A Baja Trip Report ( not mine)

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Escrito por Phil in Toronto desde (CPE00c002c5db57-CM00186832fb3e.cpe.net.cable.rogers.com) el día viernes, 29 de febrero, 2008 a las 12:51:47 horas :

Got an email from a friend today. They are spending the winter in Baja. Pam writes very well and I thought I would share her unique Mexico perspective.

Hola amigos,
Whoever said "You can never go back" has not been to the La Ventana campground in Baja, Mexico. It is a cross between a refugee camp and Woodstock. It is tents and vans and mo-hos (motorhomes), our 1948 bus, woven palm frond shelters, driftwood forts, and canvas Costco sheds full of windsurfing and kiteboarding gear. We jockey for space and spread out our tarps, peg them down and sweep the relentless sand off them daily, erect outdoor shower stalls, build tables from scrounged lumber and building blocks hauled painstakingly down the beach, jury-rig ropes and pulleys and old kites for shade biminis, construct a coffee table from a worn-out windsurfer, devise fish smokers, string laundry lines between the palm trees, buy potted poinsettias and roses from the old Mexican roadside vendor and his grandson to landscape our "yards", and hang seashell and driftwood mobiles from our awnings. Most of us are camping here for a few months and we can indulge our inner Robinson Crusoe at leisure and at length. We check out each other's tarpage and covet one another's portable propane hot-water-on-demand. Leatherman knives and Petzl headlamps abound. Boy Scoutery flourishes.

Mexico is inefficient and quixotic. Sometimes it is unnecesarily loud with dynamite-laden M60 fireworks, speakers mounted on pickup truck roofs shouting anything from political propoganda to propane gas ads. Jake brakes on transport semis are apparently installed to cheer the driver up and prevent the night from sounding lonely. Ditto for horns. Dogs bark and bark and bark as soon as it's dark. Gallos crow defiantly in the dawn, daring anyone to get the stock pot ready. Other times it is quiet the way only the desert can be, when you have hiked deep among the cacti and brush to find miniature yellow flowers carpeting the ground, a tiny lizard with stripes as brilliant as a tropical fish. You grow more quiet yourself, so you can hear the hum of an insect, the whisper of sand underfoot, something that will speak to you of the long history of how the Indians and Spaniards survived. A vulture perched on a huge cardon cactus is unaware that he is a desert cliche.

The campground is a sociological experiment. Strong characters are forced to share space and play nice. Mondays and Fridays the fresh veggie truck comes with vibrant chard, bushels of sweet key limes, avos, oranges and garlic, bags of fresh popcorn, hot chiles, strawberries. Tuesdays and Saturdays the bakery van slips in and the campers run like children called by the ice cream truck. We line up for the trays of doughnuts, apple fritters, lemon turnovers, chocolate-dipped macaroons, heavy banana cake, crusty bolillos, and fresh-squeezed litros of orange-carrot or beet-orange juice. Jaak drifts home with a powdered sugar mustache and a little paper bag of cinnamon twists clutched in his trans-fat-sticky hands. We eat fish tacos, barbecued sierra and bonito, mangoes with salt and lime, fresh tortillas, soft and crispy, with peanut butter and banana.

It is a windy winter. The wind blows hard enough to pick the sand up off the beach and create a hazy mist of it that stings your legs. We sail our smallest boards and sails, we learn to carve up the big waves and zoom down the face, flip the sail and make a clean getaway. Sometimes. Other times we purl, we are flung like rag dolls, bash ourselves against the boom or mast, swallow gallons of seawater. I race along on my windsurfer, smile as I pass sailors coming the other tack, my nose trailing festive streamers of boogers. It's so hard to be glamourous.

Laurenne, Connor and Cara come down for a couple of weeks before Christmas and deploy themselves in more tents and a friend's camper. Our family takes two days of kiteboarding lessons. A fully powered kite can lift a car off the ground. Cara learns this the hard way and gets drug across the beach and scuffed up like an old shoe. Jaak learns this the even harder way and sails fifteen feet into the air before being flung down and having his ribs cracked. He is off the water for five and half weeks so he goes and finds a wee beachfront palapa-house that we buy. It is right next door to the campground so all our friends are happy and Jaak will still be front of the line for the bakery truck. For our next new sport we may take up something safer - perhaps Jaak and I as the only three-legged racers in the running of the bulls in Pamplona, or maybe blindfolded snake-handling.

