Not surprisingly, security crossing the border the other direction was a little more intense. The metal detectors, dogs and blocky, grimly staring security personnel contrasted sharply with the big “Welcome to Mexico” sign we’d had to deal with heading south. We slowly maneuvered our way through a number of lines, all poorly chosen as usual. At one point our customs guy just got up and left, never came back, and, eventually realizing this, our whole line had to try and merge into another line as though we were a human road construction detour, but without the surly union workers in fluorescent vests eating sandwiches by the side of the road and glaring at traffic. Who knows, maybe the border guards mess with people like that on purpose, secretly hoping some of the Mexicans will just give up. “Well, I had a job lined up and was planning to start a new life in San Diego where I could take my kids to Sea World, send them to good schools and they could grow up to spend each January bitter and miserable about the way the Chargers got shafted this time, but that line was sooo slow, I just said “Screw It”, and went back to my shack.”
We did ultimately get ourselves checked back into the US, admitted by a stern immigration official who, after we explained what we were doing, helpfully informed us “You really wasted a lot of time”. Really? You mean running circles on the busiest border crossing in the world isn’t a shortcut? You know what, right now, as we speak, some Mexican guy is probably waiting for our laptop to boot up while he thoughtfully considers the size of Laynni’s bra and tries on all my pants without wearing any underwear, so how ’bout you just shut up and stamp the passport, Cletis. Of course, that was only what I wanted to say, what really came out was “Yeeaah…”
From that point on it was hardly smooth sailing, but eventually we got back through and our vehicle was thankfully intact. Other than that, trust me when I tell you that you do not want to hear the details about the two hours of different offices, copiers, banks and government agents we had the pleasure of visiting in order to procure both our tourist cards and our vehicle permit, the latter not being technically necessary until we left the Baja but as the saying goes “If you’re in hell anyway you might as well say hi to the devil”. All I’ll say is that at one point Laynni and I were sitting in the CRV in a Tijuana parking lot using our laptop to compose a letter required by the Mexican government in which I officially gave myself permission to take my car into Mexico, signed and dated by me, of course. While we were at it we also made one that gives Laynni exclusive trading rights between Mexico and Sierra Leone. So, if any of you have multi-coloured blankets or “Hard Rock Puerto Vallarta” t-shirts you’d like to trade for some blood diamonds, just let us know.
Our first night in Mexico was spent on Saldamando Beach, a bare, open campground that has gorgeous views from sites located high above the ocean on the edge of a gentle cliff. Very impressive, plus we were practically alone considering the only other vehicle we saw was camped out of sight over the hill, and even though we were just a couple hundred metres off the highway it felt extremely remote. Yeah, it sure feels good to get back to nature – tent perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific, a grubby outhouse back in the brush, the sea breeze whipping down out of the star-filled sky, and Jeff Probst making snarky comments to a group of 18 hilariously mismatched Americans, most of whom seem to have IQs that fall somewhere in that tiny range between George W and a push broom. Sure, judge us if you want, but catching up on downloaded TV shows on our laptop has become a nightly ritual. How else would we keep up with all the new pop culture references such as:
“As a matter of fact, Kenneth, socio-economically speaking you are actually an inner city Latina.”
Laynni also strongly recommends that I mention the fact she beat me in a race down the beach. Of course, I gave her a pretty good head start, left some change in my pocket that turned out to be very distracting and at one point actually got sideswiped by a rogue wave. I also think I might have come down with a touch of diabetes. Not that I’m making excuses. The really sad part, though, is that we were both sore for the next two days.
The drive down the Baja itself, as you might expect, was really amazing. We’ve driven some pretty scenic roads, but none that are that consistently spectacular for an entire week. We were most surprised at the variety of the terrain. We criss-crossed the peninsula back and forth passing the ocean, deserts, mountains and all different types and sizes of towns. The roads were in really good shape but pretty narrow, which wasn’t a problem for us, but I can imagine things got a little tight for the RVs when they were passing trucks and buses. It’s easy to picture a retired accountant from BC hunched white-knuckled over the wheel of his giant motor home, teeth gritted and testicles retreating up into his body as his passenger wheel approaches the edge of a 200 metre drop-off and a Mexican gravel truck brushes past the driver side window close enough for him to see the driver’s blood-shot eyes and tobacco-stained grin.
