I traveled to Baja with a roommate a while back and ended up in a place called Punta Lobos after driving several days from Santa Cruz. Punta Lobos is just north of The Wall and the 7 Sisters area. After bouncing down several dirt tracks, we found an isolated, little campground, with room to move. I gathered bird and animal bones, painted them and later left them behind as thanks for my time spent there.
Most days were spent naked exploring tidepools or paddling around on my surfboard - the waves where scarce and gratefully, so was the wind. On my second day I was out with a Hawaiian sling and was lucky enough to spear a fish. I think I was more surprised than the fish. After getting my dinner off the harpoon and into a haul sack, I decided to haul too because my dinner was bleeding.
On the beach, three somewhat bemused men greeted me. They were staring at me - then I realized I must have been a site - a she-sea creature dipped in rubber, carrying a spear gun, holding a flapping sack. I told them not to worry.
"I'm harmless to most humans."
Two of them were from Ventura, the other, a Canadian, who had been driving his 1963 Range Rover all over Central America and Mexico for the past year. He had anything a traveler could need packed into this well-designed little workhorse of an automobile. Rover's have a short wheelbase making them super maneuverable in rough terrain. But the chassis is optimized for space, and designed to carry some serious survival gear - which you better have, if you're driving around south of the border.
The Canadian's name was Robert and his journey had taken him throughout Baja, Mexico and parts of Central America. He was back in Baja on his way home. Robert was a knowledgeable astronomer; tucked into the never-ending crevices of his bitchin' little ride, was a powerful telescope. Also stashed in there was a Zodiac complete with outboard motor, fishing poles, coolers and my personal favorite of his belongings - a coffee bong (aka an espresso maker). He was like a magician constantly pulling rabbits out of his hat.
He needed to make a trip to Guerrero Negro for supplies and more importantly, beers. It happened to be Valentine's Day and he also wanted to send some love to his sweetheart back in Canada. I needed to call my work and tell them I was flaking on coming back when I said I would. He invited me along for the trip - giving me a welcome respite from my roommate who had reverted to Neanderthal behavior in the bush.
Guerrero Negro is a dusty Baja town where about half of the streets are paved and the rest are dirt. We drove around exploring the town, and then headed to the market, the carniceria, the ice plant, the beer store and a taco stand. We ate some fine fish tacos and went back for seconds. We checked out the point looking for whales with no success. Drove back to town and tried to make our calls.
Both of us were having little success with the Mexican telephone system. I was finally able to contact my landlord who then sent a message on to my employers - who even let me have my job back upon my belated return. Robert had no luck getting through to his girlfriend. We left town around 4pm, a bit on the late side for getting back to camp before dark and thus breaking one of the cardinal rules of Baja travel - never drive at night.
There's only one gas station on the way to Guerrero Negro and our camp, so we stopped to refuel. At the next pump was a classic VW van piled high with old school long boards. It was driven by a wizened surfer, with hair and beard down to there, and a wicked sparkle in his eyes.
I started to query this guy for info on where he'd been surfing while Robert pumped fuel. He had that look of a wave magnet about him. I was stoked to meet another surfer and was behaving like a puppy with a stuff toy before he calmly turned to me and asked my name.
"I'm John Peck."
He extended his hand to me and I felt a strange, pleasing force pass through me. The warmth of his being flowed directly in his gaze; penetrating, intense and strangely exhilarating. I had no idea who he was at the time, but I felt he was indeed special.
He was traveling with a young woman surf-star named Brittany who I recognized. Tall, tan, blue eyed, impossibly blonde, the prototypical California surfer girl. She asked where I was from.
"Alright. The coolest chicks come from Santa Cruz."
I had to agree.
Besides you've got to give props to a sister who surfs like her. She taught Joel Tudor a couple of moves.
Peck told us they had been surfing The Wall and it was big and glassy in the mornings and blowing like stink in the afternoon. They were off in search of a different place. We were heading back to our camp where we were experiencing near opposite conditions. I could take a little wind if there were waves involved.
We began our last leg home turning off the highway a half hour after leaving the service station. It was completely dark by now, with hardly a moon in the sky. And cold. I was grateful to have had the good sense to bring a wind shell, hat and gloves with me. We were driving in an open vehicle.
The campground was about an hour's drive from the highway - at a maximum speed of about 35mph. Faster than that, and your kidneys shake loose. After passing a couple of landmarks, we had not seen the track down to our site. We drove slowly scanning the horizon looking for a familiar saddle in the hills while searching for our track marks. Everything looked familiar yet unfamiliar. After passing the fish camp, we knew we'd gone too far and began to back track. We drove along for another 45 minutes before realizing that we had again passed our track.
By now it was late evening and Robert had been at the wheel all day. Driving these nominal roads through the desert was tough and had taken their toll on him. We decided to pull over and spend the night in the Rover. I did not wish to drive this little bronco at night, in the dark, and Robert could no longer keep his eyes open.
He gave me his survival suit (pulled from the depths of the little Rover) with its hood and I swapped him my hat. We climbed on to the platform roof and stared at a deep black midnight sky. The air was so transparent you could count the individual stars in the Milky Way. Our earth was void of her moon.
We stayed on the roof smoking strong Canadian cigarettes that were getting me buzzed. Robert began to point out constellations and planets in the sky. Orion, Sagittarius, and Mars - low on the horizon. This lad knew the heavens. Before too long it got terribly cold and we decided the roof was not the warmest place to spend the night.
We climbed into the cab, a space about the size of a deep freeze refrigerator. Robert turned the engine on to warm us - but we would burn up all our gas if we tried to run the heater all night, not to mention the engine. We curled up in our own seats but the chill was intense, so we created a bridge between the two seats by wedging a cooler (filled with ice cold beer) between them. Then we huddled up next to each other to share our body heat.
We slept fitfully if at all - I recall dozing off but was awakened by the bark of a dog, or maybe a coyote. In order to relieve myself, I would have to disrobe out of the survival suit. It was bitterly cold - so I held my urine most of the night adding to the discomfort. It never occurred to me to be scared though.
I woke up to a sky the color of polished silver, streaked with veins of deep magenta. The horizon was black; the mountain silhouette held no detail as it cut a jagged edge into the bottom of this early morning tableau. Robert was asleep with his head on my back and shoulders. I was turned around towards the rear, my arms slung over the chair - facing east watching the sun paint the sky.
Robert opened his eyes and I pointed at the sky. He looked over at the sunrise and slowly smiled.
We set off again away from the fish camp, and saw our camp track within moments. The road had been graded the previous day and a berm had been built up along the edge of the road, obscuring the entrance with a foot tall pile of grading rocks.
We turned down our path and bounced into the campground. I saw the windows on two tents being pulled aside; our traveling companions checking to see if it was us making it home. My roommate was irate, but then softened his tone to let me know he was just worried.
The Venturans speculated that we had decided on a romantic room for two in Guerrero Negro on Valentine's Day. Robert and I just stared at our shoes and let them wonder. They said they heard a car going back and forth during the night, but were too drunk to come and take a look. We were less than 10 minutes away from our camp all night, but we were really a million miles away in the heavens above Baja.
We began to walk away towards our respective tents, turned and smiled at one another before parting.
"That was the best Valentine's Day I ever had."
© Golden-Coast Productions, 2003