Finding a private place to poo turns out to be harder than we thought yesterday. For one, a worker is already on the beach putting up umbrellas and chairs when Big Dog wakes up, a bit later today because the mountains behind us have blocked the rising sun. He goes off into the dunes, though, and is able to do his biz. Unfortunately, the lack of facilities makes my body just not want to go. On second thought, maybe that’s a good thing.
While having coffee, we wave to the worker and Big Dog offers him some coffee. He lives in the little vendor shack (which probably has a toilet!) There’s a water tank above the shack. He’s a sweet guy with strange blue-ish eyes. Once again, Big Dog’s made a new friend.
We pass through Pichilingue again on our way out. One ferry’s come in and the huge semis are getting off. South of Balandra and east of La Paz is a big Pemex station. Some of these stations have a “Checkpoint” mini-mart-diner-traveler facilities place. Here, they have showers behind the toilet building so after we fill up we go over there. It’s P30 per shower so we decide to share one and the shop attendant opens the employee’s bathroom. It’s a big room with toilet, urinal, sink and shower. Yay! Another shower! Already!
Cleaned up, we’re ready for Todos Santos. The road to it is a divided road with four lanes. The best road of this trip! It’s pretty much a straight shot through similar lower cape terrain until you hit the Pacific side. We must have passed the Tropic of Cancer but didn’t see any signs.
The town of Todos Santos is a quiet little town right on the 25th Parallel. It’s more “tropical” and lusher, with palms. They are not coconut palms – the fronds are like those from the LA palms. Are they date palms?
The town is pretty, colorful and quaint-ish but with a definite tourist vibe, the kind you do not get in equally small towns like Mulege, even with their gringo-orientedness. It’s the kind of tourist vibe that comes with being a drive from Cabo San Lucas. The main street is lined with tourist-oriented shops, galleries, restaurants. We see our first gringo-oriented realtors. Flyers in the windows advertise US$1.3 million beachfront properties. We see our first gringo newspaper. And we get our first bit of hustle since Ensenada.
“Hotel California” is here, all pretty in orange, claiming to be the inspiration for the Eagles’ song (while conventional wisdom tells us it’s the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.) The mission is clean and uncluttered.
After a brief stroll through the main street, we think it’s time to push on. The mission parking lot, which was nearly empty when we parked, is now full. There are lots of daytrippers in rental cars from Cabo. We’ve had enough Todos.
There’s a roadside restaurant just out of town. It seems a little less touristy – at least there are Mexicans eating there. They do burritos and empanadas for breakfast here, as in many places in Baja. Also avena. That’s oatmeal, but do they prepare it the same way? And there is a bigger coffee culture – we haven’t seen so many places serving coffee anywhere else in Mexico. There are roadside vendors, Starbucks-like chains, push carts… Here, we just get a couple of burritos. They are the size they ought to be — about 2 fingers wide, like a flauta. Simple, filled flour tortillas, just rolled up like a cigar. Not those giants they serve north of the border. They ought to be called burrosos.
The coast is beautiful with what looks to be decent-sized, reliable surf. But almost all of it looks privatized and unaccessible. You don’t see any beach camping. The coast, dotted with big homes, is wrapped in barbed wire fences and “Propriedad Privada” signs.
You can see Cabo San Lucas from a distance – sprawled and slightly smoggy. It is huge. We drive into the Hotel Zone, which is completely touristy, reminding us of Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan. The center of it all is like Cancun. Vegas at the Beach! Just offshore are enormous cruise ships: massive multi-story shopping malls floating on the sea.
Between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, there are lots of nice homes, condominiums and resorts. All look well made — not funky like some of those on the Mayan Riviera. This coast has been developed for a long time.
Most of San Jose is a busy Mexican town with heavy traffic. We can’t find the way to the coastal road north — which may or may not be paved — so we take the main highway. For the second time today, we pass the Tropic of Cancer. Here, there is a large monument, along with the biggest roadside shrine.
The divided highway has become a regular well-paved highway, here in the higher plateau, and it’s good all the way to La Ribera. Then, suddenly, it deteriorates. There are little stretches of new asphalt to tease you until you get to a “desviacion” sign, putting you back on washboarded dirt. It’s interspersed with old, crumbling asphalt. Finally, it is ONLY bone-rattling rutted dirt.
Poor Sprockets! “Zis is not a road for me!”
It’s not a busy road, thank god, because it is really too narrow for two-way traffic, but some trucks and 4x4s speed by too fast, raising huge clouds of dust. That seems to be all we are breathing: dust.
There is beach camping where the road hits the coast but we keep going to Cabo Pulmo. The sign says 12km ahead… then 10km… then 10km again! Didn’t they tell us that 2km ago?
The road winds around tight curves, steep dips and climbs, and finally makes it to Cabo Pulmo, the tiniest collection of homes, restaurants and dive centers. We keep going to Arbolitos, supposedly 5km ahead. It feels like the longest 5km!
There are a bunch of campers on the beachside of the dirt road, and others on the inland side. Big Dog is not terribly impressed – there is no shade, no private spots, spots that might have been OK are already occupied – so we go around checking different spots until we find ourselves in slippery gravely sand.
“This will do,” Big Dog suddenly says, stopping. Sprockets’ butt end is in the road and trucks squeeze by. Hmm, I hope we don’t get rear-ended after dark.
After a beer, we decide to pull out and camp at Cabo Pulmo instead. That’s when we find the rear left tire is stuck – once again! And once again, I dig, dig, dig. Put in some rocks. Slide in the rubber floor mat. Big Dog starts Sprockets. The tire spins and spits the mat out, after chewing it up pretty badly.
I dig deeper. And wider – giving the tire less of a rise to have to climb over.
“Are we ready to try again?” asks Big Dog.
“No.” I want more digging, more rocks.
A resident of the camper behind us comes out to tell us that her husband has a bad back and can’t help. Neither can the Mexicans who drive through.
Maybe I’ve dug deep enough and put in enough rocks. The angle out is less sharp. Ready for another try with the rubber floor mat AND the colorful door mat.
Big Dog starts the engine.
“Go! Go! Go!” I shout.
The tire spins a bit but gets enough traction to free itself and we are OUT! Whew.
After that adventure, the 5km back to Pulmo feels oddly short.
“It’s better here anyway. There’s more privacy between spots.” Each site is bordered by more and higher shrubs.
Cabo Pulmo is the only place in Baja that has a living coral reef, and is one of the very few coral reefs on the west side of North America. Today, the water does not seem calm enough for snorkeling and the beach is rocks rather than sand. But we have a pretty sweet spot with plenty of privacy and we’re out of Stuckyville II.
End of Day Miles: 1496.7 mi.