Driving the Baja on an off-road adventure means everything we own is covered with dust, including us. Mix in a little sweat, spilled drinks and dribbled hot sauce, and things can get a bit messy. We packed light when it came to clothes. In fact we only had a couple of shirts, cargo shorts, sweat shirt and a change of socks and underwear. Wear everything inside, outside, forward, back and you get four days of hygienic bliss (if this is too much information, you may want to skip down a few paragraphs). Staying in motels improved our hygiene strategy significantly.
I have one clothing rule on an adventure: Avoid cotton at all cost. These days, it is easy to find clothes, from companies such as Columbia Sportswear for outdoor adventures, made of moisture wicking polyester with features like built in sun protection, anti-microbial treatment (stink less) and breathable weaves. The feature I’m most fond of is quick drying.
You wont find our laundry management practice in any high school home economics class text book but it served us well:
- Step into the shower still wearing your shirt, shorts and socks… everything but your boots.
- Get good and wet, rinsing the first layer of dirt and sweat off everything. Remember keep the water out of your mouth this is Mexico after all.
- Soap up. Don’t reach for the chintzy, baby sized hotel soap bar. If you want to work up a good lather into your clothes, the itty bitty bottle of shampoo is your best bet. (not like we need it for our balding scalps.)
- Pull off your soapy wet clothes, rinse them off good, and ring them out.
- After you finish up your shower, hang everything thing and let it dry over night. Did I mention the quick dry feature?
- By morning, good as new. Certainly clean enough for us, no sweat stains and smelling like whatever foo foo fragrant hotel shampoo you happen to have used.
We grabbed our morning coffee from a little street side cafe, deciding to sit and people watch as Ciudad Constitución came to life. The streets there, and everywhere in Baja were filled with election signs. We sat trying to figure out who was running for what but with our attention span, only slightly shorter than a Twitter tweeting, Facebook liking, text messaging teenage girl skipping her morning Riddlin meds, we shifted to counting fruit trucks parked on every corner, guessing why the guy across the way is sweeping the dirt alley (really it was dirt), where did I pack the my sunglasses, you have the maps right, maybe we should get a scone, damn this is good coffee, I’ll bet he’s running for governor… We got to go!
The route from Ciudad Constitución heads back to the Pacific. This is the section I’d been waiting for. According to the maps and folks in the know, this would be fast driving along the coast with amazing views. Just watch out for the silt beds.
About an hour out of town and we found the turn off where the route shifted back onto the Baja’s network of dirt roads and trails.
The landscape was changing again right before our eyes. The agricultural green plots surrounding Ciudad Constitución were giving way to the low lands of southern Baja. Less than 75 kilometers of land separates the Pacific from the Sea of Cortez. This morning, fog was dampening everything in between and providing desert plants with all the moisture they needed… or at least all they were going to get around here.
This time of year in south Baja has its moments of color, if you are willing to look for it. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking lush tropical amazonian foliage. Think more snippets of brilliant yellows and red tucked in between the long sharp thorns, dotting gray-green brush along the trail. After the barren high plains deserts any color other than brown was easy to spot.
It’s taken awhile but we have both finally shed the pressures of the world back home. Neither of us are thinking about dead lines, project schedules or vendor meetings any more. We were recalling our last adventure together when back in our youth we spent a couple weeks exploring Yellow Stone. A lot less elk and buffalo here, but no mosquitoes or biting flies.
When ever my friends and I get together, Hula Betty likes to point out that we tend to retell the same old tired stories over and over and over. We’ve all moved away and have our own families these days, no longer able to get together at a moments notice for a road trip to the beach or exploring hidden fishing spots. So yes, we like retelling our old stories. For me a big part about taking this Baja off-road adventure with Brad was to ensure we had a few new stories to tell when we get together. We maybe growing older, but it doesn’t mean we have to grow up.
The early morning’s route was still filled with bumps and whoops that keep our progress in the low 20’s mph as we headed to toward the coast. Soon enough though the hard-pan shifted to rut filled soft sand hinting at the approach of the Pacific.
In no time the course had us paralleling the pacific, riding up and down the dunes. The views from the trail were as promised, amazing. But they were from the tops of the dunes, not from down on the water. One of the interesting parts about the Baja 1000 race is that the route is not a hard and fast rule. Watch the You Tube race videos and you will see motor cycles battling for position where one rider will follow the course while the other skips down along the coast hoping to find a faster line and shave off a block or two before jumping ahead at the next intersection. Sure you have to hit all the check points, but choosing where to jump the route and sneak ahead is all part of a winning strategy. When we came across the next washout leading to the water, we veered hard right and headed directly for the waters of the Pacific.
Coming out of the dunes onto the beach sand was unbelievable. There are not a lot of places left in this world you can explore that feel new and fresh. This stretch of Pacific beach is one of them. No tracks in the sand. No boats in the water. Not a fishing village in site.
Even if others have been here before us, right now it was all ours, just us, the crashing waves, Pacific winds, blue sky and sunshine. And in this illusion of an uncharted beach we stopped to take it all in.
The Pacific beats hard on the Baja cost. The waves don’t lap at the shore like the calm Sea Of Cortez, they crash angry and loud down on the sand. The wind is not a gentle breeze, it is a steady force of nature driving hard, throwing sand high into the dunes which pile up behind us. The tilde shifts here are measured in city blocks erasing all evidence of man on the beach each day. Only the line of seaweed along the dune’s edge hinted at the limits of the ocean’s reach. The occasional shell scattered on the sand gave away the abundance of life that must call this place home, even if it is hiding from us.
Since we were going to hike around and explore awhile, we put up a few prayer flags as our way of paying back the universe some of the good karma that had brought us to this long stretch of shoreline. In the stiff Pacific winds, the flags were beating out their mantras, carrying prayers of compassion, peace and healing into the universe.
A theme for me when writing the stories of this adventure seems to be “it is hard”. It has been hard. But on the beach the words of my father came back to me: “you’ll appreciate it more if you work hard for it”. I remember growing up thinking… “No! If you would just give me a car, I would appreciate it. Really I would.” The older I get the more right my father is.
If this beach were anywhere else but here. If we hadn’t driven over 2,000 hard miles to get here. If we hadn’t risked life (ok maybe not life, but there were a number of very sketchy moments in the washouts up north and we do have plenty of scratches and pokes from the cactus), limb and rig to get here. There is no way we could appreciate this place as much as we did at that moment.
We spent what seemed like hours just appreciating where we were. Our lunch hardly did the place justice. Not grilled Ahi resting in a light cilantro and lime butter sauce rather tuna from a pouch. We felt tuna fish at least was more fitting for this place over the tins of stuffed egg plants or marinated rice balls wrapped in grape leafs we’d been eating for lunch on the trail the previous days. Brad still wants a little more crunch to the meal but tuna in a pouch is what we had.
We strolled down to the water line and searched for shells. We climbed up to the top of the dunes and gazed up and down the coast looking for signs of movement.
We took our obligatory pictures. We laughed at own dumb jokes and talked about how our paths had crossed more than 25 years ago. We thought about what it took to bring us together here. Damn, I hate it when my dad is right. And it happens a lot.
We could have stayed here forever, but as we were packing up, our solitude was broken by a pair of rigs racing south, using the beach as their private highway. Waving a hand as they drove by, we watched them disappear far down the coast line.
Ten minutes later we were following tracks left behind by the rigs along the water waterline. We decide to head south as far as we could on the beach until we needed to jump back on the route or ran out of coast line, which ever came first.
We are close to Cabo. In fact if all goes well, we’ll be there tonight… If all goes well.