After a night of prepping and organizing, we wake up at 6am at Dan’s house to make our run for the border. After getting our propane filled, we hit the border at about 8am, and had a smooth crossing.
Micah (“our shaper” – see last post) convinced us to stop at Baja Malibu, a beach break just outside of Rosarito. He was planning on surfing there that morning, so we checked it out for a bit, left a note on his truck and headed south on the toll road. We had no intention of surfing that day and it was a good thing as the waves there were beyond our level for sure. We busied ourselves in Ensenada by getting money and purchasing a TelCel USB modem so we have a prayer of getting online at certain points during the trip. We’ll see how that goes.
Now, about the driving in Mexico. We have rented cars many times here and have been able to zip around small towns and countryside. However, driving the giant truck with the camper is challenging, dodging busses, speedy taxis, pedestrians, motorcycles, dogs, cows, construction crews, and whatever else happens to be in the road. Although Chris does the actual driving, it’s really a two-person job, with the Katy as the passenger calling out signs, obstacles, merging and a fair amount of “Look out! Merging! Cows! What the hell was that?”
The Santo Tomas valley, famous for its’ vineyards, is our last bit of civilization for a week, and a good opportunity to get last minute supplies and to check the air in the tires before heading off on the dirt road. Here is Chris’ take on the whole situation:
Our first day leaving the pavement and setting off on 25 miles of dirt roads of unknown quality, I decide to play with the air pressure in the tires. At our turn off there is a small tienda (store) where we stop for a Coke and to air down the tires. Airing down the tires reduces the beating on the truck, the camper and us, and provides better flotation for any sandy patches that we may encounter. For some reason I just knew I wanted to do this close to civilization and we had just passed a PEMEX station. Our friends Justin and Misty provided us with an ARB Tire Deflator just prior to our departure and I tried it once in the driveway in Bend without issue. So needless to say, 1st time in Mexico, I had an issue. We’re in front of this tiny store on the side of the road in a dirt parking lot. Somehow I screw up the simple process of deflating the tire, and the little, I mean tiny, valve core shoots out of the valve stem somewhere into the dirt and the tire is spewing all its air with no way to stop it. So here we are, I’m cussing up a storm, our tire is going flat (which is my fault), and Katy is yelling because the air is very noisily gushing out of the valve stem. I suddenly stick my finger on the valve stem and hold back the 80 psi (well 40 psi at this point) and with my other hand, grope around to find this impossibly tiny thing that flew out of the valve stem and while in my best calm voice, say a few times over “Where is the thingy? Look for the thingy!” In a moment of lucidity, I quickly remove my finger and put the metal valve cap back on, and somehow it holds the air. Whew, sometimes your gut reaction is the right thing to do. We look around in the dirt and Katy finds the tiny valve core. We limp over to the gas station where there is a ready air compressor, I’m able to reinstall the valve core in the stem and lower all the tires to 40 psi. Had that happened out in the middle of nowhere we do have a compressor, but I was glad to get that out of the way. Hopefully that is the last issue we have airing down.
After over an hour of grueling dirt roads through desolate hills, arroyos, and ranchlands, we arrive at Punta San Jose, our first surf spot in Baja. The terrain is so vast and beautiful, a flat plateau rising about 50 feet from the ocean as far as the eye can see. To the west (this is a completely south facing coastline) stands a rudimentary lighthouse on a point, surrounded by a ramshackle fish camp complete with feral cats living off the daily catch scraps. Otherwise, there is nothing for miles and miles except the Pacific Ocean and a lone tent and pickup truck perched on the plateau above the cliff.
We are greeted by the wind that is so prevalent in Baja and set up camp. A guy jumps out of the tent to greet us – Bobby from Huntington Beach – and he is thrilled to hang out and surf with us. Stars cover the sky as we sit by Bobby’s campfire and try to relax from our day of driving into the country. It so happens that Bobby surfs with Joey in Huntington Beach. As big as this place is, it’s always a small world.
Day two, in a howling windstorm, we start meeting more interesting characters. A Ford Ranger pulls up with two surfboards in the back and two flat tires. A skinny blonde kid with a mustache jumps out and he’s wearing high water polyester pants, white Vans, an orange T-shirt and giant grin on his face. His name is Chris and he looks like something out of a 60’s Bruce Brown surf film. His girlfriend Sammy looks like she’s from Portland, wearing a pixie haircut, a long skirt and cowboy boots. She tells me that since she and Chris lived in a van in Australia for three months, they decided to try to live together in a small cottage in Dana Point. (Are there small cottages in Dana Point any more?) They set up a tent for the night and we help them fix their tires the next morning. He’s clearly done this before and although he lives in Dana Point, he talks as though he grew up in Baja.
Another truck pulls up and it’s three guys from San Diego on a weekend adventure – Nathaniel, Chris, and Skip. Skip is a dead ringer for our friend Jerry. These guys are cool, and we surf, hang out in camp, and play cards with them for a few days. It’s refreshing to meet folks who are stoked to go on a surf adventure and hangout by a little driftwood campfire under the stars.
The surfing here is fun and different from what we are used to, as are our new boards which are SMALL. Each day we progress a little more and get the hang of the small boards. The water isn’t too cold yet, but may get colder as we head south. Sounds strange, but severe off-shore winds and ocean upwelling create colder water south of here. Nonetheless, sitting in the ocean in this amazing and remote spot watching the fisherman bring in halibut and lobster is just what we have been waiting for the last few years.
Chris is starting to fish at Punta Cabras each day and is learning small tips from the locals. Jorge shows him how to hook bait properly (usually mussels that we find in the rocks) so they don’t come off easily. Each day, two or three trucks with lanchas drive down to the beach and set out to fish for urchins and they catch so many, that the trucks have to make a few loads of bagged urchins back to town before the end of the day.
We are heading south to chase the swell as we have heard reports of a big south swell coming in. Necesitamos olas!