Sunday, November 24, 2013

Four Days In Los Cerritos (Part II)

Adventure in Baja is only a thumbs up away.  Here's what I mean:  I was a bit stranded in Pescadero after having a cup a joe at Baja Beans (B.D. recommended).  After an hour of too much Twitter and Facebook checking/updating, and no ride home, I decided to hitch hike back to Los Cerritos.  The surf was good and I knew I had to get back to get some more of that warm, pumping, wetness.  After 10 minutes of holding my thumb out, I was picked up by a Salsipuede from Connecticut and his buddy, a true local.  Nice guys, they even invited me over for a barbecue, but I couldn't oblige, I had surf to tend to.  They dropped me off at the dirt road just off the autopista that leads to Los Cerritos.  After taking ten steps down the road, a white rental car with two Si Se Puedes' offered me a ride to the beach.  How lucky can a bro get!  These two fellas were sweethearts.  We talked about good beer, bird dogging, and life.  After a few brewskys  at the bar, they recommended that I take visit over to  "Art & Beer".

That's Alfredo above, who runs Art and Beer with his partner, Lourdes.  He kept me, Steve and Andreas hostage.  Yes, literally, not figuratively.  While Alfredo made our drinks we took a walk around his back yard.  We walked on his homemade promenade, which is about five feet off the ground.  His back yard was full of exotic plants, cactus and funky art.  Now and then we would run into corners where there would be shade, a table and a couple of chairs.  On the walls that held up the small roofs, Polaroids of Alfredo with either a celebrity or a beautiful woman would appear.

Art and Beer's promenade. 
Within twenty minutes we heard our name and grabbed our Margaritas.  Huge tall glasses were filled to the rim.  The alcohol content was more than half of whatever fruit was mixed in.  Within ten minutes of sipping and eating some of the tasters that Alfredo brought out, we were buzzing.  But the time was about 3pm, and I needed to get ready to surf.  I wasn't going to S.U.I., or Surf Under the Influence, that's not my thing.  So I left my drink half full.  I asked for the bill and Alfredo said "No, no puede pagar hasta que termine su bebida!"  (You cannot leave until you finish your drink!) I explained my situation and he replied "¿Qué? No se puede terminar una bebida chica? ¿Eres una niña?" (What?  You can't finish that little girl drink?  Are you a little girl or something?)  'Hell no! I'm not a little girl' is what I thought.  So I took that Mango Margarita and downed it like a champ.  "There you go bro, where's my check!"  Alfredo looked at me with a sinister little smile and picked up what was left in the blender and continued to pour it into my glass, filling it half full.  If I was at the club and had Jennifer Lawrence posted up next to me, I'd be good with what Alfredo just pulled.  But I wanted to surf sober, and for good surf, I'd even leave Jennifer Lawrence hanging.   With an eager and challenging tone in his voice, Alfredo said "Termine eso, niña!"  (Finish that, you little girl!)

It looks tasty, but it creeps up on you and bam!  Your S.U.I.'ing.
With the world watching, I slowly drank the 80% tequila'd "girl" drink.  After I was done, and totally buzzed, I looked Alfredo in the eyes and said "Finito!"  Another sinister smile appeared on Alfredo's face as he slowly turned around and went to his refrigerator.  He grabbed three Red Stripes for the three of us, popped the tops off with his hands, and in English said "Pay after you finish".  Yeah, I ended up S.U.I.'ing that day. 

We stayed in the "Cerrtios Surf Colony", which is directly on the beach.  The place is pretty awesome, two stories, two and a half bathrooms, full kitchen and living room.  But the upstair rooms were filled with this green dust.  The managers explained that it was non toxic and caused by a bug eating the thatched roofs.  To say the least, I didn't sleep much and by the third day I got tired of cleaning green stuff of my luggage.  I actually hid my stuff in the closet from the green dust.  MC tried to get us another room, but we were stuck.  They did send somebody to clean everyday, a very nice gal that I would greet "Hola Guapa" to every morning after returning from the surf.  But the green stuff just kept falling.  Would I recommend this place?   That's tough to say, the green stuff made it unbearable at times.  But really, who gives a shit when your there less than a quarter of the time and just steps from the beach.  I just filed the annoyance under "first world problems" as anybody, including the friends I made down that way would have loved to have stayed there.

