaking waves had moved much closer and the glassy smooth surface changed to ripples that grew into an uncomfortable lump. I’d heard fishermen talk about the lump in the sea. Now I knew what they were talking about.

“Hang on. It could get bumpy. I’ll take us to the nearest point of land and then we’ll work our way home along the beach.”

I gripped the gunwales of the boat where they began to curve towards the bow. We bucked into the choppy whitecaps that had now overtaken us. In no time, the sleeves of my blue cotton shirt were soaked from the spray. Two-foot waves didn’t seem like much but they followed one after the other so briskly that the small skiff took a pounding. My stomach clenched into a knot of fear as we were tossed in every direction. I tightened my grip against the bouncing of the boat. More waves splashed over the bow, soaking the front of my shirt. I was glad the water was warm. It would have been an ordeal to be splashed with icy water every few seconds. The finer spray wet my face so the drops were running off my chin. I glanced at Gary in the stern of the boat. He was completely dry except for a bit of salt spray in his hair. I could only imagine what I looked like. Drowned rats came to mind.

“We’re almost out of it,” Gary yelled above the engine noise. He saw that I was bearing the brunt of the beating at the front of the boat. I could only nod as I looked over my shoulder at him.

Closer to the beach, we zigzagged to avoid rocks. Beaching the boat here would be difficult. We continued along the shoreline until we rounded a point and entered the mini bay where our own sheltered beach lay.

“Whew! That’s better,” I said.

We pulled the boat ashore and secured it with a line to a huge rock far above the high tide mark.

All the rest of that day we couldn’t get the dolphins out of our heads. To be so close to them was like a small miracle and we had been lucky to be a part of it.

Baja Getaway – Part Eight

(Click on photos to enlarge them.)

 

After descending the Santa Rosalía hill, the last of the challenges of bad roads and mini disasters were behind us, we hoped. The next leg of our trip would bring us to our destination in about two hours.

Luckily we had been forewarned not to try to take our rigs through the town of Mulegé. We unhitched and drove only the truck into town. Some of the streets were narrow, most were one-way, and the buildings that came right out to the corner of the road were not about to move to make room for anyone requiring a wide turning space. Trailers not recommended. We headed straight down the main street, filling up a couple of 20-litre jugs with drinking water from the agua pura shop before visiting Saul’s Tienda for any and all sorts of groceries we felt we might need for the coming week. With our supplies loaded, we drove back to our rigs and hitched up again for the last part of the trip to the beach where we would be setting up our camp, 27 miles south.

El Requesón beach is very picturesque, but a bit too touristy for our liking so we continued on a little farther to a much quieter beach. There we set up camp, putting much of our camping gear in the palapa to make room in the Boler for sleeping and unpacking more than the basic necessities. This was to be our home base for the next couple of months.

The next morning, the sunrise alone was worth the long drive, and life would only get better from this point on.

Baja Getaway – Part Five

At El Rosario, we had gassed up our truck and extra fuel caddies and continued on as far as the Cataviña boulder patch. From there we still had quite a long drive to the nearest Pemex at Villa Jesus Maria. The total length of the dry stretch was a little over 200 miles. You can easily imagine that this gas station could name its price.

Next to the Pemex was a grocery store with a fascinating assortment of produce. Fruit and vegetables were stored in bins on sloping shelves against the walls and in crates in the middle of the room. Eggs on trays of 30 were stacked like the leaning tower of Pisa. I bought half a dozen and watched in amazement as the clerk put them in a plastic bag and weighed them. How sensible and fair to charge for eggs by weight rather than having to trust that they were small, medium, or large, but a plastic bag? I’d have to carry them carefully not to end up with them scrambled among my avocados, tomatoes, and green peppers. The temptation was great to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables, but we were only a few miles from the north/ south Baja border at Guerrero Negro. The produce would be confiscated if we tried to take it through.

After a conference with our traveling companions, it was decided that rather than cross into south Baja that day, we should once more take a risk and drive a sandy back road, this time to a wonderful bay called Laguna Manuela. Near the turn off about half a mile down the road we spied a tiny store where we bought frozen chicken legs for the barbecue. All set, and looking forward to another lovely camping adventure, we bumped and ploughed through the soft washboard side road until we arrived at the bay and set up camp on the beach.

