Summer in Los Cabos

The moment we stepped off the plane in Los Cabos, the desert heat sucked every drop of moisture from our being. It felt good, but was incredibly hot. Once through Mexican customs, we found that the temperature was hovering around 110 degrees at 4:30 in the afternoon. Throughout our stay in Baja, it didn't drop much below this, even at night. Summer in Los Cabos turned out to be hot, spectacularly rejeuvinating and very spiritual, because you live in the water to avoid the heat. If I am committed or go senile later in life, I will probably be found babbling about Baja as though I'm at a fruit stand in San Jose, haggling over the price of mangos. At least I hope so, because it is a great place to be, even if it's only a delusion.

My lovely wife, Pighed, Angel and I had decided to take the trip. My wife and I arrived first at the airport in San Jose del Cabo, one of Los Cabos; Cabo San Lucas being the other. There are plenty local wonderments, the food, the people and the beach combine in such a beautiful way. We tried to find a room in town at Senor Manana's, but the place was filled with drunken fishermen and a few other surfers. They told us we could sleep in this other part of the building and took us there. The clerk turned on the light and revealed a 20 foot square slab of concrete covered with a palm leaf cabana that had surfboards dangling from it in a net that was slung from the posts. It was a cool spot, but we decided instead to sleep on the beach at La Playita, in our tent. That night was the summer solstice, and it christened an incredible trip that began the next day at Costa Azul.

We rented a brand new Volkswagen bug that we packed our gear into. Waking up on La Playita was eventful, with many fisherman out early sporting poles, nets, spears and whatever else they could find to catch fish with. There was a lot of activity with boats leaving from the dock and the locals on the shore. The water was beautifully clear and smelled fresh and light compared to the robust thickness of northern California water. As the swells come in, you see fish of varying sizes swimming just behind the wall of water. They were looking at us as though through a window, on the brink of two worlds. We had an incredible breakfast in the Plaza at San Jose del Cabo, then headed for the beach.

Arriving at Costa Azul, I felt a great anticipation permeate my being. There were only a few people out and the waves were about shoulder high, which would help me get a feel for the place. Even though the swell was down, the conditions could not have been better; glassy, no wind to speak of, water temperature was absolutely perfect and some nice little waves rolling in.

Since I was in new territory, I paddled out smiling from ear to ear to everyone I saw and took my waves between those the locals were taking. The locals are truly incredible surfers and I wondered who they were and how long they had dominated this break. I say they dominated because they did, with sick, huge cutbacks, water spraying everywhere, floaters, lip smacking and 360's, it was quite a sight. Like a beautiful dance, these youngsters (most of them that day were) had this spot wired so well they would laugh and push each other off their boards in the middle of a ride and were having a better time surfing than anyone I had ever seen. I fell right into it and gained respect by ripping a few of my own. Although we suffered language barriers, I felt a real bond with this band of crazed, cackling shredders. We left Costa Azul sunburned, hungry and happy.

Bodysurfing small waves at Camp One

There were no clocks. I tucked my watch into a sidepouch on my luggage early in the trip and never retrieved it. We ate when it felt time to eat. From here, our camping adventures really started because Pighed and Angel arrived to our welcome of Tecate smelling kisses and sweating bodies. They had received our last minute message to bring camping equipment and were loaded with gear. It was great to have friends to hang out with in this beach paradise. We traded our bug for a Volkswagen bus at this point and decided we would go tooling straight out to the beach from the airport.

When we pulled up to Costa Azul, it looked very different from the past two days I had surfed there. The swell was up to head-and-a-half to double overhead and peeling perfectly. There were only a few guys out and they were ripping it hard. The mood on the beach was calm, and many chose to watch, commenting on wipeouts and such. I imagined my home break in northern California and how the waves looked there on a big day. I felt better because I knew I had surfed waves this big at home; waves that were thick and green and closed out. This wave was equally big, but was a perfect right.

Pighed and I paddled out and started moving into position for some big swells. I remember being lifted by one and looking down the line to see this beautiful big eye looking back at me. I was hesitant at first but noticed after a few sets that this wave was a perfect peak with an insane, huge wedge to launch into. When the next one came I paddled up, looked down the wedge and aimed for the sweet spot. What came next was like slow motion, the wedge lifting in front of me, well overhead, and the lip coming down just behind me. I came to the top of the wedge and snapped a turn to which the wedge responded perfectly. I came back down and stalled a bit in the curl, letting the momentum of the swell push me. Then, came back out to the wedge and hit the top a couple more times quick on the inside. To see it now, written out, does no justice to the vision in my memory. But I thought I'd try because it was the best wave I have ever danced with, and I will never in my life forget that day.

That night we got really drunk over dinner. I told tired surfing stories and we sang and banged on percussion instruments with the Mariachi's that were playing. The mood was festive, the night, hot and humid. We talked about how good we felt; how alive everything was around us; how lucky we are to be able to travel and experience this place. We recognized the feeling that the other Americans we saw were, for the most part, pigs, that stumbled around looking and sounding ackward and embarassing themselves. There were a lot of feelings and emotions swirling around us and I think we might have had the meaning behind it all with a few more Tecates, but that night we stayed in a hotel in San Jose del Cabo, and had dreams of peace, warmth, water and sand.