The campground is full of campfire guitarists and impromptu sessions attract two, then three, then ten guitars to the circle. We make shakers out of empty Tecate beer cans filled with sand or gravel. Ukeleles appear, a mandolin, bongo drums of course. A professional musician hosts a clinic and 17 guitarists show up to learn some new blues riffs. He trades Jaak a couple of private lessons in exchange for a generator repair.

We attend the 8th annual Bongathon in a house up in the hills behind. This is the most unique sporting event we have ever attended. It is strictly refereed with two officials weighing the pot and manning the stopwatch in a contest to see who can smoke five grams in a gigantic bong the fastest. There is a long line of contestants who have been training dilligently and the crowd cheers the nacho-brained teenagers against the sixty-year old hash brownie gourmands. The kitchen counters are a war zone of ravaged Dorito bags; Empereador cookie crumbs are strewn like shrapnel. The whole house is full of smoke. Everyone wins. The gal who takes the Women's Division in a lung-busting display of hoovering forgets to take home her lovely opal necklace prize. She also forgets her shoes, her sweater, and where her home actually is.

We attend Burning Bush. This is where pyromaniacs and arsonists get the respect they think they deserve. For a week before the event, out in the desert volunteers construct superstructures to burn, massive pyres of dead kites and cacti, bonfires of driftwood and cow skulls. There is a flame-thrower like a cannon on wheels that shoots a 60-foot tongue of fire into the night sky with a whoosh like the Appollo Launch. In one area a hose punctured full of holes is buried under the sand, propane is run through it and lit, so the ground flickers and shoots up little tongues of flame as though the ground were burning. We dance in the sand to a rocking band with power supplied by a raft of generators; behind them a giant screen plays surf movies. There are fire dancers, Mexicans with taco and beer stands, and the Policia lean casually against the grills of their trucks and laugh with their friends. The whole thing is so sketchy, so tragic-headlines-waiting-to-happen, so Workers Comp nightmare, this can only be Mexico.

We attend birthday parties where we learn never to admit it's your birthday, as the generosity of Pablo the bartender apparently knows no bounds; and his margaritas are delicioso and dangerously effective. Regret, remorse and regurgitations are likely outcomes, along with temporarily believing you can dance on a rickety table with one leg (the table's, not yours) propped up by a sleeping, or dead, dog. We attend Carnaval in la Paz, and hang off the balcony at La Perla hotel and wave at the parade floats of Pacifico girls in hula skirts or gold and jewell encrusted gowns, brass bands in matador costumes, paper mache elephants and Morroccan harems, even a float of monks each holding a sign with the name of their Mission. The street is a mosh pit and later we dance to the bands set up almost side by side so their music overlaps with each other and with the microphone-wielding vendors of beach towells, tamales, and games of chance. We atttend Valentine's Day where a group of Mexicans takes us under their wing and teach us how to party, complete with dancing, pinatas, musical chairs, lime and spoon races and being winched up to the ceiling by your ankles on a marlin weigh-scale and having tequila poured down your gullet.

At night the feral cows sneak into the campground and knock over the garbage cans and paw through the refuse looking for scraps of tortillas and lime rinds, raid the outdoor kitchens for mangos and bags of rice, and leave deposits on the tarps. One of them eats the heel off my flip-flop. Time flies. We fly. We crash. I wash through the shore break with my kite and crab my way ashore looking like the losing contestant in a mud-wrestling contest. I can see that pretty soon we will love this new sport. After another margarita. Sunrises are extravagant; family and friends are dear. We wish you were here. Here at the campground we have gone back. We are kids skipping school, skiving off to go to the swimming hole for the winter.
Hasta luego,
Pamuela y Joaquin

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