Juan the life Guard
I met Juan in the water the second day I was out.  I had my GoPro stuck in my mouth and he would paddle by, with a big 'ol smile throwing up a shaka sign.  I figured out on the third day that he was the lifeguard of the beach during the weekends, which started Thursday and ended on Sunday.  Lifeguards in surfing are our patrons, from Eddie Aikau to Brian KeaulanaThey know their breaks the best, they are the locals above all locals and the surf historians of the past and present in their designated communities.  And Juan is exactly that.  Juan really welcomed me into his community and within three days, I felt as if I was family.  No other place, other than the Big Island, have I felt so much warmth and connection with a community, and it was all thanks to Juan.  And not only is he the patron of Los Cerritos, but he is probably on of the two best surfers on that beach.  The best surfer on the beach is his younger brother, Carlos.   

Carlos finished 12th at the Mexican Surf Nationals in Rosarito in 2013
Simply, Carlos rips.  He has a blend of speed and raw power when he surfs.  He also has that "latin flow".  I see that a lot in the Latin surfing community, this certain fluidity, as if the surfer is moving to music, dancing with the wave, loose and unrobotic, as if they are going for it all, but with grace.  I've witnessed this type of "flow"in grown men down in El Salvador to groms in Punta Mida.  Carlos has that.  In addition, his air game is unbelievable.  I saw him almost pull off a full rodeo.  In other times, I saw him pull of a backside three sixty and other aerial moves effortlessly.  One day, while I had the camera on, Juan sat there with me rooting on his brother on each wave, predicting his next moves.  Juan appeared more than a big brother that day.  He resembled a proud coach and in some cases, a proud father.  Juan is a great surfer and likely coached Carlos, and Carlos appears to have transcended all the things Juan taught him.  But Juan is first and foremost a big brother, and non transparently, always watching out for Carlos, making sure that he has it better then him in every way, giving up his surfing dreams and putting all his hopes for the future in Carlos.   

"O.K. Boys!  See that wave....  That wave is ming!!!"
Your probably wondering who that guy is with the beer. Well, that's Lukan.  I met him while in the water, as he claimed each wave by announcing "That wave is ming!"  We started trading waves after our first session together, he would take the lefts and I would go right, but the lefts were way funner, so he eventually had to shares those too.  Back in the day, Lukan was a professional BMX rider, sponsored and all.  He toured the States, participated in exhibitions, and even became a regular performer during Laker and Clipper half time shows.  He lived in San Diego for a decade after he got tired of crossing the San Ysidro over and over again for work.  And than at age 16, he learned how to surf at Imperial Beach. But as he grew older, he got tired of the cold water and June gloom and decided to move to Baja Sur for warmer weather and warmer waves.  He eventually bought a home there and now surfs (proudly) four hours each day.

Besides surfing, Lukan owns a Baja surf map company and is opening up his own Torta Shop that will serve a special El Pastor, a family recipe handed down to him.  He also became one of my best buds.  From crashing weddings to drinking down some Modelos, Lukan became a homey for life.  We even had our code words like "Gaviotan" which means Seagull.  Seagulls love to pick up left overs, as do surfers that cut others off and blatantly snake.  So if he caught you snaking a regular, you were the "Gaviotan" for the day, and you didn't want to be that guy.  We even acted as a team in the water, staying close and splitting a-framers, Lukan having the priority on the lefts and me on the rights.  But what I appreciate the most about Lukan is how he watched out for me and others in the lineup.  He is the big brother, the "O.G." of the lineup.  He's seen, lived and survived it all and everybody respects that about him.  But he also has this sinister but hilarious sense of humor that is contagious.  If every lineup in the world had a Lukan, the world would be a better place.

Everywhere I've ever gone, I have always learned lessons from the people that I met, even before surfing.  And the lesson that I learned from my friends in Los Cerritos was "opportunity" and where it can lead.  Lukan told me the story about how he became a Pro BMX rider.  A promoter came to his hometown and asked for volunteers for an exhibition which was going to be far from his home.  There were better riders than him, some older and some younger, but the thought of leaving their home petrified them.   Lukan, being a scroungy grom at the time, was the only one to raise his hand, jumping at the opportunity for a better life.  A lot of the guys that I met out that way have done the same, jumping at opportunities without a clear path, and most of the times with blind faith.  And a lot of the times, it didn't work out, and in some cases, still trying to work itself out.  But they did it, alone, and now, they have each other.  Opportunity brought them all together.  And that is more than one could ever ask for.

