A good night’s sleep does wonders for the soul. San Ignacio is a big city by our standards these days. 4,000 people, a 24×7 Pemex, good size market (10 isles, a row of coolers and taco cart out front), baseball ball field, park and a very traditional town square. San Ignacio signified the line of demarcation between the desert and Pacific coast. This morning we left the palm tree filled oasis, driving west on our off-road adventure.
Out of San Ignacio the off-road route leads down to Scorpion Bay where surfers, naturalists and birders from all over flock… Just not this time of year. The early morning’s dense cloud cover and fog kept the sun hidden and temperatures low as we drove the roughly 100 miles of dirt and gravel to the bay.
This section of the Baja is marked by sandy roads and salt marshes making progress easy. Even under a thick cloud cover you can’t help but be taken in by the tranquility of Scorpion Bay. With our new “it’s not a competition” mantra, we decided to stop and spend awhile taking it all in. Finding a quiet place, we could have all to ourselves was easy… We just pulled up to the water.
I love fly fishing. Although I did not bring a rod, I found myself fascinated by watching the fishing birds in action. Maybe I’m jealous of them. Watching pelicans glide through the sky, dive into the sea and come up with a pouch full of fish is not an experience I normally get watch. As I sat staring out over the bay, I half expected to see flying tigers doing barrel rolls, loops and stalls. This place, this adventure, life in general, is full of mystery and its getting easier and easier to get lost in the magic of Baja.
Despite the calm of the bay, the off-road route and Cabo San Lucas still called. Today, the course would keep us hugging the coast line for a good chunk of the route. Driving on the mostly dry marsh flats gave me a feeling of freedom. There were a few tracks to follow, but you could easily veer off and create your own path. Driving through the marsh flats felt good. It felt like we were the first to see this place. Of course being the first does come with its own hazards.
Anyone who explores coast lines knows they are constantly changing with the water’s ebb and flow. Mix standing water with marshy soil and you have the recipe for a catastrophe. We stopped and thought about it. The off-road course clearly went forward through the shallow water which laid out for blocks. We could probably slog through it but that seemed low on entertainment value. We’d already aired down for running in the sand. But was this the time to test our machismo? I wouldn’t call it a retreat, more like a five minute detour, back tracking a bit until we managed to find a dry path that would weave around the all the standing water.
All along the coast are fishing villages, little towns dotting the shore line. The families making up these small communities work hard to eke a living. On the roof of each house sat a large black plastic barrel that acted as the solar based hot water tank. Fishing nets stretched across poles in the yard waiting to be mended and rusted truck beds sat half buried in the sand next to each shack. A propane cylinder was held up by the fitting pipe that protruded from the wall. Back in the states this would be a vacation, fishing camp for getting away from it all. Down here it was daily life. Sketchy electrical service. Running water, maybe. No Pemex stations.
Fishing boats, pickup trucks, pumps… all run on fuel, but we are a hundred plus miles from a town with a gas station. And even if the gas prices are lower in Mexico, it is hard for a family to justify a 200 mile round trip into town to fill up the family pickup. In Baja there are two sources for fuel; official Pemex stations and the not so official other guys.
In each of these little villages, we drove by a guy with a pickup full of plastic barrels and jugs as well as a siphon hose. There is no octane rating or posted price but these towns survive because of these enterprising black market gas stations.
Add a lift, big tires, wind blocking lights and enough gear to support a small army to a rig with the aerodynamics of a billboard in a wind tunnel and you are lucky to get 10 miles to the gallon when traveling over the back roads. Unsure of the gas’ purity off the back of these trucks we had brought our own extra. We kept 20 gallons on the roof just for emergencies. The low fuel light screaming at me from the dash and 40 miles before the next town with a Pemex meant we were going to tap into our rooftop reserves for the first time.
The soft sand and course carried us out of the marshes heading back into the heart of the Baja. This is the section of the course where the trophy trucks grow wings. While we may not have been carried on the back of Mercury, we did hit 55 mph for the first time making this section of the course one of our favorites. We were making great time.
One thing about driving in the middle of no where is that when you want to stop… you stop. We stopped wherever and whenever we wanted. We didn’t have to pull off or worry about what might come down the dirt trail. When we had to pee, we just stopped. When we needed to air up or air down we just stopped. When we came across the world’s largest cactus standing tall among the barren sand and tumble weeds. We just stopped.
There is no problem finding solitude on this adventure. We would go hours without seeing any sign of civilization. I’m not sure you would count a lone man and his donkey (turns out our lone man is Mike Younghusband who is hiking the length of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. He started back on Oct. 1st.) walking down the path with his donkey and dog as civilization but seeing him reminded us that how fast you go through life is all relative. No we don’t have a trophy truck with 32 inches of suspension and a 400 hp V8, capable of 100+mph speeds, but we are also not wearing a hole in our boots. We all have a pace that is our own.
We were making good time, having fun, stopping when we want, where we want. We are dos amigos some where in the middle of Baja. Not a bad way to spend the day.