The Peace (Feb 15 2016)

Big Dog wakes up before me! And it is COMPLETELY fogged in. You can’t see ten feet in front, almost. Still, the locals are out at 7:30, maybe clamming for their breakfast clams. A woman strolls the beach with a long stick-like thing and a big heavy bag, probably full of clams.

When we leave camp, it is so socked in, it is downright freaky. You can’t even see oncoming vehicles until they are right there. It is foggy forever on these flat plains, but it is strange to see such thick fog in such hardcore desert. It makes us think of a new movie about the Invasion of the Cactus Zombies. These are zombies who have developed chameleon-like camouflage to look like the cordón cacti.

When we get to Ciudad Constitución, 57.7 km away (“Oh, they have to be EXACT, do they?”) it is still foggy. So much so that it’s hard to find our Pemex. When we do find one with diesel (because not all Pemex stations have diesel fuel) the sun is out. The fog bank has moved a few kilometers west. While Big Dog gets gas, I run across the street for coffees. That’s another thing about Baja: there is more coffee sold here.

It’s a straight-ish road down to La Paz, first through some ag land with orange groves and farms. Pastures with cows. Then, just desert – the vegetation and landscape do not change much. But every so often, you see those roadside shrines, santuarios. Most are the size of a cooler box but sometimes they are big and elaborate. Some are simple white boxes, many are colorful.

A word about road etiquette: “passing” is signaled with the left blinker. Big trucks often give you the sign when it’s clear up ahead. Passing vehicles alert all with the sign. Where there is shoulder, the slower car will move into it.

Most Baja roads have no shoulder, but for a long stretch south of Ciudad C., there is a good, wide road with shoulders. Not forever, though. This is Baja, right?

As the road curves east, you can see mountains ahead. So much of Baja looks like the Southwest. The Southwest might have looked like this – with water close by – at one point. After all, wasn’t Death Valley once a sea?

At Km112, there is a town, with some nicer roadside restaurants. At Km100, a town called El Cien — the One Hundred. A big passenger bus zooms by, flashing “Buenos Dias” on its electric signboard. Sweet.

Cacti are the tallest things here, except for power towers, and often have birds perched. Eagles looking for prey from the top of a cactus. The Mexican coat of arms, based on the Aztec symbol for Tenochtitlan (Mexico City), is a Mexican golden eagle, perched on top of a nopal (prickly pear) cactus, with a snake in its talon. It is such a Mexican image and you can see it featured prominently in their national flag.

The road goes down to La Paz and the Sea of Cortez, through another checkpoint (natch). We avoid the short cuota, the toll road, into La Paz, wondering what that’s all about, and go into the Centro. La Paz is a real town, bigger and busier and more sprawled than Puerto Vallarta, although Big Dog thinks they are about the same. There’s a Home Depot as well as a Walmart in addition to the usual Mexican big box stores.

Once in town, after we get cash at a Banamex, we find an internet place (copies, printouts and internet) a block away. A stop at a Ley Supermarket for more pastries since Big Dog already finished yesterday’s purchases and a tamale each from the vendor outside. Big Dog’s rajas con queso (chile with cheese) has tomato-chile flavored masa. My pollo con espinaca (chicken with spinach) is chicken, spinach and corn kernels seasoned and mushed into the masa.

DSC05637I try to navigate us onto the malecón road but there’s some kind of carnival blocking the middle and you have to squirrel around what appears to be the Centro Historico a bit, up and down some pretty steep cobbled streets. There are lots of nice places to stay here – local hotels with regional color. The malecón road is lined with fancy restaurants and nice hotels on one side. The ocean is a pretty milky blue near the shore, getting more vivid as you go farther out.

The road to the cape point, El Tecolote, passes several beaches and the major ferry port of Pichilingue. El Tecolote is a straight stretch of white sand beach with small waves. Across the way is Isla Espiritu Santo, looking like a half-submerged bit of Utah with its strata of pink and beige and orange. A handful of RVs are parked along the dunes behind the beach. I can already tell that it’s too open and boring for Big Dog, so we go back to Balandra, just around the corner.

DSC05639Balandra is more sheltered from wind with the hills surrounding it. This white sand beach is on a small cove – a very shallow one – but it is busy with busloads of Mexicans. There are plenty of plus-sized matrons in big bathing suits. Some like to just sit in the water and yak. One group sounds just like the cackling/laughing seagulls. There are no campers here. It’s just the small beach with a few palapas and a gravely parking lot. But it feels better for us than parking behind dunes on the open beach.

The problem with Baja is that there is no shade, no trees. It’s palapas or nothing and all of them are taken here. The rest of us have to find tiny bits of shade by the rocks at one end. That’s where we take our chairs to read and write. I also take a walk through the shallow water, so clear you can see plate-sized fish swimming around your ankles.

DSC05647DSC05649The sand is super fine, white and soft. By late afternoon, the busloads are gone. A few hang out to watch the sunset from the eastern edge of the cove. Big Dog goes out there for photos while I make dinner – scallops, buttered potatoes and broccoli. We dine on the low wall in front of Sprockets, above the beach. There’s a group a few meters down, still partying. They have a mix tape on and REM’s Losing My Religion is playing for the second time. The partiers hang out for a while but eventually they go home, too. Another car leaking mariachi music parks near us but they also disappear eventually.

We are all alone now.

End of Day Miles: 1280 mi.

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Author: ontheroadwithsprockets

I've been traveling since I was born -- the first big trip was before I was two, across the Pacific, from my native Japan to Los Angeles on a cargo ship. There have been many journeys since then, through many continents and cultures.

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