Community.  Family. The two things I think we all search for.

But all good things must come to a close and before we knew it, we were on our way to La Paz to jump on the Baja Ferry to Mazatlan.  I didn't get to formerly say goodbye to two guys that made my experience in Los Cerritos worthwhile, Lukan and Carlos.  I remember Lukan telling me that he likes to have a beer after his sessions in front of a store in Pescadero.  We drove to the store, and there sitting on the stoop was Lukan.  Lukan and I said our goodbyes, and like the O.G./ big brother he is, told us unequivocally "DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT OVER THERE!"  That's Lukan, always looking out.  I gave Lukan a note I had written on the back of a Harry's Diner sticker for Carlos, as I was unable to find him at Los Cerritos.  And then we were off, driving east to La Paz.  And as I left this part of Baja, so did I leave a piece of myself that can only be retrieved with a return.  Which will be soon.

Next Blog:  The Ferry

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Salsipuede vs. Si Se Puede

Borrowed from
Above is a wave from the break known as "Salsipuede" in Baja Norte.  As I passed this break one day with my friend Manav and his wife Ruth, who speaks fluent Spanish, I asked her what this word meant.  She replied "It almost means 'Leave if you can'".  Ever since I've been surfing Mexico, which is not a long time compared to most, I have grown a warm regards for this part of the world and it's people, and sort of understand why some choose not to leave.  I've always thought the word 'Gringo', the more common adjective describing foreigners in Mexico and other parts of Latin America as an old and ancient term.  So instead, and in more respect, I started using the term 'Salsipuede'.  Personally, for me at least, after a long weekend in Mexico, I find it terribly hard to leave.  For tourist that plan to leave and actually do, I term them as "Si Se Puede" which translates to "Yes you can!" or "It is possible".  In terms of this blog, simply, "Yes, you can leave Mexico".  I hope I don't offend anybody, but personally, I think it's an easier way of describing expats, who are in Mexico for life and tourist, who will eventually leave.  And it just rolls of the tongue better then saying "Gringo". 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Four Days In Los Cerritos (Part I)

I remember waking up at six in the morning, putting wax on my board and running out to the beach in my trunks and rash guard.  Mornings can be bit chilly out in Los Cerritos, but once I laid my feet on the part of the sand that touched the sea, warmth tingled all the way up to my chest.  Surfing in water that never went below 80 degrees, at least when I was there, was a breath of fresh desert air.  And those that I met in this region of Baja Sur, which includes Todos Santos and Pescadero, were air to my soul.

From the first evening and on, Cerritos was either a solid 5-8 feet on the bigger days or 4-5 feet on the smaller days.  This break had everything a surfer could as for from lefts and rights, big drops, small drops, rampy waves, steep waves, big mushers and if you caught a big one on the outside and rode it into the first sand bar, super sweet hollow tatters.  I preferred the lefts which were steep, rampy and hollow if you made the sections into the inside bar.  And the paddle out was super easy.  Just catch the rip at that point and within five minutes, your in the lineup, hair dry and all, well, sometimes.  I could always tell who the newbs were, they would struggle trying to paddle into the lineup from the beach.  Novices and seasoned vets would catch a wave, ride it to the beach, walk north and catch the rip.  No Problemo.

There were huge differences while surfing in this part of Mexico versus surfing in the States.  For one thing, that librarian attitude of "hush hush" lineups were non present.  In some ways, it was outlawed.  Locals would hoot and hollar at each other, yell "Ooh la la!"  or whistle when a big set approached.  Surfers were actually laughing and giggling in the lineup (No way you say)!  One guy in particular had me laughing like a fat kid being tickled by the tickle monster.  Every time a nice wave was on the horizon after a lull, I would hear "O.K. boys!  You see that wave?  That wave is 'ming'!"  Even if there wasn't a wave on the horizon he would yell "O.K. boys!  You see that wave a mile out? That one is 'ming' too!!!"  Turns out after our fist session together, that guy, Lukan, would become one of my best friends for three days.  We almost even crashed a wedding together in Pescadero (turns out we were an hour late)".

