Lukeville (“Use the force, Lukeville”) a short drive from the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Visitor Center is not really a “town” so much as a truck stop. There’s gas, food, a (closed) restaurant, duty free shop (!), auto insurance (natch) and post office. There is also a substantial metal wall running east-west in both directions. Yes, Trump, someone’s already built a wall here.
I had read that this wall, while cutting illegal border crossings, has led migrants to the more dangerous desert areas. Thousands of bodies have been found in the border areas of the desert since 2001.
You drive through the US border and then the Mexican border. It is way more relaxed than either Tijuana or Tecate. They only ask for car registration here. For those only going to Puerto Peñasco you don’t even need a visa or to go through customs but since we plan to go farther, we go to the immigration office to get our visas and such.
Sonoyta looks like a typical Mexican town, although it seems to have more beggars than anywhere in Baja. At one point, Big Dog talked about not going to Puerto Peñasco (called Rocky Point by many of the Americans who go there) but now he decides we will, so rather than taking the road straight to Caborca, we go through the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve to the coast.
Pinacate is very much a continuation of the land we’d been in. Scruffier, drier and with less vegetation, but overall, it is very similar to what lays north of the border. National divisions are so arbitrary in a bio-geological sense.
Pinacate is famous for its craters but you have to take a 46 mile unpaved loop to see them. We decide to keep driving to Puerto Peñasco.
Dunes appear as we approach Puerto Peñasco, a well-developed down. There are a lot of signs in English, including all the “Hassle Free Vehicle Zone” signs along Highway 3. In a certain section of Sonora, all you need is Mexican auto insurance (although no one has even peeked at ours yet) and I guess there is no customs, either.
Puerto Peñasco is also known as Rocky Point. I thought it was just the English translation of the Spanish name, but it was actually a British Navy lieutenant who named the area “Rocky Point” on marine maps back in the early 1800’s. Later, President Lazaro Cardenas of Mexico changed it to Puerto Punta Peñasco.
He was the one who built a railroad to connect the Baja peninsula with the rest of Mexico. This railroad passed Puerto Peñasco and the town began to grow, but until the 1990’s it was just a place for campers and fishermen.
Today, Puerto Peñasco is Gringolandia. It’s not as interesting or as arty/cultural as Puerto Vallarta. It’s more like San Felipe or Ensenada, geared for the North American visitor, with lots of hustling, touts, “deals” and tourist traps. We go to the malecón and immediately get accosted by different touts. One them gives us a map.
I’m still hungry even though we had a couple of tasty carne asada tacos at a street stand in Sonyta. On our way to check out Playa Hermosa and Sandy Beach, we pass Asadero El Jaripeo and get 2 carne asada tacos, 1 fish taco, a shrimp taco and a giant jamaica (hibiscus) drink.
There’s an RV park full of vehicles big and small at Playa Hermosa – hundreds of them parked in the sand. It’s a giant ocean-front parking lot!
The rest of the waterfront is taken up by different resort complexes, some with their own RV parks. This is not really our scene.
Out of town, a road leads to oyster farms. We take the first turnoff and come to Rudi’s Oyster Farm. Rudi, from Chiapas, is the lone ostionero (oyster guy) here. He shucks a dozen oysters for us — they are salty with sea water and fresh out of the oyster beds. Ohhh, they are good. And they’re only P80 (US$5?) for a dozen!
The road deteriorates after the turn off to the last resort complex, Mayan Palace, and we are back in the Sonoran desertscape, back with the senita cacti that look a lot like organ pipe cacti and the cordón cacti that look like saguaro with elephantiasis. We don’t know where we’re going but El Desemboque is stuck in our minds so we head there, taking a spur off Highway 3.
Alongside the road, there are mounds — lots and lots of them — made of something white. They look like large eggshell halves. What could they be? (I later find out that they are shells — caracoles and oysters. The local women go through the oyster shells collecting seed pearls about the size of the smallest glass bead.)
When we enter El Desemboque, an old man sitting outside his home waves to us. Friendly natives! Good sign! Other locals are also friendly or just indifferent. In the center of town, there is a clearing like a parking lot in front of the beach. Maybe we can camp here tonight. Big Dog goes outside to look at some “biological corridor” sign when an American guy approaches him. He and his wife live here! In an RV right across from our parking space!
Ernie and Alicia lived in Zihuatanejo for years before coming here about a year ago. He rents out ATVs and boats while she makes art pieces out of shells and carcasses. One piece is centered around a large seahorse carcass; another is a laminated map decorated with shells. The inside of their RV is dark, like a cave, and decorated with all sorts of found objects. They seem like the kind of couple who would do well in Slab City but maybe Mexico is more of their kind of place — they are certainly as helpful and generous as the Mexicans we have met, giving us the password for their WiFi, offering drinks and rentals of their vehicles. And Ernie has one of those giant boomboxes the Mexicans love so much — the kind that can blast a million decibels through town.
I need a bathroom but there are no public baños in town.
“You can probably use the one at the abarrote if we get something to eat,” says Big Dog so we walk over. This abarrote is your everyday general store but it also has a table outside and signs for prepared food. There’s a group of men, women and children having a little party there.
The shrimp cocktail and shrimp tostada are excellent!! Mexican seafood cocktails are soupy things – seafood with diced tomatoes, onions, peppers and avocado in a seasoned Clamato broth. The abarrote’s “coctel” is not as seasoned and tastes fresher, and the shrimp are outrageously good. They are small wild shrimp — tender, sweet, succulent and tasty!
The setting sun casts a tangerine glos on the long, flat beach. Waters are calms. Friendly dogs – most of them looking related – roam around. Kids in trucks are doing donuts on the beach, spraying up sand. Guess that’s their Friday Night Fun!
Back in the rig, I have to shit again. It must be the salt water from the oysters. If you are easily grossed out, please skip the next section.
So, you know that we don’t use the toilet in Sprockets. There have been some unsavory moments because of this. Like having to go poop in the sand in the middle of the night. Or, worse, dumping into a tiny plastic bag while stealth camping in the middle of San Francisco. We also have a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat that snaps on. Big Dog used this outside while we were camped on the beach in Baja. You put a plastic bag inside the bucket and then later discard the bag. Hopefully, there is no hole in the bag. Well, in El Desemboque, I have no choice but to use the Poo Bucket. I double bag it, just to be safe. Using the bucket is teethgrittingly disgusting but once the lid is closed, the odor stays pretty much locked in.
I want to go toss the bag immediately but Big Dog makes me keep it as it is. “I’ll be using The Bucket in the morning anyway,” he says. Eeeew.
We haven’t checked our email in a few days and when we do, Big Dog finds out he needs to get some documents printed and notarized in a week or two. We also find out that we needed a “temporary vehicle import permit” to go beyond the “Safe Zone” of a section of Sonora but missed the town to get this because we went to Puerto Peñasco instead of Caborca. Do we drive back north? Where will we get the notary? At the US Consulate in Hermosillo? (He makes an online appointment for the earliest date — February 21!)