***New*** Visitors Come To La Paz
Mexico Baja California Sur La Paz
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To the great shock of my wife, I have made a number of friends along the way, but all my new friends are cruisers like me, people on the move, people perfectly happy to share an evening’s meal, a hike into the mountains, several of their favorite movies and an electronic guide to sailing in French Polynesia, but for whom continued familiarity is just not in the cards. We are gypsies; we are, sometimes literally, ships passing in the night.
So when my sister and her husband said they’d join me in La Paz at the first of March, I was thrilled. To spend time with family, people from my life! It would be difficult to explain the feeling. Let me say, simply, that it was profound.
Sadly, I don’t have the time now to chronicle to my own satisfaction the days they were here. Other appointments are pressing hard (more on which later). Suffice it to say we didn’t do as much as I thought we would, and it didn’t matter. In hind sight it was the talk I wanted, the chatter that has a life‘s context behind it.
One event is worth mentioning, however. This city’s major, advertised tourist attraction is an oddly eroded rock that juts out of the water in the shape of an inverted triangle or mushroom--thus its name: El Hongo. This rock is so famous that a replica of it has been placed in the cathedral square. Because we had a rental car and no particular agenda, we went out to Bahia Balandra to see it. And, well, it’s not much. We drove the twenty miles to the bay, waded half a mile in stunningly clear, ankle deep water to the rock, took a snap, waded back, and it wasn’t even noon. Now what?
So my brother-in-law turned the car east and hit the gas.
That’s a pretty adventuresome thing to do when the roads are made of thin sand and the rental car has barely six inches of clearance. An hour, several beers, and one major argument later we were at a beach that housed a collection of shacks. We’d happened upon a fish camp that was closed for the season.
When, months ago, I was first exploring maps of the region, I took the many dots along the coast named “Fish Camp” to refer to places where gringos pulled the camper over and threw a hook in the water. In fact, these camps are government recognized plots of land on which an entire class of Mexicans live and launch from during the fishing season.
Government recognized does not mean posh. The shacks we’d stumbled upon were shacks in the extreme, and because they were abandoned, I got to explore in some detail.
There were probably three complete shack “complexes”, by which I mean each shack consisted of a veranda whose view faced the San Lorenzo Channel and beautiful Isla Espiritu Santo, a dining area, a kitchen, and sleeping area, all crudely furnished and showing signs of much use.
The shack’s frame was usually bare timber, but could also be cordon or driftwood logs. Walls were often unpainted plywood but could also be heavy cardboard nailed in place with a bottle cap washer to help spread the load. Kitchens had a sink on cinder blocks that drained into the sand floor. The stove was rebar formed into a grate laid on top of cinder blocks with ample room for the driftwood fire that heated it. To one side was a refrigerator--simply a storage box in this village without electricity. The sleeping quarters were in the back and had two or three double mattresses pushed together (oddly, always pushed together--Mexicans don‘t do anything alone), holes covered with palm leaves, or sheets of plywood covered in outdoor carpeting. There were three clapboard out houses.
And music. Each shack had a central, fully roofed room that was padlocked. In it were the tools and personal affects of the men who peopled the fish camp in season, and from one we could here ranchiera music playing softly. It took some time to figure out that the music came from a radio powered by a small solar panel affixed to the roof, and that is was likely a ruse intended to keep away intruders. Inside a shirt hung from a chair and on the bed, a folded pair of pants, but in the sand beneath the door, mouse tracks and ant lion traps. No one had been in the room in a very long time.
While I explored, Bruce and Lavonna set for lunch on a table that was an upturned, industrial wire roll. In keeping with our surroundings, Bruce fashioned wine glasses by cutting the bottoms out of water bottles (we’d forgotten proper glasses), and here we sat for most of the afternoon talking like crazy, eating too much, and admiring a view that was worth, in fact, far more than a million dollars.
It was an enchanted day and one I will long remember.