The party atmosphere in the lineup was infectious.  Local guys that you will hear later about like the Ramos brothers, Juan the life guard and Carlos the ripper, Pablo the sound engineer, Guillermo the big teddy bear and Lukan "El Tio", spread the stoke like no other lineup I had ever been in.  We ended up having some great and memorable times together.

Juan the life guard taking a slice out of a clean right.
How did I get to know these guy? We'll this is the trick.  Catch the biggest and gnarliest wave out back with a GoPro camera in your mouth.

After, guys in town would come up and ask me:

"Oye, era que con la camera en la boca?" (Hey you! Was that you with the camera in your mouth?) 
"Sí, ese era yo ..." (Yeah, I guess so...) 
"Su ola... (with a pause and nod) era grande! Esa caída, rápido!"  (Your wave... was big!  The drop was fast!)

And from then on, we were homies.  

Dinners at Pescadero Surf Camp with the crew.
In all truth, we all got really close during our nightly dinners at the Pescadero Surf Camp.  At least every day, one of the guys staying there would go on fishing trip with a local named "El Profesor" or "Profe" for short.  And everyday, they would catch a huge Mahi Mahi, invite anybody in the know over and we would talk story, have laughs, drink a whole bunch of Pacifico and end up running out to the surf the next morning with a huge headache.  Guillermo the big teddy bear would be the cook, and man, could he cook.  On one of the nights, Carlos the pilot from San Diego cooked it up with a Spaniard twist, and what a delicious twist it was.  Yeah, I eat pretty good on this trip.  

"El Profesor", look him up if you want to catch some fish in Pescadero.

But I got to give it up to Jaime, the owner of the Pescadero Surf Camp and proud Salsipuede.  He created a spot where travelers, surfers and locals can coexist.  I'm not blind to who Jaime is.  He was a huge part of the one of the first surf books I ever read, "Kook"by Peter Heller.  He's a good dude, and everybody appears to respect him in  a way that was built overtime.  And I've heard that he helps out a lot of the local surfers who are struggling.  He is a big player in the real estate game in that area, but I didn't get to converse with him about this like others had.  

Andreas, Me, MC and Steve
During my second early morning session out in the water, I paddled out and saw a couple of newbs.  I did everything to avoid them, because boy, they looked like they had no clue.  But after a few hours, I got my fair share of some tasty tatters and one of them paddled up next to me.  I figured it was time to pass on some stoke and help this brotha out.  A nice sized waved approached both of us, and I looked over at him and said, "That one is yours, go for it."  He smiled, like kooks do, and started paddling way too early.  In an effort to help him avoid getting pitched over the falls, I paddled up next to him and said "Hold on.  Wait.  O.K. .....  Paddle now, and relax, you got it."  And he did!  He even stood up and got some face time.  

Later on that day I headed over to The Pescadero Surf Camp to meet Jaime and get an interview for my "project".  Instead of meeting Jaime, who was out doing some biz, I met the kook from my morning session.   Turns out the kook, Andreas the Pharmacist from Switzerland was sitting at the outside dining area.  We ended up talking and he introduced me to his buddy Steve the Gold Digger (literally, dude digs for gold) from the Yukon.  After an hour, they invited MC and I to dinner where we formerly met the crew.  Andreas, Steve and I became partners that could not be separated for the next three days (even after some heavy margaritas at "Art and Beer").  

See! My rule of giving up at least three waves a session actually worked!

Next blog:  Four Days in Los Cerritos (Part II)

P.S.  I hope you guys are enjoying the journey.  At least we got into some surfing now! (Yeah, I felt the same way on the trip like "When the hell can we stop driving and get into some surf!)

For 'Ol Panama Red

This one is dedicated to Panama Red and his home break of Raglan, New Zealand.  If it wasn't for Ol' Red and his connection to Raglan, we would have never had stake in naming our surf club 'The Kiwi Hippies'.

