Monday, October 26, 2009

Baja part 1

I was not prepared for the culture shock. Derek told me about everything else, the remoteness of San Carlos, the heat, the cold, the dirt, the beer, but as I crossed the boarder the world around me changed abruptly into something much unanticipated. The highway was wide, like the four lane I-5 which we used to get there, only it had no lines drawn and people driving guessed at where they should be, while others simply swerved back and forth across the road. There were no markings where major dips and drops cut the pavement, so frequent unexpected bumps and jumps occurred. I gasp a bit as I realize the money I just spent on Mexican Car Insurance (i'm so serious) was more than a line to open a joke with.


To my right was the infamous "fence" which looked more like the Berlin wall with barbwire fences on either side of the huge concrete edifice and enough room in between for border patrol to get a good shot if someone did make it over one of them.

To my left were the "Houses", constructed of some painted ply wood leaned against some sticks with a sheet of metal for the roof. It reminded me of a scene of Slumdog Millionaire where they show a picture of a shanty city stretching for as long as the eye can see, such is Tijuana.

We drove on for 3 hours.

Flash back: it's seven o'clock in the morning and I'm in a 7/11. I buy a map of Baja and go out to my car to read it. It's wrapped in plastic which I peel off and then unfold the map, only to let out a "WTF" and throw the map on my passenger seat. It only has three roads depicted on it. I wanted a road map, not a picture of the peninsula. What a rip off!

Back to the moment: As we pull over for gas I laugh, realizing that there really are only three roads in Baja.
Not a rip off after all, just honest. The other dirt roads wash out every time it rains, and therefore any attempt at documentation would be in vein.

Next we stop at a local Bodega. Non of us really spoke Spanish, but Derek is fluent in getting beer. 3 boxes of Ballena's (980 ml bottles pronounced Bah-yeen-ah) for a grand total of 300 pesos, about thirty dollars for 36 of these jugs. Oh, about third of that price was bottle deposit. I'm liking Mexico.

After driving 4 hours down "paved" Mexican highway, a sign made of ply wood and spray paint stands casually, set back from the highway in a field of dirt and small cacti. You don't want to miss it, because it's the only indication you get that you're supposed to turn and the next town is far, as you're now in the middle of now where. It reads "Punta San Carols 60 km."

The dirt road it's self is a little bumpy to start, enough so that you know you're on a dirt road at first but still you get used to it after about ten minutes. It's forty miles long which, after doing some math in my head, realizing I'm only going ten miles and hour and I want to wave sail, prompts me to speed up to about 20. At this point I can still see through my windows and mirrors and now behind me is big enterprise rented box truck, cruising at about 45, and bouncing violently as it approaches. The driver starts honking obnoxiously. He's close to me now, enough that I recognize the Dakine hat on his head. It's Wyatt, who has obviously purchased rental insurance and is being encouraged by Tyson and his other two passengers to drive like an ese loco. They wave, yell some things, and then take off, leaving the first layer of dust on my van.

As they disappear over the horizon I speed up a bit more, finding the strips of "white gold" or small strips of smooth dirt running along side the rocky dirty road that allow me to speed up to 30. "Sweet, I'll be there in no time" I think to my self.

I begin to zigzag back an fourth along the bumpy road following the white gold until I see the tire tracks in front off me deepen. I slam the brakes but it's too late, I'm bottoming out on the dirt. My van is in engulfed in a cloud of dust so thick it blocks on the glaring Mexican sun like a total solar eclipse. It takes a while for the dust to settle. I can no longer see out of any windows or mirrors, save for the windshield which I cleared with my wipers. The once red van is now painted Baja Brown.

I press the gas peddle again and my tires spin in the loose soil as I try to navigate my way back to the dirt road. There’s now thirty miles to go, I decide to take it slow.

I pass cactus the size of a large oak tree, live cattle standing right on the edge of the road, and the occasional skeleton of the cow that wondered to far from the water trough. The road winds through mountains, dry river beds and canyons. It deteriorates in condition, and now I've slowed to a crawl, carefully negotiating pot holes, large rocks, and trenches at to not damage my van.

It's an adventure to say the least, but after 3 hours I finally get a glimpse of the ocean. I follow Derek and Pete right to the edge of a 20 foot cliff which stands over the water; we park our vans and get out. About a dozen sails are on the water, riding waves that line up for as far as the eye can see.

We've made it, time to sail.

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