With the MotherShip ready, we were finally ready for our departure. The night before we left, Tommy and I outlined a few goals for the trip. Not things like eating spicy tacos in Mexico and skiing in Chile (although both are important and we plan on doing these things numerous times), but our true priorities which shape the journey. We came up with the following: inspiration, adventure, health, and freedom. Our goal of the trip is to strive for all four of these things. Judging through this lens, we have decided that the Baja portion of our journey has been efficacious in meeting these goals.
We spent days and nights on the pacific and gulf coasts listening to the waves crash into the shore and the occasional seagull fly overhead with her loud and high pitched song. We surfed the waves while keeping our eyes peeled for the infamous ballanas (whales) migrating south to warmer waters. We were overwhelmed with the beauty of the broken and whole seashells that are scattered around the beach in abundance, while we tapped into our creative sides making mobiles and other crafty things out of said shells that we don’t have much room for in the van. We snorkeled around the calm, turquoise bays of the gulf coast, searching for underwater sea creatures. Then, of course, there is the fresh seafood, paired with lovely produce that we pick up from farms along the way, creating healthy feasts all from unprocessed food that was grown in Baja. The meals were so fresh and delicious that our bodies felt more energized and healthy after eating them.
Then there is the beauty of everything in-between the bodies of water: the agricultural region, the mountainous area, and, my favorite, the Baja desert. The agricultural region was great for fresh produce, the mountainous area provided a bounty of beautiful scenery, but the desert, oh the desert, was the most striking of all the inland beauties. While Tom and I already knew plenty of the cacti that were there, such as the saguaro, the barrel, and the cholla (which Lika also learned about, more on that later), there were a variety of plants that we had never seen or at least noticed. Our favorite plants were the Boojum Trees; tall and thin like saguaros, but they had a bark-like substance on the outside and were covered with thorns and flowers.
Tom and I spent hours running around the desert taking photos of the fauna and flora. Come sunrise and sunset, the desert turned into a beautiful symphony. Numerous types of birds, each with their different song, harmonizing with the howling of coyotes and far off grunts of wild donkeys created the most spectacular music.
We also found a couple of secret gems in the middle of the desert, the towns of El Ignacio and Muluge. These towns had rivers running through them so you would drive up to an oasis with water, palm trees, and lush greenery right in the middle of the desert. It was breathtaking. The people in these towns behaved on par with the folks in the other towns we visited in Baja: hospitable, generous, and courteous.
In addition to stimulating all of our senses with the beauty of each place, we had a lot of fun just running around being dorks. Tommy has been an excellent surf instructor and I am becoming more comfortable in the ocean. Thanks to the locals, we have been discovering mountain bike trails and are able to go exploring the mountains overlooking the sea. We are both working on our Spanish skills and I am focusing on verb conjugation.
Tommy and I probably had the most fun in Todos Santos located in Southern Baja. If I didn’t have to work in Puerto Vallarta the following week, we would have stuck around longer. In Todos Santos we immediately befriended some locals at a surf spot and spent the evening with them learning about their lives and sharing a little about ours. As to be expected, we befriended a couple of aging hippies; one a fellow surfer, and the other, a man from Oregon who opened a brewery down here. My favorite expat encounter was with a tiny old woman well into her 70s who drove down 45 years ago, ran out of gas, and decided to never leave.
By pure bad luck (on their part not ours), we met a couple on their first day of their honeymoon. You’ve heard of wedding crashers, Tommy and I have taken it to a whole new level. A small hurricane hit Todos Santos the evening prior to our meeting. The following morning while driving down from our hillside next to the ocean where we had been camping, we happened upon a car stuck in a ditch with water gushing into the windows. We were able to pull them out with the MotherShip and a tow strap. When they opened the doors, water came pouring out. I had never seen anything like that.
This awesome Indiana couple invited us back to their hotel bar for a celebratory shot and it turned into an all-day affair (told you we took wedding crashing to a whole new level). We had a wonderful time with our newly made friends and they may even come crash our wedding in Costa Rica… we are hoping so anyways.
The doggies have been having a good time, too. Lika had to learn the hard way about the Cholla Cactus… twice. We heard howling from the other side of the van and ran over to her. She had cholla stuck in her face and paws. I held her face and calmed her down while Tom had the tedious task of pulling them all out. The next day we saw her next to the van in the same predicament, only this time my Rambo pup was trying to pull them all out on her own.
Before taking this trip we were a little apprehensive about Hydro’s reaction as he isn’t too crazy about long car rides. However, he has ended up loving all the places we go and all the humans and animals he gets to meet. In fact, while Tom and I surf, he runs up and down the beach befriending human and dog alike.
Hydro gets a little confused when it comes to guarding the van. He will bark and growl at little old ladies who pass by, but wag his tail with delight when soldiers carrying large guns pull us over for routine inspection. Indeed, he likes them so much that he has started licking their guns. I really hope he doesn’t form a habit out of this.
I think it’s safe to say, based on the earlier criteria, that the Baja portion of the trip has been successful. We were inspired to learn as much about our surroundings as possible, ate gorgeous, healthy meals, explored all types of landscapes, and had the freedom to just be. We plan to visit Baja again and spend even more time exploring. We were sad to leave, but excited to experience the journey ahead.