First Vid, "A Raglan 'Selfie'" by Luke Cederman.  Shows the totally sick left that can be had out that way.

A Raglan 'Selfie' from Luke Cederman on Vimeo.

This next vid was shot and edited by the man himself, Ol' Panama Red during his recent trip back to New Zealand.  Love you brotha, Kiwis for life!

Reverse from Panama Red on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mulege to Cerritos

We spent the night in the small town of Mulege, just a mile from the coast of The Sea of Cortez.  A very quiet and tranquil tourist town, Mulege was the perfect spot to get some rest.  I woke up early that morning, took a walk around and was greeted by a dozen "Holas" and "Buenos dias".  

Before we got on our way to Los Cerritos, we took this dirt road, which lead us down to the beach.  Flatter than flat, the ripples rolling into the beach brought something different from your average stoke, but something that I have been searching for:  A piece of mind.  No rolling ripples of wet thunder, just glassy, tranquil beauty of a coast that gets forgotten by us surfers. 

South East Asia?
I've never seen the beauty of Thailand or Vietnam, but my brother, who spent plenty of time that way has.  I showed him the picture above, and instantly he replied, "Yeah, that looks like Phuket in a way".  Without expectations for this side of the Sea of Cortez, I was at times caught breathless by it's beauty.  The water was clean and smooth, the air was clear, and the aroma of the desert crossed with the sea filled my lungs with life.  I'm not trying to blow hot air up you know what, but truthfully, if you ever travel between Muluge and La Paz, stay and camp for a few days, it could be totally worth 36 hours of your life.  Wee didn't, I regret it.  

El Burro Bay, half hour from Muluge
El Burro Bay once again, just to the left of the picture above.

Cactus + Sea
It really tripped me out how The Cortez played as background to the lush green of all the cactus while driving along the autopista.  I kept looking twice, as if I was seeing something that wasn't really there.  The autopista would take us inland for half hour jots, but return us back to coast of The Cortez, and there I would be, looking twice again.  

Somewhere along the streets of La Paz.
Five hours later we ended up in La Paz.  La Paz is probably the biggest city on the Cortez Coast.  We spent a day in La Paz a week later just before we jumped on the Baja Ferry.  It felt more like a town than a city, not having it's fair share of sky scrapers and all.  That day, we didn't spend much time in the town, other than to top of our gas tank and grab some eats.  A kid in Cerritos a few days later said that that beaches in La Paz are full of Sting Rays due to the tranquil waters.  He advised me to walk flat (also called the Sting Ray/ San Diego Shuffle back up north) if I planned to swim on that side of Baja.  I wasn't having any of that.  I still have symptoms of PTSD from my encounter with a Sting Ray a few months back.

Must of been an important guy. - La Paz
Say that street name five times.  - La Paz
We got lost and turned around in La Paz for a bit (We would have do done better not following the signs to Todos Santos). We found our way to the autopista and headed west to Todos Santos.  An hour later, we pulled up to this...

Los Cerritos
MC knew I was craving to surf after 2.7 days of driving and zero water time.  So I went straight for my board, wax and board shorts, put on some sunscreen and caught some delicious 4-6 foot swell.  I surfed til it was pitch black.  The waves just kept coming and coming.  At one point, I thought "Man, there is some size, it's almost pitch black, and I don't really know this break at all...  But I've surfed big S.F. O.B.  So I'll survive."  So I just kept going at it.  A few locals stayed out with me and we exchanged waves with each other til probably nine in the evening. 

I took this just before I ran out to the surf with board in hand.  - Los Cerritos

I see other things besides horses and cowboys...

After my session that night, I dried off for a bit and than hit the sack, only to wake up to more swell, more swell and more swell...  

Next blog:  "Four days in Cerritos"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Video: "Left, Right, Left, Right"

Here a couple waves from the morning of November 18, 2013.  Really fun two foot waves that were clean, rideable, and zero crowd.  I busted out the fatty board (my Webber) and had a great time. 

"Left, Right, Left, Right" from Kookingitup on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Scripps This Morning

The boys from the magnificent city of San Francisco paid a visit this weekend.  And they were greeted by some fun surf this morning!  Thanks again to my lovely wife for taking these pictures after her morning run!

The boys scoping the action.