At least there was very little traffic, though, which made sense since almost every campground we stayed in was practically empty. Not completely sure why, but if basically everyone we’ve talked to for the last month can be believed, it has to do with…..THE RECESSION. In fact, we didn’t know this, but it seems that THE RECESSION is responsible for pretty much everything that is wrong with society today – the decrease in tourism, the uppitiness of young people, way too many dogs wearing sweaters… For example:
“My stomach is doing somersaults from all that cheap Mexican food we’ve been eating. What with the THE RECESSION and all.”
“I can’t sleep at night, and I haven’t been able to get it up in weeks. What with THE RECESSION and all.”
Anyway, after some intense discussion we eventually decided to brave THE RECESSION and continue along good ol’ Mex 1 as it meandered east across the peninsula. We passed through hundreds of miles of spectacular desert scenery, branched off briefly to spend a night on the beautiful Bahia de Los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez before rejoining the highway to follow its crooked trail back to the Pacific to Guerrero Negro, known as one of the best places in the world to see Grey Whales up close. We chose one of the more conventional “Whale Watching” tours over the far more demanding and controversial “Whale Fondling” tours, mainly because we’d forgotten to dig our latex reinforced whale-touching gloves out of their special “Anniversary Stuff” Rubbermaid container. What an incredible experience – two solid hours following massive whales around Scammon’s Lagoon as they cruised along, surfacing for air in a rush of water and spray before diving back under, leaving huge ripples as their gigantic tails slowly disappeared like on a postcard. Every so often one floated effortlessly past within metres of us, an ominous 50 foot long shadow rocking our little skiff, displacing more water than a well-fed Canadian cannon-balling into the pool on day six of their all-inclusive holiday.
Afterwards, we were also offered a chance to take a “Salt Tour” – apparently an in-depth look at the way the town’s biggest industry manages to take large, boring quantities of water and create large, even more boring piles of salt. We quickly declined, actually spending more time contemplating whether a salt tour would be more – or less – desirable than cutting off our nipples with fingernail clippers. Meanwhile, a Danish couple almost choked on their tongues in their rush to scream “YES!!” as though it is every Danish child’s lifelong dream to one day grow up and get the chance to watch a grumpy Mexican with plumber butt half-heartedly shovel salt into a truck with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. They spent the next two hours wandering around the hotel and restaurant trying to find two more people who might, for some reason, want to throw away $40 to stand under the hot sun and hear about salt. Not surprisingly, they ended up going alone. As for us, it was back to the other side again where, after a somewhat odd stay in an orchard near Mulege where we enjoyed fine dining while camping with goats,
we stopped for a couple days on a beach in Bahia Concepcion, considered one of the most scenic places on the entire Baja peninsula. Very interesting dynamic in this area. Mainly tightly-knit communities of Snowbirds with their RVs packed side by side, monopolizing beautiful, secluded beaches in various places around the bay. Reminded me of 19th century leper colonies except that in this case their isolation is a result of their Tim Horton’s mugs and inexplicable devotion to ice hockey.
We spent a couple nice relaxing days on Santispac Beach, walking and biking during the day, spending our evenings at Ana’s Restaurant and Bar either watching football or enjoying Saturday’s “Dance Night” where we mostly watched the aforementioned population getting busy to a range of classics such as “Wake Up Suzie” and “The Hop”. The only song they played from the 21st Century was the Katy Perry classic “Hot ‘n Cold” – thereby sending me to a terrifying new level of shame at having it on my MP3 player.
Then Loreto, a great little city in the process of pushing for the tourist big-time, and meeting with clearly mixed results so far. Nice place, though, and its “nice feel” caused some disturbing property lust in Laynni.
Well, the nice feel, plus the hundreds of “For Sale” flyers and greedy thoughts of stumbling across some incredible steal. Very quiet place, though, so it isn’t exactly clear who they’re planning to sell those hundreds nearly finished condos to. What with THE RECESSION and all.