Time came next morning to move. We ate some breakfast, casually packed the van and drove away from the hotel. We bought supplies of water, tortillas, beans, cheese, vegetables, rice, oil, batteries, limes and beer. We tooled around clumsily in this huge white VW bus, getting stuck more than once. I must say, the local people were very gracious in giving help if you are stuck. People get stuck out in the sandy dunes where there is beach access all the time. One man saw us from the highway, exited and drove about a half mile out to pull us out of the sand. Then, he just drove away, like a desert shadow.

We found a spot where I stalled the van, because I came screeching up and pulled on the handbrake and declared, we're here! We grabbed as much as we could haul and went up the dune to where we could camp, trying to ignore the fact that the wheels were buried in sand up to the body. Our first sight of the beach was at sunset. There was a point of rounded orange colored sandstone to the right with palm trees all over it and the beach was beautiful white sand. The bottom was rocky and shallow. There were only a few small waves, but it didn't matter because it was about 110 degrees and a swim was just as good. Pighed and I swam out and found that the rocks were covered with sharp little barnacle-like creatures that we both ended up cutting our feet on. We prepared a feast that night over a pit fire dug in the sand. We ate and enjoyed another night of inspiring warmth and conversation. Feeling humbled and blessed, some force was guiding us down a very enlightening path.

The evening we arrived and the next day, we watched the whole cycle of tides at this spot and swam periodically to cool the heat. I had been a victim of vicious sunburn, the kind where pain, or the avoidance of it, becomes the focus of your day. But then none of us were very motivated to do anything but live in the moment. We sat on the beach, made a hut with a tarp and some logs we found, and moved our blankets with the shadow cast by the tarp.

Camp One

After a day and a half, we were antsy to go surfing. So, we paddled out, having all our observations to guide us between the rocky or shallow parts. We surfed until it got dark that night at the high tide. The waves were small and scary, but we were happy to have something right there where we were. The next day we surfed again, down further where the waves where a bit bigger. It was a weird and strangely weak wave with many dangers just a couple feet below the surface. As you rode a wave, you felt surrounded by rocks because when it lifted, you saw a magnified image of the rocks just below the surface of the crystal clear water. We caught a few and decided the next day we would find a way to get the van unstuck and drive up the coast with no worries. This is when the guy from the highway saw us and came and pulled us out.

The next morning we restocked our supplies and began a journey up the coast on the pacific side. We had heard rumors that the water was colder on that side. We had lunch in Cabo San Lucas, our only encounter with the town. It was on a patio with beer and tacos, then we jaunted up the highway toward our destination. The landscape on this side of the peninsula is much more lush due to the fog that comes off of the pacific. There is more greenery and farms on this side. Here you see mango trees and avacados, cows, sheep and goats grazing, people driving tractors up the road and small towns that pass quickly. We spent the day wandering through the towns, looking at various monuments and just letting it happen naturally. We ended up that evening, on a beach that became the highlight of the entire trip.

We saw our final campsite first from the highway. There were mountains on both sides and a steep ravine through which you could see the ocean. There was a treacherous road into the place so Grommet and I scoped out the possiblity of taking the bus on it. We jumped back into the bus and easily drove down to find a ten mile stretch of completely desolate white sand beach with lots of waves, a beautiful view and enough fresh air to completely revitalize our spirits. We had reached paradise by all accounts. It was about 15 degrees cooler on this side. The other side was hitting 110 degrees each day and the nights were just as hot. Here, we had a huge, sweeping cove all to ourselves with sandcrabs as scavengers for the food we left unattended. Again we cooked over a pit fire, baking potatos wrapped in foil, thrown into the coals. We ate fresh papaya with lemon and chicken and had beer. It was a feast for all the senses.

All to ourselves: photography does no justice: especially mine

The next day began relaxed and aware. When we pulled in the previous night, the tide was high and the water deep, with a steep sloping bottom. In the morning, the tide was low, and the waves were breaking nicely. What a great feeling waking up with my lovely wife, on the beach, with waves breaking 20 feet away! Pighed and I chomped down a few bits of food and dove in, anxious for some better surf. As we paddled out, I tried to remain very aware of where I was and how the water was moving. It reminded me a lot of ocean beach back home with big peaks and fairly easy channels. This day was a bit overhead but the drop-ins were steep and big. The peak would thrust up pretty large and you would take off on what seemed like a monster that would kind of mush out and turn into a smaller wave on the inside. Still, all things considered, it was paradise. Nobody but us in the water. No one even drove up to the spot all that day. It was as if the world had stopped turning.

After an exhilerating three hour session we had to pack up and leave, preparing for the flight back to the U.S. the next morning. The thought of leaving was like a weight or a nagging headache. I had a work dream that night, and was unemployed at the time. But, we made the most of it, partaking of the hotel restaurant and bar festivities. You meet a cast of characters here, from all over the world. There is a contingent of expatriot Americans that have seemed to found a haven in this mystical and beautiful desert, and in these bars. The unabomber had threatened our airline system the day before (unannounced to us) and we were greeted coldly back into the states, with signs everywhere saying our belongings were subject to search at any time. Flights were delayed across the board and it took us as long to fly there as it would to drive. Back in San Francisco, the weather was foggy and cold, we were wearing sandels and muscle shirts. I put my leather jacket on but refused to change any of my other clothes. I wanted to keep this feeling as long as I could. I wanted to be warm, with sand under my feet and a fire nearby with stars all around. But all good things come to an end, and it's good to know that at any given time, someone else is having a trip like we had, somewhere.

Pighed at sunset in Baja

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