Teaching Rassan where to find the Rip.

My wife took all these pictures.  Like I said, she has skillz!

I'm trying to make the section and the Wavestorm.

Rassan doing his thang!  Watch out Lindonesia!!!

The classic stuff!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

El Rosario to Mulege

The first thing we did before we departed from El Rosario was top off our gas tank.  The stretch we were about to embark on was probably the longest day of the trip.  I noticed the lady filling up next to us get out of her car with toilet paper.  Rule # 7 while traveling in Mexico:  Bring toilet paper.  I bet if you brought an extra soft, 16 pack, Charmin double roll you could bargain it for a twelve pack of Indio.

When we left El Rosario, we did not see one gas station for about a 250 miles until Guerrero Negro (or G Negro on the road signs).  We had an extra jerrycan in the back, so we were pretty confident we were going to make it unless something sudden occurred.  And just in case were stranded for some reason, rest assured, we could count on flagging down a "Ángeles Verdes" or Green Angel, who could get us on our way.

This 250 mile stretch had character.  One thing I noticed was that instead of gas stations, there were a bunch of Llanteras (or used wheel shops).  Who cares if you don't have gas, you'll never run out of tires!

In my opinion, the 250 miles stretch between El Rosario and Guerrero Negro was probably my favorite "driving" part of the entire trip.  You start from the Pacific Ocean, cruise through a lush and beautiful section of desert in the middle of Baja, then you hit the Pacific Ocean at Guerrero Negro and then cruise back through the middle of Baja where there is this beautiful stretch of rock formations that go's on for 50 miles or so.  And after that, you hit the peacefulness of the Sea of Cortez.  And let me tell you, the Sea of Cortez side of Baja is absolutely stunning!!!  In some ways, the topography is similar to countries in South East Asia.  But that's for the next blog entry.

The 50 mile stretch of magnificent rock formations.

Taking it all in while looking for some surf.  Why?  Because it's out there, somewhere.
I was told once that Baja is one big desert with beaches along the way.  But that's not true.  That is entirely off.  Baja is full of different deserts, all having their own character and characteristics.  I never imagined deserts being so lush and grand.  There were some parts of the drive that rivaled the view of The Grand Canyon.  And the freshness of Baja, from that dry yet moist air, the way the light of the sun and moon shines in this part of the world, and all the vast, unpopulated areas.  Add a hint of sea breeze and all those gaps from my regular home life (minus Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory) were filled. 

An Oasis
Every fifty miles or so we'd run into these beautiful Oasis.  Full of trees and life, one could see that Baja is a very special part of the world.  With the Pacific on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other, the desert's soil is full of minerals and vitamins most deserts do not have. Because of this, Baja is lush with life.  I know I have used the word "lush" a few times now, but that's my best way of describing Baja's beauty.  Simply, Baja is full of Lush deserts.

Tacos El Muelle.  B.D. recommended while in Guerrero Negro.
Half way to Mulege, we stopped at Guerrero Negro.  This town draws the line between Baja Norte and Baja Sur.  Besides being a big fishing town, I think it's also known for whale watching.  Whale sculptors and whale paintings are everywhere.  On a side note, just before we entered town we had to stop at the Mexican Agriculture Office.  For some odd reason, we had to pay ninety pesos to pass.  I don't know about that folks....

When I started surfing Baja a few months back, I was always vexed by Mexican Military Check Points.  They always picked me out of the lineup for their daily car search spree.  They were never pushy about it, they always asked politely.  Along with the politeness and a guy behind a stack of tires with a torrent pointed my way, I always obliged.  But as I got used to the check points, I realized that the soldiers providing the service were just kids.  They probably came from small towns in Mexico where there isn't much, and are doing everything in their power to not only move up in the world, but also provide support for their families, never leaving their roots.  With the small Spanish that I speak, I always try to actively engage with them, ask them how their days are going, if they need any water or snacks.  They always see my surfboard and know I'm not trying to get into any trouble other than big surf I really don't belong in. And I'm pretty thankful Mexico does this.  They are just letting everybody know that the military is present, so don't fuck around.  And I can dig that.  These mighty warriors above were sweathearts.  They look hard and probably are hard, but just as stoked as the next surfer passing by their point.