The long sandy beach looked gorgeous for walking on or swimming from, but Gary would rather have had a rocky shore for snorkeling. More sea life hovers near the rocks than on a flat beach. Next morning, with his diving gear in the 12-foot aluminum skiff we pushed off to check out the coastline. A shrimp boat stood offshore. We waved, and continued on to a tiny rocky bay with a small sandy beach where we surfed ashore on some hefty waves.

After pulling the skiff to safety, we scrambled up the steep hillside marvelling at the pink verbena that covered it. At the top, we were surprised to see a Jesus statue. We were told later it was meant to be a blessing to all fishermen as it overlooked the bay.

We took advantage of that blessing when we tried to re-launch the skiff. Out in the open water, the surface was almost like glass, but with swells. As they reached shore, they formed good-sized waves, and in this small nook of a bay between two rocky embankments, those swells broke and crashed onto shore. After a few unsuccessful attempts to get out and start the outboard before being washed back to shore, we realized we would have to get wet. Gary got into the skiff, ready to pull the outboard motor’s starter cord, and I stood waist deep in the water and held the skiff steady against the waves. After a wave crashed to shore, we shoved out quickly, survived another wave, and shoved out some more. Gary started the motor and dragged me into the skiff. I was glad the water was clear and warm.

On our way past the shrimper, they waved and called to us. We hove to and they asked for cigarettes. We don’t smoke. What about soda? Anything? Trade for shrimp? We made a circle motion with our hands and took off. The campers contributed what they could spare in the way of pop and candy, and since we had neither, we contributed some T-shirts and caps. Returning to the shrimp boat, we were greeted eagerly by several deckhands. We handed up the goodies and watched them grab and argue over who got what. The T-shirts and caps were popular, so on another Baja trip I would remember that and bring more.

The crew loaded us up with huge bags of shrimp. We thanked them and came away happy. Looking back at the shrimp boat, we saw that the feeling was mutual. They were all grinning.

That night we had a wonderful pot luck supper. After a day of so much fresh air and sunshine, we slept well. But what a surprise we had in the morning when we stepped out of our Boler into water.

Feeling like the Clampetts

It happened to be one of the highest tides of the year and although we were well away from the beach, the flooding tide had begun to trickle under the Boler. Gary hitched up the Boler and prepared to drag our rig to higher, dryer ground while I went around knocking on our fellow campers’ doors.

Waterfront property isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Baja Getaway – Part Four

With our newly welded Boler frame holding up well, we followed Mex 1 away from the coast towards the interior of the peninsula. Near Cataviña the flat desert suddenly sprouted a gigantic rock garden. A jumble of huge boulders, some bigger than cars, rose out of nowhere. Strewn about here and there, and in places piled on top of each other, these boulders didn’t seem to belong here. The same cactus-like vegetation grew in the sandy areas between the boulders, but the rocks lay grouped together, like a little town of rock houses. In a flat section surrounded by boulders, as if it were the town square of Rock City, we camped for the night with our traveling companions.


Photo courtesy of Gerald and Buff Corsi at California Academy of Sciences

“Circle the wagons,” one of the veteran campers said. “Everybody have your door facing into the middle of the circle. It’s safer that way.” There wasn’t a soul in sight so we weren’t worried, but we weren’t that far from the highway. It didn’t hurt to take precautions.

The temperature went down to near freezing that night as we were too far from the ocean to benefit from its balmy breezes. A brisk morning hike got our blood circulating again and we marveled at the life in the desert. Coyotes that had yipped and howled that night, slunk out of sight as daylight became stronger. Quail called back and forth, passing word from boulder to boulder, of strangers sighted—intentions unknown. Songbirds flitted here and there as the warming sun rose higher. Lizards of various sorts played hide-and-seek with chipmunks.

I would love to have sat on a boulder and watched the cool night desert come alive with the heat of the day. But we had some distance to go that day and on returning from our walk, we heard our friend call, “Mount up.” We were on our way to the next adventure.