MC and a shaggy dog.
We ended this segment of the trip in Mulege, a town on the Cortez Coast.  MC Google mapped the distance we were traveling that day, and boy, Google was way off.  About a 100 miles off.  I think we drove an estimated 400 miles.  We even broke Rule #2:  Don't drive at night.  This was my first time driving in at night in Mexico, and from all the stories I've heard, this was a big no-no.  Nerves were starting to jolt, but the worst thing that could happen, well, never really happened.  We ended up at this pretty nice hotel in Mulege.  I forgot the name of the place, but it was really near the main square and basketball courts.  I liked Mulege a lot.  It is a very quaint town and appears very community oriented.  According to our hotel concierge, Mulege was safe enough to leave our boards racked to top of the car (which we didn't do.  "One can never be to safe with one's magic stick"  that according to Swayze, the Mexican Jedi).

Next blog:  Mulege to Cerritos...  Insta swell!

PS.  If you missed any legs of the trip so far, click on the link!

1.  Tijuana to El Rosario
2.  El Rosario to Mulege
3.   Mulege to Cerritos
4.  Four Days In Los Cerritos: Part I
5.  Four Days In Los Cerritos: Part II
6.  The Baja Ferry

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tijuana to El Rosario

I got an email from "MC" late October asking me if I wanted to take a drive from San Diego, through Baja and down to San Pancho in Mainland Mexico.  Apparently I didn't care about my job too much and said yes.  MC is working on making San Pancho her full time home.  And I'm trying to full time surf, so we had the word "full-time" in common, at least.

Somewhere in Ensanada.
We started the trip by crossing the Otay border around 8 a.m.  We bought our tourist visas for 290 pesos at the immigration office just across the border.  It's a funny process because you have to go to the immigration office, fill out a visa/immigration form, walk 200 yards to the  'bank', pay them a couple hundred pesos, then walk back to the immigration office and get stamped and approved.
During this somewhat drawn out process, Swazy, a long time border hopper, whispered to me in some kind of Jedi mind trick from Hillcrest,"Remember, the details and luxuries you enjoy in the U.S. do not apply to Mexico.  Enjoy the chaos.  Enjoy the simplicity.  Relax my young Jedi, your on Mexican time now".  I carried this mantra with me all the way to San Pancho.  Thank you my Mexican Jedi Master.

Banjercito, where you make your $250 deposit.

Passport stamped and visas approved and paid for, we then headed to the "Banjercito"to pay for the registration of MC's car.  The "deposit" was $250 dollars.  The reasoning behind this is Mexico wants to make sure they at least get some money out of a Gringo for registration reasons because most Gringos who cross with a car, stay.  I call this the Salsipuedes effect (Salsipuedes literally means, "Leave if you can").  So for now, instead of calling foreigners to Mexico Expats & Gringos, I'm going to call them Salsipuedes, and for visitors, I'll mention them as Sí se puedes, meaning "yes you can", or "it can be done" as in, if you put your will to it, you can leave Mexico and all it's beauty. Back to the Banjercito, if you have the strength to Sí se puede and cross back into the U.S. with your car, then you get your $250 back.  But if your six months late on your return, kiss that $250 good bye.  There are many other reasons that I'm not going to get into for this deposit, not just for Salsipudes, so don't think your special Gringos. 

"Get Lost" juice in Tijuana.

After we paid our deposit to drive in controlled chaos we proceeded to get lost in Tijuana for almost two hours.  I think Tijuana in English means "lost".  I always get lost in Tijuana.  My saving grace is that I always go west and find the Costco along the Tijuana River.  Once at Costco, I get my hotdog and diet coke for under $3 along with my mind and I'm on my way to San Ysidro.  One tip for those that get lost in T.J., go west.  You'll eventually find the Mexican 1 that will take you to the coast and out of Tijuana's grasp.

Senor and Senora Choppio

Chopipo.  Damn good stuff and B.D. recommended.

An hour and half south of T.J., we stopped off in Ensanada to top of our gas tank for the long stretch of desert ahead.  While at the gas station, the attendant tipped us off to what he and three other guys labled "los mejores tacos de pescado" in town and sent us to "Chopipo".  That spot still makes me want to go "mmmm".  Also while in Ensanda we found the best rates to change our Dollars to Pesos, which was around 12.5 Pesos to the Dollar.  I heard back in the day that the Peso was going as high as 13, but 12.5 was the best I seen it during the trip.  I really got ripped by my bank, which gave me 8 pesos to the dollar, but I only changed a quarter of the Dollars I had budgeted for the trip, so I wasn't that pissed, but pissed nonetheless because of the thought of banks and their bullshit charges, rates and what not.

O.K. kids, who is the Bull and who is the Matador?
Once we hit the open road towards the next big town, La Paz, I realized something quite important.  If you are a driver in Mexico, you are either a Bull or a Matador (this according to the Baja surfing Guide).  If you ever read a Hemingway book or witnessed a bull fight live, you understand that once the bull steps in the ring, he is dead.  The bull goes through this long procession of being stabbed by first, three matadors.  After they are done with the bull, the superstar Matador gets to show off and go at it with a half dead bull. I witnessed several bullfights while in Pamplona half drunk and half testosteroned out after running with those damn things to lay witness that it always ends up bad for the bull.

A two lane highway just became a four lane highway.  How cool is that!
On the one lane highways of Baja, Big Rigs rule.  If they want to drive in the wrong lane, no one is stopping them.  If they want to pass you, they'll do just that.  If they want to get hammered on some tequila and drive their rig like a stock car at the same time, they'll go right ahead.  So in essence, Big Rigs = Matador, Everyone else = Bulls.  We understood that quickly and made sure we didn't step into the ring.  

Once you pass La Bufadora, Baja highways becomes a one lane, Matador hungry, pass as you please, desert stretch and on and off dirt road autopista.  You run into small towns like the one pictured above.  The only things paved in these towns are the autopista (or highway) and the Pex Mex (gas stations).  We stopped at a lot of Pex Mex's to top of our gas tank as we didn't know if there would be any gas for hundreds of miles.  But Pex Mex's are pretty cool.  Seven out of ten of them have nice bathrooms (bring your own toilet paper), snacks, water and air condition.  I'm down with all four of those things.   

The Cactus Hotel
We ended this leg of the trip in the small town of El Rosario, which is about 220 miles into Baja from San Diego.  Just west of this town are a bunch of fun breaks that I didn't surf.  Yeah, I'm bummed about it, but it wasn't my car and neither was I the captain.  All good though, I talked to a couple of folks in town and they gave me on the dot directions on how to get to some sweet surf when I return back to these parts with some of the Kiwis in 2014.  Can't wait!

We ended up crashing at the Cactus Hotel.  Nice digs and 24 hour security so we were able to leave our stuff in the car and our boards racked.  I saw some folks parked in the lot behind in their campers and winnebagos.  So I guess you can even pay to park and sleep during the night at this place as well.  Anyways, this place is B.D. recommended, but keep your doors and windows closed because the mosquitoes are fierce. 

Dinner at Mama Espinoza's with some Salsipuedes.
We ended the day having dinner at "Mama Espinoza Restaurant".  I guess she is like 108 years old (no shit) and still runs the kitchen.  Foods o.k., Margaritas are huge.  This place has a million pictures of the Baja 1000 and three pictures of surfing.  I guess this Resteraunt/ Hotel is a big stop for the Baja 1000 and quite the rage when it goes down.  We ended up eating dinner with a couple Salsipuedes that live in Todos Santos full time and make their way back to the States twice a year to tie up loose ends and see family.  One of the Salsipuedes said that he and his wife took a vacation to Todos Santos, flew back to the States, packed their shit and moved back in a month.  Now that's what I call decisiveness!  My kind of peeps.  The Salsipuede said he loves it there and surfs La Pastora daily.  Once we get to that part of the story, you'll see why, and how I fell in love with that region of Baja and almost went Salsipuede myself.

Hey guys, I'm going to try and trace my steps from San Diego, through Baja and down to Sayulita in a handful of blogs.  I'm doing this for: 1.  Help others who want to take the trip and 2.  It was a fun trip and I really want to share it with you guys and gals.  Hopefully I'll be able to blog every third day, but who knows, since I got back, I've been totally running on Mexican time.